My relationship with classics started in kind of a different way as many other might have.
I was born in Argentina and raised in North Italy, my childhood had always been in between engines, from my dads, Giorgio, mechanics garage till seeing my younger sister grow up as a manager in the automotive industry.
My first model car was a red ferrari f40 from Burago that I used for months as a skateboard; my father still keeps safe as a treasure. Before that f40 my parents tried to give me a big red ambulance, but I was way more fascinated by my older sisters paintbrushes and heavy metal music tapes laying in her room.
As you see cars and engines were never a thing in my mind till the day while a dinner in Italy, a friend joking suggested that I should take a 500 to Vienna. We both laughed at the idea but somehow it started to grow on me and all seemed easy. Back in Vienna discussing it with friends the reaction was quite different from what I expected. Most people were seeing it as a crazy plan, how was I planning to transport it, trailer, train, what did I needed for? get a new car instead, but I never wanted a car. So the solution was one, call Giorgio, let him confirm that the car was safe, and drive it 1100km till Vienna.
Faster that I knew I had a plane ticket and I was flying to Nizza with a licence plate ready to hang in a 500 and close a grey and awful winter. From Nizza, a bus ride till Menton, due to a train strike in France, a 3 hrs walk over the border from France to Italy and finally 1 hr train till Pietra Ligure and then the moment came. She was there, orange under the sun only 10 meters away from the seaside.
I jumped in and try to start the engine but nothing was as I expected, Giorgio’s face filled up with a big smile when he realised that I had no idea how to turn the engine on or how to switch the gears. You might think that that’s pretty easy but the 500 got a non-electronic starter with one lever for the choke, one for the starter and a not synchronised gearbox that requires double clutch between gear shifts. Suddenly all the commentaries from friends started to make sense, I wanted to drive over the Alps for 1000 km on a car that was not even able to start or shift gears, so we went for a fast training, full control by Giorgio and after few glasses of red wine we called it a day.
The morning of the trip was on and the tiny 500 was waiting for me, after the last check and loading the lugagge, was time to leave. I started the solo trip driving slowly on the coast streets to after 30 km take the highway direction Milano. The average speed was 80 kmh, the minimum to be allowed on Italian highways, keeping the engine calm and trying to find out how many of the original 18hp was the engine still having. The destination for the day was Udine, 600 km from the starting point, taking care of making a break each hr for a coffee to let the engine cool down due to its air-cooled rear engine and without problems or surprises the day came to an end and the bed was waiting.
On the second day, the weather was rainy and having in front of me the path over the Alps was not good news. Shy and slowly, started the drive through the streets in Udine hoping to don’t get any snow on the way on that cold March morning. Without realised I was passing trucks on the hills up to the border between Austria and Italy, it was the funnier driving experience of my life.
Snow on the sides of the road, no radio, no heating a big blanket over my legs and the emotion of being rocking the Alps and putting smiles on the faces of people inside the cars that overtook me or on the fueling stops. Unbealibeavly the minutes were passing by like seconds with me hanging on its huge driving wheel and suddenly Vienna’s landscape was in front of me. How was it possible?? 2 days of driving, cold and fear were gone without me realising it. The 500 was finally under the Viennese night sky, a cold beer was in my hand and classic cars had stolen my heart.
But why a 500 and why an L model? Well, those are answers that you might get on another of our stories.