John Darack

I love my Alfa Romeo Montreal. I have wanted one since the early 1970s when one graced the cover of Road & Track and I thought it was just the sexiest thing since Sophia Loren. Fast forward to 2004. I had sold my business the year before, and retired with some extra jingle in my jeans and time on my hands. Succumbing to a neighbor's lust for our MGA Coupe had left a space next to our Giulietta, and Newton's Eighty First Law had started to kick in. You know that irrefutable law of Car Guy Physics don't you? It states quite simply, "Nature Abhors an Empty Garage".

EBay was not new, but it was new to me. I tried it out, and found that I could find anything my heart might desire. All I needed was a little patience, a PayPal account and my seventh grade typing skill. I also discovered the Montreal Website and discussion forum, one of the best constructed and administered car sites I had ever seen. So, I started educating myself. After a while, I felt I had learned enough about the Montreal's strengths and more importantly, its weaknesses, to start my search.

It struck me that eBay could be pretty risky, since virtually all the cars I saw were far away, most of them very far away indeed. In addition to Newton's laws, I am driven by John's First Law of Car Buying, "Never lay your cash on the table until you have laid your own eyeballs on the goods". It's one thing to click an eBay button to snag a tail light or a Giulietta Spider brochure, something else entirely to send a $20,000 cashier's check to a stranger in another time zone for what might turn out to be a rust bucket with a bad transmission or warped brake rotors made of Unobtanium. So, prudent Yankee that I am, I placed "Wanted" ads in Alfa club publications, first locally, in Velocissima, then nationally, in Alfa Owner. Never one to miss an opportunity to generate a chuckle, I cutsified the ads by making them resemble personals, you know, kind of like I was looking for a hot date ("Lonely cultured gent seeks voluptuous Italian mistress . . . ."). Sonofagun if I didn't get some calls. One local car ran well but was a little too rusty for my timid side. A call from a fellow in Tennessee sure sounded hopeful, though. Long story made short, we talked, I flew down, crawled under, test drove, negotiated a little, wrote a check. Eureka!

Although sorely tempted to drive it home (a friend and fellow Alfa club member even offered to come along), better judgment made me hire a trucker to do the dirty work. Remember, I have a timid side. Monty arrived ten anxious days later and our romance began.

A cautionary fluid change and a once-over by the Sports Car Wizard of Saxonville, and off we went for a fun-filled summer. The radio was a cheap Kmart special, so I took it out and chucked it. Back to eBay, I bought a really nice 1970s era Becker Mexico radio, sent it to the factory shop for refurbishment and put it aside until I got around to doing something with it.

Winter passed, summer came and went, and then it was winter again. As usual, life got in the way of life and that Becker never moved off of the garage bench. Springtime came early this year, and so did my old car juices. You might say that the sap began to flow, or you might say that Mother Nature felt that it was time for the cash to flow from the sap's wallet. The Becker caught my eye. Since time was at a premium due to house projects, grandkids, and, well, you know . . . I tossed the radio on the passenger's seat and headed for Saxonville, knowing he'd do a better job than I would. "Please do a nice installation, and while you're at it, give the car an annual physical and tidy things up before the driving season." He noticed an oil leak under a cam cover, and suggested that I find new gaskets. The website led me to suppliers, and they were here in a week.

The phone rang. It was The Wizard. "Hey, is there oil on your garage floor? There's almost none in the sump!" The dry floor signaled something ominous. "What oil remains in the tank smells like fuel, and I think there may be a problem with the injection pump leaking gas into the oil. Should I pull it?" Ok, here we go.

With the pump removed, some coolant was evident in the V of the engine. "There's a leaky head gasket so you'd better get new ones if you can locate them, and while you're at it, see if you can find a whole engine set, just in case we find anything else to tighten up." I found a set in Florida, and by then had spent $250 on gaskets and overnight UPS charges. "You know, it will be a heck of a lot easier pulling the heads with the engine out of the car, and while it's out and since we have a complete set of gaskets, we ought to re-seal everything we can on the top side." Ok. "I can make these cam covers come alive if we strip off the old flaking paint and re-shoot them". Ok. The pump was sent to the one and only Spica specialist, of course on the west coast. Fourteen hundred bucks, plus round trip expedited freight. You see where this is going?

Anyway, five grand later it finally got done, and Monty now runs like a champ. Makes all those manly V8 sounds and cruises down the highway like a low-buck Ferrari. Should I mention that the Becker didn't fit the hole in the dash?

I think I'll resist looking up Newton's Eighty Second. I'm sure it has something to do with keeping 'em rolling, damn the cost!

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