The Malta Independent 14 July 2024, Sunday
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Vintage cars: It’s about style, exclusivity and craftsmanship

Marie Benoît Sunday, 4 June 2023, 09:14 Last update: about 2 years ago
The award being presented to Carmel Debono for his beautifully maintained red Alfa Romeo Spider, which goes back to 1961
The award being presented to Carmel Debono for his beautifully maintained red Alfa Romeo Spider, which goes back to 1961

I told one of my sisters I had an invitation from VBL to visit the VBL Spirit of Valletta Concours last Sunday at St George's square and when I pronounced the word 'vintage' she immediately told me to count her in.

The VBL Group, I know from previous invitations, is the well established property owner and Valletta focused investor. They are committed supporters of the revival of the cultural and historic heritage of the Capital City through sponsorship and participation in the Valletta Concours.  The Group has been a lead sponsor of the event for a number of years and since have established the VBL - Spirit of Valletta Award, which aims to add a specific angle to Malta's premier event for vintage and classic cars.  This prize is awarded to the historic vehicle that best represents the lasting values, cultural heritage and also reflects the local flavour and "la dolce vita" style of Valletta.  This year, the "VBL - Spirit of Valletta Award", was awarded by a competent jury, co-chaired by Tony Zahra and Dr. Louis de Gabriele, both renowned Maltese car enthusiasts and strong advocates for the enhancement of Valletta and resurgence of the City. The award went to the beautifully restored and maintained red Alfa Romeo Spider from year 1961, a car which may have been driven in the good old days through the historic streets of our capital.  The selected example represents the lasting values and cultural heritage for which the VBL Group is committed. The Award was presented by Dr. Louis de Gabriele to the proud owner of this beautiful classic car, Carmel Debono.

The judges take a look at the state of an engine

The Group was well represented at the event, with an enclosure to host VBL Plc's shareholders, suppliers and stakeholders. Dr Geza Szephalmi, Founder and CEO of the VBL Group stated "These events are critical for our capital city, not only do they showcase Valletta as a living and thriving city but also brings non routine visitors back and reminds them what they are missing.  As a Group we sponsor many Valletta based events, these events are a great opportunity for us to reconnect with our growing shareholder base and thank our team for the sterling work they put in.  It was truly amazing to see the entire St George's Square buzzing with people enjoying what can only be described as a truly marvellous day out."

The Valletta Concours has already become a well-known local and international event, featuring a selection of the finest historic and collector cars from the Maltese islands and abroad.  Year after year it is attracting significant attention, from both the general public and the connoisseurs and car enthusiasts.  Over the past almost a decade, the Valletta Concours d'Elegance has gained reputation as a world-class event which now extends also to art exhibitions, a period clothing contest and other cultural activities.  The Concours has recently been quoted in an industry event in London, as one of the four most prestigious European vintage and classic car beauty contests, which praises very high the tireless work of John Saliba, the organiser and person who has envisioned and realised this event several years ago.  It  is sponsored by a number of prestigious local companies and agencies, and has a number of prize categories, covering various historic periods, as well as cultural and other aspects.

Sister Margaret on the left and your Diarist posing for posterity with another posh car

My sister and myself  reached the square at around 11am and Valletta but especially around the square it was truly 'buzzing.' as the young like to say.  Vintage cars were displayed beyond the square and under the balcony of the Palace. There were so many beauties and people were posing next to some of them.

I have always been an admirer of anything vintage. In my early twenties I was collecting ceramic vintage cars from Rome which were adorable. At the same time I was also collecting the Dinky toy ones. The small collection 50 years later, no longer exists. Travel has broken many of the ceramic beauties and I then gave the remaining few to a nephew.

The organisers expected some 10,000 visitors, but it seems there were more like 12-13,000 people who visited during the day - both locals and many tourists as well. There was an open bar offering free Prosecco. We were admiring an Aston Martin when a young man came to place some papers in the car. We asked if it was his car. He turned out to be Edward Cuomo who told us that he owns a small business, Classic Auto Workshop in Mosta, together with Tonio Cassar, a partner in the business, who soon turned up. Edward is the enthusiastic restorer of the Aston Martin.   "We specialise in auto rust removal and classic car restorations. It was always my passion to work on classic cars and nowadays I'm grateful to have a small business with amazing clients like Sandro, the owner of this car. They are not only satisfied customers but have become friends."

Edward is always working hard to invest in a better service "and grow my clientele and of course have the opportunity to work on amazing classics like the ones you can see here." So uplifting to meet someone young who is enthusiastic in what he does.

Sandro Runca, Tonio Cassar and Edward Cuomo who restored the Aston Martin on the right

Alessandro Runco, the owner,  turned up and we introduced ourselves. Sandro is a 49-year-old engineer with an MBA in Strategic Change, from Warwick University. "This Aston Martin is the DB 11 which is contesting not in the Vintage but in the Super Car category." He explained that that Sunday's Concours was created for Vintage and Classic cars. "However, this year the organisers tried the Performance category out hence the presence of the Aston Martin. Next year I am told, there will be vintage Astons like the D84 and D86." A simpaticone and happy to talk about his car to two old women who know nothing about them, he said that "restoring a Classic is enriching not only to class car heritage but also to oneself. Be it big or small, every Classic restored is intimate, it reflects passion, family history and long standing values. The thrill of getting the car back to splendour and function is very enriching;  the chase for perfection consumes you, the final outcome satisfies you. At least it does me and I know Edward too, feels like that about the work he does." And with a smile he adds: "To quote Napoleon, 'Men are led by toys.' Very expensive toys in this case but what a treat to be given the opportunity to look at them at close range, not only on the outside but the beautifully upholstered inside as well... not to mention the pristine engines.

Next year I hope to see many more owners dressed up in vintage clothes to match their cars. A big campaign should take place well beforehand giving people time to search for the right clothes. I remember the Concours at Villa Bologna, all those years ago, there were more couples dressed up in vintage then.

My first car was a Citroën 2CV which friends baptized 'the yellow peril'. They considered it another lethal weapon on the Maltese roads. I loved it and wish I had stored it away somewhere. I would have taken part in the Concours. They stopped making them in 1990 or I would have bought another one.

Well done to VBL and thank you for inviting me. I forgot all about the glass of prosecco!


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