Me And My Car

Like father, like son

Mr Terry Smagh with his restored 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000. He sourced for parts online and abroad.
Mr Terry Smagh with his restored 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000. He sourced for parts online and abroad.PHOTO: SARJEET SINGH
Mr Terry Smagh with his restored 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000. He sourced for parts online and abroad.
What’s in the boot?PHOTO: SARJEET SINGH

IBM executive Terry Smagh shares his father's love of Alfa Romeos

Mr Terry Smagh developed his love of Alfa Romeo at a very young age. His father owned several models of the Italian marque when he was growing up.

They included classics such as the 105 series GTV 2000, Giullieta, Alfetta, 33, and the 75, which was the last rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo before the recently launched Giulia.

The younger Mr Smagh, who is in his 40s, bought his first Alfa Romeo - a 33 - when he was studying in Australia in the mid-1990s.

When he returned to Singapore, he chanced upon a GTV 2000 previously owned by his father.

It was being towed, and Mr Smagh trailed the tow-truck to its owner and promptly bought the classic off him.

  • What's in the boot?

  • •Gym bag and running shoes

    •Mechanic's magnetic fender protector mat

    •Box of fuses

    •Toolkit

He painstakingly restored the car, but a job posting to Sydney in 2005 meant he had to sell it.

When he returned two years later, he tried to buy it back, but the owner refused to sell.

He then found a GT Junior 1600 in a fairly decent condition, and the process of restoring another 105 series Alfa started again.

The IBM executive for analytics and big data, who used to help start-up information technology companies in Singapore before joining the United States computing giant, says he sees similarities between his work and restoring classic cars.

"Hunting for parts and getting them to fit and work is like finding the right skill set in individuals and getting them all to gel for optimum result," he explains.

What really caught his eye later in 2007 was his current car - a 1972 GTV 2000, which was always kept under covers by its previous owner.

Soon, he was onto his third classic Alfa Romeo restoration project.

He had a sound base to start with - the car had all original parts and a low mileage. Nevertheless, he had the monocoque body stripped to bare metal and resprayed with the original 1972 paint - a slow dry, ivory hue. He sourced for parts online, as well as during his business travels and family holidays.

"I would ship my clothes back, but never the car parts. They came along in my suitcase," he says, laughing.

He did not stop at the cosmetics.

The car's gearbox and steering were rebuilt in England. The suspension was upgraded with polyurethane bushings, sport springs and Koni absorbers, and the brakes were uprated. All the electrical wires were replaced, too.

New parts included the radiator, alternator, electronic ignition and other crucial components to keep the 1,962cc classic purring.

Inside the car, the aroma of the burgundy Nappa leather seat upholstery permeates the cabin. On the floor are matching burgundy carpets from Southbound Trimmers, a Porsche specialist in Britain.

Mr Smagh also has a restored 1985 Porsche 930 Turbo.

He says he regularly gets offers to buy his cars. "I have a box full of name cards, pieces of paper which were left on the windscreen," he quips.

While his wife Dalveer, who is in her 30s, supports his hobby, he says she would probably faint if she knew how much he has spent on his cars.

But their son, Taral, may well grow up to be a petrolhead like his father. The four-year-old recognises different car makes and even tells his dad if he thinks their cars are not sounding right.

•The writer contributes to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2017, with the headline 'Like father, like son'. Print Edition | Subscribe