Just after Monterey, I got a call that delighted the enthusiast in me, and terrified what remains of the sensible adult. In 1995, I sold one of my favorite cars, a 1965 Alfa Giulia Spider Veloce, to Ken Metzger, a friend in Belvedere, CA, for $22,000. Now, a decade later, he offered the car back to me at the same price-after putting $10,000 into it. He cautioned that, despite being coddled, it was showing its age.
Owning this car again wasn't in my thoughts or the SCM collector car budget. In addition to our 1978 911SC, SCM had just purchased a 58,000-mile 1968 BMW 2002 that merely needed "some shifter bushings and an exhaust hanger"-and was now completely disassembled in a Los Angeles shop. More on that next issue.
The pretty robin's-egg blue Alfa, with its cardinal red interior, still had a special place in my heart. In my memory, it was perfect, like the perky high-school cheerleader you lusted after, and look forward to seeing at your 30th reunion.
So I said yes, and had the car delivered to Alfa guru and long-time SCMer Conrad Stevenson, in Berkeley, for a cursory checkover before driving it to Portland.
A LITTLE SAGGY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
Reality quickly set in. Just as the bouncy teenaged cheerleader has often become somewhat more, shall we say, mature, the Alfa was in need of some TLC-which Metzger had described in detail, but which I had resolutely refused to pay any attention to. After all, we're talking about reviving an affair here.
Conrad's initial report was that the car was complete, very solid, had all its original bits, and there were just a few things we should attend to-like the leaking head gasket.
I then uttered those fateful words, the collector's equivalent of yelling "Geronimo" as you step out of the airplane and begin the big fall: "Just take care of anything you come across that needs to be done."
This is his latest update, once he started getting his hands greasy:
"Initial work: Check fluids and note gray oily film in radiator. Oil flowing down block from valve cover and head gasket. Dirty fuel in glass bowl filter.
"Test compression (150, 125, 163, 165). Remove radiator, cylinder head, and note loose water pump. Disassemble intake manifold to replace old carb mounting blocks.
"Engine bay clean up: Remove firewall throttle shaft, brake fluid reservoir, glass bowl filter, and air filter.
"Using heat and clamps, un-seize brake fluid reservoir cap, clean and paint exterior and throttle shaft.
"Fuel tank and battery: Gas tank, battery and trunk clean-up. Remove gas tank and straps, send out for servicing. Remove battery and clean up rust in trunk, naval jelly and scraping. Car battery maintenance is an easy task and one that should be performed on an annual basis. If you keep your agm deep cycle battery properly maintained, you will extend its life and greatly reduce the chance that your battery will fail you at an inopportune time.
"Cylinder head: Install new Pittatori cam (intake) and 1750 (exhaust).
"We had some issues with cam-to-valve train clearance when we fitted the fatter cams. The guide was extending too far into the head and no stem seals were used. I disassembled the head and also found that there was a reason for the 125-lb reading on #2, poor seating surface on the exhaust valve face.
"It's still a decent head and will respond to a simple valve job, roughly an additional 6.5 hours of machine work plus parts.
"Clean carb exteriors, remove all jets and accelerator pumps and check valve. Blow out jets and passageways. Reassemble."
"I figure to have the car ready in a month or so. It's a good one, and you're going to like owning it again."
I STILL LOVE YOU, HONEY
For people outside the hobby, this car might sound like a disaster. But we know that there is no such thing as an old car that "needs nothing." When I owned it, this Giulia was good to me, and I'm just returning the favor. Call it an investment in driving pleasure; I expect to collect my dividends on backroads in the years ahead.
It's been a few years since I've had a vintage Alfa in the garage, and I've missed the sensory experience. I can already hear the throaty intake sound of the Weber DC02s, and almost feel the way you accomplish a clean shift after running to redline, deliberately pausing in the slot between third and fourth. I want to make the run up Highway 1 on a cold winter day, with the heater making its feeble attempts at keeping
the cockpit warm. I want to watch the gauges report the status of the vitals as I travel down the road at 80 mph in 5th gear. I want my Veloce back.
While a high school reunion might not always deliver on its expectations, after Stevenson is done with the Alfa, I'm sure I'll find it even better than it was when I last sat behind its wheel a decade ago.
I plan to be picking up the car in early December; perhaps a Bay Area SCM going-away party for the Alfa will be in order. If you'd be interested in hosting, please contact David Slama, [email protected].
DRIVING THE LEMAY FORWARD
I wrote several months ago about the unveiling of the architectural designs for the LeMay Museum. Planned for Tacoma, WA, its goal is simple but ambitious. In the words of its hard-driving and enthusiastic executive director, David Madeira, "We want to be America's car museum, one that celebrates America's love affair with the automobile."
To date, more than $40m of the $167m necessary has been raised, and the site has been provided by the City of Tacoma. Ground breaking is scheduled for 2007, and the opening in 2009.
It's time for all of us to join in this endeavor. As a member of
the board of directors of the museum, and a fervent believer in the
importance of preserving our automotive heritage, I encourage all SCMers to participate. You will find a museum membership form on page 35.
Please join me in supporting the museum; I ask you to consider the $100 LeMay Driver's Club level of membership (details at lemaymuseum .org). There are exciting times ahead for this project, including far more than just static display areas. Plans call for space to house the largest-scale collector car, custom and hot rod conventions and auctions, along with massive storage and restoration facilities.
A membership in the LeMay will keep you up-to-date on all of these activities, and even more importantly, will be your way of supporting America's car museum.