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May 10th 2006

Joe Nastasi, In Detail, Part II

A need for speed took an impoverished kid from Sicily from bicycles to Lamborghinis

In Part I, a young Joe Nastasi grows up in Sicily, addicted to cars and speed. After a two year stint in the Italian Navy, he is ready to move on. Ironically, he finds his true calling not in Italy, but in the United States. (Read Part I)

Fresh off the boat
The newly-married but seasick couple arrived in New York, on the Queen Ann Maria on Friday May 8th , 1971. (it’s one of those dates one just does not forget). By that Monday Joe hit the pavement looking for a job. Amazingly, two blocks down the street, he saw a Fiat agency, walked in and was hired immediately.--the owner was from Calabria, Italy.

Joe Nastasi at home in Sicily, about 17 years old.

Two weeks later, Joe had bigger ambitions, and he went into Manhattan to look for another shop, called Modena Sports Cars. The owners, Alberto Pedretti and Alfredo Ciati were from Modena and they worked on Ferraris and were importers for Lamborghinis. “I had no experience with Ferraris or Lamborghinis--in Sicily the only time one even saw them was at the Targa. But I knew that’s what I wanted to do--work on Ferraris. I offered to go to work for them for nothing.”

Pedretti was impressed and although he didn’t need another mechanic, he understood what Nastasi was going through and hired him anyway. Two weeks after arriving in America, Joe Nastasi found himself working on his dream cars. And he was good.

Lamborghini Nastasi 2429 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, NY, after the Chrysler aquisition. The F1 car is a Alfa 182, which Nastasi still owns.

So good, in fact, Pedretti was loath to pay him what he was worth, and the lure of his own business was still very strong. After almost two years with Modena, Nastasi left and started “Milazzo Racing Car Corporation in Brooklyn. It was not easy going. “I soon found out that in winter no one uses their sports cars, so business was tough, very tough, for a few years.” Business picked up though, when Nastasi started buying used Ferraris and Maseratis in Italy, bringing them back and doubling his money. Despite a few setbacks, Milazzo Racing Corporation survived and by 1980, was prospering.

Ambition finds a home
Like may entrepreneurs, Nastasi also became aware of a need in the marketplace and was able to fill that gap. While importing used Ferraris and other exotics in the early 1970s, it was becoming obvious that if this was to continue with post-1968 cars, they would have to be ‘federalized’--made legal for the new USA DOT and EPA requirements. “Others tried, but either they went nuts or bankrupt.” Joe’s mechanical ability and get it done attitude made it possible for him to make a success out of converting Lamborghinis to meet the new specs. To do that, Nastasi bought a laboratory from his old employer Alfredo Ciati, and learned everything about DOT and EPA requirements. “There was a ton of paperwork, the cars had to be analyzed, driven, tested, and complete notes made of every detail. And in addition to the emissions, we had to make the body and chassis conform to the constantly changing rules. The grey market was known to have a few unscrupulous shops, but Joe played by the book. DOT employee and co-author of the book “Ferrari, The Sports and Gran Turismo Cars” Dick Merritt worked with Nastasi in those difficult days for importers. “Joe was always extremely knowledgable and great do deal with. He knew how to manipulate the system but did everything right.”

Testing the Countach at the Lamborghini factory in Sant A'gata for the 25th anniversary celebration. This is Joe's personal Countach and has traveled only 400 miles.

The grey market work on Lamborghinis was rewarded with a distributorship in 1985, called Lamborghini East. Joe took in about 75% of Lamborghini’s total production, and a full 50% of the US market. Business boomed, and fortunes made. Nastasi was quick to realize that the small firm from Sant’ Agata was about to be sold again, this time to Chrysler. With Lamborghini owner Jean Claude Mimran, Nastasi took part in the negotiations with the US company, flying back and forth to Mimran’s home in Monte Carlo. Finally, in 1987, the negotiations succeeded, and Chrysler found itself in the exotic car market.

With Lee Iaccoca at the party celebrating Chrylser's purchase of Lamborghini in 1989. "I worked hard to make the Chrysler deal go through, and Iacocca remembered me right away. He seemed to have a lot of respect for people like me who started with very little."

And that is how Joe Nastasi of Malazzo Sicily, met another Italian-American with a Horatio Alger story, Lee Iacocca. Nastasi stayed on with Lamborghini as a consultant until 1990. “Lamborghini insisted we move the headquarters from nearby New Jersey to Jacksonville, Florida, and I refused to move.” It was again time to move on, to other, less automotive-oriented ventures.

A best in show award for Nastasi and the Tipo 33/2, chassis 003 at Concorso Italiano in 2003. "That one took me by surprise, and I was very happy."

In the mid 1980s, Nastasi expanded his collection of Alfa Tipo 33s. His first, a Tipo33/2, was purchased in the late 1970s, with the intentions to race it, but was soon overshadowed by a foray into Formula Atlantic with a March. As expected, his passion for racing had not dimmed and he earned an SCCA regional championship with the car in 1981.

Returning to Sicily with an Alfa 33/TT/3 to run the Targa Florio retro, Joe accomplished the dream of a lifetime. "The crowds got out of the way but really liked it when I slid around the slow hairpins. It was a great experience."

Joe’s collection now includes five Alfa Romeo T33s, which consist of a 1967 Periscopo, a one off 1971 Stradale coupe, a 1977 World Sporstcar Championship T33/SC/12, a 1972 T33/TT/3, and the 1969 T33/3 (Read about Nastasi's Alfa Tipo 33) The latest addition to Nastasi Racing is the ex-Jackie Ickx t33/tt/12, owned jointly by Nastasi and West Coast vintage racer Tom Hollfelder.

Joe's new summer home in Sicily will house over 15 cars. It took about three years to build and overlooks Eolie Island.

Recently, Joe Nastasi, the wild, speed crazy kid from Messina, returned to his homeland to build a vacation home overlooking the Mediterranean. It will, of course, house over 25 cars. Nothing like coming home in grand style.

Past Issues


Graham Gauld

Otto Linton

Giulio Ramponi Part 2

Giulio Ramponi Part 1

Curtis LeMay

Graham Robson Tells All

Jason Castriota, Pininfarina

Tom Tjaarda

Bob and Dennis Show

Ed Hugus, Obit

Joe Nastasi, Part II

Joe Nastasi, Part I

Tony Adriaensens

Otis Chandler Obit


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