A Klockau in Italy: Curbside Classics in that Boot-Shaped Country

Back in April, my Uncle Dave and Aunt Lori went on a trip to Italy. It was a tour of historic cathedrals, the Coliseum, and other major Italian architectural attractions. But Dave is a gearhead at heart (runs in the family!), so when I found out where they were going, I made it a point to mention that he keep his eye out for some Italian Curbside Classics. “If you see something neat, make sure you get some pictures!” Dave was a little worried about angering some big, angry guy by taking pictures of his Alfa Duetto or Fiat Spider, but he said he would give it a try. These pictures are are what he brought back. So let’s leave the Middle West and Pacific Northwest, and see what folks are driving in the home of Maserati, great pasta, and opera music!

One of the first cars he snapped was this modern Dacia. When I hear the word “Dacia” I think of a badge-engineered Renault 12, so I guess they have been updated a bit in the last 10-15 years.

Here we have a new Fiat 500 in its natural environment. And what is that yellow car in the background?

Why, I believe it is a late-model Fiat Panda, looking quite efficient and much more modern than the original version. I think it looks rather nice in pastel yellow. Anything other than bland silver or gray looks good to me!

Now when you are traveling with a group, when it’s time to stop, you stop too! Ducking into this restaurant, it doesn’t look that much different than The Hamburg Inn in Iowa City…

But something tells me we are not in Iowa City (or Eugene) anymore, Dorothy.

Now that we’ve had a sandwich and a Coke, how about some ice cream? And check out those Euro cars in the background! You’re not going to see many of these at Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines, that’s for sure! I’m curious as to what that boxy compact in the background is. A Fiat? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised.

This house (or is that a villa?) caught Dave’s eye. Looks like a cool place to live, but what is that small silver car?

As you can see, European cities are not as, ah, accomodating to motorized transport as in the U.S. of A. Just try driving a Marquis Brougham or Ninety-Eight Regency around here – not recommended. Well, there is a cool-looking Alfa coming down the street. A Brera, perhaps? Hey Chrysler, bring some of these over here already. I need some Alfa brochures to drool over!

As befitting an Italian sightseeing trip, the Iowa Citians and Burlingtoners saw many historic sites. We Curbside Classic folks might be more interested in the micro police-car in the foreground. Hope they don’t have too many bank robberies in Italy…you could smoke that police car in a 1975 Impala with full smog equipment.

Italian waste disposal vehicles are rather svelte, perhaps due to those narrow streets I mentioned earlier.

God bless Italy. Even their waste disposal technicians look pretty good…

Normally your garbage men (I’ve never seen any garbage women in the Quad Cities) are big, tough guys named Ed. They do things a bit differently in Europe, I guess. I could live with it…

Okay, back to cars. Here’s a Range Rover Evoque. I first saw one of these at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show, and I must say that the one I saw there, in bright red with cream leather interior, looked much better than this gray one. To each their own.

Here’s a typical city scene in Rome. As you can see, streets seem an afterthought and all the buildings are quite close. That’s what happens when a city’s existence precedes that of the automobile by hundreds of years. That looks like a first-gen Audi A6 in the lower right of the picture, but I don’t know what the white wagon is. Can anyone identify it? We’ll get to that yellow speck in the background in a moment.

Not too many cars in view, but do you notice the absence of honking giant SUVs? Gasoline at $8 per gallon will do that. And where in a blue moon would you park a Suburban or Navigator?

Notice the absence of tacky “Miracle Mile” retail and fast food emporiums. There were lots of buildings like this in America throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but “urban renewal” and other well-intended projects eliminated many of them. But I digress.

How about a vintage 500? This one was slightly customized, with two-tone paint, a roof rack and Minilites. To give you an idea of how small these are, beside it is a Mercedes A-Class–the smallest (non-Smart) MB made.

Yep, we’re still in Rome, judging from that “Roma” license plate. Nice shape, and unrestored. A true Curbside Classic, Italia style.

The interior is slightly modified as well. Pretty wild upholstery, eh? You can still sense the no-nonsense utility of the 500, though.

So, why do the police get the short end of the stick? Here is a micro Citroën Polizia unit, though I had to look twice to see that it wasn’t merely a civilian vehicle. Hey, I like Citroëns but surely, mustn’t there be a bigger model than this? How do they transport suspects?

Now this is more like it. What is more fitting than finding a Curbside Ferrari? While Ferrari styling has gotten a bit, uh, insectile in the last few years, it’s still cool to see one parked on the street. Sadly, Dave’s tour group got nowhere near Maranello. Darn.

Here’s another recent Alfa Romeo, this time a sedan. This is a really sharp look, and unmistakably an Alfa. And I would be remiss not to mention the 1995-98 Volvo 960/S90 behind it. I still miss my 940SE.

Here’s another mini-MB you won’t find in the States, a B-Class. Looks like this one is a diesel, too. Gee, wasn’t Paul having some trouble with his xB recently? How about one of these?

I know splateagle will enjoy this Fiat Coupe. Another car you won’t spot in Peoria or Grand Rapids. The styling is a bit polarizing but hey, better polarizing than boring or forgettable, right?

Here’s a late-model Citroën C4. I like Citroëns. My favorite would be a circa-1972 DS23 Pallas, but really, I like ’em all. I am probably one of the three people in the United States who would get excited if Citroën entered the North American market. Sadly, I don’t see that happening any time soon. Pity.

Although (sadly) I never have been to Europe, I can tell things are quite different there. Take these fancy-schmancy garbage cans, for example. And no “failed throw” detritus ringing it, unlike at your local fast food emporium.

Dave related that Smarts were all over the place. In cities like Rome, they make sense due to the narrow streets and limited parking space. No 30-acre parking lots in these parts–there’s no place to build them. He took this picture from the comfort of the tour bus.

Ever heard of this movie? Me neither. I doubt it’s a selection at your local Redbox or Family Video…but then again, who knows? Sights like these reminded Dave and Lori that they were a long way from Iowa.

One would expect to see a few Alfa Romeos while touring Italy, and they saw plenty. Here’s another modern one, this time a three-door hatchback.

This one is a Mito, which was introduced, in 2008, as a Mini competitor. Maybe it’s just the long hood, but this looks bigger than a Mini to me.

Let’s keep the Alfa love going with this late-model Spider. If not quite as timeless as the classic Duetto (who could ever forget it in The Graduate?), it still looks pretty good.

It looks even better from the front. I really like the modern Alfa Romeo face: tough, sporty, and very Italian. That crossover (an Audi Q7?) appears to be painted matte black. Would that be a factory option?

Here’s another Mercedes B-Class. No way to tell if it’s is a diesel, like the gray one, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The side sculpting reminds me of the C-Class, which probably is intentional.

Here’s one for you VW fans. I think many of us here at CC would take one of these over a big, late model crew cab pickup. Those drop-down sides are a great feature. When today’s full-size trucks offer an optional tailgate step and handle, perhaps they’re growing too tall.

If the VW is too old, or you’d prefer not to be part of the crush zone, maybe you’ll like this crew-cab truck. It could be a Transit, but I’m not positive. Looks like you can carry a lot, and it appears to have drop-down sides as well.

Italian ambulances are also smaller, as this Renault ambulance demonstrates. After all, an Econoline-based unit would probably have trouble negotiating those narrow streets.

I’m not sure what’s going on with this E-Class pickup. Anybody know what that steel tubing might be used for? I think this may have been built as a flower car, but I’m not sure.

As we come to the end of our excursion, here’s a Maserati Quattroporte for you. I’ve seen one or two of these in the Quad Cities, but they are pretty rare.

I’m not sure what was going on here. The cars in the first picture are parallel parked, but the cars in the photo above are parked perpendicular to the street. Maybe the Maserati driver compromised and decided to park at a 45-degree angle instead.

Well, we’ve come to the end of our trip. You might have noticed a lack of Volvos here, but never fear! Dave spotted a Volvo factory truck, loaded down with new S40s and V50s. Be still, my heart!