When Margaretanne and I married and bought our house in 2001, we enjoyed having family and friends visit. As happens in any relationship, I would meet and get to know her friends, and she would do the same with mine. One such friend of my wife’s was Pam. Margaretanne and Pam knew each other from work, and although they no longer worked together, they remained (and still remain) good friends.
One warm summer day, a year or two after moving in, Pam came by to visit. I happened to be out in the garage, tinkering with the 1957 BMW Isetta. Pam noticed me and the old car through the open garage door, and in a most casual tone said, “you should meet my father, he likes old cars too”. Pam had no idea what that one comment started.
A year later, while attending a party at Pam’s house, I finally did meet her dad. “Pete” was a very soft-spoken and gentle sort, in his late 70’s and long retired. Upon meeting, we both wanted to learn what we could from each other about our passion and our collections. By this time I had acquired the 1968 Ford Mustang California Special, so with a new toy in the garage, I proudly told Pete about my most recent efforts with this rather rare car.
During the first half of that decade, Pete and I saw each other frequently enough. We met several times in New Jersey, both at Pam’s house and at my place, where Pete saw my two collector cars. We would also meet to exchange pleasantries if we were both at Hershey. The more I got to know Pete, the more I enjoyed his company, and the more I learned about his incredible knowledge on many topics.
Pete had several times extended an invitation to visit him and his wife. During the summer of 2005, we took him up on his offer and made a day trip to their place. The original plan was to drive the Mustang (with an inoperative air conditioning system), however, the day was so hot and humid that we took our Volvo – we needed that A/C! Arriving at Pete’s house, the first car to catch my eye was his Alfa Romeo. The dark green Giulia coupe, a Bertone styling masterpiece, was a model I had coveted for decades. Pete’s car was in stunning shape, not perfect, but an obviously well cared-for automobile.
We exchanged hellos in the yard. The next words to pass my lips were to be frequently repeated during the following eight years:
Richard: “Pete, sell me this car.”
Pete: “No, it’s not for sale. I’m getting it back on the road after a long slumber.”
It was then that I first heard the story of how he acquired the Alfa. The car had been purchased new in Germany by an American working for the U. S. State Department. That individual brought the car back to his home in the U.S. when it was a year old, and soon sold it to Pete. Pete drove the car regularly as his “fun” car throughout the late ‘60s and most of the 1970s. The car was then mothballed for about 20 years, to be resurrected again starting in the late 1990s. Brakes, fluids, battery, and tires were some of the more obvious items needing attention. But by 2001, Pete had begun driving the car again, first to local shows, then to Hershey, where it won its HPOF (Historical Preservation of Original Features) award. The Alfa I was admiring had never been painted, disassembled, or restored. It was truly an original car.
Pete: “C’mon, let’s go for a ride. You can drive the Alfa.”
He didn’t need to ask twice. While the ladies stayed home, Pete and I took a spin in the Alfa (officially a European spec “GT 1300 Junior”), and it was sublime. With 100 horsepower pulling 2,000 lbs., it wasn’t fast, but was not slow. Light on its feet, the steering, brakes, shifter, and suspension all felt directly connected to each other and to the driver. In some ways, it reminded me of my 1993 Mazda Miata. Although I didn’t ask again that day, I knew I would keep working at Pete to someday sell me this car.
Pete got a chance to drive my 2005 Volvo S60, and as a Volvo owner himself, marveled at how different it was (mostly in good ways) compared to his older Volvo.
My wife and I had a long ride home in front of us, and Pete said that I was welcome back at any time.
Made a mental note to myself: next time, bring checkbook.
All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.