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French and Italian car lovers celebrated 20 years of the free and fun The Best of France and Italy car show on Sunday, Nov. 1 with over 300 (maybe over 400) of their favorite cars sprawled all over the lawn and dusty dirt of Woodley Park in sunny Van Nuys, California. There were Fiats and Ferraris, Renaults and regal-and-ratty Romeos, along with several things you never would have expected to see outside of a museum in Europe.

“Oh, that’s the beauty of it,” said show co-organizer Chuck Forward, who, along with wife and business partner Tina Van Curen (they own Autobooks Aerobooks in Burbank) and a fleet of volunteers, has put this show together for two decades. “You never know what’s coming out of the woodwork.”

LA has a lot of woodwork.

This year, there was the usual field of Fiats: many X1/9s but also a lot of Abarths, 124s, 128s and even a Multipla.

“This thing just makes everybody happy,” said automotive concierge Robert Dietz, who is helping owner Mike Malamut winnow Malamut’s collection of over 200 cars, including the Multipla. “Look at it, you don’t know if it’s coming or going.”

Technically, it’s going, out the doors of the Malamut collection and into private hands. Call for a price but be forewarned, this thing is in immaculate condition.

As was the 1954 Citroen Traction Avant of Rod Pick. Like all survivors, Pick’s Traction Avant has a story. It was built in Slough, England, and has right-hand drive. It spent 20 years in Botswana and South Africa before being shipped to Quebec, where it wound up in the second story of a barn for 30 years before a Citroen Club of Canada member bought it, restored the interior and sold it to Pick.

“I just love it,” Pick said.

Malamut's Multipla

Mike Malamut’s Multipla makes and entrance.

Everybody loved Peter Giacobbi’s 1959 Testarossa, too. We first saw it several years ago at Concorso Ferrari Pasadena, where we learned the car’s story. The body was built by a carrozzeria in Italy that was vying for the business of Ferrari at the time the original Testarossa was being developed. The carrozzeria built one body, didn’t get the contract to build any more and the one body went up in the rafters of a shop in Colico di Piano, where it sat until Giacobbi heard about it. He figured he’d never be able to afford a real Testarossa so he bought the body and built a car around it. Is it real? It sure looked real in its unpainted, race-ready glory.

And how often have you seen an OSI in your daily commute? Maybe never. Officine Stampaggi Industriali was formed in 1960 out of an exodus of Ghia employees. This OSI 20M TS has some Ford Taunus 20M mechanicals underneath, but this one also had a Ford Cobra 302 V8 making 406 hp. The interior is still being finished, but when it’s done it’ll be up for sale from Noble Fabrication in Ventura, CA. You’d be the only one on your block with one of these. 

Bruce's Bugatti

Bruce Meyer brought his best Bugatti. Thanks, Bruce.

When we saw a 1935 Bugatti Ventoux pull onto the lawn, we knew there were only two guys on the planet who could both own one and be cool enough to bring it to this show: It had to be either Jay Leno or Bruce Meyer. And while Leno often comes to this and many other car shows in SoCal, this time the Bugatti belonged to Meyer. Meyer epitomizes the best of the car-guy culture, with a great collection and a willingness to share it with everyone.

On the other end of the collector spectrum was 15-year-old Massimo Lucidi, who restores classic Italian racing bicycles. He brought a 1981 Bianchi, 1962 Legnano and 1949 Taurea. He was giving demos of the Taurea’s derailer, the second such mechanism offered on a production bike, he said. A fine young man, and we look forward to seeing his Italian car collection in about 25 more years.

And while everything else was either Italian or French, there were three magnificent Tatras on hand Sunday. John Long brought the same wonderful silver T87 we saw the week before at Art Center, while Paul Greenstein and Dydia DeLyser brought their smooth black 1941 T87. Then, about noon, in rolled Danny Barnett, who towed his 1966 Tatra 2-603 all the way from Las Vegas just for The Best of F & I. We watched him roll it off the trailer and then had the audacity to ask if we could ride in it across the field to the Tatra section.

“Sure!” he said, and we now have a new favorite person of the week. Maybe two weeks. Great guy, but one of many who show up every year at this great show. See you next year, and get that Alfetta in running order!