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Padua’ Auto E Moto D’Epoca: Italy’s best classic car show, born out of a small swap meet

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Text and photos by Matteo Giacon.

[Editor’s Note: Most of you will probably know him as italianiron, a frequent commenter on our carspotting posts. But Matteo Giacon is more than just a carspotting savant; he’s also a part-time car writer and has submitted this overview of this year’s Auto E Moto D’Epoca in Padua.]

Earlier this month, the Padua Fair hosted Auto E Moto D’Epoca, which as the time goes by, has become the most important indoor event for everything related to classic cars here in Italy. From its little acorns back in 1983, with only a hundred or so cars, this event grew, year after year, so much so in fact that its main European competitors are now such giants like Retromobile, Stuttgart and Technoclassica in Essen. Sure, in Italy there are other shows conspicuously growing too, like the Milan’ AutoClassica event, but, so far, none have been able to bring in a single place something like the 4,500-plus cars and the 100,000 aficionados crowding the expo’s pavilions and the nearby areas. And while the original swap meet format was preserved in some ways, thanks to the thousands of cars for sale and an outstanding parts section – one of the best in Italy – the glamour-focused side of the show has nicely evolved in a mature and compelling manner.

The stupendly outrageous rear of the 1938 fiat 1500 6c ala doro above

The stupendously outrageous rear of the 1938 fiat 1100 ala doro above.

If some other years saw quite a preponderance of Ferraris, Lambos, Porsches, typical British sports cars or typical Italian models of the smallish kind, this ought to be the “Year Of The Alfa Romeos” and for good reason: I never saw (and as a spectator or exhibitor I’ve come here since 1990, a full quarter of century) such a numbers of Milanese rarities. With more 6C 2500s than Fiat 500s and 600s combined, or some prewar 1750s and Fifties 1900s scattered in almost a random manner here and there – both as sedans and coupes, stock or one-offs – plenty of Giuliettas, Giulias, GT coupes, Montreals, even ‘Suds, 2600 Sprints and some Alfettas ready for some inseguimento, or again some “obscure” models brought by the marque’s museum could it be any different? It must be added that, for what I was told about, the Alfa museum brought cars not shown in their new magnificent building, choosing instead to move rare models usually “preserved” in its basements.


1947 Alfa 6c2500 Freccia d’Oro

Yet, I didn’t mention other prewar Portello cars, or some spectacular fuoriserie from the Twenties, Thirties, Forties and Fifties (not just Alfas, but also special carrozzerie-bodied Lancias and Fiats were there for the real connoisseur’s pleasure, including barchettas and incredibly cool Etceterinis, something usually seen in venues like Mille Miglia, Villa D’Este and even Amelia Island and Pebble Beach). Official marques offered some incredible Maseratis, racing Audis and Mercedes, a glorious-looking green Miura, a Peugeot 402 Eclipse, while dealers were happy to offer something for all the pockets, although way much more cars than usual were available for pockets of the deep kind.


1937 Adler

29-alfa-romeo-6c-1750-by-touring 54-fiat-1900-a-granluce-italian-car-with-chrome-two-toning-and-fluid-coupling 1950-fiat-1400-6-seats-by-pinifarina-the-cardboard-was-no-needed-no-oil-dripping-of-sort 1958-fiat-1200-wonderful-by-vignale-and-michelotti 1968-maserati-simun a-touring-masterpiece-no-need-to-say-more an-example-of-what-was-available-for-would-be-buyers-a-nice-detomaso-pantera-gts beach-wagon-italian-style-a-fiat-500b-giardiniera-legno chiriribiri-monza-tipo-spinto-an-exceedingly-rare-prewar-car


Alfa 1900, Ghia for sure with that Dodgesque headlights ensemble

etceterini-a-48-fiat-500-berlinetta-bodied-by-maestri ferrari-166-barchetta fiat-522-a-nice-early-thirties-6-cylinder for-those-thinking-a-plymouth-concord-sedan-is-too-common-1-of-3-left-of-the-50-fiat-1400-6-seats-coupe-pininfarina four-doors-with-an-overall-lenght-equal-to-the-wheelbase-of-a-standard-cadillac i-see-red-a-spectacular-o-s-c-a

But, most important, what can surprise is the simple fact that not all of these specialty cars were seen in official marques’ spaces (Alfas, Porsche, Maserati, PSA group, VW, Audis, Range and Land Rover, and Mercedes) or one of the ubiquitous high-zoot dealers. Even “humble” clubs had a veritable quantity of rarities, and the photos here speak for themselves. I only mention as an example my friends’ Fiat 1400s and 1900s: After all, when you can (someone could say “have to”) bring examples like a 1900 A Granluce (the almost nonexistent hardtop model), an even rarer 1400 convertible (what’s more, the best example in the world, a 99 points car), and the one of three still in existence 1400 Pininfarina six-seat Coupè Pininfarina, it is almost natural to attract attention, and I was truly happy to talk with both American and British citizens deeply interested in the rather “obscure” theme of the Fiat 1400.


ready for an inseguimento

not-the-eldorado-you-are-used-to p400-obviously-glamour-obviously-lambo rare-fiat-1500-vignale ready-for-brescia the-francis-lombardi-bodied-fiat-600-lucciola the-legendary-ferrari-250-gte-for-italian-police there-were-another-skyliner-too-the-peugeot-402-eclipse tickford-bodied-early-land-rover triciclo-bernardi-the-one-preserved-by-university-of-padua typical-fiat-based-barchetta yet-another-example-of-the-magnificent-pre-war-alfas-brought-by-clubs

The very same can be said about all other clubs too, considering the interesting vehicles on display: prewar Lancia Aprilias, early Lancia Flaminias, exceptional Ferrari 166 Touring, Aston Martins, even an incredible Land Rover wagon with metallic body. And outside the fair, on Sunday, there was a nice surprise, with the imposing “boulevard parade” with a plethora of almost lost but totally unforgettable Italian heavy trucks from the Fifties and Sixties.


Lancia Esagamma, a nice example of what Lancia did for truckers back then

thanks-to-their-success-there-back-in-the-sixties-although-a-three-axle-like-this-was-unusual-even-here they-were-known-as-africas-lions-back-then almost-all-of-the-heavy-trucks-were-sixties-fiats high-in-the-sky how-cute-an-early-fiat-615-which-was-equipped-with-fiat-1400-gas-or-oil-engines incrasingly-rare-the-definitive-nuns-van-the-fiat-850-familiare real-italian-irons-a-sample-of-the-heavy-trucks-sunday-parade these-are-still-quite-impressive-beasts

As for the American cars, this year admittedly there were few of them, but a monumental drop top Auburn 12-160 (complete with Dual Ratio Differential Unit), its “cousin,” a Cord L29, and a seemingly very good ’54 Skyliner provided entertaining choices even for those not focused exclusively on ‘Stangs, ‘Vettes and Camaros. Also a humble ’49 Chevy Fleetline Special, looking like it came directly from our Hartford series of photos.


No need to say more a nice example indeed

i-always-dreamt-of-being-able-to-take-such-a-photo 38-fiat-1500-6c-pinin-farina-not-your-average-37-ford quite-elegant-from-the-rear-too the-too-big-for-its-parking-lot-32-auburn-12-161 a-nice-view-of-the-auburns-dual-ratio-differential-unit-i-think-i-was-the-only-one-taking-a-shot-of-it-among-100000-plus-visitors the-auburns-dash-on-the-left-of-the-steering-wheel-the-dual-ratio-differential-unit-control-knob always-a-showstopper-the-cord-l29

So, if European and Italian obscure and not so obscure cars are what you are after, you need to make a date for 2017 here in Padua (same period, and in all likelihood it will last a full week instead of four days only). And since there were quite a few Americans during the show days, things are already becoming a pleasant intercontinental affair and I hope to see even more transatlantic visitors in future.