Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2019, Perry's experience.
Little did I know when I purchased my 1958 Abarth 750 GT Zagato, where she would lead me.
My search for a Abarth began in early 2015 looking for one that was in good shape, had most of the work done and was hopefully in the US. As we know, there are just not many of the original 300-500 (production numbers are estimates) cars still around. Either from attrition from racing, lack of care, galvanic corrosion or just scavenged for parts, the selections were minimal.
By a fortunate coincidence, I met Donald Osborne, who mentioned that he knew of one that was for sale in Florida. It had gone though a body and engine restoration a few years previously in Oregon by Joe Potter and now the current owner, David Eichenbaum, wanted to sell. He had already shown the car at The Quail as well as Amelia Island and after seeing the pictures and speaking with David, purchased the car.
When she arrived in the early summer of 2015 I was stunned by how great the blue paint and the red interior looked. The Zagato seats fit me like a glove and the size was perfect for me. Of course getting used to no side view mirror and having a rear view of only about 10 feet, made getting used to driving her a challenge. Along with that was the skinny bias ply tires that grabbed every groove in the road and the drum brakes. Though she has the racing twin-leading shoe drums in the front, it still took starting to brake HERE, to stop over THERE.
As in any car that was restored and is 57 years old or so, there is a shakedown period where things need to get sorted out. Abby (the name I chose for her) proved no different. I had Hagarty on speed dial and utilized the tow service 4 times. My wife began to develop PTTTS (Post Traumatic Tow Truck Syndrome) and was a trooper, and between #3 and #4 drove her own car to events. After #4 over a year ago, she now rides with me as all the kinks are worked out.
Following up on David’s concours entries, I showed Abby at The Quail twice, Hillsborough twice, Concorso Italiano 3x, Danville Concours twice and Carmel Concours on the Avenue (winning Best Sympathetic Restoration). With the body being pretty much perfect and with her known racing history from Day 1 in Canada, she had the provenance that made her stand out in a crowd.
Each year that I owned her, knowing her history and rarity, I thought that applying to show her at Pebble Beach was not totally crazy. SO each year I entered, and was very nicely told “Thank you for your interest, but we are not able to offer you a spot”. Since I was going to other events, driving her to Cars and Coffee in various places, I was not too disappointed.
In late 2018 I learned that the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours was having a special Zagato Class honoring the 100 year centennial of the formation of Carrozeria Zagato. I figured this was the best shot I had and so I submitted my application at the end of December.
The months go by and heard nothing. On the application it had said that entrants would be notified the beginning of April, but of course I had forgotten. On April 1, a large envelope was in the mail with return address Pebble Beach Concours. Figuring it was another rejection; opening it up and seeing several pages I began to read “Congratulations! It is with great please that we invite your 1958 Fiat Abarth 750 GT Zagato Coupe……..” . I really didn’t understand and had to read it twice before I understood……I WAS IN!
Ok. I’m in. Now what?? Of course I called my wife, friends etc. who knew that I had applied. My kids put it on Facebook (and I did too though I hardly ever go on). And generally told everyone I knew who was a car person. I also contacted the person I bought the car from, David Eichenbaum to tell him as well. He was just as excited since his gorgeous 1964 Alfa TZ1 Zagato Coupe was also accepted! It was interesting to hear the reaction of people who are not car folk. “Oh you’re showing the car again. How nice” and comments along that line. By telling them it’s the premier car show IN THE WORLD, most sort of got the idea what a big deal it was.
So how do I prepare for this? I had 4 ½ months to get the car “ready”. Now having shown the car at many other venues, I knew the drill. But this was PEBBLE so I needed to step up my game. One of the people that had worked on the car was Les Burd, a Abarth expert as well as a previous Pebble Beach judge. I called him for advice. However he had been notified that he was going to be judging my class, so of course he was not able to help. I knew from previous conversations with him over the years certain things that were not correct in the car. One of them was the interior of the car. The car is very unique in that the interior was the original interior from 1958. At some point in her history the vinyl interior had been removed and accompanied the car to each new owner. The headliner, rear deck and side door material all were re-installed when the car was restored. The scuff and stretch marks were there as well at the original wooden steering wheel (sweat stains and marks), gauges and dash. The person who ordered the restoration wanted the patina to show on the car. The spinner hubcaps and the faded red scorpions logos were original from 1958 as well. So I knew that these all might get deductions while being judged, but I didn’t care, nor did I feel that I needed to change anything in the interior. The car is what it was. A sympathetic restoration showing the patina of age. The body was perfect. Of course micro-detailing ensued over the next month or so in the trunk and other areas. When the car came to me it had bias plys as I mentioned and I had put similar sized radials on her. Of course I had to put the bias tires back on and treated them with great product called Tuf-Shine that left a soft semi-gloss shine that doesn’t sling off and stays on for months. Since I had the car on jack stands to replace the tires, the wheel wells, shocks received Undercarriage Spray. And of course since I was there, I just did the whole underside of the car! In my mind I could see one of the judges with a while glove running their hand under the car and finding dirt. In doing this I knew however that I’d have to do it again after Thursday’s Tour Drive.
The engine, which is the original engine as confirmed by John de Boer, though pretty clean, of course needed work. One “glaring” fix in my compulsion, were the hose and fuel line clamps. They came with the standard worm-gear clamps. However cars of that era used the cotter pin type clamps. So I asked one of buddies over to show me how to do it and after several attempts, and several days of scraped knuckles, all clamps were replaced.
One of the many people who helped me was Guy Moerenhout in getting the car ready. He kindly showed me pictures of his terrific collection of cars and engines to look at stickers I was missing. The main one was the yellow one on the air filter. And where to source that? Chris Obert to the rescue! The perfect sticker was found and placed on the air filter. In seeing and hearing from someone else that my “original” input radiator hose to the radiator should be an accordion type and not smooth, I was stumped. No one had it in stock. Then JP Romano to the rescue! He had a pile of spare parts and one was an original hose that he kindly sent me. And it fit perfectly.With the addition of alcohol to the fuel, at least here in California, the green plastic Cavis fuel lines get cloudy/brownish and very hard. So of course the engine and the front ones needed to be changed to new ones, using the cotter-pin type clamps of course.
Now with the air filter off I had better access to the firewall. With about a month out I spent a few days detailing everything in the engine and engine compartment using Black Again and Adams Undercarriage. The dull black metal took on a silky sheen and with the Black Again, all the wiring harnesses and some other bits looked brand new. Air filter back, engine done. The only issue in the engine compartment is the “controversy” about the FIAT verses the ABARTH plate on the firewall that holds the engine and body numbers. What I had on my car, and according to Joe Potter who did the restoration, the ABARTH plate was on the car when he got it and was put back. Some feel that it should be a FIAT tag and mine perhaps had been replaced with the ABARTH one some time in the past. There were no holes even allowing a FIAT badge however. So I decided to leave the ABARTH one there and discuss it with the judges if needed.
Body was next. Not wanting to risk any standing water in any part of the car I have always used Griots Sprayon Carwash and Meguires Waterless Carwash. The claying with Giots Clay Fine Mitten. I have used tons of waxes etc but found that Blackfire is the best having done side by side on the blue body with about 5 other products. I loved the easy of putting it on and taking it off. After 3 coats of that, moved to the interior that got a wipe down with Maguire Leather Cleaner as well as the seats. The wooden steering wheel got Lemon Pledge and outside aluminum cleaned and polished with Simichrome.
Trailer showed up August 13 and with the interior of the car full of a ton cleaning materials, replacement light bulbs, some tools, lights, a fan and anything else that could fit, I drove in, covered the car with a plastic disposable cover and said goodbye to Abby for a few days. I was not going to see her again till Thursday morning bright and early for the Tour!