My 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider Veloce, s/n 390290, left the factory in Arese, Italy, on January 28, 1965. It was one of 1,096 Giulia Veloces built. It was painted the unusual and highly attractive color of Grigio Mare, with a lipstick red/orange interior. It was just a nice used car when I bought it for $22,000 in the early 1990s. Bill Gillham of Jefferson, OR, had performed some rust repair, and the car had been resprayed once in its original color. A few years later, I sold it to a collector in the San Francisco Bay Area for the same $22,000, which was market value for the car then. In 2005, the seller called and asked if I’d like to own it again for $22,000 — which was still market value. Of course, I bought it back. I had the top end of the engine and suspension refurbished by Conrad Stevenson in Berkeley, CA. The bill for that work was around $20,000. I flew down and drove it home to Portland. A few months later, a rod bearing began to knock, and we shipped the car back to Conrad. Another $20,000 later — after a fresh crank and pistons were installed and various other things attended to — we flew down and drove it back again. Over the years, the Giulia Spider and I aged together. I have a picture of my daughter Alex in the car when she was a year old (she’s now 24), and a picture of my son Bradley in it at the same age (he’s now 8). Faithful and loyal, the Spider never let us down. We went on numerous Alfa club tours, on several Monte Shelton Northwest Classic rallies, and drove it to the 2013 Alfa Convention in Rohnert Park, CA. Through snow storms and across deserts, the little Alfa and I made many memories together. Alex asked me to adjust my will and leave this car — out of all my cars — to her.

You don’t want to do that

While the car had a lot of eyeball, there were some things that bothered me. We could never get the passenger’s door to fit properly. Gillham and I have since become good friends, and he has become an internationally known expert at restoring Alfa coachwork. The Spider represented his first-ever attempt at rust repairs, and the patches in the trunk and the rocker work were not up to his current standards. I drove the car to Gillham, and told him I wanted him to make the door fit right, repair the rockers and put in a new trunk floor. “You don’t want to do that,” he said. He explained that while he might be able to repair the rockers without taking the car apart, the trunk was a different matter. The steel trunk floor is welded top and bottom to the upper and lower rear fenders, so you have to cut into the fenders to replace it. To cut into the fenders you have to remove the paint. Once you remove the paint on the rear fenders — well, you see where this is going. It had taken 50 years for the Giulia Spider to earn its patina. In the blink of an eye, I decided to erase it all. I told him to proceed. Once Gillham began, the reports started coming in rapid-fire style. “The rust in the rockers goes into the structure.” “The car was hit in the right rear at some point, and someone just welded another fender over the damaged one. Fixing that will let us get the door to fit right.” “We had to weld up a jig for the car, otherwise it was bending in the middle when we put it up in the air.” The last time I saw the car, it was a bare tub, getting ready to go to the media blaster before being painted. When the car ends up in Alex’s hands, it will be visually stunning and in No Stories, No Excuses condition.
Fifty years of patina eliminated
Fifty years of patina eliminated

But, but, but…

Despite this, I have a sense of lingering sadness. I have abandoned something very special that can’t be re-created. Could I just have had the trunk cleaned up and the rockers attended to as necessary? Or, better, could I just have lived with it the way it was and not done anything? It’s not as if the car was going to break in half or disintegrate into a pile of rust shavings in the next couple of years. And then there’s the cost. So far, my restoration bills total around $20,000, and we’re not halfway done. You do the math. I’ve never taken a car to this state of disassembly before, and the amount of money required is humbling. Some tell me not to worry, as the market value of the car easily eclipses what I will be spending. However, since this car is going to Alex and is not for sale, that’s irrelevant. I don’t get a do-over here. Once the decision was made to strip the paint off the fenders, my 30 years with this car were gone. Every rock chip and scrape it had earned had been erased. The Spider Veloce is becoming a cipher, a four-wheeled Stepford Wife ready to smile and ask me where I wanted to go today, without any memories of where we’d been before. A part of me will always wonder what would have happened if I had listened to Gillham’s objections and responded, “You’re right, Bill. Let’s not take this car apart. Let’s just let it be, and enjoy it for what it is.” Now I’ll never know. ♦

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