Where Are the Best French and Italian Cars? At the Best of France and Italy

Sure, you have your Concorso Italiano in Monterey, California, your Cavallino Classic in Palm Beach, Florida, and your Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille outside of Paris, but for those you need a Ferrari and a jet. Plus, there are no Alfettas. To see all the great French and Italian cars you tried to fix in high school and that you can actually still afford, fix, and get running now, there is the Best of France and Italy.

Held every first Sunday in November on the dusty confines of Woodley Park in fabulous Van Nuys, California, the show is generally acknowledged, even by big wheel collectors, as their favorite show of the year. It’s unpretentious, diverse, and free to the public. All you have to do is pay a nominal fee if you enter a car.

And what cars they are! This year there was a beautiful, nearly perfect (as far as I could tell) genuine Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet that I’d never seen before. It was parked next to perhaps the rattiest 1935 Peugeot 302 still in existence, which was parked next to: a Lamborghini Miura, Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport, a double-bubble Zagato-bodied Alfa Romeo coupe, a chopped and hot-rodded Lancia B20, and two Renault Alpines.

That was a fancy row.

All around that were rows of French cars and acres and acres of Italian machinery. There was even a parts swap meet where you could buy whatever you need to get your own flaming Euro-heap running again. It was pure paradise on a Peugeot. Wade through the photos and see what you missed. Or what you saw. Maybe you’re in a picture or two and you can sue for appropriation of character or something! Use the money to buy more Fiat parts.


The Lancia Aurelia B20 debuted in 1950 and won its class at Le Mans in ’51. Records and old photos show that at least one of the originals was chopped four inches for racing. We’re aware of a a firm in Gloucestershire UK that recreated the chop on nine cars and made them Outlaws. On the Gloucestershire cars, all four fenders were widened, fatter tires fitted, Jaguar D-type-style wheels added, and the V6 engine was bored out to 2.8-liters. With more powerful camshafts and a custom exhaust, it produces about 175 hp, giving a healthy boost of 57 hp over a stock engine. However, we never found the owner of this particular B20 to ask what had been done to this car. But it does look cool, don’t you think?

“This is my daily driver,” said Mike Adams, who has owned this Ferrari 330 GTS for 10 years. “It’s a 29-year-restoration.”

Meaning it was restored 29 years ago, not that it took 29 years. How does he keep it looking so good?

“It’s garaged,” he said.

The 330 GTS debuted at the Paris show in 1966 as the sports car version of the 330 GTC, according to Ferrari.

“It had the same V12 running gear as the 330 GTC coupé which, in turn, was developed from the engine designed for the 400 Superamerica. Pininfarina again came up with a very clean, elegant design which proved an immediate hit with the marque’s admirers. The GTS helped Ferrari consolidate its reputation for building high-performance, luxury open sports cars.”

When the Dino 308 GT4 came out at Paris in 1973, it represented a significant styling departure for Ferrari.

“After 20 years of exclusive collaboration with Pininfarina, Ferrari unveiled the Dino 308 GT4, a V8-engined model designed by Bertone,” Ferrari said. “The Turin-based designer created an attractive mid-engined 2+2 in a body that was little more than 4.3 meters (169 inches) long, an outstanding achievement.”

The Bertone designer who penned this look was none other than Marcello Gandini. This 1975 model is owned by Stephen Bailey, who got it from a restoration shop in Florida.

“I’d been looking for one for a while,” he said, having moved up from a Fiat. “When they first came out, this was the only Ferrari you could buy in the US.”

The Iso Rivolta GT was introduced in 1962 as the ultimate Gran Tourer. It had a body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro when he was working at Bertone and it was engineered by no less than Giotto Bizzarrini. It was powered by a 327 Chevy V8. This one is a 1964.

The Ferrari Dino 206 and 246 GTs were made from 1967-74. With V6 power they were somewhat affordable, at least by Ferrari standards. Its Pininfarina design stands in stark contrast to the sharp edges of the 308 GT4 that came after it.

The Lamboerghini Diablo had an 11-year-run as the V12-powered supercar from Sant’Agata. It was originally designed by Gandini, but when Lamborghini was bought by Chrysler, the Pentastar sent it to Detroit to have its edges softened before production. Gandini was jiffed, so much so that when he dwesigned the Cizeta Moroder he went back to his original design.

Over the course of its 11 years of production, the Diablo went through 18 different model remakes, all the better to pay for the original investment. It was replaced by the Murcielago, then the Aventador.

The Alfa Romeo GTV6 managed to combine practicality, affordability, and performance all in one stylish Italian coupe. It was produced from 1981 to 1986. The front-engine, rear-drive four-seater had such performance enhancements as in-board disc brakes and a rear transaxle. The aluminum V6 makes 154 hp and 157 lb-ft of torque. You can get good GTVs for under 20 grand. There was even a Callaway twin-turbo version, the car which lead to Callaway’s getting the Chevrolet Twin Turbo Corvette as a project. But that’s another story.

The Giulia 1600 Spider Veloce debuted in 1964, with the 129 bhp engine from the Sprint Speciale. It also had a five-speed gearbox and disc brakes on the front end. These things go for six figures nowadays. You shoulda held on to the one you had in college!

A clean-looking Lancia Fulvia coupe is a joy forever.

When the Renault Fuego three-door coupe came out in Europe in 1980, it was considered stylish and roomy. Still is. You could buy one in the United States from 1982 to 1985 through your AMC dealer. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner of this one or to crawl underneath it and see if any rust had crept in over the 40 or so years since it was new. But the outside looks good on this one.

Here’s another car designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro during his tenure at Bertone. The Tipo 105/115 coupes sported an innovative design that’s beloved by Alfisiti the world over. This one might be a 2000 GTV, and if so, is powered by a spritely 1962-cc twin-cam four. This one is tighter than tight and was one of the nicest cars at the show.

It’s rare to see a Renault Alpine even at a car show, and yet here at Best of F&I there were two of them. While the A110 model was launched in 1961, it acheived its greatest fame in the 1970s as a rally car, winning six rounds of the then-new World Rally Championship to take the season title in 1973, including rallies in Monte Carlo, Portugal, Morocco, Acropolis (Greece), San Remo, and Corsica.

We met this car a few years ago at this same show. It appears to still be functioning, with its yellow submarine periscope intact

Want to outrage readers? Call a DS an ID or an ID a DS. Ask me how I know.

Citroën 2CV panel van, done up in Michelin livery.

The 2CV was about as simple as a car ever got. It had a two-cylinder air-cooled engine driving the front wheels with as little as 9 hp, at least at the beginning. The car remained in production all the way up to 1990.

Citroën DS21 Decapotable convertible.

Peugeot made the front-engine, rear-drive 504 for 15 years, from 1968 to 1983.

“You could always get parts because it was produced all over the world,” said the gentleman standing next to this one. “They kept making it in Africa until 2006.”

The Renault 5 Turbo was a car made first for racing and then for sale as a street car. As a race car it won four WRC rallies in the ’80s: the Rally Monte Carlo, Portugal, and two Rally Corsicas. Just under 5000 of them were made between 1980 and ’86.

This 1981 model with 11,800 miles on the clock is for sale. It’s also “under restoration.” Contact [email protected]

This being the Best of France and Italy, Dennis Duesing covered both bases with a 1969 Citroën wagon towing a 2005 Vespa.

Renault made over 1 million of these 4CVs from 1947 to 1961.

The Renault Caravelle was built as a response to the company’s American dealers who wanted a convertible version of the Dauphine.

The Citroën CX TRD Turbo 2 had a diesel engine with intercooler.

This clean 1954 Traction Avant is for sale for $15,000. Robert Dibley bought it in South Africa, where it had belonged to a farmer in Pretoria. Dibley discovered the car when ducking into a building during a rainstorm. The building turned out to be a car museum. If you pay the full $15,000 asking price, Dibley will throw in a two-wheeled dolly to tow it home. He’s in Santa Barbara, California. 805 636-9306

How often do you see a purple 2CV? Not often. This is a 1966 model, by which time 2CVs had 602 ccs divided between two cylinders making 66 hp. Top speed is 65 mph, the owner says. It’ll clear 40 mpg.

Paul Greenstein and Dydia DeLyser have the coolest, most eclectic collection of stuff you will ever see. And I’ve only ever seen the cars and the motorcycles. They are known most for their Tatras, of which they have four T87s, but you are just as likely to see Paul show up at an obscure motorcycle gathering with a 100-year-old motorcycle he has restored himself.

At this year’s Best of France and Italy they brought this unrestored 1935 Peugeot 302.

“They copied the DeSoto Airflow,” Greenstein said. “DeSoto put running boards on it but they didn’t on this.”

The 302 is powered by a pushrod four-cylinder mated to a three-speed transmission.

“55 mph is screaming,” Greenstein said. “It’s happy at 45 mph.”

This 1936 Bugatti Type 57 has been in the same family since the Swiss grandfather of the current owner’s children purchased it (his third Bugatti, btw) in Switzerland for use as a daily driver. It got a frame-off restoration in 1993 and still looks like it just rolled out of the resto shop doors.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia Super 1.3 was one of the staples of Italian family transport but was also great fun to drive.

Shari (or Sherri, or maybe Cheri) didn’t just want me to photograph her purse any old where, she knew exactly where the matching Fiat 500 was parked and lead the way across the field to do the deed.

This 1973 Fiat 124 Familiare is for sale: 73,000 miles, 1.4-liter engine, automatic trans, original paint, California car, $12,000 obo. Interested? Text-only to 818-667-6486

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