There are restorations and there are restorations. At one end of the spectrum we find cars where efforts are minimal, as cheaply done as possible and focused on creating the illusion of a nice car -usually attended to with the aim of resale on the internet. At the other end of the spectrum are cars whose owners take on the restoration as a personal challenge and lovingly consider every part, sparing no expense in the pursuit of perfection. George Kraus’s efforts on Giulietta Spider Veloce 10107*167952 are definitely among the latter.
There are two main immigration storylines for late 1950’s/early 1960’s Alfa’s in the US. The majority are a group brought over by Max Hoffman and sold through US dealerships and then there are those with a story like 167952, brought into the US for whatever reason by individuals. 167952 was manufactured in November 1960, used by Alfa for unknown activities then delivered to Lugano Switzerland in January 1962, where a US serviceman bought it, used it for a while -possibly club racing, then brought it home when his station ended. (My SS, 00413, was also delivered to Lugano and bought by a serviceman who eventually shipped it to Oregon -small world).
There have been three primary outcomes for 1960’s Alfa’s in the US: the scrap heap, long term convalescence, and by far the minority, long term careful ownership and enjoyment. George’s car is from the middle group, very much apart and having been off the road for nearly 20 years when he acquired it in 2006.
If you found yourself behind a pick-up truck with a haul like this what would you do? I’d have followed it until it stopped. I wonder if George knew then what I assume he knows now if the packing job would have been any different?
George’s start down the path that ultimately saw him restore 167952 is not an uncommon one. “During one of his many careers my dad was an auto mechanic for over twenty years. While growing up, my friends and I were always at my parents house with our heads under somebody’s hood. I never did a complete restoration until I bought my first motorcycle as an adult. I picked up a 1967 Triumph TR6R 650. I purchased it with the intention of just riding it; not restoring it. During the first week, while trying to start it, the wiring harness caught fire. I jumped off, put out the fire and discovered the fuse had been replaced with tinfoil. There and then I knew I had work to do. One thing led to another and before I knew it the entire bike was apart.” How many of us have found ourselves at this point!
The path he took from this point though is not common at all. “I spent 3 months restoring — replating, re-chroming, repainting, powder coating, and rebuilding every part of that bike. I spent every night through a cold January wire-wheeling every nut and bolt clean.” In short order George had done something few ever accomplish, he finished a restoration, and even more amazing for a first restoration, the bike came out great.
Fast forward a few years and a bunch of professional motorcycle restorations, something he still does on a one a year basis for customers, and George finds himself looking for a challenge of the 4 wheeled kind. I asked him about the search for a car and why a bunch of British bikes didn’t lead to a Big Healey, MGA or some such. “A Healey 100/4 was my first choice. I owned a Healey 3000 for 12 years, many years ago. Loved that car. Put 100,000+ miles on her. I chose an Alfa because I always liked Italian cars but (had) never owned one. Once I start investigating a Mark, I aim for the top. I looked at several Giulietta’s and decided along the way it had to be a Veloce. ” Smart man.
Asked about his approach to restorations, George’s plan is not so different from my own. “My basic rule is start one part of the project, complete it then move on the next part. The Alfa was the first car I have ever completely restored. In the beginning I would go out to my shop, look at what had to be done and not know where to begin.” In addition to the truck load of parts seen above, the body came as a recently painted shell. He says the body and paint had some issues so he made some repairs then had it blocked and reshot.
How great would it be to have this come back from the paint shop! Note the smooth transition of the horizon lines reflected across the side of the car and perfect door gaps. These cars look amazing without a windshield.
Steering idler, fuel filter/regulator, solid fuel line, rebound cable top, you name it, it all looks amazing. Also note the bits of blue tape with labels -these can save a lot of time. Blue coil has been replaced by a more Marelli-looking modern item to satisfy the perfection bug.
George spent 6 hours a day ‘most days’ for 14 months on this restoration. That is about 2100 hours by my estimation. Looking at the level of repair and detailing each part received it’s easy to see how this time must have passed -and if my own experience doing this kind of work is any indication, the time probably flew by. I asked what he was aiming for: “a well-running reliable vintage Alfa. And because it was originally factory black it had to have perfect bodywork.”
I asked about hurdles overcome and he related two incidents that no doubt added some hours to the time this restoration took. He broke a $500 windshield during assembly and one of the liners in the 1400 kit he bought was 12 thou shorter than the others resulting in a built in blown head gasket. I can detect no bitterness in his relating these incidents, seemingly accepting the inevitability of something going wrong during such a complex and delicate undertaking.
Engine work is one of the jobs George originally thought would be difficult. Looks like it was capably handled. I like all those moving blankets. It’s like playing a reverse game of Operation but instead of a buzzer you get an expensive gouge in your fresh paint. Translate that google language tools!
Pretty far along here but I bet if there was an hour counter visible it would show about 1800 hours done. From what I have heard the final details are the most time consuming. I think the dash top would have originally been the same finish as the body, but with paint work this lusterous, a reflection off of the dash could be dangerously blinding.
George says he painted the dash edging and steering column about a dozen times trying different brands and different techniques before he got the result he was looking for, a “a small wrinkle with a consistent even finish.” The dash top only took two tries but his workshop floor is permanently black. I think it was worth it.
Asked about difficulties during the build George relates that the seats and seat tracks were one of the biggest challenges. Seat tracks are scarce when you don’t need them and impossible to find when you do, so he had 5 of the eight pieces fabricated. The car came with a single damaged seat, so a second had to be found -another scarce item. Once all the components were gathered and the seat frames repaired he had them covered with upholstery pieces made from scratch to fit the frames perfectly. The results in the picture above speak for themselves.
So what do you do when you finish an undertaking like this? You drive it of course! There were some teething troubles with the brake shoes not seating and I’m sure some other little details he never mentioned, but at the 2009 Alfa National Concour he made an impressive 98.5 points out of 100. He acknowledges it isn’t perfect, but he steers it ever closer as is evidenced by a recent acquisition -a set of original amber glass front turn signal lenses that took two years to source and an undisclosed “great expense” to procure.
I had to ask of course. “The things I know of were: Ride level too low in front? Plated parts too bright. Wrong screws for headlight rims -I have the correct ones but they aren’t long enough to hold the rim on. Also, I think they said I had little boots on the coil low tension wires that weren’t there as original, but they are correct. That’s all I am aware of. I still took “Best in Class” at the Alfa National Concours, and at the Forest Grove Concours d”Elegance I took “Best in Class” with a perfect score.”
“Plated parts too bright”sounds kind of funny. Time and humidity will take care of that! I wonder how much time would have been added to the restoration if George did his own plating like I do? If I ever show my SS at the end the judges will say “and plated parts of too unevenly matched finish” following a laundry list of other infractions.
What is he going to do now? “I want to get the Giulietta closer to 100 points while still driving her. My intentions with my Alfa are the same as all the restorations I do. To create a “as new or better” vehicle to be used and enjoyed.”
His dedication to the pursuit of perfection is admirable. There are lessons to learn in his approach and discipline, but keep in mind, we all follow our own muse, and not everyone has the funds or is capable of achieving what George has with this car. Compare this path to others -mine for instance on SS 00413, where I flail and rationalize and get caught up in minutia to put off unfamiliar tasks and essentially circle my goal like a patient shark -hopefully getting closer with each pass. It doesn’t matter if you lack the budget or time to go to this length, work on and enjoy your own car to whatever end you see fit and if you do you will respect the work you see here all the more.