The two week long Register trip to Italy, culminating in the Venasca Silver Flag hill climb event on the weekend of 21- 22 June, was a huge success. Thirteen Giuliettas and Giulias, an early 1750 Sprint GT, a 105 GTO, and a more recent SZ ES-30 joined the Percorso di Vernasca from 16-28 June, 2014.
Bruce and Bridget Stewart shipped their beautiful 1959 Sprint and themselves from New Zealand for an emotional return to the car’s spiritual homeland in Italy and the chance to drive on the right side of the road for the first time. Don and Lynda Sanders from North Carolina, USA, drove a UK-based T.I., and Alan Bradnock, also from NZ, joined the group again, this time with his wife Janine Hannan, to drive a UK-based Sprint recently acquired and restored for the trip. Scots Will and Lindsey Grimes took time off work in Dubai to manhandle their highly tuned and hairy 105 GTO round most of the route.
And what a great and demanding route it was. Almost 3,000 miles through France and Switzerland into northern Italy, circling wide round Milan via Parma to Turin, then into the south of France before heading north towards the Channel. It took in more high passes and narrow gorges than either of the 2004 and 2010 Italy trips. Some famous and well travelled, including the Stelvio, packed with motorbikes, trikes, cars fast and slow, suicidal cyclists and bizarrely, even a German parade of vintage tractors coming up on our run down from the summit. It was a circus of near misses. Other passes, narrow, steep and deserted even by mountain goats, were assailed and conquered by our intrepid and foolhardy band.
Vernasca Silver Flag was all we expected and more. Beautiful villages, Castell ‘Arquarto at the start, a 90 degree left halfway at Lugagnano, then winding on upwards to end after 8.5 km and 290 metres higher at Vernasca. The Programme listed some 220 magnificent cars, several rarely seen on the road and hugely valuable, and most driven with considerable brio to the happy appreciation of assembled petrol heads from many countries. We gave a special cheer to the Register’s own John Bennett driving his 1965 TZ1. A very friendly crowd without a common language happily communicated their love of beautifully designed and well-tuned machines, expertly driven. This year was celebrating Lancia, from the 1925 Lambda to the modern LC2, with 56 great examples to delight us all.
Another highlight was the Museo Nazionale dell’ Automobile in Turin, including a display of the Giulietta Sprint launched sixty years ago, including the original wooden buck for the body shape.
In Provence we met for lunch with Jerome Barogola and several members of the French Giulietta club 'Scuderia Museo Vivo Provence'. Tokens of mutual esteem and respect were exchanged by our respective presidents, Richard Wigley and Jerome, and the entente was most cordial all round. Later we drove safely over Mont Ventoux together in heavy mist with only a few metres visibility.
Sadly the trip was not without mishap. An unfortunate accident put the SZ out of action in the first week but Kelly LaVelle and Andrew Stevens made a marathon drive back from UK in Andrew’s 105 to rejoin the trip for the second week. Frank and Marian van der Vecht suffered a bad shunt in their Sprint at the end a few miles from their home in The Netherlands. Happily no one was hurt. We hope both cars can be restored to their former beautiful condition soon.
Another well-planned, exciting, exhausting and thoroughly enjoyable trip with old friends and new ones from around the world. All our cars were driven with customary gusto and, apart from some minor fettling en route, performed wonderfully in this, the 60th anniversary year of the Giulietta. That’s why we love them.