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Classic Car Hire

TAKE ME HIRE Published: 24th Apr 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Classic Car Hire
Classic Car Hire
Classic Car Hire
Classic Car Hire
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Angie Voluti looks at a rather special Italian classic car hire company with a difference and why it can pay to loan rather than own a car of your dreams

Ha, ‘la Dolce Vita’… everywhere you go in Italy oozes fascination, style and decadent bonhomie. Until you have a look at the roads, and notice that they are peppered with old bangers, Fiats and Alfas which have seen better days; dented wings, bruised metal, ripped upholstery. Modern and classic car maintenance blends in with a universal attitude of bored indifference, as if the Italians had seen it all, and no longer cared.

As for the rest, they are driven, hard, no matter what age they are. The Italians don’t seem to spend half their life polishing their car with a cloth made of baby ocelot. The brave-hearts who venture south of the Alps in their classic car may wish to travel with some heart tablets, for the journey is long and the roads are tough.

On the other hand, one could go for an alternative: fl y to one of the main airports in Italy, be it Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples, Bari or Palermo, and be greeted by the permanently tanned Alessandro Casillo, owner of ‘Sprintage’, with a classic car of one’s choice. The car will be chosen from Casillo’s fl eet, and likely to be Italian.

Only, hiring a classic car from Sprintage is nothing like what one may have experienced before in the UK. Casillo seems to possess the gift of ubiquity, and can deliver and

collect his toys from anywhere in Italy. He will make life easy and pleasant, materializing out of thin air as soon as you step out from the plane, foulard at the ready for the ladies (most clients choose a soft-top for the holiday) and well-worn keys jiggling in his hand.

Do you want to try an Alfa, but fi nish your journey in a Fiat? No problem. Do you want to collect from Venice but drop off in Milan?

As for the cars, whatever you choose, it won’t be polished or pristine: that’s not the spirit of it. They carry scars and dents like badges of honour.

We climb onto Fiat’s answer to the Mini Moke, a nice Spiaggina (Little Beach) that looks like a small roofl ess Jeep, and embark on a journey down the Amalfi  coast.

The Spiaggina (also called ‘Jungla’, in English) was a tormented choice. I could have had an MGB, but “none of our customers choose an MGB, they see plenty on British roads.” So we agree that I shall hire a Spiaggina to start with, and an Alfa Duetto for the last leg of my trip down the south of Italy.

The Fiat Jungla is a 1972 model; it is ‘live’ and real more than the models restored to absolute perfection over a period of many years, and – as a result – it is a joy to drive. The door panels have the thickness of Kraft cheese slices (and we are lucky, as the Sixties’ version had fabric doors); pedals, knobs and onboard instrumentation are as delicate as the silk scarf and gold watch sported by Mr Agnelli.

In fact, it was Mr Agnelli himself who wanted this car to be built: based on a Fiat 600 with a new body, it was meant to be a credible rival to the Mini Moke, so successful at the end of the Sixties and a Mini that’s also soaring in value.

It was easy to use, compact and ideal to go to the beach – it was even used by the Italian army because, although it was not four-wheel driven, it was perfect for rough terrain, with its rear-wheel drive and the short 600’s chassis.

Unfortunately, it also had the 600’s engine, a little asthmatic unit which hated steep climbs.

If you like your comforts, the Jungla/Spiaggina is not for you. It’s slow, the brakes are hopeless and it rattles and whines. Yet it is the perfect classic hire for those who have never seen one before.

ALFA BETA?

We meet in Naples for the car swap. Sprintage’s boss is not overtly concerned about whether there is a full tank of petrol or not, although the Spiaggina will chew hundreds of miles on £20. And when we reconvene at the agreed spot, there is a shiny Alfa Duetto waiting for us

A lipstick-red Spider, and an extremely rare 1.3-litre one at that – again a far cry from the immaculately restored classics one comes across on British roads.

It is, indeed, on its last ‘job’ before it will be taken to the workshop, to be given the once-over before the winter sleep. 

Spiders, even the rather tepid 1300cc ones, are not particularly rare in Italy, nor particularly valuable. It does have a charming aura around it, mind. Everywhere one goes, there is the soft whistling of men who notice the topless car more than the army of tourists.

It has no power steering, of course, and one develops biceps trying to park it anywhere. The throttle sticks in that unique way only people brought up on old mechanical links and not electronics will understand. The headlights are hopeless, and the reverse gear seems to clear its throat every time one tries to engage it… Yet this is the real (and real world) classic car driving experience and one not easily forgotten.

‘Sprintage’, a company owned by Alessandro Casillo, hires vintage cars, race and sports cars for classic events from the Mille Miglia to the Targa Florio. It has meeting points everywhere in Italy and some 70 per cent of its customers come from GB. http://www.sprintage.it



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