NY pays $10k to out-of-state shop to restore FDR's car

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration spent $10,000 fixing up a vintage car previously used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, sending it to an out-of-state auto shop that will soon feature it on a reality television show.

Cuomo first announced in March the state would pay to put the 1932 Packard back on the road for use in ceremonial events like parades and bridge openings after it had been on display in the New York State Museum in Albany for decades.

Newly obtained billing records show the work was done by F40 Restoration in central Connecticut, a body shop featured in Chasing Classic Cars, a long-running cable-television show.

The state was billed $10,440 for the work, which included labor, tires and a wide range of mechanical repairs and maintenance, according to the records released under the state Freedom of Information Law.

The vintage car will be featured on an upcoming episode of Chasing Classic Cars, according to a spokesman for Discovery's Velocity network, which airs the show.

"We’re hoping that episode will air later this year, but I just don’t know the date," said Andrew Scafetta, the network spokesman. "They're still producing the episode."

The state purchased the Model 905 Packard Touring Car during Roosevelt's second term as governor, not long before he was elected president in 1932, according to the State Museum.

Once he left for the White House, the car was entered into the state's fleet, though it was rarely used after 1942.

In 1971, the museum took custody of the vehicle -- despite interest from one of Washington D.C.'s most famous museums.

"You will recall that the Smithsonian has expressed considerable interest in this car because of its national historical value," Robert Don, then of the state Office of General Services, wrote in an Aug. 17, 1971, letter transferring custody to the State Museum.

The letter was obtained under the Freedom of Information Law, along with a 1978 note transferring the car's registration to the museum.

The bill, meanwhile, shows the Packard was transported to F40 Restoration -- whose owner, Wayne Carini, is the star of Chasing Classic Cars -- in late March, with repairs completed by mid-April.

Costs were covered by Empire State Development, or ESD, which oversees the state's tourism program.

The bulk of the cost -- $6,369 -- covered labor, including a wide array of routine maintenance that had fallen out of date. Another $2,343 went toward new Firestone tires, tubes, liners and mounting costs, according to the bill.

Jason Conwall, a spokesman for ESD, said the Connecticut shop was chosen over New York restoration shops in part because of its reputation.

"F40 has a very strong reputation and was both willing and able to work with us on an accelerated timeframe," Conwall said in an email Friday.

Cuomo, meanwhile, is a classic-car enthusiast who has been known to watch auto-based auctions and reality shows on TV.  It's not clear whether he will be featured in the Chasing Classic Cars episode, which is still under production.

The governor has touted the work done to the car as a way to preserve the vehicle and show it to more people across the state.

About a week after the work was finished, Cuomo used the car to cross the new Kosciuszko Bridge in New York City's outer boroughs, slowly taking the ceremonial first trip on the new span while cameras followed along.

It was the first time the car was driven in public since 1982, according to the State Museum.

In March, Cuomo said he hopes to use the car at the opening of the $4 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, which he and the Legislature have since named after his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

The first span of the bridge is expected to open next month.

"We're going to take it to a restorer to get it running again, and then use it for ceremonial opportunities, basically through the 'I Love New York' (tourism) campaign, because it really is a great piece of history, a great piece of New York," Cuomo said in March.

He continued: "Just to leave it sitting here, I don't think it's what FDR would do."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks Tuesday, March 28, 2017, about the 1932 Packard that Franklin Roosevelt drove when he was governor. The classic car is being shipped out for repairs and to be used in state promotions. Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau

The restoration work has the blessing of the director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, Dutchess County.

Paul Sparrow, the museum's director since 2015, said he's supportive of the state's effort to put the Packard back on the road.

"When (artifacts are) in a museum, they're intrinsically limited in who is going to see them," Sparrow said Friday. "Only the people who go to the museum are going to see them. If you can take those objects out and put them in front of the public and let the public see them without damaging the object, then I strongly support it."

Sparrow said state officials reached out to the FDR museum earlier this year to seek recommendations on body shops that could handle restoring the Packard.

F40 wasn't one of the shops the museum recommended. But Sparrow said it was "great" that the car would be featured on the television show.

"The more they document it, the better," Sparrow said. "The people get to see what happens to the car, which belongs to them."

Sparrow did have one request, however.

"We'd love to have (the car) come down and spend the day at the (FDR) library," Sparrow said. "We'd love to see it."

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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