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When John Michel talks of
the first car he ever owned,
he adopts the wistful air of a
person recalling their first love.
And though he has strayed more than
once in his lifetime it’s clear the 1951 Fiat
1400, which his father bought for him
second hand, was the beginning of a love
affair with Italian cars that has spanned a
“All up so far I’ve had 27 Italian cars,” he
The aficionado is president of the Fiat
Club Canberra, which joined forces with the
Canberra Alpha Romeo club six years ago to
boost the profile of a yearly showcase – Auto
He says the allure of Italian cars, apart
from the obvious aesthetic appeal, is that
certain je ne sais quoi.
“Going back 25 years ago, motor vehicles
were produced on a very different basis to
what they’re produced today – they made
niche vehicles developed for a particular
market,” he says.
“Today, they have to produce these cars
for a huge market and the consequence of
that is you tend to lose this individuality.”
In a world where cars have been forced
to lose their personality for commercial
purposes, Italian cars have proven unable to
lose that quintessentially Italian quirkiness.
“They are still individuals and when they
try to be anything else, they fail,” John says.
“For example, Alpha Romeo developed
cars for racing and now they have to develop
cars to sell to have money to develop the
racing cars. Alpha has failed almost every
time they have developed a ‘big saloon’
(mainstream family car).”
They’re unpredictable, ostentatious
and needy, and some of them fit “like an
overcoat”, but of the forest of cars from
Fords to Fiats sprouting from his yard, John
admits; he just can’t stay away from the
“If I hop out of the Ford and hop into an
Alpha, it’s a different experience,” he says.
“(An Italian car) is sort of the uniting
of two people rather than a people-mover.
Sure, they kick every now and then and the
carbonator has to be fixed all the time... but
hop into a Ferrari and I’ll show you what it
feels like. Oh, and put your seat belt on.”
This year Auto-Italia will mark the 50th
anniversary of the Fiat 1500. More than
10,000 people from all over Australia are
expected through the gates to partake of
exciting showcases, stalls of Italian and
Australian food and of course, beautiful
Italian cars of every make and model.
The centrepiece this year is the Bellila – a
specially-built Fiat sportscar that raced at
There will be no demonstrations, though;
“ We deliberately don’t have them revving et
cetera like at some other shows,” John says.
“These cars will speak for themselves.”
Auto Italia 2011
Where: Lawns in front of Old
When: Sunday, April 17
Phone: John Michel 0417 694 775
ItaLIaN-Made: the club aim to
boost the auto Italia profile.
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