Sometimes one is wandering the world, ten thousand miles away from home, in a far flung corner of the universe, in surroundings of a totally alien atmosphere from the air which one usually breathes. There is a completely contrasting culture, vomiting feels different and looks unfamiliar, producing in the individual a sense of anomie, detachment and disconnectedness. Then out of the blue, a sighting, a scene, a sound or a smell gives one an immediate aura of a distinct déjà vu, reminding one of a person, a place or a nonunion one knows very well back home. Suddenly a warrn feeling engulfs the weary traveller, which, if entertained for long, will develop into bushes of home fires burning.more details »
In this section, a series of interesting articles with photos that were published in the Sunday Times Motoring section.
Titled 'Focus on Members', below is a list of members who have been named so far. Click on each name to gain insight into avid OMC enthusiasts!
It was around Easter time, and the little boy was walking quietly along one of the country roads near his residence just outside Rabat when he came across two young men, who were polluting the spotless silence of early rural Spring with their shouts as they alighted from their car which they had just caromed into a rubble wall. He stood with eyes wide opened, watching from a safe distance the two men using stones and a wooden branch to try and disengage the bent mudguard which had tightly embraced the wheel Wiih the impact, making driwing impossible. This impromptu manual maintenance job with such improuised primitiue tools soon achieved its aim, and the vehicle was roadworthy again! The car was a four seater SS Jaguar, and the ten year old boy would be hawing more encounters with it, unit was subsequently parked in an area which formed part of his daily pedestrian jounrey to school.more details »
With over 80 old motorcyclesin his garage, John BaldacchinohasMalta’s largest private old motorcycles museum.
“While I love all my old bikes and cars, I have a soft spot for 1930s machines”
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The restoration of a
When the earliest pioneers set foot in America, it soon became crystal clear that the only way to building a great future lay in opening up the New Continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. To do that, the most important thing to develop was transport – and develop it they did. The first era of horse drawn wagons and carriages eventually gave way to the train. But the steam engine was too slow, heavy, and costly to fulfill the American Dream. Another way had to be found to quench the thirst for individual mobility and freedom.
The breakthrough came in 1890 when the internal combustion engine was fitted onto a light body with wheels. Within a few years this had given rise to the American automobile industry. Detroit was deemed as the hub of a vast, unstoppable boom, and over the years, the marques gradually became familiar household names, both in the United States as well as all over the world: Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Hudson, DeSoto. Alas, some brands went under, but some others are still up and running.
An American icon from those bygone years which recently saw the light of day again in its original splendour is a gleaming Chevrolet Biscayne, belonging to John Micallef. He is justifiably proud of the finished product, for the old vehicle underwent a thorough restoration, with no stone left unturned, lasting a lengthy period of nine years. The nuts and bolt project started way back in 2001, and taking into consideration the multitude of technical, mechanical, and administrative requirements, was fully finished late last year.
The Micallef Chevy has a long and chequered history. The vehicle came off the production line at the General Motors plant in Detroit, Michigan, as car number 10709 way back in 1961. Shorty afterwards, in early 1962, it made its way to Malta, where it was imported by an Msida car dealer. John’s father, Carmelo, a local businessman, saw it in the showroom, and was immediately attracted to the gleaming vehicle in its brand new, immaculate condition. Carmelo lost no time in negotiating with the dealer, and bought the jewel blue coloured Chevy on the spot.
The American car was used regularly and frequently by Carmelo, especially at the weekends, when the father would take the whole family on long drives to the countryside or the seaside. “I still remember these occasions with fondness and nostalgia”, recalls John with a faraway look in his eyes. “ My father lived by the motto that if you have four wheels, then you put them on the road, and not let them gather dust in the garage. We were five children, and we spent so much time in the Chevy that one can safely say that literally, we were brought up in it”.
Carmelo passed away in 1989, and different times fell on the classic car, as it was taken off the road and garaged for a lengthy period of time. This disappearing act lasted until 2001, when John finally took his father’s favourite, and woke up the sleeping beauty. Unfortunately the Chevy deteriorated both in body and mechanically during this lengthy hibernating hiatus, and it soon became apparent that only a thorough nuts and bolts restoration project could bring it back to its former glory.
John did not only follow his father in the family business, but he also inhered from him an eye for detail, and a trait for being thorough and meticulous. Before doing anything practical, he went to the drawing board, and became a member of the American Chevrolet Association. This organisation supplied him with all the necessary technical details required for restoring the Biscayne model, and well as acted as the main provider for most of the spare parts which were eventually needed. He also subscribed to the monthly Chevy Classics magazine, a mecca of information for aficionados of the marquee.
Acquiring as much information as possible, John found out that the Biscayne was produced between 1958 and 1972. The model was manufactued primarily for the fleet market, but it was also available to the general public, especially to those who wanted a low cost, no frills vehicle with the comfort, room and power of a bigger car. Easily identified from the two taillights on each side, most Biscaynes had a six cylinder engine, upgraded to a V8 in the early 1970s.
When he felt that there was enough fodder in his ken, he embarked on his first foray, which was into the panel beating field. The work was entrusted to the hands of Censu and George of Zebbug, who started with the dismantling of the body from the chassis, and the removal of the body rust. The chassis was then taken to another Zebbug mechanic, Freddy, who after completing the required works, returned it to the panel beaters.
Meanwhile, the body had been dispatched to a sprayer in Mriehel, also named Freddy, who worked on painting the firewall behind the engine, as well as the engine bay. Eventually, when the body and chassis were put together again, the skeleton was returned to the sprayer for the full and final coating in the original jewel blue colour. The Chevy then went back to the mechanic, who besides assembling the 2.8 litres, straight six engine, also worked on the electrical system.
John left no stone unturned in his efforts to acquire all the original parts, which came mainly from the United States. The imports included the upholstery, in the old style and blue colour. Together with the windscreens, the upholstery was installed by the Abela firm of Msida. Neighbouring Sicily, which John visits frequently, was also the source of the chroming work on the Chevy bumpers. With so many people involved in the restoration project over such a lengthy period, John had to dedicate quite a lot of time to the coordination and logistics of this maze of movements, as the Chevy departed from one department to another.
At the beginning of the ninth year, the classic car returned on the road, and the toil and trouble of yesterday were a thing of the past. John was more than satisfied as he surveyed his seventeen feet long vehicle, which is now a real sight to behold. Today the Biscayne is a much sought after model. Its owner points out another interesting feature. “In that period General Motors produced three Chevy models based on the modular system, meaning that they could easily be converted from one model to another through the interchange of interior or exterior components. These were the Biscayne, the Belair, and the Impala”. To prove this point, John brings out various scale models of the three types on the table round which we are sitting in his office at home, which is replete with Chevy models and memorabilia.
While for John the Chevy has always been part of the family furniture, he had for long harboured a subconscious dream of having a sport convertible, a Triumph Spitfire or an MGB, just for fun. In 2005, he saw a Spitfire at a local dealer, and went to have a closer look. After a thorough inspection, he was put off by its poor condition. However, in the same showroom, his eyes fell upon a Maserati Spyder – and it was love at first sight. He was completely bowled over by the 1992, right hand drive, acqua marine, two door car, which sported a front 2.8 litre V6 engine, rear wheel drive.
“It was not cheap, and I only bought it after a series of lengthy negotiations”, admits John. “However, there was no need for major changes. The body was very good, and so was the engine, although like all bi turbos, frequent maintenance of the electrical system is required”. The only problem for John was that he was alone on his Sunday drive, for when he contacted other Maserati owners in Malta, they preferred to keep their cars in impeccable condition in their garage, rather than venture out on the road with them.
Not easily discouraged, he made contact with the official club in Sicily, the Club Maseratisti Siciliani. They welcomed him with open arms, and in late 2005, they invited him to one of their Radunos. The visit was a resounding success, so much so that the Club decided to hold a Raduno in Malta the next April. John informed the local Maserati owners, and when the Sicilians came over, John was not alone with his car. During the four day visit, the combined fleet of Sicilian and Italian Maseratis also found time to join in at an Old Motors Club classic car static show held at the ELC Wied Incita Nursery in Attard.
From that time onwards, John was never on his own anymore on his Sunday Maserati spin, as the Maltese Maseratisti started coming out gradually. The Sicilians returned to Malta two years later, not only for a Raduno, but also for the official launching of the Maserati Club Malta, which now has fourteen members. The Club organizes weekend runs, lunches, as well as maintaining regular contact with its Sicilian counterpart, including a Christmas social event in the nearby island.
John’s enthusiasm for old cars has worn on his wife, Monica, son Matthew, and his two daughters, Claire and Fiona. John became a member of the Old Motors Club as soon as he embarked on the Chevy restoration project in 2001. Even then, without a classic car on the road, he found the networking important. He points out at the great number of old cars on local roads, and their very good condition. “Even our Sicilian friends are star struck and stand in awe at the sight of so many old vehicles that still ply successfully our transport network on a regular basis”, he states with pride in his voice.
Joseph Busuttil PRO Old Motors Club Photos: provided by John Micallef
Website: www.oldmotorsclub.com Email: email@example.com
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