For the past 18 months, I’ve blathered on about how I’d drive my 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce once the restoration was finished. It wasn’t going to be a garage queen. After all, it’s just a used car that’s been with my family for many years. The restoration simply marks a new chapter in its life.
But now reality strikes. The total bill for paint, bodywork and chrome was just over $130,000 — which is a lot of money no matter how you look at it. This didn’t include any mechanical work. However along the way, a new wiring harness was installed, and literally dozens of little things that had just worn out or were badly repaired were taken care of.
The condition of the car was much worse, once the paint was removed, than we thought. While there was no rust through, there were pockets of corrosion throughout the entire car that each had to be addressed. Essentially, the car was eating itself alive from the inside out.
The trunk floor was replaced (a major job) and it turned out the right rear fender had been hit long in the past. It had been amateurishly repaired by welding ANOTHER right rear fender over the damaged one.
The cost, all documented with photos and detailed invoices, simply reflects the numbers of hours it takes to completely disassemble and fix everything on a 52-year-old car. And fix it right.
Bill Gillham, the restorer, told me, “You got your money out of this car over the past half-century, as you simply used it up completely.” I think that is a fair comment. You play, you pay.
I had a chance to drive it a couple of weeks ago for a short shake-down cruise, and it was magnificent. The rusted parts of the chassis that were repaired measurably increased the car’s stiffness. It just drove like a proper 101-series Alfa, without the loosey-goosey feeling it had before.
The paint is astounding, and the undercarriage even more breathtaking. I had the restorer bring the car to a 90-point standard (to get to 98 points could have cost another 30%). But even at 90 points, the car stands tall and is sure to a be a prize winner at regional events.
To drive or not to drive
I’ll be picking it up in the next couple of weeks. All that’s left is to have a set of Borrani steel wheels powder coated the correct shade, and we’re ready to go.
But now I have a dilemma. Should I just jump in the car and go on the Alfa Club Old Spider Tour in early April? That’s about 1,000 miles, and would be a great shakedown for the car. At the moment it looks like Bradley will be my co-pilot.
But after that 1,000 miles I will no longer have a 90-point car. I’ll have an 85-point car. The undercarriage will be streaked with oil (no matter how well the engine is sealed). There will be the beginnings of dirt and grime in the engine bay. The carburetors will begin to be discolored from gasoline seepage.
In short, the Spider will be turning into a car again.
I have plenty of Alfas for the Tour — I could easily take the Duetto if I wanted a convertible.
So here’s the question. Do I spend a year showing the car at regional events, and letting others admire just what a six-figure paint job gets you these days? (I’m aware that if I were having the car restored at a California shop the bill could easily have been double — and the work perhaps not as good).
Let the car have its moment of glory in the sun, basking in its recent high-quality restoration. And after that, start using it again, and let it become the 85-point car that cars that are driven naturally become?
This is a conundrum for me, as I have never before had a car restored to this extraordinary level.
Drive it or show it? What’s your opinion?