￼One of the biggest car events of the year at the legendary Brooklands oval track to the west of London is the Auto Italia show, a celebration of all things Italian deep in England’s leafy suburbia.
Arriving by car and parking on site only had just one simple rule.
Ticked that box? Then you’re in, and through to the glory of prancing horses, raging bulls, tridents, snakes and scorpions.
Brooklands itself is famous as being the first purpose-built racing facility in the world. Constructed in 1907, the oval was the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation, as it’s proud to announce. Brooklands was a crucible for technological developments during the first half of the 20th century, and now the 21st century has seen a rekindling of its fortunes with the construction of the Mercedes World complex and a whole technopark of cutting-edge companies moving back into the site.
Brooklands is in no way forgetting its history though: the banking may be cut through in places but what remains defines and encloses the whole development. Like Monza – and perhaps even more impressively given its size and history – the banking at Brooklands is the focal point for the new development. Original buildings are being renovated and the heritage site expanded every year with new museum exhibits. Events like Auto Italia help bring new generations up to speed on what was the fastest track in the world.
The majestic Concorde supersonic airliner is intrinsically linked with Brooklands: the major assemblies for the first Concordes (and the infamous TSR2, for fans out there of obscure aircraft) were constructed on site at the Vickers factory in the 1960s. Concorde call sign G-BBDG, the first production aircraft, was moved to Brooklands after being retired from service in 2003 and is now a static museum to the famous aircraft.
Another Concorde backdrop has been provided by the arrival of this 40% miniature – originally a gate guard at London’s Heathrow airport.
The focal point for the show was the main corral outside the clubhouse building: here was a shifting mélange of mouthwatering Italian exotics spanning 60 years that was added to throughout the day.
Phenomenally rare cars were scattered around, ones that you wouldn’t normally expect to see outside museums or private car collections. Any guesses on what this one is? There’ll be more detail on this quirky concept coming up in the next story.
The grace of the ’60s sat side-by-side with the more muscular looks of the ’70s; the more angular products of the ’80s could be compared to the angular power of the ’90s.
…whilst the most modern, technology-laden supercars also prowled round the site.
Each car club had its own designated area, where the car clubs could congregate and socialise.
Fiat were nominally assigned the banking, which was probably accepted with great pleasure, though towards the end of the Members’ Banking it became more of a glorious Italian free for all. Well, this is a Fiat underneath…
Abarth were of course represented in force in their own area with some quirky examples from their earlier years alongside the expected modern tuned 500s. But so too was the mother brand (whether direct, surrogate or adopted of so many Italian car companies), Fiat.
Out on the banking were half a dozen of Bertone’s Fiat X1/9 mid-engined sportscar.
Over 20 of Fiat’s 1990s Coupé were on show under the wings of the plane park, sporting a variety of upgrades and mods.
And of course there was a line of little 500s patriotically adorned with the odd tricolore or two.
The burnished red of Alfa Romeo’s 8C Competizione took pride of place in the main corral, showing just what Alfa Romeo are once again capable of. Another thing they’re good at is espresso, for which I have to thank the local Alfa Romeo dealership…
I was also proud to park up my own GTV next to a couple of its sisters. Being part of the event, even in a small way, is what makes days like this.
Each year Auto Italia has been trying to outdo itself with the number of Ferraris on display.
Last year over 200 were on show; this year’s 26th running of the event looked like it at least matched if not beat that figure.
Ferraris were everywhere. Around every corner, under every tree, by every Concorde… And what Ferraris there were.
Old and new, fast and faster, red and not so red, it was a simply breathtaking sight to behold.
There’s a soul in Italian cars that captivates everyone. Maybe it’s because you’re never sure that they’re going to work properly (which I’m allowed to say), but you know when they do that they’ll drive and sound as great as they look.
With every marque on show it was possible to see examples from most periods in their post-war history, right up to the latest models.
The wedge-shaped ’70s spaceship Maseratis looked absolutely glorious. This is an early ’70s Khamsin.
Like so many Italian brands, Maserati has passed through many different owners on its travels through the decades. The Bora was produced shortly after Citroën took control of the Trident, as a rival to the Lamborghini Miura and De Tomaso Mangusta.
The Lamborghini club were aiming for a record-breaking turn-out, and in the end they seemed to have as good a range at Auto Italia as you could expect to see in the Lamborghini Museum in Italy.
A spot of rain just made the Lamborghinis look even more awesome. As with the Aventador, it’s always the width of Murcielago that is so impressive.
This was the opening line-up of Lamborghinis. Not bad, huh? There were even two of the rare LM002 4x4s!
Lancias in High Fidelity. HF variants were everywhere on the Lancia car club’s area, situated on the area where the old Sahara Straight met the Members’ Banking.
Integrales dominated, but Fulvias and Montecarlos were dotted about, and even Stratos replicas were graciously let into the fold.
Four wheels were the order of the day, but a row of Ducati motorcycles were displayed by one of the cafés.
Around midday there was a lot more movement around the site, as cars began to fire up and head off to form up for their track demonstration.
Mercedes World had opened up their test track for the Italian hordes: the initial cars seemed deliberately picked for being less, well, red…
The cars were let out in marque packs, skimming around the edge of the skid-pan before heading off onto the main track.
Two laps in front of the three-deep crowds, frustratingly kept some distance back for such a low-speed demonstration, and then back to their parking areas.
Meanwhile the next batches queued up. Red seemed to be an increasingly popular colour as the Ferraris rolled up!
The next attraction was later in the afternoon on the Brooklands Test Hill. This was built just two years after the main oval, in 1909, and used to test both acceleration going up and braking coming back down.
The gradient rises in a linear fashion from 1:8 to 1:5 and finally to 1:4. As cars got faster and faster in the 1930s they would take off as they crested the top: a Frazer-Nash called ‘The Terror’ is recorded as arriving at the top at 50mph and flying 40 feet before landing!
For Auto Italia the drivers were under strict instructions to brake before the crest, in order not to fly into the newly-restored Brooklands Motor Works building… If I owned an enormously powerful De Tomaso Pantera I’m not sure I would have risked it up the Test Hill, but all of us in the crowd were happy this owner did, as the V8 sounded glorious. In fact, there was only one car that sounded better, which I’ll talk about in the next story.
The number of cars – and the value some of them – taking part was staggering, especially with the gutter at the bottom trying its best to rip splitters off the lower-slung cars. But everyone from the humblest Panda to the most powerful Ferrari put in the best show they could for the enthusiastic crowd. It was like gladiatorial combat!
A single day gave barely enough time to walk around the huge range of cars at Auto Italia; one post definitely isn’t sufficient, so we’ll have more stories coming up detailing more of what was on offer.