The Best of France & Italy 2018

It’s a miracle, a Christmas miracle if you like, two months early: Somehow, like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the fish flies returning to Grosse Pointe, on the first Sunday of every November, in the concrete-and-stucco citadel that makes up the suburban paradise of Van Nuys, Calif., cute little French and Italian cars peek out from under their blue plastic storage tarps, get battery jumps, new points and condensers and maybe someone checks the tire pressures and before you know it, over 400 of them have assembled in the dusty confines of Woodley Park in Van Nuys. For one glorious day the flood plain of Woodley is transformed from a space between the strip malls into a little tiny bit of the South of France and the North of Italy.

Mama mia! Zut alors!

“This a non-judged show,” reads the official invite. “From the rough restoration project to the serious concours offering. All are welcome.”

And all always come.

That’s one thing to like about the Best of France & Italy: There is absolutely no snootiness whatsoever. You could park your beater Alfetta next to a real, concours-quality Bugatti (this exact pairing has been recorded here) and no one would bat an eyeball. In fact, the beater Alfetta might bring as much attention as the Bug. Well, almost as much.

Beverly Hills collector Bruce Meyer has brought Bugattis here. Jay Leno makes a grand and magnificent entrance every year, usually at about 10:30, usually in something grand and powerful. This year he brought The Botafogo Special, a 1917 Fiat powered by a 21.7-liter Fiat A 12 WWI airplane engine that was about a block long. When he rolled to a stop and shut it off, the crowd cheered. Yay, Jay!

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