Remastering Antiquated Automotive Rarities at Redline Restorations
Every now and then, Facebook’s ridiculously-complicated algorithm recommends a post that ends up being a piece of gold. For me, that golden post happened back in 2013 when I stumbled onto this video of a vintage Ferrari 250TR screaming by another car on the highway.
Until this point in my life, I had never considered that rare and expensive cars like these were driven, only guarded and cared for inside temperature-controlled garages. My mind began to question the legitimacy of the vehicle. “It has to be a kit car of some kind. It probably just looks like a 250TR. The owner would never treat a vintage Ferrari like that!” I thought.
I started to investigate deeper into this questionable video, and discovered it was uploaded by Redline Restorations. As it turned out, the company specializes in restoring rare vintage vehicles into Concours condition – including Ferraris. I was in shock that someone was finally using those cars as they were originally intended. From that moment, I instantly became a fan of Redline Restorations. Fast forward three years – almost to the day – and I had the ultimate opportunity to tour their original facility before they move into their new headquarters.
Founded in 2003 by Colton Amster, Redline Restorations (RR) is a full-service automotive restoration center which specializes in bringing high-dollar vintage rarities back to life, and winning world-famous Concours d’Elegance shows in the process. Amster, destined to be in the automotive business from birth, was introduced to the restoration process by his father, Bruce, who owned and operated his own restoration shop in Massachusetts. After moving to Stamford, CT, Amster began working for renowned auto collector Malcolm Pray in the Greenwich area. His affection for restoration grew in lock-step with his experience and knowledge base, which pushed him to open Redline Restorations, which is located in Bridgeport, CT.
Flash-forward to the tour day; I arrived at RR to an extremely-courteous and warm welcome from numerous members of the company’s staff, including PJ Pitcher, their resident PR and media specialist. Everyone has heard the kid in a candy store reference, but how often do you actually get to see the kid in a candy store? That was me; I was immediately transformed into a little kid in a candy store. Being visually drawn in so many directions, my wide eyes didn’t know where to start. Luckily, PJ was there to guide me and share his wisdom on each of the various projects located in the shop.
In preparation for their move to a new facility, Redline reworked their current showroom area to allow space for their in-house interior wizard James Blankley – also known as Threadworx – to work his magic. Even with the makeshift conditions, Blankley is still able to crank out high-quality interior work on each of the company’s many projects.
The projects include this Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder, which is in the process of receiving its new custom blue coat of paint, along with a bespoke diamond-stitch interior pattern, among other modifications.
Moving through the building, it was hard to miss this stunning Harley-Davidson XR750TT. Originally ridden by Mark Breslford in the AMA, this former “Wrecking Crew” Harley was built to win races on both sides of the Atlantic. It produces about 100 horsepower from its 750cc engine, and only weighs approximately 300 pounds.
When you work on high-end project cars for a living, it is absolutely necessary to be working with high-end tools. Amster’s massive Snap-On tool collection is distributed amongst multiple large-scale Snap-On toolboxes, where each drawer and cabinet is filled with different specialty tools. A keen eye will notice the out-of-place Toyota Supra badge placed on his toolbox, this is because Colton Amster is actually a Japanese car enthusiast, but we’ll touch on that further in a little bit…
While the assortment of tools may be the perfect method for disassembling and reassembling the treasures that pass through this shop, another piece of equipment needs to reflect the work that they produce – the paint booth. When it came time for the shop to invest in a paint booth, Amster went for the upper echelon with this gigantic Accudraft booth, which resides in the middle of the shop. This provides innovative technology to the bodywork specialists who produce award-winning paint jobs on a daily basis.
Located in the back of the building is the company’s metal room, which is much less noisy and hectic than the processes which take place in the rest of the building. That’s because the company’s lead fabricator, Galdino Hernandez, has his own way of doing things. As most geniuses do, he prefers to be left alone to his craft and be able to immerse himself in his work without distractions. Re-working weathered fenders like this…
…Into beautifully crafted pieces of perfection like this Fiat Mille Miglia racecar. This car is in the process of being restored for a client to use to race with his son. I especially enjoyed the bluish-grey hue covering the rigid chassis and how it contrasted the perfect bright red paint on the smooth and curvy exterior. The Fiat is truly a masterfully-restored work of art.
Peering through the doors of the body shop granted me a vision of the unmistakable nostalgic bodyline of an air-cooled Porsche 911, which was located on the other side of the building.
This stripped shell started life as a 1982 911 SC, and was originally purchased with the intent of doing a coveted RAUH-Welt Begriff widebody alteration. Redline instead set the bar a little higher, opting to mimic a Porsche purist’s dream by converting the 911 into a 1973 RS backdate. Oh and what was the color they chose for this project? How about the OEM Porsche Acid Green, which usually finds its home on the brake calipers and accent details of the new 918 hybrid supercar.
As I made my way back through the middle of the building, every set of windows offered a glance at pristine automotive glory just beyond the glass, which created even more of a rewarding experience to walk through the building’s many rooms; I had to restrain my inner child from pressing my face on the glass to choose my favorite toy before entering the store.
Remember I mentioned earlier that Amster is a Japanese automotive enthusiast? A personal vehicle in his arsenal is one of the now-retired Signal Auto R34 Nissan Skyline GT-Rs. Famous for grip and drift racing, these Maziora colorshift painted heroes of Japanese motorsport were icons in their active racing days. This former drift star now resides in the RR shop with its battle scars intact, not only providing the perfect blend of scruffy diversity among the pristine vintage examples from Italian automakers, but also a good bit of eye-candy for Japanese auto enthusiasts like myself.
Among the pristine vintage Italian offerings occupying the same space as the Skyline sat a pair of particularly uncommon burgundy vehicles. The first is this gorgeous and ultra-rare Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Pininfarina Series I, and parked directly next to it is a 1-of-1 Maserati Mexico, which was rebodied by Pietro Frua’s coachbuilding firm in 1967. Basically, some run-of-the-mill bunkmates for a Nissan, right?
The other resident of the Skyline room is this two-tone Autobianchi Bianchina, which is essentially a rebadged Fiat 500. This particular model used to make frequent trips around the client’s hometown in Italy driven by its previous owner, his mother. The Autobianchi is now receiving a ground-up restoration so that the client can go on similar small trips with his children in the exact car from his childhood.
If you’re running a high-end automotive restoration shop in one of the top ten crime-ridden cities in America – Bridgeport, CT – how do you make sure the authorities keep a watchful eye? The answer is simple: keep the Sergeant of the Bridgeport Police Department’s Corvette in your shop. Then you’re sure to be in the good graces of the law.
While newer cars and German cars aren’t abundant throughout the building, RR is capable of handling any project, as illustrated by the swap they’ve performed on this E24 BMW M6, outfitting it with the monster V-10 engine from the E60-chassis M5. Although it’s still in the mockup phase, this classic is sure to produce quite the unexpected growl in the near future.
I spotted an in-progress Austin Healey 3000 in the far corner of this room, and as I walked over to see more of the car, the shop’s security guard greeted me and wanted his picture taken.
Meet Kuma – the friendliest King Shepherd I’ve ever met. Okay, the only King Shepherd I’ve ever met, but if the breed is anything like Kuma, I need to meet more of these wonderful dogs. Redline Restoration’s resident security guard is more than happy to guide all visitors around the entire shop, show off his skills turning on the hose outside, or just pose for pictures. It’s okay, Kuma; I didn’t want to see the Healey anyway…
Redline’s Kyle Frager dabbles in the intricacies of stained glass window production and created these massive displays for inside the building. These two giant masterpieces now overlook the shop floor, and not only represent preeminent auto brands, but also provide beautiful light depending on the time of day.
A 1955 Maserati 300S by itself is a pretty rare piece, but two perfectly restored examples parked side-by-side is unheard of; add the fact that one of the dashboards is signed by the greatest Maserati 300S pilot himself, Sir Stirling Moss, and it becomes a unicorn-style experience for a Maserati fan.
A friend of the shop – Dwight Knowlton – co-wrote an illustrated children’s book about a Maserati 300S with Moss called The Little Red Racing Car. A few years back during the Lime Rock Historic Festival weekend, Sir Stirling Moss was scheduled to be the guest of honor. Reuniting the authors for the weekend was a special treat, but Redline took it one step further and brought one of these examples of the exact car depicted in the story to display next to Sir Stirling and Dwight. Moss enjoyed the car so much; he left his John Hancock on the dashboard, and offered a thumbs-up to the Redline guys.
Which brings us to the star of the show, the shop’s own 1957 Ferrari 250TR. This is the exact car that started it all for me. The very car recorded on the Internet blasting down the highway, and later recorded terrorizing the multi-lane road directly outside the shop’s doors. This Ferrari doesn’t wear a vibrant glossy red paint scheme, nor does it host a fully reupholstered interior, but what it lacks in show points it makes up for ten-fold in character. It’s driven hard, and its engine is pushed to its limit through the entire rev range.
Enzo Ferrari – the founder of the Italian supercar brand that bears his name – once said, “Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines,” because he had such an affinity for the engines he produced. I think if he could see how Redline treats the naturally aspirated twelve-cylinder in the 250TR, he’d be overjoyed.
Although we only were able to scratch the surface of vehicles at Redline’s original location, we were informed by Pitcher that the shop was moving locations up the road to a new facility in the coming weeks, and he had more to show us. We hiked a couple blocks up and happened onto a Redline Restorations trailer outside a very large old brick building.
“The new building was the area’s Ford dealership when it first opened. Coincidentally enough, it was designed by the same architect that did our last building, so the aesthetic is very similar and familiar to our clients. After it closed as a Ford dealer, it became an appliance store, and a roofing and siding supply warehouse after that. It sat vacant for several years before we closed on it and began renovations,” says Pitcher.
Inside its doors, the building hosts dozens of cars in storage, and some finished RR projects like this completely custom Fiat 500. The entire car was built from the ground up by the folks at Redline and now sports a one-off hand-formed metal widebody, Bride racing seats, a full rollcage and the crown jewel – a B16B Civic Type R powerplant located over the rear wheels. Redline custom fabricated the rear-mounted engine’s cradle, which now holds the 1.6-liter DOHC VTEC motor and limited-slip-differential-equipped transmission in place. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for red paint, or because I’m a die-hard Honda enthusiast, or because this thing is just badass, but this was a personal favorite of mine despite its low worth compared to almost everything else at Redline Restorations.
Speaking of worth, there is a large assortment of spare parts populating every corner of this room in their new building, many of which are probably worth quite a bit of change, like the pieces surrounding this 1937 Bugatti Type 57S currently torn down awaiting further work.
Not only do spare parts find their home in this room, but spare chassis do, too. This particular E60 M5 was the donor car for the swapped E24 I saw at the first building. The spare chassis now lurks without intent among a collection of various drivetrains, all awaiting their destiny inside a future Redline Restorations project.
We saved the best for last with this vintage 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda. Awhile back, Colton’s father Bruce took a vehicle-scouting trip over to France in search of restoration projects. While on the trip, he was brought to a barn containing this ‘Cuda in pretty rough shape, and decided it wasn’t the right decision to pick up at the time. 20 years later, a client approached Redline Restorations looking for a racing muscle car and the father immediately thought of the forgotten ‘Cuda in the French barn. After acquiring the car, and completing a full restoration for the client, which included putting the original race-trim livery back onto the car, RR flew the original owner and racer Henrí Chemin from France and reunited him with his racecar in its restored form at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance.
The emotions must have been overwhelming, but that’s just an example of why Redline Restorations is in this business. While they have the talent, capability, experience, knowledge, and skill to create flawless vehicles for their clientele, it’s the story the cars create that really motivates them every day.
Little did I know when I saw that Facebook video a few years back, that I would be touring their facility and learning life lessons about what is really important in the automotive world. Thanks to the whole Redline Restorations staff for their endless background info on every car under their roof. This was a personal treat to cover!