When I showed this car for the first time at a National event, it was Hershey, and I chose to enter it in the HPOF (Historical Preservation of Original Features) class. When I purchased the Miata in August of 1996, it was a gently-used three-year-old car with 34,000 miles on it. I promptly put another 10,000 miles on it before the year was out, but then turned it into a toy for fair weather use. Still, I could not have seen the day when a car which still felt new to me would be eligible for a Hershey event! Thankfully, during those years between 1996 and 2018, I avoided all temptation to modify or ‘improve’ the car, and maintained it to stock specifications.
I was a proud papa when the car earned its first HPOF badge at that 2018 Hershey showing. The pressure only increased to maintain its originality, and in 2019, when the NJ Region hosted its own National event in Parsippany, I decided to try for the next level, which is “Original HPOF”. (Without going into too much detail, it means that a greater percentage of the vehicle, including paint, upholstery, and mechanicals, are “as built” by the factory). The Miata did win its first Original HPOF in Parsippany, and that was its most recent National event until this year.
Of course, 2020 was a washout, but with Covid restrictions easing in 2021, I’m making up for lost time. So it was off to Saratoga Springs with the Miata vying for a Repeat Original HPOF award. I attended the Saturday evening awards banquet, and was humbled and elated to receive my repeat award (actually a chip to be mounted to a wooden display board). The car managed to do this, by the way, with over 107,000 miles showing on the odometer.
What’s next? The remainder of the Nationals for 2021 are too far away, so I will wait and see what the calendar holds for 2022. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the car, and will do everything I can to maintain its originality. I plan to drive it in the NJ Region’s Summer Tour coming up at the end of this month, which will take us as far north as Rochester NY. The miles will pile on, but the car is up to it!
My initial attraction to this Goat was the colorful striping; it’s so late ‘60s, and Ford and Chrysler were doing similar outrageous things with paint, decals, and the like. But think about the pure nerve to name a car “The Judge”, as if it ruled over everyone and everything (and that certainly was what the marketing folks had in mine).
The owner, Bob, saw my interest and approached me. He was low-key, but wanted to be sure that I knew that this was a one-owner car, bought new by him just before he entered military service. Here’s a partial quote from the car’s display sign:
“I purchased the car new in March of 1969 (and) married Nancy on June 7, 1969…. Nancy drove “The Judge” to work every day while I was gone (in the Navy). In the fall of 1974, I decided to put it in storage, where it stayed … until the fall of 2012, when I decided it was time to have a concours restoration completed on it…. (The shop) completed the car in August of 2013 and we have enjoyed taking it around the country, sharing the car and its story with others….”
The restoration looked top-notch to me, and it’s wonderful to behold this pinnacle of the American muscle car era, which was soon to fade away. Bob was beaming with pride the entire time he talked to me about his Judge. He had every reason to be completely proud of it.
Dave and his 1955 Thunderbird
Two-seat T-Birds, aka Baby Birds, are not an uncommon sight at an AACA show. There were perhaps a half-dozen in Saratoga Springs, but it was the color of this ’55 which drew me in and brought me to ask the owner “what is the name of this color?” Dave replied “Thunderbird Blue”, at which moment I recalled that I always found that just a bit odd, as the paint certainly has a greenish tint, appearing closer to aqua. This of course led us to talk more about his car, which is when he revealed that he bought this ‘Bird in 1969, and it was the very first motor vehicle he ever owned.
After driving it on and off for many years, he laid it up in 1991. Fifteen years later, in 2006, he decided to embark on a restoration. Dave said that one of the biggest challenges was seeking out a repair shop willing to let him participate in some of the actual work, which was the only way he was going to afford the job. One can only imagine how 15 years of off-the-road storage added to the complexities of the operation.
Whether it was due to the shop’s schedule, Dave’s availability to participate, his ability to fund the repairs, or some combination of all the above, the work which began in 2006 took thirteen years to complete. Looking at the photos, I think you will agree that patience was rewarded! Dave summed up the present situation by confiding “when I saw the finished product in 2019, I realized that the car was too nice to drive, so THEN I had to purchase a truck and trailer; but once this award circuit is done, I’m putting it on the road and plan to enjoy some time behind the wheel!”
Richard and his 1964 Riviera
What grabs you at first glance is the color. Not that “green” is an unusual color for a vehicle of this era; it certainly is not. It’s this particular shade of green, dubbed by Buick’s marketing team as “Surf Green”. The paint is complemented by the pure white interior, both in impeccable condition, and the entire package from bumper to bumper is undeniably appealing.
I’ve seen this car before; in fact, I photographed it at the NJ-hosted AACA Nationals in Parsippany in 2019. This time, I spoke to the owner, Richard, who was in Saratoga Springs seeking his Repeat Preservation award. He’s a long-time Riviera fan, and unabashedly told me that he’s owned “quite a few ‘63s, ‘64s, and ‘65s”, and this one might be my favorite”. He prefers the first two years, stating “those clamshell headlights are a pain, the doors always getting stuck part-way”. This ’64 has factory air which makes long summer drives that much more pleasurable, provided you’re prepared for the frequent fuel stops. He went on: “A lot of guys want the high-output motor with the two 4-barrels. Let me tell you, yeah, the top end jumps from 130 to 133 mph but you go from 12 to 8 mpg, and good luck getting those carbs synchronized!”
When I asked him to pose next to the car, he laughed and exclaimed “why do you want to ruin the shot?”. Only after I got home and looked at the snap did I notice that his shirt and pants matched his car….
Phil and his 1929 Reo
The day before the show, there was an option to take a tour of a private auto collection nearby. The AACA had arranged for a bus to take us to and from that warehouse, and it was on the bus where I met the entire family: Phil, the patriarch, with his wife Kathy, their son John, and John’s wife and 3-year-old daughter. Phil and I ended up sitting next to each other, and what else were we going to talk about but stock futures our own cars. “The family” was showing their 1929 Reo in the show, and it was in Saratoga Springs seeking its First Preservation award.
Now, you don’t exactly see Reo automobiles of any year on a regular basis, but a few are around. (For the uninitiated, Reo is the initials of company founder Ransom E. Olds, yes, the same person who founded Oldsmobile.) What was most intriguing about Phil’s car was that it had belonged to his grandfather. While Phil never revealed when his grandfather bought the car, I knew Phil’s age, and some quick estimations make it at least possible that grandpop bought it new (his grandfather might have been around 30 years old in 1929).
Just as interesting was hearing stories from Phil’s wife about how, before it was restored, the Reo was “just a driver” and they would throw all their kids into the spacious rear seat and go cruising. It sounded like the car was kept in decent running condition and the family didn’t hesitate to put miles on it during their younger years. Now that it’s been fully restored, it’s a trailer queen, and after Saratoga, they are trucking it to the AACA Grand National in Minnesota later this summer. Like Dave with the T-Bird, though, once it’s earned its Repeat Preservation, they said that the trailering ends and the driving fun begins again.
Obviously, the collector car disease has infected the next generation, as in speaking to their son John, he informed me that he already has a small collection of pre-war Fords (THIS from someone who was born in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s!). Hearing this should give us assurance that the collector car hobby will continue in some fashion, especially if it’s done as a family affair.
Bob’s GTO, bought new by him, was in storage for many years, then restored. Dave’s T-Bird, his first car, was put in storage then took 13 years to restore. Richard’s Riviera, one of many he’s owned, looks like it’s “the keeper” for him. Phil’s Reo, in the family since his grandfather owned it, finally got a full restoration after many years as a driver. Their stories are different but have common elements. Patience and perseverance are a huge part of each saga. It’s the passion for a special car, whether it’s a new acquisition or a long-term family member, that brings together people, machines, and memories.
My 1993 Mazda Miata was entered into the show, seeking a repeat Original HPOF (Historical Preservation of Original Features) award. There will be more to say about that in a future post. I drove the Miata up to Saratoga Springs on Thursday, enjoying perfect weather both that day and the next. The forecast for Saturday was for rain, but thankfully that was inaccurate, as Saturday’s weather was warm and a tad humid, but dry and delightful for an outdoor car show.
Approximately 275 vehicles were in attendance. AACA does tend to attract the best of the best, as the quality of the show vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles) was outstanding. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this kind of show is the chance to meet new hobbyists and learn the background stories about their cars. My next blog post will relate a number of those stories. For now, I will turn this into a “photo dump” and allow the reader to enjoy these images of beautifully restored classic cars.
Promptly at 3 p.m., the show cars were allowed to depart the field, and the exit parade began. I was in no rush to leave, but decided instead to walk under some tall pines to be able to stand in the shade for a few minutes. That’s when I discovered that I was in a perfect spot to capture some photos of vehicles as they left the park, which is when all of the following pictures were taken.
As always, this is a “run what you brung” kind of show, so anything of interest, be it older, newer, original, modified, etc., is welcome. The flea market seemed better supported with vendors compared to earlier this year, and plenty of spectators were there to wander the grassy field. Attendance for all is free, with a requested donation of food or cash for a local food bank, always a worthy cause.
On a personal note, I was thrilled to be able to drive and show my 1967 Alfa Romeo to this show, its first public appearance since June of 2019. Much of the past two years was spent completely rebuilding its brakes, then completely rebuilding its carburetors. While the car had made several very short outings near home, this was the farthest I had ventured in it (a whopping 3 miles) since completing the multiple overhauls. The Alfa felt strong under both accelerator and brake pedals, so I did something right!
A few cars were ones I had seen earlier this year, but most were new to me, which is a big part of the fun. Drivers felt free to come and go as they pleased, so I missed photographing some of the earliest departures, but did just manage to capture Jessie and her Saturn (more about that below). The Neshanic Station Car Show has turned into one of my personal favorites, admittedly in part due to its proximity, but also for its variety. I’m looking forward to making an appearance, with or without a car, for as many of the remaining monthly shows this year as my calendar allows.
Jessie and her Saturn
She was a late arrival, driving onto the field around 10 a.m. or so (when I had been there since before 8 a.m.). I’ll be the first to admit that my prejudices were in full bloom as I watched this white wagon approach, saying to myself “who thinks that an old Saturn station wagon is collectible, or the least bit interesting to anyone else??” Then, as she ambled by me at 3MPH and I peeked inside, I saw the first item of interest: the driver was on the right side of the car. This was a RHD Saturn, likely an old mail delivery vehicle.
She parked, and almost as if she does this every week, the young driver went about her routine, first removing an easel, then a large picture board she placed on the easel, then some other mail-related paraphernalia at the rear. I approached her and asked her name; “Jesse” she replied. In short order, she told me that the picture board was a reprint of an article from the Hagerty magazine, featuring her and her 17(!?!) Saturns. “You own 17 Saturns?” I asked somewhat incredulously. “Yes”, she said, noting that she had 2.5 acres of room in nearby Millstone for her collection.
It took only a few minutes for me to get it. She is a young, enthusiastic, car collector, and in that sense, she’s no different than I am, or many of my friends. The only difference is she collects Saturns, and mind you, only the “S” series cars, built in Spring Hill TN. No “L” series cars built in Delaware, or heaven forbid, those rebadged Opels sold by Saturn dealers near the end of the make’s run. She knows what she likes, and that’s what she sticks with, which actually puts her a step or two ahead of some collector buddies who can’t seem to decide on a theme for their own collections.
I wished Jessie good luck, which I don’t think she needs from me, and walked back to my car, further realizing that I do know several other people, male and female, who are in the 20s, crazy about cars, but who tend to like vehicles not in my own field of interest. Does that make her (or them) any different from the way I was in my 20s, or the way the rodders of the 1950s were? Not at all; the good news is, there is room in this hobby for all of us, even those who collect Saturns.
The New Jersey Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club (AROC) held its first official event of 2021, a Saturday morning Cars & Coffee on June 5. Our generous host for the day, club member Martin M., invited members to his home, where bagels, Danishes, and coffee were available on the rear deck. We served ourselves while enjoying the perfect morning weather: sunny and warm with low humidity.
Above: A Spider is cornered by 3 modern Giulias, while a newer Spider looks on
And do car people hang out on the deck near the breakfast spread? Of course not. Food and drink in hand, we wandered among the dozen or so Alfas driven to and parked in the yard, comprising a nice mix of older sedans and Spiders along with an assortment of new Giulias. We also got to enjoy eyeballing Martin’s eclectic collection, only some of which are of Italian origin.
Above: cars like this Renault 4CV are easily tucked away; you never know when you might need a spare engine for one!
Best of all, with COVID restrictions finally relaxing, this was the first chance in a long while for we Alfisti to get reacquainted with old friends while making new ones. I belong to a number of different clubs, and I was reminded again that Alfa owners really are the friendliest. I’m already looking forward to other events this year with AROC’s NJ Chapter.
Success! Our informal Sunday Morning Breakfast Group, which last held a gathering in September of 2019, managed to put together our own Cars & Coffee-style event this past Sunday. As an unexpected surprise, the “CarParkers” drive event held the same day resulted in dozens of additional cars joining us in the spacious lot of the Dunkin’ Donuts on MacArthur Blvd. in Mahwah NJ.
In our own group, we had perhaps a dozen and a half friends show up with their cars. On one hand, it was overwhelming to think that we had not seen each other in over a year and half. On the other hand, like the long-term companions we are, we fell right back into our lively repartee and wasted no time in catching up with each other, while those who procured new rides since our last drive enjoyed showing them off.
Hagerty and CarPark co-sponsored the other drive event along with Dunkin’ Donuts, the basic concept centering around a morning of driving to and meeting up at several Dunkin’ Donuts stores, with the chance to win some giveaways. I had alluded to this event in our own Cars & Coffee invitation, but frankly was expecting at most 10 or 20 other cars. The actual turnout was 3 to 4 times that, with a nice mix of older and newer exotics, including rarities ranging from a Ford Model T fire truck to a Sterling 825.
The breakfast line got a bit long at times, but mask-wearing and social distancing appeared to be at 100% compliance while inside. Outside was much less of a concern; we became unmasked, but our usual bear hugs were on postponement until a later date.
There was no driving element on this occasion as we knew that time for us to mingle and swap stories would need to take precedence. What surprised me was how much more enjoyable I found this arrangement. Rather than be tied to a table, I was free to wander from subgroup to subgroup, and ended up chit-chatting with more of the guys than otherwise. My drive event co-planner and I are already intending to include a Cars & Coffee event on our rotating schedule for the Sunday Morning Breakfast Group.
I was so distracted by seeing old friends and meeting new ones (talkin’ about you, the young couple in the Suzuki Cappuccno) that I simply failed to photograph every car in the lot. However, the ones that did make it into my Sony are below. Final note about the photos: WordPress seems to have changed the method to see full-size versions of them. For full-screen versions, right-click on the picture, select “Open Image in New Tab”, and then click on the picture again.
If you live in the Northeast corner of the U.S., then you can relate to the observation that the weather can be fickle. Springtime is especially unpredictable: March can bring sunny 75 degree F weather or two feet of snow. April can be as hot and dry as summer, or can make us suffer through two weeks of ‘April showers’.
Nevertheless, it stayed dry, and the cars came out. Some were the same as seen in March, and many others were new. As before, there were no ‘rules’ about what you could bring, which again resulted in a nice mix of old, new, original, and modded. In other words, there was something for everyone.
I was a spectator for this one, and I’ll simply say that time constraints both before and after the show impeded my participation. Not only was the vehicular turnout impressive; spectators, catching wind of this, were out in good numbers, possibly lured by the flea market on the same field. Like before, there was no entrance fee, but participants and spectators were encouraged to donate food or cash to support a local food bank, a wonderful cause indeed.
The photos can do most of the remainder of the work here, although I do wish to call special attention to the 1965 Chevrolet Chevy II four-door sedan which, similar to the ’65 Bonneville I wrote up last time, was a single-family-owned car in completely original condition, and a true time capsule. The next show is set for Saturday May 15 (they will run once a month, always on a Saturday), and as we move into the presumably less fickle spring weather, it won’t be a surprise to see an even greater turnout.
FAVORITE CAR OF THE SHOW: 1965 CHEVY II
I spoke to this owner at length, who told me that his great uncle had purchased this car new, and it has remained in the family ever since. He stated that it’s all original, including paint, interior, and inline-6 engine. While there were a few scrapes along the sides, there was absolutely no sign of rust or corrosion anywhere. This Chevy II was a “Nova”; many may forget that the Nova name began as an upmarket trim level on this compact before eventually replacing “Chevy II” as the model name. The ’64 NY license plate includes mention of the World’s Fair; growing up in NYC, I remember those plates as a boy.
A new entry on the collector car calendar has sprung up in 2021: the Neshanic Station Car Show, which held its inaugural event on Saturday March 20, nicely coinciding with the first day of spring. And a glorious day it was, with sunny blue skies, no wind, and moderate temperatures reaching close to 60F by midday. The clear air made for some stunning photography.
The car show was combined with a general (not automotive) flea market, which deserves some background history. The tiny hamlet of Neshanic Station for decades held a flea market every Sunday during decent weather, with a wide range of vendors selling a great variety of new and used goods. It became quite well-known and would draw an audience from all parts of the Garden State. A few years ago, the private property which hosted the flea market was sold, and the lot was taken over by the county, merged with a local park. The old flea market was dead.
The Neshanic United Methodist Church resurrected the flea market, combining it with a car show to help draw a crowd. For 2021, it will a once-a-month-on-a-Saturday affair. To sign up, one only needed to send an email stating the desire to exhibit a car. There is no fee, but the church requests a voluntary donation to the food bank that it sponsors. The church has access to a spacious lot across the street from the original flea market location, a flat and grassy piece of property easily 5 or 6 times the size of what had previously been used.
I had registered my Miata a few weeks prior, and since the location is literally three miles from my house, I departed a few minutes before 9 a.m. and was still there in plenty of time. There were close to a dozen cars already in place as I motored past them, with a dozen or more yet to show up after me. This was a “run what you brung” kind of show: no limitations based on age, condition, restoration quality, or modifications, and sometimes that’s the best kind of show, because you truly get the largest variety of vehicles. It’s also a great way to make sure that anyone who owns what THEY consider an interesting car can feel included in a group that frankly might shun them at another type of show.
Domestic iron from the 1960s comprised a large percentage of show cars, with two late-model Ferraris covering the exotic end of the spectrum. Not to be outdone, the Corvette contingent was out in full force, including a C8 mid-engine beauty in an eye-searing yellow. Late model cars included a Challenger, an Audi, and an Alfa 4C.
The flea market vendor turnout was smaller than I expected; the show cars dwarfed the vendors based on the amount of real estate taken. The crowd was a decent size, and the vast majority of folks walking the field outside adhered to the ‘masks on’ request except when eating or drinking something they bought from the on-site food truck. There is no doubt in my mind that for car owners and spectators alike, there was an overwhelming desire to get back to normal compared to 2020, and that helped account for the turnout.
As has been said many times before, after a certain amount of time in the hobby, it’s the people and their stories who become the real center of interest, and I met several fine folks whose stories are recounted below. The Neshanic Car Show organizers have already laid out their calendar through the remainder of the year, with the next two shows set for April 17 and May 15. My personal goal is to get that Alfa out of the garage where it’s been since 2019 in time for either the April or May event.
1962 Lincoln Continental 4-door sedan
I approached the owner of this 1962 Lincoln and told him how refreshing it was to see a sedan since what I see at car shows are almost exclusively the four door convertibles. He told me that he was at a dealer in suburban Philly who had both the 4-door sedan and the 4-door convertible. Although he really wanted the droptop it was so outside his price range, he went with this green-on-green one. The car is all original, everything functions, and he named the car after his departed mother, calling it the “Queen Maryellen”. He went on: “Listen, I’m really not a car guy but I just love this thing, it’s so easy to drive and attracts so much attention no matter where I take it.” He also has an Olds Aurora at home and he hopes to come back next time with a friend so he can bring both cars.
2014 Audi A4
A young man in his mid-20s approached my Miata and struck up a conversation, telling me about a friend who has a Miata with an LS motor in it. I told him that I was familiar with the conversion and that kits are available to do just that. This got us both talking about cars in general. I could tell that he was a genuine enthusiast who seemed to harbor no prejudices when it came to interesting cars. He finally let it out that he was the owner of the 2014 Audi A4 at the other end of the aisle from me. It’s a four-cylinder stick shift car, and he’s done some “minor” modding as he called it, with a performance chip, cat-back exhaust, and some other tweaks. His car was spotless. I truly admired this young guy’s devotion and enthusiasm. The hobby needs to find a way to be inclusive to gals and guys like him who have a late model vehicle which is their pride and joy. ‘Our’ rules cannot be forced on them. They are the future of this hobby if it is to survive.
1965 Pontiac Bonneville 2-door hardtop
This 1965 Bonneville, at first blush, was a nice looking car without anything overtly special about it. I began a conversation with the owner, asking my usual first question: “how long have you owned it?” He answered by telling me “my grandmother bought this car new in Pasadena California”. This Bonneville is a one-family-owned car which resided in southern CA until he brought it to NJ when he married and relocated. The car was in a collision in the 1980 s and got a total repaint at that time; otherwise, it’s all original. This was my favorite car of the show.
1963 Studebaker Avanti
The Studebaker Avanti is an automotive enigma – born out of desperation as the company was going out of business, it was manufactured only for two model years, 1963 and 1964. Fewer than 5,000 were built as “Studebakers” before the factory shut down. (Don’t confuse these with the Avanti II, which is an almost-identical car manufactured when the tooling was bought by two Studebaker dealerships.) This owner has had this car for about 10 years, stating that he pulled it out of dry storage and got it roadworthy. It’s an unusually low-spec car, with a 3-speed manual floor shift, and lacking power steering, power windows, or A/C. This too was claimed to be a mostly original car, and I saw little reason to doubt it. Perhaps most convincingly, old-fashioned service stickers from 1967 and 1975 were still in the driver’s door jamb.
“Carlisle” as a hobbyist destination should need no introduction here: the organizers have been hosting Spring & Fall Carlisle since 1974, and in the ensuing years, have expanded the number of events via marque-specific weekends, including Corvettes at Carlisle, Chryslers at Carlisle, the Carlisle Import Show, and so on. The Ford event is traditionally scheduled in June, and having attended many of the other smaller mid-year shows, the All-Ford (and Mercury, Lincoln, Edsel, Merkur, etc.) National is one of the larger ones in the series.
The previous month, we had been to the Carlisle Import show with the Isetta in tow. Although not mentioned in my coverage, that particular May day was brisk, with daytime temps in the low-to-mid 50s. Typical for the Northeast, the weather can change on a dime, and two weeks later, on the day of my 5-hour round trip, the thermometer hit 100F (38C for those of you in the rest of the world). It was HOT! The A/C, factory-equipped in my car, remained non-functional during my entire ownership. My deepest regrets for failing to fix it were reserved for this particular day. At the same time, my 390 big block never pushed the temperature gauge past its mid-point. The car ran strong and cool all day.
At least I had company for the ride. A family friend with whom I had recently become acquainted, Mike Larkin, was more than willing to ride shotgun. Mike wasn’t a traditional car guy but said he was always up for an adventure. The heat seemed to bother him less than it did me as we cruised with our 260 air at full blast.
Arriving at the fairgrounds, the number of Mustangs on the grounds was overwhelming! Carlisle could probably host “Mustangs at Carlisle” and have a large enough turnout for a standalone show. To my surprise and delight, the “Specials” (California Special and its Colorado cousin, the High Country Special) were afforded their own display area. We pulled in, found a spot, and climbed out of our steaming hot car to bask in the even steamier fairground air.
The photos can tell the rest of the story from here, although I must confess that there were many other interesting Fords which did not get photographed. Someday, whether there’s a Ford in my future or not, I’ll work my way back to Fords at Carlisle.
Above: flippin’ for Ford’s Flip-Tops! The Ford Skyliner Retractable Hardtop was made only for 3 years: 1957, 1958, and 1959. The top photo shows a ’57; note the front plate, “NON SCRIPT”, referring to the earliest production cars which lacked the “Skyliner” script on the roof’s C-pillar. The bottom photo shows two ’59s side-by-side, both with the garage-challenging Continental kits added.
Scanning and posting my photos from the 1969 New York Auto Show resulted in my flipping through other photographs of mine from the ‘60s and ‘70s. To my surprise, I rediscovered photos that I had frankly forgotten about: pictures from the 1977 New York Auto Show (or so I thought). One reason that these pictures hadn’t resonated with me was their poor quality. Taken with a Kodak 110 Instamatic camera, the flash was barely powerful enough to illuminate the subjects. Thankfully, digital photo-editing software goes a long way toward making them halfway presentable. These photos also verify what was seen in my 1969 event pictures: the claustrophobic nature of the Coliseum’s exhibit halls.
As I did some Googling about the show, I came across a 2nd surprise: these pictures were in fact NOT taken at the “official” NY show, but at an event held a few months later called “Auto Expo”. Still held in the Coliseum, Auto Expo was all imported cars. I’m not sure if that’s because the funny furrin’ ones didn’t get enough exposure at the main event, or if promoters/dealers wanted to give the imports a chance to shine on their own.
One website I stumbled across lists the details of every NY Auto Show from 1900 to 2020, by date, sponsor, official title, and location. Presuming that this data is accurate, I note that I was incorrect in my earlier post when I stated that the NY Show has been held “continuously” since 1900; the show was on hiatus during the war years 1941-1947. The new Coliseum first hosted in 1956, and that show carried the title of New York’s “1st International Automobile Show”. The next year was the “2nd” and so on. This title structure remained until the GNYADA (Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association) assumed sponsorship in 1972.
In 1977, the GNYADA show ran from January 29 through February 6. But two men, Robert Topaz and Raymond Geddes, sponsored the first all-import Auto Expo, held that year from April 3 to April 10. I’m certain that’s the show I attended, as I was in college in ’77, way out in eastern Long Island, and would not have traveled into Manhattan in January. But I would have been home on Staten Island for Easter break, when Auto Expo was held, and it would have been a breeze to take public transport up to the Coliseum.
Auto Expo lasted all of three years; perhaps Gotham City couldn’t generate enough traffic to viably support two new car shows spaced just a few months apart. After 1979, the only NY auto show was hosted by the GNYADA, and that continues to this day.
This NY Times article points out some attractions my camera missed, and also helpfully advises that “free parking (is) nonexistent within three blocks before 6 P.M on weekdays”. I only took five photographs, and they are arranged below in alphabetical order by manufacturer. I’ve compiled some basic engine and price data sourced from The Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-1990, published by Krause Publications. Some of these prices shock me, even today. For comparison, five months after attending this show, I bought my first new car, a 1977 VW Rabbit, for $3,599. And to think I could have had a Le Car.
1977 Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider Veloce
Alfa Romeo introduced a new 2-seat convertible, the Duetto, to the world in 1966. Although the little roadster got semi-frequent styling and engine upgrades, the same basic shell was still on offer 11 years later as the 2000 Spider Veloce. Let’s break that down: 2000 as in engine size (2.0L); Spider as in Italian for “convertible”; and Veloce as in “fast” (a relative term). The 1977 version of the fabled Alfa twin-cam four-cylinder put out 110 HP; entry into the topless Alfa club started at $8,795 in ’77.
1977 Aston Martin V-8
An Aston Martin showroom in 1977 presented two choices: the 4-door Lagonda, and the 2-door V-8. The car pictured, the V-8, was also available in Vantage (high-performance) and Volante (drop-top) versions. The base non-Vantage V-8, with 4 dual-choke Webers, pushed out 350 horsepower and started at $33,950. Can you put a price on exclusivity? The company built a total of 262 V-8 models in 1977.
1977 BMW 630CSi
BMW introduced its new 6-series coupes to the world halfway through the 1976 model year, but didn’t bring this 630CSi stateside until 1977. BMW didn’t have a large presence in the U.S. yet: showrooms held this car, the 2-door 320i, and the 4-door 530i, and that was it. (But the front plate already proclaims “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.) The 630CSi’s 3L inline-six churned out 176 HP, and its starting price of $23,600 was $9,000 higher than the 1976 3.0Si coupe it replaced!
1977 Porsche Turbo Carrera Coupe
For a photo that only captures one hind quarter, the details are telling: the wide flared rear fenders and whale-tail spoiler are dead giveaways that this is the Porsche 911 Turbo, officially known as the Turbo Carrera Coupe. Introduced to the U.S. market the year before, Porsche brought it back in ’77 with almost no changes for its sophomore year. The 3-liter engine produced 234 HP in Federal trim, with a list price of $28,000. (By comparison, a 1977 Porsche 911S Coupe started at $13,845, a 50% discount.)
1977 Renault Le Car
Like the Porsche Turbo Carrera, Renault’s two-door microcar was in its 2nd model year in the states. That’s about where the similarities end. Starting price was $3,345 for the 58-horsepower 2-door. A fact of which I was unaware: when introduced here in 1976, the vehicle was called the “R-5”; the name change to “Le Car” happened in in ’77. The Le Car hung around in the U.S. market through the 1983 model year, by which time its base price had risen to $4,795 (that’s a lot of French bread).