Article: Djordje Sugaris
Photos: Milos Nikodijevic
In Belgrade, the last week of September is reserved for the 24 Hours of Elegance, an event commemorating the 1939 Belgrade Grand Prix, the only Grand Prix race ever held in Yugoslavia. In what was his last Grand Prix trophy, Italian ace Tazio Nuvolari claimed the circuit of Kalemegdan as his on September 3rd 1939. This year, the spirit of Nuvolari was present at the mostly unchanged circuit once again, but not in the roaring Auto Union that he famously piloted. Among the monolithic Rolls-Royces and one-off Italian carrozzeria masterworks from the famous Lopresto Collection, stood an inconspicuous light grey sedan with old Italian licence plates, and to be honest, it really didn’t stand out compared to flashy classics it was surrounded with. Long time ago, Fiat 1400 was an everyday sight in Yugoslavia of the fifties, and was even assembled in the Zastava plant. But, the Fiat 1400 that was the guest of 24H of Elegance came from Mantova, and brought a huge piece of history with itself. Yes, this Fiat was the last personal car of Tazio Nuvolari.
Thanks to Giorgio Adrian, and Associazione auto e Moto Storiche Tazio Nuvolari representatives Dante Valerio Ghisi and Renato Reggiani, the Fiat arrived to Belgrade, and we spoke to our Italian guests about this ordinary, but yet special car. To preserve the spirit of Kalemegdan’s race, we took the car to a nearby art deco pavilion, one of Belgrade’s oldest surviving galleries. “The car currently resides in Museo Tazio Nuvolari in Mantova”, said Ghisi, adding that it had been brought to Belgrade a a possession and an exhibition piece of AMAMS Tazio Nuvolari.
“Fiat 1400 was presented to the public in Geneva in 1950 and Tazio bought his car in 1951” Dante was slowly unveiling the history of this important car “It was designed by Dante Giacosa, but for this exact car, the bodywork was done by Zavattini. It was a great car for its time, and besides Nuvolari, Enzo Ferrari also owned one.” Five years ago, Renato Reggiani found the car in Brescia, and after two years of negotiations, he managed to buy the car for AMAMS Tazio Nuvolari. “The car sleeps at the museum, but when there are special events, it’s always the car with #1 on its sides. Two years ago, it took part in Gran Premio Nuvolari, so it’s not an usual kind of museum inventory.” stressed Dante.
“Tazio drove the car daily for two years, until he passed in 1953. In AMAMS archives, we have the photos of Nuvolari with his spouse Carolina, Alberto Ascari, and his wife next to the car” said Renato, showing us the original, well preserved paperwork that came with the car. As he further explained, when Nuvolari passed away, his wife sold the car to a group of enthusiasts in Brescia, where it resided in the next twenty years. Then, it was sold to a collector, who had it until 2013. As the most important thing, the car is in its original condition both outside and inside, which gives a new dimension to its historical significance.
After taking several group photos and concluding that we have a very ordinary car with extraordinary historical value, we said goodbye to our friends from Mantova. Last, but not least, we thank Giorgio and AMAMS Tazio Nuvolari for bringing this special Fiat 1400 to Kalemegdan, and driving it around the track where its first owner had his glorious win in the biggest race Belgrade has ever seen.