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Our Story: Richard Reina & His Legend of Mustang and Isetta
Our today’s post belongs to the Your Story series, but twice in a row we’ve forwardly named it “our story”. This issue is dedicated to CARiD’s very own Richard Reina. Richard is the proud owner of the ‘68 Mustang California Special and of one small yet absolutely adorable vehicle called BMW Isetta (yes, you read it right, it’s a BMW!). A car enthusiast since childhood, Richard himself has fully restored both of his classic cars, and now has some valuable tips to share with fellow enthusiasts like you. Enjoy the story and let us know what you think in the comments!
What was it that sparked your interest in motoring? My parents tell me that from the age of 2 or 3, I could tell a Chevy from a Ford from a Plymouth. My father was into cars, so I certainly got some influence from him. I was just like any other boy, infatuated with cars, only more so! What was your first car? At the age of 17, I got my driver’s license, and was allowed to drive the family’s 1967 Ford Mustang. A few months later, I got into an accident and totaled the car (it was a typical teenage driving thing). My first new car was a 1977 VW Rabbit (Golf), purchased soon after college graduation. What are your current cars? My current cars are:
- 2003 Volvo V70, with 160,000 miles; unusual for the U.S. in that it has a manual transmission.
- 1993 Mazda Miata, in totally original condition, which I bought in 1996 from its original owner.
- 1968 Ford Mustang California Special, with a 390 cubic inch V8.
- 1957 BMW Isetta sliding window coupe, with a 1-cylinder, 13 horsepower engine (which should suffice in a car which is 93 inches long and weighs 770 lbs.)
Which of them is your daily driver? The Volvo in the winter, and the Miata in the summer! The Isetta pictures in your email reminded me of the Top Gear episode when Jeremy Clarkson drove the world’s smallest car at the BBC office (http://youtu.be/dJfSS0ZXYdo). Did you happen to do something similar with your bubble car? :) Do you actually drive it or is it just a collectible? It’s a very long story with the Isetta and me, as I’ve owned it for 34 years! I bought the car in 1978 from an ad in Road & Track magazine. The car then sat in storage for 12 years until I finally began the restoration process. It took 5 years, devoting every possible spare moment after work and on weekends, to restore the car. I did all the work myself except the upholstery, engine machine work, and paint, although I did do the body disassembly and reassembly. I drove this car for the first time in 1995, 17 years after buying it. The car again sat for 5 years until I put the finishing touches on it, and began showing the car in local events in 2000.
‘68 Mustang California Special is one of the most sought-for Mustang models ever, am I right? What is the story of how you acquired it? And what does it mean to you personally? First, let me explain how I “discovered” California Specials. Growing up as a car fanatic in the U.S., I was of course exposed to Mustangs since their introduction. And I’ve already mentioned that I wrecked the family Mustang as a teenager. In the early 1990’s, I was at a local car show, and stumbled upon a Mustang like I had never seen before. I thought it was a Shelby, or a homemade custom. I then learned about this unique “California Special” model which was only sold in the Southwest U.S. Living in the N.Y./N.J. area my whole life, I had never seen one before, and became fascinated with it. Out of 317,000 Mustangs produced in 1968, fewer than 4,000 of them were California Specials, so it represents about 1% of production. About 10 years after learning of this model, I was able to acquire one. This car has extra special meaning because it’s the exact same color as the 1967 Mustang my family owned. Although the majority of cars have stayed in the Southwest, luck struck when I found this car for sale in Maryland, only a 5 hour drive from my house. I bought it and drove it home without problems! It’s in “driver” condition, although I’ve done a good deal of maintenance and repair to it, doing all the work myself. This has included rebuilding the front suspension, replacing the dashboard, instrument panel trim and carpet, and pulling the engine to replace the exhaust manifolds.
How often do you take your cars to the auto shows? I drive the Mustang on average about 2,000 miles a year, and have taken it to cruise nights and some Ford shows. I’ve twice participated in the “New England 1000”, which is a week-long 1,000 mile road rally for classic cars. The real fun occurs when the Isetta goes to a show. First, because it’s so small (and so slow), I need to trailer it there, which is an inconvenience. However, I get lots of looks on the highway, with people waving and honking. I’ve shown the Isetta just about every year for the last 12 years, and it never fails to gather a crowd. I meet all kinds of people, from the old-timers who grew up in Europe and remember the cars from their youth, to people who ask me where can they buy one because they think it’s a new car, to those who think they know cars and admit they have no idea what it is. It’s like bringing a puppy dog to a show; everyone thinks it’s so cute! I’m proud to say that I’ve won a few awards at Northeast Concours d’Elegance shows. I was also invited to show the car at the 2011 New York Auto Show, as part of a special exhibit on the history of the microcar. The most fun I have with the car, though, is when I take visitors at my home for a ride. I do drive it on the local streets in my neighborhood. It drives fine, as long as you accept a zero-to-40 mph time of about 20 seconds.
Any other classic car on your wish list? My heart is really into the British and Italian sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s. If I could afford it, I’d have a Jaguar XKE Series 1 4.2 coupe, and a Fiat Dino Spyder. Now a difficult one. :) If you could have just one car in your life, what would it be? My “practical” side would want an all-wheel-drive, car-based wagon like a Subaru Outback or Volvo XC70. My “passionate” side would want a Ferrari 300 GTC, like the one I saw in a photo as a teenager in a magazine. That image has never left my mind. Speaking about your work at CARiD, what is the best and the worst part of working in the aftermarket part field? The best part is working with the great staff at CARid.com, many of whom are also passionate about cars and their jobs! We love being able to satisfy people who want to improve their vehicles. The worst part of working in the aftermarket parts field is when we find out that the part they want doesn’t exist yet. Having worked in the new car business, the car manufacturers have the resources to bring products to market more quickly. However, the aftermarket is doing its best to keep up with the car makers who are churning out new models at a very rapid pace. What would be your tip for those who are just getting started with their car tuning and customizing? My best tip is to manage your time! If you really want to work on your own car, whether it’s to tune it, customize it, or restore it, you can do it. You have the same 24-hour day as everyone else. However, hanging out with your buddies, watching TV, surfing the ‘net, or making the rounds at clubs, while all “fun” activities, take away time you could be spending on your project. I’ve learned that work gets done one step at a time. Instead of telling yourself that you’ll wait to do it on the weekend, try devoting just 30 minutes a day after school or work. Even if you do that 3 times a week, by the time the weekend arrives, you will have made 1.5 hours of progress. Over a period of several weeks, this adds up. Once the car is done, you’ll then have time for the fun activities, ideally, with the car!
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