My Car Quest

August 3, 2021

Fiat Freakout National Convention – 2021

Text and photos by Derek Meluzio –

What makes a good automotive event? Better yet, what makes a GREAT automotive event? A concours or show with quality and or quantity can help. A track day gets everybody’s blood pumping. A scenic driving tour with beautiful weather gives attendees something to talk about. It is always the best to finish off the weekend with a banquet or dinner with great food, entertainment, and good company. The 38th Annual Fiat Freakout had all of those and more.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Don Meluzio’s 1000GT Bialbero and Fiat Stanguellini Berlinetta

It is not every day that a national automotive convention takes place in your own backyard. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 2005 Porsche Parade in Hershey, PA. Last weekend myself, my father, my son, and my brother-in-law all participated in and attended the 2021 Fiat Freakout in Lancaster, PA.

This year’s event was hosted by the Central Pennsylvania chapter of the Fiat Club of America. Many of the people involved in organizing the event are friends of mine and have attended the Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals with my dad (Don Meluzio) and I for years. I knew they had a passion for Fiat and other Italian cars but I had no idea they were capable of pulling off what turned out to be literally one of the greatest car events I have ever attended.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Fiat 600 Multipla

Brian Benson, Candy Benson, Karen Gallo, and Vince Gallo…along with numerous friends and volunteers rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into planning, organizing, and executing the entire event. Their hard work was rewarded with the largest Fiat Freakout attendance ever (over 220 cars).

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Vince and Karen Gallo’s Fiat 124

First up was dyno day on Wednesday June 23rd at Brady’s High Performance Center. I was not able to make it but I heard quite a bit about it and I followed the day online with updates on social media. You would be very surprised at the horsepower and torque numbers many of the cars were able to produce. The winner of the event was Stephen and his 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth at 198 HP. Despite Stephen’s impressive number for such a light weight car, perhaps the star of the day was Mike and his 1952 Fiat Topo that pulled 8.5 horsepower!

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Brian and Candy Benson’s Fiat X19

Thursday brought driving tours through Lancaster County. Multiple drives traveled through famous towns that brought a chuckle to everyone such as Bird-in-Hand, PA and Intercourse, PA but aside from the novelty of the town names, the scenic views of cornfields and covered bridges inspired some amazing photos.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Showfield with AACA museum in back ground

Friday was the first day that myself and Don were involved. We participated in the autocross that took place at famous Maple Grove Raceway. It was sanctioned by the Susquehanna Region SCCA. After going through tech in the morning Chris and Melissa from the SCCA ran the drivers meeting letting the drivers know what to expect along with giving them a description of the course. Rob the course designer did an excellent job. The layout was easier for the beginners to not get lost but also challenged more advanced drivers. It had a great combination of fast and slow sections.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Showfield

There were 38 total entries and the Fiat vehicles were broken up into classes (New 124, Vintage 124, New 500, and Vintage X19s) and there was also a New Other and Vintage Other class for Fiat Club of America members who wanted to run different types of cars. Don was showing four Fiats in the concours on Saturday but competed in the autocross with his 1973 Porsche 911 T in the Vintage Other class against cars like a 1977 Lancia Scorpion, a 1976 Fiat 128, and a 1971 Fiat 850. I ran my 2002 Porsche 996 and my son drove his 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer in the New Other class against a great sounding 2021 Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio Stelvio and a beautiful 2017 Jaguar F-Type. It was my son Justin’s first ever autocross and having three generations of Meluzios fighting for bragging rights was a blast.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Francis Rego’s Fiat 500 Abarth

Dan Hennig from Reedsburg, Wisconsin with his 2017 Spider Abarth dominated the event in the New 124 class and overall. He was seconds ahead of everyone with a blistering 34.491 second time. He was the class of the field. Behind him though it was tight in the 124 class with Brayden Connolly (37.223), Darren Boehning (37.904), and Brady Endres (38.249) all with in one second of each other.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Dan Hennig the overall autocross winner

Mark Saladino in his 1969 Fiat 124 took honors in the Vintage 124 class with an impressive 41.421. Vince Gallo who along with his lovely wife Karen were major organizers of the event, took second with Rusty Harris in third.

Nick Bygrave turned a 40.702 in his 1982 Fiat X19 to win the X19 class with Chad Allison second and Walter Forlini in third. The New 500 class was the largest class of the event with 11 entries. Bill Dennis won the class and was the only competitor in the class to get below the 40 second mark with a very solid 39.319. Rex Sigo was next with a 40.735 and Matt Williams was third with a 41.388.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Derek Meluzio, Brian Benson and Don Meluzio

My father Don who many of you know from his contributions here on “My Car Quest” took the top honors in the Vintage Other class in his 1973 Porsche 911t with a time of 39.904. That held special meaning to me as the car he drove is the very same 911 I used to watch him race when I was younger starting back in 1984. To now be autocrossing myself with my own son and still have Don competing in his same car was a real treat. Hayden Brown drove his 1977 Lancia Scorpion to second with a 43.593 and George Riccoboni took his brilliant yellow with red accents 1976 Fiat 128 to third place with a 44.331.

Last time I autocrossed against my dad was at the 2021 Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals and he whooped me so I was very excited to return the favor this time and secure family bragging rights. I also took first place in the New Other class with a time of 38.305. Robb Rice who traveled from Georgia in his wonderful sounding Alfa Romeo took second with a 39.974 and my son Justin did an amazing job in his first ever autcross recording a 41.964 taking third in our class.

The signature event of the weekend was Concorso D’Eleganza held at the beautiful AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This year’s event saw the largest number of cars on display in event history. You literally can’t imagine the showfield. For Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo lovers it was pure heaven. Not only just the quantity of cars was high but the quality was amazing. Even better yet was the variety. There were rows of new style Fiat 500s and new style 124 Spiders. Right next to them were rows of vintage Fiat and Bertone X19s. In fact, I believe it was the largest collection of X19 examples ever. Behind them you would see numerous Fiat 2000 Spiders then numerous classic Fiat 500s.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Banquet

There were more rare and oddball Fiat examples as well. There were not one, but two OTAS cars there side by side as my dad showed his and Jonathan Ranney had his colorful green one there as well. Don also had his Abarth 1000GT Bialbero race car on display along with the Fiat Stanguellini Berlinetta and his Fiat 1300. The variety on the showfield was shown with everything from Francis Rego’s unbelievably modified 2015 Fiat Abarth 500 to a brilliant vinatge Fiat 600 Multipla. The Best of Show award was well deserved and it went to a gorgeous Pininfarina bodied Fiat 1100 103TV.

That night the banquet was held at the DoubleTree Resort in Lancaster. Brian, Candy, Karen, and Vince were honored for their efforts organizing everything, the crowd of well over 400 people were treated to a personal message on the big screen from Anneliese Abarth herself, awards were handed out, and a very special heartfelt speech was given by event founder and guru of all things Fiat Bobb Rayner. A special moment for me was when my dad was introduced as the guest speaker. Seeing him up on stage sharing his love of Italian cars and sharing his racing stories was fun but the fact that it was a full family shared event and I was there with my son and my brother-in-law Mark made it even better.

Fiat Freakout National Convention

Best of show Pininfarina bodied Fiat 1100 103TV

That being said, family isn’t always felt just through blood. It can also be felt through motor oil. In the end it isn’t about the cars, it is about the people. There are people that were there that I consider part of my extended car family. Bob Zecca not only sold my son his helmet to use for his first autocross but he also sold my dad a helmet to use for his first ever driving school 40 years ago! Bob is a great guy, a passionate car lover and a blast to be around. The same can be said about Bobb Rayner, he has known my family just as long and he is the heart and soul of the Fiat club.

My wife helps run a small cafe in York, PA. They decided to hold a Cars and Coffee event when they were first opening to help boost business. When they held the event who was the first guy to show up? Brian Benson in his Fiat X19! That kind of support is what it is all about. People with a common bond and a love for cars and one another. Those are the type of people I love and the 2021 Fiat Freakout was packed full of them!

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Watch Derek Meluzio’s 18:46 long video and feel like you are there walking around this special event.

 

Derek Meluzio grew up in a car loving family in Central, PA. He still lives there with his wife, daughter, and car loving sons. Derek is an amateur autocrosser who attends track events, Concours/shows, and Cars and Coffee events all over. He has an appreciation for all cars but especially anything Porsche.

 

 

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Fiat Freakout National Convention - 2021
Article Name
Fiat Freakout National Convention - 2021
Description
This event, the Fiat Freakout National Convention, was hosted by the Central Pennsylvania chapter of the Fiat Club of America.
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Comments

  1. Pennsylvania car people really know how to have fun!

  2. Derek Meluzio says

    Thanks Mike! We had a great time. We also lucked out and had excellent weather all four days.

  3. Mike Louviere says

    Amazing article! Maybe some day I’ll put a Turbo on the Topolino. Nah, I like it just the way it is. Mike

    • Derek Meluzio says

      The “Turbo Topolino” has a nice ring to it but like you said, I think it is perfect just the way it is! LoL

  4. wallace wyss says

    I am impressed by the size of the event, and by the loyalty shown by owners who are not owning cars that appreciate like Ferraris. Yet some Fiats were designed by and engineered by some of the same designers and engineers that did later Ferraris and Lamborghinis. So this group is “grass roots” car fandom, just in it for the fun of it. I hope shows like Concorso out in Monterey eventually have larger Fiat contingents because they represent Italian Cars 101.

    • Derek Meluzio says

      I agree. I enjoy all cars and all car people but the ones that really appreciate and drive their cars are the best. Plus in the end it really is about the people and how they share their passion for cars. I love my German cars but the Italians really have a zest for their makes like Fiat, Alfa, and Lancia.

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