There is nothing more Italian than sophisticated cars, stylish movies and legendary stars. Take the classic 1981 model of the 124 Spider Pininfarina.
The vehicle was one of the last cars to be tested on Fiat’s rooftop racetrack at the automaker’s factory in Turin's Ligotto district, a setting prominently featured in the 1969 version of the caper film “The Italian Job.” More recently, the Pininfarina appeared during the opening of the movie “House of Gucci,” driven by Lady Gaga, who portrayed the fashion socialite and convicted criminal Patrizia Reggiani.
But no discussion of Italian cinema is complete without talking about the legendary movie star Sophia Loren – who has lent her name to a 124 Spider Pininfarina that is appearing on Leslieville streets.
The 41-year-old Sophie, as she is known, arrived in Toronto – complete with a red binder full of service records and artist’s etchings – after being purchased by Bri Trypuc and Michael Grabowski. They tell us why they love their vehicle.
“I think it stems from my childhood,” said Trypuc, a philanthropic strategist who has always dreamed of owning an eye-catching convertible. “When you grow up in rural Ontario, and your mom hands you a shoebox when you ask for a Barbie convertible and tells you to use your imagination, yeah, I think it started from there.
“I never lost that passion for convertibles and have always loved the vintage look, so at the peak of the pandemic, when my fiancé Michael and I were able to buy something fun, I told him I’d been eyeing cars online. Luckily, he was down to do this with me, and that’s when our search began.
“We saw a lot of duds along the way. One convertible we looked at was basically a parts-car that was glued together. We took it for a drive, and it stalled about 80 metres out. We were disheartened but not deterred.
“When we finally found Sophie — or Sophia Loren, which was the name she came with — she was being sold by a gentleman named Mitch. He loved the car but was moving and wanted to make sure she went to a good home. After a virtual meet-and-greet and a visit with Sophie at a mechanic in Woodbridge, we got a call from Mitch. He said he had another offer but felt we were the right fit. We couldn’t believe she was ours.
“Since then, we’ve driven whenever the weather is nice. We get a lot of attention from children and older folks — not a ton of people from the population in between,” Trypuc said. “I can remember on one occasion we were driving in Yorkville and a guy leaned out of his C-Class Mercedes and yelled, ‘Rev it, drive it,’ in our direction. The thing is this is not a race car.
“People to try race us all the time and that makes me feel unsafe because it’s a tiny car. We avoid the 401 for that reason. There’s this road culture that exists here that we never knew about before. Sophie’s brought a lot of joy to our lives, and she deserves to be recognized. I mean, just look at her.”
1981 124 Spider Pininfarina
Hard to miss
“I really like the way it handles,” Grabowski said about the front-engine and rear-drive car. “It has a short turning radius and doesn’t have power steering, so it takes a little bit of elbow grease but it’s an enjoyable drive. I find Toronto has some terrible drivers but because the car is so loud at least they can hear us coming. It’s not obnoxious like a Honda Civic with a massive muffler because we’re not racing from traffic light to traffic light, but admittedly the straight pipe exhaust system makes it hard to miss on the road.”
“Sophie came to us with this huge red binder,” said Grabowski about the vehicle, which has its own Instagram account @sophie_fiat. “It’s got records of every owner and service and maintenance that was ever done on the car, so we can really go far back into its history. It was in North Carolina at one time, and it was imported to Georgia (from Italy) in January of 1981. It was built in December of 1980. Plus, I know that just under 200,000 of these were made and something like four per cent of them are still operating.”
“I hadn’t driven stick in 20 years but when we got this car it did come back to me,” said Trypuc. “I’m grateful that my grandmother had a Subaru Loyale and she made us learn on that growing up, just in case we were ever stuck somewhere in Europe or needed to drive in a bind.”
This article was edited for space and clarity. Want to be featured in Why
I Love My Vehicle? email us at email@example.com with “Why I Love” in the subject line.