This Is A Sports Car Garage That Tackles Everything With Passion
Story and Photography by Alexander Sobran
Progress is the product of exploring, and often even just the will to explore. The signpost of an open mind is an ability, coupled with a want, to dig out value in the things we may not innately gravitate toward, a way of muzzling our instinctive rejection of what we do not understand. In the realm of motors and wheels, this can be a bouncing Impala driver trading thumbs-up with someone in a house-height truck.
Good for them. I am flawed here, as I’m sure most of us are. For one, I do not like most resto-mods; you can keep your 18-inch Torque Thrust replicas and finger-thin sidewalls. One more, and this is relevant, and warranted, I promise: any self-respecting car enthusiast should feel slightly slighted every time an unctuous flipper tries to pass off a quick paint job as a “restoration” for a quicker buck. This cheapens it all, and breeds distrust. Fortunately, we have antidotes. Here is one of the best: Sports Car Restoration.
Back to progress, quickly: it’s slow, it takes time, and more imperatively, a brassy passion for the sake of moving forward that is separate from the mechanisms and objects that allow it to happen.
Matt McGinn and his shop have passion in droves. Beginning in earnest (read: first cool car) in college with a project Alfa Romeo GTV, and afterwards once the degree obtained there was eschewed for cars—this is more than a life’s work, it’s a life. One that is still evolving along the trajectory of progress he laid out is that first Alfa.
It’s sitting in a back room on this day, a micrometer of pollen dust making the silver paint glow with a bit of gold under the tube lights. I’m clearly in admiration here, and he tells me all of the ways he would be able to improve it. Meanwhile, I am remembering that I felt proud of myself for changing tires on my Volvo outside the dorms using a few rocks for jack stands.
Sports Car Restoration has earned a reputation as the place to go for BMW 2002 restoration and modification, but it would be a mistake to pigeonhole, given the array of completed builds and those in progress; a Porsche 911 SC RS (yes, that Porsche, the rally road car) recently received a full restoration, and I was met with a Land Rover Defender, Lotus Elan, Jags, Minis, more Porsches, concours-ready and track-ready…you get the idea.
Cars are just the product, though, and to be honest there are a lot of top-tier places to spend some money on nice panel gaps and quality paint. The people are the fun part. And these are fun ones, and they are great representations of good guys in an industry rife with salesmen. They love this stuff; there are Hot Wheels collections spanning decades pinned up by the front door in original boxes, they talk about their cars and car-wants in that rapt way that can’t be faked. These are the people who work on others’ projects the way they’d do their own. It’s so not about just getting it done.
I’ll try to summarize how a car that ends up here might progress through life. Let’s take a 2002, fittingly, for our subject. It was probably originally given life by someone named Gunther after a lunch break and some Warsteiners. It comes to America, all picked-out and doted over, then after the honeymoon period it is relegated to being another appliance, eventually caving in to the rust that older cars seem not just unprepared for, but designed for.
Little rain gutters get clogged, things pool up, and eventually the value drops low enough for it to become a young enthusiast’s affordable dream…and then nightmare. It sits half-finished for some years, then finally the owner can afford to treat it as they’d hoped they could all that time ago. It’s dropped at SCR, and it evolves into either a slick-shod track hero or a gleaming view into the past.
This isn’t makeup on a pig, isn’t verschlimmbesserung (look it up), this is improvement on a level beyond tangible. It has the good stuff in its DNA now, it has finally been treated by people who love it, it has evolved.