Thursday, December 13, 2007
(The team is now full)
Bev and Lang will lead 15 restored World War 2 military vehicles shipped from Australia and New Zealand to Istanbul, Turkey. The convoy (very loose with people able to do their own thing) will then visit ANZAC Cove on Gallipoli before travelling to Greece. All the vehicles will go to Crete to see the WW2 battlefields before returning by ferry to Athens. They will then drive through Greece, across to Italy and all the way north to Switzerland.
After crossing France to Normandy, the Australian and New Zealand vehicles will join 3,000 others spread out in delightful camping grounds for a week in this beautiful countryside. Leaving Normandy they will travel into Belgium to see the WW1 battlefields before shipping the vehicles home.
Bev and Lang will coordinate all the shipping, camping etc. All the participants are expecting to have a great adventure on a wonderful 4,500km journey from 1 May 09 until late June. It is not all military but a fabulous European trip at a leisurely pace going off the beaten track. in our 65 year old vehicles. The arrival of the Anzac convoy in Normandy will be a highlight of one of the world's great historic vehicle gatherings.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
There you will find each month listed. Click on the month and every entry and photograph for the month will pop up.
Note. The entries for each month start at the BOTTOM of the page and each entry is on top of the next.
If you click on a photo they will pop up full size.
If anyone wants to use any of the written text or photos (non-commercial eg club newsletters or magazines) we are normally happy for that - just send an email to tell us where you are going to use it.
Lang and Bev
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
We had a great drive from Tok, our last overnight stop, before arriving in
Anchorage mid-afternoon on Saturday 1st September, 99 days out of
The drive yielded more magnificent scenery, three glaciers reasonably
close up, the spectacular Matanuska Valley and many small lakes with the
last of the birdlife getting ready for their migration to the south.
Today is Labour Day here in North America, and it seems this is regarded
as the end of summer. A lot of shops and attractions close in the next few
weeks for the long winter period.
Anchorage is quite an expensive place and some of the motels we first
checkedt, didn't quite live up to the description in our travel book. We
luckily happened on a very nice apartment that had changed to winter rates
and we feel we are in a home away from home, and a far nicer way to end
Now to the star of our trip, our Bambino.
The smallest car to ever go around the world.
The cutest car imaginable (actually voted the sexiest car ever, last year).
The car that has put a smile (or even an outright laugh) on so many
The car that has introduced us to so many wonderful people in so many
countries whether we had a common language or not.
We have had some other assistance on this trip. As a radiographer I have
had to upgrade my skills regularly as technology races along, but this
trip has seen quite a steep learning curve. Unlike many of our previous
trips we went hi tech this time. With us we had a lap top fitted with WiFi
, Skype phone and the ability to download onto a flash drive. We also had
an I Pod which we could plug into the car radio so we could both listen to
our downloaded music. Along with cameras and phones all this required a
huge bag of connections to keep everything fully charged.
Our greatest assistance though came from Penelope (she is of British
heritage). Lang calls her the best marriage guidance councilor of all
time. She remained unruffled while being abused, for she did have her
failings, but she had the ability to remain calm at all time and just tell
us she is recalculating or alternatively she could be turned off at the
press of a button. We have become very fond of our companion and I am not
the least bit jealous, I would strongly recommend a similar GPS to all
I must admit home is beckoning, but we have a few administrative things to
attend to regarding the shipping of the Bambino back home and also
returning ourselves, hopefully by the end of the week.
The trip I guess is not complete until we drive the Fiat back into the
driveway at home, but that could be almost another two months. For Lang
and I though, psychologically we have cleared the final hurdle.
Einstein posed the question
"Is it a Friendly Universe?" and our trip has definitely enforced the
answer as ,YES.
He also said "All time is now" and I believe that is what travel is all
about. It takes you out of the everyday routine – the leaden weight of
routine, the fetters of habit, the cloak of cares and slavery of home. It
allows you to experience the here and now, whether that is the people or
the experiences of Siberia, Europe, or Northern America.
I have just finished reading "The Secret" by Australian author Rhonda
Byrne. What a powerful but very simple message it portrays. Something that
I have heard Lang express for the whole 39yrs we have been together –
always be positive, there is always a way to make things happen.
And while into the quotations I will end with one of Lang's favorites from
Robert Louis Stevenson
I travel not to go anywhere
But to go
I travel for travel's sake
The great affair is to move.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Sunday, September 2, 2007
the last minute. We had previously tried to get a spot on the Alaska
Marine Highway ferry that runs from Prince Rupert to Skagway up the inland
waterway but were told it was booked out. I was quite disappointed, as was
Lang who was very keen to drive up the famous White Pass to Whitehorse. We
made a late night final call and got a spot!
Instead of heading north along the ALCAN Highway we headed over 800km west
to Prince Rupert on the Yellowhead Road through the mountains and lakes to
the sea and there boarded the MV Matanuska late on Tuesday night. We
tucked our Bambino into the hold for a well-earned rest and we adjourned
to our cabin on the next deck. Although we traveled due north and got no
closer to Anchorage, we disembarked after two very relaxing nights and one
full day, which made for a great birthday present for me.
It was a fabulous experience, on a truly beautiful waterway. The first
part of the trip was wet but it did fine up later in the day in time to
see a Humpback whale putting on a display especially for us. At each
fishing village stop you are allowed to disembark just for the time it
takes for the unloading and loading of the vehicles. Now, as it is the end
of the summer holiday period, the numbers are well down and I think there
were more crew than paying passengers.
An interesting happening was the refund of $169 at the ticket office. We
had been booked on in the "Smallest Car" category, which is 11 to 14 feet.
Everyone gets measured on boarding and, when they found we were only 9" 8"
long, they could not find a car category so concluded that we were a
As well as being able to experience both the Alaskan Waterways and the
Alaskan Highway we did in particular want to visit Skagway and the White
Pass to learn more about the part it played in the 1897 Klondike goldrush.
As many as 50,000 people arrived at Skagway over the next two years and
then in unbelievably harsh conditions either treked over the Chilcot Pass
from Dyea or straight out of Skagway over the White Pass. Jack London said
the common name was "Dead Horse Pass" and graphic photos show piles of
some of the 3,000 horses worked to death carrying supplies up the frozen,
Even though it is still summer now the weather is cold with lots of fog on
the mountains. It took three months in the dead of winter for those
stampeders to reach the Yukon goldfields inland near Whitehorse. In an
amazing engineering effort a single narrow gauge railway was later built
to connect the two towns and this is still used to take tourists for the
trip up the gorge.
The town of Skagway is maintained as a frontier town with wooden
boardwalks and all shops with old-fashioned facades. For nine months of
the year it is a cold tiny village. But for 3 months of summer it is a
full-on tourist town and during our visit there were four cruise ships in
the narrow fiord so, the long main street was crowded with hundreds of
The scenery was fantastic and the little Fiat staggered up the slopes
trodden by thousands of hopefuls as we went up the Klondike Road and
linked back onto the Alaskan Highway. The snow capped mountains, the
forests, the lakes, the wildflowers and the wildlife just continues to
amaze. We had to slow for our fifth bear of the trip crossing the road in
front of us. While we were travelling through Northern British Columbia
and the Yukon we kept commenting how the forest area looked so much like
Siberia. This really surprises the local people in Canada but,looking at a
map, the two countries are not so far apart.
Soon after boarding the boat in Port Rupert we passed into Alaska and then
on the way up the White Pass we crossed back into Canada to spend another
two days travelling the Alaska Highway in the Yukon. Late today, just
before Tok we reentered Alaska, which had already been marked off, as our
16th American State. Crossing the border between USA and Canada involves
little more than a 30 second passing of the time of day with the
respective customs officers.
Some mention should be made of one of the greatest unsung engineering
feats of all time – the Alaska Canada (ALCAN) Highway. In 1942 the
American Army began construction (before the Canadian Parliament had
approved their presence) of a road as long as Seattle to San Diego or
Brisbane to Melbourne to get supplies to Alaska for the also forgotten war
against the Japanese in the Aleutian Island chain.
Starting from several points, 30,000 soldiers and 20,000 American and
Canadian civilians began carving a path through frozen swamps, forests and
lakes, over hundreds of rivers and several mountain ranges. At the rate of
8 miles a day the road was good enough in around three months for the
first trucks to start rolling. Photos of the troops staggering through
waist deep mud, bulldozers sinking and trucks being washed away – all in
sub-zero temperatures, remind one of the Egyptian slaves building the
pyramids! The road today is a fast, smooth sealed two lane affair but many
monuments along the way remind travelers of those forgotten heroes.
The Bambino has only one more day to go before we roll into Anchorage. For
the last few days we have been leaving oil behind us which, if the ground
is wet, creates quite a trail. Lang thinks he knows what seal is leaking
but at this stage it is easier to keep the oil filled rather than do a
Monday, August 27, 2007
and are at present in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.
California was left behind after 8 days. Driving north through the
redwoods of California, and Oregon we entered the beautiful waterway
areas of coastal Washington. The magnificent Columbia River and rugged
coastline around Crescent City were indeed spectacular. Washington was our
15th state in America, with Alaska still to go.
In Port Townsend, on the peninsular opposite Seattle, we met up with Eric
Durfey, who we first met when he did the electrical outfitting on the Vimy
back in 1993. Eric has recently purchased a 100 year old 40' wooden boat
just perfect for the surrounding area. He is currently moving from his
fantastic home in the woods to a house in town but we did manage to spend
a couple of wonderful sunsets on the deck he has built on the cliff above
the ocean overlooking the surrounding islands.
Lang had been concerned about the Bambino's alternator for some time so
took advantage of having some experts around with the equipment to remove
and repair the bearing. Eric and he removed the alternator and had it back
(well overhauled) from the very helpful auto electrician late in the
afternoon. The car now does not sound as though there are a dozen parrots
trapped under the engine lid.
Early on Friday morning we travelled to Port Angeles and caught a ferry
that took one and half hours to Victoria on Vancouver Island, and entered
Canada. Our passports were stamped when we landed and that was the only
From there it was just a short trip to Sidney and a wonderful meeting
with my father's 93 year old cousin with whom I have been corresponding
with for over 10 years, but have never met. Alfred (Fred) is hale and
hearty and was able to give me loads of information about our family
roots a century ago in England. His daughter Christina and her husband
Norv, who also live in Sidney came over in the evening. Their children
are both married and live elsewhere in Canada. I have always enjoyed
researching our family history, so to have had a family reunion this far
from home was just fantastic.
From Vancouver Island we caught another ferry at Nanaimo back to the
mainland just north of Vancouver. We decided to push the little car over a
few more high passes so took Highway 99 north passing pristine lakes and
spectacular mountains, many still snow covered, passing through Whistler,
which is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. We have already found that
Canada does not have fuel available on lesser roads every few miles like
Today travelling through the Cariboo region of British Columbia we have
followed the historic Gold Rush Trail which runs adjacent to the mighty
Fraser River. Many thousands of gold seekers in 1858 made their way into
the interior using this route. We stayed last night at Lilooet, which in
1858 was the second largest city west of Chicago, and north of San
Francisco (after Bakerville further north). It, along with Bakerville, now
boasts a few hundred people. The towns along the highway are still named
100 Mile House, 150 Mile House etc. distances measured from Lilooet.
We are now just above the 53rd parallel and the weather has turned quite a
bit cooler, so we have unearthed our long sleeved clothes and jackets
again. Today for the first time since we arrived in America we had rain,
fortunately the wipers still work after being idle for so long.
Tomorrow we actually start on the ALCAN (Alaska Highway) proper with the 0
mile post in Dawson Creek. Looking at the information available it seems
we will have to plan our stops as the little settlements are a long way
apart from now on – plenty of camping spots but not many motels.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
miles but have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves catching up with old friends
and making many new acquaintances.
We left Peter and Tessa's house on Wednesday and, accompanied by a
neighbor in his sporty Lotus 7, we set off to Monterey down the scenic
Highway 1. We had not gone too far when we broke our clutch cable. Lang
managed to get rolling with the starter motor and we got ourselves back on
the freeway and sailed along, driving without a clutch for the next few
hours until we got into a traffic jam. We were able to peel off into an
industrial yard where they had a large jack and did a temporary repair
that saw us the rest of the way to Carmel Valley.
We had been lucky enough to be invited to attend the exclusive Quail Lodge
Car display, which is part of the Concours Week held in the Monterey area.
It is described as a display of all things elegant which includes not only
the 120 entrant cars and 3,000 spectators who pay $200 a ticket to attend,
but also the food and wine that is available all day featuring French,
Italian and Californian themes. The garden party setting is arranged on
the lush grass of the driving range of the Quail Lodge, Resort and Golf
Club, accompanied by appropriate music and the most perfect weather
The event director Mathias Doutreleau, a Frenchman, and also a Fiat 500
owner, made our little Bambino very welcome into this most prestigious
company. He insisted we bring the car unwashed and had it displayed in a
very central position. He also arranged accommodation with his friends
John and Vickie Edwards who were wonderful hosts and made as feel as if we
had been their friends forever.
Over the weekend there is also the Concours d'Elegance held at Pebble
Beach , Concorso Italiano, vintage car racing, air shows, etc. We
certainly had the most fantastic three days, sightseeing, eating,
drinking, and meeting so many wonderful people from all over the world.
In between all this Lang was able to use the golf buggy workshop at the
Lodge and do a more permanent repair to the clutch cable with some
clothesline wire, and also more running repairs and maintenance that had
We again headed north meeting up with John Lanoue, at his hanger in Novato
before going up to St Helena in Napa Valley to join his wife Brenda who is
a Chief Instructor Chef at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). We had
a wonderful Indian meal cooked by Shyam and Andrew two of Brenda's
students. On Sunday we were given a tour of the college which was
renovated in 1995 on the site of the former Christian Brothers Winery. The
100+ year old building was preserved with its cathedral ceilings and
massive hand cut stone walls.
The whole of the Napa and Sonoma Valley area north of San Francisco is
covered in vineyards, many of the vines with bunches of grapes hanging
ready for picking. There are hundreds of wineries and wonderful
restaurants, it is very much a tourist destination.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Last night I lay in bed and listened to the fog horns in
Yesterday we stopped off at John Lanoue's (builder of the Vimy) hangar at
From there we drove into
To get here to
We continued west going through
We stayed overnight in Idaho Falls in Idaho, famous for their potatoes as their number-plates extol. Here Lang discovered a problem with the alternator, which he thinks is the bearings. Being the weekend no workshops were open, so we crossed our fingers and continued westward. Fortunately we have got this far without it causing any further trouble and over the next few days we have a Fiat expert going to go over the car for us. Also we will have the ding on the side repaired.
From Idaho we went across the hot, dry and very barren landscape of Nevada. The monotony only relieved by crass casino settlements forming artificial oasis along Route 80. We overnighted in Battle Mountain not quite by choice. Here we filled with fuel and as we were going to leave and do another hours drive the car stopped dead and no persuasion would get it started again. I booked into a conveniently placed motel and we pushed the car back to their parking area and Lang fiddled until dark to no avail. He sent out e-mails with the symptoms to our fiat experts, and Dave in California, Torsten in Hamburg and Damen in Melbourne all came back with lots of possibilities but each ended his email with the same question - have you checked what went in at your last fuel stop? Petrol engines don't run too well on diesel!
None the less it was a sense of relief, after a restless night, that it was not a major problem, and we did not need to arrange trucking for the car. After draining the tank we filled up with the good stuff and managed 750km to San Francisco Bay area. It was a pity to find that after 5,000km of great roads the I-80 freeway from Reno to Sacramento over the Donner Pass had a surface as rough as the worst Russian efforts. Maybe all those California taxes should be directed a little more to road maintenance.
We intend to enjoy a few lay days here in San Francisco and catch up with many of our friends in the area.
Friday, August 10, 2007
We contacted Greg Herrick (who now owns our 1927 Avro Avian) in Minneapolis, and after passing through Wisconsin and into Minnesota we drove north along the Mississippi. Here we visited Greg's fabulous collection of historic aircraft at the Anoka County airport. He had just returned from Oshkosh where he had six of his aircraft on show.
After a nice dinner we stayed the night at Greg's 100+ year old house, with the boys up until all hours of the morning reliving their many previous flights in vintage aircraft.
Along the way passing through into South Dakota we were seeing more and more cruising bikes. We learnt from the riders that this is the week that the Sturgis Rally was being held, so this gave us a purpose to continue on Route 90. While crossing South Dakota we stayed one night at Chamberlain on the banks of the Missouri River and then the following day we stopped at a Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo. This is a private collection of the Geisler family and is a pioneer village as well as a collection of over 300 cars. Dave Geisler the current owner manager was there to greet us and took a real interest in our Bambino.
On Wednesday night we managed to find some accommodation in Keystone and took the opportunity to go to Mount Rushmore to see the gigantic sculptures of the four presidents' heads. It is very well presented by the National Parks and not over done like a lot of other tourist attractions.
Keystone was an attraction all on it's own, with wall to wall bikes and the riders taking over the entire frontier type tourist town. We were impressed by the cleanliness and behaviour of such a large group of people.
On Thursday morning we drove into Sturgis and spent the morning enjoying the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of bikes of all shapes and sizes. The main road through the town is closed to all cars with only the bikes having access. Every store seems to be selling memorabilia or bike accessories. There are hundreds of stalls along the streets again selling bike-related gear. They get over half a million entrants to the rally which started in 1938 with only 200 riders. When I say we were being passed by thousands of bikes along the interstate it is no exaggeration.
For about a radius of 200 miles around Sturgis for this whole week, there is a huge concentration of people, bikes, trailers, caravans and mobile homes. The majority of bikes are cruising bikes and all fairly new. Most were Harley Davidson with a percentage of Honda Goldwings . We saw no antique bikes and very few sports or trail bikes. Many riders in the burning sun showing large amounts of bright red skin, both male and female, and few wearing helmets just amazed us.
The countryside has been ever changing from the heavily treed hills of Pennsylvania to the corn and potato crops right through to the Missouri River. From there the main crop becomes wheat. As we travelled more inland we passed into the grasslands. Here on the Prairie is where the Sioux lived, buffaloes roamed and "Dances With Wolves" was filmed. As you progress through South Dakota you go through the badlands with it's moon like appearance and this is bordered by the pretty Black Hills around Rapid City.
Even in this extreme heat – over 100 degrees - the car has been performing well and Lang and I, although uncomfortable in the heat, find it tolerable as long as we are constantly moving with the air conditioning on!!!
Sunday, August 5, 2007
sea voyage across the Atlantic, we are on the road again. We were reunited
on the dock in Newark, New Jersey on Friday 3 August, with the car looking
as good as when we left it in Zeebrugge.
Lang and I arrived back in New York late on Wednesday and Lang went
straight to the customs office in Newark. He had feared that we may have
trouble clearing the car but he was gone barely half an hour when he came
back beaming with everything stamped - first hurdle crossed. Apparently
everyone in the office was a car buff and after being shown a few photos
they were extremely enthusiastic and helpful.
This just left the clearance from the shipping company who had already
told us that we would not be able to take delivery until after the
weekend. Lang rang Dudley Waterman, Operations Manager of Wallenius
Wilhelmsen who had his staff make a special effort for us and we drove
out of the yard at lunch time on Friday, only hours after the ship
On Thursday before the ship arrived we went into the city to see the
sights. Lang's patience for such things faded after a few minutes so I
headed off to go to the top of the Empire State Building while he went off
to do something "more constructive". Two and a half hours on the open-top
bus allowed me to get a shallow but wide-ranging "must see spots" overview
of New York – far from the cleanest city in the world.
After collecting the Fiat on Friday we then had to return the hire car. So
we ventured across the middle of New York with me driving the hire car and
Lang following in the Bambino on Friday afternoon with the temperature at
100 degrees. Thank heavens for our GPS and the lovely voice that, when
you make a wrong turn, just so calmly tells you that it is recalculating,
no gritted teeth or raised voices - a truly marvelous invention. It took
us hours to drop off the car, repack the Bambino and then retrace our
steps back into peak-hour traffic out of New York. Quickly across New
Jersey, by 7pm we had crossed the border into Pennsylvania, where we
stayed for the night
For a number of reasons we have now decided to cross USA on Route 80.
Today we have driven right across Pennsylvania and are overnighting in
Cleveland, Ohio. In all we will cross twelve States.
In the owner's manual, written in 1950's, there is a whole chapter on air
conditioning, and as it was another hot day today we put it into practice.
First you roll down the window, then you position the quarter glass window
at an angle so you get a breeze, then the third step is to open the
sunroof – which is counterproductive in 100 degree sunshine. Actually when
we renewed the original sun roof, before we left Brisbane, Lang attached
an extra lining of light carpet, and today we decided that it was a very
smart move, as it has provided great insulation.
The reaction to the car here is amazing. Everything on the road is huge.
Unlike Europe, all the vehicles seem to be big pickups, large 4WD's,
monster Winnebago's and plenty of armchair style Harley Davidson's so we
really do stand out as "gee that's the smallest car I have ever seen."
From the web site written on the side of the car we have already had
people e-mailing who have seen us on the road, and one person, "Gooose (3
O's)Chicken", stopped and took a video and has already put it on U Tube. I
think that by the time we reach the West Coast we will have an incredible
following. As Gooose Chicken said it's all about putting a smile on
Friday, July 27, 2007
The Bambino and a Citroen tried to occupy the same point on the face of the earth at the same time in Reims. Nothing structural and it can be pushed out in a few minutes once the car gets to USA next week.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
somewhere on its way across the Atlantic Ocean.
On Monday last week we drove out of Paris and headed east into the French
Champagne country. There at the village of Cumieres we met up with Tolly
and Jasmine Neil , who come from Brisbane, and at present are relocating
an 80ft barge from the Netherlands, for the owner, an Australian friend of
The 105 year old barge has been extensively renovated and is very roomy
and comfortable. For years Lang and I have talked about buying a barge and
spending time in France on the canals, so our two days aboard were
something of a recce, and I must admit it's the type of boat and boating I
could get very used to - unlike sailing!
We were lucky enough to have beautiful sunny weather during the period on
board. Each day we did legs of only about 15 km, and had the thrill of
passing through six locks, on the canal beside the River Marne. Lang
followed along in the Fiat, stocking up on food and wine at the little
villages, then meeting us to hand it across to the boat while we rose
slowly in the filling lock. Unfortunately duty called and we then had to
part company in the very pretty town of Chalons en Champagne.
Again in the Bambino, we headed for Zeebrugge, Belgium where the car was
delivered to the dock, for shipping across the Atlantic. During this trip
we had our first flat tyre of the whole journey. The speedo has just
clicked over 15,000 km from Vladivostok so we thought it had been a pretty
good run of luck. We had to strip everything out, clean the car totally,
give away our camping equipment and then struggle onto the train to
Brussels with all our bags of gear.
We spent one night in this vibrant city, among the hordes of tourists,
enjoying the beautiful ancient buildings and the wonderful food for which
Belgium is famous.
While in Brussels, Lang managed to source some reasonable airfares, and we
booked to fly out of Brussels to Boston. For some reason it was cheaper to
fly to Boston changing planes in New York than a direct flight to NY.
This was not without a few glitches. Firstly arriving at the airport we
were told we could not enter the USA without proof that we would leave
in 90 days. After trying to argue our case we had no alternative but to
buy some on-going tickets, fortunately we were able to purchase some
Next, our flight was late and it took hours to clear customs in New York
so we, along with many irate travelers missed connecting flights (not
because of security but because US Customs saw fit to only have two
officers dealing with ever increasing lines of hundreds of people as more
747's arrived). This actually suited us fine and we just tore up our
Boston tickets and walked out of the airport, with all our gear.
We will spend the time until the car arrives, doing some touring and
planning our 3000mile (we are now in miles) across the USA heading for San
Francisco. There will be week or so gap until my next report which will
describe our reunion with the 500 on the 3rd of August.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
IDPhoto s.p.r.l. Belgium (+32 496 551 666). We thought they were a good
indication of the fun we had during our stay in Belgium.
A few people do not realise all the photos, both on the "Latest News" and
on the main web site can be clicked on to come up full size. These are a
combination of quality, depending on our camera setting at the time, but
many of them are high resolution magazine standard.
There are also some comments on getting photos out of the archives. If you
just click on "Previous Posts" on the right of the blogs (scroll up and down
until you see it) you will only get the last written information and possibly
no photos from before.
The best way is to click the Archives (on the right side of our written
reports) month name and everything we sent during that month, including
all photos will pop up in order.
Monday, July 16, 2007
companies regarding sponsorship. We put back our USA shipping date and
returned for four extra nights in the nicely situated Hotel Villa Gualino
with its very friendly and helpful Director, Claudio Gilli. Lang took
advantage of the considerable spare time to purchase new front tyres ready
for the little Fiat's USA leg while I packed two large boxes of equipment
(and gifts) that were no longer required and shipped them home.
On Thursday we went to Modena where we joined an interesting hour tour of
the Maserati factory, they produce about 35 cars a week in a very hands-on
operation. After the tour, their semi-retired historic collection
"curator" Ermanno Cozza, who has a lifetime at Maserati and restored many
of their historic cars, took us to see the private collection of Umberto
Pannini. This is situated at the farm, Hombre, where the cheese of the
same name is produced for which Umberto is famous. He has an impressive
collection of Maseratis as well as many other makes and a large range of
motorbikes and tractors. In his workshop he is at present building replica
From there we went to the Ferrari Museum. This is a very slick commercial
operation, well set out and full of beautiful bright red racing cars and
different model Ferrari's as well as a couple of their parent company
Fiats. Not far out of town was another private and very impressive
collection belonging to Mario Righini. This was a unique collection as the
majority of the of the cars were in original condition and consisted of
Italas, De Dions, Alfas and many other European brand names, dating back
more than a century. Mario is a very friendly fellow and we were invited
to join a busload of visiting Japanese car enthusiasts to sample the local
During the few days in Torino we met up again with Antonio Carella who is
a president and very enthusiastic member of the RACI – the Italian Vintage
car club. He has worked with Fiat all his life and is a wonderful fund of
knowledge on the history of the car and its manufacturing.
Mario Vannozzi, who has also spent his working life with Fiat, lives in
Torino and has an amazing driving history. In 1989 he drove the original
Itala from Peking to Paris, Paris to Dakar rallies, and a trip to the
Arctic just to name a few of his accomplishments. Mario accompanied us on
our 3 hour drive to Modena and also had to wait at a wayside restaurant
with us after a large truck and Paolo's VW Golf had a coming together at
a roundabout. Fortunately nobody was hurt but the VW has gone to the big
car yard in the sky. Paulo called Claudio Gilli at the Villa Gualino
hotel who dispatched his night porter with Paolo's other car. We
eventually got home at 3.00am!
Prior to our trip, the French Fiat 500 Club had contacted us to attend a
day of celebration of FIAT France's launch of the new 500 here in Paris in
the Place Vendome. While we were in Garlenda they met up with us and
personally renewed the request. On Friday and Saturday we traveled mainly
on the very expensive motorways to Paris. The trip over the mountains and
through tunnels many kilometres long was absolutely spectacular. Mont
Blanc reared up beside us, still covered in snow.
After spending the night in a small village hotel on the Bourgnone Canal
we booked into a Paris hotel in the La Defense area which is a very modern
business district with glass-walled skyscrapers, so unlike the rest of the
city. Although it sits right on the water on the Seine, weekend rates
(like most Paris hotels) make it cheaper than the village pub we stayed
in. Of course once Monday comes prices double and even triple and it is
time to move out of Paris!
Just 3kms away is the Place Vendome, a large square surrounded by ancient
buildings housing designer label shops and featuring a central Napoleonic
obelisk monument. This was where 100 French Club Fiat 500's of varying
colours and styles were displayed along with a number of new release 500s.
Fiat were offering test drives, so I took one for a spin around Paris, and
am seriously thinking of a swap for the rest of the trip, not sure if Fiat
will come to the party.
We were treated to morning tea and lunch and then at 2pm we did a
one-hour parade around Paris. It included a drive up the Champs Elysees
around the Arc De Triomphe Etoile, past the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame,
a very pleasant sunny Sunday drive (apart from the ten thousand tour
buses). I had a great camera outing and spent much time at each
significant point photographing people, photographing people,
photographing something over the head of the crowd.
We then returned to Place Vendome to sing Happy Birthday and cut the huge
Fiat 500 fiftieth birthday cake.