Keith’s Blog: The Spider Veloce – Show it or Drive it?

 

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?

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.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

45 comments

  1. Keith: Since this car is a family heirloom… “Now in its third generation of ownership… you absolutely must “just jump in the car and go on the Alfa Club Old Spider Tour in early April with Bradley as your co-pilot”. You’re blessed to have the opportunity to pass this heirloom onto him… when he’s ready.
    Envious!

  2. Money comes and it goes Keith. What doesn’t always return is the opportunity to have time to share something like this with your son, at his age. Everything turns to rust eventually. Get out and enjoy that car now, while you have the chance. It may not come around again. And by all means show it. But show it as a beautiful Alfa rebuilt to be driven.

  3. For me, it was always start driving it….adjust things….have fun….then detail the the car before the show…..My Cobra won best sports car at THE ELEGENCE AT HERSHEY…AFTER DRIVING IT 1500 MILES FOLLOWING IT’S RESTORATION 😎

  4. Drive it…let your daughter restore it again in 15 years…BTW, it will have been well cared for during that time so restoration will not be the same challenge…

  5. Well… my brother John is my hero: he had a ’47 Tatra T87 fully restored by pros and then proceeded to drive it to the Arctic Ocean (LOTS of gravel roads!), then the Pacific, and Atlantic. And then drove it back across the country to show it on the lawn at Pebble!

  6. Drive it Kieth. For me it’s all about the drive. Yes the car shows, auctions and clubs are fine but if I only had one choice it would be the drive. So I will take advantage of the open road while I can. You never know in the near future self driving Tesla’s and Google people movers will fill the roads. Then you will only be able to enjoy it on a closed road vintage run. So drive it and enjoy it.

  7. Only two choices. You may be thinking drive or not drive, Nope.
    It’s drive or sell. Why torture yourself with it just sitting there.

  8. You have turned back the calendar on the Alpha and it’s good to go for future generation(s). I would suggest full enjoyment comes from both viewing and using.

  9. I would normally say drive it on the tour. However, after that much money I would show it a few times – You can always drive it next year. You have other Alfa’s for this year

  10. Two years to bask in the glory. Mark your calendar. Then drive and enjoy. It will eventually be an 85 point car anyway.

  11. You’ve kept this car to drive it because you love it, not because you want to win a cheap trophy–or even a fancy trophy. The money is a sunk expense and you knew that going in.

  12. The car was made to be driven, that’s what you should do. You will get more enjoyment out of driving it than showing it.

  13. Keith: Show it 3 or 4 times, collect some trophies and photo memories, then it will be ready to be driven for more decades by you and Bradley.

  14. I would enjoy the rare opportunity of having a true 90 point car. Show the car and reap the accolades, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Then drive the car with no regrets!

  15. Oh, drive it. Not sure I’d take it on a tour THAT long. Plus, you know it’s going to strand you on the tour, just to get even with you for painting it.

  16. Which will bring you the most pleasure? I’d probably take it too a few shows first, and then drive it. As you stated you have other Alphas you can take on the tour, drive this one next year.

  17. Any 1960’s automobile that is worth $130k with the letters Alfa affixed involved a heavy emotional component. I don’t think you’ll know until the last minute yourself.

  18. I like the strategy of showing it for a season or two and then begin using it for tours and other driving events. If it was your only collector car, the decision would be tougher. But since you have the Duetto, you have your ride for the Old Spider Tour. I have found that it is nice to have cars in my collection with varying levels of cosmetic quality: for some events you need a “beater”, while others require serious concours cred.

  19. In my opinion this much work rates being shown – for awhile. Show it so everyone can appreciate what has been accomplished then drive it and enjoy it.

  20. Show it then drive it. You’d be having two great, but different, experiences with the same car and you’d be getting the best of both worlds.

  21. I think you’ve answered your own question by restoring it to 90 points. Had you gone to 98, you would have essentially restored a piece of art, and at that level, the art supercedes the mechanical object. Drive it, and enjoy the restoration.

  22. I suppose racing it is out of the question? A man with so many Alfas should have one for each extreme. 1. Tour. 2. Show. 3. Race. Then you have the “full” experience of his chosen obsession 😀

  23. Funny how these projects take on a life of their own and in your case $130K and climbing. The wheels still aren’t done, then there will be new tires. And after driving it a bit on a rare dry day in Portland in late winter, you may find a few more things that require tweaking. If it were me, I’d take it on a trophy tour via trailer, to all of the meets and concours events you can, and then after storing it properly next winter, begin to drive it next year. If not thoughtfully driven and maintained, the car will deteriorate in storage probably quicker than if it’s carefully used. Reminds me of a favorite saying, author unknown, “A ship is safest in port, but that is not where a ship is meant to be.”

  24. This will be the only time to show the car. So show it this season then enjoy the snot out of it until your son has to spend twice as much for the next restoration.

  25. $130k…plus?…a true testament to the fact that we do not ‘do this’ but out of pure passion and love for these never-to-be-produced-again works of art. In the last three years I, too, poured twice its value into my car (as published in your recent SCM Pocket Price Guide). I face a similar conundrum. I’ve been invited to the Milwaukee Concours d’Elegance and, inasmuch as I want to drive and enjoy my little British beast, I am hesitant to do so since I have requested it be Judged. What this means is that I will lose two thirds of Wisconsin summer driving so as not to soil the car or chip the paint. At age 67, the number of years I have left to drive the car become ever more important and, should I expire even sooner than would be considered “normal,” it only make the case even stronger to simply drive and enjoy the car but, I’m still undecided. Granted, I did not invest $130k into my 1970 Triumph GT6+ but I probably would have had it been necessary.

    While I’m on the subject of the GT6, I might as well vent a bit. This Giovanni MIchelotti designed masterpiece is the most undervalued, under recognized and under appreciated of all British Sports Cars. It is deeply puzzling. Of the over 1,200 cars Michelotti designed, the Triumph GT6 and its Little Sister the Triumph Spitfire were his personal favorites. Michelotti’s body of work is nothing short of jaw-dropping. It included beautiful designs for Alfa, Lancia, Alpine (A110), Maserati, BMW and so may more…and lest I forget, 192 designs for a gentleman by the name of Enzo. I do wish someone (Keith) would please take a good close look at the Triumph GT6. Although diminutive, it is stunningly beautiful from every angle and it had a laudable racing history as the 1969 and 1970 SCCA E-Production champion.

    I wish you luck in making your (difficult) decision.

  26. What gives you greater pleasure? Standing around a Car Show answering familiar questions or driving with your Son on a new adventure with other like minded Friends all with the wind in their hair?

  27. Hi Keith,

    Bill Gillham performed the same magic on my 65 Spider Veloce so I share your joy and pride. I believe that we are similar in that we are motorists with an over dose of appreciation for our vehicles’ mechanical and aesthetic perfection. Let’s face it, the car will always be appreciated at shows but will not be competitive against the q-tip P-cars and F-cars in any major event. At your 85 points, it will still be one of the top dogs in any regional Alfa event. It had been 15 years since my own Spider Veloce was finished. I enjoy driving it, always get adoring comments and still do quite well at regional shows to this day. Memories of a drive puts a smile on your face. A trophy on the shelf only means more dusting.

  28. As oft happens with cars we love, restoring the Alfa was an emotional decision. Making that decision with a dollars and sense approach may have had a different outcome.

    $130,000 was spent to achieve an estimated 85% concourse result compared to a Median Value of $74,400 in the latest SCM Pocket Price Guide. This was not a rational decision, but an emotional one which raises the question: Will you get $55,600 worth of pleasure driving it down to Median Value? If the answer is yes, by all means drive it in pursuit of more memories. If not, fill out the consignment sheet to the most appropriate auction you’re scheduled to cover on “What’s My Car Worth,” and move on.

  29. Drive it. It’s a car it’s beauty comes through when the engine roars and you feel the lateral G forces.If you want art, sell it and buy a Calder.

  30. Just drive the car and get some soul back into it……forget it’s value and condition……..I have cars worth more than $1 million and drive them all the time and devalue them. 1965 289 Cobra and 1959 Carrera GT speedster 4-cam. It’s just a car…

  31. These cars are meant to be enjoyed on the road. After the restoration of my 59′ Spider Veloce, I couldn’t wait to experience the thrill of driving it and feeling it. Era meraviglia!

  32. What a coming out party for the Alfa driving on The Old Spider Tour! Drive it for sure. Felix gave you the right answer. And this time I will try to get you off my rear bumper (’74 2L) ripping down Bake Oven Road at “spirited” speed!!

  33. If you bought a $130,000 new car, you would probably drive it. Why wouldn’t you do the same with your renewed car?

  34. Hey Keith:
    I guess it comes down to how much you love shows and gathering trophies. Life is short and getting shorter with every passing day. Enjoying the rides in your favourite Alfa with Bradley and others in your family seems like the kind of memories that will last forever.

  35. Enlightening! I have a hard time selling my very nice fully documented restorations for $130,000 including the car! What is wrong with this picture! People buy restoration projects with high hope and unrealistic expectations of what it takes to bring these back to a 90 plus point car only to realize that they would have done better buying that nicely restored car that first crossed their minds. I find the idea of a 100 point car completely absurd, a sample of endless insanity. http://www.thegiuliettasho.com

  36. drive it… and enjoy it… what is the alternative… look at it in the garage and have others look at it as well ??

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