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 videosposted 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.
Irv Gordon passed away last week. It is almost impossible to be in the old-car hobby and not know about Irv and his claim to fame. In 1966, he purchased a brand new ’66 Volvo 1800S coupe, and proceeded to spend the next 50 years driving it everywhere. He eventually surpassed three million miles in the car, and although he spoke of retiring it (Volvo corporate had already gifted him 3 new Volvos), I read that at the time of his death the 1800 had 3.2 million miles on it.
As an employee of Volvo Cars North America, I had more than a passing relationship with the man. While I likely had met him at one corporate event or the other in the 1990’s, it was during my time as a field service representative on Long Island that he and I became friendly.
As I strolled into the service department of Volvoville one morning, there was Irv, sitting in the service area, shuffling some paperwork. At that time, in the late 1990’s, he had a part-time gig at the dealer, performing test drives and attending to some administrative chores. Parked on the street around the corner from the store was the red 1800, of course, as he used it to commute to work. He used it to fetch a cup of coffee in Boston, and he used it to join dealer events in Oregon. How do you think he got to 3,000,000 miles?
Early in our friendship, I asked him, “Irv, what’s the secret your success?” With a pause and a twinkle in his eye, he replied “a strong bladder”. Watching him in action, he had a ready smile, a quick wit, and the patience to answer whatever questions were put to him. Frequently, he would be standing near the car while being questioned, and not one to waste a moment, he’d check various fluids as he spoke. I learned about Irv’s fastidiousness when I watched him pull the dipstick to check the oil level, but then use the few droplets on the end of the stick to lube his hood hinges!
Later, in the early 2000s, I traveled to SEMA with a group of fellow VCNA employees, and Irv was on that trip too. Watching him at SEMA was like watching a rock star, but one who had some degree of modesty attached. Generosity was another trait that perhaps few saw, but I clearly recall one holiday season at Volvo HQ when Irv showed up with several cases to wine to give out to employees.
In the summer of 2010, my wife and I hosted a breakfast at our home for a few of our hobbyist friends. Irv was on the invite list, and I was thrilled that he accepted. The day before breakfast, Irv called me. “Hey Rich, do you think the guys will mind if I drive the C70 coupe instead of the 1800? To tell you the truth, it’s hot, and I wouldn’t mind riding in A/C.” (Do I need to point out that the ’66 did NOT have air?) I said “Irv, I don’t think this crowd gives a hoot what you show up in. We’re just glad to have you join us.”
As Larry and I took over the reins for our Sunday morning breakfast runs, Irv was on our distribution list, but rarely joined. He always had some lame excuse, like, “I’m driving to San Antonio that weekend”. However, in October 2010, he did come out for one of our drives, and even brought the 1800. This was probably the last time I saw Irv.
I’m glad to have known you, Irv. It was an honor to call you a friend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.)
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).
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.
As we exited the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River, Rich S took these photos, and they are used with his permission:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!”
Let’s hope that we have many additional opportunities for Sunday breakfast drives in 2018.