Remembering Irv Gordon

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.

Irv’s C70 coupe at my house; it may have had “only” 100k on it

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.”

Irv and Nick debate who will finish the pancakes

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.

 

Irv, in the seat he knew so well

 

Oct. 2010, breakfast, when we were lucky to get 12 people to join us

 

Always smiling Irv

I’m glad to have known you, Irv. It was an honor to call you a friend.

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

Sunday Morning Breakfast Run, September 16, 2018

The weather prediction for Sunday September 16, 2018 said “sunny, warm, no rain”. Never mind that the reality was a 7 a.m. fog so thick that traffic signals were all but invisible until you were almost on top of them. They promised the fog would burn off, and it did. After a summer filled with excess heat, an overabundance of precipitation, and more cancelled driving events than I can count, our chosen date for a Sunday morning breakfast run was promising to turn out well.

A perfect morning for a breakfast run

The weather awakened something in many of our driving buddies too, as 22 participants in 17 cars made it for the 8:30 push-off from the Crossroads Sheraton in Mahwah NJ. We had not been on a Sunday run since early June, so expectations were high for a nice drive and a tasty breakfast. We were headed to the Empire Diner in Monroe NY, a first-time destination for us. The route we chose was scenic and not too drawn out. Since driving time was just about an hour, there were no planned pit stops. (The group must be learning; everyone had enough fuel in their rides to make it to the diner.) Perhaps most amazingly, traffic was light and the 17 cars managed to caravan for the entire run.

Lined up for a rest room, I mean, for the diner parking lot

Word continues to spread about our adventures: a VW GTi and a Porsche 944 were driven by two gents who were making their maiden voyage with us. Most of the rest of the fleet consisted of old and new domestic iron, a host of German cars, a Jag, and two Miatas. Alas, the Italians stayed home today.

Following Danny’s Porsche 944 cabrio

The Empire Diner had tables waiting for us at 9:45 (thanks, ladies!), and the food and service were exemplary. Any waitress who swings by every 10 minutes with a hot coffee pot in her hand gets my vote. As usual, the men did their best to out-gab the females, and after the meal the chit-chat spilled out into the parking lot. Speaking of our better halves, several drivers brought their significant others. The ladies are always welcome as long as they can tolerate a bunch of guys sitting around talking about cars all morning.

We managed to fit all 17 cars into the Empire Diner’s smallish lot

The first day of autumn is one week from today (and this scribe wishes to say ‘thank goodness!’). More than one driver asked when we plan to run again. With Carlisle and Hershey coming up, the best we can hope for is late October. And with what had better be cooler weather by then, we should have another beautiful drive.

 

Larry’s ’72 Nova

 

Stevie’s heavily worked GMC pickup

 

Woody’s 911

 

Ralphie’s ’67 Buick Skylark

 

Paul’s ’69 Camaro

 

John’s 944

 

Peter’s 911

 

 

John’s 2003 Miata NB (2nd gen)

 

The author’s ’93 Miata NA (1st gen)

 

 

Richard L’s Jaguar F-Type

 

Bill’s ’39 Ford with ’40 font clip, driven by Corey

 

Jeff’s BMW Z3

 

Danny’s Porsche 944 cab

 

Bill’s ’67 Corvette

 

Art’s VW GTi

 

Rich S’s Shelby Mustang

 

While we all did fit in the lot, it meant blocking some cars in…

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

NJ Alfa Club Spring Driving Tour thru Hunterdon County

It was reported the other day that in New Jersey, there has been rain on at least one, if not both days of the weekend for the past ten weeks. The corollary to that is that the weather forecasters have been batting about .210 (if they were ball players, they would have been sent back to the minors by now).

So it should not have come as a surprise to awaken on Sunday June 10 to showers, even if 24 hours prior they had not been predicted. It was two months ago that the NJ Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) selected this date for its spring driving tour through Hunterdon County. But Alfa drivers love to cruise so much that a little moisture wasn’t going to deter us. We met as planned at the Readington Diner on Route 22 in Whitehouse at 10am, and after a brief driver’s meeting, ten people in six Alfas were off.

1967 Alfa Giulia sedan

 

1967 Alfa (Giulia) GT Jr.

 

Alfa 164 (V6, FWD)

The half-dozen vehicles were neatly divided into two groups of three: in the ‘older’ group were two ’67 Giulias, a sedan and a coupe, along with a 164 four-door sedan. Alfa Romeo’s current model lineup was thoroughly represented by the 2nd group of three: a Giulia sedan, a Stelvio SUV, and a 4C Spider. The factory couldn’t have planned that better if it tried.

Alfa Giulia sedan

 

Alfa Stelvio SUV

 

Alfa 4C Spider

From the diner, we drove about 4 miles on Route 22 before turning south. From that point on, 100% of the driving was on two-lane secondary roads. We wound our way around Round Valley Reservoir, and meandered through the towns of Stanton, Barley Sheaf, Cherryville, Quakertown, and Pittstown before descending into Frenchtown, on the NJ/PA border. The rain at this point was nothing more than a nuisance, and made me long for intermittent wipers on my ’67.

About 12 miles south of Frenchtown, we pit-stopped at Prallsville Mills, a charming collection of historic outbuildings and the site of numerous artistic events. We hung out there for about 30 minutes, because for this group, next to driving and eating, our favorite activity is talking.

Our group at Prallsville Mills

 

The two ’67s

 

New to old, in a row

Back on the road, we turned left and began to head east, passing through Sergeantsville, Ringoes (named after John Ringo), Unionville, and Reaville. We briefly entered Somerset County, driving through Cloverhill and Montgomery, before circling round, winding through Wertzville, and finally turning south toward our destination, the town of Hopewell in Mercer County. We covered just over 70 miles in slightly under 2.5 hours, including our break.

Lunch was at Antimo’s Italian Kitchen, and it was charming. Our wait staff catered to our every need, and the food was delizioso. Perhaps best of all, new friendships were formed, as several of today’s participants were on their maiden voyage with the Alfa club.

 

Both of these cars are Alfa Romeo Giulia sedans! Can you tell them apart?

The roads were lightly traveled; the scenery was verdant and historic; the overcast skies kept the temperatures reasonable; and no one broke down. What else but to conclude that our NJ AROC Hunterdon County tour was a roaring success?

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Sunday Morning Breakfast Drive, June 3, 2018

This is what we do: we get up early on a Sunday morning, earlier than many of us would otherwise arise on a day off from work. We hop into our toy car, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a 40-year-old gem we’ve owned for many a decade, a recent “beater” that’s a work in progress, or a brand-new supercar. (One rule in this club that has no rules is, we do not criticize each other’s cars based on age, marque, horsepower, color, or relative value.)

 

The lineup: the cars and their owners

We meet at a pre-arranged spot, and then we drive. It’s almost always delightful, verdant, winding, two-lane roads, which may take us north, south, east, or west. We delight in the sights and sounds of our friends’ cars in front of us and behind us. Sure, we drive in a spirited fashion, but there’s no reckless behavior on the road; we respect each other too much for that. (Rule #2 in this rule-less club is that overly aggressive driving will certainly ensure you’re disinvited to our next soiree.)

 

“So I opened the hood, but still couldn’t find the battery….”

 

Upon arriving at our destination, we anxiously await our morning treat: hot coffee, good breakfast food, and lots of conversation. Some of us have known each other for 25 years. Some of us met about 90 minutes ago. It doesn’t matter. We share a passion for our internal-combustion-powered devices, and we’ll talk about them and the exhilarating freedom they provide until the waitresses toss us out (pity the future generations who will not know the thrill of piloting such sporting machines).

 

Following the Ferrari on the way to breakfast

 

Some of us break from talking long enough to glance at the camera

 

With breakfast done, our desire to continue the chat is all too obvious, as we spill out onto the sidewalk, inadvertently blocking the restaurant’s entrance. Finally, as the noon hour approaches, we reluctantly wish each other a fond “see you next time”, and head back to our machines, and back to whatever reality awaits the remainder of our Sunday.

This is what we do.

 

Buick Skylark convertible

 

Chevy Nova

 

Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce
Volvo C70 Coupe

 

NA (1st gen) Mazda Miata

 

NB (2nd gen) Mazda Miata

 

Porsche 911 Targa

 

Jaguar F-Type

 

Shelby Mustang convertible

 

I had a hard time keeping up with this guy on my way home

 

As we exited the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River, Rich S took these photos, and they are used with his permission:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day Parade, May 26, 2018

WHAT MEMORIAL DAY MEANS TO ME

  • It means that we must remember the true spirit of the holiday, as we honor those who served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
The flag display at the parade
  • It means that we have the freedom to pursue our own vision of happiness. For many of my friends, as well as for me, that means sharing our passion for the old car hobby.
AACA members chat before the parade start
  • It means that I can volunteer to spend a few hours to participate in a local parade, giving citizens a reason to come out and smile, cheer, and wave the flag.

  • It means that I have freedom of choice to purchase and drive the car that I want, not based on what someone determines is “the right choice” based on that vehicle’s country of origin.
My ’93 Miata, the only non-domestic car in the parade
  • It means that our children, our future generations, can learn from the past, and work toward a future that we hope is peaceful and safe for them.

  • It means that there is great joy in recognizing that Americans come in all colors, from all different backgrounds and nationalities, and they are as proud and happy as anyone to celebrate this momentous holiday with all their fellow Americans.

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

Sunday Morning Breakfast Drive, April 29, 2018

Richard’s Car Blog has been documenting our Sunday morning breakfast drives going back to 2015, although the drives themselves predate that by a number of years. A quick review reveals that the date of each year’s first drive varied quite a bit: in 2015, it was April 19; 2016’s inaugural run didn’t happen until May 15; and last year, we were out early, driving on April 9.

Every year, my co-organizer Larry and I say the same thing: “We simply must get out there and go on a drive as soon as possible!” With Easter arriving early this year (April 1), we saw that as an opportunity to organize a drive as early as April 8.

Except, it snowed that weekend.

The next best date that worked for us was April 29. Certainly, it HAD to be warm by then….

After a glorious and sunny Saturday which saw temps in the 70s, Sunday dawned with sprinkles, a temperature of 55 degrees, and a stiff wind. Nevertheless, ten intrepid souls ventured out for a drive to the Readington Diner in Whitehouse Station NJ, where good chow and hot java awaited us.

Waiting for takeoff

One of the many things I personally enjoy about our informal club is that we have no rules regarding what you can drive. New, old, domestic, import, high-end, rolling wreck(!), if you think it can get you there and back, then we accept you into the fraternity. On some level, everyone’s car is interesting. This can result in quite the eclectic mix of cars, and today’s group was exactly that. We had:

  • Three domestic cars: a ’39 Ford (wearing a ’40 front clip), a ’72 Nova, and a late-model Mustang.
  • Six European cars, broken out as two Italian (both Alfas), two German (BMW and Porsche) one British (Jaguar F-type) and one Swedish (Volvo 1800S).
  • One Japanese car, an NB (2nd generation) Miata.

 

BMW E30 2-door

 

Jaguar F-Type

 

1972 Chevy Nova

 

1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr

 

Second-generation (NB) Mazda Miata

 

Andy’s Volvo C70 Coupe (he didn’t join us for the drive)

Another enjoyable aspect is the chance to meet new people. John in his Miata and Tom in the Volvo (which he’s owned for only a month) were both with us for the first time, and I dare say that they enjoyed themselves enough that we can expect to see them again.

Porsche 911

 

1964 Volvo 1800S

 

“This ain’t no ’40, this ain’t no flathead, this ain’t no foolin’ around”

 

1991 Alfa Romeo Spider

 

“Mustang Sally” 21st century style

We shoved off from the Mahwah Sheraton parking lot at 8:28 (early for once, as the group was shivering), and headed south on Route 287, destination Morristown. Taking route 24/510 west through Morristown and Mendham, we ended up in Chester, where we made a quick pit stop (for Bill).

 

“… and it’s got 3.90 gears so the mileage isn’t too bad….”

 

Tom’s gorgeous 1800 at the rest stop

Continuing on Route 513 through Chester, we turned left in Long Valley and had a spirited drive along the winding curves of Route 517 South. A quick right turn onto Route 22 West had us motoring only another half mile before arriving at the diner.

 

A favorite car club eatery

Andre the Magnificent served us mightily (anyone who brings coffee refills every 10 minutes is my hero), and as is our habit, we lingered long after the plates cleared. It’s obvious that the camaraderie is there; after all, most of us had not seen each other since last fall. As one participant exclaimed, “we really are CAR people!”

 

As we exited the diner, we finally saw some sun (enough for Nick to drop his top)

 

Let’s hope that we have many additional opportunities for Sunday breakfast drives in 2018.

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

Sunday Morning Breakfast Runs – The Early Years, Pt. I

Our Sunday Morning Breakfast Runs, about which I’ve blogged so much, started well before I joined the fray. I believe I had been told that the initial trio who launched these events began back in 1999 or 2000.

Earlier this year, someone in our group who had joined around the same time as I did asked me, “when did all this start?” Great question, I responded to myself as much to anyone else, and decided to pore through my photos to see how far back I could trace my involvement.

The earliest photographic evidence of my participation takes me to early spring of 2006. Since the trees in the photos have yet to bloom, I would pin the timeframe as late March/early April. The photos were taken in Cold Spring NY, which was a frequent destination for many of the early runs. We parked our cars around a little cul-de-sac, with the Hudson River in the background, and this served as a wonderful photo op (that’s Burton standing on the bench, primed for some excellent shots). Note that there are SEVEN cars, a typical number for our group at that time.

My ’68 Mustang California Special (GT/CS) had been in my possession for only 2 ½ years. The year 2006 would be the year in between driving that car in the ’05 and ’07 New England 1000 rallies.

The next time I photographed a Breakfast Run was June of 2008, and since the pictures reveal that our destination was Granny’s Pancake House in Hamburg NJ, I know that this was one of the, if not THE first time that Larry and I “hosted” the run. Granny’s had been recommended to me by a colleague at Volvo, and it proved to be a tasty breakfast place.

The GT/CS at the start of the run

As we exited the restaurant, I asked each driver (and passenger, if there was one) to pose next to their automobiles. As is always the case, the eclectic mix of vehicles is a big part of the draw. Our NE1000 buddy Ron dared to show up in his 1937 Packard convertible. I can report that he doesn’t baby the car on the road, as I had to keep my foot into my 390 to keep up with him!

Again, there were seven cars, which made it easy to keep everyone together in a caravan. Little could we imagine the size to which our outfit would expand.

In a future post, we’ll continue to look back at some of our older Sunday Breakfast Runs.

Our June 2008 participants (NOT the dude standing up at the left)

 

Ken and son with Porsche 911

 

Peter with Porsche 911

 

Larry with Chevy Monte Carlo

 

Richard with Mustang GT/CS

 

Ron with Packard

 

Rich and son with Mustang

 

Bill with Corvette

 

Spotting the Packard over the Mustang’s hood

 

Summer of ’08: check out those high fuel prices!

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.


FUN FACT OF THE WEEK

A 1937 Packard Super Eight convertible coupe, with a 135 hp, 320 c.i. inline-8, cost $2,680 new. Or, one could purchase a 1937 Ford DeLuxe cabriolet, with an 85 hp, 221 c.i. V8, and pay $719 (27% of the Packard’s cost).