The territory around the ancient town of Modena in the Emiglia Romagna region in Northern Italy provides an abundancy of cultural treasures. While most foreign travellers ignore the regions’ huge historical heritage on their way south, at least car enthusiasts will be aware that this is the home of three legendary Italian sports car marques: Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati. The Maserati factory is located in Modena itself, whereas the headquarters of Ferrari are situated in the small town of Maranello, roughly 15 miles to the south. The Lamborghini premises are in Sant‘ Agata Bolognese, only 12 miles east of Modena.
There is, however, another attraction for classic car enthusiasts in the Modena area, which is probably known to only very few petrol-heads. Just a short ride south-east of Modena, in the small town of Castelfranco Emilia, one of the most prestigious collections of Italian classic cars in the world is located: the Collezione Righini. The home of the collection is the venerable Castello di Panzano which dates back to the 10th century and once was the country residence of the Malvasia family from Bologna. The castle lies immediately at the Via Emilia, the old Roman road running in a straight line for 170 miles from Rimini to Piacenza.
If you expect the owner of the collection to be some snobbish member of the old aristocracy, you will be pleasantly surprised. The current “lord” of the castle, Mario Righini, is an amiable and modest man. He is the senior partner of the family-owned Righini company which has been active in the scrap and used car parts business for several generations. Today, the company is also dealing with rare classic cars, which is just the by-product one would expect given the nature of its core business. When Mario was in his teens, he witnessed hundreds of cars from the 1930s and 1940s being scrapped in order to obtain raw material desperately needed in war-ravaged Italy. At that time, his father already put cars aside that he deemed to be worth rescuing. The son later continued by acquiring highly collectable cars from all over the country and thus building up the truly breath-taking Righini collection that today consists of 350 automotive treasures.
Follow this link in order to get a first impression of the splendour of the Collezione Righini:
Source: YouTube © Copyright: Petrolicious
Mario Righini is particularly fond of classic Alfa Romeos and owns quite a number of them. No wonder that one of the most prestigious cars in in his collection is an Alfa Romeo Type 8C 2300 Monza, which for many enthusiasts is the most impressive and refined sports cars of the early 1930s. The car in the Righini collection was driven by one of the greatest race drivers between the wars: Tazio Nuvolari. In 1931 and 1932, Nuvolari claimed victories with the Alfa in the Targa Florio race in Sicily and in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Another exceptional car in the Righini collection is the only surviving Avio Costruzioni Tipo 815 from 1940. This car was the very first one that was developed independently according to the requirements of Enzo Ferrari. Due to contractual terms dictated by his former employer, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari was not allowed to produce cars under his own name. Thus he had the advanced Tipo 815 developed by a newly-founded company named Avio Costruzioni of which he was the sole owner. The Tipo 815 weighed only 625 kg and had a 1.5 litre 8-cylinder engine with 72 horsepower that enabled a maximum speed of approximately 110 mph. The car featured a pioneering body designed by Touring in Milan. As the car appeared only after the Second War had begun, the Tipo 815 had little opportunity to prove its qualities. Nevertheless, its historical importance is beyond doubt, as it is the immediate predecessor of the first “genuine” Ferrari 125 S that was presented in 1947.
The following link enables an extensive tour through the Righini collection and an encounter with the owner (only in Italian language, yet the fabulous cars should speak for themselves):
Source: YouTube © Copyright: Turismo Emilia Romagna
Apart from the collection of legendary Italian classic cars, and Alfa Romeos in particular, the Castello di Panzano is home to numerous other automotive treasures, including classic motorcycles, busses. The collection is not regularly open to the public, but may be accessed upon request (currently, requests are accepted in Italian, only).
Source: Michael Schlenger