In life, it is said that to fully benefit from your hobby, you should indulge in a pastime that is totally unrelated to your full-time job. Judge Michael Mallia, who has recently retired from the bench after serving for almost 30 years as a magistrate and then later as a judge, has followed this maxim to a ‘T’.

A self-taught car enthusiast with a fondness for all things technical, Judge Mallia had no family member to look up to when it came to his love for cars, what with his father, Paul, acquiring his driving licence quite late in life.

“Growing up in Merchants Street, Valletta, one of my childhood thrills was to go up on the roof of our house and spend my time admiring the naval vessels moored in the Grand Harbour, and Air Force planes flying high above.

“The sheer pleasure derived from watching their movements stirred in me a technical thirst and inquisitiveness about how machines worked.

“I started buying related literature like the Haynes manuals and I closely followed all road tests of the then popular Motor magazine”, he reminisces.

One fine day in 1983, while driving past the former Canadian Brothers showroom in Birkirkara, Judge Mallia’s eyes fell on a Triumph GT6. It was love at first sight.

“I acted on impulse and bought the car, possibly also due to the fact that some time earlier, I had acquired a Triumph GT6 manual. This 1969 Mark II model saw the light of day on the production line of Car Assembly Limited in Marsa, and although slightly tatty, it was in a reasonable condition”.

Nicky’s Triumph Spitfire IIINicky’s Triumph Spitfire III

The GT6 had a sleek fastback design with an opening rear hatchback, the work of Giovanni Michelotti for Standard Triumph. Three different models were produced between 1966 and 1973. With its re-engineered rear suspension, the Mark II model was a significant improvement on the Mark I, which tended to suffer from handling problems. Other improvements on the Mark II included a raised front bumper and a new cylinder head, camshaft and manifolds for its two-litre, six-cylinder engine.

Initially, he didn’t do much to his GT6, but at a later stage, he decided to re-spray it in its original golden sand colour, a coating which he states was not in the British Leyland standard list but which the Maltese company had acquired a license to use. Subsequently, he also had the cylinder head decarbonised, while the upholstery was replaced and brought back to its original beige colour.

In 1986, he bought himself another classic car, an orange Triumph Spitfire Mark III. First registered in 1968, the car needed minimal repairs. Similarly to the GT6, it was also assembled at the Marsa plant.

He treasured his Spitfire for a good number of years before handing it over to his son Nicky on his 18th birthday. Having been brought up on a healthy diet of old motors, Nicky was obviously delighted. It had always been his childhood dream to own a classic car.

Taken up by his demanding studies, Nicky decided to garage the car. After five years, he was presented with a choice – either restore it or sell it. He opted for the former.

“In a way, I was very naïve at the time. Taking a number of cues from my Spitfire manuals, I decided to dismantle the car myself. It took me all of one week to do so, but I have to admit that it was like opening Pandora’s Box. A significant degree of rust became very apparent. I had to abort the project due to the amount of restoration work and time that was needed. It wasn’t until another four years, when after graduating as an architect and coming into a little bit of money, that I proceeded with the car’s full restoration. All the work was carried out by professionals”, explains Nicky. “My father and I, however, did handle some of the Spitfire’s restoration work, often labouring well into the night to restore the car’s suspension, transmission and fuel lines”.

The entire project took one whole year. The end result was a beautifully restored Triumph Spitfire Mark III – another Michelotti creation – in metallic British Racing Green. To date, Nicky has already participated with it in two Valletta Grand Prix editions.

In 2007, Judge Mallia’s attention was again drawn to the Canadian Brothers showroom, where a well-conditioned, convertible Bertone X1/9 was lying in wait.

The X1/9 was a two-seater sports car by renowned Italian auto­mobile designer and constructor Nuccio Bertone. It was initially manufactured by Fiat, and later by the designer himself, between the years 1972 and 1989. The monocoque (single shell) body had a distinctive wedge shape, a long flat body with central indentation and pop-up headlights.

“Once again, I was immediately impressed by this rare classic car with its two-tone silver/grey metallic body and red leather upholstery. With the exception of some adjustments to its electronic system, very little work had actually been done to this 1,498cc Versione Speciale 1984 model. Nowadays, I get to use it much more than the Triumph GT6”, he admits.

In 2008, while working in Brussels, Nicky came across a 1973 MGB for sale on the website of Classic Cars UK. Acting on impulse, he caught a train from the Belgian capital to the car’s home in Cornwall. The conifer green classic MGB with matching upholstery was in good condition. Its engine worked pretty well but it had not been garaged so the exterior needed urgent attention. He immediately purchased it and shipped it to Malta.

Initially, Nicky thought of selling it, however, over time he slowly became emotionally attached to it, using it regularly for his weekend drives.

A recent accident which resulted in a small dent to the car’s mudguard saw Nicky initially embarking on a minor repair job, however one thing led to another, and now both father and son are actively engaged in the car’s nut and bolt restoration.

In the 1980s, before assuming the responsibility of high legal office, Judge Mallia was the last chairman of the Vehicles Collectors Club, which on its demise, gave rise to the Old Motors Club. After a number of years, he became an OMC member, where he has been participating regularly in events, including the annual trips to Sicily. On retiring from the bench earlier this year, he was elected chairman of the OMC.

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