My Car Quest

June 19, 2018

A Former Lombardi OTAS Owner Speaks Up

by Mike –

I love to read car stories sent in by readers and I share many of those because I figure if it is interesting to me then it may be to you as well. I have discovered a lot of interlocking connections between readers that are brought out by something published here.

Below is a story from John M. Morgan (Mac) from Delaware USA,

Hello Mike;

Recently I was going through a pile of paperwork and found an envelope from Gerry Rothman, “Director” of The Abarth Register, dated Nov 17, 1986.

Gerry and I met on the phone back in ’77 or ’78 when I called an advertiser in either C&D or R&T about a tail pipe that looked like the stinger from Abarth race car. The gentleman on the other line was Gerry Rothman. He asked what I knew about Abarth and I told him about seeing my first one back in the early 60s. So the friendship started.

I spent the later part of the ’60s in the Army stationed in Giessen, Germany where I purchased a new Fiat 850 coupe in May 1967. There wern’t many Abarths running around Giessen but the local Fiat dealer had a bit of information about them.

I brought the 850 home in July of ’69 and moved into an apartment directly across from the Mercedes Benz dealer in Wilmington, DE (still there) who also sold Fiats, Jags and MGs. They also had a slightly used 1300/124 which I traded my 850 for and the adventure began.

For a while it was our only car and it wasn’t very practical. I had gotten married, had a child a year later, was going to the University of Delaware and had little disposable money. I ended up going to work as a salesman at the dealership which started my life’s work in the car business.

The 1300/124 had a number of problems from the beginning:

-It was always overheating due to a bad head gasket

-The ring gear on the flywheel was bad causing the starter not wanting to engage most of the time

-The transaxle had a bad ring/pinion set finally replaced with stock 850 transaxle.

As a result of all these issues I got to know Al Cosentino owner of the infamous FAZA company, quite well. What a character he was. God rest his soul!

Around 1975 I found a clapped out Lombardi OTAS at a Philadelphia FIAT dealer and sold the 1300/124 to finance that car but that’s another story. Here’s a photo of the second and last OTAS I owned, festooned with Abarth stickers!

It was actually used as a SCCA race car, complete with roll bar.

Lombardi OTAS

Lombardi OTAS

It wasn’t a true Abarth but it did sport a 74mm crank, high compression pistons, lowered suspension, etc. I’m the one in the green shirt with the new owner, Haz Newman and wife. He’s completely redone the car and engine and I think it’s only driven on and of a trailer for shows.

More tales to tell but I’m sure I’ve bored you enough.

Best Regards,
Mac Morgan
Hockessin, DE

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Read about a 1968 Lombardi 850 Gran Prix – here.

 

 

Summary
A Former Lombardi OTAS Owner Speaks Up
Article Name
A Former Lombardi OTAS Owner Speaks Up
Description
A story about how a Italian car lover came to own a Lombardi OTAS.
Author

Comments

  1. Don Meluzio says:

    Talk about interconnecting stories! I wrote a story right here on My Car Quest several years ago about an OTAS gathering in which your/Hazs’ car was included , BUT. Talk about similar circumstances. I too was stationed in Germany. Almost the same time as you. I was stationed in Kirch-Goens, “the Rock”. I also bought an 850 Fiat, and I had it serviced at the Fiat Dealer in Giessen! I bought an Abarth exhaust.(I still have the warranty card!) I now own a Fiat Abarth 1300/124. And an OTAS. It is amazing how many guys were influenced by Foreign cars being stationed in Germany and Italy. I too have a lot of letters from Gerry Rothman. and you are right, your old Lombardi looks fabulous, Haz Newman did a wonderful restoration on your old car. BTW, do you know if your old 1300/124 still exists? There are many left. Don Meluzio

    • Mac Morgan says:

      Don’t know where the 1300/124 is now. I sold it to a friend then moved and lost track of each other. I have been back to Giessen twice over the past 2 years. I remembered the name of a student I had been friends with and found her working for the Giessen Parliament. My wife and I spent some time with her and toured the town which has grown quite a bit. The old motor pool of Rivers Barricks is now home to 4 different automobile dealerships, one of which is Fiat! The old dealership near the PX is now just a repair shop. We visited Marburg, my favorite hangout but it too has changed a lot. But the old bratwurst stand outside of Giessen is still open at night and serves up the BEST Bratwurst!
      Gerry and I last saw each other back in the mid 90s. I had met another Abarth owner while in California, Merkel Weiss, who has a couple of really beautiful Abarths, one being a1300/124. Merkel and his wife visited the East coast and we drove up to Long Island and had lunch with Gerry. Unfortunately he, Gerry, has passed away. My only remnants of Abarth are a few patches, decals, a Campagnolo center cap and a OTR piston left over from a failed rebuild project. Sad memories.
      Today I keep myself busy fiddling with motorcycles. Currently reassembling a Vincent Black Shadow for an old friend and playing with my new toy- a Ford Focus RS!

  2. Rob Maselko says:

    Good to hear from you Mac. To continue the circular references, in late 2001 I started searching for an OTAS. I recalled having seen them at the 1970 New York International Automobile Show, and still had the single sheet brochure. Searching the internet, I came across Mac’s ad for the car he sold to Haz. Mac, you told me the car had been sold. I kept searching and found one for sale in San Francisco. I had it shipped to New Jersey. The car arrived January 4, 2002. By 2006, the car had been recommissioned sufficiently to show it at a Fiat Lancia Unlimited “Freakout” at Pocono Manor. There I met Haz. Some years later, I was fortunate to meet Don Meluzio, and he invited me to display my car alongside his and Haz’s cars at La Bella Macchina. I continue to meet some really great Fiat Abarth enthusiasts through my OTAS ownership (chassis 0035).

  3. Don Meluzio says:

    Hi Mac, That is great that you have been back to Giessen. I too used to visit Marburg Castle. Isn’t it amazing how much our lives were influenced by those German and Italian Cars! We sure had similar circumstances. All the best to you.
    You heard from Rob Maselko, with both of us being Italian Car guys, he and I bump into each other at least once a year. Don

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