Keith’s Blog: Car Restoration and Human Restoration

I’m learning that just as car restorations have their own progressions, so does physical rehabilitation.

This week I made some decisions about the restorations on my cars, and I made some steps forward with my own rehab.

I’ve decided not to proceed with the full-bore, glass-and-headliner- out interior restoration of our 1961 Giulietta Sprint Speciale.

While the body is dry and with great panel fit (partly from 30 years of indoors storage in the Cayman Islands Motor Museum), the paint is tired, and the hood has 14 extra louvers cut into it. It also came with a set of funky pure magnesium wheels that some Alfisti loathe, while others manage to tolerate them.

I’ve had the car mechanically restored, with a pro-built 1,400-cc engine, and it’s a bomb to drive.

However, I have no interest in spending $30,000 to $50,000 to have a bare metal respray and re-chrome performed. I get more value out of driving my cars than with a concours-level appearance.

“Handsome, correct driver” is my idea of collector car Nirvana.

While I have ordered the windshield, headliner, leather, rubber, carpet and so on from Matt Jones at Re-Originals (www.reoriginals.com), I’m now having second thoughts.

I have three options:

The first is to have Guy Recordon at Guys Interior Restorations tear the car completely apart and put in a like-new leather interior.

I’ve decided against that. Then I would have a mismatched car with a concours interior and a scruffy-driver exterior. Ultimately the discord would make me crazy, and I’d probably be pushed over the edge toward the exterior restoration I really don’t want to do.

How ridiculous would that be?

The second choice is to drive the car as is. The seats are proper — but with an incorrect upholstery pattern. The door panels are complete — but with incorrect colors. The carpets are tired. The headliner doesn’t sag — but is old. The windshield is beginning to delaminate at the top right corner.

In other words, it’s just a used car that has seen better days. But I drove the car 1,000 miles on last year’s SCM 1000. When I was behind the wheel I didn’t notice any of the imperfections.

Another option is to have Guy recover the seats and door panels in the correct materials and install new carpets and leave it at that.

Guy is not enthusiastic about that. He continues to maintain I should focus on getting healthy again and not worry about seat covers.

Further, if I have Guy do a partial interior, I’ll end up with an even MORE mismatched car, with scruffy paint, like-new seats and a tired headliner. I’ve just fallen further down the rabbit hole.

What would your decision be? Tidy up what’s there, redo the seats and carpets, or do the whole-nine-yards interior restoration?

Rehab update

It’s now been about six weeks since I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. It came without warning.

While my cognitive and speaking abilities were not impaired, I had no use of my left shoulder, arm and leg.

I have been in therapy four hours a day and have made good progress. My left shoulder is fully functional — although weak —and I am typing this with both hands.

Just last week my left leg started to come back to life. That’s tremendously exciting, as it opens up the possibility of walking with a cane as a next step. In fact, I was able to walk 75 feet unassisted hanging onto a bannister.

Also, my left leg is my clutch leg.

Each step seems tiny by itself — and requires constant dedication to achieve — but they all build upon one another. My goal is to be able to return to living with 11-year-old Bradley — and have a similar range of activities that I had before the stroke. My current progress leads me to believe that it is possible.

And all of my energies are being aimed in that direction.

Stay tuned for further details.

As always your notes and kind thoughts, and posts on my FB account are most welcome and keep me going forward.

 

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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33 comments

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  1. To me cars are to be driven, I would enjoy it as it is on the road, this is from some one with a 2016 Cayman that I have put 36K miles on.

  2. The things incorrect on the car are things you notice because you are a big car guy. If the money means something to you drive it as is and repair as needed. If the money means nothing restore it. Simple I think.

  3. As a an SS owner for 42 years I suggest you repair what is necessary, when it is necessary and work on your personal rehab so you can continue to drive it, as is. There are enough beautifully restored SSs out there that we never see on the road. I try to drive mine several thousand miles a year. Several years ago I had the seats restuffed and the door panels redone but my focus is always on the mechanical issues, which have been relatively rare.
    enjoy driving it and fix what reduces your ability to enjoy the drives. By the way, reCaptcha required me to identify a van as a car to prove I wasn’t a robot!!! Not appropriate for your site!!

  4. Hi Keith, was shocked to hear of your stroke. I’m in my mid 80s and had a heart attack which I didn’t realize ‘happened’, open heart surgery, 4 by pass, almost 9 years ago to the day. Never looked back and truly hope you will be similarly lucky. Saw a note to you from Richard Garr about a week ago. I’m in his neighborhood or he’s in mine. Recover the seats, door cards and floor mats and you’ll enjoy your surroundings. Forget about the headliner, just don’t look up. Best Regards and GOOD LUCK! Pete Weinberg

  5. Good to hear you are recovering well. Here’s to a speedy recovery. I think it was Jay leno who said he liked to have his cars 100% and drive them until they get to 70% and redo. I faced the same dilemma while redoing my Duetto. I went the nine yards with a complete interior restoration to concours standard, but i drive it. Best decision i made. You spend most of the time in the interior so why not get it right???

  6. As to the Alfa, I think I’d drive it for a while- you’ll be driving again soon!- and decide about the interior later on. One option you haven’t mentioned is to try to find a used interior from another car, in better nick, with better colors and matching, and install that. It would look better, and match the exterior. I don’t know how many they made- would this be possible?

    As to your recovery, I’m very glad to see you are coming along handily. Thank God it was on the side it was on.

  7. Keith:
    I bought your issue #1, so you know I am in the “needs restoration” club with you. My next car will be a 280SL…. automatic! so I can keep doing long events. You thrive on success, so I know you’ll ace this body overhaul you are doing with the help of ther medical fraternity. Best, Alex

  8. Focus on recovery not recovering?… After replacing the wheels (with some TZ replicas?) I would drive it as is for a while. It’s very presentable and, as you’re aware, the true joy in Alfas is driving them. You can always do a restoration down the road or pass along the materials to the next owner and let him/her make the call. Best wishes for your ongoing rehab…

  9. After my temporary paralysis in the 80’s, I remember having to learn to walk again. When you said you did 75 feet, it reminded me of my rehab. It was a hard workout. I was more exhausted than anything that ever transpired in boot camp and more focused. Like all motorcyclists know: keep looking to the horizon.

  10. Keith, Guy is right. Take care of you first. But then I suspect you may go for the whole resto enchilada. Who ate er it will be great seeing you out driving the Sprint Speciale.

  11. First and formost the report on you sounds great, I have no doubt you will be back and in order in no time. We are all with you in your rercovery. On the Alfa, I take it you don’t like the wheels, easy to change, I would get the right ones off the car. I also agree, don’t restore the whole car, but compounding the mis-mash inside does not sound bad, I think I would do the interior, seats, door panels carpet for sure, I don’t know how bad the headliner is, if you think it will be grossly out of place with so much nice stuff below, it might be worth doing, If the windows need to come out for the headliner, so be it, but if not keep them in and don’t worry about a little delamination. And, last but not least, call the state of Oregon get Bradley a waver for a drivers license at 11, I am sure he is a better drive than most already and sure would be a big help to you.

  12. Keith, you could be very happy with the SS as it is. Those incorrect seats are handsome. However, I put correct seats in my scruffy, driver 62 Giulia Spider after it came with Duetto seats. I am satisfied with my great seats and aged paint. Like you, I just don’t want to paint it. Good luck with the rehab!

  13. Just drive your car. It is the driving you enjoy so that is what you should do. I am sure you have other cars you can show! Sometime in the not too distant future, the car we loved will become white elephants. Evidence suggests that the ability for most individuals to do precise mechanical work is becoming very rare. Finding a Porsche technician for air cooled cars is impossible. The car will increase in value so you have something to leave on your way out. In the meantime enjoy the drives and comradery I could never get enough cars. al zim

  14. Glad to hear that you are making progress on your own “wheels:. Very good sign that the Restomod version of Keith will soon be making the rounds.

    As to the SS, The unique wheels and extra Louvers are part of the car’s history and I find them attractive. If you pick up another set of wheels, don’t sell these until they have been in storage at least a year. We’ve all sold bits that are “surplus to our needs” that we later wished we had kept.

    I vote for driving the SS as it is and wait to redo the interior until the boxes of Interior bits have had a chance to nag you a bit about wanting their day in the sun. Once you have the the bits in your possession you will have eliminated the dreaded “waiting for parts” time tax for when you want to go ahead and do it.

  15. A shock when I read about your issue. It happens. I have a somewhat recent EFI heart controller and “get it”.

    Your restoration is THE thing. The Alfa? It’s just a car.. but it has spirit and can be enjoyed as you progress with your important things. You mentioned your left leg is gaining- good. We know that’s what your clutch likes. For that matter, if all else is progressing ahead of your leg you might enjoy learning to master the art of driving without a clutch. Way back my ’54 Speedster daily driver was engineered to break clutch cables. After I figured out starting off without a clutch, then precisely matching revs, I LOVED it so much I almost forgot about “fixing” it.

    Another Issue #1 guy here and I agree to “just enjoy” and worry about your important restoration. If you are enjoying the car you will evolve into whatever feels comfortable. I suspect you would end up using it a lot more if you took those new parts you ordered and stored them for a future owner. That, and just change what you really dislike.

    Mostly, keep having fun… and Keep Going!

  16. Keith: Steady progress is great news. You’re gonna get back to where you were and that’s great so all of us can enjoy your company at the great events we attend. Looking forward to seeing you in August at Legends and elsewhere.

  17. Keith
    We met several times over the years at Monterey when I did the whole week with an ex wife 2004 to 2013. I always admired what you did with and for the hobby. We’re around the same age so a ‘there but for the grace…’ is really resonant. These updates mean a lot to all of us, keep them coming. Anyone who did what you did with the magazine can do this latest challenge.
    Very best, jeff

  18. Have you considered sourcing “gently used” original interior components? Once cleaned and refreshed the used interior will more closely match the exterior.

  19. I’d do the interior – properly with leather and the headliner – and the windshield and anything else that fit with that level of refurbishment. The rest can wait- maybe for the next owner.

    But much more important is your progress – the leg starting to come back is huge! Give it time. Work it but don’t overwork it.

  20. Kieth,
    We have few Alfas in the family:
    -fix the carpet
    -perhaps change the wheels (possibly exchange them)
    -leave the louvres -part of provenance
    and most important GET WELL by avoiding stress.

  21. Replace the carpet and headliner and let the black seats and door cards remain “matching” in black. Good luck with your own personal “restoration.”

  22. Hello Keith,

    Sorry to hear about your health. Keep up the rehab and don’t quit. I am not quite ready to stop watching “Whats my Car Worth”. 🙂

    Get well soon,

    Gino Quad

    1. Forget the car for now. It is just a toy.
      Work on your recovery. As a physician, I can tell you that the more physical therapy you do, the better the long term results. Do more, work harder, and more frequently than they tell you.

  23. Keep ‘er as is. The more $ you put into it, the more it becomes a trailer queen and you’ll fear both driving and parking it.

  24. Hi Keith,i’m the black VW Convertible guy at Eurofest in Greenville…turned 70 last year,used to want the ‘best’ but found I enjoy a good running driver more,nothing like heading out to the garage getting in and driving,my high school car i have had since 1966(an mga twin cam) currently finishing a nut and bolt resto will be used frequently and plan on The Colorado Grand and more like it…drive em while we can still push in the clutch! Used to selll new Alfas ‘in the day’ my vote is to drive it all you can fix only what bothers you!All the best in your recovery,hoping to see you again at the next event loyal SCM’R since 1996,Chuck

  25. Keith — I only recently learned of your stroke. I’m sure that the rehab is slow and tedious, but each improvement rewarding. Keep at it, and do well. All the best — Archie U