I was able to come by Glenn’s shop to further continue our interview and poke around the shop. Glenn had a buddy there who had brought his 1960 Giulia Sprint Speciale by for some work and to prep for the upcoming Charity Challenge race they are both racing in this October. The event is actually where they met and became good friends with a shared love for Alfa’s.
There was also a super clean Giulia Sprint GT, I believe early 70’s, that had been in the shop for a few days. Glenn told me it had run in some historical races, and it also holds “Historical Vehicle” plates. Could be an original. The interior was in the best condition compared to other GT’s I’ve seen in the shop.
Petrolicious is a group who creates weekly videos for their channel on Youtube as well as constant posts on their blog website.
I have followed them and watched their work for quite a while. I really enjoy the stylistic filming of the cars and their owners, and it really has become a model for what I want my work to look like. Especially in the making of this documentary.
This particular story is about Manuel Leon Minassian, who is an avid Alfa Romeo driver, racer, and collector. He is one of many who share a strong passion for these classic automobiles and the timeless designs that will never get old.
These other videos are similar in that they show the love these owners and admirers share among the Alfa community.
After returning to Glenn’s shop a few times and getting consent to document some of his work and story, he invited me to come by during a group lunch that he has everyday. I had came with my computer and questions ready to start getting Glenn’s story together. It was a pleasant surprise to walk to their back patio area and see 4 guys sitting around a picnic table eating packed lunches, reading old car magazines, and talking about which engines performed best.
They all warmly greeted me and pulled out a chair for me to join. Some had been long-term friends while one other was a friend he made at the Charity Challenge race at Sonoma Raceway. As I started to ask Glenn some questions about his childhood, the others would add in their stories and their experiences with cars as teenagers, and how they all became hooked. They all shared some wild stories about building frankenstein cars with as little as 50 dollars or less. One man was reminiscing on a bet he made with his dad after buying a chevy. It didn’t run, but the bet was that if he got it working then he could keep it. After a week or so of the dad seeing the work he started putting into it, he ended up making his son sell it.
It’s great to hear stories and memories like these, and every guy at the table had completely different experiences, childhoods, as well as careers. However, the Alfa’s are what brought them all to be such close friends. Even people from the neighborhood come into the shop to help him with his recycling or trash runs, including a very interesting lady who’s family has known Glenn for quite some time. She was more than happy to agree to an interview about the shop and added that it would be a great documentary as well as quite funny because of Glenn’s personality.
Glenn actually invited me to come to lunch hour during the weeks when I can, and he is certainly excited to be in this documentary. I’m planning to go there at least once a week to meet with Glenn and his buddies for lunch hour while I continue to talk and interview him, as well as all of the interesting people who frequent the shop. He has certainly built a small community of close friends and good people from the East Bay and beyond.
“Alfa Romeo’s might have been the first car to have an all aluminum engine. This reduced a lot of weight compared to the cast iron blocks that most other companies were using.”
According to Glenn, it really wasn’t until 2005 that major car companies really adopted the aluminum engine block and saw the benefits of the aluminum style.
Dual overhead cams, another innovative design used in 55, and not used in modern cars untill the last decade. Even the timing chain lasts the life of the car, Glenn says he’s never had to change the chain belt ever on his racing Alfa.
“They were really sophisticated street cars for their time.”
As the shop opened up, he already had a large customer network so work seemed to come naturally. He started to get regular customers, and continued to service most makes and models with some Alfa’s coming in and out.
It wasn’t until ‘85 or so that Glenn started working with a buddy, John Norman, as his crew chief for John’s Alfa Sprint. That’s when Glenn started to have an eye for these older Alfas, and began to turn down non-Alfa customers.
By this time, Glenn had a couple of Alfa shells (body) in the back of his garage, but nothing ever happened to them as far as restoration or getting them on the track.
“Well after college I had to get a job, and the only ones I was looking for were jobs that were draft deferment, as the War was still going on. I landed a job at this Meyer Island Shipyard, where I worked as a designer for piping systems on submarines and other ships. During this time though I was working miscellaneously on friends and my own cars, really just general work. I continued to race motorbikes and that was really my main hobby at the time.”
Glenn worked here for about a decade, finally leaving after the war was over in ‘78. Since he had been constantly cranking on engines, though, he began to see that as his next career path.
“When you left the shipyard, you got a $50,000 check to either save for retirement or take the cash and run.”
Glenn took the money, and after two years of working on cars out of his parents garage, he bought a lot in Berkeley in 1980.
He started at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo studying Mechanical Engineering. During this time, Glenn lived with six other engineering students. So, naturally, they were constantly talking engines and designs.
“When I first started school, I bought a 1953 Triumph motorcycle from my friend Eric. Back then you didn’t need a license to drive a motorcycle, so I saw it as an easy way to save some cash.”
One day, him and his buddies were sitting around drinking and it was the day that the Cobra came out. However, they costed 3,500-4,000 dollars. At the time, their rent was only 25 a month, and they barley had enough for food. But they put their minds together and figured you could buy a Austin Healey and put a Chevy motor in it, so that you could have a car that was faster AND lighter than a Shelby Cobra.
So Glenn did in 1966, buying a ‘54 Austin Healey that he still has in his shop today.“That was the newest car I’ve ever bought, and it was 12 years old at the time. I immediately took the engine out and bought a 1955 327 chevy motor.”
He finished the build by late 1967, and he recalls driving it to and from school, up the coast on the weekends, as well as competing in some autocross races.
In 1965, Glenn sold his triumph to buy a Bultaco motocross bike. They were made in Spain, and him and his friend had gone to some hillclimb races where these bikes flying up the hills with no problem.
“They sounded like bumblebees! They only weighed 200 pounds with 30 horsepower, but triumphs maybe had 50 HP but weight 350 lbs. So I said man I have to own one of those. After that, I started racing some enduro events and motocross races in the late 60’s.”
Glenn Oliveria was born in Oakland, California in 1946. His parents worked normal jobs and a mostly normal upbringing. And as most boys do, he soon discovered his need for speed. He remembers taking his pedal car to the top of the hill that he lived on in and would come flying down it to see how far he could drift, or slide the car.
It only held interest for so long, and they didn’t make too many replacement wheels for the cars then, so Glenn had to choose a new hobby for the time being. His friend Eric would take him to the track to watch races on the weekends, however, so it kept his need to drive alive.
“There were some older kids across the street who had old hot rods, and I remember them driving down the hill and hearing the cars backfire a lot. I thought that was really cool.”
Glenn was 14 when he bought his first car from another kid in 9th grade. A 1937 Buick purchased for only 30 bucks, he even talked it down from the original asking price of 50.
“The Buick ran terribly. So I took the carburetor apart… then it really didn’t run. I had no notebooks or internet to look at so it was all trial and error until I eventually got it running.”
When he finally got his license, he couldn’t drive it because his parents nor he could afford insurance. He ended up selling the car for 150 bucks when he had to leave for college, making a nice profit.