Films: Dominick's European Car Repair Is A Living Legacy

Dominick’s European Car Repair Is A Living Legacy

If you are someone who lives in the greater New York area, cares about classics, and haven’t heard of Dominick European Car Repair, we have to assume you are lying about one of the aforementioned.

Like Ben & Jerry’s is to the Vermont Ice Cream Community, Dominick European Car Repair is the cornerstone of the New York Classic Community. Since Dominico Spadro, a Sicilian immigrant, opened its doors “back in the days when these exotic vintage cars were just cars” (1961) they have been helping Petrolistas across the North East keep their classics on the road. In addition they’ve built a worldwide following for their world class campaign support on rallies like The Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, Colorado Grand and more.  They are, without questions, legends of the classic world.

In 2010 we lost Dominic to cancer, but every year since his life has been celebrated by a fantastic rally all throughout Westchester County.

On a recent trip to New York, we visited with Santo Spadaro, son of Dominick and co-owner of Dominick’s European Car Repair . The garage has seen few changes since that day. Santo and Frank, who are brothers, handle all the tuning, prep, transmission and electrical jobs which are their specialties. Their sister, Vera, holds the ship together keeping business logistics of the shop in order, so this garage is a total family affair.

Q: What inspired your dad to be a mechanic?

A: In Sicily in 1932, my father, Domenico Spadaro, was 12 years old. At that time my grandfather picked a profession for him: cabinet making. My father worked for four days and knew right away that it wasn’t a life for him.  Across the street from my father’s house was a garage, and it was the dawn of time for cars in the city. My father left his job cabinet making, went into the garage, and asked the owner, Bambino, if he could apprentice for him. Until my father passed away at age 89, he said there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t learn something new. It was always just as interesting as when he started. Although he was old, he continued to come into the shop with his walker, where he would make bushings and bolts. He was still very focused and very deliberate.

Q: What inspires you to work at the garage? 

A: My brother and I have the same passion. We work on the cars that were in their sweet spot from when we were growing up. Working on cars from the 1950’s, ’60s and ’70s was and still is dream.

Q: What’s your favorite part about working at the garage?

A: Not a day goes by that I don’t see something totally old that is new to me. As simple as these old cars might be, there’s a complexity to them that keeps me seeing new things, because of the matrix of the way it is all put together. It’s never the same; it’s always a new experience. Do I love cars? Yes. If I had to do brake jobs and clutch jobs, which are more profitable, it would be a lot less interesting. There’s no fascination in that for me. Running this shop is definitely a passion and not a bottom-line venture.

Q: When did you first start working on cars?

A: When I was young, I was around the garage a lot, and I often went to race meets, which is what my Dad did as a pastime. My dad was known for his street work more than his race work, and I picked that up from him.

Q: How was working with your dad?

A: He was a fiery individual. As the Italian saying goes, “Whatever was in his stomach would come out of his mouth.”

Q: How busy is the garage?

A: There are five of us who work here, one has been here since the ’80s. There isn’t a high turnover of cars coming in and out, but there’s rarely an empty spot in the garage. Cars come in, and there’s a punch list from the client. There is always a bit more to add to the list whether we like it or not. It would be nice if the cars were in and out in the same week, but that rarely happens.

Q: Where do the cars you work on come from?

A: We see automobiles from all over the country: Ohio, Vermont, even California. This is extraordinary since we don’t have a website or much of a web presence. Our business comes from referrals. The happiest and best way to get business is by word of mouth.

We enjoy all of our clients and many have become more than just customers…There isn’t a client on our list that I don’t enjoy dealing with. I see eye to eye with every one of them. This is a great place to be.

Q: What cars do you primarily work on?

A: We are primarily known for our Italian work, but I like to think of us as the veterinarians of the profession: we see all the species. We are enthusiastic and interested in English and German cars, we love our Lancias and Alfas, but we also like our Minis, Rileys, and Porsches. In addition, we are involved in vintage racing prep, along with supporting events like the Mille Miglia and the Colorado Grand.

Q: What cars do you, personally, most enjoy working on?

A: I love Lancia. As a mechanic, I notice that everything was made with a very purposeful eye to beauty, detail, form, and function. If you look at the Fulvia, it even has beautiful bolts that are copper coated, and the front suspension has two cast aluminum pillars. Lancia could have easily fabricated these with sheet metal, but it would have looked horrific.

Most cars are not really made to be taken apart, but these cars are like old-school watches that you can use a little jeweler’s screwdriver with. Most things today are pressed together and not meant to come apart, and when they are used, they get thrown away. These cars are the opposite. They really look like they were made by mechanics: every piece comes apart and can be re-used. Lancia was an out-of-the-box thinker. They didn’t tinker with other people’s solutions to engineering problems. They came up with their own. The stuff that they came up with was 180-degrees opposite from the norm and then slowly were adapted as the norm.

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34 Comments on "Dominick’s European Car Repair Is A Living Legacy"

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Edward Levin
Edward Levin

Nice film. Domenick’s is legendary in American Lancia circles. And as is becoming more and more rare these days, the second generation is really doing justice to the first.

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
Can anyone identify this car? This is the tiny red coupe on the scissors lift in frame 0:58. The car is bright red, with a black roof & pillars, black wheels that may be pressed steel, and quite narrow tires. There is no front bumper, and the front grill has lateral bars. The body may be a one-off. Give the placement of the cabin towards the rear of the car, it is almost certainly front engined. A windshield wiper is visible, indicating that this was a fully featured build, and not a car stripped of every spare kilogram for racing.… Read more »
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Robert in LA
Robert in LA
More details following up on Edward Levin’s correct identification of this car: This specific car is from the Skip Barber collection. It is a 1953 Moretti 750 Gran Sport Berlinetta, chassis no. 1290S and engine no. 1294S. The Spadaros were preparing the car for sale at Monterey last August 2016. Moretti was primarily an engine builder, and the carrosserie for this series of chassis was done by others, notably Michelotti or Zagato. This body is a Michelotti design & build. This ‘Berlinetta’ coupe shares design elements with the Ferrari 212 coupe that Michelotti designed a year or two before this… Read more »
Robert in LA
Robert in LA

Thanks for spotting that Ed. The car is new to me. Here is more information for anyone following along . .

Moretti Grand Sport.
71 bhp, 748 cc dual overhead-cam four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with transverse semi-elliptical leaf springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 78 in. Approximately 10 examples delivered to the United States. Nice examples sell for well over 100,000 USD.

Edward Levin
Edward Levin

It’s a Moretti 750 Gran Sport. Produced in small numbers (to match its very small size…), but far from a one-off.comment image

clambe5347@aol.com
clambe5347@aol.com

Wonderful story, more about a family than an auto repair shop. Bravo!

Biker Joe
Biker Joe

Bravo Domenico, BRAVO!!!

Alexandre Goncalves
Alexandre Goncalves

What a great (and different) short-film- the garage looks just like one you would find if you travelled through deep Portugal –

I really can relate to this garage – no clean floor, grease and oil everywhere, lots of parts from European /Italian cars piled up! I wonder if there’s a calendar on the wall with a naked girl on it …

Nice going Petrolicious!

Gioel Molinari
Gioel Molinari

good movie – unfortunately you typoed the Spadaro surname incorrectly a whole bunch of times .. attention to detail

Mark St Clair
Mark St Clair

Yes, yet another very nicely turned out film and yes, yet again no credit to whoever did the camera, sound or editing. What’s wrong with you Petrolicious? 10 or 15 seconds of credits wouldnt hurt. You subject us to the cheezy ads at the end but no credit where it is due.

Erik Larson
Erik Larson

Totally agree but I’m biased: my son was the filmmaker.

jack c
jack c

More films like this, please! Sure I want to hear from Rod Emory on his latest creation. And, yes.. I do dream of a Singer – still awaiting my lottery win. And, fotos of post-war Ferraris are always welcome. But, keep films like this in the mix. These are real people with a real love of sports cars and they are keeping a family tradition alive by keeping cars running for normal people like us.

Fingers
Fingers

That is just magic, what a fantastic story. My favourite video of yours so far….I would love to work somewhere like that.

Steve Visek
Steve Visek

This is an absolutely marvelous piece! I liked it so much I immediately watched it again and have book marked it for future viewing.

Thank you Petrolicious!

Robert in LA
Robert in LA

Fun to see the Cisitalia barchetta sitting up on jack-stands, and so many others. This is a lovely little film. The Spadaros are so just so soaked in the business; so knowledgeable; so schooled in the work.

Joe Urbano
Joe Urbano

EXCELLENT short! The owners, Santo and Frank and their sister Vera are easily threaded from the fabric that is their father. Absolutely one of my favorites – well done.

(BTW Pertolicious, love the classic header fonts throughout the site)

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

Splendid. It’s so great to hear about real mechanics in an era of parts-replacers. I also appreciated the remarks about Lancia. I had some first-hand experience with a Fulvia 1600 Hi Fi and it was a little jewel of a car.

John Cozzi
John Cozzi

A wonderful and inspiring film. A family that knows their place in life.

Dennis White
Dennis White

So there are Santos on both coasts taking care of our precious Italian metal!

Kayvan I

Great Film! I can say as a visitor and future client of Dominick’s that the film scratches the surface on the passion that both Santo & Frank have for the shop, the cars and their customers.
Everyone is treated like family and you feel the comradery from the minute you walk in. Visiting the shop is a step back in time. The shop is a true time capsule, of cars, photos, memorabilia and a real tribute to Dominick.
Kudos to Petrolicious for capturing the magic of this shop.

JB21
JB21

A great story, man, totally enjoyed it. Among many fantastic films you have done, to me this one takes the cake so far. Thanks, it’s really wonderful.

Charles Michelet
Charles Michelet

Fantastic. What a wonderful story and film. Thanks again, Petrolicious. You made my Tuesday (and the rest of the week)!

Albert
Albert

Yes! This is why I come here every Tuesday. Great story, great car! There was a video a while back called “The Pumpkin” where a guy (CKK) interned for Dominick’s an built a wonderful 2002 BMW. One of my favorite videos that I go back and watch over and over. Was always left wondering what a magical shop Dominick’s must be. Now I know! Thank you! More of this!!!! Please!

Brompty
Brompty

Petrolicious seemed to have lost its way of late: too many videos about rich (it appears) car collectors and one particular car from their collection. The cars were interesting up to a point, but the story was absent. And then this video comes comes along – simply magical. Great story with an absolutely stunning and well engineered car. More of this please (and less car collectors).

Harv Falkenstine
Harv Falkenstine
Great job, nothing wrong with the hyperbole, the legacy left by the father that started this garage is immensely important in this context and the appreciation of that history by the next generation. The emotions and sensations portrayed in the video don’t need to be placed in context of “Post truth dumification of America”. I appreciate the video, the story and photography. The photography is great and the brothers coming back from their ride and backing the car into the bay shows an appreciation for the practical art of the old Lancia. “The car makes me sit up straighter…” love… Read more »
Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
Ahem .. having come from the area myself .. being a hard core dyed in the wool Joisey boy .. and still having extensive family/familia there .. though there’s no doubting Dominick’s legendary status the fact is there’s a whole host of ‘ legendary ‘ classic car garages in and thru out the greater North East area . Some of lesser status .. some much greater [ Hint ; the best Bugatti garage in North America or South America … is in southern VT ] So suffice it to say Dominick’s garage … isn’t on everyones radar .. and doesn’t… Read more »
zeb
zeb

Mr.Slinger

your replies in the main are rude and pointless so if thats what you set out to do …bravo…mission accomplished.

A wonderful film, more like that please.

Alexandre Goncalves
Alexandre Goncalves

“Familia” – is Portuguese – right continent, wrong country

Kuroneko
Kuroneko

I saw and heard a great story, told in an honest manner. Not sure we need unfounded critisism in any world…

T. Daniel
T. Daniel

Guitar Slinger,
Thankfully you don’t connect with history or vibe of Dominick’s. That status you are so concerned about, is not even a thought to the Spadaro’. They are just cool and their works speaks for itself. No polish or buffing required.

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo

Where in southern Vermont is this Bugatti shop? I have ties in the area and will like to go visit. It wouldn’t be RPM, would it?

Christopher Cook
Christopher Cook

Like cyanide

Dennis White
Dennis White

Jeez, take a pill.

testa daria
testa daria

Ahem…. that would be “famiglia”

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