Pep Boys, Italian style: Rome’s Autoricambi d'Epoca Giolitti

Nestled between the kebab shops and knockoff purse stands across from Rome’s Termini station is a rather unassuming auto parts store. It seems like an oddball place for car parts: tourists getting their first glimpse of the Eternal City are looking for currency exchangers and shady Internet cafes rather than woodgrain Nardi three-spoke steering wheels for a ’68 Duetto. But if you’re one of the slightly deranged individuals that is, then proprietor Renato Straffi of Autoricambi d’Epoca Giolitti is your man.

LED windshield washer nozzles currently out of stock.
Need a shift knob for your Fiat 124 Spyder? How about a rear trunklid badge for your Giulietta Sprint Speciale? Or a genuine set of NOS Carrello driving lights for your Simca Abarth 1300 GT? Or a poster depicting every Bianchina ever built? It’s a far cry from the racks of universal self-adhesive hood scoops of Pep Boys. The dusty cardboard boxes filled with Delta Integrale axle boots can attest to that. Classic Italian iron is well-preserved here, like the Roman ruins stretched out across the rest of the city, with an air of organized chaos and an affinity for the almost forgotten. While paying for a poster of Lancia rally cars I met Ricardo, who was replacing the differential to a Fiat Topolino. The diminutive “little mouse” was just one car from his stable which also included a Lancia Fulvia, Land Rover Defender, and Porsche 356A coupe—his newest acquisition, which he purchased from California. With broken but adequate English he helped me pay and explained to Straffi that I was a legitimate motoring journalist, thereby granting the privilege to take pictures. Don’t let the red pants fool you: here was a man with fine taste in cars. Incidentally, Ricardo runs an automobile restoration company, Scuderia Automobile, which explains his fine collection—lesser men would shy away from such expensive machinery, but here was someone who routinely stared Italian repair bills in the face and laughed. And if you somehow find yourself in Rome, chasing down an Alfasud Sprint Quadrifoglio Verde (hey, it could happen) purchased in secret from a guy who knows a guy who worked at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant during the strike of ’79, then Giolitti is worth the visit, even for an Alfa Romeo keychain.

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