The drive into Van Nuys… ah like totally in the valley… for the Best of France and Italy Car Show wasn’t particularily hot on this November 1st morning but it was still only ten o’clock. The things I hate most about car shows in California is how hot it gets by mid-day. Should I wear shorts, pants, maybe jeans and a t-shirt, big hat for the sun, baseball hat, tennis shoes, flip flops. What’s a boy to do? We drove in a classic 1958 Desoto with big fins, big bench vinyl seats and big windows. Big glorious windows that let the wind smooth out your hat-head hair for a bit cool. But the vinyl seats, well, they just make your butt sweat.
Everyone keeps talking about this show. “There is always something unique, it’s not your typical.”
No. 11 of 40 mdade, 1 of 2 in the US
Everyone was right. We kept running into Mark Vaughn from AutoWeek at these shows. He was putting together a story while claiming to be wasting his time on a Sunday to keep his job. 50% of which is probably true. He left us to go find the guy who runs the show for some fabled quotes about “how much it keeps expanding year over year” and “how proud we are of the turnout.” Morgan Seagal, photographer for Car and Driver, rallied for the cause while Jay Leno brought one of the most expensive Bugattis in existence. Everyone of these collectors who showed their cars, like the yellow 1996 DeTomaso Guara — one of 40 made and the last DeTomaso produced before the company’s demise, challenged the guy next to him for one-offness. The Guara had a 4.6 liter V8 producing 370hp, a 6-speed transmission and weighed only 2,550 pounds.
Shade was our friend as the time passed on to noon and later. Dust was not. Mud being the alternative, I’m happy to get dusty but the cars and their owner’s probably not so much. Jay’s car, you can see Jay just above the front wheel, had sweeping marks from wet wiping the car before driving it out to the featured display area. Photographer’s and fans mobbed the car kicking up more dust. I was fortunate to snap this photo as the car drove in before it was surrounded. It’s nearly impossible to get a beauty shot of these cars without some guy pushing a stroller in front of you.
Most noted car at the show? The black Tatra. Tatra is a vehicle manufacturer in Kopřivnice (Nesselsdorf in German), Czech Republic. The company was founded in 1850 as Schustala & Company later renamed Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft, a wagon and carriage manufacturer, and in 1897 produced the first motor car in central Europe, the Präsident. In 1918 it changed its name to Kopřivnická vozovka a.s. and in 1919 started to use Tatra badge named after the nearby Tatra mountains. Tatra is the third oldest car maker in the world after Daimler Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot. Production of Tatra cars ceased in 1999 but the company still produces a range of primarily all-wheel-drive 4×4, 6×6, 8×8, 10×10, and 12×12 trucks.
Tatra’s specialty was luxury cars of a technically advanced nature, going from aircooled flat-twins to fours and sixes, culminating (briefly) with the OHC 6 litre V12 in 1931. In the 1930s, under Austrian engineer Hans Ledwinka, his son Erich and German engineer Erich Übelacker and protected by a high tariff and absence of foreign assemblers, Tatra then began building advanced, streamlined cars after obtaining licences from Paul Jaray, which started in 1934 with the large Tatra T77, the world’s first production aerodynamic car. The fastback T77’s drag coefficient of 0.212 is rarely bettered even by the sleekest of modern cars. It featured (as did almost all subsequent big Tatras) a rear-mounted, air-cooled V8 engine, which was in technical terms very sophisticated for the time.
Ledwinka discussed his ideas with Ferdinand Porsche who used many Tatra design features in the 1938 Kdf-Wagen, later known as the VW Beetle. This is particularly evident when compared with the smaller T97 model which had a rear-mounted, air-cooled, flat-4 engine and rounded body styling. Tatra immediately started legal action, but the matter was not resolved until 1961 when Volkswagen was ordered to pay 3,000,000 Deutsche Marks in damages. — Wikipedia
We stood under a tree while part of our group milled around the show. Concorso Italiano gave me a fill of the Fiat and Alfa groups although I’m sure I missed something.. like sweating more in the sun… I enjoyed chatting at that point more. In the end, these shows are as much about the cars as learning from the people who love them.