A.G. man to show off unique car at SLO Concours

Scott Grundfor owns this red 1979 Ford Probe 1 Concept car, a fully functioning prototype hand-built by Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy.
Scott Grundfor owns this red 1979 Ford Probe 1 Concept car, a fully functioning prototype hand-built by Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Among the many beautiful vehicles that will appear at the San Luis Obispo Concours this weekend is a unique car that Arroyo Grande resident Scott Grundfor considers among the most noteworthy in his collection.

The red 1979 Ford Probe 1 Concept car, a fully functioning prototype hand-built by Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy, is “maybe not the sexiest” car he owns, Grundfor said.

But its sleek aerodynamic shape — intended to reduce drag and increase fuel economy to cope with soaring gas prices — marked a step toward a new direction for automotive design.

“It’s probably the most important car I have,” Grundfor said Monday at his restoration/preservation facility in rural Arroyo Grande.

He owns Scott Grundfor Co., which specializes in restoring and preserving classic cars (there’s a difference, keep reading), and consignment and acquisition services for clients who can afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on unique automobiles.

Past clients include, for example, Hollywood stars Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Pryor and Steve McQueen, and a recent news release noted Grundfor provides services “to the Jay Lenos of the world.”

To that, Gundfor commented: “Well, I’ve never done anything for Jay. Jay has his own shop.”

Grundfor’s passion for cars was sparked as a kid by his grandfather, an aerospace designer for North American Aviation, who took Grundfor to auto shows. Grundfor was drawn to the “dream cars,” a vision of the future.

Grundfor said his grandfather, also a skilled craftsman, bought him a set of tools when he was 12 years old. The two built a little go-kart together.

Later, Grundfor opened a detail and repair shop while studying at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“I never thought I would be fixing cars all my life,” said Grundfor, 66. He’s owned several businesses, including Scott Restorations in Los Angeles, where he managed 47 employees, and in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Grundfor and his wife returned to California about 13 years ago and settled in Arroyo Grande, where he now has about five employees. He’s also served as a frequent judge at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and was restoration editor for The Star magazine, published by the Mercedes-Benz Club of America.

Current projects include a 1955 Mercedes Gullwing, which Grundfor will preserve for the owner of an American brewing company, and a 1929 Isotta Fraschini roadster, which is being restored for a Russian owner.

Grundfor’s cars have been featured at exhibitions around the world — his 1955 Chrysler Ghia Streamline X (nicknamed “Gilda” after the 1946 movie starring Rita Hayworth) is currently at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Other futuristic-looking cars in his collection include a 1983 Lincoln Quicksilver Ghia concept car, and a 1982 Ford Ghia Breeza concept car (the first car ever designed by a woman).

Grundfor believes it’s worth more to preserve an automobile — that is, to repair and make the original vehicle as presentable as possible ­— than to restore a car with recreated or replaced parts. The shift is slowly catching on; about 10 years ago, Pebble Beach added a preservation class.

“It’s no different with a painting,” Grundfor explained. “You would never take a painting that was cracked and repaint (it). Or strip antique furniture — you’ve ruined it.”

When asked how to care for a vehicle, Grundfor gave a few tips: “Keep it clean. Every 3,000 miles I change the oil. Cars are very durable so with a little bit of care, they can last a long time.”

If you go ...

The San Luis Obispo Concours, which benefits Hospice of San Luis Obispo County, runs Friday through Sunday at the Madonna Inn Meadows in San Luis Obispo. The main exhibition Sunday runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and can only be purchased at the gate (parking included). Children under 12 are free. For more information, go to http://sanluisobispoconcours.com/.