The thrill of finding an unexpected prize surely unlocks the biggest rush of dopamine short of bungee-jumping into a Whistler canyon. The sight of Indiana Jones clawing his way through dusty caverns and the Well of Souls on his way to securing the Ark, after all, has triggered countless imaginations since the film dropped 40 years ago.
But that never happens in real life, right? Well, for one car-loving family in Ontario, that’s exactly what happened – dust and all.
Erik Muckle and his teenage son Liam are in the thick of restoring a 1974 Alfa Romeo 2000 GT Veloce, a car that now resides in their garage thanks to some quick thinking, some good fortune, and the kindness of like-minded people. And, just maybe, a bit of real-life Forza Horizon activity.
It’s popular to needlessly reference and name drop a certain trio of British automotive television presenters but, in this case, it is actually relevant. Asserting that one can’t actually be a true petrolgearhead until they’ve experienced Alfa Romeo ownership is spot on the money. These Italian cars exude a certain sort of charm that is rare in today’s sanitized marketplace. Frequently fiery (sometimes literally), often gorgeous, and habitually fun-to-drive, most Alfas are the physical embodiment of what Ava Max has described as “sweet but psycho.”
Earlier this year, the elder Muckle was completing photography and drone work for a real estate client. Towards the end of this shoot, the property owner said they needed to document a couple of outbuildings including the “Alfa Barn.” As a lifelong car nut immersed in the auto industry for over two decades, his ears perked up like a beagle hearing a food dish being filled.
“It was like something out of movie,” he recalled. “We pushed opened the doors, dust falling down everywhere through rays of light. In the corner, rolled there 16 years ago, was the Alfa.” The 1974 GTV was listing slightly on the dirt floor, all four tires having long since surrendered their ability to hold air, but the car itself was remarkably complete.
Recognizing his excitement, the owner agreed to sell – and was especially keen to do so after Muckle explained how the Alfa would be a project he and his son, Liam – also a gearhead – would work on.
“I’m into JDM stuff,” the younger Muckle said while sitting in front of a rosso Alfa Romeo flag at his Ontario home. “But other genres are also fun. I’ve learned a lot about Italian cars already and they’re super cool. I would say the 8C ranks pretty high.” He goes on to explain how he’s watched many videos of other 2000 GTV restoration projects and found some sources of advice and parts. “Ralph Gilles, the head of design at FCA, has one similar,” he explained.
Note to wizened old hacks who like to bleat that young people aren’t into cars: the kids are alright.
Getting the newly purchased GTV out of the barn and into their garage was similarly the stuff of Hollywood tales. Since the corner of this property on which the barn resided wasn’t what any sane person would categorize as well-travelled, the owner had to call in a commercial-sized tractor and mowing unit to raze an Alfa-sized path through the grass.
After winching the GTV up onto a flatdeck truck and carting it home, they left it outside in their driveway for a couple of days at the recommendation of a mechanic friend. Why? “Potential critters,” said the elder Muckle. Ah. Good plan.
Without a road map, the lads created one of their own and began disassembly. Starting with the interior, they quickly learned the intricacies and oddities of Italian craftsmanship. It’s worth noting this Alfa was produced during the Years of Lead which, in 1974, saw a planned neo-fascist coup and bomb-wielding anarchists. The Brigate Rosse was also in full swing. With these things hanging over the populace like a cloud, one could perhaps excuse the bizarre attachment system the father and son found while trying to remove the carpet, for example.
“The interior’s not bad,” said the elder Muckle, injecting a dash of optimism to his voice. “The carpet is actually really good, which is why we didn’t want to hack it up during removal.” He has a point, of course. Replacements are available but the carpet installed by Mario and Giuseppe on that day in 1974 will only be original once. Presently, the father-son team has done a great job of taking apart and cataloguing the interior, laying out plans to repair the floor where necessary and blast it clean where it isn’t. Engine work is planned for the coming months.
They’ve also set up a YouTube channel to chronicle their adventures. The elder Muckle's skill at stitching together video and music creates some compelling viewing. His son is of the generation born with a phone in their hands, so his aptitude for social media needs no explaining. Watching the duo find their way through the maze of 40-year-old Italian wiring is as entertaining as it is gratifying.
The two aren’t relying on the Alfa to pad their bank account but it must be said the value of well-sorted GTVs is climbing rapidly, thanks in no small part to their profile being raised by one Ralph Gilles. Even parts cars and basketcase projects are fetching four figures. Methinks the younger Muckle will be driving to school in a couple of years behind the wheel of a car worth more than just about anything else in the parking lot save for the gym teacher’s bro-dozer. Coach is deep in debt on that thing, anyway.
Some of us will have to be content watching re-runs of Indiana Jones to experience the rush of a good discovery. The Muckles have the real deal.