What It’s Like To Tour A Concours With A Cisitalia 202 Spider Mille Miglia
Photography by Corbin Miranda
The second week of March sees a few hundred of the world’s finest automobiles and thousands of spectators flock to Amelia Island to partake in one of the finest concours in the country. Last year was memorable enough, but for the 2018 weekend I was afforded the opportunity to accompany a truly amazing specimen throughout the course of events: a Cisitalia 202 Spyder Mille Miglia “Nuvolari.” I was invited along for the ride with Petrolicious’ Ted Gushue and the car’s owner, Matthew Ivanhoe of the Cultivated Collector.
So there I was: a brisk Friday morning, the day before the big event, clutching a coffee, camera draped on my shoulder, squinting into a Florida sunrise as Matthew prepared the Cisitalia for the Reliable Carriers Eight Flags Road Tour. I put my coffee down, clicked my camera on, and took the first of quite a few photos over the course of the days to come. It’s not every day one gets such a subject, and even on the concours lawn, this is a rare machine.
Giovanni Savonuzzi, the visionary designer behind the 202 SMM, was an aerodynamicist and aeronautics professor who taught and conducted research at the Politecnico di Torino. Upon becoming Cisitalia’s technical director in 1946, he immediately applied his education and practical experience to the automobiles he was tasked with designing, and the result of this forward thinking is a remarkably svelte and innovative race car. It’s gorgeous to look at on top of the science behind its shape, with the round headlights gracefully rolling into a curved body line that swoops dramatically to the rear of the car where it flows off the rear end in a pair of fins rarely seen outside of the American jet age.
The rear wheel covers ensure the red silhouette remains intact in profile, and they work to create a form equally at home in a gallery as on a circuit. The elongated, heart-shaped bonnet that glides down the front of the car is littered with vents, and it leads the eyes down to the simple but beautiful oval grille. The point is, with the coachwork catching the light just right, it was easy to see why Savonuzzi’s aerodynamics-focused approach to dressing the 202 SMM has been lauded as rolling sculpture.
As the Cisitalia sat patiently waiting in front of the Ritz Carlton for the Road Tour, I watched and listened as groups formed around it, taking stabs at guessing what exactly they were looking at. Most were wrong, but I couldn’t exactly blame them seeing as the marque—though celebrated by the in-the-automotive-know—is not exactly on the radar screen of the casual automotive enthusiast.
If you’re as taken with the car’s presence as I am, I’d encourage you to do a bit more digging online, which will reveal the short-lived brilliance of the Italian marque and the pedigree of the 202 SMM. Cisitalia and its founder Piero Dusio can be considered responsible for a significant portion of post-war sports car design, and Tazio Nuvolari’s heroic drive in the 1947 Mille Miglia behind the wheel of a 202 SMM is stuff of legend. After snapping a few photos of tour vehicles in front of the Ritz, I positioned myself beside a bridge that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean to take a few more before the first stop at Huguenot Memorial Park.
The remainder of that Friday would be spent following Matthew, the lovely Cisitalia, and the rest of the tour around the island which concluded with a luncheon with two-time F1 World Champion and Indy 500-winner Emmerson Fittipaldi, and the Amelia Island Concours’ founder Bill Warner. Afterwards, the 202 received a wash to cleanse the evidence of the day’s activities, and was then put to bed in its trailer to get ready for the big day on the lawn.
Walking across the 18th fairway of the Amelia Golf Club on Saturday morning, with the sun beginning to peer over the roof of the Ritz, I find Matthew in the middle of the green, completing some last-minute detailing for the big showing, and in a similar fashion to Friday morning, I put my coffee down, click my camera on, and get back to work.
Walking the greens with Matthew, hearing his exchanges, and learning a thing or two from him on more than one occasion, it becomes very apparent that Matthew Ivanhoe knows his stuff. Take a quick look at his Instagram page (@thecultivatedcollector) and you’ll notice a deep collection of some very fine automobiles like this one. While very detail-oriented and perhaps a bit encyclopedic, Matthew still approaches collecting with plenty of passion. Surely, there is an art in assembling the right group.
After hours of making the rounds and seeing the other exquisite offerings, the Concours finally came to an end, and I headed back to the house for some much-needed rest. Everything being pushed back a day again this year for the weather, Sunday would be spent walking the beach and relaxing around the island before my departure back to reality later that night. Looking back through the photos taken on that weekend, I will say that the 2018 Amelia Island Concours was the most memorable one I’ve attended yet; I met some truly amazing people and admired all manner of special cars. I’m very grateful for the chance to make these memories.
I’d like to give special thanks to Matthew Ivanhoe, Ted Gushue, Jenn, Linda, her dog Brillo, the Male family, and everybody involved that made this event as special as it was, this year and the ones in the past.