Travel: What Happens When You Break down in the Mille Miglia?

What Happens When You Break down in the Mille Miglia?

By Jacopo Villa
May 16, 2015

Photography by Federico Bajetti

I was once told that old cars are fascinating, elegant and a bit whimsical. I sure do not want to talk about stereotypes, but today I had this fact confirmed: vintage cars demand attention, care, and understanding when they do not want to run. Their wish is their will.

So it goes in the gasoline-perfumed classic car world. Why am I saying this? Because my Mille Miglia is over because of a technical failure. Our race is over.

I must confess that I am not entirely disappointed: I tend to have optimistic views and I believe that a breakdown is part of the vintage car experience. Maybe my infinite enthusiasm for old metal has brought me to the conclusion that an old car isn’t authentic if it doesn’t break. It has to happen, sooner or later.

Allow me start the chronicle of my second day of racing at the Mille Miglia. The day started out in Rimini, with the start located near the city’s promenade. It all went well except, when we had to take our little 1100 on the hills that bring drivers to the San Marino Republic: we were so slow that everyone overtook us! Such a shame. But we eventually made it to the top of the hill where this tiny state is located.

Entering the ancient walls and being greeted by hundreds of people feels really good and adds to that special feeling of being in the Mille Miglia.

Not that the engine ran smoothly, anyway, as it struggled to cope with a rather strange gearbox: imprecise, erratic, and with curious gearing. In fact, it had a very short 1st and 2nd—but also a very long third and fourth. Climbing any hill with this set up was a dreadful experience.

The car ran pretty well otherwise, and despite being overtaken by countless other drivers, the little confetto was running between the hills in Pesaro with joy.

Then something broke and we were completely stuck.

Pretty much like yesterday, it began with a worrying, metallic, engine noise. As we lifted up the hood, a cloud of smoke came out to greet us. It smoked badly from the front of the head, and it emitted a worrying metalling clinging when we attempted to start it again.

We waited on the side of the road to try and get going again, but nothing happened. The official Mille Miglia mechanics came, (who else but Mr. Colpani himself, the man responsible for making the confetto run yesterday?)

Despite these failures, I am satisfied. But this doesn’t mean that I won’t be covering the rest of the event. No sir. We arrived in Rome with the “Petromobile”, an Alfa Romeo MiTo QV, and we’re going to follow things until the end. Viva la Mille Miglia! 

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7 years ago

Ciao Jacopo, so sorry to hear about this in part for your advebture of a lifetime but also for the poor owner of the 1100 Zagato.

The pictures are looking fantastic though, thanks for taking them, some rather special vehicles there.

Dennis White
Dennis White
7 years ago

Awww… for a look at real heartbreak at a Mille Miglia breakdown, see James Martin’s DVD, especially if you’ve never seen a grown man cry! So sorry Jacopo but reading your diary has been great fun. Thanks!