By Larry Weitzman
Blue covered the sky, but the grounds of the Murer House Museum and park were covered with red, white and green for the second annual Italy on Wheels held Sept. 14. The red, white and green refers to Italian cars, motorcycles, scooters and bicycles that were painted in all colors except for one very nice 1974 Fiat X/19, which was painted in the colors of Italy, owned by Sean Ricci of Placerville.
Ricci restored the 1974 car to do the Silver State Classic race. Instead of the standard 1.3L (liters), four-cylinder mid-engine power train, Ricci replaced it with a 1.5L, five speed. Ricci has driven the car to Bonneville Salt flats but has not raced it yet. While this car is good, the problem with old X/19s is rust and getting no rust cars to restore.
“Sometimes you find cars that are so bad (with rust), you can listen to them rust,” said Ricci. His Fiat won the President’s and People’s Choice award.
There were three best of show awards, one for cars, one for motorcycles and one for Italian scooters.
Over half a dozen scooters came for the event including three classic Vespas, one a 1964 Allstate 125 owned by Garon Curtis.
“It was a real barn find,” said Curtis, who found it rusting away in a backyard near McClellan Air Force base in 1999.
It took a couple of months to restore. Curtis says he has owned four Vespas, the first one, a 125cc three speed he rode to Rancho Cordova High School back in the mid 1960s. This particular Vespa (Vespa means “wasp” in Italian) was marketed by Sears under the name Allstate, had a four speed transmission shifted by twisting the left handlebar grip and was powered by a 125cc, two-stroke engine of 5.6 horsepower.
Best of Show in scooters was a 1974 Vespa 200 with more than 25,000 miles which was bought new on Aug. 14, 1974 for $833 by its current and continuous owner, Michele Quaranta of Sacramento, when he lived in San Francisco. It is totally original.
“In my 39 years and one month with my Vespa and many shows, it was my first award for the Vespa,” said a jubilant Quaranta, adding that it is now worth about $10,000. Quaranta still has all the original paperwork for the purchase. The 200cc two-stroke (2 percent oil mixture in the gas) engine makes about 10 horsepower and will do an easy 60-65 mph.
One scooter on display was a 2007 Piaggio X9-500 (500cc) owned by John Day of Cameron Park. Day bought the Piaggio in 2008 and has ridden it 55,000 miles averaging 55-60 mpg. He says top speed is over 100 mph. Day started riding motorcycles in his 20s but did not ride for many years until he bought the Piaggio. He also owns a 1979 classic Vespa Rally 200 and his wife rides a Honda Big Ruckus 250 scooter. Day and his wife frequent scooter rallys all over the country, including Philadelphia, Washington, San Diego and next year the Vespa Rally in New Orleans.
Another late-model Piaggio was a 2009, BV 250, owned by David Hickok of Folsom.
“I didn’t start riding until I bought this Piaggio new from A&S four years ago and I now have ridden it 30,000 miles,” said Hickok. “I didn’t start riding until I bought this Piaggio. It was my first. I also bought in January a BMW 650GT super scooter which already has 8,000 miles.“
Hickok was 38 when he started riding and he has taken no long trips, just commuting to work in Roseville, going to the gym and other errands. The Piaggio has a 250cc engine of about 22 horsepower, averages 60-65 mpg and will do an easy 80 mph. The new BMW 650 GT has 60 hp and will top out at nearly 120 mph.
Best of show for the over dozen motorcycles entered in the event (four times more than the vaunted Corcorso Italiano) was a 2005 Ducati 749S owned and ridden by Trish Eley of Meadow Vista. She came to the show with her husband Randy who rode in on his Duc 848.
“I started riding in 1993 and this Ducati is my fifth motorcycle and fourth Ducati. My first bike was a 1979 Yamaha XS750 Special. I love my 749. It is the best motorcycle I have ever ridden,” said Eley.
Eley has ridden thousands of miles with at least two trips to British Columbia and another to Portland and rides every Sunday. The Ducati 749 (and similar 999) have become classics in just seven years and are now becoming collector bikes. The irony is that its designer, Pierre Terblanche, is said to have lost his job as Ducati’s head designer because of its radical design. Now it has become a classic. Terblanche is now head of product development for Confederate Motorcycle Company which builds very expensive ($50,000-plus) radical V-Twin motorcycles. Its customer base includes Tom Cruise. Prior to Confederate, he designed for the new resurgent Norton Motorcycle Company.
Besides the dozen or so Ducatis, which included the latest and greatest Superbike, an 1199 Panigale R, which is designed to race on Sunday and then ride to wherever on Monday. It retails for $29,999. Also on display was Desmoto Sports’ (of San Francisco) Ducati 848, which won the 2009 AFM open class championship with Matt Green aboard. Other interesting Italian bikes were a Laverda 668 twin and a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans III.
In the car category, Best of Show was taken home by Amadeu Santos of El Dorado Hills for his 2008 Maserati Gran Turismo. Santos said he has 52,000 miles on his Maserati, which may be the highest-mileage Maserati in the country for the current generation 4.3L V-8 coupe. Although the body is the same gorgeous unit, a 2013 Maserati coupe now sports a 4.7L V-8. The engines are built by Ferrari. Santos spends lots of time doing track days at his three favorite race tracks, Infineon, Laguna Seca and Thunderhill. Santos, who has installed a performance after-market exhaust, estimates his car makes about 425 horsepower. Of course there were several Ferraris, Fiats, Alfas, Isos and more on display.
The best license plate was on another Vespa 200. It was “GUWEEDO.” Plans for next year’s Italy on Wheels are already in the works. A great time was had by several hundred people and the gelato was excellent.