About Mario the Multipla

I am a 1962 Fiat 600D Multipla, I live in Haslemere, Surrey in the South of England. I have lots of adventures and lots of very interesting car friends

Weird and wonderful No 6 – Gebruder Verga Coupe

Another in our occasional series of interesting things that have popped up on the internet…  This time this spectacular little space age Coupe produced by a small Carrozzeria or bodyshop in Switzerland in the late 50’s but with a rather interesting story which I have tried to piece together from articles online.

The Gebruder Verga Coupe was a special body on a Volkswagen chassis with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine. There doesn’t seem to be much information or history available but it would appear that at least two cars were built, one more unusual with a bubble-top canopy and a fixed head version with Gull wing doors which may be a copy.

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The Carrozzeria Verga was founded in 1830 by Benjamin Verga as a maker of wagons and carriages crafted from wood and iron. The business stayed in the family and in the next century, later generations became skilled coach builders. In 1956 Enrico Verga produced a prototype car  which appeared at a Concours D’Elegance competition in Campione d’Italia near Lugano. It is thought that this was the beautiful and futuristic glass bubble version and it is this car which features on the website of the family business today – there is no information as to what became of the car, maybe it is hidden away in the workshop!

It featured in a German magazine in the 50’s, who commented, that it had a rather strange opening roof, which lifted up in one piece including the circular door disc and was rather clumsy. In several of the original photos below, the roof seems to have been replaced with a curved windscreen, maybe the roof was removable or perhaps this was a modification or even a different version, although it has the same registration.

Verga-coupe1Verga-coupe3Verga-coupe2Verga-coupe5Verga-coupe6Verga-old-adIt is not known if the second ‘version’ was designed and built by Verga but it has a remarkably similar body shape and styling although it is a fixed head with Gull wing doors. It does have a more intriguing story and is still in existence.

Over the years this car had some rather extensive modifications for not entirely legal reasons. It was used to smuggle auto bits, especially truck ball bearings at a time when customs duties were high. Secret compartments had been installed and the four corners of the body had jacks, which raised it up to reveal the contraband goods. The frame had been reinforced to take the extra weight.

In 1959 the car was seized by the French Police at Arnéguy on the Spainish border. It was confiscated by the state and stored in a warehouse at the La Rochelle Customs School until it was rediscovered quite recently. Eventually it was auctioned by the French Authorities, it was purchased and  has been returned to Switzerland, where I believe it is being restored. Even the journey back wasn’t uneventful as the bonnet blew off on the motorway. Amazingly after an online appeal and the offer of a reward, the bonnet was discovered in a field not far from it’s final destination and returned to the new owner!

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Carrozzeria Verga is still in business today and is run by Simone Verga the Great Grandson of Benjamin.

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Hopefully more information will come to light and the car or cars will be seen again soon.

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Classic SUNday at Goodwood Breakfast Club

The sun shone brightly for the 2018 Classic Car Sunday at Goodwood Breakfast Club, the only one we’ve been eligible for this year. Armed with Mario’s pass we set off quite early (for us) and had a lovely drive down. The circuit was packed and we were parked out on the run off area at Madgwick.

There was a good collection of cars in attendance and a good variety. In my opinion it is the best theme and the most tightly controlled, so there isn’t a load of modern stuff you can see in the average supermarket carpark or a bunch of kids fawning over ‘supercars’.

Mario as usual was a star and was immediately surrounded by people, I’m amazed that after nearly twenty years of taking him to Goodwood events that there are still people that have never seen an original Multipla.

We did far too much socialising but did manage to take a few pictures of some of the cars which caught our eye – thinking about this blog they are mainly Fiats and other Italian Classics. Our two favourites of the day were a Fiat Abarth 750 Zagato, the fabulous ‘Double Bubble’ and an early Skoda Octavia, launched in 1959 this was the 8th model since Skoda’s post war nationalisation. While not fast it was well equipped for the time. This one had been brought to the Uk and undergone a restoration, it was rather lovely, only spoilt by the modern number plates.

So with a great display of classics, an impromptu air display and beautiful weather this had been one of the best Breakfast Clubs for a while. It was great to be out in Mario and we took the opportunity for a little run down to the seaside after.

Fiat Spiaggina – a 60th anniversary special

The Fiat 500 was 60 yesterday (launched on the 4th July 1958) and alongside the celebrations of Fiat 500 owners worldwide there were two new Fiat 500’s to mark the occasion.

Fiat themselves have an anniversary model. A Fiat 500C Spiaggina 58′ edition of the convertible modern 500, in baby blue and ivory with a few tweaks, stripy beach style interior and some retro wheels, cute but not that unusual although it is being limited to ‘1958’ cars, it goes on sale in September.

However it is the prototype 500 Spiaggina or Beach Buggy which is getting all the attention. A modern take on the cut down ‘topless’ Jolly Beach Cars so loved by the celebrities of the day in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

 

Based on a modern 500C, it is coach built by specialists Garage Italia, which is owned by Lapo Elkann the Grandson of Gianni Agnelli. it is fully topless with just one roof bar and with some body strengthening by Pininfarina.

The two seater is a perfect fun summer car. With a waterproofed interior, bench seat and the yacht like corked panelled boat/loading bay, even incorporating a shower!

You can actually order this car with any engine from the current 500 range be built to order but no doubt for a specialist price and whether all the quirky features will remain is another matter.

Of course the question we must ask is… any chance of a modern version of the extended 600 Multipla Spiaggina?

HCCS 2018 – hard work but a great success

I haven’t had time to post anything on here for some time… it’s all down to the classic car show we organise in our home town of Haslemere. For several months I have been involved in planning, booking entrants, sorting stalls, mapping the tour, getting advertising and sponsors, producing the programme and other advertising material so there has been little spare time for anything else. Even poor Mario has been abandoned but he didn’t sulk about it and came out on the day to help transport lots of essential stuff to the site and of course to be on display and meet his fans.

The build up started a couple of days before with collating all the material and putting together packs for the tour entrants. The day before we spent several hours, measuring and marking out the Green, we are very short of space so needed to position everything carefully on the day. Mario was loaded up with a little help from our cat Birkin and with a very special passenger but more on that later.

IMG_2514IMG_2525IMG_2523DSCN8009If you had seen the weather forecast for Sunday 27 May you would have thought that any event would have to be cancelled… I was practically in tears thinking all the hard work we had put in would go to waste but the people of Haslemere must all have been good, as despite the terrible predicted storms, the sun shone down on Lion Green and our 10th Classic Car show took place under glorious blue skies without a drop of rain.

The day started for 90 of our entrants with breakfast before they set off on a tour of around 60 miles, heading South of the town to Midhurst and then through Selham, Graffham and Fittleworth for a stop at the Stag Inn, Balls Cross where new landlords Jane & Mark Squire made them very welcome with coffee and biscuits before they continued via Wisborough Green, Alford and Shillinglee back to Lion Green. The route is devised by  James who puts his rallying experience to good use.

DSCN8031DSCN8018K_100070K_100060IMG_2814IMG_2795IMG_2791IMG_2788IMG_2834IMG_2837IMG_2855IMG_2866K_100307K_100330K_100218Back in Haslemere, we had been busy setting up over 50 quality stalls selling craft work, local produce, art and a great selection of food and drink, cream teas and entertainment from George’s Coastline Jazz Band. The tour cars arrived back and were joined by the show cars to fill the green, parked brilliantly by the local 1268 (Haslemere) Squadron ATC. We did lose some of the 230 pre-booked cars, as lots of them travel a long distance to attend and the weather elsewhere wasn’t as kind, so we weren’t as full as planned but the Green still had around 200 beautiful pre-1978 classics.

The cars made a wonderful display covering nearly 100 years of motoring, with entrants of all eras, styles and sizes from the smallest microcar to huge American cruisers. Many had been in families for years while others were new acquisitions but all were their owner’s pride and joy. Simon Dodd took this great Drone picture showing the Green filling up.

DJI_0006IMG_2870IMG_2872IMG_2878IMG_2886DSC07696DSCN8136DSCN8204DSCN8230Crews are encouraged to dress in period to match their vehicles and Adrian Hardwick of Keats Estate and Letting Agents, the shows supporters, judged the entrants and choose the worthy winners. After some discussion the ‘style’ award  went to Dr David Nancekievill from Haslemere with his immaculate prize winning Daimler V8 250, beautifully attired wife Janet and some amazing period accessories.

DSCN8283DSCN8266DSCN8265DSCN8262Runners up were Alec Fry from Midhurst in an Austin A30 and Ivor Tanner from Ifold in a Riley 1.5.

DSCN8323DSCN8300DSCN8269DSCN8243We also have a ‘People’s Choice’ competition where show visitors vote for the car they would most like to take home. The overwhelming winner was Dave Melton from Haslemere in his newly restored Daimler Dart SP250 MK1, the Dart has gone from a total wreck to show standard in under a year and Dave has had the show as a target throughout the restoration. Runners up were Stewart Copps from Portsmouth in an MG PA which has undergone a family restoration over 50 years and Gary Bartlett from Winchester in his Immaculate Ford Capri MK1 1600GT.

DSCN8326Finally another reason why I have been so busy was our contribution to the Haslemere Hares – a community arts project which raises lots of money for local charity. The car show had sponsored a hare (in 2017 we had a Haslemere Hog) and this year I pained him. The theme was ‘the wind in your HARE’ a celebration of open top classic motoring. James started by modifying the ears so they looked like they were going back in the wind, then I hand painted his jacket, a decoupage local map bottom and ears, then original HCCS designed fabric scarf and a cloth cap. I was very pleased with the result. He will now be on display in Haslemere for the summer and then sold/auctioned.

DSCN8349So after all the panics and hours of work it was all over in a jiffy. Everybody seemed to have a good time and it is nice to give something back to our town and community. We never did get the threatened storms but you could see them on the horizon when we got home.

DSCN8399So that’s HCCS over for another year, once I’ve finished sorting all the photo’s updating the website and so on I will get back to updating the blog more regularly, we’ve still got adventures to tell about Members Meeting and the snow plus lots of exciting stuff coming up…

Thanks to Steve Flynn, Liz McDonald, Adam Simmonds, James Lynch for additional photos. All images are ©HCCS and can only be used with permission.

Sunshine for Drive-it-Day

DSCN6765Drive-it-Day is organised by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs to encourage owners in the UK to use their historic vehicles and celebrate the UK’s transport heritage. Local groups run their individual events under the federations banner. The day is held as close as possible to the anniversary of the Royal Automobile Club One Thousand Mile Trial which started on 23 April 1900, when 65 vehicles left Hyde Park Corner in London for an epic trip around Great Britain.

James goes to a car club MPH2 and had been asked by the club Chairman Tony, to come up with an event for the group on Drive-it-day. So on Sunday 22 April which was a lovely sunny day, we met up with the group at the Lythe Hill Hotel. After a coffee on the terrace, James sent the cars off at two minute intervals, each team was given a copy map on which a route was marked with arrows and a sheet with photos of landmarks such as signs, post boxes etc. Navigators had to guide the driver round the route through some lovely country lanes and villages, while keeping a keen eye out for the landmarks which they had to take their own photo of. The route was around 40 miles, mainly in the South Downs National Park and in the MPH2 (Midhurst, Petworth, Haslemere) area.

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Once we’d set everybody on their way, we slipped off to collect Mario so he didn’t miss out on Drive-it-Day. We obviously couldn’t take part as we knew the route but had a lovely sunny ‘bobble’ along the country lanes at meet up with everyone at the halfway point.DSCN6866

We had a lovely lunchstop at one of our regular pubs The Stag at Balls Cross, Jane and Mark the new landlords did us proud with a reserved car park, delicious buffet lunch and glorious sunshine so we could all sit outside while James checked off the mornings photographic efforts.DSCN6802It was soon time for the 14 teams to leave for part two. The cars a mixture of classic and modern included several Jaguar E-types and a Mark 2, a Triumph Stag, Rolls Royce, MG, and a Sunbeam Talbot. By now everybody had got the hang of it and set off with enthusiasm.

Mario had a gentle meander back to The Lythe Hill, stopping off for a woodland photo shoot on route and to look at some cute lambs.

DSCN6819DSCN6825DSCN6854 Once all the cars had finished, everyone gathered for a drink on the hotel terrace and the final round up of results. All seemed to have had an enjoyable day, some with better observation than others! All of the photo’s had been spotted by at least one of the competitors so it would seem that the difficulty level was about right. One team, new members Peter and Jan won, dropping just 5 points over the whole day.DSCN6872

So all in all a lovely Spring outing, on route we spotted loads of other classics on the road,  some taking part in other organised events. Our classics are there to be driven and Drive-it-Day just encourages this and lets people see just how many historic vehicles are out there still and what an important part they still play in the economy.

Mario certainly enjoyed being out in the sunshine – a total contrast to his last trip out in March at the Goodwood Members Meeting. We will post about this very soon but it’s taken a while to sort the all the photos…

All aboard the Skiway…

After a few days stuck home with the snow, this popped up on social media and caught me eye and I thought it would make a perfect topical post…

Timberland Lodge

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Situated 6000 feet up Mount Hood in Oregon, the historic Timberline Lodge was built in 1937 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project to provide jobs after the Great Depression. It is famous for hosting year-round skiing and also for being used as the exterior of the ‘Overlook Hotel’ in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining.

While interesting it wasn’t the Hotel that caught my eye but the fact that it was once the home of the longest stretch of arial tram in the world. The Skiway ran for three miles connecting the town of Government Camp at 2,100 feet to Timberland Lodge. The ‘Cloudliner’ which ran on the route was converted from a school bus suspended from a cable supported by 38 steel towers up to 72 feet tall, which could transport 36 people seated and 14 standing. Most mountain tramways are pulled by a moving cable but unusually on the Skiway, each set of wheels was separately powered by a 185hp bottom-mounted engine and these pulled the bus up the mountain on the traction cables anchored at both ends.

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When it opened a one-way fare was 75 cents, the lower terminal in Government Camp had a restaurant and snack bar, gift shop, ski shop and guest lounge. The tram entered the terminal on the building’s third floor where the loading/unloading platforms were located. At Timberline Lodge there was no terminal building and passengers had to get on and off at an open-air platform.

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The project cost over $2 million to construct and opened in 1951. However it suffered mechanical problems, was slow and could only make a couple of trips an hour so by the mid 50’s when the road up the mountain was improved it made the Skiway redundant and it was deconstructed ten years after opening.

Watch a video of the Skiway in action.

 

Mario is now keeping his fingers crossed that the snow stays away and it warms up in the next couple of weeks before the Goodwood Members Meeting. We’ll be taking part in the Members Parade on Sunday morning and will be parked in the Chicane Parking on Saturday so watch this space.

Weird and Wonderful No 5 – L’Oeuf

Nothing is ever new in this world and the current boom in electric cars is no exception – meet L’Oeuf, an electric concept car from 1942…A three wheel, two seater electric minicar made from aluminium and plexiglass which was designed by Paul Arzens. A french artist, engineer and an industrial designer of trains and cars, Paul constructed L’Oeuf for his own use. Made in 1942 when Paris was in the grips of the Nazi invasion, petrol and materials were in short supply, Paul’s solution to his personal transport was the lightweight L’Oeuf which needed few materials to produce and had a amazing range of 60 miles and a top speed of 37mph with two passengers.

With it’s huge Plexiglas roof and doors the car had fantastic visibility. The rest of the body was hand formed aluminium in an egg shape tapering at the rear to cover the third wheel and the electric motor. The chassis was made of Duralinox tubing, a stainless steel, aluminium and magnesium alloy which is resistant to corrosion and it was attached to suspension on the rear wheel for good handling. The interior was very minimal, just a bench seat and steering wheel, this meant it weighed in at just 90kg, once the batteries were added it was still only 350kg.

Due to the war and the difficulty of getting materials only the one prototype vehicle was ever made, it received a lot of attention but was never developed any further. Arzens was obviously fond of his L’Oeuf as he kept it in his private collection until his death in 1990. It is now in The Cité de L’Automobile – The French National Motor Museum in Mulhouse,with some of his earlier car designs. 
Many of the features in this early experiment – light, small, good visibility and a sense of fun – have found their way into the urban city cars of today.


Multipla’s to the rescue…

The fact, that Fiat 600D Multipla’s were used as Taxis (in Rome and Croydon), is quite well documented and they were modified to use as a funeral hearse. But it would appear that they also played a part in other public services.

Late last year, Kevin and Helen, a couple of members of the ‘Independent Goodwood Photographers Association’ FaceBook Group sent us a message with photos of a Fiat Multipla and 600 ‘Police’ cars which they had just seen in Rome, in the entrance to a police station on Piazza del Popolo. They were both used by the Carabinieri Corps (Italy’s 4th Military service) in 1957 and used for 10 years with the territorial unit for crowd control.

 

This of course caught our interest and a google revealed a hidden police museum in Rome – Museo delle Auto della Polizia di Stato, A bit of googling revealed these images of a Multipla and a 500 in the museum. They seem to be marked ‘Polizia’ but assume it was still the Carabinieri due to the military green paint work. If anyone knows differently please let us know!

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Couldn’t find any period images of Police vehicles other than this rather unusual one of an rmed office out of the roof, wonder if this was from a movie rather than real life. The others are what appear to be Police 500/600 but of course could just be reproductions. It seems really hard to turn up information in Italian unless you are fluent enough to be able to search in Italian!

I did find this model of a Multipla so maybe they were used by the Polizia Municiple as well. It is thought that Multipla’s may have been used as they were able to get down the small streets easily.

I had to include this, modern day policing in a New Fiat 500.

I then of course started looking at the other ‘Emergency Services’. I had a bit more luck with Ambulances with several old pictures cropping up of the Multipla or the 600t van being used by the Italian ‘Green Cross’ a public assistance organisation. Several brochures popped up from a company called Corrozzeria Coriasco (Who also produced the boat car) who produced special Autoambulanza versions between 1956 and 1962, again I believe because they could get down narrow Italian streets and through traffic quickly.


The main difference with the 600t version seems to be the doors, with the Multipla having access via the rear with a standard side door and the 600t having double opening side doors. Although both had space for a stretcher and two people in the back.

There is a beautiful restored example of the Multipla at the headquarters of the Red Cross of Bergamo, which was actually in service in the city in the 1960s.


Finally the Fire Service where I basically drew a blank, other than a couple of models which may be fictional. This post has really tested our research capabilities and we would love to know if anyone has any more information about the Multipla being used for ‘Service’/emergency vehicles. As well as the language barrier it would seem that particularly in the past, Italy didn’t have national organisations for the emergency services but many different private and voluntary organisations with different names.

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Old ‘Crocks’ in the sunshine – London to Brighton 2017

Sorry we’ve been quiet since Goodwood but there was catching up to do and then we actually had a holiday. No blog or photo’s as we went in a modern car and saw very few classics although we had a great time. There hasn’t been much happening on the car front at all, the last couple of Goodwood Breakfast Clubs were cancelled due to the poor conditions of the carparks after the Revival. James is currently on the RAC rally of the tests, navigating the Fiat 2300 for Michael Moss again.

Last weekend, on a beautiful sunny November morning we went to spectate on the 2017 London to Brighton Vintage Car Run. We went back to the Friars Oak near Hassocks which is a good place to watch from and obviously has facilities and is a good location to meet up with fiends. Some of our friends were taking part in the event and they can stop off and say hello.

We were there in good time and wanted for the veterans to come along. As it was such a lovely day classics of all ages were out in force and we wish we’d made the effort to bring Mario along! The route for the run had been altered due to roadworks in London and it was causing a lot of problems which meant the cars were quite slow in coming through but it wasn’t too long before Jan and Mike came along in their De Dion Bouton. This is a different car to the one James took part in with Mike, a bit more modern and comfortable and more reliable. They had a guest from Bonham’s with them, who’s Great Grandfather had had a similar car.

After waving them off to Brighton we watch some more cars come through. Everything was running rather late, in part due to a serious accident in Reigate involving one of the entrants and several modern vehicles. Hopefully the crew will make a good recovery and the incident won’t have any implications for the future of the event. As it was already 2pm we decided not to go into Brighton to Maderia Drive.

Anyway here are some photo’s from the day – I had a new camera to play with and I was quite pleased with the results. They were much better than previous years  although it is quite difficult to know if that’s the camera or the better weather conditions!

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If you are interested the full set is online

The most photographed car at Goodwood Revival?

We are members of a FaceBook Group – ‘The Independent Goodwood Photographers Guild’, set up as a friendly group by some friends of ours the idea was just to share photographs of events at Goodwood. The group has grown and now has 600 members, a mixture of amateur and professional photographers, who share a wide variety of styles, skills and areas of interest. It is a vibrant and friendly group with a shared love of Goodwood.

When we knew we were going  to be in the Fiat 500 60th anniversary parade at this years Revival, we rather cheekily set them a challenge – who’ll get the best picture of Mario at the Revival with the idea that the best one(s) would feature in Mario’s blog of the event. The images shared were so varied that we couldn’t pick a winner and we decided that they deserved their own blog so here it is…

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Clive Reid caught us on duty in the taxi rank

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Guy Ward – poor Mario looks rather low to the ground 6up on Sunday

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Marjorie Dowling caught us lining up for the parade on Saturday

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Mario doesn’t offer the most elegant exit – Martin Hoare

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Great view of the grid on Sunday morning – Martin Hoare

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Cleaners on the grid on Sunday morning – Martin Hoare

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Ready for the off – Martin Hoare

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Rear View – Mike Dabell

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Waiting to go on track – Mike Dabell

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Thought the Theme was Italian! – Mike Dabell

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Insider viewpoint – Mike Dabell

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Empty taxi rank – Mike Dabell

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Heading for the flag – Phil Johnson

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Leaving the track – Phil Johnson

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Phil Johnson

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Simon Martin

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The Chicane – Stephen Mosley

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Steve Burt

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A huddle of Fiats – Tony Birr

Thank you to all the photographers for sharing their images. Please note that these images have been generously shared by the members just to appear here, the copyright of the images belongs to the individual photographs so please don’t use them anywhere else without express permission from the photographer.