The roller door’s slow ascent is well worth the wait. It gradually reveals examples of some of the most interesting cars to come out of Italy during the 20th century. I spot ten Fiat 500s neatly parked against a wall – one a rare Auto Bianchi – before my gaze pans over to Fiat cabriolets, sedans and coupés filling the rest of the garage, along with a Ducati motorcycle and a Maserati Spyder. This could just as well have been a barn somewhere outside a small Italian village.

The owner of the collection is Ian Huntly, not only the chairman of the Fiat Club of South Africa, but also the club’s co-founder. No wonder he breathes, eats and sleeps all things Italian.

“The earliest car I can remember is the dark-grey Sunbeam Talbot 90 that my parents had. It was quite a car in its time. I also fondly remember the lovely sunroof."

“The oldest car I own must still be restored. It is a 1936 Fiat 500 Topolino. The car I’ve owned the longest is the white Fiat 500 from 1970. It actually belonged to an engineer who worked on the government’s nuclear power systems. He bought it in France and then imported it to South Africa. It was driven through Europe, as well as across Zambia. I bought and then restored it."

“It is the 500s that actually started the love of Italian cars in our family. My father had a Ford Zephyr and, when he changed jobs, he acquired a Fiat 500. The car never gave any problems in the 25 years we had it. I grew up with a 500 and also learnt to drive in one. From here on, my parents bought an 1800 six-cylinder and then a 124 sedan.”

Despite the great variety of cars, Huntly is able to explain the story and history of each car in great detail.

“I had a small collection when we lived in Zimbabwe, but when I left the country, I could take only one car with me, a 1962 Fiat 600 panel van.”

Another rare model in Huntly’s collection is the 2300 Coupé, of which he owns two: “I remember seeing one in the mid-60s at a five-star hotel in Harare. These cars were twice the price of a Jaguar E-Type.”

The most interesting of the pair is a prototype that Huntly is convinced was built for the 1965 Turin Motor Show. It uses a 2300 chassis and it is believed that Moretti did this one-off for the show.

“They cheated a bit, using an Iso Grifo front-end and the tail from an Alfa Romeo Giulia.”

Interestingly, in 1972 the then Italian ambassador’s son brought the car to South Africa after it had been sold as a second-hand car on the streets of Turin. It’s not often the case among car collectors but Huntly is not afraid to get his hands dirty: “I’ll rebuild a Fiat 500’s engine or gearbox myself but the bodywork I’ll send away to specialists.”

In fact, he is busy restoring a few cars that will be finished in the coming months, meaning there a few in his collection currently not in the garage. Apart from restorations and enjoying the collection, Huntly drives his cars across South Africa. He has, for example, participated in a number of Pirelli Classic Rallies that cover a distance of 1 200 km over a two-day period. His wife enjoys getting behind the wheel, too.

We walk to another building and he opens the shutter to a smaller barn. It houses most of his motorcycle collection, as well as other unique cars. One of the highlight restorations in the collection is a wonderful little 1956 Moretti Tour du Monde 750 Coupé Turismo, one of only three such cars that participated in the 1957 Cairo to Cape Town race.

“I picked up the car from a friend in Jeffreys Bay and gave it a full restoration.”

Huntly points to one of the oldest Fiats in his collection: “This car has an interesting story. It is the second Fiat – an 1100 – to be assembled by Fiat in South Africa after the war in 1946 at the CDA Mercedes-Benz plant.” He is just the second owner of this 72-year-old example, which still boasts the original upholstery.

Huntly’s motorcycle collection includes a 1978 Yamaha 750 SP that he has owned from new. He chuckles as he admits it was his dashing red leathers and helmet that attracted his then wife-to-be when they first met. Along with more Ducati motorcycles, there is also a gorgeous, dark-blue 2013 MV Agusta F4 R superbike. Two wheels or four, the only criteria is it must be Italian.

The collector

Apart from managing his collection, Huntly (64) is an entrepreneur and has been involved in motoring and motorsport throughout his life. He lived with his family in Zimbabwe for 16 years, during which time his interest and love for cars were further enticed and nurtured.

He is currently the president of the Maserati Club, as well as the chair of the Fiat and Ducati Clubs, and serves on the SA Motor Clubs Association. Apart from his local interest in cars and motorcycles, he is in touch with several clubs and motoring institutions worldwide.