Fred Amigo lived in a modest house on 28th Avenue near Quintara Street in the Parkside District of San Francisco. You could see the Pacific Ocean from the back of his home.

I lived eight blocks away at 20th and Taraval.

I first met Fred at an Alfa event in 1969, when I was 18 years old. I owned a 1963 Giulia Spider Normale.

In his two-deep garage he had two Alfas: a Giulietta Sprint Speciale and a Sprint Zagato. At the time, I had no idea what these cars were. They both looked a little weird.

Fred and I became good friends. I recall him helping me drop the transmission on my Spider when I was changing the clutch.

Being too poor to have a floor jack (let alone a proper transmission jack), we used the flimsy stock Alfa Romeo jack to raise the car and put jack stands under it. Then we loosened the bell-housing bolts and slid the tranny back until its input shaft cleared the pressure plate.

With me lying on a creeper, we just eased the tranny out onto my chest. Fred then pulled me out from under the car by my legs.

Fast friends

Fred enjoyed having me be his piloto in the SZ. I ended up driving that car a lot. It was much more fun than my Giulia Spider.

We would go to Reno, NV, to visit the Harrah’s Collection, and then on to Virginia City. I still remember the throaty sound of the dual DCOE2 Webers with no air cleaners.

I was 18, and driving the SZ like my hair was on fire. I had no idea what an extraordinary moment that was. Over the years, I have come to regard it as perhaps having the highest fun factor of any Alfa. It’s fast enough, light and nimble, and it loves diving deep into turns and accelerating out of them.

Spare me

One day Fred mentioned he had acquired a complete spare front suspension and brakes for his SS and SZ. (The SZ was built on the SS chassis.) The brakes were unusual, having three front shoes per drum. The same type of brakes were also fitted to my 1963 Spider.

Somehow, he didn’t end up needing the parts. He offered the spares to me and I took them for my car.

For the past 50 years, this entire front suspension has followed me. It must have gone back and forth between San Francisco and Portland several times. Along the way, I picked up another set of three-shoe front drums. Where or why has now been lost to time.

My Giulia Spider was long gone, but the three-shoe drums stayed in my life.

Fred, too, had passed. His car is now lovingly attended to as a part of the Swig family collection.

Numero uno

In January, I noticed a listing for the first Alfa Romeo SZ, s/n 001, on Bring a Trailer. It was being represented by my good friend Christian Philippsen and his company leBolide.

The car’s provenance was impeccable. It had never been out of Italy and it was a complete, running and driving car.

The bidding stopped at $565k, which I thought was low. The car did not sell, and the auction became just another data point.

Several weeks later, I was at a local Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon meeting. I was chatting with Robert Piacentini, a longtime friend who has for years owned a right-hand-drive 2600 Sprint.

In passing, he mentioned, “I just bought SZ s/n 001 from leBolide after the auction and had it air-freighted to the U.S. I’d like to enter it the SCM 1000. Do you think you will accept it?”

I had to stop for a second, to make sure the THC from my gummy-bear edibles hadn’t just kicked in.

The prototipo SZ was in Portland, owned by a friend, who wanted to enter it in the SCM 1000?

You know my answer.

Drum circle

Another Alfa friend, Bill Daemke, was helping Bob with the car. While chatting at the AROO dinner, Bill mentioned that he had never seen anything quite like the SZ’s unusual three-shoe front-drum brakes.

I said, “I have two sets of those brakes that I’ve had for 50 years.”

“How much?” asked Bob.

As I am in the process of getting rid of stuff, my response was immediate: “If you take one set, I want $2,000. If you take both sets, you can have them for free.” I have always been a clever negotiator.

The next week, Bob and Bill came over to the SCM garage and liberated all four brakes. And, of course, we accepted SZ s/n 001 into July’s SCM 1000. Along with Jay Iliohan’s SZ2 Coda Tronca, we will have a tasty set of vintage Alfa Romeos as a part of the sold-out tour.

I know Bob will enjoy his SZ as much as I did Fred’s. Best of all, the spare parts I have carried around for a half a century have gone to a new and proper home.

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