04 May

Award Winning Lotus Elan S4 Sprint will be displayed at the Father’s Day Car Show in Norwalk on June 19

David Porter’s 1971 Lotus Elan S4 Sprint (Photo David Porter)

David Porter’s 1971 Lotus Elan S4 Sprint (Photo David Porter)

Norwalk, Conn. – Renowned local car collector and vintage race car driver David Porter will be displaying his 1971 Lotus Elan S4 Sprint roadster in the Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk on June 19, 2016 from 10AM to 3PM. Porter, who resides in Darien, restored the car from virtually barn-find condition over a period of three years doing all the mechanical work himself. The car represents the last iteration of Colin Chapman’s Elan S4 series of cars originally introduced in 1968. The unique paint treatment on the Series 4 Sprint models was meant to evoke the Gold Leaf cigarettes livery of the company’s Grand Prix cars which had won multiple world championships. David Porter is well known at local car shows both for the Lotus and also his immaculate Jaguar XK-150S which won both the People’s Choice Award and the Coachmen Car Club trophy at last year’s NEAM Father’s Day show in Norwalk.

The S4 Elan was introduced in 1968 and can be distinguished from its predecessors by its slightly flared wheel arches, wider tires, and Jaguar tail lights. The S4 also had an aggressive-looking bulge in the bonnet to house the Stromberg carburetors. The much anticipated Sprint version was announced in 1970 at the Earls Court Motor Show, and promised more power for the 1971 cars. Ex-BRM engineer Tony Rudd was able to squeeze an incredible for the time 126 horsepower out of the little 1600 Twin Cam, labeled the ‘Big Valve’ engine. This gave the 1,500 pound Elan lively performance and demonstrated yet again the advantage of adding lightness. It bears repeating that the Elan is an extremely important car. The classic Ron Hickman design was actually the first Lotus to utilize the famous backbone chassis, and the way the car perfectly captured the essence of ’60s British motoring was recognized decades later by Mazda in their development of the original Miata. It also helped establish Lotus as a legitimate manufacturer.
David Porter’s car has been stunningly well restored and is considered an almost perfect example of the S4 Sprint model. It won its class in 2015 at the Lime Rock Historics concours and has won recognition at several other shows including the Alden Sherman Classic in Weston, CT.

The perfect car for a brisk run in the countryside (Photo David Porter)

The perfect car for a brisk run in the countryside (Photo David Porter)

Anyone interested in showing a car at this year’s Father’s Day Car Show may pre-register HERE – it’s only $10/per car to pre-register ($15 at the show entrance). Spectator admission is free. Dash plaques will be available for the first 100 cars to register.

New England Auto Museum
The New England Auto Museum will be an exciting new attraction for the state of Connecticut and throughout the Northeast. This non-profit organization will build a first class facility dedicated to preserving, interpreting and exhibiting historic automobiles and automobile artifacts. It will serve as both an educational learning center as well as a display center to highlight an ever changing evolution of car history and its impact on society. Find more information at www.neautomuseum.org

25 Apr

Grand Marshal Announced for NEAM Father’s Day Car Show in Norwalk

Alfredo Gulla kept the faith, welcomes Alfa Romeo brand back to the U.S.

Alfredo Gulla at his Alfa Romeo Fiat dealership in Larchmont, NY (Photo Fiat500USA.com)

Alfredo Gulla at his Alfa Romeo Fiat dealership in Larchmont, NY (Photo Fiat500USA.com)

Norwalk, Conn. – Alfredo Gulla, founder and owner of Alfredo’s Foreign Cars, dba Alfa Romeo Fiat of Larchmont and Larchmont Chrysler Jeep Dodge, has been named Grand Marshal for the second annual New England Auto Museum Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk. The event is scheduled for Sunday, June 19th from 10AM to 3PM and proceeds will support the nonprofit New England Auto Museum building and education funds.

This year the Father’s Day Show will celebrate Alfa Romeo as one of its featured marques, and Alfredo Gulla will be honored as one of the original U.S. dealers for the brand in the early 1960’s as well as for his success in regaining the franchise for its North American relaunch by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From his dealership near the Connecticut/New York state border, Alfredo Gulla waited nearly 20 years for his beloved Alfa Romeo to return to the U.S. market. Gulla began selling the Alfa Romeo 4C two seat sports cars last year, and in 2016 will begin receiving the new Alfa Guilia sedans, recently displayed at the New York International Auto Show.

“I was always in touch with Italy and Milan, and the rumors were that Alfa and Fiat would return, so it was always ‘Wait and hope, wait and hope,'” Gulla says “It is a real pleasure to see these two brands come back to America.”

Gulla at his Larchmont, N.Y., store in 1963; for Fiat or Alfa Romeo, he says, he sold the brand, the history, the Italian heritage (Photo Automotive News)

Gulla at his Larchmont, N.Y., store in 1963; for Fiat or Alfa Romeo, he says, he sold the brand, the history, the Italian heritage (Photo Automotive News)

As a young man, Gulla immigrated to New York in late 1956 from Catanzaro, Italy — a city of about 100,000 people on the instep of the Italian boot. He found work in a small import car dealership in Larchmont, and five years later, when that dealership was for sale, he bought it.

At first, sales at what would become Alfredo’s Foreign Cars were confined to parts and service. But within months, Gulla had secured an agreement with Fiat to sell new cars. Gulla bought his first two — a Fiat 500 and an Alfa Romeo Giulietta — and began decades of selling Italian cars to people in the metropolitan New York area.

His customers included fellow Italian immigrants and their progeny, who sought a small piece of their native land. It included the famous — he sold convertibles to Groucho Marx and Henry Kissinger, for example — and the not-so-famous.

Alfa Romeo and Fiat models in Alfredo’s showroom in the early ‘60’s (Photo Automotive News)

Alfa Romeo and Fiat models in Alfredo’s showroom in the early ‘60’s (Photo Automotive News)

They were good years, for the most part. Always, Gulla says, whether it was a Fiat or an Alfa Romeo, he sold the brand, the history, the Italian heritage. “I hope, the fact that I’m Italian blends a little bit with the cars we are selling,” Gulla explains.

But Fiat and Alfa Romeo’s troubles grew in the United States as their sales fell in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By 1995, Alfa would pull out of the United States and retreat to Europe, despite the pleas of Gulla and other dealers.

Only when Fiat S.p.A. assumed control of a bankrupt Chrysler in 2009 was Gulla truly optimistic. His was among the first Fiat franchises to be awarded in 2010 when Chrysler began to sell the Fiat 500 in North America. Finally last year, Gulla’s Fiat of Larchmont was on the initial list to receive an Alfa Romeo franchise.

Even now, he is at the dealership and his nearby Chrysler store almost every day. Gulla says he believes Alfa’s return to North America will seem at first slow and regional. “But in the near future, with all the new models coming over, we will see a bigger impact for the brand.”

As Grand Marshal of the NEAM Father’s Day Car Show, Gulla is looking forward to greeting customers from years gone by as well as introducing the technological marvels of the new cars to another generation of “Alfisti.”

Adapted from article by Larry Vellequette, Automotive News

The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016 (Photo: Hemmings)

The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016 (Photo: Hemmings)

11 Mar

Klingberg Festival Director Mark Johnson to speak at next NEAM Speakers Event in Westport April 2nd

Mark Johnson opening the Klingberg History Museum in New Britain, 2014 (Photo Hartford Courant)

Mark Johnson opening the Klingberg History Museum in New Britain, 2014 (Photo Hartford Courant)

Westport, Conn. – On the heels of another well-attended Speakers event in February, the New England Auto Museum will follow up with a presentation by Klingberg Festival Director Mark Johnson on Saturday, April 2 at Dragone Classic Gallery & Showroom in Westport.

The third and last of the winter series scheduled to begin at 11 AM will highlight Connecticut’s storied past as the cradle of the U.S. automotive industry. Companies like Corbin from New Britain; Pope-Hartford, Columbia and Kelsey-Motorette from Hartford; Frisbee and Compound from Middletown; Cameron from New London, Stamford and Trumbull — and, of course, Locomobile from Bridgeport — all helped to establish American dominance in the early days of the automobile. At the turn of the 20th Century, Connecticut and the surrounding region was home to the innovators and pioneers such as the Duryea brothers, Andrew Riker, Col. Albert Pope and Hiram Maxim who collectively invented virtually every element of what is today’s modern car.

(Archived Photo)

(Archived Photo)

In New Britain, Connecticut on the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend June 18th, 2016, more than 350 of the finest automobiles made between 1900 and the present will descend upon the city for the 24rd Klingberg Vintage Motorcar Festival at Klingberg Family Centers on Linwood Street. Thousands of people are expected to attend, and cars will come from eight states.

Last year’s show featured more than 50 vehicles manufactured between 1900 and 1915 featured in the pre-war section, including steam and electric cars. Nine were manufactured in Connecticut, including a 1914 Trumbull Coupe, made by the Trumbull Motor Car Co. of Bridgeport; a 1905 Columbia Brougham, an electric car made by Pope Manufacturing in Hartford; a 1900 Locomobile Steamer as well as the oldest-known surviving model of the “Hartford” also made by Pope until 1915.

Wayne Carini and his late father Bob Carini at the 2014 Klingberg Festival (Photo Klingberg Festival)

Wayne Carini and his late father Bob Carini at the 2014 Klingberg Festival (Photo Klingberg Festival)

At his presentation on April 2nd, Mark Johnson, Klingberg Festival’s Director will discuss plans for this year’s show scheduled for June 18th which will feature TV personality Wayne Carini of Velocity’s “Chasing Classic Cars” as Grand Marshall along with Wayne’s daughter Lindsay Cushing. Wayne and his family share this honor in recognition of Father’s Day and the importance of families and this year will pay tribute to Bob Carini, Wayne’s father, who also served as Grand Marshal for several years and sadly passed away in January 2016 and will be greatly missed. Wayne’s passion for cars started when he was a child working alongside his dad on such classics as Duesenbergs, Lincolns, Packards and Ford Model A’s. Then, at just 9 years of age, he experienced a life altering event: he went for a ride in his first Ferrari. This set him on a career journey dealing with all types of vintage automobile collectors throughout the world. In addition to his popular TV show, Wayne Carini is involved in and regularly attends many different car clubs and events to get young people involved in the car collector hobby. He believes that without young people’s involvement, the car collector tradition will disappear. Wayne supports the Automobile Restoration Program at Klingberg’s Raymond Hill School.

George Dragone introducing author Pat Foster at Feb. 27 Speakers event (Photo New England Auto Museum)

George Dragone introducing author Pat Foster at Feb. 27 Speakers event
(Photo New England Auto Museum)

Tickets for the Speakers event featuring Mark Johnson will be $15 per person and can be purchased at the door or in advance at the museum’s web site www.neautomuseum.org. Refreshments and a light luncheon will be provided as part of the program. The Dragone Showroom is located at 176 Post Road West in Westport, Conn. Weather permitting, owners of classic and special interest automobiles are welcome to display their cars in Dragone’s spacious parking area.

Source: New England Auto Museum

Hagerty Regional Manager Will Corr set up at Dragone’s Westport showroom (Photo New England Auto Museum)

Hagerty Regional Manager Will Corr set up at Dragone’s Westport showroom
(Photo New England Auto Museum)

02 Mar

Alfa Romeo & Model A Ford to headline the 2nd Annual Father’s Day Car Show on Sunday, June 19th at Mathews Park in Norwalk

Spectators and classic cars at the 2015 Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk (Photo New England Auto Museum)

Spectators and classic cars at the 2015 Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk (Photo New England Auto Museum)

Norwalk, Conn. – On Sunday, June 19, 2016 New England Auto Museum will again present a Father’s Day Car Show on the lawn of Mathews Park in Norwalk, site of the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum. The event will be held from 10AM to 3PM and will offer hundreds of unique cars to view. Admission to the event is free to spectators; a donation will be voluntary and any proceeds will go towards the New England Auto Museum’s building and education funds. The New England Auto Museum is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Great food and refreshments will be provided all day by the Port 5 Naval Veterans along with music and prizes from Car Tunes Classics, trophies for People’s Choice, Best in Show and more.

Spectators can come out and enjoy an afternoon of classic cars in all shapes and sizes, talk with the owners, be a judge and select their favorite car, grab a bite to eat and even visit the Stepping Stones Children’s Museum and tour the historic Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, right next door. It’s a great afternoon for Dad and the whole family!

New this year, the Father’s Day Car Show will feature two celebrated automotive marques: from Europe will be Alfa Romeo automobiles including pre-war and post war models and from America the Model A Ford of which almost 5 million examples were produced from 1927 to 1931.

The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016 (Photo: Hemmings)

The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016 (Photo: Hemmings)

Founded in Milan as A.L.F.A. in 1910, Alfa Romeo has been involved in auto racing since its early beginnings and boasts the world’s title for most racing wins of any automotive marque in history. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the iconic Alfa Spider which gained fame in the blockbuster 1967 movie “The Graduate.” Now owned by the Fiat Chrysler organization, the brand has returned to the U.S. market, last year with the exotic 4C sports car and coming this year a new sports sedan, the Guilia Quadrifoglio equipped with a 500 hp Ferrari-derived V-6 engine.

2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia Quadrifoglio (Photo: Car and Driver)

2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia Quadrifoglio (Photo: Car and Driver)

The Model A Ford is beloved by collectors for its simplicity and ease of maintenance as well as being fun to drive. It is one of the most collected marques in the country and boasts of five owners clubs in the state of Connecticut alone. The Model A was the second huge sales success for Ford Motor Company after its predecessor the Model T, and was the first Ford to use the standard set of driver controls with conventional clutch and brake pedals, throttle, and gearshift.

1928 Model A Ford, almost 5 million built up to 1931(Photo: Wikipedia)

1928 Model A Ford, almost 5 million built up to 1931(Photo: Wikipedia)

Anyone interested in showing a car may pre-register online at the New England Auto Museum website (after April 3rd); it’s only $10/per car. Spectator admission is free. Prizes will include awards for the Peoples’ Choice; the Mayor’s Choice, Best in Show and many more. Dash plaques will be available for the first 100 cars to register.

New England Auto Museum
The New England Auto Museum will be an exciting new attraction for the state of Connecticut and throughout the Northeast. This non-profit organization will build a first class facility dedicated to preserving, interpreting and exhibiting historic automobiles and automobile artifacts. It will serve as both an educational learning center as well as a display center to highlight an ever changing evolution of car history and its impact on society. Find more information at www.neautomuseum.org

2015 Best in Show winner ’64 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII owned by Ryan Ledwith (Photo New England Auto Museum)

2015 Best in Show winner ’64 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII owned by Ryan Ledwith
(Photo New England Auto Museum)

22 Jan

Change of Speaker for New England Auto Museum Winter Speakers Series Event in Westport January 30th

Dragone Classics Gallery & Showroom, 176 Post Road West, Westport, Connecticut

Dragone Classics Gallery & Showroom, 176 Post Road West, Westport, Connecticut

Westport, Conn. – The New England Auto Museum announced that because of an unforeseen scheduling conflict, writer and car expert Eric Evarts will be replacing Jim Motavalli as the scheduled speaker on Saturday, January 30th at Dragone Classic Gallery & Showroom in Westport; first of a series featuring well-known automotive writers and experts. Each event will be held on Saturday morning commencing at 11AM and a light luncheon will be provided. Specifically the events have been scheduled as follows:

Writer & Car Expert Eric Evarts

Writer & Car Expert Eric Evarts

January 30 – “CARS OF THE FUTURE: SMART, SAFE & SUSTAINABLE”
Freelance writer Eric Evarts has been writing about energy, the environment, technology, transportation, business, and consumer affairs for 25 years. He spent 15 years covering business, advanced technology, and the auto industry for The Christian Science Monitor spending the past 10 years at Consumer Reports writing about cars, fuel economy, pollution, and alternative fuels, and the latest developments in transportation and technology. He can tell readers how to get the best deal and avoid buying a lemon, whether it’s a used car or a bad mortgage. He currently works as a freelance writer for AAA, Nature, and a new consumer website, thewirecutter.com

Other scheduled Winter Speakers Series events are as follows:

February 27 – “CARS OF THE PAST: STORIED INDEPENDENT AUTOMAKERS”
Author Patrick Foster has written numerous books on almost all the independent U.S. automakers that have disappeared from the scene including Packard, Studebaker, and AMC.

April 2 – “THE EARLY DAYS OF THE AUTOMOBILE IN CONNECTICUT”
Klingberg Vintage Motor Festival Director Mark Johnson will talk about plans for this year’s event including participation again this year by Wayne Carini, as Grand Marshal.

Each Speakers Series event will include a technical session hosted by restoration expert and historian George Dragone focusing on one aspect of classic car preservation and maintenance. The January 30th seminar will feature representatives from New England Dry Stripping of Trumbull, Conn. providing tips and insight on their area of expertise. Tickets for each event will be $15 per person and can be purchased at the door or in advance at the museum’s web site www.neautomuseum.org. The Dragone Showroom is at 176 Post Road West in Westport, Conn.

05 Jan

New England Auto Museum Announces Winter Speakers Series in Westport Beginning January 30

Dragone Classics Gallery & Showroom, 176 Post Road West, Westport, Connecticut

Dragone Classics Gallery & Showroom, 176 Post Road West, Westport, Connecticut

Westport, Conn. – The New England Auto Museum announced the formation of a Winter Speakers Series to take place at Dragone Classic Gallery & Showroom in Westport featuring well-known automotive writers and experts. Each event will be held on Saturday morning commencing at 11AM and a light luncheon will be provided. Specifically the events have been scheduled as follows:

January 30 – “CARS OF THE FUTURE: SMART, SAFE & SUSTAINABLE”
Freelance writer Eric Evarts has been writing about energy, the environment, technology, transportation, business, and consumer affairs for 25 years. He spent 15 years covering business, advanced technology, and the auto industry for The Christian Science Monitor spending the past 10 years at Consumer Reports writing about cars, fuel economy, pollution, and alternative fuels, and the latest developments in transportation and technology. He can tell readers how to get the best deal and avoid buying a lemon, whether it’s a used car or a bad mortgage. He currently works as a freelance writer for AAA, Nature, and a new consumer website, thewirecutter.com

Writer & Car Expert Eric Evarts

Writer & Car Expert Eric Evarts

February 27 – “CARS OF THE PAST – STORIED INDEPENDENT AUTOMAKERS”
One of America’s best-known automotive writers is historian/author Patrick Foster – a dedicated researcher who has spent more than 30 years studying various aspects of the automotive industry, has also been writing for automotive magazines for well over a decade. He has appeared on several radio and television talk shows and also the documentary “Women and the Automobile”, produced for television, in which Foster explained the significance of the Nash Metropolitan, a car designed primarily for women.

Pat has written numerous books on almost all the independent U.S. automakers that have disappeared from the scene including Packard, Studebaker, American Motors and many others. Pat is a feature writer and columnist for Hemmings Classic Car magazine, writes for Automobile Quarterly and Collectible Automobile, and has a column in Old Cars Weekly.

Author Patrick Foster with his restored 1967 Rambler Rogue

Author Patrick Foster with his restored 1967 Rambler Rogue

April 2 – “THE EARLY DAYS OF THE AUTOMOBILE IN CONNECTICUT”
Hartford does not claim to have made the first automobile but does claim to have started the automotive industry,” This statement was made by pioneer auto designer and engineer, Henry Cave, who worked with Daimler Motor Company, Locomobile and with George B. Seldon to design, develop and demonstrate the first Seldon patent car. The 24th Annual Klingberg Vintage Motorcar Festival in New Britain, CT on June 18th, 2016, will feature many automobiles manufactured in Connecticut including examples from Pope Hartford, Columbia, Corbin and Locomobile and is in fact the largest gathering of these early “brass era” cars in the country. Klingberg Festival Director Mark Johnson will talk about plans for this year’s event including participation again this year by Wayne Carini, host of “Chasing Classic Cars” on VelocityTV, as Grand Marshal with his dad Bob and daughter Lindsay.

Mark Johnson at the opening of the Klingberg History Museum in New Britain, 2014

Mark Johnson at the opening of the Klingberg History Museum in New Britain, 2014

Each Speakers Series event will include a technical session hosted by restoration expert and historian George Dragone focusing a one aspect of classic car preservation and maintenance. The January 30th seminar will feature representatives from New England Dry Stripping of Trumbull, CT providing tips and insight on their area of expertise. Tickets for each event will be $15 per person and can be purchased at the door or in advance at the museum’s web site www.neautomuseum.org. The Dragone Showroom is at 176 Post Road West in Westport, CT.

Source: New England Auto Museum

Pope Hartford back in the day

Pope Hartford back in the day

11 Oct

Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman; Special Movie Screening in Norwalk October 28th

 new_poster

On Wednesday, October 28th at 6:30 PM, the New England Auto Museum will host a special one-night screening of the acclaimed documentary Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman at the Stepping Stones Multi-Media Gallery at Mathews Park in Norwalk. The event will raise funds for the non-profit New England Auto Museum, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing a permanent facility for display and education in automotive arts and technology.

“Paul Newman had a special association with Connecticut,” according to NEAM President Mike Scheidel, “as one of the most prolific and revered actors in American Cinema, as well as through his philanthropy with Newman’s Own and the Hole-in-the-Wall Camps, but what is not so well known is his passionate love for auto racing which became a focus of his life for 35 years.”

That passion is well on display in the documentary, co-produced by Adam Corolla and Nate Adams which recounts how Newman became bit by the racing bug when he starred in the 1969 film “Winning”at the age of forty-seven and continued until shortly before his death at age eighty-three in 2008.

Providing commentary and Q&A after the film, which is 83 minutes in length, will be Sherman, Conn. resident and Paul Newman’s long-term racing partner Bob Sharp. Newman drove for Bob Sharp Racing for many years, winning the Sports Car Club of America National Championship four times. Bob Sharp is among the many friends and fellow competitors interviewed in the film. Others include Robert Redford, who became one of Newman’s closest friends, his “Winning” co-star Robert Wagner; Jay Leno, no small car enthusiast himself; racers Mario Andretti and Patrick Dempsey, and Pixar founding member John Lasseter, who directed the actor in his final film role, voicing the tailor-made character of Doc Hudson in the animated film “Cars.”

In its review, the Hollywood Reporter lauded the film, describing the “archival footage of Newman racing and interacting with his fellow drivers as revelatory, with the actor’s determined efforts to be just one of the guys on ample display. One of the film’s most affecting moments is a haunting shot of the actor sitting mournfully in his car immediately after the death of his teammate Jim Fitzgerald during a 1987 race. As passionate about its subject as the actor was about driving, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman provides a fascinating footnote to his distinguished cinematic career.”

The special one-night showing of “Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman” will take place Wednesday, October 28th from 6:30 to 9:30 PM.  Beverages provided by Nicholas Roberts Fine Wines of Darien and hors d’oeuvres will be served in the hour before the show. There will also be classic cars on display in the courtyard courtesy of Dragone Classic Motorcars, one of the event’s sponsors. Location will be the Stepping Stones Museum Multi-Media Gallery at 303 West Avenue in Norwalk (Mathews Park). Other sponsors of the event include Hagerty Insurance, Pray Auto Body, Pray Achievement Center & Pray Auto Museum and Spacefitters Logistics & Technology Group. Tickets will be $25 per person and space is limited to 150 attendees. Tickets can be purchased atwww.neautomuseum.org

23 Sep

The Fina Sport, Mid-Century Italo-American Hybrid Built in New York City – Part 3

Part III: Fina Motors, Move to Norwalk, Connecticut in 1957

fina3-1

Norwalk, Conn. – After the success of the Fina Sport at Madison Square Garden in 1954, and at successive car shows including a first place trophy at the Philadelphia Autorama, not much is known as to why the coupe and its sister convertible the following year, were not put into production. The price of $14,000 (quoted in Italamerican Magazine) may have been a major deterrent when the average American car was selling for less than $2,000.

1954 World Motor Sports Show Grand Prix trophy awarded to Perry Fina

1954 World Motor Sports Show Grand Prix trophy awarded to Perry Fina

In 1957, Perry and Joe moved the garage to Norwalk, Conn. at 130 Connecticut Ave. and became a dealer for Studebaker-Packard, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar cars. It appears that the Finas kept the prototype Fina Sport cars as there is a picture of the coupe with Perry and his wife Lillian in the Norwalk showroom taken in late 1960 as well as the convertible in the showroom window around the same time.

Perry and Lillian Fina with the ’54 Fina Sport in the Norwalk showroom Christmas season 1960

Perry and Lillian Fina with the ’54 Fina Sport in the Norwalk showroom Christmas season 1960

Previously the site of Fina Motors at 130 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk

Previously the site of Fina Motors at 130 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk

1955 Fina Sport Convertible circa 1960 in Norwalk showroom with’56 Philadelphia Autorama trophy

1955 Fina Sport Convertible circa 1960 in Norwalk showroom with ’56 Philadelphia Autorama trophy

Perry Fina passed away in New York City in 1970 just shy of his 78th birthday. Joe continued to run the garage in Norwalk, briefly retiring in the early 70’s before accepting a position with the State of Connecticut Trade School System in a consulting role providing technical advice and guidance for the state’s trade schools. Joe remained in that role for 19 years during the course of which time he became friends with fellow Redding, Conn. resident and car enthusiast David Reed. Because of Dave Reed’s interest in cars and memorabilia, he was able to acquire all of the remaining photographs and artifacts for the Fina Sport cars from Joe Fina, many of which were used to compile this article. The whereabouts of the Fina prototype cars today is somewhat of a mystery. Joe Fina passed away in early 1999. Dave Reed has been in touch with the owner of one car in Pennsylvania who claims he is going to restore the car with his son. The convertible turned up on E-Bay a few years ago from a seller in Des Plaines, IL looking very much the worse for wear for an asking price of $275,000.

fina3-6

Remains of the Fina Sport convertible on E-Bay in March, 2011 asking price $275,000

Remains of the Fina Sport convertible on E-Bay in March, 2011 asking price $275,000

Dave Reed believes there is a third car in Houston, TX but has not been able to locate the owner. It would be a tribute to the ingenuity and foresight of Perry and Joe Fina to bring a least one of these cars back to life for new generations of car enthusiasts.

Last of Three Articles

Original Photographs & Artifacts contributed by David W. Reed, Redding, CT
Article compiled by Nick Ord, New England Auto Museum
nord@neautomuseum.org

15 Sep

The Fina Sport, Mid-Century Italo-American Hybrid Built in New York City – Part 2

Part II: Perry Fina, Master Mechanic and Car Builder for over 50 Years

Cover of July 1954 issue Italamerican Magazine featuring Perry Fina, inside reads:

Our Cover “Pictured on our cover is the exclusive “Fina Sport”, the car which was awarded the Grand Prix in the Custom Sports Car Division at the 1954 World Motor Sports Show held in Madison Square Garden. Builder is master mechanic and racing driver, founder and owner of Fina’s Imported Motor Car Company and Perry Auto Repairs Inc. situated at 145-147 West 54th Street, New York City. For the past 40 years, Mr. Fina has been servicing the finest imported sports cars, building up a celebrity-packed clientele. He was the first in 1937 to use the now common four carburetor manifold and invented the Perry Silencer for sports cars. Read our interview with Mr. Fina on pages 7-8-9-10-11.”

 

Norwalk, Conn. – Perry Fina was born in New York City in April 1892 of immigrant Italian parents; he was taught to speak fluent Italian at home and showing an early mechanical aptitude, he returned to Italy with his mother and younger brother Fil in 1902. In Italy he began a nine year apprenticeship in the automotive industry initially with Fiat Motor Company and later Isotta Fraschini, receiving his master mechanics degree. After extensive travel around America, Perry settled in Saratoga, NY and opened a foreign car service center with his brother Fil, who had also apprenticed in Italy. The garage became very successful specializing in foreign built cars. Along the way, Perry married his wife Lillian Kane, bringing up four children, his son Joe and three daughters. Joe also showed his father’s aptitude around machinery and automobiles and started work in the business at a young age. In 1928, following the sudden loss of his father, Perry decided to move back to New York City, leaving the Saratoga business to his brother. After several starts and stops, he opened a garage on West 54th St. and gained a reputation with wealthy owners of foreign cars for quality service. His customers in the day included celebrities Dave Garroway, Jackie Cooper, Skitch Henderson and Paul Whiteman, all owners of exotic sports cars.

Fina Sport logo went with the slogan “Perry Makes ‘em Purr”

Fina Sport logo went with the slogan “Perry Makes ‘em Purr”

Perry Fina also formed an import company to bring in cars from Europe, and was one of the earliest Allard dealers in the U.S. Vintage Allard owner Lindsey Parsons remembers Perry’s shop where purchased his first Allard in 1953, “The Perry Fina shop was a wonderful place to anyone who enjoyed interesting cars,” Lindsey wrote, “In those days there was always an Allard or two present, along with other marques on the shop floor. Fina’s shop had a reputation for excellent work and I believe he serviced many different exotic marques for his customers.”

April 1953, Lindsey Parsons in his first Allard J2X shortly after purchase at the Fina shop Photo courtesy Lindsey Parsons

April 1953, Lindsey Parsons in his first Allard J2X shortly after purchase at the Fina shop
Photo courtesy Lindsey Parsons

A Perry Fina prepared Allard J2 is in the Simeone Museum collection in Philadelphia. Allard register data on this car reads “Car was ordered with left hand drive by Perry Fina of New York. Engine installed by Bill Frick. Engine includes special manifolding and carburetors. Perry Fina nameplate is on firewall. The engine mounts to hold Cadillac motor. Shortly after it arrived to Perry Fina’s shop for his work, Bill Frick installed the 1951 engine. These gentlemen represented the most experienced Allard assemblers in America at the time”.

1950 Perry Fina-prepared Allard J2 at the Simeone Museum

1950 Perry Fina-prepared Allard J2 at the Simeone Museum

Perry and his son Joe also gained a reputation in post-war sports car racing with a 1948 Nardi-Denese 6C Corsa-Barchetta, one of only three built for the Targa Florio and Mille Milia with an Alfa Romeo 2.5 liter twin-cam marine engine. The Fina Team raced the car at tracks such as Palm Beach, Bridgehampton and Watkins Glen. In the early 50’s, they installed a Cadillac V8 in the car in an effort to keep up with the more powerful Allards and Jaguars and it was campaigned as the “Perry Special.”

The “Perry Special “with Perry Fina at the wheel before conversion to Cadillac V8 power

Perry Fina’s Nardi-Denese Cadillac Special at Watkins Glen in 1953

Perry Fina’s Nardi-Denese Cadillac Special at Watkins Glen in 1953

Contemporary newspaper account of the Perry Special Nardi-Cadillac

fina2-8

Contemporary newspaper account of the Perry Special Nardi-Cadillac

 

fina2-9

Source: Etceterini.com

 

In addition to building, servicing and racing automobiles, Perry Fina designed and fabricated customized parts for his customers including special inlet manifolds to convert engines to dual and quad carburetion as well unique cast aluminum mufflers. Automotive writer Karl Ludvigsen campaigned a 1949 MG-TC in the early ’50s with a Fina designed muffler system. Ludvigsen wrote in the day “From Perry Fina in New York, I obtained and installed one of his special cast aluminum silencers. The normal silencer was removed and a straight pipe fitted to almost the rear of the chassis. There sat the Fina silencer shaped like three tines of a fork. The outer two tines had perforated caps holding in steel wool packing that did the silencing. In the center tine was a butterfly valve worked by a T-handle on the floor. With a pull of the handle the exhaust went straight through. The TC’s race preparation was simple. I just pulled the T-handle and presto! I had straight open exhaust”. In 1953, Perry Fina was granted a U.S. Patent for what was termed a “Valve Controlled Muffler with a Plurality of Through Passages”.

Perry Fina installing custom exhaust system on vintage Bugatti

Perry Fina installing custom exhaust system on vintage Bugatti

U.S. Patent for Perry Fina’s unique muffler design

U.S. Patent for Perry Fina’s unique muffler design

To be continued next week, Part III: Fina Motors, Move to Norwalk, Connecticut in 1957

Original Photographs & Artifacts contributed by David W. Reed, Redding, CT
Article compiled by Nick Ord, New England Auto Museum
nord@nemuseum.org

11 Sep

The Fina Sport, Mid-Century Italo-American Hybrid Built in New York City – Part 1

Part I: The Inspiration and the Cars

1954 Fina Sport Special

1954 Fina Sport Special

Norwalk, Conn. – Perry Fina was an American born, Italian-trained master mechanic who opened an imported car dealership and service center on West 54th St. New York City back in the early 1930’s. After World War II, Perry’s son Joe, who had served with distinction in the Army Air Corps during the war, joined the business with his father. Together they came up with the idea of building a stylish Italian sports car on an American chassis.

As Perry was quoted at the time, “Many of our foreign car customers with expensive Ferraris, Mercedes and other high quality cars would consult with us on the safety of a long trip; always fearing a break-down in some forsaken place a long way from home where service and parts would be impossible to obtain. It was this that started my son and I on a venture of building an American sports car with foreign influence and handling characteristics. Having had considerable experience in racing, we constructed a chassis with excellent handling qualities, along with all American components, including Cadillac or Chrysler engines. We made arrangements with the Vignale Company of Torino Italy, for our coachwork and they do such an excellent job for us that our Fina Sport, with its elegant interior appointments and all leather work, is the most beautiful sports family car in America.”

Perry Fina with 1954 Fina Sport

Perry Fina with 1954 Fina Sport

The Fina Sport was advertised as “An Exclusive Car to please the man of discriminating taste.” It was built on a modified 115 inch Ford chassis with a Cadillac V8 engine reworked to produce 300 horsepower, Cadillac Hydromatic transmission and an aluminum body by Vignale. Other V8 motors such as Chrysler or Lincoln were said to be provided at the customer’s request. Vignale was a Torino-based automobile coach building company who built their first body on a Fiat in 1948. Features of the car included 12 volt battery system, Marchal headlights, turn signals, dual electric Marchal horns. Suspension was knee action in front with dual shocks (one telescopic and the other adjustable arm type), semi elliptical leaf springs in the rear also with dual shocks. The car had an overall length of 15 feet 8 inches, width 70 inches and height of 54 inches. At the 1954 World Motor Sports Show held in Madison Square Garden in New York, the car was awarded the Grand Prix in the custom sports car division.

Another view of the Fina Sport Special – “A Bargain at $14,000” (As captioned in the July 1954 issue of Italamerican Magazine)

Another view of the Fina Sport Special – “A Bargain at $14,000”
(As captioned in the July 1954 issue of Italamerican Magazine)

A model at the World Motor Sports Show,  Madison Square Garden, 1954 (Italamerican Magazine)

A model at the World Motor Sports Show,
Madison Square Garden, 1954 (Italamerican Magazine)

fina5

Brochure for 1954 Fina Sport

Brochure for 1954 Fina Sport

Data plate for unbuilt 1956 Fina Sport

Data plate for unbuilt 1956 Fina Sport

1955 Fina Sport Convertible with Continental Kit and Borrani Knock-off Wheels

1955 Fina Sport Convertible with Continental Kit and Borrani Knock-off Wheels

fina9

Here are excerpts from the press release describing this 18-foot-long convertible introduced in 1955: “In addition to such fancy accessories as Carlo Borrani wire racing wheels with “knock-off” hubs, Continental mounted spare wheel and tire, radio, heater, defroster, 6,000 RPM tachometer; the Italo-American creation also features fully adjustable airplane-type reclining seats and a manually adjustable André Tele-Control shock absorbing system. The sleek body … is upholstered entirely in genuine calfskin leather … the tire size is 6:50 x 16″. Suspension in the front is by coil springs, aircraft shock absorbers and manually adjustable tele-control shocks; the rear suspension is the same except semi-elliptical springs are employed instead of coil springs. The Fina Sport is fitted with two sets of Marchal lights, one for driving in normal traffic, another for night-time highway touring; these are fitted gracefully into the radiator grille. The very professional looking steering wheel is of the competition type being made by Nardi-Denese of Italy. The wheel frame itself is made of aircraft duralumin and polished Honduran mahogany; lock to lock 2½ turns.

Other features of this automotive masterpiece includes a panoramic “wrap-around” windshield, Rochester 4-barrel carburetor, automatic windshield washer, electric windshield wiper, 22 sq. ft. of luggage space and triple-chromium plated fittings. The car had optional power brakes, a 3.31:1 rear axle and an estimated top speed of 120 MPH.”

Overall height with top up was 56 inches; wheelbase and width were 114 inches and 74 inches, respectively. In early 1956, the convertible won the prestigious Concours d’Elegance trophy at the Philadelphia Autorama.

1956 Philadelphia Autorama trophy 60 years later courtesy David Reed

1956 Philadelphia Autorama trophy 60 years later courtesy David Reed

To be continued next week, Part II: Perry Fina, Master Mechanic for over 50 Years

Original Photographs & Artifacts contributed by David W. Reed, Redding, CT
Article compiled by Nick Ord, New England Auto Museum
nord@neautomuseum.org