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 Saturday to celebrate Alfa Romeo vehicles and give a glimpse of ongoing projects in the shop.
Roger Barr, 85, mechanic and racecar driver, also spent a few minutes sharing racing stories and his work with cars. Barr has worked with Paddock Classic Car Restorations and been featured on the documentary series Chasing Classic Cars on MotorTrend TV. He is noted for being a Formula B champion among his many other racing endeavors.
Michael Donnelly owns Paddock Classic Car Restorations, an 18,000-square-foot shop dedicated to giving new life to some of the rarest vehicles in Connecticut. The shop opened in 2019 and is operated 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, mid-winter, to get people out and show them some of the very rare special Alfa Romeo builds we’ve got in the back.”
Paddock gives an evaluation and estimate for a customer when a vehicle is brought to the shop. The vehicle must be stripped of its paint so its metalwork can be seen and the body tended, if necessary. At the same time, mechanical pieces are removed from the vehicle, evaluated and fixed, if needed.
“I happen to be an Alfa Romeo guy and do vintage racing,” he said. “It’s a passion of mine and you’ll see a lot of Alfas here, some British cars and a couple of muscle cars.”
Michael races a 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV. Its engine was one of those in the back of the shop receiving special attention. Alfa Romeo Automobiles was founded in Milan, Italy in 1910 and is known for its luxury vehicles.
Pat Donnelly, Michael’s wife, said the shop has come a long way in three years as a startup, and despite the pandemic, is going strong.
“Events like this give us an opportunity to connect and you can’t really drive in the winter. 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 vehicle 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 it,” said Massimo.
“These are basically flagship (vehicles) from Alfa Romeo and can have 500 horsepower,” he continued about the Guilia Quadrifoglio sports sedan. “They were found to be one of the fastest production cars at the Nürburgring track in Germany.”
Nürburgring is recognized for being a motorsports complex capable of holding around 150,000 people and the site of some of the most famous formula one 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 been bringing together enthusiasts in a time when life hasn’t allowed for a lot of human connection.
“I’ve been an Alfa Romeo fan since I saw my first one back in 1973,” said the president. “It’s a heritage and tradition for people that like the way cars look. Alfa Romeo has always been at the top of the design list. All these things combine to make a wonderful driving experience.”
Tours were given 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 that really had it in for 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 breathed and was about to wave a flag, that was when a driver hit the accelerator when he raced.
“You blow it all. The technique I used successfully, I don’t know why, was the burn,” he said. “When you’re in a race and you’re rolling up, you, the first from the standing start, you do the wildest, craziest lap that ever was. Because if you get away (from the other drivers), then the second place car will spend his time trying to block the third place car and you can go away.”
Barr joked he was good at racing with himself but not much with others.