Think Italian cars -- and the ensuing revelry should conjure up a Mediterranean mountainside under blue, sunny skies. A tanned and chiseled Romeo is at the wheel, a carefree dark-eyed Juliet in a sundress at his side; they're both wearing sunglasses and the top is down. Que bella, no? Unlike the contemporary British Leyland sports cars, the Italian beauties -- Fiats, Alfa Romeos and Ferraris -- were built for fun. Easy to care for, with sleek bodies, good engines and playful lines, they cast an automotive mystique that lingers like a fine Chianti.
"Compared to the older British sports cars of the '60s and '70s, the Italian cars were all sugar and lace," offers mechanic Tom Dotter of Alpine Import Auto in Englewood. And this is the time of year, notes Dotter, who works exclusively on the Italian makes, when local Italian-car enthusiasts unearth their treasures from dark garages to zoom over Rocky Mountain roads. "Seventy percent of [the autos] go away and get under a blanket for the winter," Dotter says. Now he's up to his chin in work.
Some of the most seriously smitten will be on hand this Sunday atAutomezzi XII, an annual car-collectors' expo where visitors will find many pristine manifestations of the mystique, from a 1923 Fiat touring car to a brand new Maserati; myriad new and vintage vehicles of other sorts, including Vespa scooters and Bugati motorcycles, can also be seen.
Guests can chat with a bevy of auto collectors who can't stop talking about their cars, such as Bob Stevens of the Rocky Mountain Fiat Lancia Club. "They're like little works of art on wheels," enthuses Stevens, the owner of a 1978 Fiat 124 Spider and a 1967 Alfa Romeo, who thinks Ferraris are nice, but not necessities. The less-expensive models exude that Italian spirit just fine: "My wife drives the Fiat every day to work," he says. "Of course, she has an assigned indoor parking spot."
Beep, beep! Viva Italia!