Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline June 2013
Special Article

Tales of Mongrel
Ralph Arata
The Croce-inator & the Man Cave

After 35 years I finally had my opportunity and packed it in retiring March 1st. On the 5th Susan and I got in the car and started a 7-week road trip around the US seeing friends, ex-neighbors, old bosses, etc…. The trip took us to Nashville, Jackson, MS; New Orleans, Houston, Tucson, San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Mt Rushmore, Minneapolis and then home……phew!

One of my more memorable visits was with Greg & April Croce in San Francisco. Greg is not just an ex-Chevron colleague but a good friend and someone whose hobbies and “setup” would make any red blooded guy salivate. Greg has it all but at the top of the list is a 1965 Riley which he bought and is restoring piece-by-piece himself. Greg is an engineer who has actually designed refinery units for major oil companies and is currently involved with Chevron’s new lubricant base oil technology. Point being Greg (a.k.a. the Croce-inator) is technical guy!

I asked Greg about his what and why the Riley??

Memo on the Riley from the Croce-inator:

“Hey you Jag!
My Riley Elf is a 1965… it is described as BMCs luxury version of the Austin Mini Cooper… complete with trunk (boot), fancy front end, and wood grain interior.

Why or how did I get it? I wanted a project car… one project I always wanted to do was take a 1972 Datsun 510 and put the largest V8 possible into it… then I thought, well that is nice, but then I would be left with no money and my pocket and a 510 with a big V8… not worth much.

So I kept thinking small car and decided on a classic mini…. Looked for almost a year, nothing showing up that needed to be restored… I could buy one finished, but there is no fun in that. My idea was to get a car that I could learn to repair, learn to change suspension, learn to rebuild engine, learn to do bodywork, and learn to paint… as I have done none of those… then I found it.. a rust bucket Riley Elf… so a year later, here I am almost done with a full spool of MIG wire and all rust removed. I plan to paint it a very bright Easter egg green with white top….”

I am using Greg’s “Riley” as a rationale to discuss the Croce-inator and his “other” activities. For those in the club that like motorcycles Greg also restores wrecked Harley’s. He buys them with bent frames, etc.. (cheap) and he and his son (Anthony) restore them and sell them. The fun for them is the restoring but the selling also has its own rewards $. The Croce-inator tears down and rebuilds…that is what he likes to do. Always a project whether it be house-hold electrics, flooring or appliances, garden and fire-pit building, motorcycles or English cars. He does it all.

Then there is the Croce-inator’s lair…the ultimate Man-Cave! Greg has it all i.e. workshop, cycle lift, car restoration area and tools. OH MY GOD, you should see the tools.
All the power tools plus TV (with cable) couch and refrigerator (for you know what).

While there the Croce-inator and I spent an evening in his Man-Cave drinking beer, smoking cigars and watching basketball. Needless to say, I did not go to bed early!
~~Ralph Arata

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