By Toly Arutunoff
I have previously related the tale of my first Appia Zagato. You’re gonna think I’m mildly nuts but just as George Starch can’t remember what he did with his Zagato, I can’t remember what happened to mine! I’ve seen it advertised a few years ago in Hemmings as ‘Toly Arutunoff’s car’ but I never checked on it.
I got my current Appia Z (which is an earlier car than my previous one) in Chicago for about $2500–a magic number, see my book–and had it repainted. The local restorer thought it had been in an accident but it was just the standard amount of Italian Bondo. I got cute on messing just a hair with the timing and thanks to the carbon in the cylinders, I melted a piston and that’s how I found out Appias are very sensitive to timing.
I sent the engine to Jack Beck’s Orion engineering and instead of just fixing/replacing the piston I got a complete overhaul. I replaced the exhaust system with a straightpipe with the only muffler a long universal muffler/tailpipe I won as a doorprize. My wife swears the car is noisier inside than outside, but she’s never been in it with all the carpeting and underpadding which I still have stored away. I’ve tried swapping the 22/23mm venturis with a pair of 26s and doing the proper rejetting but I’ve never actually compared the performance at Hallett(motor speedway); the car feels no faster and on the street has a little hiccup when the second throttle opens so I run it in standard configuration now.
It says on the brake fluid reservoir to use vegetable oil only but I use brake fluid. The reservoir has a pressure plunger you pull up to, of course, pressurize the system. It didn’t work for 20 years and a few years ago I pulled on it and up it came. As the cars all sit for some time and I forget to push the brake pedals weekly or monthly, I recently got in the Appia and the pedal went to the floor. What the heck–I pulled the plunger all the way up, bled the brakes, and now the pedal works fine. (The Flavia Zagato’s all-disc system did the same thing and it has two plungers and guess what it worked too! I was told that disc brake pistons can recede and suck a little air in around the seals).
A nice guy in Texas gave me the complete body and engine parts books, and I also have a couple shop manuals. Wouldn’t it be fun to place an order for a couple Zagato racing seats and plexiglass windows and have some employee in Italy wander back into the storeroom and find ’em and send them to me…..dream on..
Through the years I’ve driven the car from Tulsa to Nashville and up to Washington D.C. and back to Tulsa; We also drove it out to Arizona and ran the first Copperstate 1000. I’ve towed it out to the Monterey Historics and run it several times; also ran the Coronado historic race once, and that delightful one-time-only Torrey Pines Hillclimb/concourse several years ago. The late Martin Swig bought a lovely Appia Pininfarina coupe that’d been for sale for years near Dallas. It’d been reupholstered in black leather and was like new everywhere except the trunk, for some reason. I was hot for it but Karen said “you don’t need another little pissant car.” Of course I bug her about the year before the Allard year at Monterey we looked at a restored ugly waterfall grill Allard in L. A. that was $12,500 or make offer. it only needed the rubber strip under the windscreen but ducktape would’ve easily gotten us back to Tulsa and next year it probably would’ve at least doubled our money. But oh no, it was too ugly…..rats!I raced the Appia in the Memphis vintage race in ’87 or ’88 on the original ’59 Michelin X tires. If you don’t know Memphis, after a practically mile-long straight there’s a 210 degree gently banked right turn which eventually stripped the tread off the left rear which made a loud machinegun noise as I drove back to the pits. I put on the unused spare and it did the same thing in a couple laps. Let me add that I wasn’t lifting for the turn and so with the banking I figure I was putting a .8g load on that vintage tire. I’ve also raced the Appia at Pittsburgh a couple times and at the one-off Philadelphia vintage Grand Prix–marvelous event but never to be repeated due to its location abutting the ghetto…I had a wonderful race against a rollercrank Porsche 356 1300s coupe! Seems like I might’ve raced it at an early Walter Mitty at Road Atlanta when they didn’t require all that safety stuff.