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Vintage squirrel, Fiats take over Italian town

Posted by Bill Griffith  October 14, 2009 02:08 PM

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(All photos: Bill Griffith/Boston.com)

The Scoiattolo (Italian for squirrel), drives through the northern Italian town of Malcesine.

MALCESINE, ITALY — Stumbling across a car show in a foreign country is a treat. It gives you a look at many of the vehicles that used to grace the local roads, plus a look at what others are collecting.

We were enjoying a weekend in town, about 80 miles northeast of Milan, drawn by the downhill mountain biking and Malcesine's annual Ciottolando con Gusto gourmet tour of the town. For dessert, we got the accompanying annual veterans car club show and rally (actually a parade).

The town parking lot, packed with vans and tents for a Saturday outdoor market, emptied out. At midnight, it was still full of revelers at the Ciottolando Festival. By 8 a.m. it was totally empty, soon to fill with vintage vehicles.

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Generally, one of the best ways to see a car show is to watch the vehicles arrive. That was especially true on this occasion. All the vehicles were driven to the show. It was a good thing because there was no place to park a trailer and barely room for the participating cars. Unlike American shows, where cars are given lots of breathing room and "Don't touch" signs, these cars were packed in as if their owners were at 9 a.m. Mass.

Fiats, Lancias, and Alfa-Romeos dominated the participants. But there was a Rolls-Royce, several Bentleys, a beautiful E-Type Jaguar and even a few American-built vehicles, including a pristine 1958 Corvette and several vintage military jeeps.

We wanted to know the story behind the '58 Vette, but its owner spoke no English and our Italian doesn't have many car-specific words.

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The flaming red insides of an Abarth 500.

One of the cars we always look for in Italy is a Fiat 500 — the famed Cinquecento. There were a flock of them on this day, including an Abarth-optioned custom and a beautifully restored soft-top Topolino.

The most unusual, however, was a Scoiattolo (Italian for squirrel), seemingly a stylistic predecessor of the Volkswagen Thing.

Also, unlike a US show, after a continental breakfast — including a glass of vino — the entourage hit the local roads for what was called a rally but really was a traffic-stopping parade.

All told, the weekend was a double taste of Italia.

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Fiat X-19 Bertone.

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Fiat 124 Sport Cabrio.

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Fiat Topolino.

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Lancia Flavia.

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