I’d like to start following my own advice.
When someone tells me they have acquired a new classic car, one of the first things I say to them is to just leave it alone.
Attend to any basic running and safety issues and have the car inspected. (My 1967 Duetto’s brakes failed 30 miles after I bought the car. This happened while I was descending a curved section of a parking garage exit ramp. It created some excitement.)
But don’t start taking things apart and “upgrading and improving” until you have lived with a car for a while and have a sense of the car’s identity.
I had to restrain myself when our Junior Z joined the SCM collection.
The ex-Gordy Hyde 1971 Alfa Junior Zagato came to us in fine condition. But when I posted pictures of it on Facebook, the immediate response was, “get rid of that modern antenna on the rear deck, and lose the aftermarket (Moto-Lita no less!) steering wheel. People also disliked the “Retrosound” radio that had been professionally installed, and suggested I remove it and find a radio block-off plate – which is what I have in all my other Alfas.
The car also has auxiliary amp and oil temp gauges neatly installed in the center console along with a clock, which irritated some.
My knee-jerk response was to contact restorer Tom Black and get a quote for removing the antenna, welding up the hole and re-spraying the back deck.
Then I researched the steering wheel options. It turns out that the stock wheel for a Junior Zagato is the same simple, two-spoke option that GT Juniors came with. Our mechanic Nasko said he thought he had one buried somewhere, and there were lots of other options available.
But then I started driving the car. It turns out the aftermarket wheel is very comfortable. And I’m enjoying the Bluetooth-enabled stereo, which lets me have Pandora-supplied “Italian Country Music” as I cruise on the backroads of Oregon.
Further, it turns out there isn’t a “factory radio blanking plate” for the Junior Z. Back in the day, you just cut a hole in the dash to install a radio.
After living with the car for a month or so, I’ve come to respect the decisions the previous owner made concerning the car. The changes he made enhanced his driving experience, and they are now enhancing mine.
I like the way the extra gauges look, and they remind me that I’m just the current caretaker of the car. An upcoming owner can take off the antenna, change the wheel and get rid of the gauges.
But for me, these slight modifications are all evidence of the life the car has lived. And I’m not interested in having a garage full of sterile cars with each aspiring towards some type of perfection, instead of being a motorized diary of past experiences.
When you get a car, give yourself and the car a break. Live with it and come to understand why the previous owners made the changes they did. You’ll learn something about yourself and the car in the process.