Italo Calvino said. “The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.
Museo Storico in Arese, Italy, site of the former Alfa Romeo factory houses some of the worlds best known automobiles both in design, innovation and historical significance. It is like being inside the hallowed walls of one of the greatest buildings on earth for a person who loves cars. “If the walls could speak, what would you hear?”
In the silence of the room, you might hear Nuvolari , Enzo Ferrari , Mario Andretti, Carlos Pace , Juan Manuel Fangio and so many others whispering about a particular race car, conditions on the course, or how to improve a 3 liter Grand Prix engine to gain a few more horsepower. You can smell the oil, the grease, and fuel when you are standing next to the cars and knowing that the legends of Gran Prix Racing sat in that very seat that is worn and cracked with age.
As you step into the halls of the museum your first impression is that there are multiple floors and some of earliest and latest are parked just inside the door. What you may not know is that the majority of the cars are drivable. I was told that you could slap a “Prova” plate on the car and take off down the Autostrada. Many of the cars have the proverbial drip pan under the car to catch the oil drips. If you have been around Alfa Romeo for a while, it would seem that if it doesn’t leak, it isn’t and Alfa.
Each car comes with its own platform and history tablet behind it, giving facts and figures. As you stand there looking at the various models, you are looking at a snap shot of hours of labor in love to preserve what was at the time, the hand creation of a cadre of workers who made a car with a name on it that meant something.
The museum holds so many design cars of concepts that may have or not made the production line, and toured so many cars shows around the world. Anyone remember the Scarebeo?
My interpretation of a car is what I term, “rolling art”. Take a trip out to your garage and just gaze at your Alfa Romeo. You are looking at a snap shot in time; preserving, driving and loving your own piece of art. It may not be as significant as a Renoir, Picasso, Whistler, or another form of painted art to hang on your wall. You can actually sit in your “art”, turn the key, hear the fuel pump thump, the starter grinding to bring the engine come to life consuming precious molecules of fuel as they are atomized down into the combustion chamber. You can put your hands on the love someone at the factory gave long ago, so you can drive today.
Slipping the selector in to gear, you feel the gears doing their work, all the way from the engineer that drew and machinist that fabricated, until the parts were just right for production. Releasing the clutch, your art begins to take life as the exhaust resonates its unique sound that only Alfa Romeo can have. The wind catches your breath as your heart races feeling the car pull through the gear up to red line. The car is screaming it wants to go faster, a fast shift, and your flying. A quick flick of the gear shift and the speedometer is racing to the top number. The steering is quick, light like power steering, responsive. All the components are working together in synchronicity. Feel the life in your art now? Where else can you get that except in something that moves and feels alive?
If you go to Jay Leno’s Garage you can watch him drive a 8c2300 Monza replica, describing how it drives and the passion he has in his voice while he does so.
My Giulia Spider Veloce would come alive at 4,000 rpm @ 80 mph when the engine would come up on the “cam”. The engine would run easier, and get a 2nd wind. From there to red line and 112 mph the car is in its element. The feeling this evokes brings its own imaginations of running your car wide open and your “pedal to the metal. “As we say there are “lots of smiles to the mile“.
A privileged few are afforded the opportunity each year to drive a museum car on a tour in Italy. *sigh* I have always wondered what it takes to get a ride. Maybe someone one can enlighten us in a comment of how that is accomplished? Does one have to be a member of R.I.A.R?
Stay tuned to the next episode…