So often, attending these car-related events, I don’t have any skin in the game and can approach things with an objective point of view. Such is not the case here, as for the second time this year one of the cars entered in the show was mine 🙂 Just a few months before, I had tripped off to Pittsburgh, PA with my little 1963 Fiat 600D, to the national Fiat Club meet and Italian Car Show associated with the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. That blog post can be seen here. In Pittsburgh, I got a huge surprise getting a class win as I did not expect to win anything at all, having had in mind the idea of going there and having a good time, seeing a rather historic American city in the process. At Lake Mirror, this was not the case.
This time, I was really prepped and ready to go, as my 1970 Fiat 124 Coupe had literally just gotten out of the restoration shop 1 day before I had to ship it from my home in Cary, NC to Lakeland, FL for the Lake Mirror Classic Concours d’Elegance in Lakeland, FL. The best restoration I could do was the end objective of what turned out a 2 year (almost exact) project, so while I was not necessarily expecting a result, I was hopeful of one.
Lake Mirror allows judging of all cars and motorcycles produced between 1900 and 1972. I was entered, obviously, in the European Sports and GT Class, 1966-1972. European cars were further subdivided from 1961-1965 and 1900 to 1960. There was also a European microcar class with some interesting entries, both display only and for judging. British cars were overwhelmingly represented, in fact I was the only non-British car in my class. It was a rather lonely feeling. I had a nice talk with the judge prior to him doing his duty on my group, he was rather shocked to see a Fiat (really good ones are not easy to find from that time) and particularly surprised to see a 124 Coupe, an example of which he stated he had not seen in years. This is for good reason, because like almost all British cars of the time that were Fiat’s primary market competition, Fiats returned to Earth rapidly after leaving the assembly line in the form of iron oxide filings. Sales, however, were quite a bit less in the US, of any Fiat model relative to the British imports, meaning few examples have survived.
This seemed to serve my car well, as I was able to win a second place in class against some very well preserved Jaguar, Triumph, and Austin Healey cars. I was only beaten in the class by a 1969 Jaguar E-Type Convertible, and I wonder how many points separated the two of us. These are often down to the most minor issues. Convertible E-Types in good shape such as this one are fairly valued in show condition at $75 to $100k as seen here so my second place finish, with a car worth basically about 1/4th the price, was a real achievement. I got a large number of positive compliments about the car, so many who said “I once had one, wish I had kept it” or “really liked mine but it rusted away” so it is my hope this placing will increase both demand and interest of Fiats from the 1960s and 1st half of the 1970s. General interest from the viewing public from age 40 and up was surprisingly high. The younger crowd seemed less interested, a trend I see at other car shows, they tend to drift off to more contemporary high end exotics, or 80s/90s Japanese tuner type stuff, a rather worrisome trend for the European (and US) car collecting hobby long term….but I digress.
What I have always liked about Fiats of the era was that they were cars built for the “everyman”, with a high degree of affordability yet carried the classical style and sophistication of more expensive machinery, and were great representatives of this golden era of European and Italian automobile design. Today, any car is a mixture of random parts from the cheapest available supplier globally, but that was not how it was done then. Every part on the 124 was sourced in Italy (as all of the British cars were from English suppliers), and like most every car from any specific European country of that period, all Fiats of the era carry a particular flavor of the country. Due to hefty trade barriers and tariffs present in most European countries at the time, automakers built cars with the domestic market foremost in mind, and cars from European (and for that matter US) automakers reflected the aesthetic and the demands of those domestic markets. If they happened to sell well in foreign markets, well great, but they were not the primary target. As such, many cars of the post-WWII period are cultural objects, beyond their job as 4-wheeled people movers. Think of the Fiat 500 (Topolino or the later 500 version from the 50s and 60s), Corvette, Jaguar E-Type, and so on. You’ll see a few examples of such “transport as a cultural object” in the following round of photographs.
Triumph Bonneville, winner of the “Best European Motorcycle”
BSA Lightning. “Birmingham Small Arms”, the gunmaker, also made some fine motorcycles. Now, of course, England makes almost nothing from an industrial standpoint. This of course includes BSA’s favorite product, handguns, those being banned in the country. The motorcycle industry in England (and Germany, excepting BMW which could stay afloat because of BMW automobiles) was run into the ground by the Japanese. The handgun industry was run into the ground by government regulations. The Italians still continue to put up resistance in this department, somehow…including gunmaking. I’m not sure where British get their guns these days when they do buy some, probably from the Chinese. British do buy Triumph motorcycles from time to time, but many of the parts of the reconstituted Triumph company’s bikes are made in Thailand 😀 😀
The previous pictures are of a Honda 400. It won best Asian motorcycle.
Honda 300, clearly the Japanese were copying British motorcycle designs in the 60s.
1934 Ariel 350. This was my choice for people’s choice. Of course that award went to a Harley-Davidson, because that is the only motorcycle the general public has heard of. This Ariel was about 100 times rarer and looked better, not over-restored, with great patina.
A 50s BMW shaft drive flat-twin. Attendant female model unknown, unfortunately 😦
The Ariel 350 again
1957 Corvette Fuel-Injected V8 with clearly seen fuel injection system and distributor
Following are entries in the microcar class. It was won by the Fiat 500 Topolino. It was a good day for Fiats at Lake Mirror 🙂 2 entries and 2 awards.
Velorex. This bizarre fabric bodied cyclecar was made in Czechoslovakia in the era of the Iron Curtain. Only Communists could produce something like this and call it transportation 🙂 Powered by a 2-stroke V-twin motorcycle engine.
Riley Elf “Jolly” beach car. One of only 92 examples made for 1 year, in 1967.
1937 Cord 812. Iconic American Car of the 1930s