The Isetta Saga, Chapter 31: Greenwich for a Fourth and Final Time in 2010

The Greenwich Concours d’Elegance has a very strict rule: a vehicle can be shown at one of its events only every three years. As Bruce Wennerstrom himself told me, this ensured that repeat audiences would see different cars the following year. I had shown my 1957 BMW Isetta in 2001, 2004, and 2007, and when 2010 rolled around, I didn’t hesitate to apply again. The Wennerstroms welcomed me back for a fourth, and what would turn out to be, final time with the Isetta.

My dear friend Richard Sweeney, NJIT Library Head and non-car person extraordinaire, jumped at the chance to accompany me, which also meant that my long-suffering wife was off the hook this time, although I didn’t hear too many complaints from her about it. Richard was of great help from the get-go, and as we got the car positioned as instructed by the field organizers, Richard wanted to play an active role in standing near the car, chatting it up with attendees. I could tell he loved every minute of it.

Richard Sweeney stands at the ready next to the Isetta

 

The crowd is starting to heat up

To my eye, 2010 had significantly more spectators than I had noticed during my previous outings. Perhaps it was the beautiful weather; certainly, a major factor was the increasing recognition that Greenwich was getting, with some press calling it “The East Coast version of Pebble Beach” – high praise indeed. The caliber of vehicles, always high, seemed to create even more oohs and ahhs among show-goers.

Instead of other BMWs, my car was with similar small cars such as the VW Karmann Ghia and this prewar Fiat
What can I say? I talk with my hands

At awards announcement time, the Bubble made the cut yet again, winning “Most Fun Car” for the Sunday Europa show. Well, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad at all. I think Bruce had a soft spot for my little car, as we won in 2001 and 2007 too. Once we reached the awards table, Bruce presented my trophy and again asked me if my Isetta has the ‘big block’. Microphone in hand, I again told the assembly that European cars got 12hp, but we in the states got the 13hp version. Bruce again chuckled; he never tired of that story.

In the queue on our way to the viewing stand

My friend Richard was overjoyed at the prospect of riding in the car past the viewing stand. He couldn’t stop talking about peoples’ reactions, because his interest was completely enveloped in the sociological and cultural impacts of this car on an audience. It wasn’t the car per se; it was how people reacted to the car, whether they were seeing an Isetta for the first time, or reliving memories of one from long ago. He never let go of his idea of making a documentary about the car and the public’s responses to it.

Seated spectators on left, awards tent on right

We got the car loaded onto the trailer and got back on the road just as a major late spring storm hit. We made it back safely, though, and I thanked Richard profusely for all his help. All he could say was that he’d gladly do it again.

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

Lime Rock Fall Vintage “Sunday in the Park”, Sep. 2020

At 7:10 a.m. on Sunday, September 6, 2020, I was in the parking lot of local bagel shop, buttered bagel and hot coffee in hand. Sitting in my Volvo V60, I used the car’s navigation system to find “Lime Rock Park”, amazed that I located it so quickly within that sometimes-quirky system. Estimated drive time was 2 hours, 30 minutes. With that, I pulled out of the lot, and was on my way to attending my first car show since the global pandemic shutdown began.

There are no words I can use which would add in any meaningful way to what so many have already expressed about the year 2020. I had resigned myself months ago that the entire year would be one huge write-off for participating in the car hobby, yet when I discovered that Lime Rock was planning to move ahead with its 38th annual “Sunday in the Park” concours, I reconsidered my rather conservative position. I knew the show well, and knew that even at its most crowded, the size of the track and the spacing of the show cars would allow for plenty of social distancing. Reading Lime Rock’s website, I learned that they planned to limit attendance by restricting the number of ticket sales, and they would also be enforcing a mask mandate. The final vote-in-favor was the weather forecast, which promised sunny skies, low humidity, and temperatures no higher than the low 80s.

Volvo’s navigation didn’t let me down, and I arrived at the track at 9:40. As soon as I drove onto the bridge over the track, I saw that indeed, this would be an experience different than almost every previous visit. Usually, the parking lot would be more than half-full by this time, and there would be rows and rows of trailers and tents visible in the distance. Instead, parking appeared to be about 25% full, and there was no camping this year – it had been removed as an option.

I parked and headed down the paved ramp toward the track, fearful that maybe there would be an equivalent lack of show cars on display. That wasn’t the case at all, even if the number of vehicles was less than the usual turnout. By my most unofficial calculation, I would guesstimate that both counts (cars and spectators) were about 50% of a typical Lime Rock Fall Vintage show. Almost everyone was masked, and track workers on foot and in golf carts were actually on patrol. If they spotted someone sans mask, the Lime Rock rep stopped that person and told them that masks were required. Good for them! It greatly added to my own comfort level as I walked the show.

The display cars did not disappoint: as always at Lime Rock, there were the pre-arranged “classes”, different every year, which allow for great variety within each class (for example, “Untouched and Preserved Originals and Barn Finds”). The show organizers also managed to squeeze in some fun at the expense of the coronavirus by naming one class “Distancing at a Distance – Vintage Travel Trailers & Campers”. The other major group of show vehicles is collectively known as the “Gathering of the Marques” – for these cars, there is no pre-registration. As one drives up to the gate, the driver makes it known that they intend to park their car with others from the same marque, and there is no model year cutoff. It does make for an eclectic gathering, and show goers have the option to linger or march past.

The spectator parking area itself can provide plenty of automotive entertainment too. New Englanders seems especially fond of motoring to this show in their ‘60s four-wheeled icons and parking them among all the other daily drivers. I suggest that the Lime Rock Park officials consider trophies to vehicles at least 50 years old found in the parking lot!

Awards were handed out between 1 and 2 p.m., at which point, show participants began to leave. I had covered the entire track by about 2 o’clock, so my time was up too. The drive home was hampered by a little more traffic than I encountered in the a.m., but I still managed it door-to-door without stopping in just under 2 hours and 45 minutes. I was really glad I went. It felt great to be outside and back at a show again, my first since attending Atlantic City in February. The Lime Rock Fall Vintage weekend has been a favorite of mine for 30 years, and I can only hope that the 2021 visit will feel like normal again.

 

DOMESTIC

1911 Cadillac

This restoration was over-the-top, yet the accompanying signage claimed that the owners regularly tour in it, and that’s believable too. I loved the “outside” speedometer, and the likely-original worn clutch and brake pedals.

1928 Packard with 5th wheel trailer

I’ve seen this rig before, I think at Hershey. Its originality is impressive. I also overheard the owner say that the car is driven regularly. Take note of the 5th wheel, back when they really were wheels!

1964 Chevrolet Corvair

This Monza coupe was found in the barn-find class; the accompanying signage indicated an original 30,000 miles. The condition and colors made this a standout among 1st gen Corvairs.

1956 Packard

This 400 model coupe was from the last year of “true” Packards. The signage indicated it was equipped with the optional torsion-leveling suspension.

 

C8 Corvette

This was my first in-person sighting of the mid-engined marvel from GM. It looked a bit underwhelming to me, an opinion I chalk up to its plain off-white exterior and interior.

 

ITALIAN

1938 Lancia Aprilla

New England Rally friend Chuck Schoendorf showed this immaculate Lancia in the pre-war class. The car’s engineering was ahead of its time, with 4-wheel independent suspension and a narrow-angle V4 engine.

 

Iso Rivolta

Renzo Rivolta’s ISO firm sold manufacturing rights for its Isetta to BMW, and used those profits to design and build this Italian-American hybrid, with a Corvette V8 under the hood.

 

1971 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe

Owners Dave and Cathy returned to Lime Rock with this gorgeous 124. I met them both last year and the car looked better than ever. Dave said that the oversize air cleaner is hiding two 2-barrel Webers, and stated that this is a high-horsepower European setup which was a dealer option.

1973 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe

These 124 coupes are rare, and it was very unusual to find two of them at the same show, when there were none of the more-common 124 Spiders.

 

1982 Ferrari 308GTSi

This “common” Ferrari model stood out for its unusual and attractive shade of verde medio, or medium green.

Ferrari Dino GTB coupes

I was struck by all 3 cars being GTB models, B for berlinetta, or coupe, compared to the more common S or spider models with a removable top center section.

 

Alfa Romeo coupe, spider, and sedan

Alfa Romeo Junior Z Zagato

This rare Alfa looked great in blue and I overheard the owner talk about having driven the car in Europe; I was envious.

3 Very Different Alfas

The Spider has a longitudinally-mounted engine in the front, driving the rear wheels. The 164 has a transversely-mounted engine in the front, driving the front wheels. The 4C has a mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels.

 

 

GERMAN

1963 VW Karmann-Ghia convertible

 

1973 BMW 3.0CS

 

Porsche 911 Targa “long hood”

Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

This 300SL was in the barn-find class, and given the values of these icons, it’s incredible to see one which hasn’t been restored. Based on photos on display, the engine had been yanked for an overhaul. The car, as worn as it is, looked completely functional, and frankly, I really hope the owner does NOT restore it! They’re original only once.

SWEDISH

1965 Volvo 544

This was also in the barn-find class, with signage claiming 34,000 original miles and all-original condition, including paint and upholstery. It could be the only such 544 out there.

1968 Volvo 1800S

 

 

Volvo station wagon display

Volvo, well-known globally for its 5-door estate cars, started to add performance to the mix. Here were a few examples.

ASIAN

Mazda Miatas

Miatas are usually well-represented at Lime Rock. This year, the turnout was a bit smaller than usual.

 

Datsun 240 Z

A lineup in red, white, and blue.

 

 

A FEW PARTING SHOTS
A star mascot

 

Curvy glass

 

A well-accessorized Ferrari owner

 

 

Mr. Brown wasn’t shy about putting his name on his cars

 

 

Free fuel?

 

Dad and son

 

Bye til next year

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 29: The 2008 Carlisle Import Show

My first blog post about “Carlisle”, as in the car shows at Carlisle Fairgrounds, was written in April of 2015, after I had attended the Spring Carlisle event. As I’ve mentioned innumerable times, Carlisle has been a mainstay of my adventures in the collectible automotive hobby going back to my first visit in 1978.

For the first 15 years or so of its existence, Carlisle Events consisted only of a Spring show in April and a Fall show in late September/early October. In their desire to expand, the show organizers branched out in several ways. One addition to the calendar was the Carlisle Import Show. Since the ‘big’ shows which bookmarked the year spent about 99% of their energy on domestic product, the Import Show provided an opportunity for enthusiasts of European and Asian cars to have something to call their own. I first attended the Import Show in 1990, and observed that it took up less than one half of the acreage of a normal show. We actually could park our daily driver cars on the field.

 

1990 Carlisle Import Show, Italian cars
1990 Carlisle Import Show, British cars
Volvos at the 1990 Import Show

Fast forward to 2008: The Carlisle Import Show, held in May, was next in line for the Isetta. Instead of placing me with the Germans, my car was situated with a group of microcars, which was actually more fitting. I had the pleasure of parking my bubble between an NSU Wankel Spider and an East German Trabant(!).  Another very cool microcar in attendance was the Mazda Chantez, a kei-class car, with a two-cylinder, two-stroke engine making 35 horsepower. I had never seen one before, and I haven’t seen one since.

 

Four German cars in a row
NSU Wankel Spider
The Mazda Chantez kei-car

One of the great things about the Import Show is the tremendous club support. Vehicles are arranged by marque, and the clubs are very proactive in setting up tents, tables, chairs, and displays. The entire atmosphere is much more cordial and familial compared to one of the huge spring or fall events.

The Volvo Club of America has always made a strong showing here, and of course, that spokesperson of spokespersons, Irv Gordon, was in attendance. As you can see on the map, the Swedish brands Volvo and Saab were assigned separate blocks, the only such division. Note that this show also embraced kit cars, although their numbers were but a small minority of total show participation. I have no idea how or why there is a section for “Fiero”, which of course is a domestic Pontiac! And like Spring and Fall Carlisles, there was a Car Corral and a Swap Meet area, but again, these were minuscule compared to the big events. At Carlisle Imports, the emphasis was definitely on the display cars.

Mrs. Reina with Irv Gordon
Personal favorites, the Fiat 124 Sport Coupe

 

The Ford Aerostar was gone, with my trusty 2003 Volvo V70 now assigned to Isetta trailer duty. We made it back and forth with no issues, and I was more than pleased to have had the opportunity to show my BMW Isetta on the same tract of land where I’ve been walking the aisles for the past 30 years.

The European Duo
I think Irv asked me why I wasn’t driving the Isetta home

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 28: The 2007 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

The Romans knew it all too well: “Tempus fugit”, Latin for “time flies”. But I don’t think the Romans were thinking of the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance when uttering those words. I certainly was saying “time flies” to myself when I looked at the calendar, saw that it was 2007, and realized that the Isetta would again be eligible to be shown at this favorite car show of mine. So I sent in my registration form, got my acceptance letter, and off we went!

This view highlights the attractive and verdant setting

Compared to 2004, the weather was much more cooperative, if still a bit warm and muggy for early June. My wife Margaretanne, for the third and final time, accompanied me to the show. The show organizers, Bruce and Genia Wennerstrom, have always made it a point to recognize all the hard work and effort that goes into bringing a car to an event. As such, Greenwich is one of the few car shows where vehicle owners do NOT pay an entrance fee; instead, catered breakfast and lunch are provided, plus this year, we took advantage of a cruise boat ride into Long Island Sound, a non-automotive diversion which my wife appreciated.

As happened in 2004, the Isetta was wisely placed among other BMWs, with some Porsches on the other side of it. And in another echo of 2004, there was another Isetta, this time, a European-spec 300 which had been beautifully restored. I enjoyed my time chatting it up with attendees about my car, and Bruce most generously awarded me with a Concours Europa – Most Fun Car trophy. During the ceremonial drive-by, he chuckled once again when I told him about my US-spec car having the “larger and more powerful 13 horsepower engine”!

Euro-spec Isetta: note smaller headlights, lack of bumpers, and amber sidelight

 

This is what 13-hp can get you

At the end of the show, we drove the Isetta back to the parking lot, about a half-mile away, and began the process of loading the car onto the trailer once again. Several yards from me, I noticed an elderly man, who looked to be at least 90, struggling to roll his own open trailer into position. He was a dapper dresser in his plaid sport coat and tweed cap. A woman who may have been his daughter was scolding him that he shouldn’t be pushing the trailer on his own, which didn’t phase him one bit. He looked familiar to me, so I took a chance and approached him.

“Excuse me, are you John Fitch?”

“Why, yes I am!”

“It’s a real pleasure to meet you.”

“Thank you very much!”

With that, I shook the hand of 90-year-old John Fitch, race car driver, inventor, and on this day, just another participant at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance.

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 26: A Return to Form in 2004

After two consecutive years of successfully showing the Isetta at several shows, two of which involved a lengthy drive to Connecticut, I was ready to take some time off from the circuit. A glance through my photo archives reveals little participation in automotive events of any kind for the years 2002 and 2003. In the autumn of ’03, I purchased the 1968 Mustang California Special, which made me feel like I was cheating on the Isetta. Now I had to divide my attention between two cars, and the Mustang beckoned, not only because it was newer, but also because a trailer was not required. The medium-term plan was to drive the Mustang in an upcoming New England 1000 rally, a task that the Isetta was sadly not up to.

Before I knew it, it was 2004, and three years had passed since showing the little red car at Greenwich in 2001. Concours rules said “a vehicle displayed at Greenwich is eligible for showing every three years”, so I applied and was accepted.

Rain or shine, it was car show time

 

My Isetta with its BMW brethren

This time, my BMW was correctly placed in the same display circle as the other BMWs. But that was about the only happy element of the event. It was a day of miserable weather, with a steady cool rain which kept spectators away. My wife and I were dressed for the occasion, and worked to make the best of it.

My wife Margaretanne was a trooper for tolerating the weather

Parked directly next to my car was a BMW 600 (often incorrectly referred to as an “Isetta 600” –its officially name is “BMW 600 Limousine”). From the front, most people mistake it for an Isetta. It does share its front-hinged door and pivoting steering column with its little brother. Built on a slightly longer wheelbase, the 600 included a 2nd row of seats, one side door for access to that row, and most importantly, a two-cylinder boxer engine displacing about 600 cc.

The differences between the 600 (L) and 300 (R) are obvious here

The 600 is an interesting vehicle in BMW’s history. With the runaway success of the Isetta on a global scale (ultimately, 160,000 units produced, which made it BMW’s largest-volume model to date), company management wanted that success to be a springboard to a larger model, presumably to attract a bigger audience. Unlike the Isetta which was designed by the Italian firm Iso, the BMW 600 was designed in-house. Complaints that the Isetta was too small, underpowered, and lacked passenger room were all addressed in this larger model. Alas, the public did not respond in kind. Produced from 1957 to 1959, only 35,000 units were sold. The silver lining is that the 600 begat the “normal looking” BMW 700, which begat the Neue Klasse cars, and the rest, as several million people before me have said, is history.

The BMW 600, which some feel is less cute than the 300

Back to the car at the show: the young woman who piloted the 600 there was not the owner. She claimed that the car was owned by her boss, and he asked her to bring it to the show. Yet she seemed to be well-versed in its history. She had no issue with the idea that she would be driving her boss’s 600 back in the rain!

She was more than happy to display her boss’s 600

Awards were announced, and what’s this? No award for the Isetta this year? Hey Bruce, what gives? I was getting used to the accolades. Oh well, I told myself, I’m not here for the trophy, I’m here for the experience.

A few months later, I decided to bring the Isetta to the Somerville (NJ) Cruise Night, held every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day (and weather permitting, extended for as long as cars show up). This time, my stepson accompanied me, and assisted with trailer duties and photography. Like many cruise nights, there is no pre-registration, and parking on the street is on a first-come, first-served basis. We parked the trailer several blocks away, and got to drive the Isetta on some local streets through town. Luckily, as soon as I turned onto Main St., the show’s location, a parking spot appeared.

Stepson John takes first known photo from inside my moving Isetta

 

Just another red car out for a cruise

 

Managing to avoid Dodge Durango while turning onto Main St.

 

Blowby from tractor-trailer threatened to flip Isetta

It’s one thing to look at the Isetta and say “that thing is small”. It’s another thing to park it adjacent to other vehicles and see how truly tiny it is.

Isetta’s length matches hood of Torino behind it

As has been the trend, I spent much of the evening answering what seemed to be the same half-dozen questions:

  • Is this thing street-legal? (Sure, I drove it here)
  • How much horsepower does it have? (Thirteen, but a healthy 12-year-old boy on a bicycle can outdrag me)
  • What the top speed? (50 mph, downhill with a tailwind)
  • What kind of gas mileage does it get? (60 miles per gallon, so the 3-gallon tank gives me a cruising range of 180 miles)
  • How many people can you fit in there? (Two, but they really have to like each other)

 

The Isetta was proving to be a consistent attraction

The repetition was encouraging me to shoot back the same zany answers every time. By 9 p.m., it was time to get the Isetta back on the trailer. At least home was only eight miles away.

Later that year, while attending Hershey, I saw a beautiful yellow Isetta at the show. This was the germination of an idea: perhaps I could look into entering my Isetta at a future AACA event….

Taken at AACA Hershey 2004

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 25: the 2001 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

The Greenwich (CT) Concours d’Elegance, which began in 1996, was an almost immediate success. It is one of the few true classic concours held in the NY/NJ/CT metro area, and it has much more than that going for it. The show, traditionally held on the first weekend of June, is located in a small park bordering Long Island Sound. The park’s size limits the show’s size – visitors feel welcomed knowing that the entire show can be viewed in the course of a day with no need to rush. Clusters of trees provide shade when needed, and the grassy field is far superior to pavement. Vehicle manufacturers and dealers showcase new cars along the park’s perimeter. Perhaps best of all, each day’s lineup is unique: Saturday’s arrangement focuses on historic American vehicles, while Sunday’s participants arrive in European classics (this convention has changed somewhat in the last several years). Combined, these attributes make the Greenwich Concours one of the most unique and enjoyable car shows I’ve attended.

My relationship with the Concours, and more specifically with its chairperson Bruce Wennerstrom, began professionally. Volvo Cars of North America, my employer, was invited by Bruce to bring new cars to the show (and to monetarily contribute for the privilege of doing so), and my job was to provide the iron, which I did starting in 1997. As mentioned in Chapter 24 of the Isetta Saga, Bruce saw me and my Isetta at the 2000 Lime Rock Fall Vintage Festival, and invited me to bring my car to Greenwich in 2001, an invitation I immediately accepted.

We (Margaretanne and I) of course would be attending on Sunday, which at that time was referred to as “Concours Europa”. The date was June 3, 2001, and like every other participant, I could only hope for good weather. But Bruce’s luck had run out. After years of avoiding the wet stuff, it rained for the Saturday portion of the show. It wasn’t a total washout, though, as the skies cleared on Sunday; they just didn’t clear early enough to dry the grass.

Arriving with Isetta on trailer, I was directed to “trailer parking”, about a half mile away. I unloaded the car, we hopped in, and I drove to the park’s entrance. The routine went like this: each car and driver stopped at the registration table and was handed a packet. On the outside of the packet was a large letter indicating your ‘circle’. All the show cars were parked in circles, the cars perpendicular to the circle’s circumference, facing outward (got that, geometry majors?). Once cleared of check-in, the driver (me) held up the envelope so that volunteers could direct me to the appropriate circle, which as I understood it, was the BMW circle.

This shot gives you an idea of the field’s wet condition

The first hundred feet or so within the park was paved. As soon as I turned right, as directed, and hit the wet and muddy grass, all forward motion ceased. I had no traction. Weighing under 1,000 pounds with passengers, I suspect that the Isetta’s 10-inch tires didn’t have enough mass pushing downward. Show workers tried to push the car, but it was slow going, not helped by their own struggles to keep their sneakers from slipping. We made it a few yards at a time when someone in a supervisory role spoke up and said to me “look, your circle is on the other side of the park. We’re not going to get there. We’re just going to put you in this circle near to us”. Who was I to argue? I said “sure”, and we entered the circle and parked. Climbing out, I saw that I had the only BMW in a circle of … Mercedes-Benzes.

The lone Bimmer among the Benzes. At least they’re all German.

The Benzes were beautiful –exactly what you’d expect, with most of them SL models, including one 300SL Gullwing. I cleaned my car the best I could (the tires and wheel wells were quite muddy), set up our lawn chairs, and tried to relax. This was to be a judged show again (and yes, I dusted the spare!).

In the collector car hobby, it is a fact that most car owners enjoy talking about their cars. I again bore first-hand witness to the incredible reactions show-goers had to a BMW Isetta, and all the questions which were directed at me. Attendees tended to fall into one of two general camps: those who had never seen an Isetta and didn’t know the first thing about it; and those who knew something about the model yet had not seen one in years. So the time passed quickly, because everyone wanted to talk to me about my car. I also noticed that people chatting it up with me spent little or no time at the other vehicles in my circle. A friend who was at the show let it be known that he overheard two Mercedes owners complaining about “that intruder BMW” in their midst.

Taking a break from non-stop gabbing

Here’s another fun feature employed by the Greenwich staff: as class winners are announced, the winning vehicles line up and are driven at parade speed past a viewing stand. Each car stops, and the driver is handed a trophy and invited to say a few words. I had observed in previous years that Bruce and his wife Genia made it a point to have multiple classes in order to provide participants with as much recognition as possible. It was still a shock, though, when my name was called as winner of the Concours Europa “Best Special-Interest Car”. I honestly think mine was the ONLY special-interest car!

We pose by the car (photo courtesy Dennis & Ann Marie Nash)

We got in the queue (with better traction on the now-dry grass) and motored up to Bruce. He stuck a microphone through the car’s open sliding window and asked me about my car. I mumbled something about it being a U.S.-spec Isetta. This seemed to catch him by surprise, and he asked me what the difference was. I replied “The European Isettas got a 12-horsepower engine, but here in the States, we were given the bigger engine, which made 13 horsepower”. This sent Bruce into a fit of laughter, but he managed to make sure the audience understood that my Isetta had “the big block”.

Bruce Wennerstrom and his wife Genia hand me the goodies (photo courtesy Dennis & Ann Marie Nash)

Another car show, another trophy! During the entire restoration, I repeatedly told myself that I was NOT doing this in order to collect what I derisively referred to as “dust-collectors”. But again, the recognition among my peers was humbling, and certainly rewarding. We loaded the Isetta back on the trailer and headed home, with no immediate plans for any future car shows for my little red cuddle-box.

EPILOGUE

The November 2001 issue of (now defunct) European Car magazine published a story on the most recent Greenwich Concours, and even included a cover blurb: “Rarities and wonders on the lawn at one of America’s best shows”. Lo and behold, the magazine, which titled the story “Rainwich” Concours, included a small story about my small car.

 

 

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 24: The 2000 Lime Rock Fall Vintage Festival

Feeling optimistic after successfully trailering the Isetta in August of 2000 to its first public show, I was ready to repeat the process. Labor Day weekend at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut has long been known to me for its Fall Vintage Festival (the event itself has gone through several name changes while staying true to its mission). Saturday and Monday of the weekend are devoted to vintage car racing, and on Sunday, when local ordinances prohibit racing, the track is given over to a static car show.

I’ve attended Lime Rock on Labor Day weekend at least as far back as 1991, when I purchased my ’67 Dodge Dart after spotting it on the field with a For Sale sign on it. During the summer of 2000, I made use of this new-fangled thing called the Internet, and found an online application form to register the Isetta for the show. It was only a matter of days when I received an email response in the affirmative.

Lime Rock CT, nestled in the Berkshires, is a little further from home than Park Ridge NJ. In a modern car, sans trailer, the trip from central Jersey is 2.5–3 hours. In an Aerostar van, pulling a trailer loaded with precious cargo, it’s a bit longer. Margaretanne and I left the house before sunrise; the communique from the Lime Rock officials requested that the car be on the field by 9 a.m.

Posing with the car. Lime Rock’s lush greenery is on full display in the background.

On arrival, we were greeted by a trio of track workers who were in a tizzy. Apparently, they did not know into which class they should place this microcar. Eventually, I was told “you’re in Class 18 – postwar European two-doors”. Instead of protesting the incorrect door count (what was I going to say? “Oh no, you want to place me in the postwar European ONE-door class”), I motored on, found the class, unloaded the car, and drove it into its display position. As had happened in Park Ridge, a small crowd gathered in amazement to watch this egg move under its own power.

The Isetta among its (class) peers

We set up the folding lawn chairs, and I got to work with the detail bucket. It was hot and humid, and while morning clouds threatened, they were gone by midday, and took some of the humidity with them. Cleaning my car gave me the opportunity to take in my competition. On one side of me was a large Jaguar drophead coupe; on the other side, an Austin/Morris Mini (the original one; the successor had not been born yet). Other vehicles in my class included a VW Bug and a Mercedes-Benz 280SE cabriolet. This was as eclectic a group of vehicles as I could have imagined.

There wasn’t much detailing to do and soon after I settled into my folding chair, the judging team arrived. This was my first exposure to “show judging”, and my slight nervousness caused me at one point to yell out to the judges “what’s taking you so long? It’s a pretty small car!”. This verbal jab resulted in an elbow jab from Margaretanne, admonishing me to behave. One of the judges asked “where’s the spare?” and with that, I folded the seat back forward (the spare is in a recess behind the seat). The judge made a comment about dust on the spare wheel/tire assembly, and this time I kept my mouth shut, making a mental note to clean the spare when I got home.

A spectator ponders if he could fit (probably could)

The judges moved on, and I tried to relax while the show attendees stopped to inspect my Isetta and ask the occasional question. I heard a female voice from a few yards away say “oh, I know that car! I helped procure a bunch of parts for it!” It was Linda Gronlund, whom I knew from her days at Volvo Corporate. She had left Volvo to work at BMW USA, and was still employed there. She had indeed played a role in helping me obtain some genuine BMW parts as long as I was able to provide her with genuine BMW part numbers. It was nice to see her, and most tragically, it was the last time I ever saw Linda. Almost exactly one year later, she was a passenger on United flight #93 which crashed in PA on 9/11/2001.

Sometime later in the day at Lime Rock, another voice, this time a male one, called my name out loud after reading it from the windshield entry card. It was Bruce Wennerstrom, who chaired the prestigious Greenwich (CT) Concours d’Elegance. I knew Bruce because Volvo had been a corporate sponsor of his event, and part of my job responsibilities included chauffeuring new Volvos to be put on display at Greenwich. Bruce and I exchanged pleasantries, and then he utterly shocked me by asking “would you like to display your Isetta at the Greenwich show next year?” I was flattered, and flabbergasted. I stammered a “yes” and told Bruce that I was honored.

By 3 p.m., Margaretanne and I were talking about getting an early start to our long trip back home. The award ceremony had just begun, and I didn’t feel it necessary to stick around for it, that is, until I heard “Isetta” over the PA system. I walked up to the awards table and, in a day full of surprises, had my biggest surprise when I learned that my car had won 1st in its class (dusty spare and all). While I am not in this hobby for trophy-collecting, it is nice to be recognized.

Margaretanne is quite proud of the award

 

As is the car’s owner

 

The Isetta was done with car shows for the year 2000. There was already something to look forward to in 2001, and that would be Greenwich in June. I had all winter to detail that spare.

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

HERSHEY 2019: The AACA Eastern Fall Meet

HERSHEY! For old-car enthusiasts, that one word is all that needs to be said. Its official name is the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Eastern Fall Meet, held every October, but we know it simply by the town which has hosted it since the early 1950s. This 5-day event takes over all of Hersheypark’s paved lots, and encompasses a flea market, car corral, and AACA-judged car show.

SHOW CARS ARE ARRANGED BY CLASS:

With one exception, and that for a business trip, I haven’t missed Hershey since 2002, and have attended on and off before that, going back to my first visit in 1980. It not only represents the unofficial end of the collector car show season; it has become the highlight of my automotive year. Typically, I’ll come out Thursday morning and stay through Saturday afternoon. The first two days are spent wandering the flea market and car corral, and Saturday of course we’re all at the big show. This year was especially outstanding: the weather was close to perfect on Thursday and Friday, and although Saturday was cloudy and cooler, it was still pleasant to be outside (and not staring at a screen).

 

The crowd strolls through the Car Corral on a perfect weather day

There was nothing in particular on my shopping list this year; sometimes it’s enough to walk the aisles and take in the ambiance. I did end up purchasing a few items from Eastwood, and succumbed to my weakness for printed material by purchasing a book entitled “GM: The First 75 Years of Transportation Products”. This hardcover 223-page tome was a giveaway to GM employees, and had never been offered to the public. My copy even included the letter addressed to “Dear GM Employee” and signed by Roger B. Smith. With beautiful full-color photos courtesy of Automobile Quarterly’s archives, it was a no-brainer at a measly $5.

More and more dealers are setting up displays with cars for sale

While there were some empty spots among the flea market vendors, attendance seemed good, people were pulling out their wallets to make purchases, and many languages besides English were overheard. It’s reassuring to know that Hershey continues to attract an international audience.

FLEA MARKET OFFERINGS:

The car corral was unimpressive this year. There was a dearth of cars priced under $20,000 or so, and worse, many of the cars in the corral had been here in 2018, with no change in the asking prices! Do people put cars in the car corral to sell them, or to give themselves a way to park on the show grounds? (Don’t laugh, I’ve had some club members actually admit that to me.)

PROJECT CARS:

The Hershey Highlight continues to be the chance to watch the parade of show cars as they enter the field. By AACA rules, show vehicles (except race cars) must be driven onto the show field under their own power. Ever since rally brother Steve and I accidentally discovered this many years ago, it’s been a must to arrive by 7 a.m., and find a suitable vantage point. I tried a new spot this year which provided unobstructed views. The only problem was that it was a stretch of asphalt that allowed speeds somewhat above a parade crawl, and that made for some tricky photography.

WAGONS, AKA LONG ROOFS:

If you’ve been to Hershey, you can relate, and you have your own stories. If you haven’t been, and you consider yourself to be the least bit interested in classic cars, then it’s a must for your bucket list. You could visit only for a day; however, even the healthiest among you could cover about 50% of the flea market/car corral at best. If you attend only for the Saturday show, be aware that most vendors have closed up by Friday afternoon. Whether you attend for one day or the entire week, Hershey continues to provide proof that the collector car hobby remains vibrant.

DETAILING IT FOR THE JUDGES:

Below, please enjoy photos of the show cars as they paraded in on Saturday morning.

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

Lime Rock Park Historic Festival 37, 2019

Lime Rock Park, an historic race track nestled in a valley within the verdant hills of northwest Connecticut, held its Historic Festival #37 over the 2019 Labor Day weekend. The races run all weekend except Sunday, as that is prohibited by local ordinance. Many moons ago, Festival organizers reasoned that the non-racing day could be put to great use for a car show, and “Sunday in the Park” was born.

For me, the static car show in Lime Rock has been an annual treat going back to the early 1990s. So many factors make this show special, including location, size, quality, and variety. Lime Rock delights in creating its own classes based on decade, country of origin, and vehicle type. It keeps things interesting for the spectators. Added to that is the tremendous support from marque-specific clubs, resulting in hundreds of vehicles lining the perimeter of almost the entire track.

Although the park is a 3-hour one-way trip for me, the long Labor Day weekend means that a one-day round trip on Sunday isn’t so bad, as vacationers squeezing in a last summer getaway won’t be clogging the roads until Monday. Pedestrian traffic at the track wasn’t so dense to prevent unobstructed photos, which are presented below, in semi-organized fashion. Enjoy the automotive eye candy!

 

ITALIAN
The Italians are coming!

 

Fiat 500

 

Lanica B20

 

A selection of pre-war Alfa race cars

 

The Al Cosentino Fiat racer

 

Lancia Scorpion

 

 

Alfa spider

 

Iso Rivolta

 

Chrome-bumper Fiat 124 spider

 

GERMAN
VW step-side pickup

 

1st gen VW Scirocco

 

Porsche 914

 

A pair of clown shoes (BMW Z3 coupes)

 

AMERICAN
Studebaker Hawk

 

Studebaker Avanti

 

1940 Ford coupe

 

Lime Rock enters 21st century; Teslas recharge onsite

 

2nd gen Chevrolet Corvair

 

1962 Chevy Bel Air ambulance

 

BRITISH
MGB-GT

 

Lotus Elan (for sale: $19k)

 

Aston Martin

 

Morgan coupe

 

Mogies line up

 

 

SWEDISH

 

JAPANESE

Mazda Miata in 4 generations:

1st gen (NA)

2nd gen (NB)

3rd gen (NC)

4th gen (ND)

RETRO DESIGN, AND THE ORIGINAL INSPIRATIONS (or, “Oh my child, how large you’ve grown!)
Fiat 500

 

P.S.
“patina”

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

AROC Convention/PVGP, Pittsburgh PA, July 2019, Part 2

As mentioned in Part 1 of this topic, the Saturday car show at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix was truly a multinational affair, with literally thousands of cars scattered within Schenley Park. While many of these vehicles were late model (built within the last 20 years or so), there was enough variety on the ground that anyone with the slightest interest in automobiles would find something to catch their attention – plus there was the racing!

Below are just some of the many photos taken on Saturday of the non-Alfa Romeo vehicles (see Part 1 for exclusively Alfa pictures). I would have literally covered more ground and taken more photos had the intense 100 degree heat not knocked me out by about 2:30pm or so. This blogger hopes that you enjoy the ones below, organized by country, then marque.

 

ITALIAN
Ferrari

 

Fiat

 

GERMAN
BMW

Mercedes-Benz

Porsche

VW

 

BRITISH
Jaguar

 

Triumph

SWEDISH
Saab

 

Volvo

JAPANESE
Acura

 

Honda

 

Mazda

 

The Tre Amici bid you “ciao”

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.