Should the Alfa Spider be Restored for Concours or Driving?

What level should it go to

Here’s a quick update on the 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce.

It went to Alfa guru Bill Gillham for some rust repair in the rockers and trunk a few months ago.

As he disassembled the car, he found corrosion in nearly every nook and cranny. While the car looked good at first glance, it actually bent when you put it up on the lift.

Although I wanted to keep the patina the car had developed in my decades of ownership, it just wasn’t possible. So Gillham disassembled the Alfa completely and began the painstaking (and expensive) process of simply making it right.

This included finding a sample of the original Grigio Mare paint on the back of the glovebox door and sending it off to PPG for a perfect match.

All the bodywork is done, and the shell has been painted.

Bill is now asking what level I want him to take the car to. “It would be easy, but expensive, to make this a 100-point car,” he said.

This presents a conundrum for me. I’ve never been a fan of concours-level cars for my personal collection. I simply drive them too much to worry about small oil leaks or imperfections in the paint. I’m not restoring the interior of the car – that was done a couple of years ago and it is nicely weathered.

So here’s the question – just what level do you take a car to when you’re at this decision point? The body and paint will be as perfect as Gillham can get them, which is awfully good.

Do I have all the chrome redone to match? Do I have everything under the hood re-plated? Where does it stop?

What would you do?



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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  1. I had the same problem with my 61 3.8 MK II Jaguar. After all the rust was repaired and the car painted, I resolved to finish the car as a driver.
    Updating things like brakes steering and suspension. A little Coombs upgrading and finally I will reinstall the original interior.
    I can’t wait to drive it.

  2. I had four Alfa’s and enjoyed them all. I would do the chrome. Under the hood, I would have everything clean, painted and tidy. Make it a really nice driver.

  3. Keith

    I’m drawn to encourage you to do both…. Concours AND drive it.

    When I restored my 59 Touring Roadster, I went all the way. I did this because I enjoy that process. I enjoyed spending many hours in the shop with my young grandson, tending to many details. The reward was the road traveled, not the destination.

    Then, after making it all perfect, I changed a few things to improve its fun-factor and safety. All changes are easily reversible back to original, so no harm done.

    Since finishing the car in 2010 I’ve put nearly 7,000 miles on it. Sunday, my lady and I drove it up to Lake Tahoe in cool but sunny temps. We motored the perimeter road taking in the green mountains still capped with white, sneaking glances at the grins on each other’s faces.

    It’s no longer 100 points, if it ever was. It’s still close, but if I look hard I can find a tiny chip or two.

    When I’m gone, the car will go to my grandson. He will inherit the early memories of learning shop safety and tool respect. He’ll drive a gorgeous car that has our mingled blood in a few sharp-edged, hidden spaces. He’ll be proud, appreciative, and hopefully he’ll drive the love of his life along awe inspiring roads, finding the grins that we left there.

    Why compromise one happiness for another? Is money worth missing the life in living?

  4. Sounds like the body and paint will be concours but the interior has some “patina” so may not be. If the body and paint is excellent and you put old chrome bumpers on it they may end up looking shabby. My advice have the chrome stuff rechromed, make everything else is as nice as possible, level 2 excellent, not concours (level 1). If however the chrome is level two excellent already but not level one concours, it will probably look good enough to match the excellent/concours paint and not stand out too much. Probably not necessary to have everything under the hood replated unless it really looks bad. In other words doing the rest of the car to level 2 excellent instead of level one concours will probably save you a whole lot of money and you will have a car that your not “afraid to drive” not to mention you will get it back from the restorer faster. You should still be able to show it at Forest Grove and drive it and enjoy. Lastly to me the definition of councours is “better than when it was new”. When I restore Porsche’s I shoot for making them look they did when they were new, If the interiors are nice I preserve them, in fact I preserve as much of the original car as I can. The cars almost always need a paint job and new rubber etc. I have them painted to the standard of that they were done back in the day not concours. At the end of the day I usually end up with say a 1971 911E that looks like a well cared for one to two year old “used car”. Cars look great and I save a ton of money and time over trying to make everything perfect and I or if I sell the car the new owner is proud to show it at cars and coffee, Porsche club events etc. but can still drive and enjoy it. If you do have the money to spare and do it concours then you show it once or a few times then you start driving it after your done showing it. You know once it starts getting rock chips etc. it’s concours winning show days are over anyway.

  5. You know , there is only one answer. It has to be a very nice driver. Over the next 30 years you are going to enjoy just the way you did the first 30. And then your kids and hopefully your grandkids the next 60. Rally on Garth !

  6. My own Triumph Italia is in a similar situation and presents the exact same dilemmas. In my case, the paint (as with all Vignale Italias) was poorly done by the factory, and falling off in great chunks despite every effort to consolidate and preserve the original finishes.
    All the glass has been removed, as have all the exterior fittings to allow the external paint to be hand stripped to bare metal by hand and refinished in precisely the colour matched paint as original.
    Fortunately, the car is incredibly original and low mileage, so hardly any rust had to be dealt with, and no further stripping is required. The repaint will be done by experts used to preparing Concours level cars, and the costs are still considerable.
    Now they are asking me what to do with the bumpers, and various other external trim that has weathered – we can discuss endlessly whether such weathering counts as patina, but my instruction and decision will be based entirely on whether intervention is necessary to prevent corrosion, not on ‘improving’ what was already a fabulous and almost unique example of this marque as it left the factory.
    To be honest, I don’t think anyone can foretell how ‘odd’ some of those parts will look against the pristine paint after they have been cleaned and replaced, but that is what will be done.
    I also intend to continue driving and enjoying the car as the factory intended, and the first paint chip will be a mild relief on the road back to common sense.

  7. Keith,

    My two cents. For as much as I love a perfect car, I don’t think I could live with one. The prevailing thought I have once done “it’s only down hill from here”. This may not be you and I’m sure you have prepared youself for the gradual detoriation but that one shinning moment may not be worth all the cost or add that much value. My1963 Alfa Giulia, while not a Veloce like yours, and very far from perfect but presentable, gives me a lot of pleasure as it is. I can get a 95% taste of what the car is like without all the fretting of trying to keep it perfect.

  8. I agree with Don. Do both. It will never be this “easy” to make it a perfect car again – now is your realistic chance. Additionally, the car will present in a uniform fashion if everything is done to the same standard. I think that’s the most unified way to present the car. Bill Gillham knows what every one of the finishes should look like; the car is disassembled. You are in the rare perfect place to finish the job. I encourage the Concours restoration – and a few tours after you’ve done the “circuit” to your satisfaction!

  9. IMHO there are other factors in this calculus: is it a personal or “company” car? are there other cars (e.g., Sprint Speciale) competing for the same resources whether the pocket is personal or corporate? Assume first, 100 pt restoration, then second, driver quality: then for each choice answer the question what is the likelihood that you will later regret the decision? What would be the marketing benefit to the Martin Publishing Empire, Inc., to take a show car on a concours victory lap for a season or two? If you take it to 100 point car, what would be the approximate cost of “re-restoring” in, say, five or ten years if you drove it and then wanted to drive it again on a concours victory lap? I drive all my cars, too, and some unkind folks would use an impolite term — still ending in “er” — for “driver” to describe them. But I have never seen the need to take a car as far as you appear to have done with this one. I’d sure be tempted to make it new at this point.

  10. You know what Jay Leno said: Restore it to 100 percent, show it for a season so people can enjoy seeing that quality, then drive it down to 75 percent and restore it back. I’m still driving the Healey I restored to Registry Gold level in 1991 and still even occasionally show it, though I’ve driven it about 25,000 miles since restoration.

  11. I’d have the brightwork re-plated, for sure, otherwise it will look terrible next to the shiny re-spray. I think since you’ve come this far, and can afford to do so, why not complete it to concours’ level, take it to a few events, enjoy winning a few balloons, and then just drive it and preserve it as best you can. It might be fun to have just ONE car this way. But if you can’t afford it, or your heart is just not in it, I’d concentrate on getting the mechanicals right if only for safety reasons, and do what else is necessary to preserve the car, and then enjoy it. I suspect you already know what you want to do but are looking for some of us to validate your decision. Hmmm?

  12. You are a driver. That. Is what I like about you. I would get her back together with just the new paint and drive it just like you have been. I feel you will enjoy the car much more than just having a show piece.
    Fellow Alfa owner (67 duetto)
    Bainbridge island, WA

  13. I have a 1962 Giulia Spider that I drive just like you do your Spider. If it’s gonna be a driver, it’s a waste of money to take it to 100 points. If it’s really important to you to win a significant concours prize, then tell Bill to spend away.

  14. I like the way Jay Leno does it, he restores to a 100 point car, drives it until it gets to a 90 point car, then redoes it. As that is probably not feasible for us common car guys, and as you sound like you are likely to keep it forever, I would make it as close to an affordable (paradox 🙂 100 point car and show it for a couple of years while driving it regularly, letting the patina accumulate. Think how beautiful your Alfa will look after ten years.

  15. Keith – After years of trying to “preserve” my ‘still “original” 65 Spider Veloce – same rare color combination as yours- I’m about to go down the same path as you. And I know after 50 years Bill will uncover much of the same on my car as yours. Regarding what level of restoration- As you know these cars are just too nice to drive and as such will only be a 100 point restoration for a few months. My thought at this point is – make it nice enough to show at regional shows but don’t spend the untold dollars that take it from a regional to national show car.

  16. If you’ve already decided that the interior will not be restored to concourse level, then there is no point in doing the rest of the car to meet 100 point standard.

    Restore it to be a good, reliable, beautiful driver and then enjoy it for what it is; a classic and classy Italian roadster meant to be driven.

  17. Keith, I recently went through this on a ’69 911 (finished this year) and previously on a ’73 GTV (finished in 1997). We did the 911 to a concours level and the GTV to a “replace only what you need to” level. Both bodies were taken to the same repair and paint level as your Spider. I still have both cars. Love and drive them both although Arizona weather is easy on them. Since your Spider is a Veloce I would take it to a “near concours” level, especially since you are not redoing the interior. This means, polish all the old chrome and stainless, new rubber everywhere, restored gauges, restored emblems…basically do everything you see on the exterior plus the new rubber. The engine compartment and under-carriage can be nicely cleaned with some components polished (like the DOHC cover) and certain components repainted (like the air cleaner housing). Not sure how the old suspension/brake components are but I left my old suspension/brakes on the GTV with no regrets. Hope this helps.

  18. Since you are not restoring the interior then I vote you go for a high quality driver including some upgrades in the engine, transmission, suspension and brakes. Make her drive as good as she looks.

  19. Do the math re cost of 100 point car resto, it’s likely sale at more-money-than- grey matter sunshine state auction and the cost of it’s replacement with the best driver, with a documented resto, you can find…….if it pencils; go restoration. You will learn so much about the car you thought you knew which translates to many more years of happy Italian motoring with the new ride.

  20. For me, only one answer. You have it all apart, and at the place with the person who can make it all as new.
    What an opportunity! You’re never selling it, and my guess us the cost difference isn’t that significant given where you are already. Make it new again, show it if you like for a bit, and then drive it and love it!

  21. By all means, please restore it as a sharp-looking and smooth running Driver. There is enough room in this world for all kinds of motorcar enthusiasts; perhaps you might enter it as a concours de etat entry, with a “Do Not Judge” sign. We wouldn’t want our Drivers to outpoint our pals’ Concours entries, would we?

  22. Take it to a #2 driver level and enjoy it as you have your other
    cars. At some point, someone will make you an offer that will
    be hard to pass on. Let the next owner take it to concours

  23. What price can you afford for the last 3-5%? If keeping the, admittedly weathered, interior, concours won’t happen. Push the quality to a feasible, economically bearable standard, then manage the decline through careful, enjoyable driving. Contemplating this “preservative restoration versus consumption” issue is wasted time when you already know you’re driving it versus saving it for graded competitions.

  24. I vote driver. Alfas were built to drive with wind rushing over their hoods not sitting on a lawn. That said there is nothing wrong with making it a nice driver so make the rest of the car as nice as the paint. There are enough trailer queens and not enough of these cars on the road.

  25. In regard to the Alfa, since you have this gone far on the paint and metal work I would do the chrome as well. It is already off, and there isn’t a lot of it, so why not?

    1. Keith,

      My 2 cents. Go down the “nicely restored” road a little more and turn this special ride into a 95 point machine. You have already touched the tar-baby based on the work you have done so far. Fill the trunk with all those up coming awards this Veloce will receive when finished and smile a little more when you out driving in this special Spider with family and friends.

  26. Bill said “It would be easy, but expensive, to make it a 100 point car.” There rests your answer, Keith. To me, “easy” and “expensive” are mutually exclusive terms. High-quality “driver” is what you wanted in the first place, so go for it — and enjoy!

    1. Keith, I am where you are. Driving ( even washing) a 100 point car is silly if not real silly. First off, you are so deep in your car it is very difficult to pull back but not on the body. Period, especially because how far Bill has come. But still, like replacing a period windshield because of a swipe or two, all the rubber ( the old stuff is better than the new), nutty weird hose clamps, new pumbing lines, PA rebuild of the gauges…that is all bad to the bone if you want to drive the car and it is perfectly functional.. Your test is .these questions.. 1) After you drive the car, do you wash or clean it? 2) Do you put it under a very exepensive cover? 3) Can you leave it unattended in a public place (not a car gig) 4) Are you concerned about “experts” who will pick it apart when they see it.5) Would you rather have something original and patina’ed or something renewed or replaced that tells tells anyone including you it is not 40 years old. The answers to these questions should tell you what to do.

  27. If the car is a matching numbers car, I would certainly go for the 100 % restoration AND use the car frequently, not as a daily car, but one to enjoy on sunny dry days. It will still be a very solid investment AND driving it will certainly give you a lot of pleasure. I am owner of a body off restored matching numbers concours E type and a Alfa Romeo Spider 2000 veloce coda tronca, also body off restored, and I love to drive them both as much as I can.
    If the car does not have the original numbers (no matching numbers car) I would not go for a 100 Point concours restoration as the car will never reach the top prices a matching number car does.