Above: A 1930 Bentley 4½ Supercharged. One of two Blower Bentleys on this year’s Mille Miglia – not bad out of a total of 50 made. From the UK. Tim Birkin and Woolf Barnato entered the 1930 race.
A 1929 4½ Bentley. Stopped for a short break. German driver and Swiss co-driver. When asked if it was a real team car, the driver said, “No. And it has a VW engine under the bonnet.” Then he smiled and said he was kidding. Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humour?
The same 4½ Bentley. This model never ran in the Mille Miglia in period, but this year was on the “Special List”: cars of special historical, sporting or technical significance, which were built in the period 1927 – 1957 but did not participate in period. Note the lucky mascot – apparently, these do NOT have to have been in the original race.
1956 Jaguar D-Type, chassis XKD535. Supplied to C. de Salamanca, Madrid, and later owned by Serge Pozzoli and Ralph Lauren among others. Now owned by Simon Kidston.
Gone to lunch! Simon Kidston and Jason Barlow left their helmets and gloves in the car and went into the restaurant in Monteriggioni. This is Italy and the Mille Miglia: they knew nobody would touch it.
A real rarity. A 1949 Healey Duncan Drone. German driver and Thai co-driver. Believed the sole surviving example. Duncan built approximately ten of its Drones on the Healey chassis, the prototype of which was known as the 'Spiv'.
Ancient and modern. The stark but evocative interior of the same Lancia Ardea, with some fiendish digital technology attached.
A 1939 Lancia Ardea. Italian driver and Polish co-driver.
Now this is a proper support vehicle. A 1956 Lancia Appia Furgoncino van, supporting the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider Zagato.
A 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider Zagato from Luxembourg.
The original Mille Miglia ran from 1927 to 1957.
It was established as a race from Brescia to Rome and back, a figure-eight shaped course of roughly 1500 km — or a thousand Roman miles. Later races followed other routes of varying total lengths. The first winner was Giuseppe Morandi, in just over 21 hours, averaging nearly 78 km/h (48 mph) in a 2-litre OM.
In 1955, Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson won in their Mercedes-Benz 300SLR in just over 10 hours. Moss’s average speed of 157.65 km/h (97.96 mph) set a record which has never been beaten. It is arguably one of Moss’s greatest races.
The tragic death of Alfonso de Portago (Ferrari 335 S), his co-driver/navigator Edmund Nelson, and nine spectators, and of Joseph Göttgens (Triumph TR3), both in the 1957 race, led to its cancellation – apart from some rally-style racing from 1958 to 1961.
But since 1982 the Mille Miglia Retrospective run has been a magnet for eligible cars (makes and models with at least one example that ran in the original race), drivers and spectators alike.
These few images give just a tiny taste of the wonderful quality of the cars and the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the modern run. Spectators sit in bars or stand by the road with cameras or smart phones, drivers and passengers wave and hoot horns, and stop for a drink or a meal; everyone joins in the fun.
And there’s more: plenty of exotic and humble cars, ancient and modern, infiltrate their way into the run – sometimes in organised groups: an entire team of seemingly genuine Cobras came through, including a Daytona Cobra Coupé.
There were plenty of support vehicles, official or otherwise, including a delightful Lancia van with ‘Assistenza’ on its flanks (see the images).
And finally, the most wonderful example of British nonchalance: in the beautiful walled hilltop town of Monteriggioni, north of Siena and just off the route, a round of applause from the assembled lunch-goers announced the arrival in the main square of Simon Kidston and Jason Barlow in their D-Type Jaguar. They dropped their helmets and gloves onto its seats and disappeared inside a restaurant for lunch – leaving their £10-million car for us poor mortals to ogle at.
Only in Italy could all this happen. Try to get to see it if you can. Fortemente consigliato!