MY TAKE: Mazda’s Upcoming Inline Engine RWD Gamble

(My Take is a new blog category which will publish on a non-regular basis. It is here where I will put forth ‘my take’ on some automotive trend of the past, present or future. These posts will be primarily text and will feature few or no photographs. Your comments are invited!)

I’m a fan of many different brands of automobiles. Volvo comes to my mind first, largely because I worked for the brand for 30 years. While I would not consider myself a Volvophile in the sense that I think every Volvo ever made is wonderful (I know better than to think that), there are certain standout models to me. Chief among them is the somewhat rare 1971 142E, a 2-door sedan only available in a limited choice of metallic paints, with a leather interior and most importantly, the first fuel-injected engine in a 140-series. I’ve driven a number of them and I would choose one of these over an 1800 sports coupe without hesitation. Similar to this 142E are the first batch of 242 Turbos from the early ‘80s, which drove unlike their more pedestrian non-turbo brethren. Those original turbos had good acceleration, fine handling, and were comfortable to boot. I was very smitten with the 2003 V70 I had for about eight years; it was a non-turbo stick shift car, which made it somewhat unusual. I bought it with around 50,000 miles on it and sold it with 200k on the clock. The moment the new owner drove it out of my driveway I had seller’s remorse. The 2016 V60 AWD I have now helps alleviate that remorse.

I like Ford Mustangs a lot, although now I’m commenting about a make AND model. Having owned both a ’67 and a ’68, those are the ones I prefer, and recently I have found the Fox-body cars from the 1980s to have strong appeal. I’ve never owned one, but I could see that changing during the next few years, especially if it’s the SVO model of ’84-’86 with its European-inspired styling and 4-cylinder turbo engine.

Hondas are great, and that opinion goes back to the 1977 Accord 3-door hatchback which my mom bought new. Although equipped with the somewhat dreadful 2-speed semi-automatic “Hondamatic” transmission, driving that car was my first large-scale exposure to Asian vehicles and it was a revelation. Looking back, it is no surprise that Americans, when faced with the choice of a malaise-era domestic product or this $3,995 wonder from Honda chose the latter in droves. About 20 years ago, my wife bought a new ’99 Civic stick shift which she had for years; aside from routine oil changes, that car went 80,000 miles with repairs limited to a set of tires and front brake pads. Nothing else broke. At present, she drives an Odyssey and while she despises the sheer bulk of it, it has been as dependable as her Civic was.

Mazda is yet another brand of which I’m very fond, and with which I’ve had a lot of seat time. Regular readers of my blog know that I’ve owned my 1993 Miata for over 25 years, plus there have been other Mazdas in the family. We have had both a Mazda3 and a Mazda5, and both were fun to drive. My stepson had a Mazda3 he bought new, and is still driving the CX-9 he bought over 10 years ago and which has served him well. Ages ago, a good friend bought a new first-generation RX-7 with its novel rotary engine, and as soon as I drove his, I understood what all the hoopla was about. Other Mazda models within my circle of infatuation include the second and third generations of the rotary RX-7, the RX-2, RX-3 and RX-4 rotary cars of my teenage years, and even the CX-7 SUV, which I thought was one of the better-looking crossovers of its time.

Four family Mazdas in my driveway

I want to explore Mazda as a brand a bit more, mainly because compared to Toyota, Nissan, and Honda, Mazda has not launched an upmarket luxury brand, although they have considered the concept. Most car enthusiasts know that Honda began this trend with their launch of the Acura nameplate in 1986. It took a few years, but in 1990, Toyota followed suit with the Lexus brand, and Nissan did likewise with Infiniti. There was a major engineering difference, though, between Acura and the two other luxury upstarts from Japan. The initial Acura models, the Integra and Legend, continued with FWD as had all recent Honda models. The Integra, built on a Civic platform, used only 4-cylinder engines, while the Legend debuted Honda’s first V6 for road cars. (The Accord would not get this V6 until 1995.) Infiniti and Lexus also introduced several models at launch, however, their largest models, the Lexus LS400 and the Infiniti Q45 were both built on RWD platforms and were powered by V8 engines, the better to compete with their targeted rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Both these German marques had based their entire success on big engine rear-wheel-drive cars to deliver power, comfort, and control. Acuras drove like, well, the FWD Hondas upon which they were based.

While this was going on, Mazda toyed with the idea of following a similar path, and went so far as to introduce a new nameplate, Amati, as their upscale brand. The plug was pulled on Amati for reasons too involved to relate here, but one vehicle originally intended for the Amati franchise was eventually sold in the U.S. as the Mazda Millenia. Like the Acura Legend, the Millenia had a V6 engine sending power to the front wheels, so it would not have been a direct competitor to the LS400 and Q45. With the exception of the sporty Miata, RX-7, and RX-8, all recent Mazda car models have been FWD with AWD an option on some.

News broke in 2020 that Mazda was developing a new platform for its aging Mazda6 mid-size car, and for the first time, this model would be switching to a RWD platform. Possibly even more shocking was the accompanying news that the new platform would include a longitudinally mounted inline-6 engine. On the whole, most cars and smaller SUVs use transversely-mounted engines both to save space and to make it easier to deliver power to the front wheels. Mazda’s new platform is certainly bucking the trend, and I would argue that the inline-6 is just as ground-breaking as the change to RWD. At present, very few engines in new vehicles are inline sixes. BMW never stopped building them, and Mercedes-Benz recently switched away from V6 engines and back to straight sixes.

Why the change? There are many good reasons. One is manufacturing logistics. Companies building inline-4 and inline-6, and in some cases inline-5 engines, can find economies of scale if these engines share cylinder displacement, bore spacing, pistons, con rods, and other parts. Inline engines use fewer parts than V-shaped engines, that is to say, fewer cylinder heads, camshafts, and exhaust manifolds to name some obvious examples. Another is the realization that an inline-six is inherently more balanced than a V6, and provides a smoother power delivery. Another factor, and a big reason why Benz switched, is adaptation of hybrid technology. An electric motor can more easily be accommodated, and that motor provides both a propulsive boost and acts as a combined starter/alternator. The upgraded electrics, at least in the Benz, also eliminate belt-driven power steering pumps, water pumps, and A/C compressors, which are therefore electrically operated.

One would easily presume that this new Mazda platform is a signal that they are finally entering the market with a new luxury marque, but the home office is indicating otherwise. Mazda, it seems, will be trying to straddle the line by moving some of its brand upmarket, while still selling “economy cars” like the Mazda3. By the way, although I mentioned the Mazda6 car, this new platform may see greater use under the next generation of Mazda SUVs, to be precise, the replacement for the CX-9, and possibly the return of the CX-7. Mazda hopes that these new RWD-based sport utilities will prove to be competitive with the ever-expanding field of near-luxury SUVs, meaning everything from the Subaru Ascent and VW Atlas to the Acura MDX and Volvo XC60, not to mention the plethora of German SUVs from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.

Will it succeed? My built-in favoritism for Mazda makes it difficult for me to answer objectively. Of course I hope they succeed. One way in which this might happen is by establishing the uniqueness of this architecture within the competitive set. Doing so will require educating the average customer as to the advantages of a longitudinally-mounted inline engine driving the rear wheels. I know from owning FWD, RWD, and AWD cars that the rear-drive cars offer the best ride, as long as one doesn’t need the traction advantages of FWD. Customers should also be made aware that the inline-six-cylinder engine is one of the great underappreciated motor configurations. Finally, depending on pricing, which we obviously won’t know for a long time, the value-for-the-money equation should help drive home the advantages of a near-luxury Mazda which is still labeled a Mazda.

Mazda may be taking what seems like a cautious approach, but they know the costs and risks of investing in an entirely new brand. A new marque’s necessity for a ground-up dealer network is a financial trap of particular concern from which it may be difficult to recover. I am hopeful that future Mazda models which share engineering features with luxury makes but which are priced to the consumers’ advantage makes for a winning formula for them.

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

My 1990 Volvo 740GL sedan

After ten dynamic years working as a field representative for VCNA (Volvo Cars North America), during which time a company car was a business necessity, in 2006 I was transferred back to headquarters. Part of the initial discussion with my new management team centered around transportation, and I was assured that engineers in Product Engineering such as myself would have a Volvo test car as a component of performing their job.

That lasted about six months. The mid-aughts were a tough time for Volvo: our owners, the Ford Motor Company, paid little attention to us, money was tight, Volvo’s sales had nosedived, and cutbacks were sought everywhere. Around this same time, my mother was considering new wheels for herself. Her 1990 Volvo 740 was in great shape, but she thought that one final new car would be a nice treat. She visited Volvo of Princeton, the dealer which had been regularly servicing her 740, and bought a brand new 2006 S60 sedan. (She surprised us all by picking a bright red one, and yes, it was her final car.)

We didn’t even request a trade appraisal; instead, needing wheels once my company car was yanked, I bought the 740 from my mom and turned it into my daily driver. At that time it had around 190,000 miles and was in impeccable shape for its age, as my mother garaged it every night. Despite frequent dealer servicing, there were a few mechanical needs to which I attended. Cosmetically, the dark grey bumpers had faded to something approaching white. I bought SEM bumper paint, removed both bumpers from the car to avoid overspray, and repainted them. I was quite pleased with the result. I also found a nice set of Volvo alloys on Craigslist, and used the factory steelies for winter tires.

I drove it for about two years, and when I spotted an ad on a bulletin board in Rockleigh for a 2003 non-turbo V70 with a stick shift, I grabbed that and sold mom’s old 740.

Recently, while rummaging through some digital files, I came across the photos I had taken for the ad for the 1990. I had not seen these pics in a while, I was struck by how clean the car was. It had 210,000 miles on it when I sold it, yet had original paint which still gleamed. The ad I wrote noted that the only defects were a sagging headliner, an inoperative power antenna, and a non-functioning digital radio readout. I asked for, and got, $3,000 for the car.

Not too many 700-series Volvos from this era have survived. I see more 240s for sale on the popular classic car websites than I see 740s. However, the website www.carsandbids.com sold an ’87 740 GLE wagon with 293,000 miles on it earlier this month for $6,052. Perhaps I should have held onto my 740 a little longer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

 

The 2007 Lime Rock Labor Day Vintage Car Show

I’ve written about Lime Rock Park, specifically its Labor Day weekend Fall Festival, on several previous blog posts. My 1967 Dodge Dart GT convertible was discovered there in 1991, my BMW Isetta was shown there in 2000, and I filed contemporaneous reports in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

This pre-war beauty is perfectly framed under the overpass

 

Perusing some old photos, I came across pictures that I snapped on my 2007 visit. That’s too long ago for me to have specific memories, however, the photos reveal that the day was bright and sunny, and when the weather cooperates, Lime Rock is one of the best vintage automotive events on the East Coast.

 

The track is truly in a park-like setting

 

There is actually one memory worth noting: these snaps were taken with a film camera, likely my Nikon EM, and likely with Kodak Gold ISO 100 or 200 film. I tweaked the brightness and contrast on a few of them, but other than that, their rich color stands out to me. Enjoy the shots!

 

Jaguar XK-120

 

 

The show is heavy with imports

 

 

 

 

This Porsche 911 looked striking in red

 

 

 

Lime Rock always has a pre-war Alfa Romeo or two

 

 

 

 

These Elite Loti look like colorful confections

 

 

 

The famous Rolls-Royce grille

 

 

 

Shelby Mustang fastbacks

 

 

 

 

 

Got wood?

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The RM Sotheby’s Hershey Auction, 2021

A personal highlight of the annual October sojourn to Hershey is the RM Sotheby’s auction, held just a few miles away from the showfield at the Hershey Lodge. I’ve reported extensively about previous RM Hershey auctions on this blog, and even though my 2021 visit was a one day in-and-out, I still found time to scoot over to The Lodge to take in the cars and some of the auction action.

RM Sotheby’s, at least at this location, prides itself on mainly featuring American iron, much of it pre-war (that would be World War II, which serves as a handy demarcation line, since no vehicles were produced in this country from 1942 to 1945). There continues to be much discussion about the relative value of these older pieces of machinery. For the most part, those who drove them when new have departed; and those who bought them as old used cars right after the war are also quickly vacating the premises.

Showcase cars are displayed inside pre-auction

 

The standard argument goes: “If those who had them in their younger years are no longer here, then their value has plummeted”. The reality is a bit more nuanced than that. Car collectors, at least many that I know (and I put myself in this category) have an appreciation for ALL vehicles. One respected observer of this scene whose acquaintance I’ve made told me that the cars of the nineteen teens, twenties, and thirties are gaining a new audience as collectors have learned to appreciate their styling, engineering, and standing in automotive history. As my pictures below will show, some of these cars have an undeniable stately presence that would be an appropriate fit in any collection, no matter how narrow or diverse. Values for pre-war cars may be off their highs of the early aughts, but they’re not selling for twenty cents on the dollar either. As further evidence, nine of the top ten sales at this auction were pre-war, with prices ranging between $170,000 and $1.5 million.

According to RM’s website, the two-day auction achieved a phenomenal 98% sell-through rate. Granted, many of them were no reserve, but many had reserves (for the cars I’ve reported on, the reserve status is stated). The tremendous sell-through can be chalked up to a combination of quality wares, reasonable reserves, and a continued hot collector car market.

A big part of the fun is sitting outside the entrance / exit door and watching these cars run under their own power. The crew handling that job was working non-stop to get some of these old jalopies started and keep them running (and hope that the brakes worked). By the time darkness fell, I was on my way, but it was a glorious way to end my 2021 Hershey visit.

The cars below are listed in ascending sale price order; sale prices were taken from the RM Sotheby’s website, and the 10% buyer’s premium was backed out, so the “sold” price shown is the hammer price.

 

Lot #285, 1973 Volvo 1800ES, 4-speed manual. Pre-sale estimate $25-30,000. No reserve. Sold for $30,000.

This was the final year for the 1800, and only the ES (station wagon) model was offered. Sold right at the high end of the estimate. CPI values a #2 car at $44,000, which this wasn’t, but 1800s continue to be popular at the moment. Fair price.

 

Lot #152, 1948 Alvis drophead coupe, 4-cylinder, 4-speed manual. Pre-sale estimate $45-70,000. No reserve. Sold for $34,000.

Alvis was never a big seller on this side of the pond, but I’ve seen a greater number of them come up for sale recently. The two-tone brown and tan wasn’t the most attractive, and the RHD is either a fun factor or a pain. Sold well below estimate. I hope it runs well, because I know nothing about parts availability.

 

Lot #305, 1958 Edsel Pacer convertible. First model year of Ford’s Fifties flop. Attractive two-tone white and red. Pre-sale estimate $40-50,000. No reserve. Sold for $34,000.

The risk of no reserve is just that, there is NO reserve. This car missed its low pre-sale estimate by eight grand. CPI values these between $44,000 and $84,000, which sounds generous. Still, this is a unique and historic fifties car that should be easily serviced and maintained. It could be a challenge to find another decent ‘50s American convertible at this price. I hope the new owner drives it.

 

Lot #291, 1957 Chevrolet Corvette, fuel-injected 250-horse 283, 4-speed manual. Pre-sale estimate $70-90,000. With reserve. Sold for $65,000.

Apparently there were two different f.i. horsepower engines, and this was the lower of the two. This sounded too cheap to me, but CPI shows a value range between $53,000 and $100,000. I still think it was well-bought.

 

Lot #184, 1963 Jaguar E-Type FHC (fixed-head coupe). Red over black, looked great from afar, but a closer inspection revealed rough areas. Pre-sale estimate $90-110,000. With reserve. Sold for $65,000.

This is an early Series 1 car, with the 3.8 six-cylinder, 4-speed with non-synchro first, and low-back bucket seats. Many refinements were added to the ’65 and newer Series 1 cars with the 4.2 engine. See the photo of the rear window: the glass seal was completely hardened, there was paint overspray on it, and the window trim was missing. CPI has these at $88,000 for a #4 (fair) car; $130,000 for #3 (good), and $195,000 for #2 (excellent). Even with the defects, this was a bargain for a Series 1 XKE.

 

Lot #193, 1956 Jaguar XK140 roadster. 3.4 six, 4-speed. Pre-sale estimate $100-120,000. With reserve. Sold for $77,500.

Another possible Jaguar bargain which sold well below estimate, as CPI has a #3 car at $112,000. This car may have been a little better than that. Try it before you buy it though: the one time I sat in one required lower body contortions to get in and out.

 

Lot #150, 1939 Alvis pillarless two-door saloon. A unique and never-seen-before body style (and the 2nd Alvis at this auction). Pre-sale estimate $90-130,000. No reserve. Sold for $102,500.

This was one of the more striking pre-war designs at this auction, and certainly rare in the States. The bidders recognized this, and knowing it was a no-reserve sale, they stepped up to a final sale price which was mid-estimate. Guaranteed to be the star at the next all-British car show.

 

Lot #272, 1934 Packard Eight Coupe. Elegant two-tone light and dark brown. Pre-sale estimate $90-120,000. With reserve. Sold for $105,000.

I’ve been infatuated with almost all Packards I see these last few years, and this one stopped me dead in my tracks. It was stunning, and in close to perfect condition. While it sold mid-estimate, a higher number would have still been reasonable. That’s a lot of Packard for just over six figures.

 

Lot #274, 1933 Packard Eight Roadster. Dark red, tan convertible top. Looks like the sister car to Lot #272. Pre-sale estimate $120-140,000. No reserve. Sold for $105,000.

I have no explanation for this result. This car, a convertible, sold for the exact same price as the Packard coupe which was just one year newer. Honestly, I did not look at these two cars that closely to discern any condition differences. Maybe the same person bought both cars and now has twin Packards in the collection.

 

FUN TIMES WATCHING THE CARS DRIVE IN AND OUT OF THE HERSHEY LODGE

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

Hershey 2021, Car Corral Edition

After a consecutive run which began in the early 1950s and then dealing with its first-ever cancellation in 2020, the AACA Eastern Fall Meet (colloquially known as “Hershey”) was back in place for 2021. For me, most of my visits here in the last 20 years have been multi-day affairs, but this year, personal obligations kept it to a one-day-only event, and that day was Thursday, October 7, 2021.

It was almost as if nothing had changed. The flea market vendors took up most of the Hersheypark parking lot, the car corral occupied the perimeter road around the lot, and the Giant Center stood in place at the center of it all. However, the crowd was a little thinner than in recent years; the car corral was only about 65-70% full; many of the usual food vendors were MIA; and even the flea market revealed either empty spots, or, what has been a growing trend, modern cars parked as a convenient alternative for those willing to spring for a flea market spot.

Because my time was limited, I spent most of the day walking the car corral. Cars did change hands: I witnessed a ’64 Falcon sell, and my friend Larry saw someone purchase a ’68 Olds 98. It was reassuring to know that some business was conducted.

The cars below are the ones which I found interesting and affordable, and there weren’t too many of those this year. Cars are listed only with their asking prices; I did not record any other pertinent details about each vehicle. It is my hope that the photographs provide much of the info you might desire. I scooted out of the car corral and over to the RM Auction by about 4:30pm. The auction cars will be discussed in a separate blog post to be published later.

1992 Mazda Miata (auto), asking $6,800

 

 

1988 Ford Thunderbird, asking $9,900

 

 

 

1984 Porsche 944, asking $12,490

 

 

1995 Jaguar XJS (6-cyl), asking $17,500

 

1964 Morgan 4/4, asking $23,900

 

How Not to Sell a Car in the Car Corral

As soon as I opened the driver’s door on the Iso Rivolta, a voice from about 20 feet away barked at me. “You interested in the car?” “Maybe” I lied. “My boss wants $150,000 for it.” The only response to that was uttered to myself: this guy is crazy.

I wanted to show Larry the Chevy engine under the hood, but I couldn’t find the hood release. I asked the boss’ man “how do you open the hood?” “Dunno”. Oh boy, the boss sent the smart guy out with the car. While I continued to look over the exterior, someone else hopped into the driver’s seat and got the hood opened. “I owned one when I was a young man” he said by way of explanation.

Underhood was as filthy and unkempt as the rest of the vehicle, although we did note that an A/C compressor was in place upon which someone had fastened a label: “recharged with R134a in 2020”.  We were beginning to collect a crowd. The minion again spoke, this time to someone else. “Yeah, it’s an ICE-OH”. OMG. I quickly corrected him: “it’s pronounced ‘EES-SO’. One more time to the other interested observer: “my boss wants $150 grand for it, they’re very rare”. I pulled out my current copy (Sep-Oct 2021) of the CPI price guide. Iso Rivolta coupes, made between the years of 1963-1970, are in the book for $25,000 in #4 condition; $46,500 in #3 condition; and $85,000 in #2 condition. This car was clinging to its #4 condition like a rock climber clings to a cliff wall.

The exterior had not had a bath in months and the interior had not seen a vacuum in years. The front seat upholstery was obviously incorrect. The steering wheel was held together with electrical tape. Popping open the glove box, the door fell beyond its catch, dumping its contents of plastic cups, trash, and some aluminum foil (drugs??) onto the floor. I left it there, as the paraphernalia hid some of the dirt on the carpet.

So here’s the catch: these are neat cars. Renzo Rivolta, founder of Iso, took the oodles of Deutschmarks he earned when he licensed his Isetta to BMW, and invested that money into a hybrid GT car, hybrid in the original sense of “European sports car with an American engine”. They don’t exactly come up for sale with any regularity, and compared to the later and admittedly prettier Griffo ($350,000-500,000), Rivoltas are a relative bargain. (My Isetta license plate was LILISO, for “Lil’ ISO”. I wanted to buy a Rivolta, put a hitch on it, and use it to pull the Isetta to shows. If I had done that, the Rivolta plate would have read “BIGISO”.)

No Rivolta is worth 150 large. I was tempted to pull out a business card, write “$30k” on it, and give it to the mouthpiece to give to his boss. The danger of course would be the boss saying ‘yes’. Hey boss man, I hope you’re reading this, because I have some words of advice. Next time, spend 1/10 of 1% of that asking price on a detail job, and, give your representative something resembling working knowledge of the overpriced car you’re trying to peddle to the unsuspecting. I probably taught him more about your car than you ever did.

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

Sunday Morning Cars & Coffee, Aug. 29, 2021

(Pardon the tardiness of this post while I attended to some other pressing matters.)

After the success of our first Cars & Coffee-type event of 2021, we decided to try it again; we even selected the same Dunkin’ Donuts location in Mahwah NJ. We had an enthusiastic turnout, and as much as this group has always enjoyed the morning cruise along country roads, there is something to be said for planting the car in one spot and devoting 100% of your time to chatting up the crowd.

The cars ranged from Corvettes (a C1 and C7), BMWs (a 2002tii and a 135 coupe), Porsches, a Nova, a Grand Prix, and your blogger’s Miata. Having arrived at 8am, much of the crowd was still hanging out at 11. Breakfast was top-notch (as good as a bagel and a hot coffee can get), and the late August weather, never predictable, cooperated. We enjoyed ourselves and we will do it again!

Burton’s C1 Corvette

 

Robert’s C7 Corvette

 

Ken’s Porsche 911

 

Richard L’s Porsche 911

 

Fred’s Pontiac Grand Prix

 

Richard R’s Miata

 

 

A TALE OF TWO BMWs

Both Sal with his 2002 and Art with his 135 were more than generous in offering me a chance to jump behind the wheel for a short spell. I haven’t driven a 2002 in who-knows-how-long, and I’ve never driven a Tii. Sal’s car is somewhat modified in the steering, suspension, and tire departments, although that’s not easy to detect by eye. He has ‘sport’ steering in it, with about a half-turn lock-to-lock (I’m kidding, but not by much). The car started right up, and the throttle response under the mechanical fuel injection was very linear. The 4-speed was easy to shift with a light clutch, and the sweet spot on the road was around 40mph in 3rd gear (not unlike my Alfa). Dashboard ergonomics were German-funky. After 10 minutes, I still never found the windshield wiper control. Visibility with that tall greenhouse is outstanding. Fifty years on, it’s quite easy to understand the revelation that BMW’s little sports sedan brought.

Art’s 2011 135 has just enough connection to the 2002 to see the familial resemblance, but of course, this is a 21st century automobile. All the controls are light, almost too much so, and the 6-speed is a delight to snick through the changes. There may be nothing quite as smooth as an inline-six (except an inline-eight), and BMW’s sixes are known for their sewing-machine precision in sound and performance. Funnily enough, I’m not sure that the dash ergonomics are much of an improvement over the 2002, but that is as much a function of electronics as it is design. For me, the size of this box is perfect, and many of the buff books at the time agreed, citing a 3-series car that had become too bloated. Art sought this out to have a RWD manual tranny ‘sports car’ and he’s got a jewel of one.

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 2021 New Hope Auto Show

The 2021 New Hope (PA) Auto Show was held during the weekend of August 14-15. This is one of the longest-running car shows in the Northeast, and this year’s arrangement split participants into two groups: the domestic cars on Saturday, and the import vehicles on Sunday. My Alfa was registered for the Sunday event, and, expecting a significant turnout of Alfas buoyed by support from both the NJ and Delaware Valley Club Chapters, I was not disappointed.

The weather cooperated; Sunday was one of the nicer days we’ve had during what’s been a hot and humid season. Registrants were asked to arrive by 8am; I was five minutes early and gained a coveted shady spot at the start of the row dedicated to Alfa Romeos. Within a few minutes, another dozen or so Alfas arrived; I later counted over 20 of the cars from Milano.

Of course, other marques were also amply represented: Porsches and BMWs from Germany; Jaguars and MGs from the UK; other Italian cars including Fiat, Lancia, and Ferrari; and Asian brands including Honda, Mazda, and Datsun/Nissan. It is worth mentioning that the Rolls Royce/Bentley Club had what was likely the largest turnout of vehicles of any particular make.

One change for 2021 was the lack of formal judging; the stated reason was that Covid concerns prevented the show organizers from gathering judges to perform their needed tasks. Instead, spectators were encouraged to vote for their favorites, and ribbons were presented around 2pm, after which the show cars were released from their spots.

This was the first time my Alfa had ventured out-of-state since I drove it to a NY diner during a Sunday breakfast run in April of 2019. While New Hope is barely 30 minutes from me, it still was a great feeling to venture that far from home in confidence after the significant brake and carburetor overhauls.

I will let the photos tell the rest of the story.

BRITISH

 

 

 

GERMAN

 

 

 

ASIAN

 

ITALIAN

 

ALFA ROMEOS

 

 

 

MY 1967 GT 1300 JR

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Das Awkscht Fescht, Macungie PA, August 2021

Now in its 58th year, Das Awkscht Fescht (The August Festival) was held in Memorial Park in Macungie PA on August 6, 7, & 8, 2021. This three-day show, with slightly varied themes each day, is one of the longest-running classic car events in the Northeast. I was a spectator this year on Saturday, on the presumption that the greatest number of vehicles were likely to show up that day. Still, compared to previous years (I posted about my 2017 visit on this blog, and have been a sporadic attendee since the 1980s), the field was perhaps 80% filled.

“Macungie”, which is what we call it, is an appealing show: it’s set on grass within a park which offers lots of shade; and it offers non-automotive attractions including craft displays, a live petting zoo, and a bandshell with live musical entertainment. Saturday’s show cars were approximately arranged by decade. The featured marque(s) was Cadillac/LaSalle, and most of those vehicles were situated under one of the few tents on the property.

Overall, the quality and variety of vehicles were outstanding. Domestic brands comprised about 98% of the vehicles on display, but a few of the import makes were standouts (see sidebar below). Members of the NJ Region of the AACA turned out in some force, and the National AACA had a trailer on site, making Das Awkscht Fescht a quasi-official AACA event.

Photographically, I challenged myself by bringing only my 85mm prime (non-zoom) lens on my still new-to-me Sony camera. This lens takes great pictures, and the results look to be marginally sharper than the 28-60mm zoom lens I use 90% of the time. The challenge, however, is that for a full-body front or rear ¾ shot, I need to be about 25 feet away from a car, and accomplishing that at a show crowded with show-goers requires long waits for just the right moment. One trick which I’ve used at Hershey was to position myself on the street outside the show and capture cars as they drove in, an effect that worked well here. As another alternative, many shots are of only a portion of the automobile; in those cases I attempted to highlight some interesting design feature.

The Macungie show is a great PA tradition, always held the first week of August. Like other Northeast stalwarts such as Hershey and Lime Rock, this one is perennially on my calendar. Maybe next time I’ll bring a car!

 

 

HEADING IN:

 

STATION WAGONS!

 

CADILLAC FINS:

 

PRE-WAR:

 

LAND YACHTS:

 

A RARE HURST/OLDS:
TWO CUTIES, A CROSLEY AND A VESPA:
THE TWO-SEAT SPORTS CAR, OLD AND NEW:
A STUNNING ’57 FORD SKYLINER RETRACTABLE:

 

 


SIDEBAR: Mike, Barry, and the Fiats

As I crouched low to take additional photographs of the pristine white Fiat 124 Spider in front of me, the gentleman to my right spoke up. “It’s nice to see someone besides me who likes these cars!” We exchanged pleasantries for a few moments about our shared passion for the Italian cars from Torino, and he introduced himself as Barry. “Are either of these (a black one was parked next to the white one) yours?” I queried. “No”, he responded, “but I help the owner take care of them”.

Within a few moments, a younger gent joined our conversation. I quickly learned that his name was Mike, and that he owned both 124s on display (along with the BMW E30 convertible next to them). The white ’79 2000 Spider caught most of my attention, as the sign claimed that it was an 8,000 mile, all-original and unrestored car. Mike related that he bought the car about 8 years ago from an ad in an FLU (Fiat-Lancia Unlimited, the old Fiat club) newsletter. The ad contained no photo, just the briefest of writeups. The car was in L.A., while Mike was in PA. He subsequently learned that this car had been bought new by Jerry Zucker, the movie producer of “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun” fame. Mike never spoke with Jerry, but apparently negotiated the terms of the sale with one of Jerry’s spokespeople. He rolled the dice, he said, when he bought the car sight-unseen and then had it shipped back east. He was pleasantly surprised at its condition, and although he does drive it, he said he strives to continue to keep the mileage low.

The black car, strictly speaking, wasn’t a Fiat but a Pininfarina (extra points to Mike who knew exactly why a “Pininfarina” wears the letter “f” as its name bade). Although I didn’t record it, I believe that the newer Spider was an ’83, which would make it the first model year for the renamed Pininfarina Azzurra. (When Fiat abandoned the U.S. market in 1982, Pininfarina took over marketing of the Spider for the States.)  Both cars were near perfect, and it was a delight to see them parked side-by-side and note the differences, especially in the interior. However, I was so engrossed in conversation that I failed to snap any shots of the newer Spider.

 

It turned out that Barry, as a friend and neighbor, does much of the mechanical upkeep on Mike’s cars. The two of them were as enthusiastic and knowledgeable about all things Fiat as they could be. Barry in particular was impressively able to recite nuances about interior detail differences across all the Spider generations. All in all, I spent about 30 minutes in delightful conversation with both these gentlemen. Meeting and talking with them was the highlight of my visit to Macungie that day.

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

AACA NJ Region Summer Tour, 2021

The New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) has had a long tradition of holding summer tours. A tour, as compared to a rally such as the New England 1000, is conducted under much more relaxed circumstances. Tours typically involve leisurely drives along country roads to visit local attractions. Tour participants have the option to caravan together or to follow their own timetables. Planned stops will include sights like museums, parks, and of course eateries. (Rallies require more spirited driving and may encompass TSD [time, speed, distance] measurements of your ‘performance’ versus your fellow competitors.)

Having never partaken of a NJ Regional tour before, and continuing with my pledge to make up for the lost year of 2020, I signed up for my Region’s summer tour, which was held from July 29 through August 2, 2021. A trend I’ve noticed in recent years with both tours and rallies has been to conduct them as “hub tours” or “hub rallies”, which is to say that participants stay at the same hotel for the duration (the hotel effectively operating as the hub), with daily drives heading out in different directions and returning to the same hub each evening. So it was with this event: the Hampton Inn in Sayre PA (a stone’s throw from the NY border) served as the hub hotel, while our daily drives took us into the Finger Lakes Region of NYS each day.

All of the planned visits in which I participated were non-automotive in nature. There were plenty of opportunities to indulge in the local culture, and the significant others who were along for the ride weren’t forced to endure only automotive-related attractions. This tour was museum-heavy, as we stopped at the Corning Glass Museum, the Rockwell Museum (also in Corning), the George Eastman House & Museum and the Strong Museum of Play (both in Rochester), and the Soaring Museum in Elmira. The Corning Glass Museum and Eastman Museum visits were the two I was most looking forward to; the Rockwell Museum (not Norman, but Bob and Hertha, local business owners who collected art and gifted it to the city), and the Soaring Museum (the history of soarers and gliders AKA wingless flight) were pleasant surprises. The Strong Museum was akin to an indoor amusement park overrun with youngsters, but others in the group found it enjoyable.

The weather was outstanding for all but one of the days we were in the area. Unfortunately, the one rainy day occurred on the same day as a planned boat ride on Lake Cayuga, which necessitated the cancellation of our water outing.

There were about 25 people on the tour, mostly Regional members; some folks brought along friends and family members, which was nice to see, and made for an even more diverse group. Of the approximately 12 couples that I counted, 6 drove modern iron, and 6 drove AACA-eligible cars. Excepting the 1930 Ford Model A driven by my friends Dick and Bobbi, the other AACA vehicles were all from the ‘80s and ‘90s, including my 1993 Miata (NOT the newest car on the tour!). A personal thrill was my first ride in a rumble seat, which was offered to me when Dick and Bobbi drove to dinner. (It was easy to get into and less easy to get out of; agility with one’s limbs is a helpful trait when entering and exiting such a conveyance.)

The tour ended on a Monday, and I skipped that morning’s visit to a windshield frame restoration shop as I needed to scoot home a bit early. Would I tour again? Most certainly I would. It’s an additional and wonderfully relaxing way to indulge in the hobby. I would wish for a slightly more varied lineup of activities (not everyone prefers five museum visits in 2.5 days), but having helped organize and having participated in dozens of one-day and multi-day tours, I have great appreciation for the amount of work involved in planning such ventures. The NJ Region put in significant effort to make the event as enjoyable as possible for all.

 

The Corning Museum of Glass parked this Chevy pickup in its lobby and filled its bed with flowers made of glass; the flowers were available in the gift shop.

 

This automotive-themed display is from the Corning Glass Museum

 

A room from the George Eastman House

 

An engine-powered plane takes off from the Soaring Museum’s runway

 

 

This ’30s-era GMC pickup from inside the Soaring museum was used as a tow vehicle to bring gliders up to speed. Its winch held a rope attached to the glider, and there was a mechanism to disconnect the rope from the plane. In the event that failed, the guillotine was deployed to sever the rope!

 

 

 

 

 

Bill’s 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier

 

Brian’s 1994 Pontiac Firebird

 

Richard’s 1993 Mazda Miata

 

Al’s 1986 Ford Mustang

 

Pete’s 1985 Olds Cutlass

 

Dick & Bobbi with their 1930 Ford Model A

 

Your author about to embark on his first rumble

 

The view from the back

 

 

And the view from the Miata (barn doors up)

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

Neshanic Station NJ Car Show, July 17, 2021

(Late but not forgotten, I am posting this show from several weeks ago only now, as other priorities were handled first.)

Neshanic Station held its first of two scheduled July car shows on Saturday July 17, 2021. I’ve been a regular at these local events, if only because I live about 3 miles away! Taking the Alfa again in order to give it some deserved exercise, the field was slightly less populated than we’ve seen previously, possibly due to the vacation season, possibly due to the weather.

Repeating my previous comments about this show, it’s a “run what you brung” theme: old, new, original, restored, stock, modified, whatever. If the owner thinks it’s interesting, then it’s welcome. Some cars were familiar to me from previous shows, and some were new to me. As is typical, attendees brought mostly domestic iron, but there were several Germans and one British/American hybrid to keep my Italian mistress company. There’s no charge to enter, but the local church requests a monetary or food donation to support a local food bank.

 

The day dawned sunny, hot, and humid. Arriving at 7:58 a.m., I parked my car, grabbed my camera, and began walking around to snap pictures. By 8:45, I had soaked through my t-shirt. While I remembered bug spray, I neglected to grab sunscreen or a hat. A quick call back home and my wife was kind enough to scoot down with both those essentials.

Several vehicles stood out: a classic ’40 Ford, the Cougar Eliminator, the Benz SLC with typical 1980s mods, an impeccable Nash Metropolitan, a Screaming Chicken Trans Am, and a current-gen Ford GT, driven, not trailered, onto and off the show field.

Did I mention it was hot? People actually started to leave shortly after 9 a.m. I threw in (more like wrung out) the towel at 10 a.m. and headed home. As always, I enjoyed myself, and there’s no sense complaining about the weather. Show organizers have moved this to a twice-a-month thing, and I plan to continue to attend as many as my schedule allows.

 

 

 

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.