Three Cars in the Shop; Five in the Garage


The classic-car touring frenzy of August and September has come to an end. As the temperatures drop, it’s time to assess the condition of the cars in the SCM collection. We’ll perform automotive triage to decide which cars need attention right now — and which can wait their turn.

Three of the SCM cars are still off the road and in shops. Our 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce is nearing completion after a complete rotisserie restoration. Guru Bill Gillham has stripped it completely to the bare tub, made all necessary repairs to the bare metal, and is reassembling the car.

Last we heard, the interior was going back into the car (we didn’t have the interior restored as it was in good condition, and our goal is a handsome driver, not a trailer queen). Gillham has tracked down some oil leaks and made some repairs, and the Conrad Stevenson-built engine should be ready to go back in. Hopefully, by Christmas the Spider will be back in our garage.

I still have some regrets about taking a car that I was driving regularly and giving it a comprehensive restoration. It has turned into an unexpected, near-six-figure undertaking. However, the deeper Gillham dug, the more serious structural issues he found. I am at peace when I view this “life-saving” restoration as just another chapter in the Veloce’s life. When it comes back, we will be ready to start making memories again.

The 1961 Giulietta Sprint Speciale continues to rest comfortably at Nasko’s Imports. Nasko has rebuilt the engine, with modern Pittatori cams and a 1,400-cc kit. We had all six (yes, six!) front wheel cylinders re-sleeved and kitted. I’ve heard the engine run, and it sounds great. Nasko’s installing new Bilsteins and a one-inch front sway bar.

Right now we are wrestling with which springs to install, as Dave Rugh no longer offers Alfa springs. We acquired a set from England through Jon Norman, but they seem tall. I think we will wait until the car is running and driving before we wrestle with this problem again.

The relaxed pace of this restoration doesn’t bother me, as it lessens the catastrophic drain on my bank account. I’m hoping to have the car on the road by April.

Bradley’s Bugeye, which was bought as a “needs-nothing” fun, run-around car, has proven that once again, you never know what you’re going to get when you buy a used sports car.

Instead of futzing around with the race-prepped 848-cc engine that came with the car, we turned the car over to Chip Star at Race Car Resurrections. He is building a 1,275-cc engine for it, and he’s found a 3.9 rear end for more relaxed highway cruising. Chip’s built many Sprite engines, and he is mapping out a plan for the little car. Bradley is just six years away from being 15, when he can get his permit. We expect the Sprite to be finished before then!

Our other cars have seen a lot of use this summer, and consequently need little. We find the more you use old cars, the better they perform. The Mehari has a new stereo installed, and through Pandora we have created a “French Café Music” station, perfect as we cruise the Portland streets looking for that special boulangerie.

The Giulietta Sprint Veloce, the Duetto and the Super have little things that I’ll be attending to, like sourcing and replacing the courtesy light in the mirror of the Duetto. And Guy Recordon is rebuilding the armrests in the Super, which have more or less disintegrated after 50 years of being used to pull the doors shut.

The GTV will be going to Nasko next week. The right rear fender rubs slightly on the new tires I installed, and Dave Rugh suggested we shim the body on the rear suspension just enough to get some clearance. After that, we’re going to have Nasko rebuild the gearbox; he’s wanted to do that project for some time.

That brings us to the Defender 90 turbo-diesel, which needs to go for its annual checkup to Ship’s Mechanical. It’s been running well, but I’ve found that having an expert look it over before the off-road season begins has its benefits.

Which leaves the 2006 Lotus Elise. It is a modern car — and shows just 19,000 miles. The car just needs Alex to show it some love and attention.

Our old cars have behaved very well this year, and I believe it’s partly because we spend time in this off-season dialing them in. There’s nothing better than having cars in the garage that are ready and waiting for you to jump into them for an enjoyable drive.


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. Impressive, Mr. Martin!! Thank you for sharing your ups and downs:) Thanks to your blog, I just thought about my 9 year old son – he will be driving in 6 short years, like Bradley! Eeeek! Or, awesome!! Time to start thinking about MORE cool cars!! -Kirk, Raleigh, NC