(This personal story is derived mainly from a letter that Hannelore wrote in 1997. Since then, the Nehme's completed the restoration of their Montreal, and the story will be continued in due course. - Bruce)
Our Monti was built in 1975 (first registration: 4th July 75 !!! - it might be an independence car?!) It was delivered in Rosso 501 with an original front spoiler, with the usual 195/70 VR 14 tyres on Campagnolo rims. It was a firsthand-car from an older man (born 12.5.1926) who had bought it new and driven it till 1982. Then he put it in a garage for the next 7 years, because he wanted to restore the car - he had made a little front damage (the heart was broken at the left little finger - you can never repair it!!!!) Maybe as he became older he was no longer interested in the car, so some of his family members tried to work on the body. (In a typical way with muuuuuuch primer). Even at parts where it was not necessary, they put kilos of primer on the pure body. Firstly they did the job without any experience of bodywork, and secondly just half-heartedly. It looked like an old wall. When they lost interest in the car they offered it to our dealer Eberlein in Kassel, where we always bought our cars.
At Easter 89 we had a meeting of our Kassel/Gottingen Alfa club section (4 times a year), and on the way home we always made a stop there to have a look in the windows and at the cars offered outside. Dirk couldn't believe his eyes when he saw a Monti in the garage in the farthest corner of the building. The next day (Monday) he had free time from his job (he would even have taken it for this reason), so he drove to the dealer to ask about the Monti. Helmut Eberlein is a quite good friend of ours, and knew that Dirk was dreaming of an exotic car like the Monti, because at this time Dirk owned a GTV6 in very good condition (cat 2). But the Monti was right at the top of his letter to Santa Claus! Some coupé anyway, but what could be more exciting than a Montreal with a V8(!) if you are infected by Alfa? Sure, the questions were asked quickly about the car and - yes - the price! Jingle Jingle: it would cost 19,900 DM! A lot of wood for a young man aged 28.
So he offered his GTV6 in part exchange. For that the dealer gave 14,000 DM, and Dirk ran to the bank for the other 6,000 DM. 2 days later the Monti was standing on our ground! Do you know what his father said when he saw the car for the first time? "Well, it looks like an Opel Manta". I thought Dirk would kill him immediately (hehe). The condition was unrestored, about cat 3 to 4. Since money and time were short, Dirk started slowly with a half-heart-for-the-next-2-years-restoration. He knew that the car had to be restored completely some day, but for the next 2 years first he wanted to enjoy driving it. Since it was mechanically in good condition, Dirk cleaned the body of its home-done paintwork and put new red paint on it. He bought a new heart in metal with nice chrome for a ridiculous 800 DM (!!!), and some other missing parts, and on the 11th April 1990 it got its new plates with "GO-AR 826" (GO for hometown, AR, and 8 for cylinders, 26 for litres). He didn't really believe that this number was free - what a lucky day!
For the next 2 years we enjoyed very much driving the car to our club meetings, at the weekends just for fun, or on holiday. We were the only people with a Monti in our area and sure of every look (without envy). We enjoyed every kilometre. The only thing we missed in summer was the A/C. It gets hot in the black interior if you are in the sun for a while, but it doesn't affect our pleasure. We drove to Strasbourg, Basel (+Monteverdi), Mulhouse, the Schlumpf Museum, and the Oldtimer Grand Prix etc. The handicap of long distance driving is just that on the passenger seat you sit so low down that you can't bend your knees. After a while they are getting more and more tired, and the seats are not filled with much stuffing so you do feel the springs.
Now it was autumn 1992, and the licence and insurance expired. So the Monti was put to sleep for the winter of 92. In 1993 Dirk started to prepare everything for the restoration: building a store for all the parts, because they have to be kept dry and safely. Our garage is a double one connected with a door to the workshop (=3). At one side of the garage Dirk put 2 big shelves, his brother parks in the middle and Monti was sleeping in the workshop. It needs a long time to fix up everything if you want to be prepared for a clean job. We hate to improvise during an important job and later you can never find a part again.
Well, the next step was building a holder on which the Monti could be supported and turned around. We saw one holder at an exhibition (Techno Classica) and Dirk took a lot of photos of it because the original one was verrry expensive (7,000 DM)! Dirk went to the iron dealer and bought all the things he needed. Also a joint for rotation, and wheels for moving the whole "ufo". It took a while to weld and fix it to fit exactly. Also Dirk built an iron frame that is installed inside the body.
Then he started to empty the Monti completely in every part! What a mess. Sure it's easy to remove the interior - no problem, put the seats in blankets, also the windows, but then he started under the hood! A problem was the cable harnesses. Dirk put a little flag at every cable end indicating where it belongs. But when he took out the cable harness he saw it was burned in the middle under the panel. He looked really happy! "Yes, I like problems!!" OK, it's a job for delicate fingers - and he has them!
But you know how it is with time and money. For a while Dirk stopped with the car because it was winter 93 and also he had a big problem with his back, so the winter lasted about 15 months. In summer 1994 we went to Italy for the Mille Miglia and a big holiday, so there was no time and money for Monti - we spent it in Italy on books and miniatures and accessories. In 1995 Dirk was a bit lazy, but he started to cut out the damaged parts and put in the brand new plates. He got new sills, the little wing plates in front of and behind the doors, the left corner under the wing, the points for the lifting jack etc. Also there was rust in the gutter of the rear window, because the weather strip never closed enough to keep out water. There he had to cut off a piece and weld in a new one (it still looks terrible, but I don't say a word!)
Dirk sent the Monti body away for sandblasting - but they did a very bad job. They missed all the important corners at the base around the tub for the spare wheel, as well as all the edges and grooves. When he got the car home and put it back in the holder and turned it over, Dirk was really angry about the bad job. (If you ask me I would take the telephone immediately and make trouble, but Dirk is different) so he did it by himself (although the man had taken 650 DM!!)
Also Dirk built a sand blaster box by himself, blasted every part possible, and sent them away to be galvanized with yellow zinc. Now he is angry about this because NO paint sticks on the zinc. Then he built a press for pushing in silent blocs and we both had a lot of fun in the garage to press them in - you won't believe it - it worked perfectly, and now we are experts!!
During the last month Dirk took all the mechanical parts to pieces and where necessary changed with new parts and put them back together again. Just not the engine and gearbox, which is a job for our friend (he is an Alfa mechanic). In the winter he restored the interior completely with black leather. It looks beautiful. The next thing he will do is work on the cables. He laid out the harness on a wallpaper table, and it stands in the garage where my motorcycle sleeps (a Yamaha chopper 50 PS). There he is not disturbed at weekends, and can work in the sun (hopefully). After that he started to paint by himself the interior of the body, the wheelhouses and the bottom, as it is cheaper this way. The painter will take enough for the body (about 6 - 7,000 DM).
We have 362 miniature Alfas in different scales and are always looking for new ones to buy. We collect any rubbish about Alfa! - dealer stickers, visiting cards, sales brochures, key rings, pins, watches, clothes, postcards, old user manual bags, stamps (we now have about 50), flags, ... well EVERYTHING! It needs a lot of room to store all this, but it is always a pleasure to have a look in the boxes again and to see how much trash I got in the last years with my "sticky fingers". Of course if we have to sell all this rubbish we won't get a penny for it, but it's just for fun.
We are members of the German AlfaClub, which has about 2800 members. The last membership number is nearly 4500, because people come and go - unfortunately mostly the people with OLD Alfas. In the summer, I went to England with my friend Bruce Taylor for a few days to visit the National Alfa Day meeting of the UK Owners Club at Stanford Hall. This was an amazing trip and honestly never before I saw so many Alfas on one ground as at this meeting - even not at our Oldtimer Grand Prix on Nürburgring!
It was a beautiful day and Stanford Hall was the right background for the event. One thing was very funny for me - the sheeps. Wow! Just to see the signs 2600/Zagato/Montreal/GTV etc parking was worth the visit. Many many cars were in perfect condition and restored with the same love I invest in my Montreal too. We admired the Montreals of Charles Lumby, Sam Laird, Pietro Salvo, Geoff and Ann Poole, and Ramesh Bharadia, saw the Concours d'Elegance, and met many nice Alfisti like Sam Laird, Richard Norris, Chris Heath, Ken Buckley and Chris Sweetapple.
On the way there we visited Oxford University and Shakespeare's Stratford-upon-Avon, and we stayed at the lovely old Shooting Lodge of Brandon Manor House. As well as Stanford Hall itself, we toured Blenheim Palace, the home of Winston Churchill, and sailed on the lake in Capability Brown's magnificent park. We saw falconry at Warwick Castle, and visited Eton and the Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon, where we met a big party of Alfisti from Holland!
We hope that this story has given you a little view of our crazy hobby-life - but we like it!
So this is the situation of now. In due course this story will be continued, promised…
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