May/June 2019 edition
Issue #5 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
John C. Lutsch
Today, the term "souvenir" often conjures images of cheap, plastic, almost throwaway mementos from a particular event or experience. It wasn’t always so. In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, incredibly beautiful objects were created to commemorate the American and European elite’s travels to classical historical sites, most often referred to as “The Grand Tour.” Items were constructed of bronze, stone, semi-precious stones, and mosaics to connect their owners with memorable travel experiences.
A parallel exists in the world of automobilia collecting; special items directly related to significant races. In this article, we will just touch on one particular event; the legendary Mille Miglia. A grueling race that took place from 1927-1957, traversing a one-thousand-mile route from Brescia in Northern Italy, down to Rome, and back up to Brescia, passing through some of the most beautiful (and dangerous) roads on the peninsula. Over the three decades of its existence, the Mille Miglia hosted most of the world’s greatest automobile marques, and doubtless its greatest drivers.
A wide variety of remembrances were offered to race attendees (averaging five million per year) as illustrated in our first group image(below). The Aston Martin cigarette or trinket box is from 1951, constructed of a Bakelite-like material, and is hinged on the left side. It measures approximately 5”x3”. The glass paper weight to its left is quite lovely, heavy and thick (around one inch), featuring the race logo and date reverse painted on the back. Its diameter is approximately 4½”.
Below it is a black and white marble plaque measuring 9”x6”, with deeply incised red paint-filled lettering, spelling out the race logo, and the manufacturers Porsche, Maserati, and Ferrari. The glass-lidded trinket box to its right has sadly fared rather poorly over time. While intact, the metal-framed lid suffered a series of cracks induced by the swelling and shrinking of its wooden underlayment. It is a shame, but the piece still has historical interest. It measures 5”x4”. The racing gas filler cap is a more modern desk piece from the reconstruction of the race, now known as the “Mille Miglia Storica.” The lid opens, and is quite authentic, equipped with a spring loaded anti-leak inner gasket and a “filler tube” that can accommodate pencils, business cards, etc. While not from the original race period, the desk piece is unusual and highly collectible
To read more great columns like this one from automobilia expert John Lutsch...
John C. Lutsch is the owner of Aeromobilia.com, an internet-based purveyor of unique automobile and aviation-related art, models and rare treasures for the collector and enthusiast.