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Report: Auto Moto d’Epoca, Padua, Italy

Italy’s best-kept secret

Not many Brits travel to the annual classic car show at Padua, Italy – but if you love Italy and Italian cars, it’s a must

Bertone Runabout concept of 1969 was productionised as the Fiat X1/9, although without the fabulous rear-mounted headlight pods…

Bertone Runabout concept of 1969 was productionised as the Fiat X1/9, although without the fabulous rear-mounted headlight pods…

It may not have the gloss of Rétromobile in Paris or Techno Classica Essen, but Auto Moto d’Epoca, held every October in the northern Italian city of Padua, is every bit as interesting for fans of Italian cars. It’s Italy’s equivalent of the NEC classic show in Birmingham, but with better coffee.

In fact, Padua – or Padova, to the locals – has one great advantage over shows held at the NEC: a huge autojumble, the first thing to greet you as you enter the halls at Padua’s exhibition centre. Not surprisingly, it’s massively biased towards Italian machinery, but it’s THE place to find that rare part for a Lancia or Alfa. Prices, though, can be stratospheric. Octane’s deputy editor, forever on the hunt for parts for his 1963 Fiat 2300S Coupé, was quoted 500 euros for a new/old stock rear light unit, and that experience is not uncommon.

Padua’s other great attraction is a huge selection of private and dealer cars for sale, ranging from blue-collar Fiats and Alfas to high-end exotica like Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Where else will you find unique cars like the Tom Tjaarda-penned 1969 Lancia Competizione concept up for grabs? And not one, but two Osca 1600s for sale – by different vendors? Early Porsche 911s were in plentiful supply this year, but there were more Maseratis than Mercedes, proving that Padua has not lost its uniquely Italian identity. The Octane team lusted over a gorgeous mint green Maserati Ghibli and an equally seductive metallic brown Lamborghini Espada – both of them Price On Application, unfortunately.

As with the autojumble, the asking prices for cars that are for sale tend to verge on the ridiculous. We noted a first-series Fiat 600 on offer for 19,000 euros, and a seriously rusty MGB GT at 5500 euros. But it seems that – unlike in the autojumble, where vendors are reluctant to haggle – the asking prices for cars are merely the starting point for negotiation. An Italian classic car journalist tipped us the wink that, if a car has a 60,000-euro price tag, it will probably end up changing hands for 35,000. On that basis, a dark-blue-with-tan-leather Ferrari 250GTE, sensitively restored and on offer at 100,000 euros, looked a good prospect.

The Italian car clubs put on some strong displays, as usual, with the aid of factory help from Fiat and Alfa Romeo, and visiting ‘dignatories’ included famed designer Ercole Spada and Lancia Stratos rally ace Sandro Munari. An undoubted highlight in the ‘things you’ll never see anywhere else’ category was a three-wheel drive, caterpillar-tracked rescue vehicle used by the Italian Alpine police in the 1960s, which featured both a pair of handlebars AND a steering wheel. It made the 1926 Fiat ‘Delfino’ on show on Fiat’s stand, with a body shaped like a fish – complete with eyes and tail – seem comparatively normal.

Auto Moto d’Epoca is a big show and you need at least two days to get a fair impression of it, which means you’ll also have time to visit the ancient walled city of Padua itself during the evenings, and enjoy some quality food and drink. It’s also a relatively short drive from Venice, which may help convince your better half that an autumn break in northern Italy is not such a bad idea… At the moment, relatively few Brits make the effort to travel to Auto Moto d’Epoca, but the ones that do return time and again. The Octane team is among them, and we’ll be back next year too.

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Bertone Runabout concept of 1969 was productionised as the Fiat X1/9, although without the fabulous rear-mounted headlight pods…
  We liked this Ferrari 365GT 2+2, spotted for sale in a distant corner of the show site; undervalued at present, this model’s time has yet to come.
Fiat Mefistofele record-breaker has a 21.7-litre Fiat airship engine, installed by British racer Ernest Eldridge in the early 1920s: a natural crowd-pleaser.
  Viotti clothed a surprisingly large number of Lancia Aurelias with ‘woodie’ bodywork, 58 in all, and the model was officially recognised by Lancia.
Moto Guzzi-powered 3x3 search-and-rescue vehicle was used by the Italian police in the 1960s – note the steering wheel on the front forks.
  Among the non-Italian cars for sale, this 1969 Mercedes 280 hearse was a stand-out. It was in great condition but there was no asking price listed.
Fancy a huge plastic model of the Pininfarina Modulo concept car? We spotted two examples for sale: this at 300 euros, an unboxed one at 100.
  Autojumble is a highlight of the show: this is just one of two large halls devoted to it, and there are outdoor autojumble stands too.
Unrestored Vespas and Lambrettas were very ‘in’ at Padua this year, doubtless recently disinterred from sheds and garages the length of Italy.


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