There are a few Chicago-area shops that work on Italian cars, but the Lancias tend to go to Autosprint - Gianni D'Avola has "magic fingers", a feel in his hands to solve those thorny Italian car problems. Maybe something to do with growing up in Sicily, but Gianni gets it done.
We were poking around in one of the back rooms one afternoon, and I was impressed by all the special tools. Internet chatter about hub pullers for Lancias (and other cars), never comes up with Gianni and now I know why - he's got a lot of pullers, for the the Lancias/Alfas/Ferraris he works on. And even for the Citroen Traction-Avant.
Beppe was a special person. A dignified gentleman, long active in the Registro, he had a deep relation with and love for Aurelias, going back to seeing the Aurelia Corsas at the Mille Miglia in 1952. He said that he had driven more than 1,000,000 kilometers in Aurelias, but its likely the truth was at least double that.
He was a good friend, sadly we were separated by distance. We first met in 2000 at the Aurelia rally in the south of France, which he attended in a berlina with his family. A few years later, I visited his mechanic in Como, and Beppe drove up from Milano to join us for an afternoon and discuss camshafts. My son and I had the pleasure of joining him and his lovely wife, Chiara, with Anthony and Lorna Hussey near Siena for a few days; they came to Chicago once on their way back from Alaska.
At an Aurelia dinner in Padova in 2015, each of us spoke briefly of our experiences. Beppe stood up, shucked off any time limits, and movingly spoke from the heart, passionately embracing the car in our lives. We were all captivated.
Beppe was close to his cars. His s.3 B20 was one of the very few seen with an original Nardi kit, fitted with Solex carbs, perfectly tuned, sweet and tractable. He enjoyed overhauling and tuning Aurelia carburetors. His B20 was fitted with wood knobs, new from Pinin Farina. His B50 cabriolet was an Aurelia without any vibration. Once asked how this was done, he went into detail about how one had to match up the driveshaft parts carefully and do the work oneself. This was from a man familiar with the banking industry, at one time active in Modena supplying interiors for Maserati.
And his knowledge was impeccable: who else knew that early B22s had been supplied with B21 engines as the new engines weren’t ready? And could provide the 8 page Lancia advisory issued months later instructing on how update your engine to the new specifications (change the camshaft, change the manifolds, etc.).
He and his friend Francesco Gandolfi tended to the Registro for all of us, no easy task in the details. He helped guide the forming of the De Virgilio book, At the Center, advising on how to navigate the complexities of the Italian landscape. He urged the book be in English, recognizing the tradeoffs - that a bilingual edition would have less content, and that it was important to deepen the understanding of the Aurelia for a broader audience. It was a gutsy call from this thoughtful man, one who was comfortable making good and firm decisions.
He and his elegant wife, Chiara, represented the depth of character that we so often find around these cars and this marque. He will be sorely missed. We have lost another giant. Our condolences go out to his family.
Every once in a while, its time to look at something different. Here is the bottom of an 8C Alfa, taken at Jim Stokes Workshops in England. Lovely.
A post on the LMC website reminded me of a strange day from a few years back. I was driving the B24 (owned at the time) from Chicago to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, for a vintage race weekend, a 3 hour drive on main roads,
I was about halfway early one afternoon a few years back, when I noticed the car was running out of gas. Luckily this happened close to a gas station, so I glided in on a "dead stick", without problem.
After filling up, it was easy to see that the car now had a flat tire. Everything had to come out of the trunk, to get the spare. So the tire was changed. OK.... things happen.
Now, it got even more peculiar - as the car wouldn't start, as the battery (happy up until then) decided to quit. With a push start later, down the road to the autoparts store, which luckily had the right battery in stock. When I went to pull the battery from the car, the heavens opened up and it started to rain heavily. Very heavily. And I had left the battery pulling strap at home.
Put the top up, although everything got soaked. Got a strap from the store, pulled the battery, and dripping wet, back on the road to the races, shaking the head in disbelief. What had angered the gods so? Was there more to come?
Luckily not. But sometimes, you can be either very lucky or not at all. It was both this time!
Massimo Fila in Italy provided the following report of his autumn adventure:
"During the first week end of September, a group of Italian friends, including myself, went to Goodwood to attend the famous Revival. Five beautiful old cars were easily driven from Italy to England on this exciting journey. One of the cars was an Aurelia B12 of Mr and Mrs Bertin from Padova." (ed: Mrs. Bertin took these lovely photos)