Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Pride of Mr De Giorgi

I recently stumbled across this picture, labeled 'pride of Mr De Giorgi', on my friend Davide De Giorgi's Facebook page.

The photo stopped me in my tracks, not only because it's a tremendous shot, but also 'cause I love Volvo P1800 models- I might well have bought one instead of the Savoy had an 1800 been able to hold four sets of buttcheeks. There were a few more pics showing Davide with the car on a European roadtrip. I admit it, I was jealous.

Davide is, like me, a car nerd. But where I feel compelled to own one of everything (especially if it hasn't run in decades), he has so far refined the art of appreciating someone else's car. This is how Davide lives comfortably in the heart of London with his bicycle, and why my house looks like the Joad family microcar farm. I knew he was on the verge of getting married, that he was a not-quite-starving architect, and that London is not an easy place to park a car every day; I really wondered how he'd managed to swing this....
I met Davide in Sicily on the first day of an Italian tour that had been booked for my rock and roll band. The promoter had booked us with an Italian group so that we could share equipment, and he assured us they were great. They were. The Introducers turned out to be four college kids from Turin- Davide was one of the guitarists. We spent two weeks traversing Italy with 8 band members, a promoter, 2 pals and a ridiculous amount of vintage guitars, amps and drums crammed into three cars. It was one of the best times in my life.
Davide and I hit it off right away. All of the Introducers soon became extended family, but Davide and I had the car thing in common. I think we figured it out when he and I both went apeshit at the sight of a Siata sedan sitting seemingly abandoned near the docks when we took the ferry from Sicily to mainland Italy. It was surprisingly solid for a car sitting that close to the ocean (actually all of Sicily is pretty close to the ocean), and I was fascinated- I'd never known that there were non-racing Siatas! Davide knew about Siata's racing heritage, but was surprised to learn that some had been built with US made Crosley motors. I took some pics (Davide's the guy in front- my pal/bassist/AMC Marlin-owner Stan's in the back) in a hurry since we were supposed to be getting on the ferry.
It wasn't long before I helped the Introducers come stateside for a tour of the West Coast. My house was tour HQ and we often travelled in my then-daily driver, a '62 Plymouth Valiant wagon, which Davide always referred to as 'she'. He enthusiastically pitched in when I had to do an emergency brake job before leaving for a San Francisco gig- the other guys were pretty nervous, but we got 'er done. One day we were driving around Sacto in the Valiant when a street rodded 50s panel truck pulled up next to us at a light. 'The motor sounds great,' Davide said admiringly. 'Probably a 350 Chevy,' I said. 'How do you know this?' Davide said, skeptical. 'Ask him,' I said. Davide rolled the window down and asked what kind of motor it had. 'Chevy 350,' the guy says. '350 tranny behind it?' I leaned over and asked. 'Yup.' Light changed, he drove off and the guys looked at me in total wonder. I never told them that pretty much any car the color of an Easter Egg has a 350 under the hood.

I emailed Davide immediately when I saw the Volvo. I couldn't believe he'd been holding out on me! Turned out he hadn't... not really. He had bought the Volvo in England- and driven it to Italy- but not for himself. He'd simply facilitated everything for his brother Mauro, who is an even bigger car nut than Davide. It was Mauro's very clean MGB-GT that had changed my mind on those cars- they look awkward in pictures, but are oh-so-cool in person- especially when you're tooling around Italy in one. Here's Mauro at the wheel of the MG:
The De Giorgis' hometown is Torino- the Detroit of Italy. That everyone in Turin isn't a car nut is sort of astonishing to me given that it's the home of both Fiat and Carlo Mollino- one of those amazing 20th century industrial designers who drew up everything from lounge chairs to Le Mans racers. I got to see Mollino's bizarro asymmetrical racecar, the Bisiluro, in a museum show of his work when Liv and I visited Turin on our honeymoon. It's an amazing car, with the engine on the right side of the car, and the driver on the left. It was apparently hell to drive due to the weird offset, and retired fairly early in the 1955 Le Mans. Still- an amazing concept.
Looking at the Bisiluro's small motor got me thinking, of course. I can't find it now, but I did turn up an early design for the car with an engine that looks an awful lot like a Crosley. At the time Mollino initially started the project, a Crosley-based powerplant (maybe with a snazzy etceterini dual cam set up and the billet crank) would have been a very logical engine choice. The Crosley motor would certainly match up with a driver's weight better than most others, even Italian iron.
Davide still doesn't have any vintage tin of his own. But, he surfs Bring a Trailer daily, and often sends me odd automotive tidbits that he turns up in his other webtravels. It's funny to me that he and I have bonded over car stuff when we met halfway around the world for a completely different reason. Given the bad rap that car guys often get as knuckle-dragging morons, it's great to find the Davide De Giorgis of the world to keep the record straight. A salute to you and yours, my friend!


smitty said...

I'm only moving to London to be one step closer to Davide.

d a v i d e said...

I'm moved.

no, seriously.

Ol' Man Foster said...

well don't tell Dave where you moved to or he'll just follow you there.

Anonymous said...

Hello there, and sorry for replying so late. I've read your comment with much pleasure and a ridiculous sense of pride, as you can imagine (hehe).
Above all, it also made me think of those days, where you guys came to Turin. It was big fun and it always feels good to share passions - in this case classic cars and good music - with new acquaintances because that's when they become friends.
The majority of people are basically moved by two things: the second is money (and vice versa). Nice people instead are moved by genuine passions, such as the joy of being together - for instance.

When you and I went down to the garage where Maggie was (Maggie = MG B GT, me old classic love, for the record), I remember your eyes. You stared at the little british beauty with that "baby" expression, authentically caught up in a vintage "bubble" of extasy. Like a kid in a toyshop.
I do hope to meet you again some time in London, to show you my new fiancè (Pippi = P1800, for the record), just to see that look on your face once again. I guess that's what keeps people alive. Nice people, I mean.

Take care,


Anonymous said...
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Ol' Man Foster said...

Mauro- so good to hear from you! It was such a great time we spent in Turin with you, and I do hope to see you again soon. Liv and I talk about going back to Europe all the time but it just hasn't happened quite yet.

But book me a seat in Pippi for sure!