The Castle of Wonders

Photo credit: Paolo Carlini, Collezione Righini

The ancient walls of Mario Righini’s age-old castle in Panzano, near Modena in Emilia Romagna, Italy, is home to some of the world’s most important and historically relevant classic cars. They bear witness to his deep passion for vintage engines, which arose at a young age when he witnessed the state-imposed demolition of vehicles. Since then, Mario Righini has kept his promise to collect and keep as many historic cars and motorcycles as possible, to preserve an important piece of his country’s history.

Mario Righini in one of the courtyards of his castle with the Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo together with Enzo’s son, Piero and his great-grandson Enzo

Righini’s story begins with his father, Giovanni, who founded a demolition company in 1939 in  Anzola Emilia, in the province of Bologna. When Italy entered the war in 1940, the Bolognese company collaborated with the State for the supply of raw materials obtained from the demolition of the vehicles destined to be scrapped. In other words, by law they used iron and metal principally for weapons, but also for trucks that transported goods and agricultural vehicles to work the land. Back then, there was no money to buy tractors. “Unfortunately, Italy’s pre-war automotive heritage suffered heavy penalties – explains Righini – and this ignited this passion within me, because when I saw the demolition of all these vehicles imposed by the State, I promised myself that I would preserve as many classic cars and motorcycles as possible, as they represent the history of engines in our country. In particular, I focused on those car brands that since disappeared, and there were many of these in Italy, as well as tractors, because Italy has always been strong in the field of craftsmanship”.

One of the vast stables of Panzano Castle full of magnificent cars and rare motorcycles

After the war, Mario replaced his father at the helm of the company, continuing the work of demolishing cars and recovering used parts for the spare parts market. This has allowed him to save some of the most significant classic cars ever produced, which have been left preserved and completely untouched in his castle. There are about 350 cars and motorcycles on display. Among the VIPs of the collection, the unique 1940 model of the Auto Avio 815 stands out. It was the first car built by Enzo Ferrari in Modena, but he was not yet able to call his four-wheeled creatures like this or equip them with the famous prancing horse.

Mario Righini between two superb Alfa Romeos from his collection: the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Touring Villa D’Este and the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza

But there are other cars worth mentioning. For example, the spectacular Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza, which belonged to Tazio Nuvolari, on board of which he won the 1933 Targa Florio and the Monza Grand Prix, and the unique Fiat Chiribiri from 1912, which looks like a cigar on four wheels, capable of reaching truly surprising speeds for its time. Not to mention the many other cars from Ferrari, Mercedes Benz, Isotta Fraschini and Rolls Royce: the crème de la crème of history on four wheels.

His passion and love is clearly for Italian automotive products. As he likes to say: “To go fast and safe, go with Alfa. If you want to go comfortably, go with Lancia and if you want to go forever, go with Fiat”.

Between a Giulietta SZ and a Lamborghini 350 GT stands a truly unique example: the first car built by Enzo Ferrari, the 125 Auto Avio Costruzioni from 1940