Today we start our journey with Paolo and his true historic rally car. The legendary Citroen Visa Chrono. Our journey begins in Fonterutoli, a small village in the Florence’s hills, famous for its fantastic wine. The project of the Visa 650 twin-cylinder with 5-door was introduced for the first time in Paris in 1978, other engines 1.1 and 1.2 will follow later.
It was designed to give costumers a young coach, funny, ductile and was equipped with platform, suspension and brakes of the Peugeot 104. In 1982, Citroen developed the “Throphèe” project and two months later, the 24 March 1982, the Visa Chrono was born, a special series of 1,000 pieces (sold in the first 3 months), limited to the French market and is characterized by sporty white livery with red and blue longitudinal decals, and white wheels, according to the national colors.
The Chrono was also marketed in Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland, with 400 copies per country. A peculiar thing is that the engine 1360, had 93CV for the French market, while in the other nations was released a limited version with 80 hp (even reduced to 72 hp in Switzerland for pollution laws). The Paolo’s Citroen Visa Chrono has a very fascinating history. He was in love with the first unveiled model in Italy in the spring of 1983 but ,considering the high cost of 10,500,000 Lire, was a dream for him. But fate has a way of fulfilment.
This Visa Chrono was one of the first cars sold in Italy (it is the number 014), registered in June of 1983 and probably used as a “mule” in rallies. Paolo tells us that for many years was abandoned under a tree and reappeared in Varese in 2000 by a car dealer, and after a few years sold to a well-known Italian collector who then sold it to our Paolo who is a happy and proud owner since 2011.
In 2011 begins its long “conservative” restoration, to bring that piece of junk to the original beauty, removing all the pieces modified and not original. The restoration, he says, is practically lasted until our days because of the low availability of spare parts, when you consider that, according to a recent census, there are only 35 left, including 15 in perfect conditions as that of Paolo, to get to a maximum of 40-50 specimens.
This model is the only one in Italy to be allowed to bring the tires of a larger size (as in the original French version) with stainless steel sports exhaust (it was already equipped but it was in very poor condition) and dashboard features of the water thermometer instead a lighter (very important because it is an engine that heat up very easy). The details are the ones that make the difference: the racing dashboard with all Jaeger instruments, alloy wheels, the blue-colored sports bucket seats, in contrast with the typical exterior of the Italian flag stripes.
What emotions of the past! And perhaps it is also the atmosphere that surrounds us, to inspire us. An ancient atmosphere. Fonteruotoli in fact, located 5 km south of Castellina in Chianti (Siena), in the hills overlooking the Val d’Elsa and in the heart of the Chianti Classico, is owned by the Mazzei family since 1435 and still retains in its original appearance today as a quiet country village: a few houses, the church of San Miniato and the villa, built at the end of 1500 instead of the fortified castle. Our journey started from its famous wine cellar, in operation since 2006, already been defined as “the most impressive in all of Chianti” (Steven Spurrier, “Decanter”).
The work on three floors for most underground, was made “in the family” by architect Agnese Mazzei. We could not take advantage of these fantastic geometric perspectives to enhance the colours and the structure of our Citroen Visa Chrono! The project, Paolo tells us, uses the force of gravity with the reception of the grapes on the top floor, using the ground water that flows naturally from a wall to control the temperature and humidity of the barrel cellar, and auto-production of clean energy using materials waste of agriculture. A true example of beauty and environmental efficiency. Of particular visual impact the barrel cellar, with rock walls, contains 3500 barrels, in addition to those contained in the ancient cellars of the village.
We move then to the wonderful Villa for a few shots but most go through the beautiful vineyards of the surroundings, which make us as the perfect backdrop. Here in particular, tell us, Sangiovese, is the ideal environment for its production, to express his potential quality. The Citroen Visa Chrono is very fun to drive, agile, with a good speed and no matter pull it beyond the 6000 rpm because the 5000 already has everything you need.
On the road is excellent thanks to the two anti-roll bars, the steering is a bit hard to move but you get used soon. The brakes are pretty fast, but be careful to make major downhill braking because the front mounts of small non-ventilated discs that heat up quickly. The shift lever is very long compared to today’s cars but fairly accurate in insertion.
A car so well preserved, can only be a credit to our Paolo, who took the opportunity to her Sunday outings and to bring it to the meetings where, for those who remember, is a true legend of racing. It was a comet, a car that arrived and quickly disappeared, but that shines indelible in the hearts of those who met her, like that of our Paolo. We say hello to Paolo at the sunset on the way back.
Text: Edoardo Mascalchi
Photos: Edoardo Mascalchi, Stefano Ballini