The Boonton (NJ) cruise night has been a Friday night tradition in that town’s WalMart parking lot for at least a decade. Known for its ability to draw upwards of 300 cars, the show on Friday August 10th of this year was well below capacity, possibly in part due to vacation season, but more likely a result of a sudden change in the afternoon’s weather from sunny and hot to cloudy and threatening.
This was my first time back to Boonton in several years, and I enjoyed the smaller number of cars and trucks as well as the lighter crowds. It made for a very relaxing evening. Oh, and it sprinkled for about 5 seconds, causing a small number of drivers to jump in their rides and split. It was their loss, as the evening stayed dry.
Cruise nights in general have a greater variety of vehicles on display. By that I am referring to a large mix of pre- & post-war, stock & custom, and original & restored. It provides a chance to look over cars that I otherwise might not go out of my way to see. If there was one ‘class’ of vehicle lacking, it would be imports. I could count on one hand the number of non-domestic vehicles on display. That made the few there all the more interesting.
The pictures below are displayed in random order, which is how the vehicles are parked, unless family members or friends arrive together. (Although if you didn’t know better, you’d think that the night’s festivities were sponsored by the local Buick club.) Enjoy the photo-documentation of this classic NJ cruise night.
After a summer hiatus, the blog is back! Enjoy the report on last week’s Mecum auction held in Harrisburg PA.
Mecum Auctions returned to Harrisburg PA for the fifth consecutive year, conducting its collector car and automobilia auction on August 2, 3, and 4, 2018. This event at the Farm Show Complex just keeps getting bigger and better, proving that Mecum knows its business. I’ve been in attendance all five years, and there’s little to complain about (especially in comparison to my disappointment in Barrett-Jackson’s CT event of just a few weeks prior).
This year, my buddy Larry and I made it a one day out-and-back journey, and we decided that Thursday would be the most enjoyable, as the lower-priced wares are usually on offer on Day #1. In the past, we’ve also experienced slightly smaller crowds, as many other attendees wait until Friday and Saturday so they can witness the big-buck stuff go bang on the block.
We were parked and on the premises by 9am. The doors had opened at 8, but the action wasn’t due to start until 10. We wandered among the cars in the staging tent, which would be first to cross, and made our way into the air-conditioned main hall just before the top of the hour. The size of the crowd shocked us both; there wasn’t a seat to be had, and the SRO crowds crushed the front corners. The word was out: Mecum on Thursday is a great show.
Adding to this evidence were the bidders. From the very first lot, bidders weren’t holding back. Bidding was loud and quick, paced by lead auctioneer Jimmy Landis’ style, which could be summarized as “Hey folks, we have 330 cars to sell today, and I’m gonna spend about a minute or so on each car, so pay attention!” He did, literally, spend about one minute or so per lot for the reserve cars.
A big change this year was the greater number of no-reserve lots (which kept the sell-through rate high). For these, the auctioneer had no concern about meeting reserve, so about 2-3 minutes were spent on each car, knowing it would sell.
No-reserve cars, as has been mentioned in previous posts on this blog, can cut two ways. If it’s a less desirable car, or if the right people aren’t in the room, cars can fall through the cracks, and buyers can get a potential deal. But, bidders know that a no-reserve car is guaranteed to sell, and it only takes two determined bidders to drive the price up. From my casual observations, very few of the no-reserve cars were “great deals”; most seemed to sell at or slightly above their value. (Although not photographed by me, and therefore not included in the reported results below, we watched not one but TWO Buick Rivieras, a ’79 and an ’81, sell for Two Thousand Dollars each. Yes, each drove under its own power on and off the block.)
One other trend, not unique to Mecum, was on full display here: the sell-off of “estate” collections. “The Samuel & Rhea Kline Collection”;“The Peery Family Collection”; and “The Berry Mountain Estate Collection Offered at No Reserve” were three such offerings. All of us in the hobby know it’s changing, and not necessarily for the better. As older collectors become unable to tend to their stables, or pass on, families face decisions about selling the old man’s cars. A stark reality is that their next-of-kin has no interest in a bunch of old jalopies, so those responsible for liquidation are turning to auction houses. If there is a silver lining, it’s that younger collectors have the chance to snap up some deals. Look through these results and decide for yourselves if that’s the case. (Warning: the condition of some of these cars is not for the faint-hearted.)
Below is a small sample of vehicles of interest which sold on Thursday, along with my personal observations for each. Sale prices are hammer prices, and are therefore exclusive of the 10% buyer’s premium. No Reserve lots are noted as such. And finally, as we do here on Richard’s Car Blog, these cars are arranged in price order, to give you a sense of what your pennies can buy.
$6,000 to $6,500:
Lot T101, 1991 Honda Beat convertible
Sold for $6,000
Japanese “kei class” car, never officially sold in U.S., now over 25 years old, so legal for import. Three-cylinder mid-mounted engine, 5-speed manual. Yellow, black convertible top and interior. From my research, all Beats had zebra-stripe seat upholstery and floor mats, both missing here. High miles (147,000 MILES, per sticker). Overall look is somewhat worn, with rust bubble on rear decklid. Cute, unique, but you might have wanted to hold out for a better example.
Lot T29, 1973 VW Beetle convertible, No Reserve
Sold for $6,500
White paint, white interior, top color not noted. Sign on car claims new tires and new chrome. Overall look is of a presentable car. This no-reserve car was potentially a great deal, provided the rust has been kept in check. And let’s for once and for all stop saying that you’re priced out of the hobby, as this would be a wonderful first collector car.
Lot T257, 1976 Alfa Romeo spider
Sold for $6,500
Red, black top, black interior redone in leather. Aftermarket lace style wheels looked good. Paint faded and swirled. Sliding my hand along passenger side rocker panel revealed ability to insert fingers into rust holes. This is a Series 2 spider, with Kamm tail, big bumpers, and Spica fuel injection. Alfa spiders have been climbing in value in recent years. Given the rust, the best bet here is to drive and enjoy. Any attempt at restoration will put you underwater.
Lot T19, 1989 Dodge Shadow Shelby CSX coupe
Sold for $6,500
Laugh if you want, but this is a real Shelby. Misleadingly listed as a “Dodge”, this was one of, if not the last car that ol’ Carroll developed for his buddy Lee at Chrysler. It was the first production car to use a variable-vane turbo, which didn’t need a wastegate, and eliminated turbo lag. FWD, 2.2L 4, 5-speed manual. In 1989, only 500 were built, all of them red with grey interior. No visible rust, one decent repaint, and it has avoided being modded to death. This one was missing its front spoiler and side skirts, but they are available. Interior with optional factory Recaro seats was well preserved. Mecum sold the same ’89 CSX 3 times in 2014, between $4,000 and $5,000. I thought this one, the 19th car across the block, might fly under the radar. Someone got a very unique and fun Shelby for very little money.
$8,000 to $9,000:
Lot T28.1, 1998 Jaguar XK8 convertible
Sold for $8,000
The mileage wasn’t noted, but many of these seen at auctions have close to 100,000 miles on them. This one, in a nice color combo, looked clean overall. Interior wasn’t shot, which is about the best thing that can be said for this 2nd year example. Cheap fun until the first big repair bill comes due.
Lot T109, 1993 Chevrolet Corvette coupe
Sold for $8,500
When we first entered the main hall at 10am, we saw lots T12 and T13, two C4 Corvettes, apparently being sold by the same owner. I overheard him telling a prospective bidder: “I need to get my reserves, or these are coming home with me”. His ’88 sold for $7,750, and his ’95 sold for $9,000, so his reserves were reasonable. Lot T109 was arguably the nicest of all the C4s at the event. The aqua paint, which looked blue in photos, was more attractive in person. Whether original or a repaint, there wasn’t a mark on it. The white interior was a nice contrast, and unlike most C4s, the seats weren’t beat. The mileage was reasonable at 78,000. The only thing holding this one back was the automatic, but on a Corvette, that may not be as much of a factor. When this one hammered for $8,500, I declared it one of the best buys of the day. C4 Corvettes continue to be performance bargains; good for buyers, not great for sellers.
Lot T235, 1956 Packard 400 2-door hardtop, No Reserve
Sold for $9,000
The ‘56s were the last “true” Packards, as the ‘57s were restyled Studebakers. The 400 coupe rode on a 127” wheelbase, 5 inches longer than the Cllipper and Executive coupes. The 400 also had the larger 374 c.i. V8 making 290 horsepower. This car appeared to be all there, with nothing obvious missing or modified. The paint could charitably be called tired. This one was fun to watch, as all the action took place literally two seats away from me. A man in the row in front of me was holding the high bid of $8,000. When the auctioneer asked for $9,000, the man behind him (and next to me) raised his hand, and seconds later, the car was declared sold. This was a lot of car for $9,000. Having driven one, a ‘50s Packard is on my bucket list.
$10,500 to $13,500:
Lot T227, 1984 Porsche 928
Sold for $10,500
With classic Porsche 911 prices climbing so that only one-percenters can afford them, those who want to scratch their Stuttgart itch have turned to other models: 914, 924, 944. A few years ago, the 928 was the laughingstock of the lot. Overweight, overcomplicated, 80% of them saddled with automatics, the word on the street was to run away. The few which crossed auction blocks had crazy high mileages (150,000 was not unusual), or lacked any maintenance records. How things change over the course of a few years. Today, asking prices for 928s are 50-100% higher than they were about 5 years ago. However, there is still quite a pecking order, driven by year, equipment, and condition. This ’84 had the automatic, was in decent colors, and unlike many 928s, had an interior that didn’t need a complete re-do. The mileage wasn’t recorded, but the hammer price got you entry into the Porsche club at a number that’s hard to duplicate with any other model.
Lot T138, 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza coupe, No Reserve
Sold for $13,500
Most car guys I talk to see the Corvair as an anomaly. “Yeah, I like Chevys. Give me a mid-sixties Impala coupe, or any Malibu from ’68-’72. Corvairs? They’re for weirdos.” And even those who appreciate its quirky engineering prefer the 2nd generation cars from ’65-’69. But there was no denying the appeal of this 1st gen coupe. The sign on the car stated that it has 20,000 original miles, a believable statement based on its condition. Except for several chips on one rear quarter, the paint was unmarked. So too was the interior, with its buckets and automatic shift lever sticking out of the dash. The sale price was high for a Corvair without a folding top, but its originality and condition made it a good deal for those who like their Chevys weird.
$22,500 to $24,000:
Lot T127, 1957 Ford Thunderbird, No Reserve
Sold for $22,500
Two-seat T-Bird values have gone nowhere in the last, oh, twenty years or so. Sale prices are completely driven by condition, and perhaps there’s a dwindling audience for these faux sports cars. On the other hand, if you want one, attend an auction and be patient. Of the 3 model years from 1955-1957, the ‘57s have their fans (this writer included). This one, in bland colors, looked like an older restoration. On the positive side of the ledger, it had PS, PB, and the engine dress-up kit. But the engine compartment needed a good detail. The no-reserve price was a bit light, so let’s hope the new owner drives it and enjoys it rather than worries about future values.
Lot T303, 1964 Buick Wildcat convertible
Sold for $23,000
As one buddy of mine learned, it’s the Fords and Chevys, and not their fancier stablemates, which tend to bring the big bucks. It seems counter-intuitive, but higher-priced marques such as Pontiac, Buick, and Mercury are less desirable simply because fewer of them were sold new. Case in point: this ’64 Buick. Here was a full-size sixties American convertible, in nice shape, in desirable colors, selling for 2/3 what a similar Chevrolet would hammer for. This one sold for the exact same number as shown in CPI for an “excellent” car, so I’ll call it fair to buyer and seller.
Lot T107, 1956 Ford Thunderbird
Sold for $24,000
At first glance, this one looked nice: Fiesta red (almost flamingo) with red & white interior, decent engine compartment with dress-up kit, and both tops. But looking past the ’56-only Continental kit (making it my least-favorite of the ’55-’57 Birds), the paint was simply shot. There would be little choice but to expend for a complete strip and respray. This one was expensive, especially compared to the ’57 covered above.
In the world of collector car auctions, Barrett-Jackson is the juggernaut: the biggest, loudest, most sensational extravaganza of classic and special-interest cars bought and sold in a public space. Or so you would be led to believe, based on the extensive TV coverage that the brand has managed to manipulate to its maximum advantage.
Mecum may hold a greater number of events; Bonhams may sell more high-dollar cars; Russo & Steele may run multiple auction blocks simultaneously; but Barrett-Jackson has captured and held onto the public’s imagination as THE place to go for ultimate auction thrills.
Aside from video exposure, a factor which has added to this allure is B-J’s no-reserve policy. Almost 100% of their lots are sold without reserve, meaning that the high bidder gets the car. (Very recently, B-J did begin to allow a small selection of reserve cars.) Of course, this only increases the drama when you KNOW the car is going to sell. None of this “whaddaya mean it didn’t meet reserve”. It’s always good for the buyers, and given the unrelenting supply of consigned vehicles, one would presume that sellers are satisfied too.
Phoenix has been B-J’s home for decades, and they’ve expanded from there into Las Vegas and Palm Beach. Three years ago, they launched their Northeast Auction, situated at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort in CT. By all accounts, this first foray into New England was hugely successful, and the Barrett-Jackson crew was back for the third consecutive year in June of 2018.
The actual auction dates were Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, June 21-23. The entry-level (read: cheapest) cars would be crossing the block the first day, so that’s the day I chose to attend. Purchasing tickets online (a 45% discount if bought in advance) meant buying them through Ticketmaster, an indication of how big they’ve gotten. Once that lovely organization was done tacking on its handling and service fees, I was out-of-pocket an additional 9 bucks. My final ticket cost totaled $35. A bidder’s pass would have cost many multiples of that.
Aside from morning rush hour traffic, getting there was easy enough, and as this was my first visit to Mohegan Sun, the initial impressions were favorable: the sprawling complex is well laid-out, with ample garage deck parking, clear signage, and a spotless infrastructure. A 9:30 a.m. arrival was well ahead of the crowds, and there was no waiting for my ticket to be scanned, granting me access to the auction building.
You would be forgiven if your initial impression was that you ended up at the wrong show. New-vehicle displays from Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge are your first sightings, along with booths selling everything from Meguiar’s to mattresses. Apparently, association with B-J makes it worth your while to display your automotive and non-automotive wares to the expected throngs.
But where are the cars? A long walk toward the rear of the complex finally brought me to the auction vehicles, arrayed in a multi-level parking deck as well as in a pitched tent outside the garage. Next question: in what order are they? Unlike almost all other car auctions I’ve attended, these cars and trucks were NOT in run order. Instead, some of them were thematically placed so that similar vehicles were grouped (Corvettes here, Mustangs there, ‘50s custom cars back yonder). While it might make for pretty pictures, it didn’t help you find the Thursday cars starting with car #1, which was my goal.
There certainly were some very nice cars on display. There were also the aforementioned “custom” cars (not my cup of tea when you take a ’65 Riviera and completely rip out its factory interior for 21st century electronics), along with late-model used cars. One such newer vehicle was a 2001 Volvo V70 T5, and I climbed in, looking for clues as to why it might be here. Suddenly, a booming voice was directed toward me: “Sir, get OUT of the car! You are NOT allowed to TOUCH, OPEN, or SIT in ANY of the AUCTION CARS!” The hired hand, a security guy wearing a “CSC Staff” shirt, made it all too clear that I had broken the law according to Barrett-Jackson.
Indeed, only then did I notice all the signs stating “Please do not touch any of the auction cars”. This rule applied to bidders too, which then begged the question: if you’re here to buy something, how do you check it out? Other auctions allow bidders to open hoods, check odometer readings, and in some cases, start the cars and turn on accessories. Not B-J. What’s up with that?
With wrists appropriately slapped, the on-site survey continued (hands behind back). Again, I asked myself, what order are the cars in? I had finally found Thursday’s car #1, but hadn’t yet spotted #2 through #10. After 90 minutes of pacing the parking areas, it was time to head to the auction block itself. The automobilia auction had started at 10am, and the cars were due to begin at 1pm. I wanted to find a seat and leave time for some lunch.
It was a longish walk, first outside, then into the bowels of the complex to get to the stage. Unbeknownst to me, the actual auction was being held in the Mohegan Sun Arena, a 10,000-seat multi-level indoor stadium usually used for sporting events and concerts (upcoming in July: Barry Manilow and Britney Spears, on different nights, thank you). Now it was time for the next surprise: ground-level seating was strictly for those with bidder’s passes – general admission ticket holders, i.e., me, were directed into the nose-bleed upper tier. From there, the auction block looked like it was several hundred feet away, because it was. So much for walking anywhere near the cars. But hearing was no problem, as the auctioneer took advantage of the 110-decibel house sound system. At least from that vantage, I could look down at the skyboxes, where the high-roller bidders had buffet tables and adult beverages as part of their several-hundred-dollar premium package.
It was time for lunch. A sandwich, bag of chips, and a soft drink for $9 wasn’t a bad deal, and there was no line at all. The cars began to cross the block. The magic number of the early afternoon was $7,500; that was the hammer price for 8 of the first 20 lots. The pace was similar to Mecum, in that cars spent an average of two minutes in the spotlight, so they moved at 30 cars per hour. Vehicle descriptions were lacking in detail; mileages were announced only if it was something favorable (“this car has 43,000 original miles!”).
Of the first 25 cars, only 9 of them broke into five figures, so if your goal was to buy a car for less than $10,000, there was ample opportunity. The flip side of that is that, to this eye, there were rather few bargains. No-reserve sales can cut two ways: a consignor is taking a chance that his car slips through the cracks and sells too cheaply. Sellers know that the car is going home with someone. But it only takes two determined bidders to push the hammer price to a level that favors the seller, and my overall impression was that the majority of Thursday’s sales did indeed favor the seller. Hey, who needs to know the service history if you can be shown on TV pumping high-fives after spending twenty grand?
I had seen over 40 cars sell, and ninety minutes is my personal limit for remaining in one place, so it was time to wander back to the garages. Cars which had crossed the block were all slapped with SOLD stickers, and conveniently, the sale price was noted on the windshields. A few more strolls back and forth between the staging area and the arena, and it was time to bring this long day to an end.
It’s very easy to look casually at the Barrett-Jackson experience and understand the attraction. There’s automotive variety; everything sells; the side shows keep even the most bored folks entertained; and it’s pumped up like it’s going to be on TV because it is.
I watched about 80 cars sell; the highest hammer price I personally observed was $42k; my guesstimate is that Thursday’s average selling price was in the $15k-20k range. If your interests lie with resto-mods, Jeeps, late-model exotics, or running projects, this could be your venue. At any auction, you’re buying a pig in a poke. At B-J, the inability of bidders to take a hands-on approach made it more so. As a non-bidder, the limited access was a bit off-putting, as that is not the case at other auctions. I’m glad I went. I can say that, yes, I’ve experienced a Barrett-Jackson auction. It’s likely that I’ll not feel the need to make a return appearance.
A sampling of Thursday’s auction cars are below, and as always, they are arranged in SALE PRICE order (dollar amounts are exclusive of the buyer’s 10% commission). Apologies for the poor picture quality; I didn’t want to carry my SLR and brought a cheap digital camera with me that did a poor job in the fluorescent lighting.
$3,000 TO $7,200:
#1, 1990 Chrysler Maserati TC convertible, sold for $3,000
Mitsubishi V6 and 4-speed automatic. An American-Italian-Japanese mash-up; I’m sure that any FCA dealership can service it for you.
#15, 1989 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, sold for $6,700
This 6-speed car wore newer Corvette wheels. Sign claimed that most of its paint was original, and listed a host of recent maintenance. This was one of the few really good deals from Thursday.
#24, 1964 MG Midget convertible, sold for $6,800
An affordable way to get a British sports car. Just check to make sure your girth lets you fit.
#25, 2002 Jaguar XK convertible, sold for $7,200
An average used exotic which sold for an average price.
THE $7,500 BUFFET TABLE:
#1.1, 1966 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, sold for $7,500
Driver’s seat upholstery worn, looked OK otherwise.
#18, 1966 Ford Thunderbird Landau hardtop, sold for $7,500
A lot of style, luxury, and fuel consumption for not much money.
#6, 1972 Plymouth Satellite, sold for $7,500
Both A-pillars bubbling with rust. Rear quarters not much better. Rebuilt 440, perhaps only good for parts.
#19, 1985 Chevrolet Corvette coupe, sold for $7,500
A clean-looking 2nd year C4 in attractive colors. No explanation why this car would have fetched more money than Lot #15, which is 4 years newer and has a drop-top.
#12, 1985 Toyota Supra, sold for $7,500
A potentially good deal on a rising Asian collectible.
$11,500 TO $14,500:
#30, 1964 Ford Falcon convertible, sold for $11,500
This six-cylinder drop-top sold for half what a comparable Mustang would have brought.
#23.1, 1986 GMC Sierra 4×4 pickup, sold for $12,000
The first of 2 GM pickups to sell for this price. Perhaps B-J is the place to buy your pickup truck, because these sell for twice this at Mecum in Harrisburg.
#37, 1987 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, sold for $12,000
Pickup trucks of all flavors were relative bargains today. Aside from its wheels (easy fix), truck looked to be done to a good original standard.
#60.1, 1953 MG TD, sold for $13,000
Worst repaint I’ve ever seen on an auction car. Literally looked like it was pulled from a garage and painted with rattle cans over dust and dirt.
#19.1, 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst W30, sold for $13,000
A model infrequently seen these days, interesting RWD Hurst/Olds package looked to be all there.
#35, 1965 Plymouth Barracuda, sold for $14,500
A survivor, as most of these were long ago consumed by the tin worm. Plain exterior offset by nice interior.
$18,000 TO $20,000:
#32, 1965 Fiat 500, sold for $18,000
Got a lot of attention in the garage pre-sale, sold for more lira than most of the domestic iron that preceded it across the block.
#33, 1963 Austin-Healey Sprite roadster, sold for $18,500
The good news: the restoration work looked to be top-notch. The bad news: the 1955 Dodge LaFemme color scheme didn’t look good here. I met the winning bidder while he photographed his new toy. A 30-something hipster, he told me that he always wanted one. Hope he drives it and enjoys the attention.
#66.1, 1966 Chrysler Newport, sold for $19,000
Sign claims “rotisserie restoration” of body, rebuilt 383, and original interior. Big stylish cruiser for Mopar fans.
#58.1, 1988 Porsche 928, sold for $20,000
This was a $10,000 car five years ago. This one claimed to have 43,000 original miles.
It was reported the other day that in New Jersey, there has been rain on at least one, if not both days of the weekend for the past ten weeks. The corollary to that is that the weather forecasters have been batting about .210 (if they were ball players, they would have been sent back to the minors by now).
So it should not have come as a surprise to awaken on Sunday June 10 to showers, even if 24 hours prior they had not been predicted. It was two months ago that the NJ Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) selected this date for its spring driving tour through Hunterdon County. But Alfa drivers love to cruise so much that a little moisture wasn’t going to deter us. We met as planned at the Readington Diner on Route 22 in Whitehouse at 10am, and after a brief driver’s meeting, ten people in six Alfas were off.
The half-dozen vehicles were neatly divided into two groups of three: in the ‘older’ group were two ’67 Giulias, a sedan and a coupe, along with a 164 four-door sedan. Alfa Romeo’s current model lineup was thoroughly represented by the 2nd group of three: a Giulia sedan, a Stelvio SUV, and a 4C Spider. The factory couldn’t have planned that better if it tried.
From the diner, we drove about 4 miles on Route 22 before turning south. From that point on, 100% of the driving was on two-lane secondary roads. We wound our way around Round Valley Reservoir, and meandered through the towns of Stanton, Barley Sheaf, Cherryville, Quakertown, and Pittstown before descending into Frenchtown, on the NJ/PA border. The rain at this point was nothing more than a nuisance, and made me long for intermittent wipers on my ’67.
Back on the road, we turned left and began to head east, passing through Sergeantsville, Ringoes (named after John Ringo), Unionville, and Reaville. We briefly entered Somerset County, driving through Cloverhill and Montgomery, before circling round, winding through Wertzville, and finally turning south toward our destination, the town of Hopewell in Mercer County. We covered just over 70 miles in slightly under 2.5 hours, including our break.
Lunch was at Antimo’s Italian Kitchen, and it was charming. Our wait staff catered to our every need, and the food was delizioso. Perhaps best of all, new friendships were formed, as several of today’s participants were on their maiden voyage with the Alfa club.
The roads were lightly traveled; the scenery was verdant and historic; the overcast skies kept the temperatures reasonable; and no one broke down. What else but to conclude that our NJ AROC Hunterdon County tour was a roaring success?
This is what we do: we get up early on a Sunday morning, earlier than many of us would otherwise arise on a day off from work. We hop into our toy car, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a 40-year-old gem we’ve owned for many a decade, a recent “beater” that’s a work in progress, or a brand-new supercar. (One rule in this club that has no rules is, we do not criticize each other’s cars based on age, marque, horsepower, color, or relative value.)
We meet at a pre-arranged spot, and then we drive. It’s almost always delightful, verdant, winding, two-lane roads, which may take us north, south, east, or west. We delight in the sights and sounds of our friends’ cars in front of us and behind us. Sure, we drive in a spirited fashion, but there’s no reckless behavior on the road; we respect each other too much for that. (Rule #2 in this rule-less club is that overly aggressive driving will certainly ensure you’re disinvited to our next soiree.)
Upon arriving at our destination, we anxiously await our morning treat: hot coffee, good breakfast food, and lots of conversation. Some of us have known each other for 25 years. Some of us met about 90 minutes ago. It doesn’t matter. We share a passion for our internal-combustion-powered devices, and we’ll talk about them and the exhilarating freedom they provide until the waitresses toss us out (pity the future generations who will not know the thrill of piloting such sporting machines).
With breakfast done, our desire to continue the chat is all too obvious, as we spill out onto the sidewalk, inadvertently blocking the restaurant’s entrance. Finally, as the noon hour approaches, we reluctantly wish each other a fond “see you next time”, and head back to our machines, and back to whatever reality awaits the remainder of our Sunday.
This is what we do.
As we exited the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River, Rich S took these photos, and they are used with his permission:
It means that we must remember the true spirit of the holiday, as we honor those who served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
It means that we have the freedom to pursue our own vision of happiness. For many of my friends, as well as for me, that means sharing our passion for the old car hobby.
It means that I can volunteer to spend a few hours to participate in a local parade, giving citizens a reason to come out and smile, cheer, and wave the flag.
It means that I have freedom of choice to purchase and drive the car that I want, not based on what someone determines is “the right choice” based on that vehicle’s country of origin.
It means that our children, our future generations, can learn from the past, and work toward a future that we hope is peaceful and safe for them.
It means that there is great joy in recognizing that Americans come in all colors, from all different backgrounds and nationalities, and they are as proud and happy as anyone to celebrate this momentous holiday with all their fellow Americans.
The 2018 edition of the New England 1000 rally was held during the week of May 21. The rally started and ended at our host hotel, the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, with additional overnight stays in Newport RI and Lenox MA. The group also visited Wayne Carini’s F40 Motorsports and Mystic Seaport.
In all, about 35 cars drove in the event (the number is estimated because first, not every car listed in the tour book showed up; and two, some of the cars spotted earlier in the week seemed to have dropped away by the end of the week). The oldest vehicular participant was a 1952 Cunningham convertible. Tied for newest set of wheels were a 2017 Audi R8 and 2017 Porsche 911.
For rally co-driver and co-navigator Steve Hansen and me, this year was a double-milestone: it was our tenth NE1000 (although not all 10 were driven with each other), and it was the 20th anniversary of our first such rally in 1998. We both recall that during our initial drive to Freeport ME in Steve’s Tiger, we pondered what other vehicles might be joining us. Instead of the resto-modded Camaros and slightly rusty Chargers we envisioned, the first car spotted in the hotel lot was a white four-door Bugatti. We instantly knew we were in for something special.
This year’s rally was different in several ways:
The semi-official featured marque was Cunningham. The realized dream of Briggs Cunningham, a total of 25 road cars were manufactured. Four were scheduled to run the rally, but only three actually did so. It was a rare thrill to see three in the same place at the same time, and even more rare and thrilling to hear them run and watch them move.
For the first time in our experience, one of the four “rally days” consisted of no driving events. Tuesday was spent in Newport RI; participants were given the option to ride on an America’s Cup yacht, visit an automobile museum or two, and/or tour the “cottages”, as Newport’s mansions are euphemistically called.
Also for the first time, there were no optional driving events, such as hillclimbs, gymkhanas, or drag races. In large part due to only three days of touring, we drove slightly less than our usual 1,000 miles. As per the tour book, the mileage total for the week was 837.
Those of you in the Northeast know all too well what disappointing spring weather we’ve had. Things were no better as we departed Neshanic Station on Saturday. We drove in a near-steady rain on Saturday afternoon, the trip made more bearable only by its brevity (Mohonk is just two hours away). Sunday dawned damp and cloudy, but by that afternoon, we saw the sun, and except for some sprinkles on Tuesday evening, we were spared further precipitation.
Our steed, my 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior, was in its fourth (2013, 2014, 2015, 2018) NE1000. Its performance was almost flawless. Tuesday morning, intending to drive into town, the car would not crank. The battery was drained, but the car instantly roared to life with a jump start. With the help of Peter and Keith from RPM (thanks guys!), we determined that the alternator was intermittently charging. It’s very likely that the Saturday drive, with lights and wipers on the entire time, helped accelerate the battery’s depletion.
The local NAPA store, in exchange for some credit card info from me, donated a new battery, and our starting problems were solved for now. From my phone, I ordered a replacement alternator from my preferred supplier, Classic Alfa in the UK. The alternator was on my front porch on Thursday afternoon, a day before we arrived home. How’s that for service?
Participation in multiple events has taught me that rally photography is a tricky proposition. Once the driving starts, opportunities for the camera can be few and far between; after all, I’m either driving or navigating. Below is a sampling of pictures, organized roughly chronologically by location. Please note that all these photos are different from the “Photo Gallery” pictures posted last week. Enjoy the shots!
ARRIVAL, SATURDAY & SUNDAY
Although the official festivities begin on Sunday afternoon, many participants (including us) arrive on Saturday to feel less rushed as we perform any final car prep. Here are some of the cars as they arrived in a lot set aside for the rally participants.
Every year, the rally events begin with an informal “concours” on the hotel property, done as much for the owners to show off as to present our wares to the hotel guests and public. At Mohonk, we were crowded onto a narrow walkway.
F40 MOTORSPORTS VISIT
On Monday, we made a scheduled stop at F40 Motorsports, the home of Chasing Classic Cars starring Wayne Carini. Mr. Carini was on the premises, and gave a short informal presentation. Better still, he led us into the back shop where many treasures are hidden away. He was warm, gracious, humble, and obviously a very knowledgeable enthusiast.
THE AUDRAIN MUSEUM
On Tuesday’s “open” day in Newport, we had every intention of visiting two of the local car museums. Our battery issue, while fortuitously falling on the non-driving day, shortened our available time. We were only able to get to the Audrain Auto Museum, located in downtown Newport. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece. The smallish display area featured American muscle.
Wednesday found us in Mystic CT, with about 2 hours to kill at the Mystic Seaport Museum before our scheduled lunch. As lunch ended, the parking lot served as an ideal staging area for our departure, and was also a great photo op.
THE RALLY ENDS
By Thursday, everyone feels a sense of accomplishment at just having driven the roads. That evening’s banquet dinner will reveal the final score, including how many teams “zeroed out” (this year, only one). As the cars arrived back at Mohonk, they were prepped to be either driven or shipped out on Friday morning.