Now that our 1961 Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale is coming back to life, we’ve got some questions to address.
The car is an unusual mix of a well-aged mediocre paint job, excellent original chrome and a completely incorrect interior.
From 20 feet away, the car looks terrific. This is why I was attracted to it at the Auctions America Fort Lauderdale sale a couple of years ago.
It had been in a museum for nearly 30 years. The engine was frozen, but the coachwork and chrome were protected from the elements. Consequently, there is no rust in the car, and the nose and tail appear to never have been hit.
Our local expert Nasko rebuilt the entire drivetrain, suspension and brakes. I’ve got about 250 miles on the car, and it’s coming together. The car rode a little rough. Then we discovered that the Pirellis on it were more than three decades old. Yes, they’re being replaced.
I recoil at the thought of stripping the paint off of the car and doing a complete body restoration and respray.
Bill Gillham just did that to my 1965 Giulia Spider. That car had internal and structural rust — and so needed a total. But it still lost a lot of its original story and patina.
The SS doesn’t have the rust issues. So I can leave the paint and body alone.
Three extra louvers were cut into the hood. I’m just going to leave them. If I ever decide to perform a total restoration on it, they can be corrected at that time.
The chrome is surprisingly good. In fact, in appears the bumpers have never been off the car. So they can stay the way they are.
The interior will be redone. It’s simply wrong. The seat patterns, the colors and the fabrics are all incorrect.
There is nothing to be gained by having a car that so far from factory-spec.
I’ve decided to upgrade the seats from cloth to leather, while returning to the original gray with red piping configuration.
The headliner in the car isn’t bad, but once the seats are replaced, it will look aged. So it, along with the sun visors, will be replaced as well. I’ve also ordered a complete rubber kit for the car, and we will replace all the rubber while the glass is out to fit the headliner.
My goal at the end of this process is to have a slightly scruffy — but honest-looking — 57-year-old car. It should run and drive as it did when new. Perhaps it will run a bit better due to the modern cams and 1,400-cc “big bore” kit Nasko installed.
Every old car presents a different puzzle. Over the years, they have all been used and cared for differently. This means there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to restoring them.
We are simply analyzing what we have, and trying to make the best decisions possible to go forward — giving equal weight to preservation and restoration.