Don Orosco's All-American F1 Scarab Transporter

Brian Konoske

Fast-forward to 2006. At a banquet during the Goodwood Revival, a tipsy Dick Skipworth - the man who had restored the Écurie Écosse transporter - boasted to an equally well-lubricated Orosco that he planned to make a run at the ex-Scarab rig "before the bloody Yanks figure out what it is." Orosco's patriotic impulse kicked in. As soon as he got home to California, he hunted down the transporter. And five days later, he bought it for $80,000.

At the time, Orosco - a commercial real-estate developer - had four full-time restoration experts in his shop in Monterey. In recent years, they'd restored three cars that won the hot-rod class at Pebble Beach. But their jaws dropped and their hearts sank when the Bartoletti showed up on a lowboy. "I thought, 'Holy smokes! What was Don thinking?' " recalls Olle Eriksson, his chief fabricator. Adds Jesse Cruz, who runs his paint and body shop: "I thought Don had finally lost his mind."

Mechanically, the transporter was in reasonably good shape. (At some point, the flat-twelve Fiat had been replaced by a Leyland turbo-diesel six-cylinder.) But during its solitary confinement in Mesa, doors had fallen off and windows had been shot out. Virtually all the sheetmetal was rusting, and almost none of the original trim survived. The interior, meanwhile, had been largely gutted, and the wood flooring was rotting. Confronted with all of these issues, Orosco reluctantly decided to embark on a frame-off restoration.

To knock the rust off - literally - Orosco farmed out the transporter to a company that specialized in bus repair, then brought it back to Monterey for what turned out to be a fiendishly difficult restoration. By haunting the Internet and enlisting the aid of Italian bus specialists, he was able to find lots of new-old-stock parts. But rummaging through the sad remains of the Bartoletti archives in Italy convinced him that all of the big stuff would have to be fabricated from scratch. "I found out that every bus was different," he says. "Every front bumper was different. They were all skinned differently. Everything was custom."

Because his in-house staff - Eriksson, Cruz, chief mechanic Brad Hand, and assistant painter Enrique Guillen - was busy on other projects, Orosco hired Brian Plumleigh and Mike Limasa to work full time on the transporter. Other craftsmen were brought in as necessary - to fashion a new grille and front bumper, to install new wood flooring, to reupholster the interior, to stamp new badges, and so on. Painting the leviathan took twelve gallons of blue paint applied over what Cruz describes as "four days of hell." As the Pebble Beach deadline approached, no fewer than twelve guys slaved over the transporter. "That last month," Eriksson says, "I probably had 120 hours of overtime. I basically lived here."

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