My Car Quest

February 23, 2024

The Best of France and Italy

by Wallace Wyss –

This event, held annually at Woodley Park in Van Nuys in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, is one of the most popular among import car collectors in Southern California for three reasons: entry cost per car is low, spectators get in free and you see lots of barn find cars which appear only at this event during the whole year.

The biggest contingent was Fiat, with a few very old ones but mostly X1/9 and 850 but the ones I liked most were the old 500s with folding canvas top proving the new ones merely copied that from the old ones.

Rolls Royce

Yes this Rolls Royce is Italian, if you count the Italian built body by Pininfarina

Jay Leno appeared in a very old car with an inline engine, some were guessing it was Fiat. He eschewed announcing so he could shop for cars because there’s always a few For Sale signs, usually forbidden to be displayed at a tonier concours.

The barn find quotient here is higher than a concours, one we enjoyed seeing was a Hudson Italia which was battered aluminum stem to stern. The owner said he bought it in Sweden where he has exported as many as fifty American cars. It is one of rough fifty built and showed that Hudson followed through and built cars in Italy where Chrysler only showed dream cars but only went to Italy for a couple models that you could buy, the Ghia Imperial and the TC by Maserati (the latter a total mistake).

Hudson Italia

Hudson Italia

Also named “Italia” was Kurt Oblinger’s Triumph Italia, which, though brought to the venue on a trailer, rolled off the trailer and ran and sounded good. It had all the chrome trim, which is one of the hardest things to find. After knowing Kurt and his wife for 30 years I am glad he finally got a car that’s drivable he can take to shows (now it’s time to clean out the barn of those non-runners, Kurt!)

Triumph Italia

Triumph Italia

In Ferraris the newish white 458 Italia was contrasted with the older models like a 365GT 2-plus-2, a Daytona and 330GTC. There was a couple Dino spyders but I don’t recall seeing the less loved Dino coupe by Bertone. The ultimate Ferrari there was a Short Wheelbase Berlinetta with numbers on it. This was not some guy pretending it was a race car, this one actually raced at LeMans back in the day.

Ferrari 250 SWB Race Car

This Ferrari 250 SWB Raced at Le Mans and is owned by Bruce Meyer

The Ferrari contingent here was relaxed so they didn’t throttle the man who rumbled into the show in a Chevy powered 250GTE but he was quick to defend himself by showing he bought the car only as a shell and had to build his own frame and power train. Hey it’s a Ferrari–right?

The Lamborghini contingent rolled in with half a dozen cars including a Diabo, an earlier Countach and a few others.

Missing were any Iso Grifos and Bizzarrinis!

In Maseratis there were half a dozen Boras, but I don’t remember a Merak.

In Facel Vegas, I was hoping to see a Facel II but instead there were 500Ks and a Facelia, the latter infamous because it had such a poorly-designed engine at intro that Facel had to buy Volvo engines to sell them.

Bob Frumkin brought his Ghia built in Italy around Chrysler components, a sort of predecessor to the Dual Ghia. There was also the last of the Dual Ghia line, a 6.4L.

In DeTomaso, there were two hot rodded Panteras and one modern car labeled Mangusta but it was the front engine one that Kjell Qvale funded only to lose his shirt, regretting he ever heard the name DeTomaso.

Some cars were real puzzlers. Not many remembered the Matra Djet but they will now, after seeing a very clean one owned by a Infiniti designer who said he owns four French cars. We gave him the Francophile award. Also there should be clothing awards because though we only saw one beret worn by a fetching blonde, we did see a man wearing a three piece herringbone suit, two tone leather shoes, a bowtie and period Ray Bans and told him that his garb would no doubt please Lord March at Goodwood, the same m’Lord who issues rules as to what period clothes spectators should wear to his event.

Well dressed spectator

Well dressed spectator and baby

A very obscure marque was the OSI, which apparently was a Ford made in Germany and designed in Italy. Only a handful were made.

The event also had an autojumble. Some were souvenir items but some were vending useful bits like taillamps, fog lamps and so forth.

They even had a disc jockey who would play Italian and French music which put you in the mood but I almost strangled the DJ when he put on an American song about aikey brakey hearts. That song is for pickup truck drivers!


I saw a mint yellow Opel GT sneak in, and I am sure those are German and an Austin Healey which may have been retrofitted with an Italian engine but this show is light hearted, without judges and scorecards so the organizers let you in if you are in the proper spirit.


The Alfa 4C was there, very clean and in white, but even seeing it in person I couldn’t get over its odd proportions. I decided it had one good view, from directly in front and gets awkward from there back.

Alfa Romeo 4C

I found this view of the Alfa Romeo 4C acceptable…

The Alfas included several Fifties models, and some Giulias fitted out for racing. Couldn’t tell if they were real GTAs or later retrofits but the Alfa clan was there in strength.
A real puzzler at the show was the half dozen or so cars that obviously snuck into the U.S. that are models were never street legal here like the mid-engine Renault 5 cars, the Murena and half a dozen others I spied lurking in the shadows.

Alfa Romeo

This ’50s Alfa was a beautiful color , not the usual red, so you could appreciate it more

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo

The producers of this show should promote a seminar on How to Buy A Car Uncle Sam Never Approved for U.S. importation. I personally think this is one category of cars to buy that will do nothing but appreciate once you have that license plate on it from one of the fifty States. The beauty of them are you can still order parts from dealers in Europe and yet have a very unusual car on U.S. streets.


This yellow car was the Murena, never imported to the U.S. but where there’s a will there’s a way…

Motorcycles were not neglected, from café racers to touring bikes

Motorcycles were not neglected, from café racers to touring bikes


This show and the British show that takes place at the same park are the best shows to go to if you are looking for reasonably priced cars to start out in the car collecting hobby. And this is the show to find groups that are very intensive in their zeal for their marque.

I highly recommend it.

Photos by Richard Bartholomew.

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss third in his trilogy of Incredible Barn Finds books breaks cover in the spring of 2015.

The Best of France and Italy
Article Name
The Best of France and Italy
The Best of France and Italy is a fun car show the first Sunday of November in Van Nuys, California.


  1. Great show indeed, and not just because its minutes from my house 😉 This year was a much better turnout than in 2013. Alfa and Fiat were well repesented, few Lancias. Funny how they line up Alfas and Fiats on opposing ends of the field, almost like chess figures. Good camaraderie in the Alfa camp. AR Owners club contributed to bringing people together at their stand and enhanced the mingling. Brought my 69 Spider 1750 (the best YM Spider ))) – my opinion, of course and enjoyed seeing great cars and chatting with fellow enthusiasts, many of whom are now friends.

  2. Looks like a fun show to go to, one I have not heard of. Its a long hop skip and a jump to get there though.
    Are there food vendors there ? =)

    What kind of non runners does Kurt have in his barn that you think he should get rid of?

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