NJ Alfa Club Fall Foliage Driving Tour, November 11, 2017

On Saturday, November 11, 2017, the New Jersey chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) held its Fall Foliage Driving Tour, starting at Fullerton Alfa Romeo in Bridgewater, and ending at Duke Farms in Hillsborough.

The day dawned sunny but quite cold, with sunrise temps below freezing. The wind, which had been a factor the previous day, was all but nonexistent, which made the cold more tolerable. The thermometer moderated as the day progressed, and it turned out to be a beautiful day for a driving tour.

The dealer did a great job hosting us in the a.m., with plenty of coffee, bagels, and other breakfast treats available. Early arrivals were there before 9:30, and during the subsequent hour, 17 cars and close to 30 attendees streamed in. While there, we enjoyed alternating our gazes between the new Giulia sedans & Stelvio SUVs, and the classic Alfas parked outside.

After a brief driver’s meeting, we were off and running. Our first leg had us heading north/northwest, through Oldwick and Long Valley. After an hour on the road, we arrived at our planned rest stop in Chester NJ. The intent was to give participants a chance to wander the streets of this quaint town, filled with antique shops, bakeries, and the like. But true to the Italian spirit, almost everyone stayed in the parking lot, hovered around our Milanese metal, and swapped stories (mostly lies about horsepower).

The view out our rear window

By 12:30, the second leg of the drive began, and we were on the road again, now headed back south. We briefly doubled back on Lamington Road (Route 523), then turned south/southeast, through Whitehouse Station and Readington. We arrived at Duke Farms exactly at 1:30, which was a good thing, as our catered luncheon was scheduled to start at that time. By complete coincidence, the second leg was also an hour’s length. Both drives were blessed with relatively light traffic, colorful autumnal leaves, lots of sunshine, and no breakdowns.

The view out the front (we were in the lead car)

Duke Farms is the property formerly owned by tobacco heiress Doris Duke, and it has quite the history. As an aside to this driving tour blog post, if you’re ever in the area, it’s worth stopping by.

The café staff, led by Debbie, went overboard with our catered meal. We walked in to find a smorgasbord of sandwiches, wraps, salads, fruit, plus cookies and coffee. A section of the dining room was reserved for us, and we continued to catch up with old friends and/or make new ones, all while stuffing our faces.

We love to drive, we love to talk, we love to eat!

Our chapter president, Enrico, declared the event a success, and there was widespread agreement among the chapter members. Based on today’s turnout, we are all counting on AROC’s NJ Chapter to hold more such events in 2018.

We somehow managed to keep 17 cars (mostly) in a row

 

Arriving at the Chester rest stop, two new Giulias

 

A GTV-6 coupe

 

A ’67 GT 1300 Jr.

 

A Giulia 1300 Ti sedan

 

A ’66 Duetto

 

A police escort protected us from on-the-road citations

 

The 505-hp engine of the Giulia Quadrifoglio

 

Alfa 164

 

GTA-look

 

Another 164

 

Chatting in Chester (sorry)

 

Follow the leader

 

A rare shot of the driver driving (courtesy of my wife)

 

Duke Farms

 

Arriving at Duke Farms, we found plenty of parking

 

The cafe service was outstanding, with plenty of food and drink for all

 

Alfa men gather to argue the firing order of the Busso V6

(Special thanks to my wife Margaretanne for accompanying me, and taking all the on-the-road photos.)

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


FUN FACT OF THE WEEK

The original name of the company we know today as “Alfa Romeo” was A.L.F.A., which is an acronym. In Italian, it stands for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, which translates as “Anonymous Lombardy (Region) Manufacturer (of) Automobiles”.

During World War I, an industrialist named Nicola Romeo took over control of A.L.F.A., which was then in liquidation. He immodestly changed the name of the company to Alfa Romeo, with “Alfa” no longer an acronym. A recession during the 1920’s forced Romeo out of the company, but the name change stayed.

None of this stops people from continuing to spell the car name as “Alpha” (as if the car were Greek!).

 

 

The NJ Alfa Romeo Club’s Fall Driving Tour, October 2017

The early queue outside the dealership (no, not the pickups)

On Saturday October 21, 2017, members of the New Jersey Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club (AROC), along with other enthusiastic Alfa owners, joined forces for a caravan through northern New Jersey and into the New York counties of Rockland and Orange.

The group began its day at our host dealership, Ramsey Alfa Romeo. Dealer management generously provided bagels, coffee, and juices for those arriving early. At 10:30 a.m., a drivers’ meeting was convened, with an explanation of the day’s plans. The route would head north and into New York. We would enter Harriman State Park and use one of the park’s rest areas as a half-way pit stop. From there, we would continue north/northwest, with Brother Bruno’s restaurant in Washingtonville our luncheon destination. After lunch, participants would have the choice of visiting a local winery, heading back to the dealership, or finding their way home.

Drivers’ meeting! Pay attention!

Before departing, the author spent some time lustily staring at the various Giulia sedans and Stelvio SUVs on the showroom floor. Special note was made of the Alfa Romeo heritage signage, which gave the sales area a cultured touch. The brand “vibe” was strong; there was no doubt you were in a showroom full of Italian machinery.

The rough count of participatory vehicles was 23. It was especially delightful to see the wide variety of models represented. The oldest car was a Giulietta spider. The numerous Giulia coupes and Duettos were hard to miss. The decades of the ‘70s and ‘80s were well-represented by Alfetta coupes and an Alfetta sedan. There was one example each of the Milano and the 164. Plentiful late-model Spiders took advantage of the top-down weather. There were perhaps four or five new Giulia sedans, and the dealer sent a Stelvio to be used as a photo/chase car.

Three generations of Alfa sedans: Giulia, Milano, & Alfetta (L to R)

We have been having an extended Indian summer in the metro NY/NJ area, and the day of this drive was no exception. The weather simply could not have been better. Leaving Ramsey Alfa Romeo at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, we battled weekend shoppers as we dove onto Route 17 south, made a U-turn, and headed north on 17. Through some Italian miracle, the group stayed together.

The exquisite view out my window

The rest stop along Seven Lakes Drive gave everyone a chance to catch up, chat, and take photos. Then we were off again, taking Route 6 west, getting back to Route 17 north, and exiting at Route 208 for the ride into Washingtonville.

Our rest stop within Harriman State Park

Brother Bruno’s was in a strip mall with ample parking; the club actually cordoned off a row of spots so the cars could park together, and remain distant from the non-Alfas in the lot. Lunch was Italian food (of course), and one person at our table commented that the day was being spent doing just what Italians like to do: drive, talk, and eat!

Inside Brother Bruno’s of Washingtonville NY

Alfa owners are not shy: we catch up with old friends while making new ones. I got a kick out of reuniting with Gennaro, whom I met at the NJ Region AACA Show in May, as well as Bob Sr. and Bob Jr. (with extended family in tow) whom I met at the AROC convention in Montreal in July.

Your author, having enjoyed the food, the cars, and most of all the company, bid arrivederchi and headed home. There’s nothing quite like piloting your own Alfa on a beautiful fall day with several dozen other Alfisti.

 

These cars arrived early; they were first in line

 

1973 GTV

 

1969 1750 Spider

 

1967 GT 1300 Jr (just like mine but in black)

 

Modified Duetto

 

New Giulia sedan

 

Another Duetto

 

One of several Alfetta GT coupes

 

Series 3 Spider

 

Series 4 Spider

 

Alfa 164, the last “mass produced” Alfa sold in the U.S. until the current Giulia

 

Another modified Duetto

 

Giulietta spider next to author’s GT 1300 Jr.

 

Author’s 67 coupe next to new Stelvio SUV

 

Everyone made it to the rest stop

 

Many Alfas are red; some aren’t

 

Beautiful but delicate Duetto nose

 

Family resemblance is strong on all Alfas

 

ONE non-Alfa Romeo vehicle was allowed to drive with the group. We were told that it was an Italian car, although definitive identification escaped us on this day. Sleuthing is continuing, and once we have positive I.D., we will update this site.

 

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


FUN FACT OF THE WEEK

(Shout out to Sam A. for this idea! Thanks Sam!)
I recently had a business reason to peruse the 1968 Buick new car brochure (which can be seen online here). My research concerned the availability of disc brakes, which led me to this week’s fun fact:
If you purchased a new 1968 Buick Wildcat (hardtop, sedan, or convertible) and desired a manual transmission, you would simply stay with the standard 3-speed, which used a column-mounted shifter. (An automatic was optional, and no 4-speed was offered on the Wildcat.)
Further, if you did choose 3-speed, your braking system would consist of manual drum brakes front and rear. Power drums or power front discs, factory options on most Buicks, could not be had on the Wildcat with the 3-speed.
As a footnote to that fun fact, the Wildcat’s standard engine in 1968 was a 430 cubic-inch 4-barrel V8 which put out 360 horsepower and 475 lb. ft. of torque. Fun indeed!

Sunday Morning Breakfast Drive, October 22, 2017

You know it’s late in the collector car driving season when the 8 a.m. arrivals at your starting point are still in the shadows, waiting for the morning’s yellow rays to rise above the concrete and steel horizon.

Minutes before departing, the sun finally made its way over to us

And so our final Sunday morning breakfast drive for 2017 began, but we knew the day’s weather would be in our favor. Those of us in the Northeast are coming off what may be the best week of weather we’ve had all year: sunny, dry, daytime temps in the mid-to-high 70s, with the thermometer dropping into the 40s and 50s at night. And all this in late October to boot.

Even though we saw each other last month, there’s still lots to yap about

For our October 22 drive, we had 14 travelers occupying 11 cars. While the turnout was a bit less than our last motorcade, many of our regulars showed up, drawn in part by the attraction of a favorite destination: The Silver Spoon Café in Cold Spring NY.

The route to Cold Spring is an easy one, and includes Seven Lakes Drive in Harriman State Park. It’s a shame that we didn’t give ourselves a chance to stop and admire the view. At such an early hour, the water, smooth as glass, acted like a mirror for the fall foliage. The scene would have made a lovely backdrop for our myriad group of sporting machines.

We arrived at our destination in under an hour, and the attentive staff at the Silver Spoon had a table for 14 waiting for us (calling ahead and being patient when they say “we don’t take reservations” can still provide your desired result).

The Silver Spoon staff hustled to serve 14 or 15 hungry drivers, and the sometimes erratic service was not entirely the fault of our intrepid waiter. Plates remained unclaimed as diners endeavored to remember what they ordered! Even with the delay, the food was excellent, washed down with coffee by the gallon.

While waiting for the food, we …. looked at cell phone photos

As is customary, as the meal ended, the crowd lingered in front of the restaurant, with no one in any great rush to depart. The warm October sunshine will do that to you. It sounds far away to say “see you on our first drive in 2018”, but it will be here soon enough. We’re also hoping to organize an off-season trip to a museum as we did last winter. For this scribe, it’s now time to put the babies away for the year. I’m pretty sure I still have some Sta-Bil in the garage.

Don’t let the jackets fool you – by late morning, it was 70 degrees

 

1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr.

 

1972 Chevrolet Nova

 

Porsche 911 #1

 

Porsche 911 #2

 

Porsche 911 #3

 

BMW Z3 roadster

 

1967 Buick Skylark convertible (earlier posts identifying this as a ’66 are incorrect! Thanks Ralph)

 

1966 Dodge Coronet

 

Ford Mustang GT/CS

 

1953 Jaguar XK-120

 

C4 Chevy Corvette

 

See you next year

 

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

 

 

 

Sunday Morning Breakfast Run, Sep. 17, 2017

Don’t believe the weatherman. Yes, he’s frequently right; but he’s wrong as often as he isn’t. Guess that makes the forecast a 50/50 proposition. If you allow your planned outdoor activities to be dictated by the weather, you’d miss out on half the things you wanted to do.

On Saturday, the forecast for Sunday, September 17, 2017 predicted a sunny, warm, humid day, with a slight chance of thundershowers. Except we all woke up to fog and mist. As I headed to the garage and looked at the Alfa, then the Miata, I considered taking the newer car. I quickly changed my mind; it’s not as though I’ve never driven the Alfa in the rain. My determination was to set an example, and as I pulled onto the highway, wipers flailing, headlights barely cutting through the fog, I told myself that we’d be lucky if 7 or 8 cars showed up for this morning’s breakfast run.

The hardest part about the morning is chasing people out of the Sheraton parking lot

Sometimes you feel better about being wrong. Our stalwart group arrived, 17 cars strong, plus one spouse as a passenger. My planning partner Larry and I were trying something new this morning, in the event we had a crowd like the last few outings. For the first time, we sent out maps, directions, and destination info a few days ahead, in the hope that the group could familiarize itself with the route.

What transpired instead was a plan to split the group in two, with Larry leading the first 8 cars or so, and I, your spirited Alfa driver, leading the rest. This worked perfectly. Traffic lights and stop signs did not break us apart; no one made any wrong turns; we kept to our planned pit stop; and we were at the diner by 10:10am, only 10 minutes later than intended.

One Alfa chasing another through the fog

Larry planned a stunning route, mostly along Greenwood Lake Turnpike, Warwick Turnpike, and Route 94. We dipped in and out of NY and NJ several times, and traffic wasn’t terrible. Maybe the weather was keeping people home. Several times, the sun blessed us with its warm rays, as it worked to burn off the fog.

A typical view along today’s route

The Hampton Diner on Route 206 in Newton NJ hosted us this morning, and it was our first time with them. A table set for 18 awaited us as we entered. The service was a bit slow, but it was a New Jersey diner on a Sunday morning, and no one seemed to mind. We’re not shy about yakking it up while waiting for food.

“When you smile for the camera….”

Speaking of yakking, this crowd loves to gab, as captured in the photos. A few of us managed to linger in the diner parking lot for close to an hour after the meal. For one moment, we considered heading back in for lunch.

With the group size continuing to grow, and everyone getting along so well, the biggest challenge may be keeping things moving along so that we eat breakfast while it’s still morning.

The most frequent comment I heard as we departed the diner was “are we going to do this one more time this year?” The answer was “yes, we’re counting on it”.

 

1991 Alfa Romeo Spider

 

1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr

 

Jaguar F-Type convertible

 

1991 Alfa Romeo Spider

 

Pontiac GTO (Holden-based)

 

Porsche 911

 

1972 Chevrolet Nova

 

BMW 3-Series E30

 

 

C6 Chevrolet Corvette

 

1980 MGB Limited Edition

 

BMW Z3

 

Porsche 911

 

Ford Mustang convertible

 

Porsche 911

 

Porsche Boxster

 

1966 Buick Skylark convertible

 

 

Three buddies with their German machines

 

The 2 BMWs and Porsche looked sharp together

 

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

 

Sunday Morning Breakfast Run, July 30 2017

For only the second time this year, our informal “breakfast club” got its act together to go for a drive on Sunday July 30. After a prediction of heavy rains for Friday and Saturday, the weatherman promised a good day on Sunday, and we got it! At my 7 a.m. departure, it was actually cool (probably low 60s), quite unusual for midsummer NJ. The great combination of bright sunshine, comfortable temperature, and low humidity stayed with us all day. As Ken said to me, with only the slightest exaggeration: “this isn’t the best day of this summer; this is the best day of the last three years!”

The turnout was impressive, something we don’t take for granted, what with everyone’s summer schedule so jammed. We had 15 vehicles, four of which held passengers, for a total of 19 hungry mouths. We were happy to see some new faces out with us for the first time. We pushed off from the Sheraton Crossroads, as promised, as the clock struck 8:30 a.m. Destination for the morning was a perennial favorite, Stella G’s in Hackettstown NJ.

A casual observer of our motorcade would be forgiven for thinking it was the local Porsche club’s outing, with a few non-German cars thrown into the mix. At least it seemed that way, with a total of five 911s plus a 944 cabriolet. The two additional German cars were both BMWs: a 320 and an E30. Three other European sports cars rounded out that continent’s representation: an MGB-GT with a V8 conversion, a Jaguar F-Type convertible, and your scribe’s Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior.

Four domestic vehicles completed today’s field, three of them GM products: a C6 Corvette, a ’66 Buick Skylark convertible, and a ’94 Camaro Z-28. The nineteenth vehicle was a ’64 T-Bird convertible.

After a short run on Route 287 South (we try to minimize highway driving), we exited onto Route 23 north, then turned south / southwest, heading toward Sparta and a rendezvous with Route 517 which would take us the rest of the way to Hackettstown. With a group this large, it wasn’t possible to keep all the cars together on the road, and the back half went their own way in Sparta, eventually taking the highway again, but getting to the restaurant only minutes behind the first arrivals. For those who did stay on the planned course, the roads and scenery made for spectacular driving.

The good news about Stella G’s is that the food is great; the less good news is that it’s packed on Sunday mornings. Our hostess Lauren informed me that “a table for 19” wasn’t going to cut it, so we were seated in waves of three. The seating arrangement didn’t affect the food and coffee, which were top-notch as always.

And what did we do after breakfast? We did what we always do: we retired to the front sidewalk, where the yapping continued for an unspecified amount of time. The party broke up by 11:30 am, which put everyone home by early afternoon. We start early, get a lot done, and still get home in time to tackle that honey-do list. What’s better than that?

 

Tim’s MG-B GT V8

 

The author’s Alfa Romeo

 

Woody’s 911

 

Rich’s Jaguar

 

Ken’s 911

 

Willis’ Corvette

 

Bill’s 911

 

Sal’s BMW

 

Peter’s 911

 

Larry’s Camaro

 

Ted’s 911

 

If you’re near Hackettstown, this place has the Sunday Breakfast Club stamp of approval

 

If we stayed any longer, we would be ordering lunch

 

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

 

 

2006: Adventures with Mustangs, Mine and Others

Since purchasing my ’68 Mustang California Special (aka GT/CS) in 2003, my desire had been to use the car as much as possible in automotive-themed events. As related earlier, we drove the car to Nashville for the Mustang’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2004. In 2005, rally brother Steve and I returned to the New England 1000 classic car rally after a 4-year hiatus, where the Mustang proved to be a powerful and reliable performer.

Before the 2006 driving season commenced, I needed to do something about the sloppiness in the car’s front end. While I held no illusions that this car would ever steer like a rack-and-pinion equipped sports car, the amount of freeplay in the steering seemed excessive, even by 1960s American car standards. A check of ball joints and bushings found enough wear to warrant the installation of new upper and lower control arms. (I opted to forego the Shelby-invented trick of relocating the upper control arms by one inch, effectively lowering the front suspension.) With the new suspension pieces bolted up, I happily observed that the dead spot at the top of the wheel was reduced by half.

The Garden State Region Mustang Club held its annual car show at a local Ford dealer in April of each year. In spite of poor weather, my car was there, mixed in among ponies both old and new.

My GT/CS takes its place among its siblings (note new 2006 yellow convertible on ramps)

In July, we joined the Mustang Club of New England at a show in New Hampshire. It was 95 degrees on Route 95, but that big 390 kept its cool. It was neat to discover at least one other California Special in attendance, a pale yellow car restored to a condition several levels better than mine. I took copious notes.

Hood up, ready for judges

 

For once, another California Special was at the same show as me

In the fall, my wife and I had a Mustang adventure of a quite different nature. We decided to take a week’s vacation in Arizona. As I made the travel plans and investigated rental choices, I noted that Hertz was now renting the Shelby Mustang GT-H, a throwback to the original Shelby Mustang rent-a-racers of the 1960s. I signed up for one.

Upon my arrival at the Hertz counter in Phoenix, I was not prepared for the strict lecture coming from the rental agency employee in delivering the car to me. He said in effect: “I’m going to show you every Shelby-specific item on this car, from the hood pins, to the Shelby-signed plates, to the guy wire securing the engine to the body (this to prevent, yes, engine swaps). You must sign here to verify that all these Shelby components are present, and you are liable if the car is returned with any of these missing!” Holy chicken farmer. I was afraid to leave the car in the hotel parking lot!

This was my first time driving this current-generation Mustang

The car looked sharp in its black-and-gold livery, and was an absolute blast to drive. Even with an automatic, the fun factor was off the scale. The car made all the right sounds, and the steering, brakes, and handling were eons above my ’68, no surprise given the almost 40-year spread between the two Mustangs. For the first time in decades of renting cars, I didn’t want to return the rental.

We found a scenic rest area for photos

 

I lucked out; the light was just right for this picture

By the end of 2006, Steve and I were already talking about repeating the use of the ‘Stang in the 2007 NE 1000. I was game. The car was up to it, but there were still a few things on my punch list to attend to.

 

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

The 2017 Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day Parade

The town of Hillsborough NJ held its annual Memorial Day parade on Saturday May 27, 2017. The day dawned sunny and warm, in spite of a forecast which predicted showers, and the turnout from the NJ Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) was extensive and eclectic. The club has supported this parade for years, but this was the first time that your scribe was able to join in the festivities.

We were asked to convene by 9:30 a.m., with a planned kick-off at 10:30 a.m.  Over 20 member-driven cars and trucks were in attendance, including a LaSalle, a Stevens-Dureya, numerous Corvettes, several ‘60s-era Pontiacs, the ubiquitous 1957 Chevy, two Model T Fords, two Mustangs, and a first-gen Monte Carlo. Among non-American makes were two Alfas and a rarely-seen Sunbeam Alpine GT hardtop.

In a unique approach, we were asked to arrange ourselves by vehicles’ decade (not exactly year order), so perhaps the multitudes lining the route could get a sense of automotive history parading by. We moved along at something less than 5 mph, tough on the clutch, but the throngs were appreciative of all the gleaming sheetmetal and chrome.

We probably drove 1.5 miles, and it was over. The cars dispersed, having fulfilled our civic duty for the weekend. It was a thrill to see happy smiling faces waving at you, even as one young man yelled out to me, “hey, is that a Jaguar?” I suppose I should have been complimented.

 

The queue of cars awaits the starting signal

 

1962 C1 Corvette

 

1946 Chevrolet pickup truck

 

Ford Model T

 

1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider

 

1964 Pontiac Bonneville

 

1968 Ford Mustang

 

Stevens Dureya

 

1939 Ford

 

1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

 

C3 and C5 Corvettes

 

Sunbeam Alpine GT

 

1987 Mercury Cougar

 

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

 

Buick Riviera convertible

 

1967 Pontiac

 

Early ’50s Chevrolet

 

1968 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible

 

The author’s 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr.

 

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