The 7th Annual Domenico Spadaro Memorial Drive, for reasons beyond my comprehension, only marked my first attendance. The rally is a rolling tribute to Domenico Spadaro, master mechanic and the namesake of Domenick's European Car Repair, who joined the great garage in the sky at age 89 in 2009. Since 2010, the memorial drive has been a way for those who knew and loved him to honor his memory, by gathering on a Sunday afternoon to enjoy cars, food and friends, and by raising money to help fund the fight against cancer.
Participants of the day's activities, which were closed to friends and family and is not for public attendance, organized at an estate named Waterbury Farm, a magnificent piece of land located in the hills of Armonk, NY. This year, the group raised over $11,000 for Memorial Sloan-Kettering pediatric cancer research, bringing the grand total to over $40,000 since 2010. That substantial donation amount says a lot about the character of people that the Spadaro's surround themselves with.
The arrival of cars marked a steady stream of varied marques, with many of them having never crossed in front of my camera before. Not at Caffeine and Carburetors. Not at Greenwich. No where. And they were all wonderful. If given the chance to leave my GTI idling on the roadside to slip behind the wheel of one of them, it would have to be the Fiat Dino Spider. There is just something in the way those front fenders bulge up over the Campagnolo wheels and lead into a front end where four large lights are waiting to illuminate the night for you. The Pininfarina design, as simple as it appears, is as satisfying to me in the way that vanilla ice cream soothes on a hot summer's day.
As I walked through the parking area, which was basically gently rolling hills of green speckled by colored automotive forms, I could see pockets of people interacting like they've known each other for years. Which was probably the case. Regardless, this camaraderie is exactly what one would expect at an affair of this caliber. Especially to be noted is the generosity of the Bruno's, for graciously allowing this congregation of classics the usage of their property. With the end goal to raise money for charity, all of the "staff" were volunteers, friends and family that donated their time and effort to make sure the seventh in the series was a smashing success. Another note-worthy (and delectable) mention, although this is only hearsay, were the meatballs prepared by Mama Tindara. Next year, I will make sure I grab one, or a plateful, to confirm their deliciousness.
The drive consisted of about 60 miles of beautiful New York countryside. Couple that with approximately 150 vintage cars of varying value and you've got a mobile Concours d'Elegance. I posted up right past the first few turns, making sure to capture the cars as they whizzed by. The motoring menagerie spanned the spectrum, from a 1947 Cisitalia racecar to a newer Ferrari 458 Italia with lowered suspension over red anodized wheels. Separately, they would all be standouts, but as a collective they achieved the highest level of 'wow' factor one could apply.
As groups of Alfas, Lancias, and other carbureted marvels drove by, they acknowledged me with mechanical salutations that can only come from cars of that era. They possess a power to slow down time for that brief moment while I'm transported to 1960s Europe, standing roadside while period cars vibrate my eardrums with an aural reward. I need one of these classics in my life.
Once all of the cars had passed, I packed up my gear and headed back to scope out what cars were still left at the scene. There were a handful of driverless sculptures, parked along the fence of the corral, amongst the green grass and all-natural horse "fertilizer." Although I would have loved to capture these cars in motion, their stationary state added grandeur to already majestic landscape photos. An Alfa Romeo 1900 with bodywork from Pinin Farina. A perfect recreation of a Porsche 911 RSR. A Renault-Alpine A110 with competition history. And the Spadaro family's Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, its patina shining through in the late morning sun.
The memorial drive couldn't have left a better lasting impression on me. I am used to covering Concours, Cars & Coffees (and their many derivatives) and car shows, so it was an honor to be a part of an event where the automobiles play second fiddle to the people. Additionally, I have met many great folks in the car culture world and it was no shock that a majority of them were present. Santo in particular has been nothing but kind to me. Despite the fact that we've only known each other for approximately a year and change, his unwavering hospitality makes each of our intermittent interactions seem like old pals reconnecting after a long voyage at sea. I look forward to being a part of this cause for years to come.
Domenico's children, sons Frank and Santo, and daughter Vera, have built on his legacy by continuing to operate the shop, located on the same strip of Ferris Avenue since 1961, and maintain the integrity of the name. I visited there back in April and it without a doubt possesses charm that only a well-established, old-world mechanic's garage has. There is much to be said about the way that Domenick (the Anglicized Domenico) ran his business and lived his life. Although I never had the opportunity to meet him, after hearing Santo speak on his behalf while addressing the crowd at the driver's meeting, it could easily be said that he was larger than life. I've spent over two hours "researching" this post. And by that, I mean getting lost in YouTube videos, message board picture posts, and endless editorials on the subject matter. The classic car world certainly suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Domenico, but his spirit lives on in the cars and people who carry his memory.
And while the cars are all spectacular, Santo has stressed on many occasions that it's more so the people coming together that matters.
"The cars are really just secondary," said Santo. "They're vehicles that bring us together."