NEW BRITAIN – Paddock Classic Car Restorations at 285 Columbus Boulevard played host to the Connecticut Alfa Romeo Owners Club and Alfa Owners of New England on Saturday to celebrate the Alfa Romeo vehicles and get a glimpse of ongoing projects in the store.
Roger Barr, 85, mechanic and race car driver, also spent a few minutes sharing racing stories and his work with cars. Barr has worked with Paddock Classic Car Restorations and was featured in the documentary series Chasing Classic Cars on MotorTrend TV. He is known as a Formula B champion among his many other racing endeavours.
Michael Donnelly owns Paddock Classic Car Restorations, an 18,000-square-foot store dedicated to reviving some of Connecticut’s rarest vehicles. The store opened in 2019 and is run by 13 employees.
“We have people from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and New York,” he said. “It’s meant to be a club event, in the middle of winter, to bring people out and show them some of the very rare Alfa Romeo special builds we have in the back.”
Paddock provides an evaluation and estimate for a customer when a vehicle is brought to the store. The vehicle should be painted to allow the metalwork to be seen and the bodywork serviced if necessary. At the same time, mechanical parts are removed from the vehicle, evaluated and repaired if necessary.
“I happen to be an Alfa Romeo guy and I do vintage racing,” he said. “It’s a passion of mine and you’ll see a lot of Alfas here, a few British cars and a few muscle cars.”
Michael races a 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV. The engine was one of those in the back of the shop that got special attention. Alfa Romeo Automobiles was founded in 1910 in Milan, Italy and is known for its luxury vehicles.
Pat Donnelly, Michael’s wife, said the store has come a long way as a startup in three years, and is doing well despite the pandemic.
“Events like this give us the opportunity to connect and in the winter you can’t really drive. So it’s fun,” she said.
Brothers and car enthusiasts Maurizio and Massimo Decarli stood together, peering over the engine of a recent Alfa Romeo Giulia model. Maurizio has worked on car bodies in the past and Massimo is a member of the Connecticut Alfa Romeo Owners Club.
“It’s my first time at such an event and I’m a new member of the club. I’ve been a fan of Italian cars for a long time. I grew up with them,” says Massimo.
“These are in fact Alfa Romeo flagship (vehicles) and can have 500 horsepower,” he continued of the Guilia Quadrifoglio sports sedan. “They proved to be one of the fastest production cars on the Nürburgring circuit in Germany.”
The Nürburgring is known as a motorsports complex that can accommodate approximately 150,000 people and the site of some of the most famous Formula 1 races in history.
Dino Gualtieri, president of the Connecticut Alfa Romeo Owners Club, said Alfa Romeo cars and events are a love affair and have brought enthusiasts together at a time when life didn’t allow for many human connections.
“I’ve been an Alfa Romeo fan since I saw my first one in 1973,” said the president. “It’s a heritage and tradition for people who love the way cars look. Alfa Romeo has always been at the top of the design list. All these things together make for a great driving experience.”
There were tours of Paddock Classic Car Restorations and visitors shared a meal, but not before listening to a few words from Barr about his racing days.
“There were guys behind me who really had it ahead of me,” said Barr. “When you look at a flagger, you don’t look at his flag or his face. You watch his stomach.’
Barr said that when the flagger was breathing and about to wave a flag, a driver pressed the accelerator as he raced.
“You’re ruining it all. The technique I successfully used, I don’t know why, was the burn,” he said. “When you’re in a race and you roll up, you, the first from the standing start, do the wildest, craziest lap ever. Because if you get away (from the other drivers) then the second place car will spend its time trying to block the third place car and you can leave.”
Barr joked that he was good at racing with himself, but not much with others.