Sunday, September 24, 2017

Raduno Chateau Montebello, September 24, 2017

Chateau Montebello is an enormous log hotel constructed in Quebec, opening in July 1930.  It was a private club, the Seigniory Club, until purchased and turned into a 211 room hotel by Canadian Pacific in 1970.  It is currently managed by the Fairmont group, although a Chinese real estate company owns the property itself, which encompasses 65,000 acres and 70 lakes.  The site of numerous grand events, including a G8 meeting, the hotel has played host to many celebrities.  Last Sunday these included my friend Brian, of Cobra fame, and myself as the Corvette was headed northeast from Ottawa over the usual poorly-maintained Quebec roads to Montebello, an hour away, for a non-Chevrolet event.

This was the annual Raduno Chateau Montebello, organized by the Italian Car Club of Ottawa, and sees all kinds of Italian-built vehicles from Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and the United States.  It was a blazing hot morning as we parked the Corvette in the hotel lot.  We walked past the imposing log edifice and the marina to the shore of the Ottawa River, where the first cars were rolling in for the "Raduno" (or Rally).  We were there fairly early and there were not a lot of cars yet to be seen but already there were some very interesting ones--how about three DeTomaso Panteras to start things rolling?  These Italo-American hybrids, with their Modena-built bodies and Ford V-8 drivetrains, have been gaining in collector popularity, especially now that the quality issues have all been addressed over the years.  The cars were sold at Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in North America from 1971 to 1975 but continued to be produced after the breakup with Ford until 1992.

The next group of cars to attract my attention were FIAT X1/9s, a car I always thought was very cleverly designed and possibly one of the best of the wedge-shaped generation.  Penned by the noted Marcello Gandini of Bertone, the mid-engined car was sold as a FIAT from 1972-1982, and then the project was entirely in the hands of Bertone until production ceased in 1987.  Powered by a 1300 or 1500 cc. engine, the affordable car offered impressive handling, a removable targa top, retractable headlights, front and rear storage areas and futuristic styling.  It was also notorious for rust so very few remain on the road today.  It was great to see so many examples at Montebello.

FIAT was well-represented with other cars as well.  There were a lot of the current FIAT 500s, with a particularly strong selection of the Abarth version of the car.  There were a number of the small economy cars for which the company was noted but also an impressive Dino Coupe, the only one of these I have ever seen.

The fabled marque Alfa-Romeo was present, with a number of Spyders, which were produced for many, many years, and a very fine red GTV, a coupe I have always admired.

Modern Alfas were present as well, with a pair of 4Cs at the Raduno, along with a white Stelvio SUV.

There were several other oddities, including a tiny Autobianchi, a Lancia Delta, and some British cars that found an appreciative audience, but most people were probably there for the Ferraris, which made a big entrance around 11 o'clock as the Ferrari Club of Montreal arrived en masse.  There were a lot of late model cars, including an FF, a 488, and an F12, and there was a big line of red cars with tan interiors established in no time at all.  Maseratis came as well, with a Quattroporte, a Grand Sport, and a new Levante SUV.  Ferraris impress when there a few of them at a mixed show but suddenly being confronted with 25 of them lessens the impact.  Nonetheless, they are cars with a strong presence although many of the current models lack the beauty of previous generations.

Of course, all this high-dollar showing off had a a down-to-earth althernative.  There was a Simpson Design Italia present, a very charming car which uses a Mazda Miata as a basis for a small sports car with lots of Ferrari 275 GTS styling cues.  It was very nicely constructed by Signore Pininfarina must be spinning in his grave.  

All in all we had a very fine day admiring the cars.  And of course can you have a Ferrari display without a beautiful woman?  We were entertained by this very tall and attractive lady who demonstrated the perils of choosing the wrong footwear as she was unable to walk across the grass without teetering dangerously and had to hold onto her male companion to keep from falling!

By 1 o'clock the heat (and dehydration) meant that we had had enough so we took our leave of the Italian cars and walked back through the spectacular hotel, with its hexagonal lobby and impressive fireplace that rises 20 m to the roof.  The hotel was constructed from 10,000 logs and must be one of the few in this "great camp" architectural style still extant.  The friendly staff offered a suggestion for our lunch in the village of Montebello and some pizzas later we were on the highway and headed for home.

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