As happens every winter, the collector cars (loosely defined as the cars that don’t get driven in snow) are put away for the winter. The ritual is one that has evolved over the years and is now consistent: fill the tanks with fresh fuel, add Sta-Bil, pump up the tires at least 10 p.s.i. over normal to avoid flat-spotting, put a trickle charger on the batteries, and cover the cars with a dedicated car cover. It’s easy, takes little time, and doesn’t cost very much.
Before going further, let’s take a moment to say a few words about the brands I use, and have continued to use. (I’m a firm believer in finding good products and sticking with them, even if they cost a trifle more. As the cliché goes, ‘you get what you pay for’.)
The Sta-Bil brand of fuel stabilizer, made by Gold Eagle, has been in use in my garage since I’ve owned powered lawn and garden equipment. Many moons ago, I heard stories about lawn mowers and snow throwers, two examples of gas-engine devices which see seasonal use, failing to run because the old gummed-up gas gummed up the works. As soon as I got my first lawn mower, Sta-Bil went into its tank. The gumming has never happened to me, and I’ve stuck with the brand ever since.
Yes, I had my doubts about their ethanol treatment after it seemingly made the Alfa run worse (a conclusion which I now doubt since discovering my carbs are running rich and fouling the plugs a bit), but your basic ‘storage’ version of Sta-Bil is the way to go for any fuel tank in which fuel may sit more than 6 weeks or so.
It’s a similar story with battery chargers. I still have my dad’s Sears charger, which looks like it was made in the 1960s. It works great to jump-start a dead battery, but it ain’t no trickle charger. Long-term battery storage requires both a slow charge (the “trickle”) and a volt-sensing cut-out that won’t overcharge the thing and boil it to death.
The Deltran Battery Tender brand came onto the market several decades ago, and they found their niche for the car collectors whose vehicles are stored in the off-season. While many competing brands have since been introduced, I’ve stayed with what I know works. I think I’m up to 3 of these Battery Tenders in the garage.
Car covers are a relatively new accessory to my winter arsenal. Up until a few years ago, frankly, I didn’t believe in them. It was a combination of fear of paint damage from moisture trapped beneath the cover, and frustration with my inability to find a custom-fit cover for the BMW Isetta (my expectations were a bit high with that one).
Since working at CARiD, I’ve learned a lot about the usefulness of good quality car covers, and one thing I learned is that the Covercraft brand is my favorite. The fit is perfect, and the variety of material choices will satisfy any indoor or outdoor cover needs at any price point.
The Alfa has a Covercraft Block-It Dustop (yes, they had the ’67 Alfa pattern in stock), and the Miata wears the Covercraft Evolution indoor-outdoor cover. In the garage, both covers do more than keep dust off the paint; they also protect the interiors from sunlight, and provide some protection from wayward nuts and bolts spinning out of control off my workbench. I would never again think of storing a car without a cover. Even in the nice weather, if it’s going to be more than a week or two before one of the cars gets driven again, the cover goes on.
All this is a prelude to an announcement about my Mazda Miata: after giving some thought to selling it, I’ve now decided to keep the car. What’s more, next year, in 2018, this 1993 automobile will be 25 years old, making it eligible for AACA events. So I’m going to turn it into a show car.
The plan is to spend the winter tending to some mechanical maintenance, but also attending to some detail work in order to display the car at shows next year as a 25-year-old original unrestored car.
The mechanical list includes new rear brake calipers (one of the parking brake adjusters is stuck), new tires (tread is good, but they’re 10 years old), and a continuation of the LED bulb upgrade. The detail work involves a new convertible top (worn and dirty), an engine compartment detail, Paintless Dent Removal work on some small dings, and a complete polish and wax.
Here’s hoping for a mild winter, which will encourage me to get out to the garage! As long as the temperature is above freezing, I can spend a few hours out there. Watch this blog for updates on my progress with the Miata.
Have you replaced a fuse on one of your modern daily-driver automobiles recently? It’s likely you have not. Today’s motor vehicles have much more sophisticated electrical systems, and while your typical 2017 four-wheeled 2.5 ton behemoth still uses fuses, the days of fuses just “wearing out” are behind us.
If you have needed to replace a fuse, the first trick may have been to locate the fuse boxes. My wife’s 2017 Honda Odyssey has FIVE fuse boxes: two in the engine compartment, two under the dash, and one at the rear, containing a total of 107 fuses. It makes me pity the shop tech who needs to fault-trace an intermittent electrical problem.
My 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior, by contrast, has one fuse box, located in the engine compartment. Access to it is easy, as it’s mounted high up, on the right-side inner fender. There are a total of 10 fuses: one for ignition, five for exterior lighting, and three which are helpfully marked “other electric devices” (of which there are few; my Alfa lacks the power sliding doors, climate control, and ‘Lane Departure Warning’ of my wife’s minivan).
Italian cars get a bad rap for their supposed temperamental electrics. But there’s not been a lick of an issue with mine, save for a battery which died shortly after I got the car (because it was 10 years old at that point). Preventative maintenance goes a long way toward keeping the electrons flowing in the proper direction and in a complete circuit.
With any old car, I will gladly get on my soapbox and preach the ’12-Volt Gospel’: 99% of electrical gremlins are caused by poor connections. Terminals must be clean and tight; ground wires must be securely connected to clean ground; and fuses and their terminals must be clean, tight, and protected with dielectric grease. In no case should an electrical component be replaced without first ensuring that all connections, hold-downs, and crimped or soldered terminals are in the best shape they can be.
Soon after acquiring the Alfa, I removed all 10 of the European-style ceramic fuses, cleaned the spring-tensioned holders with a brass brush, and bent the holders inward to make them tighter. Next, I applied a light coating of dielectric grease. Upon reinstalling the fuses, I ran continuity tests with my multimeter to check that there was minimal (ideally, close to zero) resistance in the connections.
This dielectric grease is magical stuff. It seems counter-intuitive to grease electrical connections, but it prevents corrosion from forming. You still need to have a strong mechanical connection. It should be used on battery terminals and spark plug boots as well as fuses. Don’t waste your $1.99 buying the point-of-purchase 0.001 oz. packet at the retail store checkout counter. I bought a 5-ounce tube about four years ago, and even after multiple applications on multiple cars, I’ve only used about 25% of it.
While on the subject of fuses: I recently cleaned out an old shoe box full of automotive miscellany which had belonged to my dad. In it were several tins of glass-style fuses. While none of the cars I own today use this style, my ’68 Mustang did, and I recall how difficult it was to reach the fuse box on that car, as it was mounted above the gas pedal.
If you have a newer car, here’s hoping that you never need to replace a fuse (much less find the fuse box). If you have an older car, here’s hoping that you invest in a tube of dielectric grease, and in a half-hour of preventative maintenance. Let me know how it works out.
Don’t believe the weatherman. Yes, he’s frequently right; but he’s wrong as often as he isn’t. Guess that makes the forecast a 50/50 proposition. If you allow your planned outdoor activities to be dictated by the weather, you’d miss out on half the things you wanted to do.
On Saturday, the forecast for Sunday, September 17, 2017 predicted a sunny, warm, humid day, with a slight chance of thundershowers. Except we all woke up to fog and mist. As I headed to the garage and looked at the Alfa, then the Miata, I considered taking the newer car. I quickly changed my mind; it’s not as though I’ve never driven the Alfa in the rain. My determination was to set an example, and as I pulled onto the highway, wipers flailing, headlights barely cutting through the fog, I told myself that we’d be lucky if 7 or 8 cars showed up for this morning’s breakfast run.
Sometimes you feel better about being wrong. Our stalwart group arrived, 17 cars strong, plus one spouse as a passenger. My planning partner Larry and I were trying something new this morning, in the event we had a crowd like the last few outings. For the first time, we sent out maps, directions, and destination info a few days ahead, in the hope that the group could familiarize itself with the route.
What transpired instead was a plan to split the group in two, with Larry leading the first 8 cars or so, and I, your spirited Alfa driver, leading the rest. This worked perfectly. Traffic lights and stop signs did not break us apart; no one made any wrong turns; we kept to our planned pit stop; and we were at the diner by 10:10am, only 10 minutes later than intended.
Larry planned a stunning route, mostly along Greenwood Lake Turnpike, Warwick Turnpike, and Route 94. We dipped in and out of NY and NJ several times, and traffic wasn’t terrible. Maybe the weather was keeping people home. Several times, the sun blessed us with its warm rays, as it worked to burn off the fog.
The Hampton Diner on Route 206 in Newton NJ hosted us this morning, and it was our first time with them. A table set for 18 awaited us as we entered. The service was a bit slow, but it was a New Jersey diner on a Sunday morning, and no one seemed to mind. We’re not shy about yakking it up while waiting for food.
Speaking of yakking, this crowd loves to gab, as captured in the photos. A few of us managed to linger in the diner parking lot for close to an hour after the meal. For one moment, we considered heading back in for lunch.
With the group size continuing to grow, and everyone getting along so well, the biggest challenge may be keeping things moving along so that we eat breakfast while it’s still morning.
The most frequent comment I heard as we departed the diner was “are we going to do this one more time this year?” The answer was “yes, we’re counting on it”.
The New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) hosted a casual car show at the Spring Hills Senior Community facility in Morristown, NJ, on Monday September 11, 2017. For a number of years, the NJ AACA has been welcomed at numerous assisted living operations throughout the state.
The elderly residents are given the chance to peruse the classic cars, and club members are provided the opportunity to show off their four-wheeled beauties. The car owners and residents have lots of time to reminisce, and everyone wins. We saw that effect in full swing on this beautiful late summer day, with sunny skies, low humidity, and temperatures in the 70’s.
Event chairperson Abe Platt was pleasantly surprised with a turnout of 11 cars, a copious number for a Monday. Vehicles ranged in age from a 1923 Ford Model T to a 2001 Chevrolet Corvette. The decade with the largest representation was the 1960s. Your author was thrilled to see how many Spring Hills residents could eloquently recall the cars they owned 40, 50, even 60 years ago.
The first gentleman I met approached me as I stood by my Alfa. He told me that in the 1960s, his daily driver was an Austin Healey 3000. He related that the exhaust note on the Healey was so distinctive that his then-three-year-old daughter knew when daddy’s car was about a half block away, and she would get excited knowing her father was almost home. I asked him what his wife drove, and he said “always Volvo wagons. We had them all, from a 122 wagon, to the 140 wagon, then a succession of 240 wagons.” When I admitted that I had spent much of my career with the brand, he said “at Smythe?” In what was the coincidence of the week (nay, the month), it turned out that he knew the owners of the dealership where I was employed in the 1980s. He still regularly communicates with one of the senior partners.
Another man eyeballed my Alfa and told me that he had purchased a new BMW 2002 tii in the seventies. The BMW replaced a Jaguar E-Type 2+2, which had replaced a Jag 3.8 sedan. With a wink, he said he loved his sports cars, but needed the back seats to carry the family. The last car he owned was a 1999 BMW 7-series, which he would pilot back and forth to Florida at “extra legal” speeds.
The facility generously provided lunch to the car owners, and bottles of wine were presented as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place “People’s Choice” awards. The event started at 12:30pm, and was over by 3:15pm. This was the first time I had been able to join the NJ Region in a Senior Living facility visit. I was touched by the opportunity to share stories with the facility residents. Frankly, it was the best way I could have spent my Monday afternoon.
The New Jersey Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) held its annual picnic on Sunday August 13, 2017. As is tradition each August, the monthly meeting normally scheduled for the first Thursday of the month is pushed back, and is held in conjunction with the picnic.
Pete Cullen, chairperson for the picnic, is fond of saying: “This is the second-largest car show for the club, after the annual spring meet”. Indeed, according to Pete, there were at least 40 members’ collector cars in the lot. The large turnout was encouraged by the ideal summer weather, warm and sunny, with no noticeable humidity, and no threat of rain.
The Club generously covers the cost of the grilled food, consisting of your American BBQ mainstays: burgers, dogs, and chicken. Members are encouraged to bring side dishes and desserts, and the generosity of the attendees ensured that no one went home hungry.
With lunch consumed, many of us took to the parking lots to survey the wide variety of vehicles on display, ALL of which were driven to and from the event. Plenty of pre-war cars made the trip, and there was the expected quantity of ‘50s and ‘60s American cars.
Fans of foreign marques were not disappointed, especially if you like Italian cars. For this club member, the parking lot contained several vehicles not seen before at any NJ AACA event. A standout was the stunning 1954 Chrysler Imperial 2-door hardtop, resplendent in black. According to my copy of “Cars of the 50s” by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, just 1,249 of this model and body style were produced, at a retail price of $4,560. (By comparison, a same-year Dodge Royal 2-door hardtop started at $2,503.)
By 2:30 p.m., most of the crowd had dispersed, and Pete and his crew were done with the cleaning and packing. The NJ Region, which has been in existence since 1951, has many members who have known each other almost as long. It’s a friendly, fun, low-key crowd, and everyone always appreciates each other’s cars and company. It was my first time at the club picnic, and based on today, I’ll be coming back.
For only the second time this year, our informal “breakfast club” got its act together to go for a drive on Sunday July 30. After a prediction of heavy rains for Friday and Saturday, the weatherman promised a good day on Sunday, and we got it! At my 7 a.m. departure, it was actually cool (probably low 60s), quite unusual for midsummer NJ. The great combination of bright sunshine, comfortable temperature, and low humidity stayed with us all day. As Ken said to me, with only the slightest exaggeration: “this isn’t the best day of this summer; this is the best day of the last three years!”
The turnout was impressive, something we don’t take for granted, what with everyone’s summer schedule so jammed. We had 15 vehicles, four of which held passengers, for a total of 19 hungry mouths. We were happy to see some new faces out with us for the first time. We pushed off from the Sheraton Crossroads, as promised, as the clock struck 8:30 a.m. Destination for the morning was a perennial favorite, Stella G’s in Hackettstown NJ.
A casual observer of our motorcade would be forgiven for thinking it was the local Porsche club’s outing, with a few non-German cars thrown into the mix. At least it seemed that way, with a total of five 911s plus a 944 cabriolet. The two additional German cars were both BMWs: a 320 and an E30. Three other European sports cars rounded out that continent’s representation: an MGB-GT with a V8 conversion, a Jaguar F-Type convertible, and your scribe’s Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior.
Four domestic vehicles completed today’s field, three of them GM products: a C6 Corvette, a ’66 Buick Skylark convertible, and a ’94 Camaro Z-28. The nineteenth vehicle was a ’64 T-Bird convertible.
After a short run on Route 287 South (we try to minimize highway driving), we exited onto Route 23 north, then turned south / southwest, heading toward Sparta and a rendezvous with Route 517 which would take us the rest of the way to Hackettstown. With a group this large, it wasn’t possible to keep all the cars together on the road, and the back half went their own way in Sparta, eventually taking the highway again, but getting to the restaurant only minutes behind the first arrivals. For those who did stay on the planned course, the roads and scenery made for spectacular driving.
The good news about Stella G’s is that the food is great; the less good news is that it’s packed on Sunday mornings. Our hostess Lauren informed me that “a table for 19” wasn’t going to cut it, so we were seated in waves of three. The seating arrangement didn’t affect the food and coffee, which were top-notch as always.
And what did we do after breakfast? We did what we always do: we retired to the front sidewalk, where the yapping continued for an unspecified amount of time. The party broke up by 11:30 am, which put everyone home by early afternoon. We start early, get a lot done, and still get home in time to tackle that honey-do list. What’s better than that?
The Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club (AROC) held its 2017 annual convention in Montreal, Quebec, in conjunction with the Alfa Romeo Club of Canada. Billed as “Alfa Expo17”, the choice of this city was not arbitrary. This convention celebrated the 50th anniversary of the showing of the Alfa Romeo concept car at Expo ’67 in Montreal. When the car went into production a few years later, it was named after its debut city. Alfa Expo17 promised a significant showing of Alfa Romeo Montreals, as well as some special events planned around this very special vehicle.
This was my first participation at an AROC event. My 1967 GT 1300 Junior turned 50 this year, so partly in honor of the car’s birthday, we drove the car there, the decision helped by Montreal’s relative proximity. My wife accompanied me, because she likes riding in the Alfa (claiming that it’s the most comfortable collector car I’ve owned) and because we’ve enjoyed our previous visits to our northern neighbor.
When the convention’s agenda was published in the club magazine, I was somewhat surprised to see that “activities” were scheduled to begin as early as the Monday before Sunday’s concorso. Taking that much time off was not practical for either of us, so we decided to arrive early on Friday July 14. To help with that plan, we departed from home on Thursday evening the 13th, and spent the night near Saratoga Springs NY, almost exactly half-way to our destination.
Friday’s convention agenda included lunch at the Orange Julep fast-food restaurant in downtown Montreal, followed by a gimmick rally for the afternoon. We decided to aim for lunch at the Orange Julep, and take a wait-and-see approach to the gimmick rally.
Our planned lunch arrival of 12 noon was missed by almost two hours, because the combination of rain, traffic, and road construction had us crawling at 10 mph for much of our time in the city. (Oh, and this driver, unable to read street signs in French, made a wrong turn and drove in circles through a residential area for 20 minutes.) As we finally pulled into the Orange Julep parking lot, the threatening skies opened up again.
There were perhaps four Alfas remaining in the lot. We ordered our food and said some quick hellos to a few Alfa owners. As soon as we had our food in hand, the rain picked up and the temperature dropped. The Orange Julep only had outdoor seating. My wife asked if we could eat in the car. THAT was not an option. I gave her my hooded jacket, we found seating in an outdoor shed, and wolfed down lunch as quickly as possible. The gimmick rally was not going to happen for us.
With the rains continuing, we dove back into the car, and began to plot our route to the hotel. Next issue: both of our phones lost internet coverage, so, no Google maps. The filling station across the street sold me a street map of Montreal, and we were back on the highway, again brought to a crawl by traffic and construction. What should have been a 20 minute ride took closer to an hour. We were happy to arrive and get into a warm and dry hotel room. It was not the best start to our holiday weekend.
Friday night’s dinner was on site, so there was no need to get back into the car. We sat down and met all the other couples sharing our table. For the first time but not the last, we were treated to the warmth and openness of our fellow Alfa owners. Everyone was gracious, humble, and willing to make us feel included. My wife, who is not a car person, managed to gain the sympathetic ear of several of the other ladies who understood that she was not at the dinner to discuss double overhead cams, oil viscosity, or Spica fuel injection.
At the conclusion of the meal, about five Montreal owners lined up their cars along the back entrance of the hotel, and Wes Ingram, Spica guru, gave a technical presentation. All the cars had their engines started, and it was an incredible sound to hear these V8 engines roaring.
Saturday’s schedule included a number of optional events. For those who wanted to test their driving skills, autocross-type drives were conducted at a nearby raceway. That’s not my thing, especially when the car in question is also my transportation home, so we opted instead for a bus tour of Old Montreal.
With the rain holding off, the bus departed the hotel at 9 a.m. sharp, and our driver/tour guide, a pleasant local chap, was knowledgeable if a bit difficult to understand through the accent. The bus meandered through town, then parked for a 2-hour lunch break, which put us out on our own. The gloomy weather was changing over to sunshine, and it was nice to walk around. Back on the bus, we finished the tour and we returned to the hotel by 3 p.m. I didn’t mind being a passenger for the day.
By this time my wife was ready to relax in our hotel room. The sunny skies meant that this was my window to prep my car for Sunday’s big show. The hotel provided a wash station, complete with hose, soap, bucket, and wash mitts. Of course, about 50 other owners had the same idea, so there we all were, having turned the back lot of this Holiday Inn into a major preen and primp area.
But Alfa owners never miss the opportunity to engage fellow Alfisti in banter. I made about a dozen new friends in our mutual admiration society as we compared notes regarding the history and authenticity of each other’s cars. Modestly, my car garnered some significant attention because of its originality, with owners of similar Giulia coupes interested in knowing, for example, if my 3-spoke steering wheel is original (it is).
Saturday evening was another arranged dinner at the hotel, this time with speeches and awards. The winners of the gimmick rally and the time trials were presented their due. Cindy Banzer, the president of AROC, gave the keynote speech in English AND French, impressing us with her bilingual skills. Things wrapped up by 11 p.m., and good thing they did, as we would all be rising early Sunday morning.
The Sunday Concorso, arguably the highlight of the weekend, was not at the hotel, but rather in “Petite Italie”, French for Little Italy, in the city center. Planning an 8 a.m. arrival, but dreading the traffic, we departed the hotel by 7:30 a.m. Of course, we breezed right in. The weather was perfect.
The show was held in conjunction with the Fiat Club of Montreal, and was billed as “Montreal’s Official Italian Automobile Festival”. In addition to the dozens of Alfas, there were Fiats, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and DeTomasos. All the cars were parked on Rue Dante, a main drag through Little Italy, and the locals came out in force to take in the sights and sounds. The neighborhood featured Italian restaurants, bakeries, and shops, so breakfast and lunch were closer to what you’d find in Rome rather than Paris. Given star billing at the head of the street were eight Alfa Romeo Montreals parked in a row, a sight that I never thought I’d see.
AROC members had the option to choose “judge my car” or “don’t judge my car”. I chose the latter, if only because I didn’t want to spend Sunday morning on detail alert. My plan was to relax, take in the sights, and continue to chat up my fellow Alfa owners, which is exactly what I did. At 2 p.m., the AROC judges announced the winners. As an especially nice touch, cake and champagne were served at the awards ceremony.
With that, Alfa Expo ’17 was officially over. We had decided to stay in Montreal Sunday night, and take our time driving back on Monday. We left about 9 a.m. Monday, drove through some nasty but brief storms, and once on the other side of that weather, had bright hot sunshine for the rest of the trip. We arrived home by 6 p.m. Monday night, exhausted, but pleased with our active weekend.
These were my takeaways from my first AROC convention:
Unless the Alfa in question is a non-street-legal track car, almost every owner drives their Alfa to an Alfa convention.
Alfa Romeo owners, as a group, are the most friendly, knowledgeable, yet humble car folks I’ve ever met.
The AROC Organization, which has quite of few of these events under their collective belts, puts on a top-notch event.
The “pre-convention driving tours” (the reason for planned activities starting a week before) are a Big Deal to Alfisti, who love to drive their cars.
Alfa Romeo owners like ALL Italian cars.
Alfa owners love to drive their cars (did I say that already?).
My GT 1300 Junior continues to amaze me. We drove 880 miles round trip. The car started, cold or hot, on the first turn of the key. We comfortably cruised on the highway between 70 and 80 mph. There were no unwanted noises or behaviors. With a trunk full of spare parts including plugs, wires, a coil, and a fuel pump, none was needed. (My theory is that the quantity of spare parts on board is inversely proportional to their need.) The car used no oil, and never missed a beat.
The AROC has announced that the 2018 convention will be in Olympia WA. I’m already plotting my trip out there.