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THE ITINERANT PLAYERS in Ruggero Leoncavalo’s I Pagliacci are four in number: Canio, his wife Nedda, Tonio the hunchback, and Beppe. The only other role of note is Silvio, Nedda’s local lover. According to Sir Denis Forman in his A Night at the Opera: An Irreverent Guide to the Plots, the Singers, the Composers, the Recordings, this is “A fairground tragedy.”
These days, the opera often begins with the itinerant players arriving for a performance in a rundown truck. But the truck of interest today at SimanaitisSays is genuinely worthy of grand opera: a 1959 Fiat 682/RN-2 Transporter with coachwork by Bartoletti. Originally the property of Scuderia Ferrari, it also once transported a Venetian circus troupe.
The Gooding & Company 2011 Pebble Beach Auction catalog notes, “On June 13, 1959, this Fiat Tipo 682/RN-2 left the factory for conversion and completion as a car transporter by Carrozzeria Bartoletti, with a request for an internal workshop and sleeping accommodations specified by Scuderia Ferrari.”
As one of the two replacing Ferrari’s aging fleet, the transporter received Modena registration MO 53210. It carried Ferrari GP and GT cars to race circuits throughout Europe. From time to time, it was also used to deliver customer cars as well as salon cars to Paris, Geneva, and Turin.
MO 53210 is powered by a 10.7-liter six-cylinder diesel engine producing 175 hp. Torque is transmitted to its dual rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox and two-speed rear axle. The transporter rides on semi-elliptic leaf springs at all four corners; both front and rear axles are massively solid. Drum brakes are fitted all around. Nothing particularly sophisticated, just straightforward, tough, and reliable.
During the 1960s, MO 53210 made multiple trips from Modena to Le Mans, Spa, Nurburgring, Monza, Reims, and other circuits.
MO 53210 can carry three cars, one aft of the workshop and two up top.
In December 1970, the transporter was sold to Giovanni Zanon, a Venetian circus owner. Its circus life was less than a year. No longer bearing Modena plates, it was stored for the rest of the 1970s and the 1980s.
A March 1990 article in Auto d’Epoca magazine described the transporter, and four years later it was offered for sale.
MO 53210’s restoration began in the spring of 1995 at Modena’s S.I.L.M.A. Bus. According to talacrest.com, its five-year restoration at a cost of more than $280,000 was completed in February 2000.
Even before its completion, Symbolic Motor Car Company of La Jolla, California, had bought this Tipo 682 along with another earlier transporter having Ferrari provenance.
On July 21, 2000, vintage car enthusiast Pat Hart of Redmond, Washington, bought the replated MO 53210 for the most appropriate use: to transport vintage Ferrari race cars. The transporter even garnered an invitation to the 2002 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was exhibited with a full array of Ferrari Testa Rossas.
Following Pat Hart’s death, MO 53210 was sold and appeared at Gooding & Company’s 2011 Pebble Beach Auction. Its estimated price of $850,000 to $1,000,000 was spot-on, with MO 53210 finding a new owner for $990,000.
Maybe if Canio had had transportation as impressive as MO 53210 for his troupe, his wife Nedda would have remained true to him and Tonio would not have uttered tragically, “La commedia è finata!” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019