Both nature and car collectors abhor a vacuum.
In July we bid farewell to our 1972 240Z and our 1967 Alfa Duetto race car. The Z went to an SCM subscriber in Lorton, Virginia, and the Duetto to good friends and SCM'ers Doug Zaitz and Portland's Veloce Motors owner Dan Sommers, who had maintained the car.
This left two empty slots in the garage, space that desperately needed to be filled. Jan Zverina, Senior Manager of Product Communications, Chrysler Group, came to my rescue. Zverina, who has long maintained that SCM understates the value of his restored Series I 4.2-liter E-type coupe, offered to put me on the trail of a 1963 Lancia Flaminia Zagato-but only if fixed-head E-types increased by "at least 1% in the next Price Guide." Being forced to choose between journalistic integrity and an opportunity to acquire a vintage Lancia, we quickly agreed to modify the Guide.
The next day we received an e-mail from Bob Boniface, Chief of Advanced Product Design for DaimlerChrysler. "My father might be tempted to part with his 1963 Lancia Flaminia Zagato. It's a nice little car, 2.8 liters, triple carburetors, and he and I drove it on the 1996 Automobile tour."
I then spoke with the owner, Dr. Ray Boniface, who also happens to be a long-time SCM subscriber. He affectionately described the car and his time with it. At the end of the conversation it had become mine. Breaking all my own rules, I didn't ask for any photos or documentation before firing off a check. In this case, the provenance of the owner was all I needed to make my decision.
Poland, Ohio, is a long way from Portland, Oregon. (Why can't we ever find cars in our own neighborhoods?) Impatiently, we waited, scouring the Web for bits of Flaminia information. Ten days later, when the Passport Transport tractor-trailer arrived, my partner in the car, Bill Woodard, and I fidgeted as a non-running 1970 Shelby GT500 was wrestled out of the way. Then we heard the spin of the Lancia's starter motor, and the sweet, pulsing sound the V6 made as it came to life.
The car is a marvel of technical and visual sophistication, from its all-alloy double-bubble roof to its deDion rear suspension and inboard disc brakes. According to my initial research, S/N 826.132-1007 is one of just 33 Flaminia Zagatos (some say 70, as Italians can never agree on anything) built with open headlights, a double-bubble roof, the 2.8-liter engine and triple Weber carburetors.
It appears to be complete, with no corrosion on the frame. Fifteen years ago, the car was stripped to bare metal and color changed from gray to red, with the dash left the original color. By now, the paint is bubbling in the rockers and a variety of small road scars provide testimony to the use of the car. Overall, its condition is typical of those that run European events and have an alluring patina that comes only from being driven. A host of minor storage-related details, from rebuilding the brake boosters to getting the electrical system to behave, are ahead of us, and we look forward to learning to speak Lanciaese as we dive under the hood.
At first drive, the Flaminia feels very much like the 29,000-mile 1968 Lotus Elan convertible we restored ten years ago, drove on the Northwest Classic Rally and then sold at the second World Classic auction in Tokyo. The Flaminia, like the Elan, has a soft, supple feel to it, with exceptionally light steering.
After 35 years of sports car seat time, I fancy myself attuned to the nuances of vintage cars, especially those from Italy. Having a stable that includes our 1963 Ferrari 330 America, the Lancia and Cindy's 1978 Alfa Spider affords an opportunity to experience each and relish their similarities and differences. The Ferrari is a thundering beast that growls and threatens anything in its path, the Alfa a watersprite that darts and zips, while the Lancia goes about its high-speed gran turismo business in a soft-spoken, almost thoughtful way, and is extraordinarily responsive to driver input.
Perhaps, in the still of the night, behind closed garage doors, these three old friends will find a way to communicate with one another. We've started leaving an open bottle of Chianti on the workbench, and a recording of Franco Corelli, singing "E lucevan le stelle," from Act II of "Tosca," on the CD player. They've come a long way from their birthplaces of Modena, Turin and Milan, and have decades of stories to tell. We hope that they find this small garage in Portland, Oregon, to their liking, and that they are ready to embark upon a new set of adventures together.
The Lancia has already been christened by our ten-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who names each new car as it arrives. One look at the Flaminia's roofline and she immediately proclaimed it "Mr. Bubble." We'll keep you informed as this story unfolds.
ON THE COVER
Argentine artist Alfredo De la Maria is known for his passionate recreations of automotive history. Our cover this month, "Corkscrew Challenge," depicts a closely fought battle in 1959 between now-legendary cars and even-more legendary drivers.
Richie Ginther leads the way in a Ferrari Testa Rossa, pursued by the eventual race winner, Chuck Daigh, in a Scarab Mk II. Carroll Shelby driving a Maserati Birdcage closes in, with a Porsche RSK and a Lister Chevrolet not far behind.
Born in 1945 in Uruguay, De la Maria studied architecture and sculpture in Montevideo. Besides automobiles, he also paints nautical and aeronautical themes, as well as horses and wildlife.
The original oil painting, 31 x 42 inches, is offered for sale by Blackhawk Editions. Prints of "Corkscrew Challenge" may be available in the future. Contact www.blackhawkart.com, 925/736-3444 (CA).