Guest Blog: Peter Conover’s Road to Restorations

Guest Blog: Peter Conover’s Road to Restorations

Peter Conover and his Aston Martin DB MkIIII first became interested in the restoration British cars about 20 years ago when an acquaintance agreed to sell me his long-dormant Triumph TR-6. For that learning experience I did a basic mechanical and cosmetic restoration. It wasn’t a “ground up” restoration, but I learned what was involved. For my subsequent restoration, an Austin Healey 3000, I did do a complete restoration. It was the first time that I ever purchased a car and worked on it for years before I ever had the chance to drive it. It was during the Healey restoration that I met Mark Baker at Sport & Specialty in Durand, IL. Mark and I developed a professional/friendship relationship wherein he allowed me to do as much work on the project as I was able. This not only saved me some labor costs, but more importantly, contributed to my connection with the car.

Before my Healey project was complete, I was already looking for my next project. An exhibit of James Bond cars at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu introduced the notion of an Aston Martin. Research revealed that the prices of these cars were in a whole different league than what I had experienced so far, but confident of my ability to restore an affordable rough example, I set about trying to locate a suitable candidate. In October 2005 I tried to acquire a DB MkIII drophead that was up for auction in the U.K., but was quickly outbid past my limit. However, later that fall, 3 different coupes amazingly came available within a few weeks. The first was in California, the second in Italy, and a third one in Ohio.

As the one in Ohio was most promising, as well as most accessible from Chicago, I went to see it and bought it on the spot. The car had been originally dispatched in January 1958 to a dealership in Los Angeles and evidently spent most of its early years in California. It had been last titled in California in 1992 to an individual residing in Newport Beach. Apparently, sometime after an accident, repair/restoration work was begun, but before the job was completed, the car was sold to someone in Ohio. That buyer held onto the car for over 12 years, without doing any further work on the car, until he decided to sell it in 2005. Although I was able to contact the Ohio owner, I was unsuccessful in my attempt to reach the former owner in California.

After bringing the car to Illinois, I soon realized how much of it was missing. Although I had known that it had no interior (the seats were missing completely) and it had been hit in the rear, it was only through further research that I found out just how much was not there – nothing that couldn’t be replaced, but as there isn’t too much documentation, it would be difficult for me to know exactly how these cars were put together. The more I got into it, the more I felt I needed something to model the pieces on.

Feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse and thinking I might have been better off with one of the other cars, it was suggested to me by Kevin Kay, the Feltham Aston restoration specialist who had been advising me, that I get the California car that I had been considering earlier in addition to the one I already had. After the initial shock of this idea wore off, what he had to say made sense: “First, you could use an unmolested example to build your car by. Second, the MkIII is a rare and sought-after car, and you could sell it when you were done for good money.” As it was still available, we snatched it up. As it turned out, the two cars were very similar: In addition to both being early MkIIIs (with the small taillights), according to the factory build sheets they were both originally Black cars with Red interiors. The big difference was that one now had no interior but intact mechanicals, while the other had a complete (albeit shoddy) interior and the mechanicals apart.

Mark Baker thought it was a great idea. He felt having two cars next to each other would answer a lot of questions that would arise during restoration. The two cars were brought together at Mark’s shop in April 2006: AM300/3/1380 completely dismantled, with body work proceeding, while AM300/3/1391 stood proudly to the side. Many people asked me if I was going to make one car out of the two. Not only did I feel that would be a disservice to this rare model, but I was counting on the proceeds from the sale of the second car to offset some of my expenses on the first. As it turned out, I was made an “offer I couldn’t refuse” on the second car, and sold it before I was completely finished with it.

As the years stretched on, I was dumbfounded on how long the restoration was taking and how expensive it was turning out to be. But having thrown myself 100% into the endeavor, I was determined to see it through. Finally, in July 2011, I brought it home in time to drive it to Elkhart Lake where it made its debut at the Road and Track Concours.


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The 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave

A quick wrap up from my trip to the 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave - in short: another great event, organized this time by the Texas Austin Healey Clubs. A quick wrap up from my trip to the 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave - in short: another great event,...

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Roadog DNA at Sport and Specialty

Roadog DNA at Sport and Specialty

Roaddog Auto FourRoaddog Auto Four

Turns out that some years ago Mark Baker (former S&S owner) rebuilt a BMC A series motor and Austin America automatic transmission for a custom motorcycle. I went to look at it for some work last weekend. It turns out it was for an Auto Four, one of Wild Bill Gelbke’s projects. (For fun Google some of his work!)

For you motorcycle folks, one of Wild Bill’s best known projects was the now iconic Roadog. This Auto Four is owned by Bob Mondo. Bob also engineered and built a Corvair engined bike. Pretty cool stuff!


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The 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave

A quick wrap up from my trip to the 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave - in short: another great event, organized this time by the Texas Austin Healey Clubs. A quick wrap up from my trip to the 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave - in short: another great event,...

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Two Guys and a Blog – Another Successful Shop Visit

Two Guys and a Blog – Another Successful Shop Visit

These two unabashed car guys, Bob Kendall and Larry Noble, came out to the shop yesterday for their annual pilgrimage and quality inspection. Bob posted some musings on his blog; http://pilotesanciens.blogspot.com/ Take a quick peek at some of the work we have in right now.

Love having company stop by the shop, especially when they’re car fans like this. Who’s the fat guy in the black shirt? Thanks guys!


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The 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave

A quick wrap up from my trip to the 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave - in short: another great event, organized this time by the Texas Austin Healey Clubs. A quick wrap up from my trip to the 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave - in short: another great event,...

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Vintage Sports Car Club Luncheon

Vintage Sports Car Club Luncheon

Sport and Specialty - Vintage Austin 7

I went to a great luncheon on Tuesday at D & J Bistro in Lake Zurich with a group of Vintage Sports Car Club members and friends. Food and company was great, and it’s guaranteed that unique and fun cars will show up too. Here’s a few and one of my favorites. Note the three seats in the silver Matra, Dominique’s Citroen is regularly used for road rallies, and Bob Anderson’s Austin Seven is simply a work of art.


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The 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave

A quick wrap up from my trip to the 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave - in short: another great event, organized this time by the Texas Austin Healey Clubs. A quick wrap up from my trip to the 2017 Austin-Healey Conclave - in short: another great event,...

Arizona Auction Week 2017 Wrap-Up

After spending some time studying my new Hammer Price app (a must-have) and going through some of my auction notes for the week, I have come to some of the same conclusions I did last year—some marques did well, and others lost a little ground in value. it...

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Touch It!!!

The majority of our restoration work at Sport and Specialty doesn’t drive or roll into the shop. Most of our work is pushed in on a transport dolly and unloaded unceremoniously in a variety of mismatched wood and cardboard boxes. Sometimes we even see...

The New Sport & Specialty Website is Here!

Last weekend we pulled the trigger and launched the latest iteration of the Sport and Specialty website. All of the digital switches fell into place and with a sigh of relief a year’s worth of effort came to fruition. We had put together a simpler site...

Love to see these kind of smiles!!!

We delivered this beautiful BJ8 Healey to David and Ellen with a mini mechanical restoration. Full engine and all accessories rebuild with a new wiring harness. Good for many more thousands of miles of fun! Read More of My Blog...