Two Trips, 2,000 Miles, And Two Very Different Classics
Photography by: Matijs Jutte and Valerie Jutte-Ducauze
As far as my childhood memories go, I have always been surrounded by Italian cars (family Fiats and Alfa Romeos through the ’70s and ’80s, and an Uno when landing my first job), and after, an adolescent period devoted to Ferrari (assembling quite a collection of pre-1990 Ferrari literature and automobilia), my interest naturally drifted to Alfa Romeo, as Enzo Ferrari started his career there.
Motorsports were sparsely covered on TV at that time in the Netherlands, limited to Formula 1, and the first major race I went to visit with my dad was the Spa 24h European Touring Car race in 1985, witnessing an Alfa Romeo GTV6 winning its class, but being outrun by the BMW 635 CSI, Rover SD1, and Volvo 242 GT for the overall win.
I’ve been to many events since, but I’d never been to the Mille Miglia. Partly because it was far away from where I lived and difficult to combine with my leisure time available, as the 24 Hours of Le Mans 24 was also a regular fixture on my agenda each year.
This year, however, had to be the year. The plan was to take my ’72 Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV and drive together with my dad to Brescia for the start, and follow the first day of the Mille. Then stay in the northern part of Italy, visit Maranello, and then Parma to witness the Mille Miglia caravan on their return.
The evening prior to the race and the built-up on the morning is very special in Brescia, with people having dinner with cars at their table and exceptional cars—participants and followers alike—scattered all over town.
After witnessing the first 50 cars start, we took the Alfa and made a shortcut to pick up the rally around Mantova. We managed to pick up the route and were running in the first half of the competitors (between nr. 25 – 150 roughly). Sometimes we were driving by ourselves, often in convoy, to the right of the road to let participants pass in the center. It was amazing to experience the warm greetings and encouragements we received in every town or village we went through.
In the evening, we made a stop at a café in a slightly banked right-hand bend outside the village of Argenta. A great spot to watch the many participants sweep through the corner, as well as an important contingent of followers with extraordinary modern machinery (including a Ferrari 550 Maranello by Prodrive!) that entertained the crowd with rapid downshifts…followed by drifts on acceleration.
As you have already published quite a lot of high quality articles on this year’s Mille Miglia, I will not go too much into detail. I can only confirm what everybody is writing and telling since years: yes, one must experience the Italian passion for cars in general, but especially racing cars and “oldtimers”. Combined with great gastronomy (you cannot go wrong in Italy, even in the simplest of outlets) and the fantastic patrimony of ancient architecture, Italy mid-May is probably the best place on earth!
On our return trip, the Ferrari Museum was a turn-off, mainly due to the mass-tourism approach, but I can highly recommend the Tazio Nuvolari Museum in a small former church in Mantova. This is a small jewel that deserves a detour and perfectly captures the atmosphere and reflects the virtuosity of the Flying Mantuan.
We had a great time in Italy, the Alfa ran faultlessly, and even though we did not compete the Mille Miglia ourselves, by the time we regained Munich we had run some 1,500 km (932 miles), so almost one “Mille”.
One week later my second project came into realization: making a road-trip through California with my wife and two children (13 and 8 years of age). Not extremely special, you might say, but we decided that in order to pass on the classic car bug to our kids and to capture the spirit of California, a Volkswagen T2 Westfalia was to be our transportation and habitat during this adventure.
We had experienced a T2 Westfalia in southern France a couple of years ago, and through that agency we got into contact with Bill Stags in Costa Mesa from where he is running Vintage Surfari Wagons. My wife just loves the T2 (she actually still nags me that I should have bought one instead of the Alfa, but time will come….) and the kids liked the previous camping experience in France, so this idea had been brewing for some time. The van came fully-equipped with its original Westfalia Berlin interior (although newly-upholstered) which is extremely practical in layout and surprisingly spacious.
Driving a fully-loaded T2 takes a different mindset, one that seems to come automatically when taking the seat behind the flat steering wheel. You actually do not steer these buses, you merely guide them at a leisurely pace (ideally, around 50-55 mph), taking in the landscape through the full bay window.
Our trip was planned to go up via Fresno towards Yosemite Valley, then cross over to San Francisco, back along the Highway 1 coastline towards Los Angeles, and finally return the van 10 days later in Costa Mesa. The resulting round trip covered 1,200 miles through magnificent scenery, and had been a memorable experience.
The van ran faultlessly, and generated a lot of positive comments from people who wanted to take a picture with it (or inside it), fellow VW bus owners, past-owners, or just curious passers-by wanting to know which year it was from. Of course, camping in some 4 square meters (43 sq. ft) with two children is quite a challenge, but it was a wonderful travelling and family experience.
In the scope of 3 weeks, I covered the distance of two Mille Miglias in vehicles that could not be more different than the landscapes each had been driven through. Best of all, returning home and taking the Alfa for a drive, I was pleasantly surprised by the agile reaction to both throttle and steering compared to our California travel companion!