Sunday Morning Breakfast Drive, August 4, 2019

It’s been 10 years or more since the Sunday Morning Breakfast Drives started; my partner-in-crime Larry and I have been spearheading the events for at least the last 6 or 7 years; and the format is almost always the same: rendezvous at the Sheraton Hotel in Mahwah NJ; drive a pre-planned route, with all our vehicles following each other; and arrive at a breakfast joint for food and coffee.

However, we’re always looking for ways to mix things up for our little group, so we decided to try something different this time out. We opted for our own “cars & coffee” type of gathering, in lieu of an actual drive along scenic country roads. So while our participants had to drive to get to today’s destination, The Fireplace Restaurant on Route 17 in Paramus NJ, there was no caravan per se. For consistency though, I still used the word “drive” in the subject line.

A dozen or so cars arrived promptly at 8am in The Fireplace’s parking lot, and as is our wont, we chatty men loitered and gabbed for about 20 minutes before Larry yelled “hey, let’s get some breakfast before it gets too crowded in there!” I confess, one aspect of The Fireplace that I enjoy is that it’s each person on his own for ordering and paying. The usual gig at a diner is for the bill to come to me, and after I’ve calculated the tip and grand total, I’m collecting money from 20 heads. The Fireplace affords me the chance to forego that responsibility.

“When I hit 100 I shifted into 3rd, and passed that Vega like it was standing still!”

After a hearty breakfast, we headed outside to admire the hardware. It’s been a hot summer in NJ, and today was not any different. The temperature differential between 8am and 10am was noticeable, but that did not dissuade us from checking out each other’s rides. Several of our regulars arrived in vehicles we’ve not seen before: Julio in his very original Dodge pickup, and Sal in his “I just bought it yesterday” Alfa spider.

We heard no complaints about lack of a tour, and everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, the cars, and the camaraderie. By 11am or so, the group started to break up and head back, which points out another wonderful aspect of our Sunday runs: most of us are home by early afternoon, leaving the rest of the day free for whatever occupies one’s time on a hot sunny August Sunday. Larry and I promised each other that we’ll get another event on the calendar ASAP.

Bob’s Mustang Cobra

 

Dan’s Porsche 944 cabrio

 

Larry’s Nova

 

Richard’s Miata

 

Bill’s 911

 

Pete’s 911

 

Nick’s Mustang

 

John’s Land Rover Defender

 

Sal’s Alfa Graduate

 

Paul’s Camaro

 

Jeff’s BMW Z3

 

Julio’s Dodge pickup

 

See ya! Til next time…

 

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

Sunday Morning Breakfast Drive, June 9, 2019

Our second Sunday morning breakfast run of the year was held on June 9, 2019, starting as always at the Crossroads Sheraton Hotel in Mahwah NJ. The assembled group consisted of 12 people in 10 cars. Our eclectic collection included Chevys, Porsches, Miatas, a BMW, an Alfa, a VW, and a Buick. This time, we headed south, with the Readington Diner in Whitehouse Station NJ as our destination. We pushed off at 8:35 am, but not every vehicle was destined to make it to the diner…..

The morning queue awaits the starting flag

 

The Buick, a ’67 Skylark convertible driven by our friend Ralph, had engine trouble on the way. This was unbeknownst to me in the lead car, but I learned later that billows of smoke were wafting from the engine compartment. Ralph quickly got to the shoulder of the highway, and just as quickly, 3 of our other drivers stopped with offers of assistance. A peek into the engine compartment revealed a connecting rod (connects the crankshaft to the piston) extending itself through an aperture in the side of the engine block where previously there had not been an aperture. This is colloquially known as a “blown engine”, and cannot be fixed with Gorilla Glue. Sadly, Ralph missed breakfast.

Everyone is smiling, so this is obviously after we’ve been served

 

While Ralph waited for the flat bed tow truck, one driver who stopped needed to return home, and the other two, having long lost our caravan, found their own way to the diner. In the meantime, a dawdler who had missed our departure came rushing down the same highway, saw the blown Buick, stopped for a brief chat, then continued to the eatery. Yet another driver, residing well south of our destination, came up on his own and met us there. So we still ended up with 12 at the breakfast table!

1966 Corvette adds glamor to diner sign

 

The wait staff at the Readington Diner was outstanding as always; those of us who require morning caffeine were never without hot java. With bellies full of food and beverage, we meandered back into the parking lot, admired each others’ cars, then headed home to enjoy the remainder of what was certainly one of the most weather-perfect Sundays we’ve seen in the Northeast this year.

 

Our own impromptu parking lot car show

We plan to do this again soon. We also hope that Ralph can get his car fixed, because we like Ralph, and want him to be able to enjoy breakfast with us next time.

Porsche 911 Targa

 

1993 Mazda Miata (1st gen, NA)

 

VW Golf GTi

 

1967 Buick Skylark

 

1991 Alfa Romeo Spider

 

1967 Corvette 427

 

Porsche 911

 

BMW Z3

 

Mazda Miata 2nd gen (NB)

 

1969 Chevy Camaro

 

1953 Jaguar XK-120

 

1966 Corvette

 

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

The 2019 Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day Parade

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.)

Brian Pritchett and event chair Bob Hudak

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 lineup waits for the green light

 

The Alfa driver’s view of the parade

 

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!

It’s a short parade; we cruised past the viewing stand and were on our way back home before 11 a.m. The Alfa performed flawlessly. It had better behave, as it’s taking me to Pittsburgh and the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) annual convention in July. We’ll have more to say about that in the coming weeks.

 

1940 Buick
1957 Chevrolet
1966 Chevrolet Corvette
1964 Pontiac Bonneville
1967 Pontiac
1970 Pontiac GTO
1951 Hudson
1952 Ford
1959 Ford
1968 Ford Mustang
1939 Ford
1957 DeSoto
1987 Mercury Cougar
1950 Oldsmobile
1929 LaSalle
1967 Alfa Romeo

 

 

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

 

Driving a 1936 Oldsmobile Convertible

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend a day with my good friend “Pete”, the fellow who sold me my Alfa Romeo after his 45-year stint with it. Pete has always had an eclectic collection of older and newer special-interest cars, and one of the oldest in his ever-changing fleet is his 1936 Oldsmobile L-36 convertible, with an inline eight-cylinder engine. During this most recent visit, I finally got the chance to drive it.

First, a history lesson: in the 1930s, General Motors’ car marques consisted of more than just the five that may come to mind. Besides Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac, there were Marquette, Oakland, and LaSalle. Marquette, Buick’s junior division, was dead and gone after 1930, and Oakland survived only one year longer than that. LaSalle, Cadillac’s sister division, produced its last car in 1940. Even in the 1930s, GM priced its cars in a very careful step-by-step fashion.

Omitting the low and high outliers Chevrolet and Cadillac, if you were shopping for a mid-priced GM convertible in 1936, you had no fewer than these 8 different models from which to choose:

YEAR MAKE MODEL     WHEELBASE ENGINE PRICE
1936 Pontiac Master Silver Streak cabriolet 112″ inline-6, 80 hp $760
1936 Oldsmobile F-36 convertible 115″ inline-6, 90 hp $805
1936 Pontiac DeLuxe Silver Streak cabriolet 112″ inline-6, 80 hp $810
1936 Pontiac DeLuxe 8 Silver Streak cabriolet 116″ inline-8, 87 hp $855
1936 Buick Series 40 Special convertible 118″ inline-8, 93 hp $905
1936 Oldsmobile L-36 convertible 121″ inline-8, 100 hp $935
1936 Buick Series 60 Century convertible 122″ inline-8, 120 hp $1,135
1936 LaSalle Series 50 convertible 120″ inline-8, 105 hp $1,255

 

The chart is arranged in price order, low to high. First note, not surprisingly, that the six-cylinder models all fall to the bottom of the range. The least-expensive 8-cylinder is the most expensive of the three Pontiacs. Don’t downplay the inclusion of “wheelbase” in this data: a vehicle’s wheelbase, and hence overall length, contributed mightily to its visual statement as a luxury item. The 4 straight-eight GM convertibles pricier than the Pontiac 8 have wheelbases 2-to-6 inches longer than Pontiac’s 116”, and engine output figures which are 5-to-33 horsepower above Pontiac’s meager 87.

The savvy buyer who might have compared the two Buicks, the Olds, and the LaSalle eights may have realized that for just $30 more than the “junior Buick”, s/he could get an Olds with a 3-inch longer wheelbase, and 7 more ponies to pull that extra length. The next choice in this price hierarchy, the “senior” Buick (admittedly with a big power jump) cost over 20% more. In this light, the Olds L-36 appears to be a smart choice.

Actual sales figures bear this out. According to my copy of the “Encyclopedia of American Cars”, Buick sold only 766 Series 60 Century convertibles, while Oldsmobile sold 931 L-36 convertibles. What does this prove? Only that the original purchaser of Pete’s ’36 did their homework, and would likely be shocked to know that the car was still around 83 years later.

The owner takes the wheel first during our drive

Regarding my time behind the wheel, the driving experience was sublime. That straight-8 has torque to spare, so shifting the 3-speed gearbox (with lever on the floor) could be conducted at a leisurely pace. First gear is almost a granny gear. At one stop sign, facing downhill, I started in 2nd, with no complaints from engine or clutch. I found that I could comfortably put it into top gear by the time I reached 20 mph, and acceleration was always smooth and velvety, if a bit unhurried compared to modern metal.

Typical ’30s dash with painted woodgrain effect

But when you’re cruising in a ’36 Olds convertible, what’s the rush? The heavy steering requires that you take your time in turns anyway. Actually, after a few lefts and rights, I got the hang of it. Just think about the turn 100 feet or so before reaching it, begin to dial in some lock, and point that long nose in the general direction you’d like to head. It’s easy, really.

The view down the LONG hood

All the pedals, extending through the floor just like the Alfa, had good feel. The brakes brought the car to stop without drama, at least from 30 mph (my max speed for the day). The clutch exhibited no signs of chatter or slipping, and shifting was smooth on the all-synchromesh box. (Pete caught me double-clutching my first shift and said “you don’t need to do that!”) Visibility out the front was very good, but out the rear was inhibited by the small opera window in the erect cloth top.

The odometer on this car reads 60,000 miles, which is nothing for a car this age, but perhaps a significant number for a car of this configuration. And back to that production total of 931: how many have survived? First, these are convertibles, which reduces their lifespan (theft, water damage, rust). Second, by the time this car was 20 years old, the modern V-8 engined car, with its attendant power steering, brakes, windows, etc., would have made this ’36 look like the dinosaur it was. And last, as sad as it is to acknowledge this, those in the collector car hobby have been eyeing Fords, Chevrolets, and “true luxury” nameplates like Packard and Auburn. Oldsmobiles were not on most hobbyists’ radar. Taken together, all of these factors make this one rare bird. I’d guesstimate that there might be a few dozen 1936 L-36 convertibles out there, and many fewer that look and drive as good as this one.

This particular jewel of the motor car deserves to be kept in the loving condition it’s in, with occasional maintenance use to keep it fresh. I’ve already volunteered to be available for future test drives in order to accomplish just that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ’03 T-Bird and ’79 Volvo 265 peek out above the Olds’ top

 

POSTSCRIPT:

This particular vehicle is for sale by its owner. Please contact me directly if you are interested, or might know of someone who is.

 

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

 

 

AROC-NJ Hosts Luncheon Event, April 13, 2019

The New Jersey Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club (AROC), under the able leadership of Chapter President Enrico Ciabattoni, held its first event of 2019 by organizing a luncheon on Saturday April 13. Our hosts were the fine folks at Driving Impressions, a Dover N.J.-based business which sells racing accessories in the front, and has ample garage space out back.

Nice SWAG in Driving Impressions’ retail store

We had a small but enthusiastic turnout of about a dozen, consisting of a mix of AROC-NJ members with some local friends. The lunch (Italian food, whaddya expect?) was grand, but we were really there to get together to talk about our #1 passion, cars. There was lots to talk about, starting with the cars on either side of the lunch table. The service bays were occupied by Italian cars OTHER than Alfas, and there were interesting non-Italian toys too.

Love Italian food? Check. Love Italian CARS? Two checks.

One corner of the garage is rented to a tech who specializes in Porsches. A 928 with its drivetrain removed was high up in the air, and next to it, on the ground, was a 356 coupe which appeared to be in original condition. It actually gave off the vibe of one of those barn-find 356s I’ve seen at auctions that hammer for 300 large.

A 928 in for service. Not for the faint of heart or the light of wallet.

 

 

This Porsche 356 coupe appeared to have never been restored

 

Interior of the 356

 

Three Italian cars competed for my attention: a current-generation Fiat 500, with turbo and other goodies under the hood, claimed to be the fastest 500 on earth (based on a magazine article I was shown, so it must be true); a Fiat 600, with its cheeky water-cooled four-banger out back, appeared to be in the throes of major reconstruction; and a Lancia Delta Integrale, all ‘80s squared-off inside and out, lounged in the corner, looking like it was daring the turbo 500 to a duel.

Fiat 500 racecar

 

A Fiat 600 in for a refresh

 

A quick peek outside revealed the 3 classic Alfas which dared make today’s drive. It stayed warm and dry, so it was an ideal day to cruise in our classics. Alas, no modern Giulias or Stelvios made the trip.

Alfa Romeo Spider

 

Alfa Romeo Nuova Super 1600

 

Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr

With the AROC National in Pittsburgh fast approaching in July, there was some discussion among the Alfisti about who was attending, who was driving there, and who might want to caravan. Your author has volunteered to lead the caravan; now I just need someone to agree to join it.

In spite of the relatively small turnout, it was a great day. First, we all needed to shake off the winter cobwebs (from ourselves as well as our cars). We also want to continue with local events as we gear up for summer (and July at the AROC Convention, which will be held in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix). Stay tuned for more exciting Alfa events as the year progresses.

 

Italian and non-Italian friends play well together

 

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

Sunday Morning Breakfast Run, April 14, 2019

The first breakfast drive of 2019 was held on Sunday April 14, 2019, and while the weatherman and weatherwomen of the greater NY Metro area may have earlier tried to dissuade us, their forecast eventually pushed the predicted rain back into the latter part of the day. We made the go/no go decision on Friday, and the Sunday skies were bluer and air temperature warmer than expected.

The sunny Sunday lineup

We Alfisti almost got away with turning this into an Italian breakfast run, as the first 3 cars to show were all from the fabled Milanese marque. But diversity ruled the day, with one Japanese car (Miata), one domestic vehicle (Nova), and 6 German machines (3 Porsches, 2 BMWs, and a VW GTi) in attendance.

Green, red, and silver: nice Alfas come in many colors

After a long winter’s hibernation, it was great to see so many familiar and friendly faces. We pushed off from the Sheraton Crossroads parking lot at 8:30am sharp. Eleven cars, 15 hungry car-centric folk, and a scenic one-hour drive along Greenwood Lake had us at the Empire Diner in Monroe NY by 9:30 am.

The view from the sweep car

The friendly staff at the Empire had tables ready for us, and we were ably attended to by two of the diner’s finest waitresses. As usual, we lingered long after plates were cleared and 6th refills of coffee were served. Car guys never seem to run out of things to talk about. We found our way back to the parking lot, said our goodbyes one last time, and as always, promised each other to do this again as soon as practical.

Mr. Empire himself waves from the diner rooftop

Our Sunday morning breakfast runs have taken on a life of their own. As your humble scribe glanced around the breakfast table, he saw former colleagues he has known for 30 years, and also saw fellow diners who have just recently become “regulars” because they were recommended to us. The group makeup is certainly not limited to “old friends”. We had cars from the ‘60s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and the 21st century in the lot. It’s not about whose car is the fastest, or shiniest, or priciest. We’re all passionate about our four-wheeled modes of transportation. It’s not about anything but a chance to spend an all-too-brief few hours with each other, driving together and dining together, doing what friends do, which is sharing our lives with each other.

1991 Alfa Romeo spider

 

1991 Alfa Romeo spider

 

1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr.

 

Porsche 911 Targa

 

Porsche 911

 

BMW 325 iS

 

BMW M3 sedan

 

 

1972 Chevrolet Nova

 

Mazda Miata 2nd gen (NB)

 

VW GTi

 

 

Porsche 911 cabrio

 

The (mostly) Italian table

 

The rest of the crew

 

A Honda Accord coupe is smallish; a Ford Fusion is smallish; they make the Alfa look toyish

 


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

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 19: The Isetta Drives in ’95

The time span between October 21, 1978 and September 4, 1995 is quite long. Very long. It is 16 years, 10 months, and 14 days. The former date represents the day I purchased my BMW Isetta. The latter date represents the day I first drove it.

When I bought the car, I did not think that it would take just shy of 17 years to get to this point. But it did. As I promised myself, the Isetta did drive in ’95.

The video of the first drive was recently unearthed after being hidden away in a closet for many years. Along with the videos posted earlier, I had forgotten I had this, and it has been fun to rediscover it. No further words are necessary. Click on the YouTube link below and enjoy the clip taken on what was a beautiful late summer day.

 

 

 

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