ICCO Fall BBQ – 22 Oct 2011

This year’s fall BBQ for the Italian Car Club of Ottawa was a great success, although the weather almost killed it before it got started. It had originally been scheduled for October 15, but as that day approached the weather forecast was not very good. So it was postponed by a week. And then the 15th turned out to be sunny and cool – a typical nice fall day. We had an excellent September, with many crystal clear, warm days. So maybe the club should re-think the timing of this event, which is usually the best attended of all. On the 22nd the morning was damp with heavy overcast and there was even some light Scotch mist around 10 o’clock. Warm clothes would be the order of the day, especially with the top down on the Fiat.

I had spent several hours on the Thursday – while it rained and got very cool outside – washing, waxing and Armor All’ing the Fiat to have it looking its best for this last outing of the year. On Saturday morning I pulled it outside to finish polishing the paint and chrome and I also cleaned the Momo wheels with Meguiar’s Hot Rims spray, which is a great product for their complex shapes. I was a little concerned about the temporary fix that I’d fabricated for the carburetor linkage, after losing one of the two clips that retain little balls in their sockets. On my way back from NAPA (in the Porsche) where I picked up a new bottle of Hot Rims I stopped at my friend Steve’s to trade some stories with him and Morley. While there I mentioned these clips and Steve immediately got down a box of old parts from Weber carburetors – most of them from Volkswagens. Sure enough he had at least a dozen linkages with two of these clips on each! I took one pair home, quickly determined that they were the same size and installed two of them so they would match. What a great guy and resource!

I had been talking to a fellow Fiat enthusiast named Adam who owns a ’74 Spider a few days earlier, at which point I offered to drive him to the BBQ. His car is temporarily off the road while his clutch assembly is being rebuilt. So I left home a little early to pick him up en route, suitably bundled in my winter jacket with three layers underneath – top down, of course. It was pretty cool at about 7-8 C but I reminded myself that if this was March I’d be happy to drive topless in such temperatures. For some reason traffic was very heavy on the surface streets, so we arrived at Marc’s a few minutes later than expected, a little after two o’clock.

When I pulled up to the driveway entrance, I stopped and did some arm waving to get Marc’s attention and to indicate that I wanted to know where to park. He immediately gestured for me to drive right up and into the paved back yard, so I could park right in front of the four-door garage – a place of honour! It’s really a shame that Marc doesn’t do much wrenching on his own cars, since he has such a large garage in which to store and work on cars. With considerable hard cranking of the non-power steering wheel, I was able to get positioned squarely in the middle of the four doors, with lots of space for people to get around both the front and rear of my car. Of course I had a pretty large audience, since a number of people had already arrived but had parked on the street.

I knew most of the people who were already there and more familiar faces continued to arrive over the next hour or so. The garage doors were all closed, since the BBQ is typically an opportunity to unveil new acquisitions or restorations. But the collection of cars parked in the yard and on the street was already pretty impressive. Marc’s Alfa Romeo GTV and Dave’s ’64 Alfa Giulia SS were parked in front of me, while an early Fiat 500 was behind me. Dave’s SS is a beautiful classic in excellent condition, of which there are only six in North America. It is quite valuable and very pretty. In the driveway Marc had parked his Multipla and Stuart’s yellow 1960 Fiat 600. As we all stood around enjoying some wine and trying to warm up, Delio arrived in his Alfa coupe, another old 500 pulled in and then a gorgeous new Maserati GT coupe backed, with both its stereo and its Ferrari engine competing for best sound. Chuck and Marcia filled the end of the driveway in their Lancia Monte Carlo, while several Fiat Spiders (both 124’s and 850’s) were parked on the street. In all, there must have been thirty people and at least 15 cars present – an excellent turn-out.

My car looked perfect and was not upstaged by any of the other classic Italian iron in the yard. Adam found a new guy named Jay whom I had invited on the FiatSpider.com forum and he came over to look at my car and to ask about recommended paint shops. Of course I told him about having my car done at Milano Body Shop in 2006 and he couldn’t believe the quality of the paint – not to mention the condition of the car – especially when I told him how little it had cost. A little later I introduced him to Tony from Milano and they agreed on a plan to provide Jay with a quotation for repainting his black 1980 Spider.

Around 3 o’clock Marc called the meeting to order, because one of our objectives this day was to honour and thank Delio and Giovanni for their years of support in maintaining our cars at Frank’s Auto Centre in Little Italy. They have decided to retire after 38 years and have sold the building to a real estate developer. Sadly that means that Frank (not the owner) and Hugo (their mechanics) will be out of work, so they must decide what to do next. It also means that several ICCO members who are not mechanically inclined must find someone else to help them with their cars, which could be problematic. There are no other Italian car specialists in Ottawa, although a few small garages seem to be willing to help some of the members successfully. By the way, Giovanni’s car was a classic 1960’s Lancia Aprelia four-door sedan, which he parked at the foot of the driveway. Delio was the founder of the Italian Car Club.

Marc had pulled together some gifts and mementos of Delio and Giovanni’s years with us, including two nice photo albums assembled by the club’s resident photographer, in which we were all asked to find our cars and autograph the page(s) where they appeared. He also had gifts for Frank and Hugo, which was a nice touch and a few remarks from other club members. After this small ceremony, it was time to open the garage doors and unveil the cars hidden from view. Marc began with Door #1, commenting that the club is not only about vintage Italian cars as he revealed Sandra’s new red Fiat 500. Next came Alex’s beautiful 1967 Fiat Dino coupe, which we had seen before but which had never before been introduced formally to the group. Behind Door #3 was another Fiat Mulitpla which Stuart had just finished restoring in a lovely two-tone blue paint scheme, as well as a Fiat 500 Abarth in race trim which Joe (the owner of a popular pub) had recently acquired. Finally, behind Door #4 was yet another old Fiat 500 which a different Joe (one of the Carguys group) had just restored, after buying the car for a mere $250.

All this while Lucio had been grilling the usual Italian sausages and from then on people enjoyed a sausage, some meat balls, salad and desserts contributed by the members, along with numerous bottles of wine and Italian beer. There were lots of clusters of people engaged in lively conversation and examination of the cars – both revealed and simply parked – so it was easy to move among them and have a rich experience of friendship and fellowship. The enthusiasm of this group for their cars and the Italian spirit is quite amazing and very enjoyable.

As the sun got lower in the sky, people began to leave and the temperature began to drop noticeably. I realized that it would be getting dark by the time I could expect to get home, so I raised the top on my car in the interest of comfort for both me and Adam. After a bit of a wait for the driveway to clear, I manoeuvred the car out of its tight spot with some help from Terry and other onlookers and then picked Adam up at the street. We left around 4:45 and once again the traffic was very heavy for some unknown reason, but eventually I got home around 5:30. The day had been very enjoyable; the car ran very well; the carburetor fix remained intact and I had a great time. That’s about it for this season though.

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