Unless you’re handier than I am, owning old cars means you’re going to spend significant blocs of time in your life with mechanics. Which is no bad thing; they can be a pretty entertaining bunch. For nowhere are the virtues of patience and adopting a good-humored, philosophical bent in life more apparent than when you fix old, obscure, and often frustrating machinery for a living. These machines undoubtedly try somebody’s patience yet they’re pretty long on inherent interest to me as a passerby, and especially when I’m not responsible for fixing them or paying the bills.
That’s one of the things I like about going to Domenick’s European Car in White Plains, New York. The company’s always good—siblings Frank, Vera, and Santo Spadaro work together with a dedicated staff and bring completely different skills and warmhearted personalities to the job. The proprietors will fix you an espresso if you’d like, other customers are suitably nuts, and there’s always a busy turnover of fascinating old cars moving in and out. You really never know what you’ll find.
Actually, to be fair, I do know some of what of I’ll find there—my cars. That’s because several of them are in residence at any given moment and a few never leave. Today, that describes the 26,000-mile 1987 Bertone X1/9, I just dropped off after trailering it directly from its old home in Massachusetts with a supremely brawny diesel GMC Sierra 2500HD, in for a master cylinder, timing belt, tires, and we’ll see what else. Then there’s the 1970 Jaguar XJ6 Series 1 2.8 manual overdrive whose deep tissue mechanical refresh will soon be going into its third year. In still frostier freeze, down in the basement, lies a single-carb Swedish market 1967 Volvo 210, awaiting the installation of its already rebuilt motor and overdrive gearbox. It’s going on 10 years now, but that’s nothing next to a 1963 Lancia Flavia PF coupe, which hasn’t run in two decades, only ten of them here. But I still mean to return it to the land of the living while self-driving’s still legal. With the help of the Spadaros.
One day they’ll get to them, but long delays suit my budget. And anyway there’s always something more insane or exotic here to consider or upon which to let your imagination float away, someone else’s charming, beguiling, technically fascinating, exquisitely wrought nightmare and money pit. Such for instance could be this 1937 Lancia Aprilia Zagato, in for a final re-fettling following a less than fully-resolved rebuild of a recreation of a coachbuilt streamliner built on a small car chassis by the great Italian carrozzeria a long time ago. Looks kind of great in a nutty way but the final engineering left something to be desired—a radiator that did not cool being one example.