Continental Notes, December 1957

To conclude this year’s Continental travelling in search of motor-racing and things motoring, I stopped off at the Motor Show in Turin. Now, as we all know, the “T” in Fiat, or as it used to be written F.I.A.T., stands for Torino, or Turin, and, arriving in that city for the Motor Show, one was very conscious of the fact that the industry and life of the place centres around the vast Fiat industrial organisation. Similarly, the Motor Show itself is centred around Fiat, for their models occupy the whole of the centre section of the vast exhibition hall, and almost everywhere you turn you see specialist coachbuilders showing their idea of how a Fiat should look, from 500 to 1,900, while in the Commercial section there is every type of bus, coach or van mounted on a Fiat chassis of some sort. This does not mean that the entire Turin Motor Show is dominated by this one firm, for when you look closer you see that all the old friends from France, Britain, Germany and America are also present. However, this Show coming after Frankfurt, Paris and London, it did not hold very much that was new and exciting for those lucky people able to visit other countries, so that it was essentially a Motor Show for the Italian people.

From the point of view of a foreign visitor, this Show is outstanding in that it is held in a truly modern exhibition hall, constructed in recent years, and the layout is quite different from Earls Court, for example. The main building is a vast single-span edifice of reinforced concrete, having no centre supporting pillars at all, so that one gets a pleasant feeling of open air. The whole floor is covered in marble, and most of the exhibits merely stand direct on the marble and, as there are no outlines on the floor for the stands, one does not suffer from having to walk along aisles, directed and guided by ropes, barriers, or stand edges, the whole place being delightfully open and unrestricted — rather typical of the Italian temperament. Cars can be viewed at their normal level from close quarters or far away, and, instead of having to make deliberate steps from one stand to another, you can wander happily amongst the cars without being conscious that you are leaving Ferrari and visiting Maserati, apart from the fact that the cars change shape. As none of the stands are cluttered with flowers, offices or little private compartments, this air of freedom and leisure is extended. Around the edge of the hall are the stands of the accessory trades, and these overflow into a number of annexes. In contrast to this pleasant layout of the private cars, the commercial part of the exhibition is cramped and crowded, with vast long-distance coaches packed tightly together as in a coach terminus. Anyone who has been pushed off the Italian roads by one of the big long-distance buses will appreciate that a hall filled with these things makes an awe-inspiring sight. At the back of the exhibition buildings is a big open space containing special commercial vehicles, from Fiat 600 vans to vast petrol tankers and articulated vehicles, mostly on various types of Fiat chassis, but Lancia, Alfa-Romeo, Bianchi and O.M. were also there.

Reverting to the main hall, where the passenger cars were on show, Fiat made sure that everybody knew they had enlarged the 1,100 Fiat to 1,200 c.c., and at the same time giving it better brakes, improved vision and a better body styling, depending on your taste. I was continually hearing that this was the “pearl of the Show,” but, personally, I found the real pearl on the Alfa-Romeo stand, and I hope the majority of Motor Sport readers are with me. This was the new Giulietta Sprint Spinta, (sic) or SS for short, which has been restyled by Bertone, who makes the normal Sprint Veloce bodies. Mechanically it is the same as the Veloce (pronounced vel-oh-chay, by the way), except that the power output of the engine has been boosted up to a full 100 b.h.p., the engine size still being 1,290 c.c. The new body has a longer and more tapering nose, with a small horizontal cooling-air entry, a steeply sloping screen and a longer tail, while the inside dimensions are roughly the same. For sheer elegance of functional line and personified speed, this little blood-red coupe was outstanding, its whole appearance being so Italian it was impossible to believe. Nearby was another Bertone creation, on a Fiat 1,100 chassis, which was a very slinky open two-seater without any frills, and having scalloped sides like a Chevrolet Corvette; but, somehow, whereas I could visualise the Sprint Spinta leaving the Mille Miglia starting ramp in Brescia, I could not see the open Fiat doing this. Also by Bertone was a neat coupe on an Aston Martin chassis, looking rather more like a 1900C Alfa-Romeo than a product of Feltham. Open two-seaters seem to be coming back in favour, for while Lancia still retain the open Spyder Aurelia, there were also similar bodies on the Ferrari Europa, a 1900C Alfa-Romeo and Lancia Appia, all by coachwork specialists,

When Abarth and Zagato got together and dealt with a Fiat 600 the result was a rather shattering little 750-c.c. Gran Turismo coupe that has proved itself in Italian motoring competitions throughout the past season. Abarth does all the engine and chassis modifications and Zagato builds the coupe bodies, being one of the few Italian bodybuilders, like Scagliatti, who understand about competition requirements. Now Abarth and Zagato have got together again and the result is a Gran Turismo Fiat 500, still with air-cooled twin-cylinder engine at the back. By comparison the 750 Abarth-Zagato coupe looks quite large, and yet there is ample room in the tiny 500. Another Fiat 500 coupe, again small and shapely, was to be seen on the Pinin Farina stand and, as the rest of the Farina exhibits were large Ferraris, Lancias or Americans, the little 500 had to be raised up on a dais in case it got trampled on. Not to be outdone in the Fiat 500 game, Ghia produced a delightful little open four-seater version, without doors or hood, and having basket-work seats; in fact, a sort of refined Jeep or four-wheeled scooter.

Turning to much bigger things, Maserati had a beautiful Show model of their 4½-litre V8 sports-car engine, but, the thought was, what were they going to do with it now that serious sports-car racing is being limited to 3-litres? There was also a rather old 250F Grand Prix car purporting to be the one with which Fangio won this year’s World Championship, but as the cars were not back from Casablanca this was obviously a falsehood.

The whole tone of the Turin Show is one of modernism, from the buildings, restaurants, surroundings and exhibits, so that one left with a feeling of 1958. But, just to keep a sense of proportion, Fiat (yes, I’m afraid so) had their magnificent 1907 Dieppe racer of 16¼-litres on show at the door, together with a model of the wonderful new building that is under construction to house the fabulous collection of cars in the Turin automobile museum.


Already plans are under way for next year’s Mille Miglia, and the first step has been granting of permission by the Brescia town council. As the mayor of Brescia, Signor Boni, is one of the most ardent Mille Miglia fans, this is not surprising. In addition to this annual classic, the Automobile Club of Brescia are getting together with the Royal Motor Union of Liege to organise a rally from Liege to Brescia and back again, for vehicles not exceeding 500 c.c., and of an economic disposition. Already the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally is the toughest open road-race on the calendar, open to the fiercest type of car, and now we shall have the Liege-Brescia-Liege Rally for the feeblest type of car. The thought of Isettas, Friskys, Heinkels, Messerschmitts, Bonds, and so on, careering down the Alps is most intriguing. Whether the Abarth-Zagato Fiat 500 will qualify is not known at present, but, if it does, then it means that Berkeleys will be allowed in, and that would make for interesting competition.


With Ferrari winning the Venezuela race and thereby the Manufacturers’ Sport-Car Championship, road-racing honours have been nicely divided around Modena and district. With Fangio once again World Champion, and using a Maserati six-cylinder to achieve this, the Modena firrn are very happy at being Grand Prix champions, while Ferrari’s wins in Argentina, Mille Miglia, 1,000-kilometres Nurburgring and Caracas have made everyone at Maranello also very happy. Let us hope that next year this pleasure will come to Acton and Feltham, for Moss and Vanwall were a good second in the Championship, and with a 3-litre limit next year, Aston Martin should be in a good position for sports-car honours. — D.S.J.

Grand Prix of Venezuela (Nov. 3rd) — Caracas — 1,000 Kms.

The race at Caracas, on a very twisty circuit, was the last round in the 1957 Sports-Car Championship series, and the issue lay between Ferrari and Maserati. Whichever team won would be 1957 Champions, and in consequence Maserati had high hopes for their 4½-litre cars, especially after the win in Sweden, back in August. Moss and Brooks were in the first of these cars, and Behra and Schell in the other works car, a third one was the privately-owned 4½-litre of Temple Buell, driven by Gregory and Duncan. The race turned out to be a complete fiasco for Maserati, Moss crashing one of the big cars and after taking over the other works car breaking that one. This left the race to Ferrari and the Maranello cars had no trouble in finishing 1-2-3-4.


1st: P. Collins/P. Hill (Ferrari 4.1-litre) 6 hr. 31 min. 55.6 sec. — 153.538 k.p.h.

2nd: L. Musso/J. M. Hawthorn (Ferrari 4.1-litre) 1 lap behind

3rd: W. von Trips/W. Seidel (Ferrari 3-litre) 2 laps behind

4th: M. Trintignant/O. Gendebien (Ferrari 3-litre) 4 laps behind

Fastest lap: S. Moss (Maserati 4.5-litre), 3 min. 38 sec.