A boyhood dream

George Giordimania’s love of classics started from the classroom, says Joseph Busuttil from the Old Motors Club

Like all caring couples, George and Doris Giordimania wanted their two children to have a more comfortable and financially rewarding future than they themselves had experienced. Of moderate means and making sacrifices, they sent them both to private schools to give them what they thought would be a better platform for life. But son Michael was proving to be a headache for them at times.

“Academically I was fine, but I have always been technically and mechanically oriented, with an affinity for old cars and a fascination for the combustion engine,” begins Michael Giordimania.

“I would get car models as presents and dismantle them – although I did not always succeed in putting them together again. I would read and research about vehicles as often as I could. My parents thought I would end up in some messy garage repairing cars, something that was not on their list of expectations.”

The successful completion of secondary school presented Giordimania with a deep dilemma. His natural instincts led him to apply for a motor mechanic course at the Umberto Calosso Technical College. Respecting his parents and heeding their advice, he also applied for the draughtsmanship course at MCAST. Both applications were accepted.

“I decided to start with the draughtsmanship course without declining the other option. In fact for a time, a friend used to tell me that my name would be called out every morning while taking down the attendance. After some serious soul searching, I gave up on the technical college and concentrated on the MCAST course, which lasted four years.”

Giordimania now has a successful career designing and installing steel structures in big construction projects.

While proceeding with his studies, old cars were never too far away in the background. In 2000, 16 and still in secondary school, he asked his father whether he could buy a classic car. The reply was in the affirmative, provided there would be no driving before he would get his licence in two years’ time.

Giordimania says that he is very grateful to his father – who alas passed away a few years ago – in that he always believed in his son.

“He taught me a lot without preaching. He had a way of empowering me, never shouting when I accidentally broke a tool but explaining and allowing me to experiment.”

Having always had a soft spot for the Ford marque, Giordimania read that the Escort models were disappearing from the island.

“A friend told me there was one for sale in Għaxaq, and with my father, went to see it. The dark blue 1973 Escort Mk 1 had been garaged for a decade and was just body and upholstery with no engine, which had caught fire. My father was not very enthusiastic, but I saw there was potential in it.”

Not wanting to be a burden on his family, Giordimania bought the Escort with his own money, which he had been saving carefully over the years since being given some at his Holy Communion.

Leaving the Escort at a Rabat garage, he continued with his course. At intervals he bought spare parts with money saved from his stipend as well as from a part-time job in a restaurant.

A 1300cc engine from an abandoned Escort was provided by Stephen, his sister’s then boyfriend, now husband. Restoring it intermittently, Giordimania brought the Escort back to roadworthy condition and then sold it, making a handsome profit in the deal.

Shortly afterwards, he saw another Escort for sale in Pembroke.

“The white vehicle with a protruding fuel cap was one of the first batch imported in Malta, manufactured in 1967 and arriving in the island a year later. The car was in a very good and original condition.”

“It needed very little attention, and was in such a good condition that I got married in it two years ago.”

Giordimania says that Escorts came in various models – including 1100cc, 1300cc, 16 Mexico, RS 1600, and Lotus, with the latter being a few built from the Lotus Cortina for the racing track. Noting that his Escort had the ermine white colour of the original Lotus, he decided to change the drive train and bought a 1600cc engine from Ireland. He claims that such engines – with a prefix L block behind the engine mount for high-grade engine performance in racing – are not easy to come by. He entrusted the rebuilding job to a professional mechanic, although he himself did the assembly and the gearbox, and changed the suspension. Proud of the conversion, Giordimania says the Escort is the apple of his eye.  

Being very fond of Fords – which he says are simple to work on, and which do not entail one to be the greatest mechanic with the most sophisticated tools – he spent some time looking for a two-door Ford Cortina Mk 1. Locally it was close to impossible to source one, so one of his many English friends directed him to one in Manchester.

“The two-tone burgundy with cherry cream top, 1966 Cortina Super with a 1500cc engine had one owner, who was getting on in years, and his son preferred a modern car. It had few defects, like some chipped paint and scratches in the seats, and so I bought it. The air cleaner, steering wheel, horn and rims had been upgraded, and I changed them back to the original.”

Giordimania was given a thick file of car documents, one of which states that this Cortina is the last one to come off the production line that is still in existence.

By this time he had caught the classic car fever in no small way, and another Ford Cortina was soon in his garage.

“The maroon 1963 Mk 1 1200cc de luxe model was bought from Mgarr. It needed very little attention, and was in such a good condition that I got married in it two years ago.”

Giordimania says his wife Chantal initially did not know anything about classic cars, but soon picked up and became an ardent believer, giving him advice and guidance as well as urging him to go for more.

Jointly they bought a red 1979 Porsche 911 3L cylinder boxer engine from an acquaintance. With this sturdy vehicle they went on the Old Motors Club trip to Sicily last year. For the same event this year they are preparing another of their roadworthy vehicles, a wedgewood blue 1968 Triumph Spitfire Mk 111.

1979 Porsche 911 3L cylinder

Giordimania also has three old cars awaiting their turn to be eventually restored. These include a 1970 Ford Capri Mk 1, a 1960 Renault 4 CV which he says is rare in Malta, and a 1954 commercial Morris van with split screen. The vehicle was imported by the post office for deliveries, and he has already been in contact with the postal authorities regarding its restoration, including the original colour scheme.

An active member of the OMC, he observes that when the going is good, members are found in abundance, but not always so when voluntary projects are in the pipeline. While the club has a number of officials with a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience, there seems to be no counterparts to replace them when they eventually disappear from the scene.

He states that the national interest in old cars is booming, although there is a dividing line between the real classic car enthusiast, and those who purchase an old motor just because it is fashionable to do so. There has to be an intrinsic yearning, and this also applies to the maintenance of the vehicle, which is of the utmost importance. Another cardinal principle is to harness the classic car, as little use is detrimental.

With such a significant collection, one would think that Giordimania has fulfilled all his classic car objectives. However, there is something seething below the surface.

“Chantal has a dream car, a Citroen DS 21, and I want to get one for her,” he says. This is certainly a tasteful choice, for the model, praised for its aerodynamics, futuristic body design and innovative technology, came third in a 1999 Car of the Century poll of the world’s most influential auto designs, and was voted the most beautiful car of all time by Classic and Sports magazine.  

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