2 August 2006

Small NYC Shop Has Big Reputation

Joe Curto has been repairing British cars since 1973. His business, Joe Curto Inc., offers a large variety of services including full or partial restorations, general maintenance, parts, specialty items and component rebuilding. If you own a British car, chances are you have one of Curto’s parts on it. He supplies items to some of the big catalog houses.

A love of sports cars and airplanes, a passion for perfection and an interest in New York City’s earliest imported-car dealers combine to make this business thrive. Thirty-five years ago, Curto was a crazy-about-sports-cars kid. He still owns the black MG TD that he bought at 17. “I was interested in the cars before they became classics,” Curto says. “I bought mine for $750 and could have found one for as little as $75!”

Curto drove his TD to Aviation High School daily. With his interest in fixing aircraft, it was natural for him to enjoy working on sports cars. This often involved locating parts or rebuilding components that couldn’t be found. The business started in his parent’s driveway and became a full-time operation in 1973.

Curto discovered that his rebuilding and parts-making skills could be marketed on a national, rather than a local basis. “I realized that almost everything I fixed could be boxed up and mailed,” he explains. “I developed into a national business by advertising in hobby publications and club magazines. UPS allowed me to ship the parts COD, and I didn’t have to worry about collecting bills.”

Curto became one of the nation’s best-known rebuilders of SU, Zenith, Stromberg and Solex carburetors. His carburetor restoration service includes a comprehensive overhaul with complete disassembly, cleaning and media blasting. New standard or oversized throttle shafts, new jets, correct metering needles and new float valves are installed. The carbs are flow-tested and adjusted to factory specifications.

Curto realized that British car parts were getting harder to find, so he traveled to England to find them and started supplying new and used parts for prewar and postwar cars. In 2001, he purchased the inventory and tooling of Superior, a 40-year-old British manufacturer of carburetor kits.

Today the company sells parts for fuel and electrical systems, trafficators, brakes, cooling systems, carburetors, rear axles, wiper motors, heater motors and gauges. They also have older-size racing tires and some car body parts.  

Inside Joe Curto’s unassuming brick building is one of the largest inventories of S.U. carburetor parts to be found in the world. The main parts-storage area is filled with hundreds of small items stored in plastic bins and stacked from floor to ceiling. Curto keeps busy talking to customers, while his skilled staff rebuilds S.U. carburetors.

Curto is always happy to help collectors with parts or even with the information that they need to repair their own cars. His shop is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday (ET). For information, call 718-762-7878 or e-mail joecurto@aol.com.

John “Gunner” Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.

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