John's Garage

John’s Personal Passion for Vintage Sports and Racing Cars

My Blog

With a Little Help From My Friends

With a Little Help From My Friends

  Ten years used to feel like a lifetime, these days it seems like the blink of an eye. (except for April 2020, it felt like a lifetime—but I digress.) My ten-year ownership of Sport and Specialty has been equal parts fun, aggravation, gratification, and...

read more
The Proper Color for the Car

The Proper Color for the Car

There was a story I read some years ago that Ford had a computer program that wouldn’t allow them to order and build a car with odd looking interior and exterior color combinations. In the restoration business we are those computers. When customers bring their cars to...

read more

My Cars – Blasts from the Past

Since I wasn’t much of a camera guy before iPhones, I don’t have a ton of pictures of many of the cars I’ve had and loved in the past. My first British car was a ratty TR3, (not as nice as the picture I’m using here) followed by some American iron, a 69 Road Runner and then a Pontiac Grand Am, (which had a four speed) because I had to get to work in the mornings. I had an MGB in the late 70s that I loved, mostly because I had a huge Ford LTD company car for every day use. My territory sales career pretty much dictated I have a reliable and easy to use vehicle, which was a baby crap brown 1977 Impala with a tan vinyl top. I drove that car with a bag over my head, but it ran every day and never failed me.

Once I started traveling mostly by plane I bought a BMW 320i. I had been a BMW geek since forever, and could finally afford something fun again. This started my love affair with BMWs resulted in owning at least eight, not including the MINI Cooper S, which is a debate for another time. Anyway, here are some of the favorites that I have pictures for. Somewhere is there is also an S10 Blazer that I used as a Winter car when I had the Porsche 944 Turbo which totally sucked in the snow. 50 / 50 weight distribution tended to make it a nicely balanced propeller when it was icy. There were a few more, but none worth mentioning. These were the fun ones, take a look. I’ll add more as I find them.

1955 Austin Healey 100-4 Le Mans

1955 Austin Healey 100 LeMans (Modified) This beauty was started over a decade ago for an out of state customer whose health began to wane. We held onto the car for some time hoping to finish it, but I got the call that he wished to part with the project. I stepped up as it started as a very solid car and had many upgrades already done.

The body fabrication and engine was finished, with the chassis already painted in classic black. Some of the suspension and the rear suspension had been started also. The exterior was finished to 600 grit, but still needed some attention. This gave me a really good start to build a really nice and fun 100.

As most of my personal cars have been built, I wanted to be able to both show this car, as well as use it comfortably. The build is to concours standards, bit with some modern updates and M Spec upgrades that could have been added to this solid BN1.

A list of the upgrades incorporated:

  • Fresh M Spec David Brown engine build with 100-S cam
  • Complete “M” Le Mans Kit, carbs, hood, strap, etc.
  • Westlake aluminum head
  • Aluminum back plate
  • Spin on oil filter with Dennis Welch cooler
  • Aluminum radiator with upgraded fan.
  • Aluminum fuel tank
  • BN2 trans with OD (Have original 3 speed)
  • Upgraded HD clutch linkage
  • Front disc brake upgrade
  • Alfin rear brake drums
  • Dennis Welch HD front and rear sway bars
  • New close ration steering box
  • 16” Mahogany Derrington Steering wheel
  • Cast aluminum Dunlop wheels with three ear spinners
  • John Skinner UK interior and boot upholstery
  • John Skinner UK Stay Fast top and tonneau
  • New and restored wiring, switches and gauges
  • 12 volt battery upgrade with tray.
  • Bumper delete with Lucas 700 driving lights
  • Oil cooler vent in shroud.
  • Lucas Le Mans headlamps
  • 100S style hood pins
  • Most trim is original and re-chromed or polished
  • Windshield integrated side view mirrors

I’m very proud of this car and the work the great Sport and Specialty staff has done and enjoy showing and driving it.

1967 Austin Healey 3000 BJ8

A customer contacted me who had tired of the BJ8 project he had started, and wanted to know what the value might be. We had helped him straighten out some issues and delivered the car to him as a family project. As it turned out, what the family really wanted to do was go racing, and finishing the Healey was not a priority anymore. There was still tons of work to do, but we had done all of the body and paint work over a brand new Kilmartin chassis. In essence, this is a brand new 3000. We came up with a price, and Ryan and I picked up the car the following week. Progress was slow, as my stuff usually comes last.

The car is Old English White over the blue coves and has a blue cloth top and blue leather interior. Except for my usual detail and dress up, the engine is essentially stock. I installed a five speed also. The transmission and OD on this car were really hopeless, and I wanted to learn a little more about the conversions, as the car won’t be AHCA concourse judged anyway. The build is concours quality, with a few non-stock enhancements and the blue cove accents. She is a joy to drive, rock solid, no shake, and wonderful looks.

1971 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Kamm Tail

Being an Alfa GTV racer I have a huge respect and affection for this chassis design. This car was originally purchased by a friend who dove into ownership with more affection than practicality. The car spoke to him very alluringly, but was really a mess. We did a lot of work on the car initially when he first acquired it to simply make it safe. Suspension, rubber, tuning, etc., the usual for one of these. It had a “custom interior” and some sketchy “restoration” work done, but he loved it and drove it with a huge grin on his face, which was all that mattered. Unfortunately, the motor gave way late one summer. I rebuilt the engine and got it back to the shop near his house that was to re-install as we were swamped.

While this was occurring, my friend’s health took a turn for the worse, and he passed away. His lovely wife called me and asked for some help valuing the car. I knew how much work had been done by us, but also knew it would be a long haul sale with many low ball offers. As I know the value of my work, I made a fair offer and now own this car.

These are pretty rare as only about 4800 were made until Alfa switched to the 2000. I ended up with new floors and a new rocker panel, fresh hood and deck lid and upgraded paint. We installed a fresh new interior to include rubber and chrome bits, etc. The suspension has been upgraded with new springs and Konis, and a limited slip differential from a 1978 has been installed. With the GTA wheels and Dunlop tires, I’m hoping to really use this little beauty. I think my friend Dave would approve.

1993 Caterham Seven Super Sprint

I must confess to having a longtime crush on these cars. This was before Caterham had bought the rights to Colin Chapman’s minimalistic design. For some reason the proportions, height and general pedigree caught my attention at a very early age. (As did the BMW 1600 Alpina, but that’s another story, and explains why I’ve owned so many BMWs.) After I bought Sport and Specialty I ended up owning two AH 300 race car projects, one was Mark’s, and the other mine, Each in different staged of completion. I was trying to interest a friend in my project, which had most of the new, cool and high ticket pieces, but needed to be totally assembled. Instead, we struck a deal to trade for a 1993 Caterham Seven that had basically been raced since new.

I already had two race cars (GTV and Sprite) but really got interested when I was told the car had all of its street trim removed when new to go racing. Hmmm, I thought, street seven with track creds. I’m in!! The exchange was made and I was reminded once again why race cars are lousy on the street. It had a steel Tilton button clutch and a 1600 X Flow that wouldn’t idle or make power under 4500 RPM. But who cared? I installed the street gear and drove it around until I hated it. Basically that was my initial plan anyway. For fun I re-installed the race gear and hit a track day and went to a V/H race with MCSCC. Apparently the gauges were accurate and it was really hot. After cooking a rod bearing and a nice billet crank, I got serious. I planned and built a street / track motor and the car currently has a solid (139 hp) 1600 X Flow motor that runs on 93 octane, idles happily, and can be launched at any light. Still sorting it a bit, but it will be loads of fun next season. See you then.

1983 Mercedes 380 SEC – AKA Christine

In 2011 Bill Oakes called and asked if I knew of any Mercedes geeks who might be interested in an older coupe that needed some work. I asked him what it was, and he told me it was a 380 SEC. I remembered those cars from road tests and asked how many miles this one had. When he replied 39,000 or so, I wanted to look at it right away. The only rub was that it had been sitting for a few years and had been popped in the left front. We went to look and it was pretty nice except for the damage.

These cars were $50K plus in the day and parts are still dear so I wanted to be careful about needed repair costs. After some homework, I made an offer and located a car that had been popped in the rear down in St Louis. After some much needed maintenance and clean up, “Christine” was back on the road. The only car I have ever named, and so named after the Stephen King book about a car that fixed itself. Indeed, after driving her for a while, Christine’s electrics and climate control pieces started working again.

This car was my daily driver for a few years. She still has her original spare and tool kit in the original plastic bag. When there is a long drive to a motorsports or classic car function, this car is just great for making the long run.

1969 Alfa Romeo GTV

Shortly after starting my vintage racing obsession, I met John Wheeler. John and I became fast friends, and we have been racing together for almost twenty years now. John has been racing his 1973 Alfa Romeo GTV for about twenty-five years. Looking at his car in our paddock brought me down the Alfa path. I figured it would just be a matter of time that I would buy one. Plus we could race against each other as opposed to me pointing him around me near the end of the race.

I acquired this car from a fellow VSCDA / MCSCC racer in 2008. The car was pretty solid, and I knew who had started the build some years before and had faith the car would be a good platform to develop. I once again took it apart and virtually started from scratch. It’s a 2 liter car with a Giken close ratio gear set prepped by Mike Besic, who also set up the rear end. I have been building the engines using Paul Spruell sourced pistons and parts for the car which have usually come in at the mid 180s range in dyno HP. The suspension is basically stock, with new Ward and Deane components at the front and rear. The brakes also are basically stock with ATE calipers and Porterfield pads. I also installed a Tilton pedal set up from Paul Spruell to move the pedals to the firewall.

The Italian flag paint job on the nose was done in my garage before I bought Sport and Specialty, and shows it. I initially painted the nose red to manage all the chipping, since I couldn’t match the yellow paint, but really didn’t like it alone. I added the green and white and the car now has it’s own flavor and identity. I truly love racing this car. Alfas have a very special feel. They respond like no other car I’ve driven. The harder you push them, the better they react. If the car understeers, simply add more power and turn into the apex. Then you wipe the grin off your face and pay attention!

1972 BMW 2002

My close friends and racing associates, Jim and Lynn Waldman campaigned this car for many years, Jim in ITB and Lynn in Vintage / Historic with me in Midwestern Council. When Lynn became pregnant she continued for a while, but eventually the 02 went into storage. Fast forward almost twenty odd years, and their daughter Andrea is now in college. After a few inquiries as to the 02s current status Jim relented and allowed me to make him an offer which he accepted and put me into my first BMW race car. I’ve had many street cars, but a new chapter is here.

This is a really solid car that had many “lot rot” issues. It sat too long, needing to be thoroughly cleaned, freshened and updated. Everywhere. The motor started right up though, which I will always be grateful for. Big win! All of the fuel system, suspension, brakes, hydraulics, tires, and the subframe components have been removed and restored. Virtually all of the rubber was petrified simply due to age. The underpan and chassis have also been rust proofed and painted. The floor has been cleaned and painted, new safety equipment installed.

The body work included the replacement of a rotted rocker panel, paint freshened where needed, and repairs of the many ITB wounds it has suffered. It is a good looking and performing car for that will be campaigned in 2022 season. Follow along for even more changes as we race.

1965 Porsche 356C

I received a call from a gentleman that had recently come into possession of a 356C, but didn’t know much about them. He wanted to know what it may cost to restore it, and/or just get it running to simply drive. His location was on my way home, so I stopped and took a look. It was very rough as some of the pictures show, and hadn’t run since 1973, when the clutch failed. (Junior year in Maine South High School for me).

It was a real time capsule (and health hazard due to the mold and funk), but was complete. It had been used for many rallies, both in Winter and Summer as the plentiful rust illustrates. The cost to restore the car exceeded what the gentleman thought was reasonable. He wasn’t really a Porsche guys, and preferred the pickups he was working on. I made him a reasonable offer, and after some haggling, we came to terms and I bought this car. Since taking possession I have documented much of the car, to include the garbage and cigarette butts. (Tareytons!)

The original owner took possession of the car in Germany as indicated by the service sticker linked to a German VW / Porsche dealer near a US base there. The second owner lived in Rockton Illinois and was a member of the Madison (WI) Sports Car Club. All of the rally plaques have been saved, and the instruments and radio have been preserved as used. The car is currently preserved and I intend to restore to original and use the car as much as possible. These are really stout cars and this one deserves to get back on the road.

1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider Veloce

Owned by a long-time friend and member of North Suburban Sports Car Club, Ross Fosbender, John bought this car from his wife Cheryl in 2019. A mishap many years ago sent the car to the garage where it was parked for some time. This car is # 853 out 1,019 produced that year. It will be returned to grey with a red interior and a black cloth top.

1960 MGA 1600

This car was found by Ken and rescued for restoration attention. Affectionately known as the $500.00 MGA (as the owner was just happy to get it out of her back yard) the body of this car was very straight and no major chassis work was needed. The stock wood floors helped. It will be returned back to black with a red interior and grey top and tonneau.

1963 Austin Healey 3000 BJ7 Race Car

Fifteen years ago Mark Baker and I set about to build two 3000 race cars. We worked out a deal, and planned to build the cars with fresh chassis components from Kilmartin in Australia. We worked out a complete and aggressive build spec for the two cars and bought a significant amount of parts needed. After Mark’s death, I acquired both cars, trading mine for my Caterham. The general chassis and body are done, with the body needing paint. The engine will be a high output Healy 6. Most major systems will be upgraded and will be completed as time and funds allow. Pretty excited about this one!

Two Wheels

As most car nuts I know, I too began my affair with the wheel by balancing on two of them. I think I spent most of my youth pedaling. Mt first job was making deliveries for the local drug store on their Schwinn delivery bike. After some mini bikes and a pretty ratty Vespa, my first motorcycle was a Honda 450 CL. A friend had one and I really liked the scrambler look. Plus it was about all I could afford at the time. After I sold the CL due to lack of storage, I went without any motorized two wheel toys for quite a while. In the early 1990s I saw and fell in love with a low mile BMW R90/6. I still have it today and use it occasionally when I can find someone to ride with. I also found a 1960 150 Vespa that I can do some close-in errands on. I tried to use it at the track, but found it tough to transport without beating it up. I saved another Baker project, his 1954 AJS. I purchased the bike from the family and have ongoing plans for upgrades to make it more user friendly. Otherwise I still love to pedal, and have thousands of miles on my Trek.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This