My Car Quest

December 11, 2023

The Best of France and Italy – November 2023

A short report…

by Wallace Wyss and Curtis Bien –

Barefoot In the Park – well, not really barefoot but it is in a park. Instead there were bare naked Italian and French cars.

A bookshop in the San Fernando Valley, Autobooks, sells automobile books (new and old) and also shows support for the sports car crowd with two annual shows at Woodley Park, a spacious stretch of greenery hard by where Highway 101 and the Freeway 405 meet.

The Best of France and Italy

The refreshing thing about the show is no expectation that you have to bring a finished car like at a concours. The Best of France and Italy is the title. The car exhibitors pay about $30 to show their cars. Their other show is about British cars.

The Italian and French show is the one I look forward to all year. Because I harbor the fantasy that the San Fernando Valley is a place where Old Sports Cars Go to Die, except in this case they are periodically resuscitated by new owners and make a re-appearance as if to say “Hey, guys, I’m still here.”

The Best of France and Italy

Making it a successful event for me was not just one but two Bizzarrini Stradas, perhaps constituting 10% of those still on the planet. But outshining them for rareness was an Iso Grifo coupe fitted out for racing. Couldn’t get an engine shot but it had a throaty roar. The owner said he had owned it for years and only recently brought it to Los Angeles to race. I think just the appearance of this car alone, so equipped, will raise Iso Grifo values, because there are those who want a Bizzarrini because they thought the street Grifos too tame but since Bizzarrinis are twice as expensive as Grifos his car raises the ante for a Grifo now that its sporting potential is revealed (not to be mistaken for the Iso Grifo A3/C race car which is a Bizzarrini with another name).

The Best of France and Italy

The Best of France and Italy

The Best of France and Italy

In Alfas I only saw one Sprint Speciale, a car that sticks in my craw as Another Car I Sold Too Soon. At least it was proportioned for humans. So many of the rarities there like a Fiat Abarth Zagato seemed undersize for their 6 foot drivers.

In Lancias there was a mid-engined street Scorpian which had been made to look like a later race car model. The owner had a good bio for the car–you have to figure every one of these gray market cars has a good story how it was snuck into the U.S. if there was not a legal US model. One owner says his model was imported as one model by an individual and a later owner re-registered it as the right model taking advantage of the Bill Gates 25 year law where non-conforming cars can be brought in as long as they are 25 years old.

One outstanding Ferrari in attendance was a grey one, a Lusso, which really looked elegant in that color. Another owner of an older one had five suitcases in the boot, showing at one time Ferrari made cars actually useful for grand touring the Continent.

There was a Lancia front engine car that was both a targa and a laundaulet in that the rear window folded down and the roof came off leaving a rollover roof hoop. Don’t like it now but I remember I had written the US brochure for the car–one of those weird assignments from who knows who.

The Best of France and Italy

In Alfas my favorite was a small roadster with a beautiful side view and rear section but disappointing round headlights that resembled some old Acura Integra (who copied who?). The owner told me it was never a legally imported model but again the Gates law might bless it if it’s over 24 years old. As a precaution he had it registered in some other state when they don’t hassle you as much as California. (Billionaire Bill Gates got that law passed when he was told he could not import a Porsche that there was not a US model for).

The Best of France and Italy

In DeTomaso Panteras there were half a dozen, one a pure white GT-5S with white interior. That model came about only after DeTomaso and Ford had split their plan to import them after ‘74, making ’75 and later leaving DeTomaso free to sell Panteras in the rest of the world. There was a front engined targa labeled Qvale Mangusta which is a reminder of when the San Francisco importer stubbed his toe big time in importing DeTomaso cars. (Qvale once told me “Well, we only lost 12 million on that one.”)

In French cars I saw at least two mid-engine Renaults, a car few Americans know about and never really legally imported by Renault. There was one rear Alpine which looked as modern as a 2023 car except for its engine location.

The Best of France and Italy

The show has old parts for sale by vendors but I only looked for magazines but didn’t find any Magneto or Octane issues–two of my favorite British rags. There were good model cars but I passed. No room. I left at 9:00 am but I am sure more cars came afterwards—I dutifully arrived at Sparrow’s Fart in hopes of catching an image which might inspire an oil painting later. But I recommend the show heartily because it’s free for spectators and because as I say there’s always the hope this show brings cars out into the noonday sun that have been hidden for decades.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine art car portraitist. For a list of art available write


The Best of France and Italy

The Best of France and Italy - November 2023
Article Name
The Best of France and Italy - November 2023
The refreshing thing about The Best of France and Italy show is there is no expectation that you have to bring a finished car like at a concours.


  1. Bruce caron says

    The racing Grifo won the award for Most Outrageous Car

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