On the evening of November 18, 2016, the AACA Museum in Hershey PA officially opened its “Amore della Strada” Italian machinery exhibit with a reception at the museum. The public was invited to attend, and turnout was large, making for crowded aisles. The doors opened at 6pm, and your $20 admission included antipasti, beer, and wine. Those who owned cars on display were admitted “gratuito”.
There were approximately 20 Italian cars, and perhaps a dozen or so Italian motorcycles. The museum is arranged in such a way that there was no practical way for the curators to place all the special exhibits together. Therefore, they were arranged in smaller groups of 2, 3, 4, or more, and placards with each vehicle provided sufficient history regarding the make and model. Owners who were loaning their wares for the five-month duration of the show were dutifully acknowledged. (Last week’s blog entry covered this author’s drive to deliver his ’67 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior to the exhibit.)
Fiats and Alfa Romeos seemed to comprise the bulk of the vehicle displays, and some might agree with me that it was a refreshing change of pace for an “Italian Car Show” to NOT be dominated by late-model supercars from the Big 3 of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati. (Of these three makes, I counted only two Ferraris.)
Among the Fiats, we saw three 124 Spiders, two X1/9s, and an 850 Spider. The X1/9s were a study in contrasts, as the bright green one was a first year example wearing the original bumper-less design, while the white one from 1987 wore no Fiat badges at all, as it was manufactured and sold by Bertone, and badged as such, since Fiat left the U.S. market after 1982. The only Italian prewar car on the floor was a delightful 1937 Fiat Topolino (Little Mouse).
The four Alfa Romeos included two Giulia coupes, one early step-nose and one 2nd generation design, a rare Montreal Coupe (with a factory V8), and the last Alfa sold in the U.S. market (until Sergio’s recent resurgence), the large front-wheel-drive 164 sedan.
The show included vehicles that required an explanation how they passed the entrance exam, as two of them had big American V8 engines, and one had a British 4-cylinder lump. The DeTomaso Longchamp and Italia Omega are vehicles belonging to a class long known as ‘hybrids’ (decades before that term was used to describe a gas/electric vehicle).
Most car aficionados have heard of the DeTomaso Pantera, sold here by Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the early 1970s. The Longchamp is the squared-off, four-seat sister to the Pantera. The one on display featured a Ford 351 Cleveland engine mated to a 3-speed automatic. I’ve seen many a photo of Longchamps, and this was the first one I’ve ever seen in the metal.
The car labeled as a 1967 Italia Omega is more familiarly known to me as an Intermeccanica Italia. Based on my reading of the car’s placard, the history of this car company is convoluted at best. (Indeed, none of the several import-based compilation books in my library make any mention at all of this company.) The vehicle in the museum was an attractive convertible, using a front-mounted Ford 302 V8 paired with a 4-speed manual transmission.
The 1961 Triumph Italia on display is one of 329 built. While the design is certainly in the Italian mold, the sheetmetal hides what is essentially the drivetrain and chassis of a stock Triumph TR-3. One of the outstanding features of the Italia is that it is the handiwork of a young Giovanni Michelotti, who would later pen the restyle of the TR-4 into the TR-6.
Scan through the photos below for shots of other vehicles which were on display. (And as always, click on any of the photos to enlarge them.)
Among the motorcycles, which are not my primary interest, I could not help but be drawn to the 1958 Iso Moto, built by the same company that originally designed the Iso Isetta. Like the Longchamp, it was a first for me to actually see one of these in person.
The “Amore della Strada” exhibit runs through April 22, 2017. There’s plenty to see at the Museum besides the Italian stuff. If you’ve never made the trip, this is a good excuse to do so. If you have, the Italian cars are a nice addition to what you may have seen before.
All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.