Keith’s Blog: No Concours Restoration for the Alfa

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For those following the saga of our 1965 Alfa Giulia Spider, you’ve seen it go from a slightly disheveled but much-loved daily driver to a completely stripped shell.

It was last year that we took it to Bill Gillham, in Jefferson, Oregon, for some minor rust repairs. As he dug into the car, he found it had various serious rust issues that were not immediately apparent.

We made the decision to have him proceed and take care of its problems. The further he went, the worse it got, until our only real choice was to take the car completely apart.

Now, all the rust repair is done, and an exquisite paint job in the correct Grigio Mare (Sea Gray) has been applied. (Gillham found some original paint on the backside of the glovebox door and sent it to PPG to have it matched.)

We had a decision to make: How far to take the restoration? As Gillham correctly pointed out, if we wanted to have a 100-point concours restoration, now is the time to do it. However, he also noted that it can be much more expensive to make a car perfect than it would be to make it just a “handsome daily driver.”

I reflected on the way I use my cars. I have them only to drive them. I’ve never been very interested in showing my cars at concours, where better-than-perfect examples are on display. When you use cars, things happen to them. They get rock chips. The seats get worn. Instrument needles fade from the sun. Engine oil leaks out. It just happens.

I’ve made my decision. I’ve told Bill that I want him to make my car a very nice daily driver. It ran and handled well when we drove it to him, so there really aren’t any needed modifications to the driveline or suspension.

I’ve asked him to clean everything, and to paint the suspension and driveline parts that look crappy. If something stands out as not being up to the standard of a “handsome daily driver,” he should fix it.

There are two small holes in the front bumpers, about a half-inch in diameter, where an aftermarket bumper guard was once installed. Rather than replate or replace them, I asked him to just plug the holes with small chrome bolts.

The interior was completely restored a few years ago, and has a nice lived-in look.

What we should end up with is a car with a fantastic paint job and great shut lines. The engine bay will beautiful and completely correct even if not totally redone.

I understand I only get one chance to make this decision; going back to take the car apart to turn it from a 90-pointer to a 100-pointer would be much more expensive than doing it now.

But I simply have no interest in making this a concours car. So the die is cast. Bill will start on the car in the next 60 days, and we might have it back by the end of summer. Just in time for those great fall tours on back roads, perhaps in the rain, and certainly with gravel that will come flying up from the cars ahead.

It will be nice to have my “driver-quality” Spider Veloce back again.

 

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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9 comments

  1. Keith,
    Great decision. Our 101 Spider Veloce’s are too sweet a drive to sit in the garage waiting for the next show.

  2. I agree! I’m sure you will appreciate the correctness of your decision every time you get behind the wheel – enjoy it.

  3. I have felt your pain with each car you have owned from the Ferrari “daily driver wine picker upper” to the corvette with the truck engine
    I just had the same delemna with a 63 Austin Healey. I decided to make it a beautiful daily driver so o could and woul drive it and I do
    Your experiences help us all in this crazy hobby

  4. You made the right decision. A “handsome driver” is the way to go. You’re using the car the way that it gives you the most pleasure (driving it!) without the stress of worrying about the normal wear and tear of usage. Just don’t get too close behind your daughter in the Elise…they kick up dust and debris off their rear tires like crazy! Something about fat, sticky tires with minimal overhang.

  5. Thanks, Keith. You are still one of the best and wittiest of
    auto writers. I still have a tearsheet of your ‘Market’ review
    of a 1990 Mercedes 500SL convertible in Autoweek’s issue
    of Aug. 26, 2002 in which you summarized in your final
    comment, “… don’t expect the parking attendants at the
    Ritz-Carlton to get excited when you pull up in your one-
    step-behind exotic.”

  6. good call Keith. She is a beauty…or, will be! Now you get to use her without Fear.

  7. Great decision. Our MG TD is a really nice daily driver. We have shown on Concours on The Avenue and many other shows. We will have on display At the Alameda Concours, June 12th. We are not interested in having a trailer queen.
    Enjoy driving a great car.

  8. Hello Keith
    As the owner of a 1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia that I drove today to work, I applaud your decision to restore your car to “driver”. I love driving my Alfa, these cars were built to be driven not to sit still. Mine always puts a smile on my face.
    ENJOY DRIVING YOURS

  9. I support your decision. While calling it a daily driver may be whimsical, at least leave it as a car you can enjoy. Besides, think of all the great NLA parts your aren’t throwing away because they wouldn’t have a place on a fetish item even though they’re perfectly serviceable on a car.

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