Testimonial: Ed Godshalk, Rare Car Collector

In 2002 I began restoring a 1925 Amilcar CGS that still possessed its original paint thanks to 50 years of sheltered storage Massachusetts. The car was originally owned by Harold Craver in Boston, Massachusetts, and a wonderful photo survives of him with the car in 1927.

The Amilcar CGS is generally regarding as the quintessential French lightweight sports car or “voiturette”. In 1922 an Amilcar won the world’s first 24-hour race (the Bol d’Or) and 100’s of hill climb races throughout the 1920’s in Europe. For those not wealthy enough to afford a Bugatti an Amilcar was an economical means to owning a true sports car. The CGS has precise handing and capable of over 70 mph, a respectable speed for the day. This is noteworthy considering that it is powered by an 1100 cc side-valve engine.

Even though my Amilcar project was relatively complete many of the nuts, bolts and fasteners were either worn out or even missing. To reproduce these parts I first visited my friends at Bearing Service, who I have used to rebuild numerous vintage sports car engines since 1990. Gene, the owner, told me that they were not set-up to reproduce so many custom items and that I really needed to engage the services of a top-notch precision machine shop. He had heard of Paul Brong and recommended that I give them a try.

I was immediately impressed that the folks at Paul Brong were willing to accept relatively small jobs that entailed a lot of specialized machining of hardened steel alloys (suspension nuts, bolts, tapered pins, etc.) that are time consuming to produce. The prices were fair, the delivery time quite reasonable and the staff seemed genuinely interested in the project.

Shortly after my first visit George Passino was hired at Paul Brong as the general manager. George was immediately enthusiastic and supportive of the difficult and challenging restoration of the Amilcar. He perfectly understood the need to simultaneously fabricate new hardware that was mechanically safe, but at the same time have a “vintage” appearance so not standout as a modern part on an 80-year-old car.

As the restoration continued I began to realize that George had no fear of any project. He ended up making custom tools, a gas tank float, speedometer innards, modifying modern bearings to fit into the generator housing, suspension parts, etc. Thanks to his support I was able to complete the car in time to ship it to Italy in 2004 to participate in the Mille Miglia that year. This is a 1000 mile rally that closely follows the route of the famous road race of the same name that was run from 1927 to 1957. Even as a rally it is very demanding on the car, driver and navigator. The fact that the Amilcar successfully completed this event with no significant mechanical problems was thanks in large part to countless shakedown drives and the excellent support I received from everyone at Paul Brong.

The only noteworthy problem on the Mille Miglia was when the points failed in the magneto, but that had nothing to do with parts from Paul Brong, and this was easily remedied by swapping in a spare magneto.

What impresses me most about everyone at Paul Brong is the “can do it” attitude and the friendly nature of everyone. Julia, who handles billing, order entry, and generally keeping George out of trouble is the first person you meet when you walk in the door and she is always smiling and very helpful. After George gets done with his usual friendly teasing of my latest bizarre project we sit down to figure out the best way to approach the latest impossible problem.

Although I probably shouldn’t share this George gave me a nice discount on a particularly expensive job after I agreed to race him in swimming. All I’ll say is that he is a lot faster than I would have guessed!

Over the years I have introduced many other friends to George and the crew at Paul Brong. One of them owns a 1927 Bentley and another restores vintage motorcycles. They have both been very appreciative of having this excellent resource in Portland to fabricate and repair rare and complex parts.

The Amilcar continues to perform well and was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, California in 2006 and most recently competed in the Northwest Vintage Speedster 200 mile endurance run in Oregon’s Blue Mountains in May 2007.

My latest project is a 1925 Bugatti Brescia and Tim, who is one of the machinists, did a wonderful job restoring all of the suspension components for the front leaf springs. I plan to continue using their excellent services since I require that the parts be perfect for such projects.

Thanks to Paul Brong it is a viable proposition to restore and drive vintage cars and motorcycles in the Portland area.