A Tale of Two Fulvias
ANYONE who has been to Sanremo, or who indeed went rallying anywhere in Italy prior to some ten years ago, will have heard of Ristorante Dall’Ava. Nestling among the trees at San Romolo, in the hills high above Sanremo, this renowned establishment is not only a suberb eating (and drinking!) place, boasting excellent fare and an atmosphere second to none, but a mandatory Mecca for any enthusiast of motorsport, whether on four wheels or two.
The open land outside the restaurant has featured as a service area since the days of the old Rallye dei Fiori, and there can be very few Sanremo diehards indeed, if any, who have not enjoyed sustenance there. It is a place which is as much part of Sanremo Rally folklore as the Passo di Teglia, Monte Ceppo, Adolfo’s Restaurant at Pigna, the casino’s Doris Girls (now as old as we are!), the Hotel Vittoria Roma and the once-common British means, instituted by Castrol but sadly long discontinued, of recognising and marking a good hostelry by its Castro! Gin & Tonic Pub emblem. The CGTP emblem, established by former Castrol men of the era of Jimmy Simpson, was a prized honour which, strangely enough, has never once been mentioned in the modern, pre-event Castro’ Rally Information bulletin in all its 89 issues to date. The emblem was more a gypsy mark than a trophy, and was introduced so that satisfied visitors to an establishment could put down a scent to identify it to those who followed as a worthwhile place even before they sampled it. Despite its name, it had no real alcoholic significance. It was just a convenient, recognisable notch for the sticks of pubs, hotels, restaurants, guest houses, farmhouses or any other establishment which rendered worthwhile service and provided a good welcome. The “emblem” consisted of nothing more than a small, simple sticker, but it was as instantly recognisable as Abingdon’s famous Safety Fast rosette.
Ristorante Dall’Ava has many times been unobtrusively adorned with the Castro! Gin and Tonic Pub sticker. It is a place where anyone, hailing from Tamanrasset or Tobermory, Machynlleth or Malindi, will be made instantly welcome, and certainly anyone going there with a copy of this magazine in his hands will stand a good chance of being presented with the best grappa of the house! Mine Host Orlando Dall’Ava was himself a rally driver of no mean ability for many years, but towards the end of the ‘Seventies he decided that the sport was becoming too arduous, and he took instead to something which he considered far less demanding — climbing the Andes, the Atlas and other high mountain ranges by motor cycle! Since then, family and business demands have put an end even to that sedate pastime, and nowadays you can find both Signore and Signora in residence most of the time. Among the souvenirs on display at the restaurant are authentic rally plates which
go back many years, and an accumulation of photographs personally donated during the past few decades by some of the world’s finest rally drivers and overland motor cyclists, all of whom have added their personal greetings. Not as obvious is the collection of old (a much better and simpler word than classic, vintage, veteran or antique) motor cycles. Some of these are in the throes of restoration, but one perches resplendent behind glass in the restaurant, a feature which Orlando proudly presents to all his visitors.
One of the great puzzles of the Dall’Ava establishment centres on a Lancia Fulvia which is currently being restored. One would have expected an ex-works car such as this to have had an accurately annotated history in the factory files, but not so. The records are blank. And Orlando is desperately trying to unearth as much of the car’s background as he can.
The car, registered T0D20642, originates from about 1970, when three Fulvias were driven in the East African Safari Rally by Kellstrom/Heggbom, Lampinen/ Davenport and Munari/Drews. Anyone able to throw light on the past of this car, especially those who have copies of old photographs, will earn the gratitude of one Orlando Dall’Ava, and will always be welcome at San Romolo. The next Fulvia mystery came to our notice last year at an East African Safari
Rally veterans’ lunch at Kenya’s Mutheiga Club, just outside Nairobi. As we were enjoying the reunion of people such as Vic Preston Snr., Jack Simonian, Nick Nowicki, Peter Davies, Peter Shepherd, Gerry Davies, Eric Cecil and others, host Clive Pulman of The Standard, formerly the East African Standard which sponsored the first Coronation Safari in 1953, showed me a letter he had received from one Dr. David Leech of Fairford, Gloucestershire.
Dr. Leech has acquired a 1.3 litre Fulvia which dates from 1967, was originally registered TO900048 and was part of the works rally team, although when and where it was used, and by whom, have not been established. The 1968 Rally of the Flowers was probably one of its competitive appearances, and it was certainly sent to Kenya for the 1969 Safari, where It seems to have been used as a practice car. At the end of that year the car was shipped to England and re-registered, after which it lost its works identity by becoming an anonymous road car and changing hands several times. It is now being restored to its former condition by Dr. Leech who has unearthed all manner of parts in the most unlikely places. He would be delighted to have further knowledge of the car, especially documents or photographs, and we will be happy to pass
on anything sent to us. GP.