The members of the New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) again provided a number of antique and classic cars to participate in the Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day parade, held this year on Saturday May 25, 2019. This was my third consecutive year in the parade, as it’s local to me. (You can read about the 2017 and 2018 events at the underlined links.)
The splendid late May weather helped produce an excellent turnout for the club, with over 20 vehicles participating. The event chairperson, Bob Hudak, encouraged non-AACA members to also drive with us, as long as the vehicles were 25 years old or older. Several pre-war cars, including a 1929 LaSalle, a 1935 Packard, a 1939 Ford, and a 1940 Buick showed up. Orphan marques Hudson and DeSoto were there, as was good ol’ American muscle, amply represented by a 1966 Corvette 427 (still with its original owner). A new club member brought his pristine 1959 Ford 2-door sedan. And like last year, I was again the only driver with a non-domestic vehicle.
The parade started moving precisely at 10:30 a.m., and seemed to snake along more slowly than in previous years. Hillsborough is a diverse town, and I have always enjoyed taking in this true slice of modern America: people of all ages, races, and genders wearing and waving the red white & blue, cheering us on as we slowly inched past. I’ve also noticed, as you can see in the photos, that once a camera is pointed at them, most people love to smile and wave!
The New Jersey Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) held its annual car show on Sunday, May 5, 2019. It has long been the Region’s tradition to hold the meet on the first Sunday in May, and it’s also policy that the show is a rain or shine event.
This was the 4th consecutive year that it rained on show day. In the recent past, the rain reduced but did not completely suppress the turnout. This year was different, as fewer than 20 brave souls brought their cars (your reporter was not one of them). At its peak, this show has been known to garner upwards of 250 classic and antique automobiles, so to state that the car count was off its highs is an understatement.
Even with such a diminished number, the quality of the machinery remained as stellar as always. Below are photos featuring most of the vehicles in attendance. As always, members of the NJ Region had boots on the ground, as registration, parking, judging, and awarding of trophies still went on.
The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) held it 83rd annual meeting at the “Philadelphia 201 Hotel” in Center City Philly PA on February 8 & 9, 2019. The AACA has a long history of annual meetings in the City of Brotherly Love – you can read more about that history here. The show was also covered on the blog last year. This year, for the first time, I spent Friday night in the hotel so that I could attend both days. My primary interest was the judging school, and more about that in a bit.
This is not a car show per se. Rather, the principal activities for registrants (you must be an AACA member to attend) are seminars on a variety of topics; judging school; a trade show; a general membership meeting; and the Saturday night awards banquet. The host hotel is nicely set up for this, with the trade show in a large room to accommodate vendors’ booths and displays, and conference rooms of various sizes for the seminars. Everything is within a few minutes’ walk, with no need to venture outdoors into the 32-degree winter weather.
The seminars I attended included “Market Value Trends”, “The History of the Ford Mustang”, “Keeping Tabs on Hobby-Related Legislation”, “The History of the Ford Flathead V8 Engine”, “Planning Your Collector Car Estate”, and “Modern Motor Oils”.
Almost every AACA event offers a judging school. By AACA rules, all judges must attend at least one judging school per calendar year, so there’s good reason for the frequent offerings. My plan is to judge at the NJ Region’s upcoming National in Parsippany in June, so I need to increase my judging credits. I attended the school on Saturday morning, and it’s refreshing to (re)learn that as strict as the judging guidelines are, the Club also recognizes that this is a hobby, and we all are doing this for fun.
The trade show is primarily populated by businesses wishing to promote their wares (restoration shops, books sellers, and appraisal services). Several schools and colleges which now cater to the hobby also had a presence. AACA takes up significant real estate just trying to sell clothing and tchotchkes. The NJ Region set up a booth to promote the June National, and I spent several hours each day in the booth to talk up our event with attendees. I was pleasantly surprised to meet AACA members from as far as Indiana and Florida who expressed interest in attending.
The Annual Meeting is quite different from a meet or a tour: you are not there to ogle beautifully restored cars. However, it is very much like any other AACA event in that it’s about mingling with those who share a passion for the hobby. There was plenty of time to catch up with old friends and become acquainted with new ones. For that reason alone, it’s worth making the trek each February to Philly.
MARKET VALUE TRENDS SEMINAR
Larry Batton of the Auto Appraisal Group presented results from the recently concluded Arizona auctions. Larry’s style is unpretentious, upfront, opinionated, and straightforward. Whether you’re an auction veteran or someone who wonders what the fuss is all about, it’s enlightening to hear some of his behind-the-scenes stories.
HISTORY OF THE FORD MUSTANG SEMINAR
Mark Young is a 4th generation Ford enthusiast, and that’s putting it mildly. His great-grandfather owned one of the earliest Ford dealerships, a business he started in 1910. I lost count of how many Mustangs are in Mark’s immediate family, but it’s 7 or 8 (plus a few T-Birds). Mark gave a credible and succinct summary of the original pony car’s success and what it has meant for the Blue Oval fans.
HISTORY OF THE FORD FLATHEAD V8 ENGINE SEMINAR
There were many V8 engines in existence before Ford introduced theirs in 1932. But none were as low-priced nor as mass-produced as the “flattie” was; it stayed in production just over 20 years. Dain King, an entertaining man in his own right, provided the interesting back story (for example, Ford engineers scoured junk yards to buy up V8s from other companies, so they could disassemble and see what they could learn from them).
KEEPING TABS ON HOBBY RELATED LEGISLATION SEMINAR
Colby Martin from SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) made the presentation, which was not a bashing of government regulations. Rather, it was an overview regarding how a regulated industry which seeks fairness and consistency can have a voice. One point of great interest that he showed was a lengthy list of Congresspeople from both parties who have identified themselves as “friends and advocates for the automotive hobby”. It’s good to know that such people exist.
PLANNING YOUR COLLECTOR CAR ESTATE SEMINAR
Father-and-son duo Tony and Mario Monopoli provided a series of common-sense suggestions to help ensure that upon your demise, your heirs either have your cash, or know how to turn your “stuff” into cash. Tony confessed that for the past few years, he’s been getting rid of his stuff on eBay so that he has the cash while he’s still around. If you’re keeping what you have for now, Tony suggested making lists (what you own, what it’s worth, and where it’s located) and making sure your descendants have copies of the lists.
MODERN MOTOR OILS SEMINAR
Part chemistry class, part history class, and part sales pitch, Larry Giancola, who unabashedly works for AmsOil, provided more information than you need about base oils, index modifiers, and viscosity, as well as phosphorus, calcium, and zinc (for a moment, I thought I was in nutrition class). While touting the benefits of the oil he sells, Larry also kept it real. One revelation was the discussion around Direct Injection (DI) engines and the havoc they are causing. He pointed out that the vehicle manufacturers have specifically requested that the engine oil manufacturers produce an engine oil (SN+) to address this, and they have.
AACA JUDGING SCHOOL
Dain King and Stan Kulikowski did a wonderful job explaining the intricacies of AACA’s judging rules and points system. All class cars start at 400 points, with points deducted for faults. Cars are judged first on authenticity, and only then on condition. To provide a simple example: if a 1940 Ford is on the show field with radial tires (non-authentic), that car would lose maximum point value for 4 inauthentic tires. If a different 1940 Ford had bias-ply tires correct for that year, but only one of the 4 was half worn while the other 3 appeared new, it would lose nothing for authenticity, but lose condition points for only that one worn tire. As stated earlier, they stressed that this is a hobby, and the judge’s job is not to “destroy” someone’s work with a few stokes of a pen. All in all, it was a very enlightening session.
Irv Gordon passed away last week. It is almost impossible to be in the old-car hobby and not know about Irv and his claim to fame. In 1966, he purchased a brand new ’66 Volvo 1800S coupe, and proceeded to spend the next 50 years driving it everywhere. He eventually surpassed three million miles in the car, and although he spoke of retiring it (Volvo corporate had already gifted him 3 new Volvos), I read that at the time of his death the 1800 had 3.2 million miles on it.
As an employee of Volvo Cars North America, I had more than a passing relationship with the man. While I likely had met him at one corporate event or the other in the 1990’s, it was during my time as a field service representative on Long Island that he and I became friendly.
As I strolled into the service department of Volvoville one morning, there was Irv, sitting in the service area, shuffling some paperwork. At that time, in the late 1990’s, he had a part-time gig at the dealer, performing test drives and attending to some administrative chores. Parked on the street around the corner from the store was the red 1800, of course, as he used it to commute to work. He used it to fetch a cup of coffee in Boston, and he used it to join dealer events in Oregon. How do you think he got to 3,000,000 miles?
Early in our friendship, I asked him, “Irv, what’s the secret your success?” With a pause and a twinkle in his eye, he replied “a strong bladder”. Watching him in action, he had a ready smile, a quick wit, and the patience to answer whatever questions were put to him. Frequently, he would be standing near the car while being questioned, and not one to waste a moment, he’d check various fluids as he spoke. I learned about Irv’s fastidiousness when I watched him pull the dipstick to check the oil level, but then use the few droplets on the end of the stick to lube his hood hinges!
Later, in the early 2000s, I traveled to SEMA with a group of fellow VCNA employees, and Irv was on that trip too. Watching him at SEMA was like watching a rock star, but one who had some degree of modesty attached. Generosity was another trait that perhaps few saw, but I clearly recall one holiday season at Volvo HQ when Irv showed up with several cases to wine to give out to employees.
In the summer of 2010, my wife and I hosted a breakfast at our home for a few of our hobbyist friends. Irv was on the invite list, and I was thrilled that he accepted. The day before breakfast, Irv called me. “Hey Rich, do you think the guys will mind if I drive the C70 coupe instead of the 1800? To tell you the truth, it’s hot, and I wouldn’t mind riding in A/C.” (Do I need to point out that the ’66 did NOT have air?) I said “Irv, I don’t think this crowd gives a hoot what you show up in. We’re just glad to have you join us.”
As Larry and I took over the reins for our Sunday morning breakfast runs, Irv was on our distribution list, but rarely joined. He always had some lame excuse, like, “I’m driving to San Antonio that weekend”. However, in October 2010, he did come out for one of our drives, and even brought the 1800. This was probably the last time I saw Irv.
I’m glad to have known you, Irv. It was an honor to call you a friend.
A frequent question I get is “what makes a car a classic?” There is no one right answer. The definition of such a car can be up to you! If you think your vehicle is “interesting” on some level, and the car is used more for special occasions (anything from Sunday drives to cruise nights) than as a daily driver, then it fits the bill. Who am I to say that a 3-year-old Camaro which is only driven in dry weather to GM-themed events isn’t a collector car?
Attendees at Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) shows typically see cars which have been restored to the highest professional standards. A true “#1 condition” car is rare, but you’ll find them in the AACA. These cars are almost never driven on the road; the engines are run long enough to move them into and out of an enclosed trailer to preserve their perfected state, and that’s it for the driving.
My first AACA experience was Hershey in the early 1980s. As a young man not yet 30, the rows of perfect Mustangs and T-Birds depressed me into concluding that I’d never have a vehicle which could qualify there. These owners’ cars were judged by arbiters who would dole out trophies and bragging rights, so there was no such thing as “too nice”.
Except, there was. The Overseers at AACA began to realize they had a problem: strictly speaking, their own rule book said that cars should be restored to be as close as possible to “factory new” condition, when in practice many of these cars were better than new. Trim which the factory buffed was now chromed; single-stage paint now wore a clear coat; and unpainted surfaces were now sealed. It’s a condition called “over-restoration”. Some owners complained that their ultra-low mileage never-restored cars were losing out to restorers with deep pockets and questionable taste.
To its credit, AACA created a new judging class: the Historical Preservation of Original Features, or HPOF. The concept was simple: reward vehicle owners whose steeds still were screwed together as the factory did it. Dull paint and worn upholstery didn’t matter, but original equipment and fittings did. The goal was to encourage the preservation of cars in their original state for future generations to observe, study, and learn from them. HPOF has become a very popular category for owners and spectators alike.
As a separate class, there would be no clash in trying to judge an HPOF car against a fully-restored one. An obvious example from the HPOF rule book is paint: a car must wear all or almost all of its original paint to be eligible in this class. In fact, a car which wins an HPOF award and is subsequently repainted will lose its HPOF accreditation.
When I purchased my 1993 Mazda Miata in 1996, it was a gently-used 3-year-old car with barely 30,000 miles on it. The first-generation “NA” models were still in Mazda showrooms. The Miata got driven a lot, but never in the winter. I kept up with all maintenance on the car, and I can count the total number of repairs on one hand: a clutch slave cylinder, a power antenna, a heater core, and one headlight bulb. (Service items such as hoses, belts, fluids, brakes and tires are all part of routine maintenance.)
Perhaps the most difficult part of owning this car for 22 years (it now has 104,000 miles) has been avoiding the temptation to modify it. The aftermarket business for the Miata has always been strong and keeps getting stronger. I’ve been tempted to add a turbo; replace the stereo; reupholster the seats; install bigger brakes, wheels, and tires; and add interior wood trim. While a few small changes have occurred (I upgraded the floor mats and replaced some lighting with LED bulbs), the car appears the same as it did when I got it in ’96.
This year, the car turned 25 and became eligible for AACA events. I was excited to enter it into the Hershey show in the HPOF category, and last week, the package arrived informing me that indeed, my 1993 Mazda Miata had earned its HPOF badge. I’m a proud papa, and plan to continue to enter this car in HPOF, notably, in the June 2019 National meet which the NJ Region is hosting in Parsippany NJ. There will be plenty to talk about between now and then.
Our “Sunday Morning Breakfast Run” has been a semi-regular feature for so long that my partner-in-crime Larry and I decided to mix it up a little bit: we decided to piggyback onto the popular “Cars & Coffee” trend by holding our own such event. We did so for the first time on Sunday October 21, 2018.
BTW, the name “Cars & Coffee” has become so ubiquitous that organizers around the country are creating variations such as “Cars, Coffee & Donuts”, “Cars & Croissants”, “Caffeine & Carburetors”, and “Caffeine & Octane”. I think we’ll stick to “Cars & Coffee” for now.
Our choice of rendezvous was The Fireplace, a Paramus NJ fixture for over 60 years. In its favor, it’s easy to reach (on Route 17), it has an extensive breakfast menu, it’s spacious inside and out, counter service means that everyone orders and pays on their own, and the staff will let you sit and hang out as long as you want (with help-yourself coffee refills always available).
There’s no point in talking about the (poor) weather except to point out that at our inaugural event, the participants and their coffee stayed inside! So much for admiring each other’s machinery. The planned loitering was postponed for a more inviting day.
In all, 12 colleagues showed up for breakfast. Toward the end of our stay, our friend Burton arrived with his newly painted 1961 Corvette. On our way out, we lingered long enough to admire the top-notch paint job. Burton was a real trooper showing up in an open car on a cold and windy morning.
We had considered, and ultimately decided against, a short drive to be conducted after breakfast. Perhaps next spring or summer, with more inviting weather on hand, we can make that part of the event. We certainly did find The Fireplace to be an almost ideal location, so expect to see us return in 2019.
The AACA judging process may seem arcane to the uninitiated, but First Junior, First Senior, Preservation, Grand National, DPC, and HPOF are embedded in the rule book, and are chased with unbridled enthusiasm. Why? For the same set of reasons: points, trophies, bragging rights. The weather, well-known to be unpredictable in this part of the world in October, hardly plays a role. When car owners have spent most of the year prepping their vehicles for The Big One, a little bit of water will not deter them from making an entrance.
Hershey is glorious when it’s sunny and 65. It’s barely tolerable when it’s cloudy, windy, and 50, as it was in 2018. Yet I would estimate that the show field was 95%+ filled, and foot traffic was more crowded than years past. Since vehicles are arranged by class, it’s easy to walk among the cars you want to see, and skip those you don’t. My continued infatuation with pre-war classics was rewarded with some beautiful machinery. And some newer cars weren’t so bad either. As you’ll read below under STORIES, meeting new hobbyists and hearing their stories continues to be an engaging part of the hobby.
My 1993 Mazda Miata NA (1st gen), making its Hershey debut in HPOF:
Stan and the Bucket
“Hey, where’d you get the water for the bucket?”
“Ha ha! From my bathtub! I filled it up and carried it down to the parking lot.”
It was Friday evening, the day before The Big Show. The gentleman had alighted from his 1954 Pontiac at the rear of the Harrisburg Marriott where we were both staying, and watched me sponge off my quite dirty Miata using clean water from my bucket. Actually, my car had been spic-and-span clean two days before. It was the drive out on Thursday in the torrential rain which soiled it. Since it was wearing a fresh coat of wax, my theory was that a gentle bath with warm water would cleanse it again, and it seemed to be working.
“Gee, that would work on my car, if only I had remembered to bring a bucket.”
“I’m actually done with the Miata. You staying here? You can borrow my bucket and give it back to me later.”
“You sure? Ok, well, thanks.”
With that, Stan took my bucket while I said to myself, the worst that happens is I never see the bucket again. No big deal.
Saturday morning, I headed out to my car, and sure enough, my bucket was next to my car. Whether Stan had gotten to use it or not, he was honest enough to return it.
Heading inside for breakfast, I ran into Stan, and he invited me to sit with him. He was traveling by himself, as I was. We talked cars (natch), and he told me that his Pontiac was going to be a first-time entry in HPOF, as was the case for my Miata.
We shared some tips with each other about preserving paint and the like, which is when Stan told me that he had some other cars at home in Maryland, including a 1967 Volvo 1800S.
“Oh, I know those Volvos a little bit…” I always start out cautiously with a new friend about any Volvo knowledge I might possess. Treading lightly is a good start in case they have reason to despise the marque, and also to avoid any implication that I’m some kind of expert, which I’m not.
Stan continued: “I actually have a bunch of other Fords and Chevys home, and I like them all. But there’s something special about that 1800….”
I learned for the umpteenth time not to make suppositions about car people. Watching someone motor along in his 1954 Pontiac, I would never presume that the same collector would also enjoy a ‘60s Swedish sporty car. I was glad to be wrong.
Larry and the Fire Extinguisher
My Miata and I arrived on the show field a few minutes past 9am. Normally I would have preferred to make my entrance earlier, but the morning sprinkles caused me to delay my departure to minimize re-soiling my clean car. It got dirty anyway. Out came the cleaning supplies, and the Great Car Show Detailing commenced once again.
Judging was due to start at 10am. At 9:55, I was still wiping down the painted horizontal surfaces when I heard the voice: “Is this your car?” I spun ‘round to face two men wearing judge’s hats. They’re early, I muttered to myself. Can’t blame them; they’ve got a lot of cars to judge.
The judges spent perhaps five minutes looking over my car. As the proud owner, I was too anxious to answer questions they hadn’t asked. They thanked me for bringing it, and moved to the ’68 Camaro next to me. I looked at my watch: 10:01am. This was a blessing! With no need to hang around my car, the day was free to move among all the glorious machinery on the show field. I began by walking down the row of the remaining HPOF cars.
It stood out like a bright light among the cars surrounding it: a 1st gen Porsche 928 in white. The owner was still wiping it down when I engaged him with some questions.
“How long have you had it?”
“Tell me, how are the maintenance and repair costs? I hear horror stories.”
“Not bad, really. Stay up on the preventative stuff, and it’s quite reliable.”
“Do you do your own work on it?”
“No, but it’s still not bad to maintain.”
With that, the 928 owner exclaimed “Oh crap. I forgot a fire extinguisher. Now what am I gonna do?”
“Listen”, I said, “my car’s been judged. I don’t need mine. I’d be happy to loan it to you.”
“Really? I’d appreciate it.”
I jogged back to the Miata, grabbed the extinguisher, and hustled it back to him.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Richard. I’ll swing by later, or, if you don’t see me, my car is the black Miata in the row behind you.”
“Thanks again, I really appreciate it.”
It hadn’t occurred to me that this was my weekend to loan items to fellow car owners, but it was OK. Again, the worst that could happen would be I would be out a relatively inexpensive fire extinguisher.
Hours later, I was finally heading back to my car. The extinguisher was on the floor, and I thought I would swing past the 928 one more time to see how he did. Its owner was sitting in the front seat. But I had forgotten his name. As I approached the car, I glanced at the dashboard placard: “Larry Holbert”.
“Hey Larry, how did you do?”
“Oh, judging went fine. And thanks for the extinguisher. I returned it.”
“Yes, I saw. Listen, I just noticed your last name, and the dealer plate on the back says this car came from Holbert Porsche. Any relation?”
I told Larry about my band buddy, and expressed my condolences over his loss.
A while later, I looked up Larry Holbert. Up until the dealership was sold a few years ago, he had been president and CEO of Holbert Porsche. Yet when I asked him about his 928, said nothing about his executive status. He gave no hint that his stature meant that he could have these things taken care of. On a cool October Saturday on a show field in Hershey, Pennsylvania, he was just Larry, fellow car enthusiast.