Alfa Romeo Incorporated (ARI) in El Segundo California used to be where cars, parts and factory service were performed for the west coast. The address used to be 215 S. El Segundo Boulevard, El Segundo CA. (street view).
For those of us that lived even remotely close (100 miles) it was worth it for us to make the drive down to ARI to do our parts business. You could go in the back door which was the opening to the shop area. You went up to the parts counter, and Tom (Bonser?) would show up and ask for your order. He would write it all down and disappear. A short time later he would show up with the parts in hand if they were in stock. Now that is what we called “factory direct” service. Over time the dealers were crying “foul” as they were losing business because it was convenient to drive over to ARI and get parts, rather than order them through the dealer. Then you had to wait a week for the order to get sent in on a certain order day and then wait a week for the parts to show up. The last item I bought there in 1971 was a new 1600 original foam dash board for my freshly repainted spider veloce. (It has since disappeared into dust.)
A story circulated around that Tom was found out in the desert dead. It was said the death was suspicious. You couldn’t have met a better person.
DPeterson said, “I remember that I was required to submit written orders for our dealership. Calling in an order incurred a 16% handling fee. No idea why I remember that, or how they came to that number, but it compares in an interesting way to the modern automotive idiom of giving brilliant service to their car owners, particularly for “car-broken-down” orders, in order to earn a future car sale.”
ARI had a full service shop where if you wanted you could take your car in for service. They generally did work on the car that was strictly warranty work. I took my 71 GTV into them as my injection pump went bad. They removed the pump, took it into their clean room and did some work on it. Inside the clean room was a place where they had a fuel injection station where they could tune your injection pump back to factory specifications. I was in and out the same day.
JohnW said, “I purchased parts from ARI, Inc. for my 1957 Spider and 1961 Sprint Veloce until they quit selling to the public. I have all of my receipts from ARI. I used to buy parts from Tom at ARI. I had them rebuild my SV front suspension and differential. The differential housing and ring and pinion were replaced… I truly miss buying from ARI, Inc. The people were just great and now we cannot purchased any new Alfas. I hope that Alfa Romeo returns to the US car market.”
The man in charge of the shop I think was Kurt Heineman (?). I found him a few years later working for I believe BMW. I had owned for a while one of the original AR service vans, a Romeo 2 front wheel drive. There was a rumor going around in certain circles that Kurt had some spare parts for the van. When I met up with him I was two weeks to late as he had cleaned out his garage of all the spare parts to the dump.
Mario Silvi (?) I believe was the man in the PR dept. I remember going in to his office in 1971 to receive a gift from him, which I still have, of a copy of Luigi Fusi’s Alfa Romeo dal 1910. It was and has been one of the best books I have owned. I will write another story in the future of how this book took me to Italy to meet Cav. Luigi Fusi. Mario later went to work for the Italian consulate in Los Angeles.
When word that ARI was closing we were all wondering what we were going to do for parts as now they would be coming from the east coast and taking longer to get them. JohnW says, “I was told that when ARI, Inc. closed its doors in El Segundo many of the parts went to the salvage yard. The parts had been depreciated and could not be sold according to what I heard. I heard that new 6C2500 engine was sent to the salvage yard. I do not think that all of the parts were scrapped because I bought parts from Willy Mueller in Huntington Park that were from ARI, Inc. He had 1900, 2000 (102) and 2600 parts that came from ARI, Inc. I wanted to know if other parts went to other people, but he did not say anything. I think that some of the ARI, Inc. parts were sold to other parties, but that is pure speculation.”
The rumor mill was alive and well with stories of what happened to the parts. The parts were a total write off for Alfa Romeo. Rather than sell them to the public, collectors or returned to Italy, the parts were thrown away. Several large roll off containers were said to have been dropped at the back door and the parts department was cleared of all parts. It still staggers my imagination to speculate what was thrown away into the land fill. Maybe someone can fill in the blanks as to what really happened.