Reunited With His Classic Alfa Romeo 25 Years Later
Tony spotted his old Spider on the Petersen Museum ‘Car Week’ Concours stream. Would it live up to his expectations?
Is that an ‘8’, or a ‘9’? Is that a ‘5’ or a ‘3’? The Bring a Trailer Auction Coordinator was confused. Nearly 50 years of patina and layer upon layer of respray obscured the VIN tag on the car - it was just too hard to match with the paper title, and the history of the car was vital to the upcoming auction. It turned out that the best way to sort it all out was to contact the previous owner.
"That car was involved with some events along that coast," he chuckled. "It's classic - listening to Simon and Garfunkel and going up and down the coast..."
In 1995 chassis number AR1486383 was waiting for paint (for the second time). Just a shell sitting in a body shop, most of the rust was gone and a damaged door and a push in the rear had been expertly repaired. Tony Strauss, the owner, planned to restore the car for his son, but they eventually agreed it really wasn't the best car for surfboards. So there it sat, in Jack Bianchi's shop in Santa Barbara. “383” was ready for restoration but would spend another seven years in storage before finally coming out of the paint shop in 2003.
25 years later, a chance to relive memories on the Coast Highway in California. Presented here is the spoken word history and the fascinating provenance of AR1486383.
Tony purchased 383 in 1977 from the original owners, a couple in San Rafael, just outside of San Francsico. There are rumors that they were a recently divorced couple named Ben and Elaine.
383 was eventually restored (for the second time) with the drivetrain and other parts from chassis AR1486395. The donor car (the author’s second Alfa) was first registered in Santa Barbara in 1992. Unfortunately for “395” twenty years spent driving on the East Coast were not kind to her shell, which was slowly rusting away from the inside out.
Decades later and thousands of miles from where 383 and 395 were both built - just 12 places apart on the assembly line! - the two cars came together again to start a new chapter.
Follow along as the next chapter of 383 unfolds. This restored classic 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce goes up for auction soon on Bring a Trailer.
The VIN mystery began to unfold when, found hidden in a stack of 27-year old files the original title to 383 revealed Tony's name and address in Ventura, California. A quick internet search would confirm that after a quarter century he was still living there. Would he remember the car? Would he care?
“Yes,” he said on the phone, he definitely remembered the car. And, in the very next moment he answered the question of whether or not the car still meant something to him, “I would really like to drive it again if I could.” Tony is definitely a car guy - he's owned a number of Alfas, Porsches and Ferraris since he bought 383. So it was that the date and time were set, and the cameras rolled for the big reunion.
A raking light source, a ton of ‘dehaze’ and contrast boost in Photoshop, and finally a switch to black and white so that the VIN number could be revealed. When restoring a car, the VIN on the chassis is the ‘new’ identity of the car. If you take a car apart and put it back together on a different body, don't forget to register the correct VIN! Two socially distanced trips to the DMV later, and as they say, ‘the check’s in the mail’. Only this time it’s the new title that’s on the way.
If you want to read more about 383 on DriveTribe:
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