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Thread: Boat load of vincents on ebay

  1. Re: Boat load of vincents on ebay

    Howdy 50pan,

    OK, you may have asked in jest but anyway, got a thousand of them but here we go with a broad shot. In 74 headed of to college in a small bucolic town in western in NC, this in the era of the Arab oil embargo which as the teeth of that deprivation became more obvious to Americans middle easterners became more the focus of their wrath and violence became common place. Halfway through the semester, seemingly over a weekend one dorm parking lot began filling up with machinery none of us could ever afford, Boras, Uraccos, Espadas, 308s, various Alfas, Lancias and oddly a number of loaded Transams and mid sized American luxury cars. The Saudi royal family (very large) decided they needed to move their kids to to a safer haven out of the limelight of Ivy League schools up East. Like many struggling small private schools landing this was a home run, the poor local textile workers posed no threat so the safety objective met but my crew had a different take. Atlanta was 200 plus miles away where are these guys ever to get their cars serviced, in a word, us.

    Out of a rented house across town 3-4 of us worked on up to 5 cars at a time. Whereas an emissions era TransAm no longer had enough power to damage its drivetrain the Italian cars proved far more fragile than I would have ever imagined, fundamental flaws revealing themselves in as little as 5k miles from new, the same things breaking over and over. Frame failures at suspension locating points, motor mounts, drive pulleys exiting the nose of crankshafts at high rpm slinging parts everywhere and ruining cranks, differentials seizing and the housing rotating in the frame tearing the mounts off. Merely slamming a door could cause a power window switch to come apart and start a fire. It didn't help that they, with unlimited funds, ran these machines far harder than the usual American's caretaker approach to exotic car ownership. Pollution controls in their relative infancy meant lean motors running hot with regularly blown head gaskets, burnt pistons, cracked headers and melted wiring harnesses. One guy sat in the parking lot chatting with his girlfriend, a/c on, never glancing at a gauge till it overheated so violently antifreeze squirted through the hood gaps and discolored the paint. I did 4 head gaskets on the same motor in 6 months only to discover the owner had been running down I 85 in 4th gear (instead 5th because it felt more responsive) at 5 grand with the a/c cranked in 90 plus degree heat. Having exhaustidly revived his favorite machine to spend a long weekend in Atlanta with a new girlfriend he returns several days later with a new car, that effort wasted.

    Now, these guys had been educated in English boarding schools, had been around luxury and affluence and though mechanically totally inept relatively speaking exotic Italian car ownership was almost practical. Saudi with ever growing wealth from oil decided to uplift their society in general by bringing education in a grand way to everyone. Our school sensing an opportunity now established a 9 step program to bring a person fresh from a sheep herding tribe in the desert with zero education up to a fully asssimilated member of modern society. Wow, what now showed up were some wild arsed Smokey and the Bandit type dudes ready for fun and mayhem on an open checkbook. The very first weekend in Sophmore year while standing at the bar in Sig Ep frat house there was a series of dull thuds and then crescendo of bricks. One of them had missed the apex of the long sweeper in front plowed through a long hedge, hit some cars and then knocked the parking lot side wall down.

    What had formerly been an operation focused around mechanical work now expanded to a body shop operation as the locals could bondo and paint but had not ever seen a metric wrench before. A new side of the Italian automotive arena emerged in this era prior to government crash testing. Unit bodied vehicles, though alarmingly fragile were somewhat predictable but body on frames, especially those mimicking semi monocoque, not. A hard hit to one corner from a curb or ditch resulting in minimal body damage could mean all four wheels pointing in different directions. Flashlights peering into inaccessible places might reveal a kink here, a tear there, or a depression where a square frame tube mounted to a plate.

    So, a few years later and now graduated with a new job stood at a local Buick dealer (of all places) here staring at a beautiful, targa roofed late 8000 mile Dino now discounted to the same price as a running 911. Seems the sales manager had "borrowed" it for the weekend, missed a shift, the cam drive coming adrift and bending some valves. It was all different now, no room for a toy as my first post college and only car which would have to be a daily driver as well as making the every 2-3 week 800 mile round trip to New Orleans. Bought the 911 and never looked back.

  2. Re: Boat load of vincents on ebay

    I love this thread.

    Rocambolesco, Peter!

  3. Re: Boat load of vincents on ebay

    Well thank you OldChief,

    My grasp of the enthusiasm for these machines occurred at the beginning of the first semester junior year. The previous May I had explained to one of the more insightful owners why his just repaired machine would never run like it's seemingly identical mate at his parents vacation home in France. That one was rest of world (ROW) spec unlike our US spec cars saddled with emissions intended to parade in 1st gear through Beverly Hills not thunder down the Autostrada. It was more than the difference of just horse power, just drive any pre-68 Ferrari to get some idea. He now appeared this year with 3 of his 4 cars on diplomatic tags (no DOT/EPA) fresh from Europe. Not even out of 2nd gear on the down hill entrance to the interstate it was immediately apparent at gloriously screaming flat crank V8 redline this machine bore no resemblance to its US stablemates. Perfect driveability, no overheating, stunning exhaust note, I now got why owners were willing to put up with dodgy electrics, failed seat stitching and leather dashes curling up like fallen oak leaves within one season of exposure to our sweltering heat.

    Guess with the Italians it's always been about the drivetrain with everything else secondary, I'd just never had a chance to sample the poetry of this focus unadulterated by anyone else's rules.

  4. #14

    Re: Boat load of vincents on ebay

    Peter,
    That is a great story, thanks for posting, I was there as I read it.

    Saudi with ever growing wealth from oil decided to uplift their society in general by bringing education in a grand way to everyone. Our school sensing an opportunity now established a 9 step program to bring a person fresh from a sheep herding tribe in the desert with zero education up to a fully asssimilated member of modern society.
    My alma mater had a similar program however they must have been from a lower class as there were no Ferraris or Lambos to be seen.
    After sitting in class most of the day I had the privledge of sitting in a 10 x 10 block room advising computer science students how to get their Fortran programs to run properly.
    With the white kids you could give them some hints then you could see the gears spinning and off they went.
    With the middle east kids you had to go through it step by step for them to get it. They were also struggling with English which may have been a factor.
    Some enterprsing lads came up with the great idea of selling Fortran card decks ready to go.
    Unfortunatley the school caught on and put a halt to that.
    I had a baby blue 64 vw bug that thought is was a Ford I used to get to school.
    I had to work on it every week to keep it running.
    In late December when the snow flew I could only work outside for ten minutes before rigamortus set in and I had to go inside.
    By January it was hopeless and the vw sat covered with snow and I would walk to school.
    The first warm day in spring when the snow started to melt I would be outside reviving my vw.
    The vw had two large holes in the floor covered by thick rubber mats.
    You had to keep your left foot to the side to avoid the hole.
    Driving in the spring through snow and slush water would enter the car through the floor.
    Great times.

  5. Re: Boat load of vincents on ebay

    Howdy sir,

    My first "real car" was a 4 year old 1970 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe with just 36k miles bought for $390 with a (very blown) head gasket. Funds now exhausted, attempted to drive it home post purchase to save towing money thinking regular applications of anti freeze enroute could coax it the whole way, no cigar. A Midwest purchase you can picture the situation: perfect interior and paint...till you got to the rocker panel level where the tin worms had wreaked such havoc the passenger door would burst open on railroad tracks due to chassis flex.

    Yes, our school program was called the ELS (English Language Skill) innocently enough. But as I gather from your story, verbal communication was soon discovered to be far down the list of challenges facing educators striving to bring this new wave of students up to speed. The first wave heretore described were actually taking a backward step with their arrival in this small town, for the Bedouin crowd now merely stepping off the plane was akin to surveying the landscape of Neptune - none of it familiar, not even their wealthy Arab brethren who had not been around this isolated nomadic segment of the population. I'd say most of these guys had never showered, ridden regularly (at all) in a vehicle or had variety in their diet. But I will say this as it applies to taking up the task of driving, they were extremely agile, awesome reflexes, ready for anything and fearless to the point of personal endangerment.

    The original arivals had an endless stream of guests come to visit them which, being very generous in general, they supplied cars from their stash for them to drive. Most of head scratching how did this happen wrenching at our casual shop applied to the aftermath of those visits. When the ELS guys arrived any tentative mentoring with the originals where driving was concerned soon ended after some spectacular accidents. The ELS'rs were well funded but not infinitely, though they had a proclivity for TransAms and Z28's - thankfully basically bullet proof as none of us desired to work these missions era machines - the foreign car desiring types really only had Fiat/Pinnifarina left as British Leyland had trimmend their offerings to the sluggish MGB and Tr6, but they still wanted an element of exotica in their machines like their wealthy brothers.

    Enter an opportunistic Chevy dealer in the next town who began selling Lancias (which he did not service). Though Betas weren't bad to work on my back aches at the memory of dealing with Scorpions, the racier mid engine machine they preferred. Cross mounted the drive ancillaries innacessible against the side, they had a tendency to destroy CV joints and synchros if abused. The interiors in these were especially fragile and oddly it depended on the color of the upholstery, black of a heavier grade of vinyl while the preferred red of a material akin to an opera glove. My very rotund backgammon playing buddy from Libya could not bend down to get into his Beta, instead opening the door and basically falling in pulverizing every seam in the bottom cushion. Locally made replacements stemmed these failures but subsequently his seat back began collapsing, the adjuster and mount discovered never to be up to the task. We "fitted" him one last time, pulled the back cover aside and welded reinforcing brackets in place rendering it fixed mount. Makes you wonder how these seats would hold up in the back lash of a front end collision.

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