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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13 responses to “Pep Boys, Italian style: Rome’s Autoricambi d'Epoca Giolitti”

  1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
    Jeff Glucker

    Aren't red pants the norm over there anyway?

    1. bzr Avatar

      Italians are the fashionistas of the world, and who are we to question them?

    2. dr zero Avatar

      I don't really remember that much about the clothes I saw when I was last in Italy, so I image that they were more normal and less red-pantsey. I do remember that wearing T-shirts in France immediately marked you as a tourist though, so I didn't blend in at all in my collection of band shirts and horrifying attempts French (usually abandoned rather quickly in preference for English/Strine).

  2. Dr_Dangerously Avatar

    Abarth valve covers and Alfa grills, oh my

  3. Alff Avatar

    Many has been the time I've wished for an Italian parts mecca such as this in my home town. It gets very tiring, paying $10 for a two dollar part from one of the mail order houses, only to be slapped with an additional $8 shipping fee.
    /Goes home to look in the mailbox for his $26 speedometer cable.

    1. dr zero Avatar

      That's not too bad. Living in a country without any decent record stores – I once imported an $8 7", only to pay $10 shipping, then get slugged with a $40 import duty (since it was insured for $100 for some reason). I stopped importing vinyl after that.

  4. Jeff Glucker Avatar
    Jeff Glucker

    working for me

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      This place doesn't like me. First Hoonibbles stole my post in the toy car thread, now I get no pics:
      Not Found
      Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn't here.

      1. Alff Avatar

        I've also experienced the disappearing post phenomenon. I just figured said posts didn't meet Hoon's editorial standards.

  5. muthalovin Avatar

    Awesome. I sometimes with I had an old-timey horn like on that photo to the top left. I would honk at all the chicks. And they would love it.

  6. dr zero Avatar

    Taking pictures of random old cars is a great thing to do on holiday. Until you get home and are showing your piccies to folk who aren't into cars, and trying to explain to them what/why these cars are and are special.

  7. nofrillls Avatar

    I swear I can smell that place. Garlic and old axle grease.
    Looks much like the old VW speedshops from the 70s, but not a CIBIE or Weber to be found.

  8. Hobert Anastasiades Avatar

    Verry nice blog and useful! I think i will come back one day! SportDay