Originally posted by Geoff Goldberg at American Lancia Club
A very dear Lancista, Walt Spak, passed away recently. He had struggled with health issues for some time, but his passing was unexpected.
Walt was widely respected throughout the Lancia world for his dedication to the cars, his search for authenticity in details, his careful workmanship and most generous spirit. For the club, Walt would always answer questions, treating all with a remarkable sense of fairness. For those who knew him, he gave more to others than himself.
I first met Walt getting parts in the mid-1970s. Our friendship took off instantly, as Walt taught me the intricacies of the Lancia way. we would walk up and down corridors of parts, each in their own special place, as he showed how each was carefully arranged according the Parts Books, which he made clear was the guiding work for all serious Lancia enthusiasts. Questions were carefully considered, followed by thoughtful investigation into the books, answers always found. His was a reasoned way, a voice of calm. Rare was a mistake - he always got it right.
We grew closer, and I bought his Flaminia sedan with 12 shades of primer grey, a lovely car. Along with it came discussions of which was the best B20, a subject we never let go. In later years, we’d mull which engine to put in a Fulvia, as he pondered how to get a hand clutch in a Fulvia sport.
He took leave of Lancias in the 1980s, and it wasn’t until some fifteen years later we reconnected as if nothing had changed. Walt enjoyed the club reunions, going on back roads only he could find. In later years, he undertoook that thankless task of organizing reunions, one lovely one in Northern Pennsylvania. Cars were interspersed with nature, and a visit to the Corning Glass Museum - Walt wanted to make sure we had some culture along with the cars. His was an enlightened view. He would step back from the cars and see a larger picture and share that with you - and life was better for that.
One busy night in Pittsburgh he and I designed his loft apartment for the warehouse where he wanted to live. With a lovely view over Pittsburgh, Walt wanted the windows to be garage doors and open all the way up, and so it was. He was a meticulous craftsman, working closely with Bob Williams restoring Aurelias, with them being responsible for the best Lancias in this country. He worked with other industrial companies and some other business endeavors, but in the end, his love of machinery took him back to Lancias.
His knowledge and understanding of Lancia logic was unparalleled. Walt could tell you the plating on the engine hardware, and when it changed from this to that, and even why. He knew each camshaft, castings, bits and pieces, and enjoyed hunting down that which he didn’t know. We tracked down cams, castings, obscure details, and looked for the one magic parts book with the rare index no one knew. He went from Lancia motors to the more exotic Fiat 8V engines, always with attention to details. He loved riding his Moto Guzzi, and was active with Volkswagen Vanagons in PIttsburgh. His was a steady voice for the underdogs and for seeing the beauty in unrecognized motoring treasures.
His long-term difficulties with MS did not ease, but his cheer remained undeterred. He planned to restore his Fulvia Sport to drive across the country, and he remained active in the American Lancia Club, helping to spread the word and keep interest going. He single-handedly kept the east coast branch of the club active, serving as its Vice President for many years.
Walt is succeeded by his two sons, Ryan and Nathan and three sisters, to whom he was close. He will be deeply missed. Details of a memorial will be posted once known. (I got a call from Walt's son Ryan, and they are planning on a small memorial for Walt in Pittsburgh on August 24 2013 (Sat).)
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