Lancias In The Living Room: Exploring Some Italian Icons In London
Photography by Laura Kukuk
If you’re in London but want to have a dose of Italian sports cars, where do you go? Well, let me tell you a secret; there is a place in West London where you can find a terrific collection of lightweight Italian aluminum and fiberglass, and all in a cosy living room atmosphere. Sounds like a dream, right? Let me take you on a short trip through London’s slice of Italy.
Driving through the roundabouts and down rain-damp streets in my Cinquecento , I arrive at and stop in front of a white gate with a big red “G” on it. Davide de Giorigi, with a big smile on his face, opens this minimally-marked gate and welcomes me inside. I will soon find myself standing in a tiny courtyard, admiring the beautiful cars I’m eagerly peeking at through the windows.
I’m asking one question after another as we enter the building, and Max Girardo, like a true Italian gentleman, welcomes me in with an espresso, which sets the mood for the cars I’m about to see. Max first tells me his story, the story behind Girardo & Co., and how the last two and a half years have been flying by. But in order to get into this we need to reflect a little on Max prior to this life changing decision back in June 2016.
Max grew up internationally and has lived in Australia, Italy, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Monaco, and London. His international upbringing shaped him into an open-minded and very knowledgeable character who is fluent in four languages. Everyone who follows auctions, especially RM Sotheby’s in Europe, would have gotten to know him as he had established and led RM Europe and simultaneously operated as chief auctioneer for over a decade. That’s not all though, he helped launch one of the biggest logistics companies for high-value vehicle transportation, CARS Europe, and has claimed a good reputation as a vintage racing driver to boot.
Girardo & Co. has just welcomed their latest member, an old friend of mine, Davide de Giorgi, and together they now perform as a team of four: Max Girardo, Marcus Willis, Cat Bunch, and Davide. Together they operate under the company’s motto: “Passione per la Perfezione,” Italian for “Passion for Perfection.”
Back to the cosy living room atmosphere here in Italy… Sorry, I mean London. First things first, I can’t tear myself away from the Lancia 037 Stradale. It seemed to be staring at me in that steady calm way of resting predators, and a look under the lightweight rear window tells you all you need to know about its potential. Only 207 Stradales were ever built, and pop culture has us typically encountering the racing versions of the 037 rather than the uncluttered single-color street cars. This one was first registered in France, and since coming to England it has been undergoing some mechanical restoration, such as a top-end rebuild, and an overhaul of the brake system and suspension at a marque specialist in Turin.
Parked next to it is another pretty Italian in the form of a Ferrari Daytona, but this is not any Daytona. Still wearing its original paint and interior from 1972, this car is a true, unrestored, original. An increasingly rare claim. The paint is marked with the perfect amount of patina, and the leather has worn in just beautifully. You feel the car wants to tell its story to you, and once you sit in it it’s easy to get carried away dreaming of hitting some Italian country roads. This 356 GTB/4 left Maranello in 1973 to its first owner in Rhode Island, and today it retains its original owner’s manual, warranty card, pouch, and toolkit, along with an impressively detailed history file to go complement its originality.
Next I glimpse another favorite Italian of mine, and the beautiful blue Alfa Romeo GTA is almost hidden in the corner with the shadows of the day. The livery is a gorgeously simple one that highlights the lines of the car, and besides that it’s just nice to see one that isn’t red or white for a change! For those who aren’t aware of the special nature of the GTAs over the typical 105 series Alfas, the “A” in GTA stands for “Alleggerita,” Italian for lightweight. Only 501 known examples were built, and are often hidden behind closed doors until the historic racing season starts.
This car was built in 1969, and Bern Fischer, its first owner, sent it straight to Helmut Hähn, an Alfa Romeo dealer from Mannheim, who prepared his competition cars. This is when it received the striking livery, though remaining underneath is the original red, which can be seen in the interior and engine bay.
Though not an Italian, I can’t help but mention another car in the showroom: the Lagonda LG45 Rapide. Once the fastest car in the world, capable of more than 100mph back in 1936, this was and still is one hell of a machine, and only one of a total of 25! What is probably more surprising and rare to see than the car itself though are all folders of documentation that come with it. I think I counted four stuffed-full folders containing every receipt, test notes, race entries, driving directions— simply everything. As a true believer in preserving the history of each car, this is a dream come true and I can’t keep the big smile on my face to myself.
We wrap the visit up with the eye-catching green of this Group 4 Lancia Stratos from 1976. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being able to drive a Stratos, or even the chance to experience one from the passenger seat, you know all too well of it’s viciously exciting and exhilaratingly dangerous capabilities. For those that haven’t been so lucky, this is the kind of car that inspires plenty of fantasy just by glancing at its row of driving lights slapped on the hood, and this exceptionally vibrant example is one of the more intriguing Stratos out there—Group 4-spec, no livery, loud colors, what could be more perfectly ‘70s than this?
Too soon it’s time for Max and Davide to vanish back into this little piece of Italy, and I hop back into my Cinquecento wishing it were a Lancia rally car instead. Reflecting on the day in the return journey’s traffic, a certain phrase recurs: Passione per la Perfezione.