Brucie’s Diary: February 2017


Current mileage: 168,656

This month, Brucie’s Diary is rather unorthodox, as it has very little to do with Jaguar, and nothing to do with Brucie, unless, of course you take into account that I would not be doing what I am doing had it not been for Brucie!

To celebrate my birthday, Rob took me to Italy. He planned a few special car related treats, but my birthday turned out to be nothing like planned. We were unable to get to the Maserati factory, but what happened instead, more than made up for it!

 

Tuesday 7th February 2017

We arrived at the Canalgrande Hotel in Modena on Monday evening, and the following morning we were having breakfast in the basement restaurant when I noticed that some of the panels on the walls were adorned with signatures. Of course, the one that intrigued me looked like ‘Bruce’ but I couldn’t figure out the surname or think who it might be, or why it might be there, until Rob pointed out that in another part of the dining room he could see pictures of cars – or to be more precise, they were Maserati’s !!!

Suddenly, I went through that weird momentary sensation of either great elation or all engulfing despair, depending on the circumstances, when everything drops into place and in an instant I realised that the signature was that of Bruce Mclaren! And with that realisation my eyes were all over the wall looking for other signatures that might confirm my theory, and there they were, quite clearly – Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and so on.

Highly delighted, but perplexed that no mention of this had been anywhere in the hotel details or the reviews on Trip Advisor, we finished breakfast and made for the lift to return to our room. Waiting for the lift in the passageway, we noticed yet another panel and while Rob was reading out some more names that he recognised, racing drivers from the 1950’s and 1960’s, many of whom were the victims of fatal racing accidents, he was overheard by a gentleman who was walking towards the lift, and who joined in the developing conversation relating to racing drivers of the past. He began to explain that there was a cafe at Monza which was frequented by the racing drivers of the time, many of whom had adorned the walls with their signatures. Before the cafe was pulled down, circa 1970, the wall panels had been brought to the Canalgrande Hotel in Modena where they are preserved and displayed in the dining room!

Intrigued to find that our host had an interest in motoring, we then asked about the significance of the Maserati pictures, completely under-estimating their importance, as we thought they were just pictures of Maserati’s, when in fact they were original artworks of prototypes, concepts and production cars, some by Marcello Gandini.

The gentleman we had been speaking to was very modest and merely mentioned in passing that these cars had belonged to his late father, a former racing driver, and feeling a little confused and intrigued as to who his father might be, we asked him, but in no way were we prepared for the answer ….. Alejandro de Tomaso !!!

Of course, what he really meant was, the Maserati car company belonged to his late father, and he then showed us other pictures in the dining room which were devoted to the life, the cars and the achievements of Alejandro de Tomaso ….. and the gentleman we were speaking to was Santiago de Tomaso!

Rob and I were astounded – surely the hotel could sell itself on these merits alone, and yet in its modesty, it makes no mention at all of these ‘hidden gems’.

 

A roll call of famous racing drivers!

This is just one of the four panels which stretch from floor to ceiling in the Canalgrande Hotel.

 

 

Jim Clark's autograph - Canalgrande Hotel, Modena

One of the signatures in the Canalgrande Hotel Dining Room is that of the late Jim Clark – Rob and I had been searching for specific signatures and explained to Santiago that we live on the farm that belongs to Jim Clark’s nephew, so this particular signature has great significance for us!

 

 

Bruce Mclaren autograph

Bruce Mclaren

Jack Brabham autograph

Jack Brabham

Graham Hill autograph

Graham Hill

Jean Pierre Beltoise autograph

Jean Pierre Beltoise

It was very difficult to photograph the panels, as the light reflected off of them, and some of them were faded, and older ones were in some cases over-written with later signatures. You can pick out some of them, such as, Bruce Mclaren, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Colin Chapman,  etc. Rob and I spent ages picking out names – a roll call of famous racing drivers, upto circa 1970! Those that I successfully photographed are shown above – the rest are there for you to see if you stay at the Canalgrande Hotel in Modena. Believe me, it is well worth visiting for this alone, and if you are really lucky, you will probably be given a guided tour and potted history of de Tomaso and Maserati by none less than Santiago de Tomaso!

 

Maserati Quattroporte - original artwork by Gandini

An original styling exercise, drawn and signed by Marcello Gandini and dedicated to Alejandro de Tomaso, as depicted in the text at the bottom of the picture:

ad Alejandro De Tomaso

con tanto affetto e simpatia

da Marcello Gandini

 

to Alejandro De Tomaso

with so much affection and sympathy

by Marcello Gandini

This was our favourite picture, and if we could have chosen one to bring home with us, it would have been this one. In fact, we love it so much that we have commissioned a reproduction of it by EJ Draws Cars, which will be clearly signed by the artist, as we have no wish to dishonour the original by trying to pass the copy off as the genuine article – we were simply transfixed by the picture and its history.

 

The hotel dining room was adorned with many other original artworks, styling exercises, press releases and works of art, all relating to Maserati – some of them are featured below.

Maserati, de Tomaso, Canalgrande Hotel, Modena, Italy Maserati, de Tomaso, Canalgrande Hotel, Modena, Italyel
Maserati, de Tomaso, Canalgrande Hotel, Modena, Italy Maserati, de Tomaso, Canalgrande Hotel, Modena, Italy
Maserati, de Tomaso, Canalgrande Hotel, Modena, Italy Maserati, de Tomaso, Canalgrande Hotel, Modena, Italy

 

 

Another part of the dining room was dedicated to Alejandro de Tomaso,  the cars he produced, and dedications to his memory.

 

On the very last picture, Mr Jenner points out the similarity between the de Tomaso and the Maserati styling of the time.

 

Finally tearing ourselves away, we decided that as we had nothing planned for Tuesday, we would just have a walk around Modena and get our bearings. We found the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari, and after coffee and a quick tour we walked to the Maserati HQ which was nearby.

Looks familiar …… Modena’s answer to Spitfire Island, Castle Bromwich!

Maserati Cars HQ, Modena, Italy

 

Outside in the courtyard the current models were on display …….

Maserati current range outside Maserati HQ, Modena, Italy

………. along with this Gran Turismo MC Stradale which, we were told, is destined for the forthcoming Detroit Motor Show.

Maserati Gran Turismo MC Stradale

 

Wednesday 8th February 2017

Well, today was my birthday (I won’t say which one!) so Rob had arranged for me to meet a very good friend of his, Romano Goldoni, an Italian restaurateur who Rob had befriended many years previously in Kenilworth, before Romano retired home to Italy. Despite being from Modena, Romano had never been to the Lamborghini factory and museum so together we were all going to enjoy a factory tour and a visit to the museum.

We had pre-booked a guided tour, which included the trim shop and the Aventador assembly line, culminating in witnessing the birth of an Aventador as it was fired up for the very first time in its life and driven off of the assembly line.

A new Lamborghini is born every 40 minutes, and test driven down the main street of Sant’agata and beyond – the best way to enjoy this is with a glass of Italian wine at the Bull Bar Club opposite the Lamborghini factory!

Sadly no pictures are allowed in the factory itself, which made leaving the factory all the more emotional, as I looked out upon a row of gleaming new Lamborghini’s sparkling in the crisp clear winter sunshine, knowing that I was not allowed to take a photo and that I would never again be standing there and seeing such a glorious sight!

I thought I had moved on from Italian supercars years ago, but this experience had rekindled a past love affair with truly stunning engineering and artistry!

From here we walked into the official Lamborghini museum, where there were some stunning examples, from a 350 GT, which was the first production Lamborghini, to a recent prototype 4 door saloon, the 2008 Estoque, which was presented at the Paris Motor Show. Examples of prototypes and production models from 1964 to the present day included a mesmerizingly beautiful, and very rare, 1960’s Islero, and the Countach, always a favourite of mine because when it arrived in 1974 its styling was so outlandish and futuristic. Alongside these, were the racing Lamborghinis – the genuine articles, in full livery!

 

I didn’t think it could actually get any better than this, but it did!

While Rob and I had been totally absorbed in the cars, Romano had been chatting with the museum staff and apparently one of them had told him that there was another Lamborghini museum, so having found out the details, we planned to visit after lunch, which is always pleasantly relaxed and drawn out in Italy!

It was interesting to note that to an Italian any 4 door car is a “Quattroporte” as I remembered (with my limited grasp of the language!) when Romano commented on a Porsche Quattroporte, and Rob, looking perplexed and confused, enquired “Where? Where? Where?” obviously thinking it was some sort of collaboration between Porsche and Maserati !!!

 

Much to our amusement, we arrived at The Private Collection of Ferrucio Lamborghini to find a Jaguar XF abandoned directly outside the museum entrance, rather than parked in the allocated spaces! Walking into the museum we commented on this rather odd anti-promotion for Lamborghini, to be told that actually it belonged to the owner of the museum, none less than Tonino Lamborghini himself – son of Ferrucio! With this, we were then introduced to Tonino, and after meeting the son of Alejandro de Tomaso only the day before, I was feeling rather overwhelmed!

Letitia Mace and Tonino Lamborghini at the Ferrucio Lamborghini Museum, Italy

WOW – what a birthday !!!

Beat that?

I am still pinching myself to see if I wake up and find that I really dreamed all of this!

Having had time to sit back and review this, I can safely say that it has been the very best birthday of my life – including childhood birthdays, and the so-called ‘special’ ones – nothing has ever come close to this, and I don’t think anything could ever surpass it!

Thankyou Rob!