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Joe Curto – A Visit

I suspect that just about anybody that has owned a car with SU (Skinners Union) carburators knows of Joe Curto. As far as I am concerned, he is a living legend when it comes to knowledge and service for SU carburators. I have spoken to him on the phone many times over the years and he has always been curteous and knowledgable. But I have never had the chance to meet him in person. Until now.

And I don’t know why I waited so long to do so, as he lives just 15 minutes away from my daughter in Queens, NY. I guess the impetus was that I sent him 3 SU carbs from my 1963 Etype restoration project for full rebuld and detailing. And I was driving up from NC on my way to Boston, with a 1 day stopover in Queens to visit my daughter. And I had an hour to spare before she was done with work. So I contacted Joe to make sure he would be there and stopped by on a Friday afternoon.

Finding Joe’s place of business, officially in Flushing, NY was a matter of following my Google maps to the address of record. I drove by the place, which is in a residential neigborhood, without really seeing it. There is no obvious signage, although the dead MG sinking into the adjacent alley might be a tell. Here is the Google street view image.

Anyway, I found on street parking and walked back to the address. The door was locked but there was a doorbell. I rang it and shortly the door opened and there he was. Joe Curto. Since he knew I was coming, he immediately invited me in. We walked through a big crowded unheated space to his inner sanctum, which is a small crowded heated space! After a few introductory pleasantries (“Rain is coming Joe. I drove through it all the way up I-95”) we got into it. “How long have you been doing this Joe? Well, I bought an MG-TD when I got out of the service and it had SU carburators and since I didn’t have any money, I had to learn how to do everything myself.” And that apparantly became a side business. “British sports cars were very popular around here at that time”, which grew into a full time business that is still going strong today. I’m not sure if there is a succesion plan but I did meet Chris, who may or may not be taking over someday.

Chris and Joe

I asked how Joe brought the aluminum cast carb bodies back to life. He described a 3 step process that included ultrasonic cleaning, media blasting, and media tumbling.

Ultrasonic cleaner
Media tumbler
The Finished Product

After I asked Joe his association with John Farrell, he said yes, he and John had made many trips to the UK to buy stuff on the cheap and make a living re-selling it in the US. Which gave Joe an opening to show me all the non-carburator stuff he has collected over the years. Wow, his shop is really a small museum posing as an automotive repair business! I cannot begin to describe all the interesting items he had collected so I’ll just throw in some photos to give you an idea. But I could tell that Joe was very proud of all the unique items he had acquired.

Smaller carburator parts
Manuals and literature

As you can see, Joe’s collection has a little bit of everything. Probably the only digital device in the whole building was Joe’s cellphone. Which rang several times while I was there. Anyway, it was headed towards quitting time, at least for Chris. I have a sneaking suspicion that Joe never really “quits”, as you get the feeling he is totally passionate about his work. So I said goodby to Joe and Chris and re-emerged into the modern world of Queens traffic at rushhour. If you ever get a chance to visit, you should do so. I’m sure Joe would be pleased to show you around.



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