Alfas in Montreal – Sunday

The final day of official events for the AROC (Alfa Romeo Owners Club) arrived. The Concorso was held in the Petite Italie (Little Italy) neighborhood in Montreal, populated with Italian restaurants, shops, and bakeries.

The AROC show was held in conjunction with the Fiat club of Montreal. Hence, many Fiats, Ferraris, and other Italian exotics joined.

The weather was perfect, and the crowds were large and enthusiastic.

A full event report covering all three days will follow.

 

 

Alfas in Montreal – Friday

Four hundred and thirty miles, from Neshanic Station NJ to Montreal Quebec, in a fifty-year-old Italian automobile, and the car did not miss a beat.

We are here for day one of Alfa Expo 17, the annual Alfa Romeo Owners Club meet. The weather could be better but we will take it one day at a time.

Events are planned for Saturday and Sunday. These photos are the cars in the Holiday Inn lot on Friday afternoon.

 

The 2007 New England 1000 Rally

When last seen, the 1968 Ford Mustang California Special, sans working headlights, was speedily headed toward the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock VT, the host hotel for the 2007 New England 1000 rally.

Rally brother Steve and I had earlier decided to make the trek on Saturday rather than Sunday, this to give us an extra day to relax, while being certain to join the informal concours on Sunday. We arrived on Saturday night just as any semblance of daylight was disappearing. If there was good news, it was that the car was running just fine, and, we anticipated no need for headlight usage during the upcoming week. Although I had not intended to work on the headlight issue during the rally, my trusty service manual was with me just in case.

Obligatory departure pic. My smile was my disguise to hide my nervousness.

 

Some light reading for Sunday morning.

The afternoon concours was a delight, helped in large part by stunning weather. The show was held in a park in town, and was therefore open to the public. The variety of cars was the best yet (and yes, I say that for every NE 1000). The photos in this case do provide evidence to support my claim.

 

Sunday concours: Porsche 356s

 

Sunday concours: German, British, and Italian

 

Sunday concours: Porsche 356 dashboard

 

Sunday concours: park visitor takes in the views, and snaps a few

Highlights of the week included two nights’ stay at the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield NH (a wonderful backdrop for photography), and a visit to Hemmings World HQ in Bennington VT. Aside from some fog and frost in the (very) high elevations, sunshine was the order of the week, right through our return drive on Friday.

My Mustang in front of the Mountain View Grand Resort

 

Benz stands proudly in front of Mountain View

 

Porsche 356 with Mountain View Grand Resort in back

 

Posing with the Hemmings Isetta

We didn’t know it at the time, but the 2007 rally would be the final time that my GT/CS would serve as a rally car. It would also be six long years before we returned as participants in the NE 1000. In the meantime, we were both glad that the wiring harness debacle of just one week ago did nothing to diminish our joy in participating once again in such a prestigious event with like-minded individuals.

 

Cars queue up for morning time out of lot

 

Rally brothers proudly pose with pony

 

Original Mini is truly mini

 

Jaguar XK-120

 

Ferrari Dino 246-GTS

 

Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster

 

Lotus Elite

 

Ferrari 250GT Pininfarina cabriolet

 

Ferrari 330 GT 2+2

 

Maserati 3500GT

 

Aston Martin DB-5

 

Maserati Ghibli

 

Lamborghini Islero

 

Mustang poses in the White Mountains of NH

 

Mist and fog add ethereal glow to rally car gathering

 

Steve feeds pony its high-test hay

 

Mustang on lawn with rally sub-group

 

Cal Special and Islero take deserved break

 

As always, wash stations were set up behind hotel parking lots

 

License plate frame honors original selling dealer

 

Moose collisions especially dangerous in 50-year-old European cabriolets

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

New Jersey Drops Emissions Testing for 1995 and Older Vehicles

Sometime last year, a story made the news in New Jersey, which seemed to garner little attention in the press. The State Government announced that during calendar year 2017, “older vehicles” would no longer be subject to mandatory emissions inspection.

A quick refresher for those who do not reside in the Garden State: for years, NJ subjected passenger cars to an annual inspection, consisting of both safety-related items such as tires, lights, horn, etc., and emissions testing, covering both a tailpipe sniff and a fuel filler cap integrity check. A few years ago, the law changed from an annual inspection to a biannual one. A few years after that, the safety portion of the inspection was dropped.

The announcement from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission allowed that 1995 and older cars would no longer require any type of inspection. Model year 1996 and newer cars would continue as before, needing an emissions test every two years.

Was the 1995-1996 cutoff arbitrary? Not at all. The Federal Government requires that 1996 and newer passenger cars possess “On Board Diagnostic” (OBD) testing capability with a standardized access plug, and standardized Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs). The 1996 nationwide requirement was actually a Phase Two level. So-called OBD I was a California requirement, but never a Federal requirement. Even if not mandatory, most 1991-1995 cars have some sort of rudimentary ability to read DTCs through an OBD system.

What does this technical discussion have to do with the State of NJ? Simple: cost. For a NJ inspection station to test emissions, two sets of equipment were needed: one to read OBD I (1995 and older), and one to read OBD II (1996 and newer). There is no compatibility between the two. The State Government saw this as nothing more than a money-saving decision. By eliminating testing for the older cars, only one set of test equipment must be purchased.

The newest vehicles which no longer need to pass an inspection are 22 years old. Since the average age of light-duty vehicles on the road today is 11 years, one can rationalize that as a percentage of the highway population, there are relatively few cars which may become “gross polluters”. (For what it’s worth, the NJ law as written still requires vehicle owners to maintain their cars, and further states that drivers can be cited for “malfunctioning or missing equipment”.)

Speaking from personal experience: my 1993 Mazda Miata, which I’ve owned since 1996, had always passed NJ emissions, until it failed in 2015. There were no warning lights, nor did the car behave any differently. It turned out that the car needed an oxygen sensor (for which there is no regular replacement interval). Had I not had the vehicle inspected, how would I have known?

Without getting too political, this comes down to a difference of opinion between those who believe in greater individual responsibility, versus those who believe that our government does occasionally need to act in order to protect the greater good. In this case, I see both sides. I actually have a bigger issue with the removal of all safety inspections. Cars alongside me on the road may have bald tires, worn-out brakes, and inoperative headlights, but are still operating legally (and yes, as stated above, they can be cited for obvious defects. When is the last time that happened in New Jersey?).

The new law regarding the emissions testing for 1995 and older vehicles went into effect on May 1, 2017. Owners of affected vehicles were told that the state would be mailing notices. As the owner of such an affected vehicle, I got my notice last week:

 

It’s in the glove box, but I didn’t check to be certain that the VINs match!

 

Yesterday, I took a razor blade to the inspection sticker, scraped it off for the last time, and spent quite a few minutes cleaning 24 years’ worth of adhesive residue. The new notice went into the glove box (thank goodness the state didn’t require that it be displayed on the dashboard), and I stood back to admire the newly-bare windshield glass.

My 1993 Miata looks just like all Miatas built from 1990 through 1997. How long might it be before I’m stopped for driving with a missing inspection sticker?

My ’93 next to one of Mazda’s newest, the CX-5; note the relative heights!

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

Turning wrenches on your old car: When things go terribly wrong

There are no photos of the crime scene.

The event was too traumatizing to even consider documenting it via photography. Besides, there was a deadline to meet.

It was May of 2007, and to my great delight, rally brother Steve and I were once again registered to drive in the New England 1000 classic car rally. This would be our second time using my ’68 Mustang as the rally car, and our fifth event together as co-drivers and co-navigators.

The previous month, I had again shown my car in the Garden State Region Mustang Club’s annual all-Ford car show. Driving it to the show and back proved that it was in great shape. There was little to do to prep it for the rally other than check its vitals, an easy enough task on a ‘60s-era American car.

My ’68 GT/CS at the GSRMC car show, April 2007

One thing bugged me. It was like an itch I needed to scratch.

Some previous owner, most likely as a repair, had replaced the door lock cylinders. They worked fine. The issue was that I had 3 different keys for the car: one for the doors, one for the ignition, and one for the trunk. The factory gave you TWO keys: the same key was supposed to operate the door locks and the ignition switch.

Every one of the 19 Mustang parts catalogs I had showed new sets of ignition and door lock cylinders for sale. It looked easy enough to do. Best of all, when I was ready to give Steve a set of keys to hang onto for the rally, he’d only have two. As would I. I placed the order.

The only time available for me to do the job was the day before our departure. The door lock cylinders went in first. While I had the door panels off, I did a quick adjust-and-lube of the window regulators and channels. On to the ignition switch.

The instructions said that I needed to insert the existing key into the ignition, and use a paper clip in an access hole to release an internal catch. Once the paper clip was in, it said, turn the key, and pull outward.

I did all the above. The ignition cylinder came right out. At the same time, I saw a puff of talcum powder emanating from the switch area.

It wasn’t powder.

It was smoke.

My car’s wiring harness was on fire.

It took about 30 seconds for me to run into the garage, grab a ½” wrench, and disconnect the negative battery cable (the hood, thankfully, was already open). The smoking stopped.

WHAT in creation had happened?

Two observations: one, in re-reading the instructions, I had clearly overlooked the line which stated “disconnect the battery before proceeding”. Two, it was very typical on a car like this Mustang for the manufacturer to run an unfused B+ wire from the battery directly to the ignition.

Something had shorted out. I didn’t know what, and at that moment, I didn’t need to know. There were fewer than 24 hours before we would be departing for the rally. Frantically, I began to remove the engine compartment wiring harness. The sheathing had melted, but there had been no open flame. With the harness on the garage floor, I cut it open.

Exactly one wire was damaged, the feed to the ignition. All other wires were fine. Racing off to the auto parts store, I bought all the 14-gauge wire they had. Working through the afternoon, evening, and into the following morning, I was able to replace the one damaged wire, re-wrap the harness, and reinstall it in the car.

The car started up without drama (which is to say, without smoke).

Steve arrived at my house and endured the telling of the tale. We left, a little later than planned, and headed for this year’s starting point, the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock VT. Everything seemed to be working well with the car.

On the NYS Thruway, we pulled into a multi-level parking garage to make a quick pit stop. It was dark in the garage, so I turned on the car’s headlights.

They didn’t work.

We checked turn signal and brake lights, which did operate. But we had no headlights or tail lights. Given our tardy departure, we were almost guaranteed to arrive in Woodstock after dark. We hustled as quickly as we dared push the car, which is to say, with its 390 V8, pretty quickly.

We pulled into the Woodstock Inn just as the sky turned from twilight to black. We made it.

I normally stick to wine or beer on the occasions that I do have an alcoholic drink, but I believe I had a scotch on the rocks that first evening in Woodstock.

And how did we do on the rally? That’s for a future post.

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

2006: Adventures with Mustangs, Mine and Others

Since purchasing my ’68 Mustang California Special (aka GT/CS) in 2003, my desire had been to use the car as much as possible in automotive-themed events. As related earlier, we drove the car to Nashville for the Mustang’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2004. In 2005, rally brother Steve and I returned to the New England 1000 classic car rally after a 4-year hiatus, where the Mustang proved to be a powerful and reliable performer.

Before the 2006 driving season commenced, I needed to do something about the sloppiness in the car’s front end. While I held no illusions that this car would ever steer like a rack-and-pinion equipped sports car, the amount of freeplay in the steering seemed excessive, even by 1960s American car standards. A check of ball joints and bushings found enough wear to warrant the installation of new upper and lower control arms. (I opted to forego the Shelby-invented trick of relocating the upper control arms by one inch, effectively lowering the front suspension.) With the new suspension pieces bolted up, I happily observed that the dead spot at the top of the wheel was reduced by half.

The Garden State Region Mustang Club held its annual car show at a local Ford dealer in April of each year. In spite of poor weather, my car was there, mixed in among ponies both old and new.

My GT/CS takes its place among its siblings (note new 2006 yellow convertible on ramps)

In July, we joined the Mustang Club of New England at a show in New Hampshire. It was 95 degrees on Route 95, but that big 390 kept its cool. It was neat to discover at least one other California Special in attendance, a pale yellow car restored to a condition several levels better than mine. I took copious notes.

Hood up, ready for judges

 

For once, another California Special was at the same show as me

In the fall, my wife and I had a Mustang adventure of a quite different nature. We decided to take a week’s vacation in Arizona. As I made the travel plans and investigated rental choices, I noted that Hertz was now renting the Shelby Mustang GT-H, a throwback to the original Shelby Mustang rent-a-racers of the 1960s. I signed up for one.

Upon my arrival at the Hertz counter in Phoenix, I was not prepared for the strict lecture coming from the rental agency employee in delivering the car to me. He said in effect: “I’m going to show you every Shelby-specific item on this car, from the hood pins, to the Shelby-signed plates, to the guy wire securing the engine to the body (this to prevent, yes, engine swaps). You must sign here to verify that all these Shelby components are present, and you are liable if the car is returned with any of these missing!” Holy chicken farmer. I was afraid to leave the car in the hotel parking lot!

This was my first time driving this current-generation Mustang

The car looked sharp in its black-and-gold livery, and was an absolute blast to drive. Even with an automatic, the fun factor was off the scale. The car made all the right sounds, and the steering, brakes, and handling were eons above my ’68, no surprise given the almost 40-year spread between the two Mustangs. For the first time in decades of renting cars, I didn’t want to return the rental.

We found a scenic rest area for photos

 

I lucked out; the light was just right for this picture

By the end of 2006, Steve and I were already talking about repeating the use of the ‘Stang in the 2007 NE 1000. I was game. The car was up to it, but there were still a few things on my punch list to attend to.

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.