Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Conrad Stevenson, the owner of an Alfa Romeo shop in Berkeley, and mechanic for the California Mille

Stevenson—who proudly calls himself “a shade-tree mechanic” even though he has a mechanical engineering degree—has amassed a vast storehouse of specialized knowledge during a lifetime immersed in the hobby, and 25 years wrenching on cars running the Mille since the first event in 1991 . “I’m not one of those guys who works on old cars and drives home in a new truck,” he says. “My ‘new’ truck is a ’63 Falcon Ranchero. I drive nothing but old cars. I know what breaks on these things.”

Over the years, he’s completed a bunch of unlikely Hail Marys. He’s taken differentials apart in the middle of nowhere, made cotter pins out of scraps of barbed wire, torqued Porsche wheels with a fence pole and a monkey wrench borrowed from a passing firefighter, even repaired a giant hole in an aluminum Aston Martin oil pan with J-B Weld—a lot of J-B Weld.

“I don’t like seeing cars break down, but I love trying to help people. Having a positive attitude when you get to a car is the most important thing. You’ve got to think, ‘I’ve got this. I can do this.’ It’s always fun. Honestly, I would do this for no money.”

After decades fixing breakdowns on the California Mille, Stevenson has the operation wired. He, Eisner, and Brown—who each have Bay Area shops and sterling reputations of their own—drive chase vehicles while George Powning plays Tail End Charlie in the flatbed. Two guys from Chubb Collector Car Insurance, a sponsor, help out when necessary in an orange 1968 Chevy Sportvan.

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