On nearly any given weekend, you’ll find a classic car event to attend in Southern California. But you won’t find many that are more charming than the annual Best of France and Italy show at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, CA. Each year, the BoFI show manages to contain several surprises and at least one car you’ve either never heard of before or seen in the sheetmetal (or both). For French and Italian car enthusiasts, it is a show that offers a day in the sun for the underappreciated, esoteric and just plain wacky automobiles that often get relegated to the back corners of other shows.
This is a show where every Citroen DS, Fiat X1/9, Alfa Romeo Alfetta, and Renault Le Car will be appreciated; a show where a Lancia Scorpion can proudly share a scrap of earth with a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona or a Lamborghini Espada. And a swap meet where you might finally end that 10-year search for that Simca taillight lens you’ve been after. For these reasons, we never miss a year and you shouldn’t either. Here are 11 French and Italian favorites from this year’s show.
1983 Renault Alliance Cup
A Lemons racer? Not quite. Back in the mid-1980s, Renault sponsored a spec-racing series featuring its new Alliance compact coupe. This car was one of several dozen to compete and has been a race car since it rolled off the assembly line. It currently has over 35,000 track-only miles on the odometer and is still going strong.
Peugeot 205 Turbo 16
Built to homologate Renault’s fire-breathing Group B rally car, the 205 Turbo 16 is a homologation special as crazy as any of them. Its roots are in the standard 205 econobox, but this car is anything but standard. The typically front-engine, front-drive chassis is totally re-engineered for performance with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 sitting just aft of the passenger seat and driving power to the rear wheels. But how does it drive? Find out here.
ASA 1000 GT
Enzo Ferrari toyed with the idea of producing a range of smaller sports cars with scaled-down, four-cylinder engines. When the financials didn’t add up, he decided to license the project to a third party. The result was the handsome ASA 1000 GT coupe with a Columbo-designed 1.0-liter I-4 engine, a Bizzarrini-designed chassis and a Giugiaro-styled body. Well under 100 are thought to have been built and this 1966 example has been in the owner’s family for decades.
Moretti started life in Turin, Italy as a motorcycle manufacturer before transitioning to microcars, commercial vehicles, and full-size passenger cars. By the 1960s, the brand was using Fiat chassis and running gear for its vehicles to cut costs and development time. The Sportiva is a swoopy, pocket-sized Dino-esque coupe based on a rear-engined Fiat 850 platform and engine.
Lancia Appia Sport Zagato
The Appia was Lancia’s bread-and-butter model in the ‘50s and was sold in sedan, coupe and even commercial vehicle variants. Arguably the most appealing of all was the Zagato-designed Appia Sport, which was built between 1961 and ’63 and utilized a shortened wheelbase, Spada-designed aerodynamic bodywork and a warmed over V-4 engine.
1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde
The Milano was the last model to be designed wholly by Alfa Romeo prior to the brand’s Fiat takeover in the mid-1980s. The De Dion-style rear end, inboard mounted rear disc brakes, and a rear-mounted transaxle, the Milano is performance oriented despite its unusual styling. This 1988 Verde version has a larger 3.0-liter V-6, fender flares, rear spoiler and Recaro seats. Around 900 top-end Verdes were built in total.
No, it’s not a Volkswagen Thing, but there are similarities in styling. The Citroen is named after the Mehari camel – a particularly quick-running variant – although with a 602-cc flat-two engine, the Citroen may not be quite as quick as the actual camel. With a production span of two decades ending in 1988, most Meharis today are used as fun off-road or beach transportation.
Allstate Super Cruisaire
Allstate was a sears house brand that ran from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. While some Henry J cars were sold under the Allstate brand, it was mostly used to market scooters made by Cushman and Piaggio (Vespa’s parent company). This 1955 model is a Piaggio-built scooter and is unique in its originality and “survivor” status. The owner uses the Allstate in its current condition and has no plans for restoration.
Simca 8 Sport
Essentially a rebadged Fiat 508C, the Simca 8 was produced in several body styles including sedan, coupe, and convertible. The Sport versions were still powered by relatively mild 1.1-liter inline-four Fiat engines, but this version was breathed on with Gordini performance bits like a twin-carb intake. This car is thought to be the same example entered in the 1950 12-Hours of Sebring race.
Dino 246 GT
This is what happens to your Dino when you leave it street parked overnight in the wrong part of Los Angeles. Actually, this car is currently in the midst of a full restoration at a local specialist who brought it out on a trailer to show off the progress made. It’s not often you get to see a Dino – one of the best-driving Ferraris ever made — in this state and it attracted a fair few show-goers.
1967 Ghia 450 SS
Think of the Ghia as a Giugiaro-designed Chrysler. Its chassis comes from the Plymouth Barracuda, the engine is a 273-ci Plymouth V-8 producing 235 horsepower or so, and just 52 were built between 1966 and ’67. Worth about four times more than a Barracuda when new, you can bet this one’s worth many multiples of that today.