If you’ve ever listened to just about any episode of the Carbitrage podcast, you might have noticed that there is a “super secret Wheels of Italy meet” that happens at Pazzaluna in St. Paul as celebration the restaurant’s birthday, the name of the event is Under the Crazy Moon. This event is, without a doubt, the best event of the year in the world.
What makes it the best event though? Much like InterMarque, it is a combination of everything coming together perfectly on behalf of the event organizer. It is a combination of the location, the laid back atmosphere and, least of all, the cars. It is even more impressive because, instead of being a weekend show where it is much easier to organize things, it’s all done on a weekday. It is the perfect reprise from sitting behind a computer and wincing whenever the phone rings.
This year was off year for the show, but if Under The Crazy Moon can still retain this level of quality on a bad day, it just goes to show that they’re definitely doing something right. The issue with the show wasn’t even the fault of the organizer, rather it was a combination of the weather being dodgy and the city digging a 3 foot deep trench on the main road used for the event.
The organizer of the show creatively worked around this issue and instead of it’s normal L-shaped two street layout, they opted for a two and a half street layout creating a T-shape. This actually worked out really well and I hope they continue with the extra street extension in future showings. It allows the patio of Pazzaluna to become enveloped by the show, making for the dining experience of any italophile’s dreams, and makes foot traffic much more manageable, no more having to tip toe between a parked Countach and a DeTomaso Pantera on it’s way out.
The cars themselves were wonderful, unfortunately, a lot of the really cool stuff stayed away due to the threat of severe weather. I don’t blame them because PDR on a Ferrari 250 GTO LWB would be a nightmare. That being said, everything else was in show. It was a large swath of Italia from Fiat 500s to Lamborghini Aventadors.
One of the cars that really drew my eye was this Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT. The Alfa Romeo Twin Cam is in the running for one of the most beautiful 4-cylinder engines ever produced. That aesthetic beauty expands to the rest of the car and, much like a Datsun 510, it is a lot more than just a pretty face because these were among the first sports sedans ever made. Prior to cars like these you could get a 2-seater sports car or a family sedan. These however, they combined the best of both worlds and laid the groundwork for most car enthusiast’s favorite cars.
Here is that aforementioned Alfa Twin Cam engine. It is an 8 valve DOHC engine that was in production from 1954 until 1994 in various form factors. This was a pioneering engine that brought 4 cylinders from being simple power mills in production cars to being something worthy of the word sporty. With this engine, race car technology made its way into the hands of the average Joe, or rather Giuseppe. Technology like aluminum metallurgy, a centralized spark plug location, hemispherical combustion chambers, a wide valve angle and 5-main bearings, were almost exclusively seen on cars like the Ferrari 500 Mondial in the mid-1950s when this engine was designed. This was an absolutely groundbreaking engine and it makes sense why it was produced for 40 years.
On the other end of exciting family cars is a Ferrari Mondial. Other than the 400i, I can’t think of another Ferrari that is as universally unloved as this car. It doesn’t really make sense either because a Mondial is just a Ferrari 308 in 2+2 form factor. Unlike the 2+2 Z-cars, or really any 2+2 outside of a Supra, the Mondial actually pulls off the shape and actually has some design cues that are very much its own. Maybe it was never loved because Don Johnson, David Hasselhoff or Tom Selleck never drove them.
This massive grille across the front of the car is a prime example of a Mondial only design. Sure, it’s not an Testarossa and it’s definitely not a F40. It’s not even Magnum P.I.’s car either, which is the cheapest of the desirable 80’s Ferraris. But, importantly, the Mondial is about 25% cheaper than Magnum P.I.’s 308. Can you honestly say that you’re getting 25% less car for the dollar? It’s 2+2 form factor also gives the perspective owner some ammo for convincing their significant other to let them get a Ferrari. “But honey, look, it’s a 2+2! We can bring the kids or your parents!” Just be sure to gloss over the rear seat comfort and maintenance costs of course.
If maintenance costs aren’t your thing, then most Italian cars probably aren’t either, but there are some outliers, and this is a prime example, the criminally underrated Fiata (Fiat 124). It has the grown up and exciting feeling you get from an Italian sports car but with the bulletproof reliability of a Miata coupled with Fiat’s Multiair 1.4L engine. I don’t understand everyone’s gripe with the turbo lag either, first off, it is barely noticeable and second off, isn’t the Porsche 930 Turbo desired because of it’s turbo lag? These are a bargain of a buy, ludicrously fun, and I really can’t stress enough how awesomely reliable the Multiair engine is.
The majority of the show had some of the best that Italy has to offer. This Ferrari 308 is a prime example. It has 240 horsepower roughly and isn’t the greatest at everything but it doesn’t need to. When you see a 308, it draws your eye, it gets you excited. That’s something that a lot of the modern Ferraris are lacking. Modern Ferraris are also lacking the ability to look great when paired with a mustache and Hawaiian shirt.
When I was looking a bit more closely at the 308 I noticed something that I absolutely love about it. To be fair, I love everything about it but I discovered that it has the best door handle I’ve ever seen. It’s a simple loop and is a rare curve on the angular car, it is just painfully Italian. I never realized that I had never looked at the door handle of a 308 until this show and I am really glad that I did because it makes me feel like my life is complete now. Little design cues like this are why people are in love with Italian cars, it is such an easily overlooked piece and is perfectly designed. You could bet yourself that if this was an American car, they would have just slapped a door handle off of a econobox onto it and called it a day.
That’s not to say that econoboxes are bad things. This Fiat 850 Spider is a variant of Fiat’s 850 series compact cars, which were the final evolution of the Fiat 500s and 600s. So, this little roadster is based on a car that was an econobox before the term ever existed. I never took a good look at these assuming they were just early Fiat 124s until very recently and I was completely wrong thinking there wasn’t much to them.
The 850 Spider is actually a really cool car and it is completely separate from the 124. It has the tiniest rear mounted water cooled inline-4. Well not literally the tiniest but the 846 cc engine was barely longer than my forearm and it’s radiator placement is interesting to say the least, I am really curious how it get’s it’s airflow. There may be a “What’s The Deal With…” article about this car once I learn more.
I am baffled as to why this particular Alfa Romeo Milano isn’t famous across the world. It is such a well sorted build and it feels like it has been around forever. The owner of this car built it with the attention to detail and quality that you usually see a Mk2 GTI or a Supra and those cars are significantly easier to build. The owner of this car could have simply owned a Milano and been good with calling it a day because it both existed and ran but he has taken it to the next level.
Even the engine bay is fabulously detailed, there is nary an oil splash or stripped bolt on the car. Saying “I can’t find a replacement part” is no longer an excuse because building a Milano to this level is like doing a build with hard mode on, then getting a 100% completion rate. It makes me feel self conscious about my cars, I need to step my game up, This was without a doubt my favorite car of the show, in fact this is on my short list of favorite car in Minnesota.
The beauty of Under The Crazy Moon is that it would be a completely average show at Monterey Car Week but, instead of just being another show happening at Car Week, it stands to be much better on it’s own. It is an example of things being great in context, it is the equivalent of finding a wonderful restaurant in a small town that you expected to be just Cracker Barrels and Waffle Houses.
It is also important to note that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, it doesn’t pretend that every Italian car is a derivative of the F40, it acknowledges that cars like the Maserati Bi-Turbo, Fiat X1/9 and Lancia Gamma exist and that is very important. Nothing ruins a community like taking yourself too seriously, there’s a reason that Italian cars, Radwood and Japanese classics are en vogue while other things are on the decline. Enjoy yourself, have a laugh and meet great people, that’s the joy of Under The Crazy Moon.