It’s the question I always wonder after a day spent at the annual Best of France and Italy car show held each November at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California: Why do I never see this [insert esoteric car here] any place other than this car show?
It’s a valid question, though it’s probably best that some of the cars on display are kept shielded from the melee that is Southern California traffic. After all, your Renault Turbo 2, Fiat 600, or Alfa Romeo GTV comes face to face with a distractedly-driven Ford F-150, there will only be one winner (and it won’t be of French or Italian origin).
Those who attend the French-Italian show as a spectator each year are rewarded with zero admission or parking fees (yes, a truly free show). There’s a row of parts vendors should you need that elusive Campagnolo wheel, Marchal headlight, or Weber carburetor to keep your classic runabout humming as happily as a gendarme in a boulangerie, and of course, some mighty amazing cars.
Have you ever seen a Voisin Biscooter before? We hadn’t either, but there one was on the dusty show field–and it was for sale too! Not your thing? The owner also brought a Ferves Ranger, which is also for sale.
Alfa Romeos are probably the marque that shows up with the largest attendance each year (Fiats surely rank second for sheer volume), as the Southern California Alfa Romeo Club is an active one.
You’ll mostly find vintage GTVs, Spiders and various Busso V-6 powered models, but this year there was at least one 4C and one 2017 Giulia sedan in attendance.
Ever seen a genuine Abarth before? Not the Abarth-badged cars that Fiat now churns out in great numbers, but the rare, lightweight, hand-built sports and race cars made when Carlo still owned the company he founded?
There were three on-hand at this year’s show, including two Zagato-bodied, 750 GT “double bubble” coupes and a 1000 GT “Bialbero.” Both were highly competitive in small-bore international racing in their day.
It’s probably been at least a few years since most have seen a Fiat X/19 on the streets, but there were at least five or six at this year’s BoFI show. There was also a healthy turnout of 124 Spiders (several of the original model and at least one 2017 version), 850 Coupes and Spiders and even a neglected 600 Jolly in barnfind condition, the latter of which was for sale.
Italian participation always seems slightly heavier than the French contingent, but this year there was a healthy showing of both Renaults and Citroens. At least four of the pretty Renault Caravelle models showed up, including one with a factory hardtop that transformed the convertible into a very elegant looking coupe.
One Citroen DS wagon (also known as a Familiare) was decorated in a wacky Beatles-themed “Yellow Submarine” vibe. One thing you quickly learn about many owners of budget French and Italian classics is that they don’t take themselves (or their cars) too seriously. A refreshing experience.