The journey of this 250 California Spider had a strange and somewhat bizarre beginning involving a trip to Italy, a Riva boat, a man lying in grass, three blokes in a Fiat hire car, a 275 GTB/4 and a 250 GT Lusso. Let me explain.
One of our clients had an idea that we should pop over to Italy for the weekend and visit the 2011 Villa dEste Concours as he had an apartment on Lake Como and a Riva Boat to cross the lake in it seemed like a great idea. Another client whos Lusso we had just restored fancied a trip to the RM auction at Villa Erba next to Villa dEste on the same weekend, so that was our blokes weekend booked and sorted.
A quick Easyjet flight and a whiz in a Fiat 500 hire car and we were looking out of the apartment enjoying a beer and the fantastic view over Lake Como. The next morning a short walk to the boatyard and the Riva was sitting ready for us and I must say that docking on the private jetty at Villa dEste was one of the more memorable ways to arrive at an event.
The three of us made our way round the lawn looking at the array of cars on display. One that caught our eye was a beautiful grey Ferrari 275 GTB/4. The owner of the car was standing in front of his Ferrari obviously concerned about the amount of designer handbags and buckles in the close proximity to the cars paintwork. While he was in conversation with Jim Needham, the Lusso owner, I thought I would have a look around and under the car. As the owner looked up, not only did he have handbags close to the paintwork he now had a pair of legs sticking out from under his car. He asked Jim: Who is that? To which he replied: Hes OK, thats Ian Barkaway, the man who has just restored my Lusso.
Back in the UK, Jims Lusso was due to be entered in the Salon Priv concours and as it happened we met up again with 275 GTB/4 owner on the lawn for some coffee and stories of the Italian trip. He was keen to see Jims Lusso as an example of the work I had carried out. Soon after the show I received an email asking us to take a look at another project he was undertaking. Obviously we were pleased to be considered and agreed to look at the car. The second email came through which said: Oh, by the way the car is a 1959 LWB 250 California Spider.
We collected the car and brought it to the workshop for an initial inspection. It had previously been restored in America and was well documented and had attended numerous events and benefitted from a very genuine history. Mechanically the car drove well and was fundamentally sound. A plan was drawn up to include a body restoration with a bare metal respray, a new roof and trim, mechanical restoration and rebuild, and repair a slightly crunchy second gear.
After many cups of coffee, Steve our body and paint expert and myself, put together an action plan of how to project manage this fantastic opportunity, setting aside the value of the car and treating it as just a vehicle that needed our help. It was clear from the outset that this was going to be a fantastic project and looking at the standard of the owners 275 GTB/4 nothing less than perfection was going to do.
On dismantling the car everything was photographed listed and stored. The paintwork was stripped by hand rather than media blasted. This revealed a totally original body that still had the hammer marks from when the panels had been shaped over a wooden buck. A vital part of the restoration was to ensure the car was certified by Ferrari Classiche. To this end all of the important numbers and photos of original components were logged.
With regard to the metal work, because the car had spent most of its life in the warmer American climate, it only needed some replacement outriggers, sill rails and floor pans. These are all the normal areas of work for Ferrari 250 GT cars of this era. All of the items were handmade in house and fitted to exact directions, even the lines in the floors were reproduced as being not perfectly straight to match the original ones. The body required no welding and was totally original, apart from a small repair we rolled for the aluminium boot skin.
The car was primed and repainted in Amaranto, an original colour for the model. The chassis was hand painted in black and the suspension and running gear was re-bushed and plated. We had new castellated nuts made to maintain an original and authentic look to the fittings.
The gearbox internal components were difficult to source but eventually a new 2nd gear synchro and baulk ring was installed complete with new gaskets and seals. The engine was known to be in good order so did not require major surgery and the mechanical assembly came together very well. One item that was missing was the old Autoflux fuel pump and someone in a previous life had cut out the pipes and fitted a modern Facet pump instead. We fabricated original pipes and managed to source an original Autoflux pump.
As the car took shape it became apparent that the bumpers were not up to scratch and had been re-chromed on a number of occasions. To this end I had a long conversation with Lewis Barrow, our specialist metalwork man, who had also made new side louvres for the car. He agreed to roll and fabricate new bumpers. Each bumper was then copper plated for 12 hours and hand block sanded by Steve Fox. On completion I still find it hard to believe that such perfect metal and chrome work is totally handmade true craftsmanship.
Another challenge was the window drop glasses, these had some scratches on them and obtaining period glass carrying original etchings took considerable research and a tenacious approach to finally get the desired result.
As the assembly progressed the chassis was X-rayed by Ferrari to confirm the originality of the metallic content of the metal. We were now some 18 months and 2000 hours into the project (700 hours spent on metal and paintwork). With the body painted and the engine and suspension back in the car it was due to leave us to go to Rob at ORourke Coachtrimmers for the trim and roof to be fitted. Now anyone who has tried to lower a California Spider roof will know that it is not the best design in the world and takes at least two people and some very lateral thinking. So making a new roof cover was never going to an easy task but I must congratulate Rob for a fantastic job. It was now November and the team had the idea that delivering the car for Christmas would make quite a present, and deliver it we did.
The car came back to us in the spring and was selected for the Salon Priv concours. Thrilled with this news the team finished the car and were very proud to deliver it to the concours lawn at Syon House. To get an invitation to display our work at such a major event is an honour but to then go on and win the Best of Show award out right was a very emotional experience.