My Car Quest

June 19, 2019

Two Abarth Lovers Finally Meet In Italy

Two candles still burning brightly

by Les Burd –

On Saturday October 15, 2016 I hired a driver to take my wife, Louise, and I from Naples to Frosinone, Italy to visit Luigi Marignani, the noted private Abarth driver, great gentleman and original owner of my 1965 Abarth Simca 2000 Long Nose #136 0117 which I restored beginning in 2004.

1965 Abarth Simca 2000 Long Nose #136 0117

1965 Abarth Simca 2000 Long Nose #136 0117 at Pebble Beach in 2014

It turned out to be one of the better days in the life of this car guy so I thought I would share it. Luigi still bears the torch for this car which he owned and very successfully raced over 50 years ago.

I think he knows that I also am severely afflicted with this car. My ten year search for him, the original owner, has been such a source of obsession and then elation for me that this meeting commemorated an automotive odyssey transcending the 50 years and half a world that have separated Luigi from Abarth 0117 and celebrates the genius of Carlo Abarth who brought two of his disciples together over this half century trajectory terminating in Frosinone on this day.

The welcome Luigi gave us was so genuine and joyous that it was moving beyond words.

We arrived at his two building Collection Marignani and were greeted with a very large professionally printed sign over the entrance reading “Welcome Les Burd”.

Les Burd, Louise Burd & Luigi Marignani

Les Burd, Louise Burd & Luigi Marignani

Luigi who approaches 80 years of age emerged to greet us warmly and we were introduced to the many others who had come for the event. We exchanged gifts with Luigi who presented us with a plaque commemorating the event of our meeting in a beautiful frame.

Since he speaks no English and me no Italian we communicated via three interpreters and sign language as we toured his collection of Abarths, SIATAs, Fiats, Alfas, Porsches, Ferrari, Lancias and many Motorcycles. He insisted that I get in the cockpit of his 1934 Alfa Romeo with out-of-period coachwork.

Luigi Marignani & Les Burd with Luigi's Abarth 750GT Double Bubble

Luigi Marignani & Les Burd with Luigi’s Abarth 750GT Double Bubble

We proceeded to the building housing the 80 or so motorcycles where a slide show highlighting photos of our car and the Burd family at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance played on a screen on the wall. How proud and humble I felt seeing this. Our bittersweet experience at Pebble might have had a different outcome had I found Luigi before the 2014 Pebble Beach show; but never mind as this event in Italy eclipsed any earlier regret.

Luigi Marignani motorcycles

After offering delicious food and drink, Luigi Marignani picked up the microphone and proceeded to describe each of the twelve or so races he had in Abarth 0117 in 1965 and 1966, many as overall winner, in great detail to the 40 or so guests gathered (see photos of some of these races in the slide shows below).

I wish I could have recorded this 30 minute reminisce. His detailed recollections included the small and sweeping descriptions of the events like the track conditions deteriorating near marble quarries because of dust at one race and the Porsche 904 and Ferrari 275 GTB being fierce competition at another.

The Abarth 0117 2Mila was the last and most capable and successful car he raced.

Luigi Marignani & Les Burd

Luigi Marignani & Les Burd

Next we reviewed 4 or 5 scrapbooks filled with photos of his racing career, mostly in Abarths. Luigi retold the story of buying the Abarth 2 liter; ordering it two years before he got it and negotiating with Dott. Renzo Avidano, Abarth’s racing director.

Luigi Marignani

Luigi Marignani and Abarth Simca 2000 #136 0117 in 1966

I learned that his lovely current wife Maria and he have been married only a few years. His first wife Valeria Palazetti passed away in the last decade but was involved with the cars in period. Photos of her are prominent in the collection. She was also the owner of record of 0117 in period.

Luigi Marignani & Les Burd

We learned 0117 carried three license plates during Marignani’s ownership; 2 temporary paper plates and finally the permanent plate FR-69332. He promised to have research conducted to find the man who bought it from him near Pompei. Maybe more racing history here but not likely. He asked me a number of questions about Aldo Caretti the dealer in Naples who brought the car to the USA and sold it. I asked him to autograph a period racing photo which he carefully did.

Luigi also introduced me to the man who did the research on the registration history of 0117 last year. He did not speak English but was obviously competent as the licensing documents he found attests. There were two authors in attendance as well as two photographers to record the day.

We next reviewed a memory drive I had brought to share electronic images which highlighted the restoration of 0117 in California.

Les Burd & Luigi Marignani

Les Burd & Luigi Marignani

I asked Luigi about the missing magnesium shift gate housing which took me seven years to find a replacement during restoration. He explained that during racing he felt that the housing was slowing his shifting so he removed it. I smiled and asked where it was now after 50 years. He said he did not know what happened to it. I asked if we could get up and look for it right then. We had a good laugh…he knew exactly where I was coming from.

I had always assumed wrongly that the housing was removed in the USA after his ownership. He said the engine was still original when he sold the car after two seasons of racing. I know if I had more time with him other interesting little mysteries about 0117 would be answered. I told him the story about uniting the original steering wheel with the car after finding it in Connecticut.

1965 Abarth Simca 2000 Long Nose #136 0117

1965 Abarth Simca 2000 Long Nose #136 0117 at Pebble Beach 2014 (Les Burd is on the right)

One of the guests asked me to help sell their FIAT 1100TV in the USA. At this point as it was getting late I said it was time for us to pull up stakes. Then I had to explain what that meant.

We had another round of photos and many goodbyes. Luigi kissed me on both cheeks and we got into the hired car to return to the ship. The icing on the cake was that our driver Valario stopped in Naples and treated us to fabulous Pizza at his favorite place with lava lined pizza oven. He obviously enjoyed the day as well.

I write this on the plane home to the USA.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Les Burd is a friend and a recognized expert on many things classic car related, especially the Abarth marque. He is a restorer of Abarth engines and is a long time judge for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. He restored this Abarth Simca 2000 (click here for photos) himself and it was at Pebble Beach in 2014 and at The Quail in 2012.

 

 

1965 Abarth Simca 2000 Long Nose #136 0117

Parked in California

Photos supplied by Les Burd.

 

Below are period race photos of Luigi Marignani and Abarth Simca 2000 #136 0117.

 
Trofeo Micangeli 1965

 
Guarcino Campo Catino 1965

 
Salita Orvieto 1966

 
Coppa Gallenga 1966

 
Coppa del Cimino 1966

 
Coppa del Chianti 1966

 
Camucia Cortona 1966

Abarth Simca Badge

Abarth Simca

Abarth Simca

Summary
Two Abarth Lovers Finally Meet In Italy
Article Name
Two Abarth Lovers Finally Meet In Italy
Description
An Abarth historian finds the original owner of his Abarth Simca 2000 Long Nose race car.
Author

Comments

  1. The cars are great but it is the stories that breathe life into their existence… how fine…

  2. jim wickstead says

    A wonderful story. This is what owning special cars is all about, and a 2L Abarth is a very special car, indeed.

  3. Dave Dolter says

    Wonderful story! Thanks Les and Mike!

  4. What a fabulous tale! I envy you! I’d love to go to Roma and track down former owners of some of the Ferraris that I imported from that part of the world, but my 92 year old legs say, “I don’t think so.” Back in the day I had an Abarth Zagato 750 double bubble that I used for a daily driver for the better part of a year, until the noise finally got to me. I likened it to driving inside a bass drum. Abarths are (almost) all just fascinating. Thank you!

  5. Kelvin Smith says

    Great story and fabulous car
    Are the pop out door handles still available /
    A friend of mine needs a pair , also where did you go for the perspex head light covers ?
    All the Best
    Kelvin

  6. A wonderful article of an unique experience in lifetime.
    Thank you very much Les Burd!

  7. Great story
    I love the period pictures

    All the best and thank you very much

    Edi Wyss

  8. Scott Yturria says

    Great car! Great story and photos!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Scott Yturria

  9. Fabulous. I would like to get in touch with Les Burd as I have some obscure Abarth info I would like to verify and discuss. Also, is there a possibility to get an 8 X 10 of one of the vintage black and white pics?

    Joe
    Oxford, Fl.

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