When my friend Simon asked me to get a day off work to go and see the state of his Frogeye Sprite's restoration I didn't have to think twice.
He took me to a dusty shed lost in the English countryside where we were welcomed by an amazing character cleaning his hands with a dirty cloth. In the yard I could already see beautiful spares left there to rot, few "sleeping" projects and a Giulia SS that has clearly been there to long. I lift the merciful plastic that covers it only to find the frame rusted way beyond repair. The car is basically collapsed in the middle. A real, sad shame.
DC - "Oh, you saw the Alfa, huh? Nothing else can be done for that one, I'm afraid. The owner left it here about fifteen years ago. He did pay for the job to be started but then disappeared. I kept it inside for five or six years, but then I had to put it there. Beautiful car that was, I'll have to sell the few salvageable spares one of these days".
I knew that the visit to his workshop would have been worth a day off work but didn't expect such a start.
CCT - "I would like to take some pictures and write a feature for my blog, would you mind that?"
DC - "Take all the pictures you want, ask me all you want to know but please don't mention my name or say where I am. I've been trying to retire for the last 12 years and I keep on receiving projects. I had enough, mate. Really had enough."
He lets me into the office for a cup of tea and while he updates Simon on the latest about his Sprite I take a look around. It's exactly how I pictured it, maybe even better. He is now sitting at his huge desk with feet on the table, in front of him spare parts catalogs, bills, few dirty mugs and a tin of biscuits. On the walls a staggering amount of pictures collapsing in the frames or curled by the years. He clearly loves his job but it all also shows he had enough and he's been ready to "let go" for a number of years already.
On the left a big panel collects 80 yellowed pictures. In that alone there could be material for a year of this blog. The beautiful D-type Michelotti sticks out. He remembers working on the car "about twenty years ago, nice car that was". Will tell the amazing story of this car in a separate post.
On the opposite wall a healthy number of XK's and E-types didn't distract me too much form finding the nose of a 512BB LM peeping in a picture.
DC - "I didn't do much on that car, the body was damaged on its way to England and I've been asked to fixed it. I reckon I did a very good job on that."
I wonder if the owner ever found out...
We then walk inside the workshop and a funny grin stuck to my face. It was just as expected. A dusty and chaotic mass of spares was framing projects of all sorts. A Jaguar Mark 2 guarded a Fiat X1/9 under a dusty plastic cover the same way an old pussycat would guard a wounded kitten, a 1939 Aston and a 1936 HRG seemed ready to leave any minute now, the usual (and still sexy) group of MGs, chassis and engine of a pre war Cadillac than I can hardly figure on the road ever again.
D.C. has been very busy lately to put back on the road a Gwynne 180px, apparently a present of an extremely cool parent to his/her daughter. A very cute bath tube shaped design and a single door on one side. He just finished setting up the leather seats, hand stitched by an old friend of his, retired after a whole life in Aston Martin.
Finally, in a room of its own at the bottom of the workshop, Simon's Frogeye sits on a cart. As many other projects, he came in for a dent and ended up in a nut and bolt restoration that lasted over five years. It's not road worthy yet, but it sure looks amazing. Take a look for yourself.
It's really hard not to tell about other fascinating details of D.C.'s life, but a promise is a promise. If for any reason you think you need to contact him please enquire and I will ask for his consent.