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).

 

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!