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A boyhood dream

George Giordimania’s love of classics started from the classroom, says Joseph Busuttil from the Old Motors Club

Like all caring couples, George and Doris Giordimania wanted their two children to have a more comfortable and financially rewarding future than they themselves had experienced. Of moderate means and making sacrifices, they sent them both to private schools to give them what they thought would be a better platform for life. But son Michael was proving to be a headache for them at times.

“Academically I was fine, but I have always been technically and mechanically oriented, with an affinity for old cars and a fascination for the combustion engine,” begins Michael Giordimania.

“I would get car models as presents and dismantle them – although I did not always succeed in putting them together again. I would read and research about vehicles as often as I could. My parents thought I would end up in some messy garage repairing cars, something that was not on their list of expectations.”

The successful completion of secondary school presented Giordimania with a deep dilemma. His natural instincts led him to apply for a motor mechanic course at the Umberto Calosso Technical College. Respecting his parents and heeding their advice, he also applied for the draughtsmanship course at MCAST. Both applications were accepted.

“I decided to start with the draughtsmanship course without declining the other option. In fact for a time, a friend used to tell me that my name would be called out every morning while taking down the attendance. After some serious soul searching, I gave up on the technical college and concentrated on the MCAST course, which lasted four years.”

Giordimania now has a successful career designing and installing steel structures in big construction projects.

While proceeding with his studies, old cars were never too far away in the background. In 2000, 16 and still in secondary school, he asked his father whether he could buy a classic car. The reply was in the affirmative, provided there would be no driving before he would get his licence in two years’ time.

Giordimania says that he is very grateful to his father – who alas passed away a few years ago – in that he always believed in his son.

“He taught me a lot without preaching. He had a way of empowering me, never shouting when I accidentally broke a tool but explaining and allowing me to experiment.”

Having always had a soft spot for the Ford marque, Giordimania read that the Escort models were disappearing from the island.

“A friend told me there was one for sale in Għaxaq, and with my father, went to see it. The dark blue 1973 Escort Mk 1 had been garaged for a decade and was just body and upholstery with no engine, which had caught fire. My father was not very enthusiastic, but I saw there was potential in it.”

Not wanting to be a burden on his family, Giordimania bought the Escort with his own money, which he had been saving carefully over the years since being given some at his Holy Communion.

Leaving the Escort at a Rabat garage, he continued with his course. At intervals he bought spare parts with money saved from his stipend as well as from a part-time job in a restaurant.

A 1300cc engine from an abandoned Escort was provided by Stephen, his sister’s then boyfriend, now husband. Restoring it intermittently, Giordimania brought the Escort back to roadworthy condition and then sold it, making a handsome profit in the deal.

Shortly afterwards, he saw another Escort for sale in Pembroke.

“The white vehicle with a protruding fuel cap was one of the first batch imported in Malta, manufactured in 1967 and arriving in the island a year later. The car was in a very good and original condition.”

“It needed very little attention, and was in such a good condition that I got married in it two years ago.”

Giordimania says that Escorts came in various models – including 1100cc, 1300cc, 16 Mexico, RS 1600, and Lotus, with the latter being a few built from the Lotus Cortina for the racing track. Noting that his Escort had the ermine white colour of the original Lotus, he decided to change the drive train and bought a 1600cc engine from Ireland. He claims that such engines – with a prefix L block behind the engine mount for high-grade engine performance in racing – are not easy to come by. He entrusted the rebuilding job to a professional mechanic, although he himself did the assembly and the gearbox, and changed the suspension. Proud of the conversion, Giordimania says the Escort is the apple of his eye.  

Being very fond of Fords – which he says are simple to work on, and which do not entail one to be the greatest mechanic with the most sophisticated tools – he spent some time looking for a two-door Ford Cortina Mk 1. Locally it was close to impossible to source one, so one of his many English friends directed him to one in Manchester.

“The two-tone burgundy with cherry cream top, 1966 Cortina Super with a 1500cc engine had one owner, who was getting on in years, and his son preferred a modern car. It had few defects, like some chipped paint and scratches in the seats, and so I bought it. The air cleaner, steering wheel, horn and rims had been upgraded, and I changed them back to the original.”

Giordimania was given a thick file of car documents, one of which states that this Cortina is the last one to come off the production line that is still in existence.

By this time he had caught the classic car fever in no small way, and another Ford Cortina was soon in his garage.

“The maroon 1963 Mk 1 1200cc de luxe model was bought from Mgarr. It needed very little attention, and was in such a good condition that I got married in it two years ago.”

Giordimania says his wife Chantal initially did not know anything about classic cars, but soon picked up and became an ardent believer, giving him advice and guidance as well as urging him to go for more.

Jointly they bought a red 1979 Porsche 911 3L cylinder boxer engine from an acquaintance. With this sturdy vehicle they went on the Old Motors Club trip to Sicily last year. For the same event this year they are preparing another of their roadworthy vehicles, a wedgewood blue 1968 Triumph Spitfire Mk 111.

1979 Porsche 911 3L cylinder

Giordimania also has three old cars awaiting their turn to be eventually restored. These include a 1970 Ford Capri Mk 1, a 1960 Renault 4 CV which he says is rare in Malta, and a 1954 commercial Morris van with split screen. The vehicle was imported by the post office for deliveries, and he has already been in contact with the postal authorities regarding its restoration, including the original colour scheme.

An active member of the OMC, he observes that when the going is good, members are found in abundance, but not always so when voluntary projects are in the pipeline. While the club has a number of officials with a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience, there seems to be no counterparts to replace them when they eventually disappear from the scene.

He states that the national interest in old cars is booming, although there is a dividing line between the real classic car enthusiast, and those who purchase an old motor just because it is fashionable to do so. There has to be an intrinsic yearning, and this also applies to the maintenance of the vehicle, which is of the utmost importance. Another cardinal principle is to harness the classic car, as little use is detrimental.

With such a significant collection, one would think that Giordimania has fulfilled all his classic car objectives. However, there is something seething below the surface.

“Chantal has a dream car, a Citroen DS 21, and I want to get one for her,” he says. This is certainly a tasteful choice, for the model, praised for its aerodynamics, futuristic body design and innovative technology, came third in a 1999 Car of the Century poll of the world’s most influential auto designs, and was voted the most beautiful car of all time by Classic and Sports magazine.  

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Biting the Bullitt

The Dodge Charger flexed plenty of muscle in Hollywood classics, says Jules Christian

When it comes to movie car chases, the 10-minute sequence in the 1968 movie Bullitt was to become legend and revolutionise Hollywood standards.

Starring King Of Cool Steve McQueen as Lt. Frank Bullitt, the famous actor was unfortunately second-bested by the car he drove in the film, a Ford Mustang GT Fastback. As a keen amateur racer he wanted to do all the stunt driving himself, but ended up doing only the close-up scenes, mainly because of insurance issues. In the majority of them, the car was driven by his stuntman double Loren James.

McQueen, renowned for his temper tantrums, lost it during shooting when he took a wrong turn and furiously reversed. The burning rubber scene accidently ended up being one of the most famous takes in the film.

With heavily modified engine, suspension and brakes, the famous Highland Green Mustang was quite a beast. The 6,390cc V8 punched out a mean 325bhp and could do 0-97km/h in around eight seconds – and with the GT package it had wider wheels and the fabulous four-speed Ford manual gearbox. To create more of a bad-boy image the badges and some of the chrome were removed or matt-blacked over.

There were, in fact, three identical Mustangs used in the film with two being used for all the accident scenes and were written off after the movie. The main Mustang was bought by the Kiernan family in 1974 for the equivalent today of €28,500 and, as its fame grew, McQueen became somewhat obsessed with owning the car and repeatedly over the next six years, before his death in 1980, tried to persuade them to sell it to him – to which the answer was always a firm no. A wise decision as at the beginning of 2020, the family sold the Bullitt Mustang at auction, in its original condition, movie bumps and all, for €3,150,000.

Back to the real world. What about the other, mainly forgotten, car in the famous chase? In fact – was this the car to choose out of the two of them? Dead right it was, as this was an animal: the Dodge Charger R/T. With a 7,250cc V8 engine, it had almost one litre more cc than the Mustang, giving it 55 more horsepower than its rival. It was more than a second quicker to 97km/h, had a higher top speed and, all those mods to beef up the Mustang for the movie – none of that as the Charger was tough enough and quick enough.

Filmed in San Francisco and the surrounding area, and not having computer generation like today, the stunt drivers were told to do speeds of around 120km/h to create the necessary realism. In fact on open stretches they were pretty well flat out at 180km/h. Well, the Mustang was. The stuntman/actor driving the Dodge Charger, Bill Hickman, complained that he had to keep taking his foot off the gas pedal as the Mustang couldn’t keep up. And the R/T wasn’t even the hot version of the Charger!

A year later, enter The General Lee in the TV series The Dukes Of Hazard. This was the ‘grownup’ model – the Dodge Charger R/T Hemi. The stunt model was upgraded from an R/T early in the series, and remembering this was in 1969, the V8 Hemi version had no less than 425bhp under the hood and chopped the 0-97km/h time down to 5.3 seconds. Admittedly General Lee seemed to spend much of its time flying through the air and maybe should have had wings rather than a more powerful engine, but to be quite honest when I watched the series, my attention was primarily focused on the vision of Daisy Duke played by Jessica Simpson.

When it came to American muscle, the Mustang may have been a late 1960s contender, but with the Dodge Charger in the picture, the Bullitt was definitely bitten.

A chase from Bullitt.

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Bertone beauty

Screaming style and substance fuelled the Lamborghini stable, says Jules Christian

The Italians are very good at making things glamorous. I mean, just look at their pasta – curly ones, tube-shaped ones, spaghetti. Let alone designer clothes, and perfumes. But where they have really excelled in the past is in exotic car design. The two most famous design houses undoubtedly have been those of Bertone and Pininfarina with Bertone aligned with Lamborghini and Pininfarina to Ferrari.

Of these, Ferrari is the better known brand, not just because of their designs, but more from their racing pedigree. In fact, in 1966 they were left standing when Lamborghini unveiled their amazing Miura. The design was revolutionary, adopting the new racing mid-engine configuration, which Ferrari were slow to adopt and, even with their new model, the Pininfarina designed Daytona, they stuck with their established front engine, rear wheel drive layout, which in coupe form especially, paled by comparison.

The Bertone designer of the Miura, Marcello Gandini had, through the success of the Muira, set himself a tough challenge to create Lamborghini’s next model for 1974. In fact, he gave a hint of things to come with his 1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo concept car. The finished product, delivered for production as the LP400, was not just sensational, but was to become the most impactful design in supercar history – the Lamborghini Countach.

Constructed with aluminium panels, the front wedge profile and flat squared lines of the Countach were an entirely new concept and was to set the template for many of the mid-engined supercars of the future. The front lights (not the headlamps – they were pop-up) simply made it look evil, while the rear light array was just plain sexy. This, combined with vertical scissor opening doors, ostentatious air vents, classic rear wheel cut-outs, and luxurious interior, the car screamed for attention.

Apart from the mid-engine configuration, about the only thing in common with its Miura predecessor was the engine. The first model was powered by the proven carburettor 3.9ltr, 374bhp V12, which at the end of its long production run in 1990 had been replaced by a quattro-valve, 5179cc, 449bhp fuel injected engine. This gave the Countach a 0-100km/h time of 4.7secs and a top speed of nearly 300km/h.

Although the basic bodywork remained unaltered, later models featured skirts, wheel arches and different air vents, which accommodated wider wheels and improved suspension for better handling and resolved inherent engine cooling problems. A rear spoiler was also added, which actually did nothing to help the aerodynamics and was purely for effect. In fact when driving at high speed it was found the wing made the car uncomfortably light on the front end.

As outrageous as the Countach was, it was decidedly quirky as well, as I found out when I had the chance to drive one in 1978. Surprisingly, the window glass panels were all flat with no curves at all. It had door window winder handles – not electric – but then the tiny windows only went down about 30cm, about one turn, because of the shortness of the doors. The air vents in and behind the doors were not actually vents, with one housing the fuel filler cap and both housing the door opening buttons facing downwards, as were the door key locks – so if you wanted to get the key in first time you would have to get down on your knees to see.

Alfa Romeo Carabo Concept

Driving was also interesting. The double blade wiper only came over to halfway across the front of your face because of the windscreen shape; the pedals were offset to one side (like an old Triumph Herald); the steering, with even no weight at the front, was really heavy and didn’t lighten up even when you got going; and the rear vision, well, there wasn’t any. The wing mirrors were basically useless and on this early model there was a sort of periscope contraption, which gave you the tiniest view if you looked through it at exactly the right angle.

But at the end of the day who cared. It was a Lamborghini Countach – and it was beautiful.

Lamborghini Countach

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Caring for a Cortina

A community spirit inspired Lewis Caruana to own his own classic, says Joseph Busuttil from the Old Motors Club

The sleepy village of Mellieħa has always had a reputation of being a classic car hub. Whether it was a farm vehicle, a quarry truck, or a four-wheeler to ferry people around, the villagers took great pride in their means of transport, caring for them and restoring and preserving them for posterity once the vehicles had given up their ghost.

Besides many individuals with their own sole classic car, a number of families started to build up collections. One could mention the mini-museums of quarry owner Joseph Vella and his son Roderick, as well as of the Xuereb baker family, father Anthony and his sons Alfio and Tonio.

At times during the year, the community-spirited villagers get together and organise a classic vehicles fest in the splendid square that highlights the centre of Mellieħa.

It was in this atmosphere that Lewis Caruana grew up.

“My formative years were dominated by classic car sights, some near to home. One uncle had an old Ford Anglia van, while another owned two Ford Escort station wagons – vehicles that are still in the family. Maybe this initiated in me an attraction to the Ford marque,” he explains.

A neighbour had a 1950s Ford Zephyr Mk 11, and when he passed away, the vehicle was bought by a contractor.

“He hardly used it, and it was left idle and deteriorating in a garage for many years. I thought of buying it, but I dilly-dallied and the Xuereb family eventually bought it and restored the classic car to its former glory.”

Not easily discouraged, Caruana soon bought his first classic car, a 1965 Anglia Thames van.

“It was in a very good condition, and needed very little attention. I changed the mudguards, as well as the original sky blue colour to metallic grey. In line with the mid-1980s fashion, I customised it with some airbrush decorations as well as wheel rims.”

The original engine was kept, but when it needed reboring, he replaced it with an Escort 1300cc one.

Wanting to get under the skin of his vehicle, Caruana became a member of the UK Anglia Club to be in a better position to look after and enjoy his classic car to the full.

“Joining this overseas organisation had many benefits, including a regular informative magazine, spare parts offers, as well as networking among similar soul mates.”

The van was kept for eight years before making way to a white, 1978 Ford Escort MkII with square headlamps. Again, it was in a very good condition, and the only change carried out was the installation of revolution wheels in the form a cross, another customised fad of the era. The Escort was used for three years before Caruana sold it.  

One day in 2005, he was reading a newspaper when he saw an advert that caught his attention. There was a Ford Cortina MkII 1300cc for sale, and after enquiries, contact and negotiations, he bought the white 1969 vehicle with black upholstery.

“The four-door Cortina had just one previous owner, with little mileage on the clock as it was hardly used. When he passed away, his family wanted to sell. The vehicle was nearly brand new, and needless to say, all it required was starting the ignition and driving off.”

“Firmly believing that an old car is there to be used”

Caruana waxes lyrical about the smooth performance of the Cortina, the perfect purring engine, the good road holding, and the comfortable ride.  

The Ford Cortina was built by Ford of Britain between 1962 and 1983. It was produced in five generations, from the MkI to the MkV. The model was inspired by the name of the Italian ski resort of Cortina d’Arpezzo, the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Designed as a family car, the Cortina was aimed at being economical, cheap to run, and easy and inexpensive to manufacture in Britain. 

The Cortina MkI, designed by Roy Brown in the traditional rear wheel layout, was launched a few weeks before the 1962 London Motor Show. The MkII owned by Caruana was manufactured to a design by Roy Haynes, and came out between the years 1966 and 1970. This model was a little shorter than its predecessor, while extra width and curved side panels provided more interior space. Other improvements featured a smaller turning circle, softer suspension, and self-adjusting brakes and clutch.

Caruana’s glowing review of the Cortina was shared by many period reviewers who also gave full marks to the car’s styling and performance. As a result, it was Britain’s bestselling car for nine out of the 10 years between 1972 and 1981. Nearly three million Cortinas were sold in Britain during its 20 years of existence, besides being very successful in the export market. The sporty Lotus version of the Cortina was a successful rally car in the 1960s and 70s in Europe and North America. While standard Cortinas rarely took part in competitions, the positive publicity generated by the successful Lotus rally performances benefitted Cortina sales in no small way.

Caruana , a carpenter by trade who now lives in Dingli, became a member of the Malta Old Motors Club in 2013 when he participated in a static classic car show at the Malta international airport. He harnesses the Cortina regularly, taking part in events of all sorts as often as possible, and firmly believing that an old car is there to be used. Unfortunately his son James is not keen on classic cars, while his wife Nancy, while accompanying him on countryside drives, is reluctant to join him in club activities.

Reviewing the old motors scene in Malta and Gozo, he says the hobby has now accelerated to a fast rhythm owing to growing enthusiasm. Restoration projects are serious and loyal to the original layout. Barn finds, which were not so difficult to come by, have now nearly disappeared without a trace.

Caruana also observes that locally, many one-car clubs have sprouted in recent years, including the Classic Ford Malta. Although a member of the OMC, he says that sometimes, having been alerted through social media of an event, he drives by and stops at one of the Ford club activities. He notices that the number of Cortinas in Malta has increased significantly, a fact he attributes to two developments.

“First, some have been imported from abroad. Secondly, a number of Cortinas had been garaged for a long time, and when their owners died, the vehicle either passes to a family member who wants to use it, or else sold to people who would put it back on the road.”

Caruana admits that while he is very happy with the Cortina, he yearns for it to be joined by a Ford Escort MkI – alas, he has garage space problems and so this dream has had to be put on hold.   

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Online and out of sight

What are the perils of purchasing a classic car online, asks Joseph Busuttil from the Old Motors Club

It goes without saying that, over recent years, the rapid development of the internet has made many aspects of life much more comfortable as well as accessible. In the field of old motors for example, spare parts previously hard to locate and procure for a nut-and-bolt restoration project, can now be identified and obtained from worldwide sources at the click of a button. The same applies when one is pondering the purchase of that long sought and desired classic car – all one has to do is surf the net and the world is one’s oyster.

However, this ease of accessibility, availability and variety can also have its pitfalls. When buying an old motor on the net, some Maltese go as far as personally going abroad, sometimes with an expert friend, in order to see up close and personal what they are going to buy, as well as the people that are dealing with. Others trust the seller and their sales pitch, enhanced by attractive photos and luring literature, and eventually buy online. Alas, once in a while, the buyer would later find out that a Pandora’s box has been opened.

Anthony Camilleri, whose old motors story was recently featured in this publication, is a classic example of how a dream can turn into a nightmare. Luckily, his true grit and determination, aided and abetted by a number of friends and officials, finally turned the tables, and the tale had a happy ending. But the saga is worth retelling, for it is a real eye opener for prospective purchasers.

“It was one February day in 2017, and I was on a flight returning to Malta. To pass away the time, I was visiting a Jaguar international website. Suddenly my eyes fell upon a magnificent 1952 Jaguar 120 XK fixed head coupe, and seeing this rare model for sale, my heart skipped a beat,” he remembers.

Soon after landing, he immediately contacted a friend, Chris Saliba, who owns a number of classic cars, for guidance. Despite its derelict looks, he was advised to go for it.

Needing a second opinion, that very same evening Camilleri sought the counsel of Joe Said, the doyen of Jaguar classic cars in Malta. The latter did not mince his words: there was no other Jaguar XK 120 fixed head coupe in the island, and during its six-year production run, only 2,400 of this model were produced, making it a rare and much sought after classic.

Finally Camilleri shared his thoughts with another classic car guru, Barry Owen, who also opined that he should go for it. Buoyed by this triple expert consensus, he immediately contacted the owner, and paid a deposit.

“Completing this nut-and-bolt restoration project has been a labour of love”

The Jaguar XK 120 is a sports car manufactured between 1948 and 1954, the first since 1940, with the new XK 3.4L engine. Three body styles came out: an open two-seater roadster, the fixed head coupe, and the drop head coupe. In all, 12,000 models were produced. The sports car was highly successful in high-speed runs, races and rallying, including Silverstone, Le Mans, Targa Florio, Mille Miglia, and the Alpine rally.

“The Jaguar was in a classic car establishment quaintly called Romance with Rust and located in Orange County, California. The dealer, Chris Ashworth, told me the vehicle had been idle for 30 years, and in need of restoration. I then paid the rest of the price, plus shipping, which came to quite a hefty sum. I then eagerly awaited its arrival in Malta.”

Alas, the days turned into weeks, and the weeks to months, with no sign of the Jaguar surfacing. On further investigation, Camilleri found the dealer had closed his Facebook account, his e-mail address and telephone went dead, while the website of the company was marked ‘under new management’. He went to a local lawyer, who wrote a legal ultimatum to Ashworth – but still no reply.

A bewildered Camilleri then visited the Fraud Squad of the Malta Police. They were very helpful and advised him to make an appointment and talk to the Maltese ambassador in Washington, Pierre Clive Agius.

“I did exactly that, and also found an understanding reception. The ambassador told me that similar cases sometimes surface. He asked me for details, so that an official letter could be written. He also told me to contact the consul for Malta in San Francisco, Louis John Vella, to write a similar official letter to Ashworth. Despite all the official legal pressure, there was still no sign of life.”

Camilleri thought that this graveyard silence might have been due to the fact that all correspondence was being sent to the business address of the dealer, as the private address had never been known. He then embarked on some elaborate detective work – aided by another of his classic car friends Marcus Harrison – and finally the home details were found out.

“The address was given to the Malta consul who armed with legal documents, finally confronted Ashworth face to face. The dealer came up with many excuses for the shipping delay: missing papers and wrongly numbered documents. But the fact was that the vehicle was still in the name of the original owner, as Ashworth did not affect the transfer in order to avoid paying taxes. He released the Jaguar for shipping, but still refused to sign the transfer. The impasse was resolved when the shipping company got the bill of sale from the previous owner. The vehicle finally arrived in Malta in September 2017.”

However, instead of breathing a sigh of relief, Camilleri faced more complications at the local customs, who refused to release the Jaguar as the American shipping company did not send the needed documents since they had not been paid by Ashworth. Again, the Maltese consul was contacted and came to the rescue, running for the umpteenth time after the American dealer, who finally paid up, and the important papers eventually found their way to Malta.

While the Jaguar was impounded at customs awaiting its release, Camilleri was unaware that he had still to register it with Transport Malta at an earlier stage, something he became aware of when he finally went for the registration and log book. A huge fine was avoided at the eleventh hour by his going to a lawyer to sign an affidavit retelling the story and reasons for the late application.

Finally the Jaguar found its way to Camilleri’s garage in Attard in January 2018.

“It was a project car as expected – the body and chassis were in excellent condition, the gearbox and engine were spread out on the back seat, while other parts sourced for restoration were in the luggage. I took the engine to Owen for assembling, while I started working on the body. Due to a misunderstanding, I took back the engine to put it together myself.”

“Completing this nut-and-bolt restoration project has been a labour of love in more ways than one,” says a proud Anthony, as he inspects his finished Jaguar, now gleaming in its original British racing green colour.

Objective appreciation of the newly restored vehicle also came in the latest edition of the Malta Classic last October, when the Jaguar came first as People’s Choice in the Concours d’Elegance, and second in the Best Restored Pre 1970 Group.

Having done most of the rehabilitation tasks himself, he remarks that while he has another eight old motors in his classic car collection, the Jaguar is the sole specimen that he has really dirtied his hands with, for all the rest were either road worthy or else needed very little to see them back roaring to life. Having had his fingers burnt, he urges prudent caution when buying classic cars on the internet, and to run a due diligence exercise on the seller, as acting in haste, one might have to repent at leisure.

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A car for every decade

Anthony Camilleri’s mission to own an old motor from every decade is well under way, says Joseph Busuttil from the Old Motors Club

In the years of late adulthood, when the first rays of retirement start to seep onto the horizon, many people begin to think about spending more time enjoying their favourite pastime, which hitherto they had been unable to indulge in at length.

Anthony Camilleri, an engineer with sailing in his blood, and his own marine company, started to contemplate a very lengthy round-the-world voyage in his boat, together with his wife Greta. After all, they had just spent some wonderful months sailing the Aegean Sea, and also crossed the Atlantic with some Canadian friends.

However, when Camilleri shared this thought with his wife, she did not subscribe to the idea, as she was averse to be away from dry land for so long. When asked how he would spend his time, she suggested her husband should take up old motors. Ruminating over the proposal, he looked back and thought that he had never really been enthusiastic about classic cars. In fact, when a 1986 Porsche 944 turbo landed in his lap as part of a boat deal, he did not use it much, and eventually sold it. But in order to prioritise marital harmony, he eventually subscribed to her view.

While on the net, he soon spotted a 1927 Chevrolet AA Boat Tail Speedster for sale at Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq. They went there to have a closer look. Despite its long life, the beige coloured car was in good and roadworthy condition. Regarded as a rare vehicle with an impressive history, the series had toppled Ford from the top of the US sales chart in the late 1920s. Eventually a deal was reached with the owner, Barry Owen.

While viewing the Chevy, the couple also saw in the same garage a white, 1977 Mercedes SL 350 convertible. The vehicle brought back romantic memories, as the first birthday present Greta gave to her future husband was, by sheer coincidence, a scale model of this Mercedes. Consequently, the Camilleris also bought this classic car, a grand touring vehicle tailored to affluent performance enthusiasts, produced till the present and spanning six generations.

The purchase of two old cars half a century apart gave the couple a strong desire to start a small collection by getting an old motor from every decade, covering both pre- and post-war models. The next two additions came around in an unusual way when Camilleri was in Spain.

“While surfing the net I spotted an attractive blue, 1932 Morris Minor for sale in Fgura. I had already made up my mind to go for it when in the background of the picture, a 1967 Jaguar Mk 11 2.4L sailed into view. Well aware that Greta had a soft spot for this model, I thought of killing two birds with one stone, and buy both. But the two classics were in Malta, while I was abroad. So I decided to phone my friend and neighbour Jesmond Zahra and asked him to go to Fgura, vet them, and if they were fine, to pay a deposit. Soon after getting back in Malta, our collection had doubled to four.”

1964 Jaguar 3.8 MK 2-1

Eventually, the Jaguar 2.4L was part-exchanged for a maroon, 1935 Rolls Royce 20/25 limousine, a classy car that had its chassis and mechanical parts manufactured by the company, while the body was made and fitted by a coachbuilder selected by the owner. Similarly, the Morris Minor made way for a black, 1927 Ford Model T. Known as Tin Lizzie, this model is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile as well as the most influential car of the 20th century.

A classic car with a history was the next addition, another Jaguar Mk 11 3.8L with a historic pedigree. This 1964 black model had been in the hands of various well-known old motors collections, including Graham Gooch, a former captain of the British cricket team.

The next thoroughbred to join the stable was a two tone maroon and black, 1934 Austin 10/4 Clifton, two-seater tourer with dickey seat, which was also bought from Barry Owen. Well noted for its willingness to pull, the Clifton featured, among other innovations, a new style radiator cowl. 750 models were manufactured between 1934 and 1936 – only 27 are thought to be still in existence, thus making Camilleri’s car a rare find. Moreover, it also boasts its original patina, displaying the telltale signs of a well-used and exquisitely cared for vehicle. In 2016 the Camilleris participated with the Clifton in the Malta Concours d’Elegance at Villa Apap Bologna in Attard, and won the Pre-War Section.

The Camilleris’ collection also includes a red, 1964 Porsche 356 SC, a sports car that was first produced in Austria, then later in Germany, from 1948 to 1965. Significant engineering innovations contributed to its motor sports success and popularity. Bought from Holland, Camilleri says that the vehicle, which originally came out in December 1963, underwent a nut-and-bolt restoration project in Australia in 1993, and is now in a concours condition.

Camilleri’s cars have come from far and wide, but in the collection there is a classic vehicle that is very near to home – a 1986 Fiat 126 BIS.

“Camilleri’s cars have come from far and wide, but in the collection there is a classic vehicle that is very near to home – a 1986 Fiat 126 BIS”

“It is my father’s old car, and it brings back many happy and nostalgic memories for me.” This rear engine, small and economic city car came out in 1972 as a replacement for the Fiat 500.

A glittering precious gem among the classic jewels is a British racing green, 1952 Jaguar XK 120 fixed head coupe, a vehicle which underwent a thorough, nut-and-bolt rehabilitation operation in the hands of its proud owner. How this rare car found its way from Orange County in California to Camilleri’s garage in Attard is a tale of trials and tribulations, pinpointing the pitfalls that occasionally put up their nasty head when one purchases an old car online. The sad saga with an albeit happy ending deserves a complete article in its own right, and will be recounted in a future edition of Motoring.

A professional engineer who honed his skills for many years in a leading Maltese company prior to setting up his own marine business, Camilleri says that he likes to do much of the work needed on his old vehicles himself.

“But, truth be told, with the exception of the Jaguar XK 120, all the motors I bought were either in very good condition, or else needed very little repairs,” he adds.

When Camilleri bought his first old cars, he found by chance the website of the Old Motors Club, and saw there a name that rang familiar bells – John Pullicino, an old colleague from his university days as well as the workplace. He contacted him to test the ground, and needless to say, he was soon taking part in club events, something that he continues to do on a regular basis accompanied by his wife. Their three sons are also very interested in classic cars, but their present very busy and hectic working lifestyle makes it hard for them to indulge in this pastime. . As to the local old motors scene, Camilleri notices that the number of old vehicles on the Maltese roads is increasing by the day, aided and abetted by the generous official concessions in importing as well as owning a classic car. With a significant old car collection to enjoy, he feels that he has reached his limit of purchasing more such motors. “But you never know,” he adds with a twinkle in his eyes.

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The gift of gear

Clyde Busuttil went from model car birthday presents to real classics says Joseph Busuttil from the Old Motors Club.

From a very early childhood, Clyde Busuttil developed a keen interest in classic cars. His father Aldo drove an Austin Farina A40, a small family car that was very popular from the late 1950s to the middle 60s.

“Sunday drives with the family were the highlight of the week, something that I very much looked forward to,” he remembers, adding that the vehicle, maintained in an immaculate condition, was used frequently and was kept in the family for many years. This model had a lasting and impressive imprint on the young boy’s mind.

For his birthdays, Busuttil had a specific request for his parents: the purchase of a classic car model, which he would cherish with affectionate care. The only troubled waters that would cause havoc in the otherwise very quiet Busuttil home surroundings would arise when his younger brother Conrad would take one of his old car models without his permission and cause some form of damage.

“Then all hell would break loose, as I was very protective of my hard earned collection,” he recalls.

As a young man, his first classic car was a blue, 1956 Volkswagen Beetle with oval windows. Despite its age, the vehicle was roadworthy and needed little repairs. Consequently Busuttil used it regularly for a period of seven years. Alas, as is often the case, when marriage beckons, an old car would be one of the first items that have to make way for the new to be assumed responsibilities.

Clyde Busuttil with his 1969 Triumph Herald 13/60. Photos: Tony Vassallo

For a lengthy period – between 2006 and 2013 – thoughts of owning a classic car were far removed from his mind, although he is quick to point out that whenever he could, he attended old motors shows all over the island, thus slightly quenching in a subtle way his thirst for being behind the wheel of a memorable motor. However, once he felt settled down and other priorities were seen to, he was soon on the lookout for a classic car.

Through the grapevine, he got to know of an abandoned car in a field in the limits of Rabat.

“It was a left-hand drive, 1960 Volkswagen Beetle. It was in a dilapidated state, having been left at the mercy of the elements for many years. My first reaction was that restoring such a vehicle would be a bridge too far, but then both my eagerness for a challenge as well as nostalgia oozing out of those halcyon days in my first Volkswagen, won the day.”

Having paid a few hundred euros for the broken down car, he happily towed it home to start planning an elaborate nut and bolt restoration project. But his troubles were far from over, as it turned out that the Volkswagen had belonged to a person who did not have the previous transfer papers, the reason for its being left to fend for itself in an open field for countless years.

“Luckily my work in the insurance field as well as helpful contacts saved the day. Transport Malta were able to trace the original owner, who did not possess the number plates, but the chassis number could be identified as the original. Although the original log book had been lost, new papers were issued, and a new document could now be printed out,” explains the much relieved new owner.

“His red coloured model came out from the Malta Car Assembly in Marsa”

A car that has come to symbolise Germany as much as Goethe and sauerkraut, the Volkswagen or People’s Car is an iconic motor that was produced from 1938 until 2003. The 1960s models featured a front anti roll bar with hydraulic steering damper.

Being well aware that the old car needed a labour of love, patient rehabilitation, Busuttil is still thoroughly working on all putting the bits and pieces together, as well as in contact with Volkswagen Heritage to find out the original colour that preceded its present orange colour.

While working on the Volkswagen, Busuttil realised in 2015 that he could not stay away from driving a classic for such a long time. One day while surfing the net, he came across a 1969 Triumph Herald 13/60 for sale – a model he has always admired for its sleek and stylish lines. Considering it a bargain and knowing how quickly such offers are taken up, he immediately contacted a friend so that he could do all the running for him, as he could not get away from work at that period.

“We acted just in the nick of time for the classic car, which incidentally later turned out to have belonged to another friend of mine, and had a number of enthusiasts following it seriously.”

The Triumph Herald 13/60 is a small, two-door car produced by Standard Triumph of Coventry from 1959 to 1971, designed by the renowned Italian stylist Giovanni Michelotti. Busuttil proudly points out that his red coloured model came out from the Malta Car Assembly in Marsa, a plant operating between 1963 and 1982 that also saw models like Alfa Romeo, Alfa Sud, and the Austin Mini coming off the line.

“I did not have to do too much work on it, for it was in a very good condition. The main tasks were engine maintenance, brakes and shock absorbers, while it was re-sprayed in its original colour.”

A year after buying the Herald, Busuttil got to know that a friend who owned a 1970 Morris Mini Mark 111, was selling it.

“The Mini was roadworthy, but he had garaged it and dismantled it in preparation for a restoration project. However, he then developed second thoughts. Having always had a soft spot for the Mini since childhood, a deal was soon on the cards.”

He is now working on the overhaul and assembly of the Mini, having finished the internal spraying of the British racing green classic car.

Recently Busuttil came across another attractive offer online – a 1974 Land Rover Series 111.

“I was impressed by its overall functional state and condition. The vehicle was roadworthy, and needed no special attention. The UK import has been in Malta for many years, and was in constant use. It soon found its way to my garage.”

The Land Rover is a very successful off road vehicle produced by the Rover company in three main series.

Busuttil states that out of the four old motors, the Volkswagen Beetle is definitely his favourite. He laments the fact that a 1981 Mazda 323 that was also driven by his father, was eventually sold. Despite two classics on the road, and two more with a work-in-progress classification tag, he does not rule out the acquisition of another old motor, especially one that comes from the pre war era.

An active member of the Malta Old Motors Club, he follows not only major local highlights like the Mdina Grand Prix and the Valletta Concours d’Elegance, but also spreads his wings abroad and regularly visits activities abroad like the Birmingham three day classic car event at the National Convention Centre, and the Ragusa Auto Story, that specialises in showcasing old Italian cars.

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Nice vice

The Ferrari Daytona was a beast dressed in plenty of beauty, says Jules Christian

In the early 1960s the scene was set to change the design concept of supercars forever. Pioneered by Colin Chapman and Team Lotus in Formula 1, the introduction of mid-engined technology and the subsequent vast improvement in roadholding has now become the standard of today.

Some supercar companies immediately went in this direction – including Lamborghini with the devastating Miura in 1966. In those days, their great competitor Ferrari, were sceptical of change, and were only prepared to venture into the smaller mid-engined market under the guise of the non-Ferrari badged Dino 246. In the mainstream they doggedly stuck to their proven big front engine, rear wheel-drive philosophy, and lined-up against the competition in 1968 with their 365GTB/4 – the Daytona.

As a matter of principle, Ferrari had to take the fastest production car badge from Lamborghini’s Miura and, with their larger 4390cc, six Weber carburettors, V12 punching out nearly 350bhp, made the 365GTB/4 top out 5km/h faster at 281. The 0-100km/h time was a healthy 5.4 seconds. Unable to realistically compete with the roadholding of the new mid-engine layout, they cleverly compensated a good deal with wishbones and coil spring independent suspension, and by moving the gearbox to be transaxle at the rear of the car for better weight distribution.

The Ferraris of that era were not designed to be a town car, and driving one around London was, well, horrible. The interior was luxurious enough, but to drive, the steering and clutch were heavy, the gearbox gate hampering, and the engine sounded and felt uncomfortable. Not at all what I expected. But, on the open road, the Daytona was a different animal – a true Ferrari, with endless power and beautiful balance, with just enough twitch to remind you that you were driving a front engine, rear-wheel-drive car. And the sound – gone was the grumpy traffic asthma to be replaced by the wonderful Ferrari howl.

When it came to looks, if the Miura was outrageous, the Pininfarina, Leonardo Fioravanti designed Daytona was quite simply beautiful. Built by coachbuilder Scaglietti, a total of 1,400 were produced until the end of its production run in 1973. The majority of these were Coupés (only 155 were built right-hand-drive) and just 122 were Spyder convertibles.

Starting prices for genuine Daytona’s now begin at €500,000 with the rarity of the Spyder commanding a lot more. This additional value has seen a good many Coupés having been converted to Spyders. One example of this is the one seen driven in a TV legal drama episode of Suits by character Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht). Undoubtedly, however, the most famous one was used by Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) in the early series of Miami Vice, (before the white Testarossa) which was, in fact, one of the may replicas that have also come on to the market.

Owning a real one – now that would be a nice vice.

Ferrari Daytona Coupe

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History has a bright future

Silverstone-based Lunaz promises it will make the most beautiful and celebrated cars in history ready for the future

A new electric vehicle firm has set up shop in Silverstone, where it will build all-electric conversions of some of history’s most iconic classic cars.

Headed up by former Renault Formula 1 boss Jon Hilton, Lunaz says it “will make the most beautiful and celebrated cars in history ready for the future” by fitting a completely unique electric powertrain that’s designed and built in-house.

The firm says its staff have experience with Aston Martin, Ferrari, Ford, Formula 1, Jaguar, Volkswagen, McLaren and Rolls-Royce. It is currently preparing a 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V, 1953 Jaguar XK120 and 1956 Rolls-Royce Cloud for production.

Lunaz says each model will receive a unique powertrain set-up based on what’s appropriate for the vehicle. For example, the Jaguar will use an 80kWh battery pack that feeds a twin-motor propulsion system making 375bhp and 700Nm of torque.

Photos: PA Media

Each vehicle has been re-engineered from the ground up using accurate 3D scans and traditional coachbuilding skills are then used to build it. The interiors will retain the look of the originals, but with modern amenities such as WiFi, satellite navigation and infotainment screens.

David Lorenz, founder of Lunaz, said the idea for the company came to him while waiting for a recovery truck at the side of the road. He said: “I wanted a car like a 1953 Jaguar to be my daily driver, Lunaz takes a history we all love and gives it a bright future.

“We are innovating to create cars that are usable, dynamic, and stand as the ultimate drivers’ classics. “For Luna, my daughter, not to have access to a car like the Mercedes-Benz 190SL when she is of driving age would be a tragedy. Without building Lunaz, this is the reality she faces.”

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