Beginning a restoration


This is the story of a restoration of a 1952 Lancia Aurelia B20 Coupe. For other information - read:

- blog

  1. - Aurelias for general information on the model

  2. -bare chassis -  what happens when an Aurelia is taken down to its bare structure  

The car in the barn

( on friendship, Aurelias, and some 30 years)

Once upon a time, there was a character named Tom Sheehan. Tom lived in Pittsburgh, and loved Lancias, and collected them the way some people buy hats. He ran a parts business for older Lancias, and was fondest of Aurelias. His parts manager was a man named Walt Spak, a straight shooter in delightful contrast to Tom. Walt is my oldest Lancia friend and this car was his.

Back in the early 1970’s Walt was working for Tom as a young parts clerk, and  lusting for an Aurelia. He was delighted when Tom came in and said “We’re driving to Harrisburg – I’m going to get a B-50 (the large 4 seater cabriolet), and you’re getting a B20 coupe”. A dream come true.

So off they went, and they got to a house on a hill, somewhere in Pennsylvania, who knows where. The house was owned by an older gentleman, who walked with a cane.  He took them to his air-conditioned garage, where they found the lovely Aurelia B-50. Missing hubcaps, bumpers and rear tail-lights, the car was in fine condition and totally complete. All for a mere $1300, and the transaction was completed. Tom was happy with his new car.

But Walt was not. He finally asks the question, “but ...where is the B-20?”, and is told it was down the hill in the barn. The owner could not walk that far, but Tom and Walt were free to go and see for themselves. So down to the barn they go, they  look in and find a B20. But this was no thing of beauty, but was covered in bird droppings, had no paint, was in pieces, and there was dirt everywhere. The dirt was free, but the car was $800. Walt said no to his dream and went home.

Upon returning home, Walt learned more the history of the car. It had at one time been registered in Chicago in 1962 with a window sticker to prove it. The car had been abandoned in the early 1960’s on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, having blown up its engine supposedly on the way from Chicago to New York. Brought to a shop for repair, it was left there, and finally acquired by the shop on a mechanic’s lien.

It sat for some time in Leggitsburg, PA and then was traded to a man in Mechanicsville for a coin collection from the buyer’s then deceased father. The car moved across Pennsylvania from here to there, but nothing happened to it for a long time. It showed up for sale in 1975 in a club newsletter a few years after Walt’s visit to the barn.


In 1977, Walt’s friend Geoff was in college. Geoff, in his spare time, fell in love with Aurelias. He bought this particular B20 sight unseen from an ad in the club newsletter.  Walt offered to get the car as it was near where he lived. So Walt brought it to his home.

After looking at photos of this rough, seedy looking car, Geoff realized it was too big a project.  As the car was already in Walt’s garage, Walt realized it was rare and complete, and not so rusty. So Walt bought the car.

Walt kept this car in his garage for the next thirty years. Not too much happened, but he kept accumulating parts for the car as he came across them. The motor was completed, fasteners plated, distributor found, interior panels were located for patterns, and so on.

Fast forward to 2005.  Walt realized that the car needed to be done and he’s not going to do it. He enjoyed his 4th series, but he and Geoff still wondered if they were right so many years ago. These cars are a long way from the touring-oriented 5th and 6th series. The early B20’s  feel like a Guilietta with a 2 liter motor - they are that responsive.

When a running s. 2 B20 came up for sale, they went visiting. After driving that car, they were  convinced in the earlier B20’s - with the smaller motor (2 vs. 2.5 liters) revving more freely, the cars carry less weight - as much as 300 lbs less than the 4th series, and probably 500 lbs less than the 6th. And there were the charming bits of the earlier car. So the more you know, the more particular you get - that’s a problem.

Walt convinced Geoff that this car was a rare animal and worthy of restoration. So Geoff bought the car a second time. All’s well that ends well.

There were a few small issues:  everything had to be redone.  Restoring the earlier Aurelias in America is hard because there is little experience with them. But there you are.

The car is a true barn find. Its also the car your friend had waiting in his garage - for thirty years.

Ah, the stuff of dreams. 


Postscript (9.08 and 6.12):

The car has been completed and is now a happy runner. The progress has been largely documented on the blog.

From upper left, clockwise:

  1. 1.original dashboard as found in 1977

  2. 2.disassembly just started

  3. 3.original 1954-55 Italian Auto Club tags

  4. 4.Chicago city sticker 1962 in windshield. 

before and after