56 FALL 2015
nless you move in very exclusive
circles, you might not be immediately
familiar with the Canepa name. But if you
attended the recent Porsche Rennsport
Reunion V at Mazda Raceway Laguna
Seca, you were certainly in the presence
of some of its impressive handiwork.
“We brought a couple of our Gulf
917Ks,” says Canepa’s John Ficarra.
“[Owner] Bruce Canepa owns the last
factory-built 935, so we brought that,
plus one of the last factory-spec 962s
and an early U.S.-spec single-turbo 962.
We were also bringing cars for other folks,
so we had Mark Donohue’s 917/30 –
the actual chassis that won the 1973
Can-Am championship – among others.”
Canepa has established itself as one
of America’s best restoration and
preparation shops and showrooms for
rare and exotic race and road cars, and
its strong representation at Rennsport
Reunion reflects an emphasis on
Stuttgart machinery within the walls of
its headquarters near Santa Cruz, Calif.
“Usually our inventory is about
50 percent Porsche, and the reason
for that is Bruce’s racing background,”
Ficarra explains. “He started with dirt cars
and sprint cars, then moved into sports
cars and pretty much went directly into
Porsches. He took third with a privately-
owned 934 at Daytona in 1979 – a
three-year-old car – and Porsche took
notice of that.”
That relationship grew to encompass
everything from Canepa opening Porsche
dealerships, to his working with the
German manufacturer to help pass the
American “show or display” law, which
provides for the importation of
technologically- or historically-significant
vehicles that do not comply with Federal
Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
But Canepa is about more than
restoration and sales. Its 70,000sq.ft
base has grown into a one-stop-shop;
a Willy Wonka-esque wonderland for
“The idea is to do everything under
one roof,” says Ficarra. “We’ve got the
CANEPA’S ONE-STOP WONDERLAND
How a Porsche passion snowballed into one of America’s biggest motoring exotica businesses.
museum and the showroom floor, and
then the restoration and motorsport
facility in the back, where we can do
paint, upholstery, bodywork, fabrication –
just about everything but plating.”
It’s not every day that most of us go
out to buy a meticulous 1969 Porsche
917K, or a 1968 Ford Torino Stock Car.
But it’s reassuring to know that when
those days do roll around, Canepa is
ready and able to help.
When the 1921 Duesenberg
arrived at Canepa for
restoration, it was in bad shape.
Years spent in a field in Hawaii
had spread a mixture of rot,
rust and mildew through most
of it, and cows had eaten part
of what was left.
“All of the terrors that tropical
weather can do to a car,
happened to this,” Ficarra says.
Duesenbergs are rare as it is,
but this one was particularly
special: it was the first Duesy
road car ever built.
Restoring it took Canepa more
than three years. Salvaging the
ash wood frame alone took two.
“Since it was the first car it
was like a prototype, so we
didn’t have a lot to work from,”
Ficarra says. “We had to save
every square inch of original
material that we could, so if
there was rust, we cut it out and
made a perfectly-matched piece
of metal to go back into the
hole. We wanted to restore the
parts, not replace them.”
REVIVED: 1921 DUESENBERG
Keeping your 935 pristine is
easier when your 70,000sq.ft.
HQ includes a one-stop
restoration shop (ABOVE).
To find out more, visit