Bucket List Entry #1: Mille Miglia

I have alluded to my Bucket List before — those things I’d like to do before I kick the bucket — and I was going to put up the entire list, but that’s too much to digest in one gulp, I think. So rather than that, I’ll do one item at a time. Here’s the first.

From Wikipedia:

The Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) was an open-road endurance race which took place in Italy twenty-four times from 1927 to 1957 (thirteen before the war, eleven from 1947).
Like the older Targa Florio and later the Carrera Panamericana, the MM made Gran Turismo (Grand Touring) sports cars like Alfa Romeo, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes Benz and Porsche famous. The race brought out an estimated five million spectators.
From 1953 until 1957, the Mille Miglia was also a round of the World Sports Car Championship.
Since 1977, the “Mille Miglia” has been reborn as a regulated race for classic and vintage cars. Participation is limited to cars, produced no later than 1957, which had attended (or were registered) to the original race. The route (Brescia-Rome round trip) is similar to that of the original race, maintaining the point of departure / arrival in Viale Venezia in Brescia.

And here’s the course:

Remember that the course uses only public roads, and in the old days, it was one of the most dangerous races in the world… for spectators. (That’s why the actual race was suspended, by the way. Cars were getting so fast that they were becoming uncontrollable, and because people are stupid, they weren’t backing off from the cars whizzing past; they were trying to get closer to the track — with the inevitable results.) Nowadays, it’s more like a moving Concours D’Elegance, more’s the pity.

Now let me be perfectly clear: I don’t want anything to do with the race. What I do want to do is drive the circuit, but in a gentlemanly, leisurely fashion, with a companion in a small but quick car which can navigate some of the tiny, ultra-narrow village streets through which the course runs when it’s not barreling through the northern Italian countryside.

I also don’t care what vintage car I use, as long as it’s a convertible. It could be an actual Stirling Moss-type Mercedes 300 Gullwing in powder blue:

Lovely, except that the color is really gay. How gay?

Or the car could be modern, so that we don’t spend  a week or two marooned in some tiny dago village while the car’s getting fixed, with nothing to do but drink and… okay, let’s leave that part in abeyance for the moment, until we get to the discussion of Kim’s Partner.

So, a more modern conveyance, there’s the Fiat 124 Spider Lusso:

…which fits the bill best in terms of beauty and the ability to make it through some really narrow streets:

But enough about cars. Let’s talk about my companion. There are two options, male and female. Leaving aside the obvious attractions of a comely wench for the trip:

…I think I’d rather make the trip with a buddy than with a broad. Why? Let me count the reasons:

There aren’t many public restrooms along the Mille Miglia. This means I’d have to stop at several intervals along the way — i.e every time we saw a public WC — so that Milady would not be caught short in the middle of the countryside. Also, I’d probably want to stop often because romantic countryside plus miniskirt in the passenger seat… well, you get my drift, ’nuff said. Finally, most women are not capable of consuming large quantities of Italian plonk en route — something which cannot be said about any of my rowdy friends.

I’ll let you know if this part of my dream comes true.



    1. Yeah, I was all set to agree, but then I remembered that that color is very close to the color of the vintage racing Bugattis (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bugatti_Type_35#/media/File:BugattiRacingCars.jpg).

      I’ll grant that that color looks a bit limp on that Mercedes; but, on the Type 35s, it doesn’t look weak at all.

      In fact, make a comprehensive list of all of the material things in the history of this world, and it would be hard to find many of them – if any – that had more pure class than a Bugatti. And the shade of their racing colors doesn’t hurt that one bit.

      1. Well, that’s Italians for you. They can take something that looks femmeish and make it look masculine.

        Now, running the MM with Sabine Schmitz* in a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa would be something of an interesting time. But I’d probably want to run it myself in a Mulliner Bentley R Type Continental with my buddy Keven.

        *aka, the Queen of the Nurburgring

        1. A Bentley Mulliner? Joe, it’s a fine car, but what part of “tiny, narrow streets” was not clear? You wouldn’t make it through the first village in that land barge.

          1. Heh- having spent the last decade navigating the narrow and twisty “roads” of PNG in Series 70 Landcruisers, the streets of Italy hold little terrors.

            And, Paul Frere ran the 1953 race in a Chrysler Saratoga, and still won his class. How hard could it be?

      2. Yeah, I was thinking of an eighties style pastel streetrod but I have to concede that color would be okay on a racing Bugatti. My car club nickname is “Blue” BTW. It is based on the character from the 2003 film Old School. Most of the kids in the club were in their twenties and thirties and I joined in my sixties.

    1. Nah. The Abarth’s ride is harder, the engine noisier, and the “sport seats” less comfortable for my fat old ass. “Lusso” about defines my taste and requirements, these days.

  1. Men should always have a trucker’s friend close by (milk jug or bottle) in case you gotta go and their isn’t a restroom close by.

  2. Hi Kim, I am heartbroken at your loss, can’t really conceive of the enormity of losing Connie and don’t have any words to offer except I am so sorry.
    Long ago I used to comment on your blog from time to time , and always enjoyed Connie setting me straight!

    Back around 2000 my wife and I spent a couple of weeks driving around Italy. Rome westward over the mountains, north through Abruzzi and parts of the Grand Sasso, then east and south back to Rome. Back roads all the way. I loved it. Rural Italy is very rural- we heard wolves in the mountains at night. The sanitary facility’s were next to none, the gov had attempted to set up some rest stops but they were destroyed-toilets torn out and smashed on the pavement, etc. Any place a car could be pulled over had numerous piles of excrement. Shit still went through a hole in the train and onto the tracks.
    NO traffic enforcement-, The only traffic cop I saw in rural Italy was bringing up the rear of a funeral procession and holding a flag, and despite the reputation Italians have, the driving was first rate. For example, both sides of any visible corner were used to set the proper line and apex. When passing on a straight with an oncoming car, the overtaking vehicle would run dead center down the road and the other two part right and left to allow room. did I say I loved it? First time since I was seventeen I felt like a driver again.
    This was because despite doing things we would consider insane, they were all paying attention to what they were doing. Of course this was largely pre cell phone, who knows what it is like now.
    When Moss ran a Mercedes in one of the later races, Denis Jenkinson was his navigator. Apparently they were using a roll chart that had the various corners marked for speeds, and somehow a bridge got marked “flat out”, and Moss hit it doing well over 150 mph. This set the car airborne for quite some distance. I have not read them for years, but here are links to the accounts of the 55,56 and 57 races.
    Astounding sights regularly appear in the country side there, especially if one likes castles, hill towns, vistas and cheap good wine. Our method of travel had little pre planning, trusting to the locals to find a place to stay and eat. Fun in a vagabond sort of way, but Italy might drive a regimented sort of person nuts. Did I say I loved it?!

  3. Original Carrera Panamericana (or rough approximation thereof) in an old Lincoln and with an old friend. Failing to find a period-correct Lincoln, then something American and body-on frame. Maybe a 1980s GM G-body or Ford Panther platform, but stripped-down, carbureted, simplified, and set up to take punishment.

    Ideally would arrive at finish with the vehicle just barely still operational.

  4. Kim, that Fiat 124 Spider Lusso, alas, is a Mazda Miata, with some restyled lines and Fiat-ized interior.

    But it’s made by Mazda, for Fiat. Badge Engineering, they called it back in the ’80s & ’90s.

    No slight on the car itself, but it won’t be the Italian Roadster experience you were hoping for. Fine car? Yes. And it won’t break down, so that’s a bonus.

    Maybe you could pull a vacuum line or such, to lend some authenticity?

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

    1. Jim, the new 124 is built by Mazda and the frame is Miata, but the engine, suspension, and design is Italian. 1.4 liters making 160 HP and 182 ft-lb of torque is not a Miata! The magazine boys call it a “Fiata”.

      1. Yeah, Jim, I know all about the “Fiata” (thanks, Slash — it’s an excellent name), and it just makes me want one more. That lil’ turbo just sings to me. It’s as bad as a damn Alfa.

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