Delaware Valley Miata Club Drive, May 23 2021

Just before the pandemic shutdown hit in 2020, I joined the Delaware Valley Miata Club, hoping to connect to an organization that would provide me with an excuse to drive my Mazda Miata a bit more frequently. (Since 2013, when I purchased my 1967 Alfa Romeo, I have put about the same total mileage on the two cars.)  The DelVal Miata Club is very active and organizes frequent drives, about two to four a month during our three-season driving year.

Above: L to R are a blue ND, a red NB, and my black NA

Above: the red NB and blue ND compare back ends

Above: the white NA rides with headlights UP

Alas, this was not to be for me in 2020. Looking at my mileage log, I put 178 miles on the convertible in 2020, an all-time low, and the lowest since I did 762 miles in it in 2012. I vowed to myself that 2021 would be different, and it’s gotten off to a good start. I already have used it in several events, and on Sunday May 23, I participated in my first DelVal Miata Club drive.

Above: my black ’93, with frontal jewelry, showing its face at a Miata club event for the first time

The start point was the parking lot of a strip mall in Flemington, all of 6 miles from me, so that was part of the impetus for me to participate. The planned route was to follow NJ Route 519 north, which we would pick up just a few miles west of Flemington, and drive all the way to Route 206 in Newton, about 75 miles away. There were about 25 Miatas of all generations in the lot when I showed up, and many people seemed to know each other, which was no surprise. I made some idle chat with a few folks, and then the driver’s meeting was held. There was little to discuss other than the revelation that the group was so large, we would split in half, with the second wave departing about 15 minutes after the initial bunch pushed off. I was in the first group, and got myself situated somewhere in the middle.

Above: Driver’s meeting in progress

It was great fun to have a string of Miatas as far as I could see in front of me, and almost as many to my rear. I mentioned earlier that there were cars of all generations. I’ll briefly explain that Mazda has so far built four generations, what insiders refer to as NA, NB, NC, and ND (this based on VIN code). My car, an NA, is of the generation built from model year 1990 to 1997. The NB cars look almost identical to the NA ones; the big giveaway are the exposed headlights on the NB (only the NA had retractable headlights). The NC cars have pronounced fender flares, and sit a bit higher compared to previous cars. There was a retractable hardtop option on the NC. The ND styling is probably the biggest departure of the four generations, but it also brought the car back very close in size and weight to the 1990 version. The ND is also available as an RF (Retractable Fastback) which opens the top but leaves the structure around the rear window in place.

Above: this blue RF ( retractable fastback) was striking looking; note the custom wheels

Above: the view from the driver’s seat

Back to our drive – we were motoring along at a good clip, a bit above the posted limit, but not too aggressively so, when we came to our scheduled pit stop, a Quick Check, which gave us a chance to fuel up, use the facilities, and grab a cold drink. Then it was back to the cars and back on the road, continuing north on 519, easy to say but less easy to do when foliage sometimes blocks the road signs. It took us a bit over two hours to reach Route 206, where we turned right, and following the cars immediately in front of me, entered a diner parking lot a short distance ahead. This is where I discovered that everyone was on their own for lunch, as most of the remaining Miatas motored past us, on their way to some other eatery.

Above: Quick Check rest stop in progress

About 14 or 15 of us entered the diner and sat. I got to chat up a bit more with some folks I had not seen earlier, and somehow it came out that I also have an Alfa Romeo at home. “That’s YOUR problem!” one woman good-naturedly teased me. I guess they think that their Japanese sports cars are somehow more reliable than my Italian sports car…. We all ate, we all chatted a bit more, then we all left for home, heading in all different directions. Perhaps it’s because the group is new to me, but this was a bit different compared to my own breakfast driving club or the Alfa club. The primary focus of this Miata club is to drive, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I would have preferred if everyone ate together, but that was not up to me, and logistically that may have not been possible, at least not this time. I’ll certainly join this group on future drives, and I’ll try to befriend some more club members.

Above: there is some beautiful scenery in western Jersey

Above: the Miatas managed to stay together on this lightly-traveled road

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

NJ AACA Spring Fling Tour, May 21, 2021

After attending exactly one car show during the entirety of 2020, I vowed to myself that 2021 would be different, and would include greater participation in driving events. My vow got off to a grand start when I participated in my first NJ Region AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) tour on Friday, May 21, 2021.

The Region has traditionally hosted a multi-day “Spring Fling” just prior to Memorial Day weekend. While previous years’ tours included overnight travel, this year’s Spring Fling, capably hosted by club member Bill Pritchett, saw the event broken into three separate one-day drives. Those who wished to join in the fun could drive one, two, or all three days. My schedule allowed me to participate only in the first day’s drive on Friday.

We convened at the Hampton Diner in Newton NJ, with breakfast an option for those who wished to partake. There appeared to be about 10 tour cars in the parking lot, ranging from a 1930 Model A Ford to a ’67 Camaro, an ‘80s Mustang, a 1978 Ford Granada, several Mercedes-Benz SL models, and my 1993 Miata. A brief driver’s meeting revealed that the day’s destination was the “MotorcyclePedia” motorcycle museum in Newburgh NY. Bill handed out turn-buy-turn directions and said that the drive, plotted to be scenic, would take about two hours. Most vehicles had two occupants, so those cars each had a driver and a navigator.  

M cars at the diner: Mustang, Model A, Miata
1978 Ford Granada
1967 Camaro
Mercedes-Benz 500 SL

We departed as planned at 10 a.m. and I, riding solo, was the last car out of the parking lot. It only took a few red traffic lights for me to become separated from the rest of the conga line, and I missed a turn or three. Before I knew it, I was well off the intended path. I pulled over, pulled out the phone, hit up Google maps, and ended up finding an equally scenic route which landed me at the museum about two minutes after the rest of the group pulled in. Everyone else stated that the directions were ‘easy’ so I’ll chalk up my misadventures to operator error.

Miata, Granada, and Camaro liven up MotorcyclePedia parking lot

Motorcycles are not my thing; however, the inside of this museum was gorgeous! The lighting was superb, the displays were creatively arranged, the bikes were spotless, and there was the perfect mix of mechanical intricacy and historical perspective throughout. Of special note: one entire room, about half the museum, was devoted to the history of Indian motorcycles (that’s a brand for those not in the know). Gazing at machinery from the first decade of the 20th century brought home the reminder that the first “motorcycles” were nothing more that “motorized bicycles”, with many of them still wearing a pedal-operated crank set and a human-powered chain powering the rear wheel.

1971 Olds Cutlass
A 60-year span of automotive history
This “A”, with modified engine, has no trouble cruising at highway speeds
Owner also has ’68 Mustang keeping company with this ’86

Several of us broke for lunch, and it was beyond wonderful to spend time in the company of fellow NJ AACA members again. The camaraderie returned almost instantly; it certainly did not feel like over a year since we had last spent time together in person. I headed home after lunch, while most of the rest of the group returned to the museum. If motorcycles or motorcycle history interests you, then “MotorcyclePedia” in Newburgh NY deserves to be on your itinerary. For me, I’m already signed up for the Region’s multi-day summer tour to be held in late July.

The MotorcyclePedia Museum

Since I didn’t document each motorcycle I photographed, and since I also know I have some blog readers who deeply enjoy motorcycles, I will post these photos without captions.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Sunday Morning Cars and Coffee, May 2, 2021

Success! Our informal Sunday Morning Breakfast Group, which last held a gathering in September of 2019, managed to put together our own Cars & Coffee-style event this past Sunday. As an unexpected surprise, the “CarParkers” drive event held the same day resulted in dozens of additional cars joining us in the spacious lot of the Dunkin’ Donuts on MacArthur Blvd. in Mahwah NJ.

By 8:30 it was quite crowded

In our own group, we had perhaps a dozen and a half friends show up with their cars. On one hand, it was overwhelming to think that we had not seen each other in over a year and half. On the other hand, like the long-term companions we are, we fell right back into our lively repartee and wasted no time in catching up with each other, while those who procured new rides since our last drive enjoyed showing them off.

Our breakfast haven for the day

Hagerty and CarPark co-sponsored the other drive event along with Dunkin’ Donuts, the basic concept centering around a morning of driving to and meeting up at several Dunkin’ Donuts stores, with the chance to win some giveaways. I had alluded to this event in our own Cars & Coffee invitation, but frankly was expecting at most 10 or 20 other cars. The actual turnout was 3 to 4 times that, with a nice mix of older and newer exotics, including rarities ranging from a Ford Model T fire truck to a Sterling 825.

Can you guess the car?

The breakfast line got a bit long at times, but mask-wearing and social distancing appeared to be at 100% compliance while inside. Outside was much less of a concern; we became unmasked, but our usual bear hugs were on postponement until a later date.

Some cars wore the sponsors’ decal

There was no driving element on this occasion as we knew that time for us to mingle and swap stories would need to take precedence. What surprised me was how much more enjoyable I found this arrangement. Rather than be tied to a table, I was free to wander from subgroup to subgroup, and ended up chit-chatting with more of the guys than otherwise. My drive event co-planner and I are already intending to include a Cars & Coffee event on our rotating schedule for the Sunday Morning Breakfast Group.

I was so distracted by seeing old friends and meeting new ones (talkin’ about you, the young couple in the Suzuki Cappuccno) that I simply failed to photograph every car in the lot. However, the ones that did make it into my Sony are below. Final note about the photos: WordPress seems to have changed the method to see full-size versions of them. For full-screen versions, right-click on the picture, select “Open Image in New Tab”, and then click on the picture again.

Alfa Romeo Spider
BMW 3.0 coupe
BMW E30 3-series convertible
1972 Buick Riviera boattail
Corvette C7
Corvette C8
Ferrari FF
Ford Model T
Porsche Boxster
Datsun 510
Ford Mustang convertible
Saab 900
Jaguar XK
Sterling 825 (interior pic is above)
Mazda Miata ND
Mazda Miata NA
Mercedes-Benz 230/250/280 SL
MG Midget
Toyota Celica Supra
Polestar 1 & Polestar 2
VW GTi
Pontiac LeMans
Porsche 356
The final 8 in our group (from the left)
The final 8 in our group (from the right)

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The Carlisle Auction, April 2021

For the first time since October 2019, I attended a live collector car auction last week when I found myself at the two-day extravaganza known as the Spring Carlisle Auction. The coronavirus pandemic shutdown, with but one exception, had slammed the door on in-person hobby activities in 2020 for me. What changed? A combination of my being fully vaccinated along with the option to spend much of this auction out of doors encouraged me to accept what seemed to be a reduced risk. As an aside, while the Carlisle Auction website “promised” adherence with certain pandemic protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing, sadly, much of the audience ignored them. I was prepared for such flouting of the prescribed requirements and adjusted my behavior accordingly.

With that said, the Carlisle Events staff did their usual fine job: registration was smooth, run sheets were available early in the a.m., cars were arranged in lot order, the action started promptly at noon, about 25 cars per hour were run across the block, and they drove, pushed, or dragged about 200 cars on Thursday and another 175 on Friday into and out of the Expo Center. Sell-through rates seemed high, helped by a number of no-reserve lots, and while there were few bargains, prices seemed fair if a bit closer to retail (this is still very much an auction dominated by dealers here to buy and sell).

Yes, it snowed. On Thursday morning. For about 2 hours.

While it’s easy for me to look at the entire consignment list and opine that it consisted of the usual suspects (GM and FoMoCo products of the ‘50s, ‘60s, & ‘70s), I was struck by the number of pre-war, meaning 1942 and older cars, offered here. While a few were “rodded and modded”, many were either unrestored or restored to original spec. These included a 1931 Chevy, a 1925 Nash, and a 1942 Studebaker. The two documented below, the 1931 Pontiac and 1939 Packard, sold between $10k and $15k, so this segment of the hobby remains both accessible and of interest to some.

Do you like the final-generation Thunderbirds? There were four, and all sold, at prices between $7,500 and $12,500. What about orphans? Seven Studebakers ran across the block, although only two met reserves. Pontiac GTOs did well, with 4 out of 5 selling for numbers ranging from $38,500 to $56,000.

Twenty-two of my choices are detailed below; all these cars sold. There were many more which I found interesting, however, I am omitting coverage of cars which did not meet reserve. As always, sold cars are presented in sale price order, and multiple photos are supplied, including interior and engine compartment shots when access was there.

Note that EIGHT of my choices hammered at $10,250 or below (and there were many more not included in this report). For the umpteenth time, to those who maintain that the collector car hobby is no longer affordable, I again provide Exhibit A and remind you to be open-minded about the type of car you’d welcome into your garage.

$3,500 TO $10,250:

Lot T109, 1972 MG Midget, red, black vinyl convertible top, black vinyl interior, 4-cylinder, 4-speed manual, clock shows 63,823 miles (who does that in a Midget?), MG Rostyle wheels are rusty, blackwall tires. Car is somewhat rough all over, but at least shows no rust-through, and appears to be all there. Sold at no reserve.

SOLD for $3,500. I got to speak to the owner as he cleared the snow from the car early Thursday morning. He was a young guy, perhaps early 30s, and said he had several other cars in the auction. This MG was not his usual “flip”, and he, over 6 feet tall, barely fit in it. I ran into him later and asked if he was ok with the result. He said yes, as he had about $2,000 into it. Postscript: walking the Carlisle fairgrounds Car Corral on Friday, I saw this car there with an ask of $7,900. Quick flip attempt indeed.

Lot T103, 1983 Porsche 944 2-door coupe, 2.5L 4-cylinder, 5-speed manual, green, light brown interior. Odometer shows 18,552, likely on its 2nd orbit. Black & silver Porsche alloys, blackwall tires. Underhood condition crusty. These Porsche interiors from the 1980s did not hold up well, and this one shows it, with cracked dash (hidden by dash toupee), worn steering wheel cover, various faded beige and brown bits. Sold at no reserve.

SOLD for $3,500. Porsche is just one of several brands about which it is said “there is no such thing as a cheap one”. Even if it runs well, figure on the need to catch up with postponed maintenance. But it does grant you entry into the PCA (Porsche Club of America).

Lot T104, 1993 Pontiac Grand Prix 2-door coupe, white, grey cloth interior, 76k miles, white wheels, blackwall tires, sunroof, 3.1L V6/automatic, rear spoiler, door-mounted 3-point seat belt in lieu of driver’s air bag. No obvious faults, just a ‘90s used car. Sold at no reserve.

SOLD for $3,800. For under 5 grand, someone got a car which at least in NJ is eligible for antique plates, does not require state inspection, and qualifies for showing at any AACA event in the country.

Lot T110, 2003 Mercedes-Benz SLK230 retractable hardtop-convertible, 2.3L 4-cylinder w/supercharger, automatic, red metallic, two-tone beige & black interior, Mercedes alloys with blackwall tires, 6-digit electronic odometer shows 79,901 miles, interior clean for age and mileage. Sold at no reserve.

SOLD for $6,500. Presuming that the hardtop retracted properly, this could be a fun daily driver, and was slightly well-bought, about two grand below book for a “good” condition car.

Lot F471, 1968 Morris Minor Traveler “woody”, RHD, dark red paint, red interior, 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed manual transmission, hub caps on cream-painted steel wheels, whitewall tires, driving lamps, headlight eyelids, dual outside mirrors, wood-framed rear quarters and tailgate.

SOLD for $7,000. Another LBC (little British car) that could be had for under five figures, this one looked great, with the only strike against it its RHD (about which I’ve read that you get used to it in about 10 minutes). You’re guaranteed to have the only one at the next Cars & Coffee.

Lot F443, 1966 Ford LTD 2-door fastback, beige paint and interior, Ford wheel covers with narrow whitewall tires, 352 V8/automatic, Ford blue engine looks like it was dipped in a vat of paint, no A/C and no power brakes, cloth upholstery shows some dirt and wear, steering wheel cover color clashes.

SOLD for $8,000. In the earliest days of the hobby, when only pre-war cars were collected, Ford’s Model T and Model A were two of the most popular affordable collector cars. When baby boomers entered the hobby, interest in the full-size Chevys of the ‘50s and ‘60s surged past similar Fords. Most car people don’t think of this ’66 LTD fastback when considering something from that decade, so it was refreshing to see one that survived. This particular example had a number of demerits against it, including blah colors, lack of A/C, and poor attention to detail. However, if Ford Blue runs through your veins and you wanted a full-size car, you could enjoy this one. Fitting an aftermarket A/C system would probably not detract from its value.

Lot T183, 1963 VW Beetle 2-door sedan, red & black paint, red & white interior, VW hub caps on white-painted steel wheels, blackwall tires, 1.6L flat four, four-speed manual, black dash, white wheel, white seats, red & white door panels. Engine compartment clean if not totally original, with open air filter and painted cooling fan.

SOLD for $9,000. Beetles long ago moved up and away from being cheap auction cars. This price seems on the low side, but I didn’t care for the colors (I don’t like this non-original two-tone treatment), and the interior colors seemed wrong (did the door panels fade to orange?). Hopefully the mechanicals check out.

Lot T113, 1939 Packard 4-door Touring Sedan, flathead inline-6, 3-speed manual transmission, black paint, brown mohair interior. Packard hub caps on steel wheels, wide whitewall tires, possibly bias-ply. Odometer reads 29,000 miles, handwritten note inside car claims original miles, and looks believable to me. Black paint is mostly ok, but buffed through along some sharp body creases. All exterior fittings are in place. Interior looks unrestored. Gas ration sticker in back window, service station sticker in driver’s door jamb shows 24k miles in 1977. Some wear on driver’s seat bottom and door panel, but rest of interior looks like it has survived the last 82 years quite well. Sold at no reserve.

SOLD for $10,250. This was one of several cars at the auction which captured my complete attention because of its believable alleged originality. First, it’s a Packard, albeit a “Junior” one with the six, but still a brand that continues to command attention among collectors. Next is it original condition (the car wore an AACA HPOF emblem). Third, it’s a pre-war car that looks like it could potentially complete some tours. It was bought by Country Classic Cars, a collector car dealer in IL, and they obviously see some upside to it at this price.

$11,250 TO $19,000:

Lot T184, 1972 Honda Z600 coupe (incorrectly ID’d as “CVCC”), dark olive green, black interior, black wheels, blackwall tires, 2-cylinder air-cooled engine, 4-speed manual, FWD, shows 42,664 miles, appears repainted and I won’t swear this is an original color, spartan interior shows no defects, tach redlines at 6,000 rpm, and that 600cc twin must scream at those revs.

SOLD for $11,250. The Beetle parked next to this emphasized how tiny this Z600 is. Hammer price fell right between ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ in my price guide. If you’re ok with the color, then it was a fair price; besides, if you want one, when will the next one show up on the block?

Lot T144, 1947 Dodge Deluxe 2-door coupe, black, brown interior, Dodge hubcaps on steel wheels, wide whitewall tires, flathead inline-6 with 3-speed Fluid Drive, sign on car claims 48,000 miles, not impossible to believe. External sun visor looks like an air foil that would keep top speed to 45 mph. Cheap (and easily removed) steering wheel cover detracts from what is otherwise a clean and original interior.

SOLD for $11,500. This immediate post-war Dodge still wears pre-war styling, and this one was in great shape overall. My reference books tell me that this straight six had 230 cubic inches and put out 102 horsepower, just enough for it to get out of its own way. This was a good buy for the few people who might be looking for a ‘40s Dodge.

Lot F424, 1952 Triumph TR2, red, black top & side curtains, black interior, Triumph hub caps on grey steel wheels, blackwall tires, dual fender-mounted outside mirrors, inline 4-cylinder, 4-speed manual transmission, “Pittsburgh Grand Prix” decals on doors, sign claims 59,000 miles.

SOLD for $12,000. While TR3s are seen relatively frequently, it’s rare to spot one of these “small mouth” TR2s. The lack of outside door handles means gaining ingress is accomplished by reaching through the unzipped side curtain to tug at the door pull; that worked fine on the passenger side, but the pull strap was broken on the left side. Paint, which appears too thick to be original, is cracked in various spots, possibly from body flexing during rigorous driving. Based on the decals, it’s nice to know the car has seen use as intended. This was a great buy of an unusual car, and a nice way to get into the British sports car scene.

Lot F451, 1982 Alfa Romeo Spider, cream paint, black convertible top, dark tan interior, 2L inline 4-cylinder, 5-speed manual transmission, aftermarket alloys with blackwall tires, 6-digit odometer reads 35,083, engine compartment clean but not detailed. The model year 1982 Spiders are a sweet spot: Bosch fuel injection replaced the Spica system, yet the cars kept the Series 2 “Kamm tail” rear end styling. Only two minor faults noted: remote trunk release lever loose in its bezel, and battery hold-down lying next to the trunk-mounted battery.

SOLD for $13,000. My photos fail to document the incredible level of originality, correctness, and supremely fine condition of this Alfa. I spent well over 30 minutes crawling on top of, inside of, and under this car, and aside from what is mentioned above, could find no faults with it. My former car-dealer buddy was with me, and he, with his much more critical eye, agreed with my assessment of the car. Paint was original and near perfect, interior showed no wear, top and tires looked new (tires had 2020 date codes), and upon popping the trunk, we found a manila folder full of service receipts going back over 20 years. The only “rust” was a minor scrape on the front belly pan where a curb impact chipped away an inch of paint. Simply put, this was the absolutely cleanest unrestored Alfa spider I have ever seen at an auction. It truly looked like a 4- or 5-year-old used car. Full disclosure: I was prepared to bid on this car, hoping that the American-car-leaning Carlisle audience would ignore it and allow me to steal it for under $10k, but it quickly sailed past that, ending at a somewhat high $13k. Whoever got it has a car to cherish.

Lot T202, 1950 Packard Deluxe, taupe grey, tan cloth interior, Packard hub caps, blackwall tires, straight-eight engine, 3-speed manual with overdrive, odometer shows 56k miles, service stickers on door jamb support mileage, nice woodgrain paint on dash, seat upholstery shows little wear and appears to be unrestored, Packard rubber mats protect carpet, original radio in box in trunk.

SOLD for $13,250. Was consigned by the same owner as Lot T109, the 1972 MG Midget. He told me the Packard came out of dry storage in Kansas, where the owner had put “dozens” of cars up on blocks. This Packard looked like an honest survivor. I’m personally not a fan of the so-called Bathtub Packards, of which this is one, and I preferred the ’39, but this ’50 would be the more usable car of the two.

Lot T186, 1931 Pontiac Custom 2-door sedan, blue & black paint, grey cloth interior, yellow painted wire wheels with wide whitewall tires. Straight six engine, 3-speed manual transmission, spare tire out back. A handsome car and a nicely-done restoration.

SOLD for $15,750. The auctioneer announced at $14k that the “reserve is off”, and with just a few more bids, it sold. This early ‘30s car has the advantage of being enclosed, which makes it more inviting and practical for touring use. This was one of the more attractive pre-war cars here.  

Lot T154, 1955 Ford Thunderbird, red, red non-porthole hardtop, red & white interior, full T-Bird wheel covers on red-painted wheels with whitewall tires, 292 V8/automatic, power steering, power seat. Sign on car claims car came from estate. While looking good from 20 feet, a closer inspection shows that much of the paint is crazed, cracked, and flaking in spots. Possibly original paint. Interior is presentable.

SOLD for $16,500. Prices on the 2-seat Birds (Baby Birds) are all over the map, as so much depends on condition, colors, and options. A few years ago, I noted at Hershey that prices seemed to have bottomed out around $20-25k for decent cars; values have since headed up, but only slightly. This may have been cheap for a Baby Bird, but you would need to live with the paint as-is; any attempt to restore it at this price would put you underwater.

Lot F510, 1966 Ford Mustang coupe, emberglo paint, beige interior, 289 V8/automatic, Ford styled steel wheels with whitewall tires, underdash A/C (sign indicates A/C inop), wood steering wheel, aftermarket center console. VIN indicates that car left factory with a 2-barrel carb, now has 4-barrel.

SOLD for $17,500. Car looked very sharp in person, helped by emberglo color, a personal favorite. I did not spend much time looking over this car, but if it’s solid underneath, this was a good deal for a 1st gen Mustang coupe; many of them from my observation trade closer to $20k in this condition.

Lot F480, 1969 Buick Riviera, brown metallic, tan vinyl roof, tan interior, Riviera wheel covers, whitewall tires, V8/automatic, sign claims 84k miles, front cornering lights, bench seat, column shifter, detailed engine compartment. Car appears to lack A/C: can’t see a compressor, and dash controls don’t show a “cool” choice.

SOLD for $19,000. This one’s a frequent flyer: I spotted this same car at the RM Hershey auction in 2018, at which time it sold for $16,000. Two and a half years later, and it sold for three grand more, but with consignment fees and transportation costs, it was likely a wash or even a slight loss for the consignor. Overall, an attractive car with nothing extraordinary about it. These are nice looking Rivs, but it’s very disappointing to see an American luxury car from this era without air.

$23,000 TO $27,250:

Lot T142, 1967 Mercury Cougar XR7 2-door hardtop, white, black vinyl top, black interior, Cragar chrome wheels with narrow whitewall tires, aftermarket side body molding and trunk-mounted luggage rack, 289 V8 with C4 automatic, some chrome upgrades underhood. Allegedly a Texas car, clock shows 34,597, could be first or second time around, but either way, car looks clean and straight, if a bit boring in these colors. I hope that side molding is glued and not screwed into place.

SOLD for $23,000. While not a steal, was a fair price for a pony car that looked like it needed nothing to begin enjoying. The strength of Cougars is that they are still undervalued compared to Mustangs of the same vintage and condition, and I’d argue that the ’67-’68 Cougars are slightly better-looking than the same generation Mustangs.

Lot T175, 1965 Chrysler 300 “L” convertible, light blue, white convertible top, blue interior, full wheel covers on steel wheels, narrow whitewall tires, factory a/c, 413 V8, automatic, final year for the famed letter-series 300 models.

SOLD for $24,000. I originally thought this to be quite a bargain, but my price guide shows this price to basically be retail. It’s the 300 letter-series cars from the late ‘50’s to very early ‘60s which can command numbers approaching $150k. Yet this car still has an air of exclusivity to it, with its 360 hp engine (up from 340 in the New Yorker) and subtle styling touches. When new, pricing started at $4,716 (only the New Yorker station wagons were pricier) and only 400 ’65 droptops were built. This was a nice buy in a powerful and exclusive full size Chrysler.

Lot F435, 1967 Plymouth Barracuda 2-door fastback, silver, red interior, aftermarket wheels, raised white-letter tires, 340 V8, automatic, sign claims “full restoration”, but also notes that interior and undercarriage are original and untouched. Cheap steering wheel cover detracts from what is otherwise a pretty interior. Open air cleaner element dirty, engine compartment could use a detailing.

SOLD for $27,250. While the 1970 and on E-bodies get most of the attention among Barracuda fans, the 1967-1969 cars, available as coupe, fastback, or convertible, have their admirers, your scribe included. This was a nice car that had been taken about 80% of the way toward “excellent”, yet it earned a sale price several thousand above what my price guide shows for an excellent car. Well sold.

$34,500 TO $44,250:

Lot F433, 1957 Ford Thunderbird, grey, white hardtop, red interior, chrome wire wheels with wide whitewall tires, 312 V8, automatic, unable to open hood, but interior shows power brake pedal and add-on A/C unit hanging under dash. Online photos show black soft top and engine dress-up kit.

SOLD for $34,500. This was a cosmetically stunning Baby Bird, helped by the unusual but factory-correct gunmetal grey paint. The colors and condition warranted the price for a car that would be equally at home on a showfield or on a tour.

Lot F546, 1991 Acura NSX coupe, red, two-tone red & black interior, aftermarket alloys with blackwall tires, odometer reads 73,234 miles, mid-mounted V6 with 5-speed manual, car not detailed, interior looks somewhat garish, gives the vibe of “just a used car”.

SOLD for $44,250. After seeing one at the 2013 New England 1000 rally, I briefly considered getting one when prices were around $30k. Of course, they quickly shot up after that, with very clean and low mileage cars almost touching six figures. They have dropped back from their highs of a few years ago, but still command good money. This one had higher miles and didn’t show signs of extraordinary care, and sold for a fair price considering the unknowns.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The Neshanic Station NJ Car Show, April 17, 2021


If you live in the Northeast corner of the U.S., then you can relate to the observation that the weather can be fickle. Springtime is especially unpredictable: March can bring sunny 75 degree F weather or two feet of snow. April can be as hot and dry as summer, or can make us suffer through two weeks of ‘April showers’.

The neatly arrayed car show field

For us car gals and guys, the weather is important only as it relates to car shows. The Neshanic Station (NJ) Car Show, new for 2021, had its premiere event last month, on the first day of spring actually, and the weather was magnificent. The weather was something less than magnificent for the second one on April 17, with dark cloudy skies and cool temps the order of the day.

Nevertheless, it stayed dry, and the cars came out. Some were the same as seen in March, and many others were new. As before, there were no ‘rules’ about what you could bring, which again resulted in a nice mix of old, new, original, and modded. In other words, there was something for everyone.

I was a spectator for this one, and I’ll simply say that time constraints both before and after the show impeded my participation. Not only was the vehicular turnout impressive; spectators, catching wind of this, were out in good numbers, possibly lured by the flea market on the same field. Like before, there was no entrance fee, but participants and spectators were encouraged to donate food or cash to support a local food bank, a wonderful cause indeed.

The photos can do most of the remainder of the work here, although I do wish to call special attention to the 1965 Chevrolet Chevy II four-door sedan which, similar to the ’65 Bonneville I wrote up last time, was a single-family-owned car in completely original condition, and a true time capsule. The next show is set for Saturday May 15 (they will run once a month, always on a Saturday), and as we move into the presumably less fickle spring weather, it won’t be a surprise to see an even greater turnout.

Nicely done Ford rod with what appears to be Henry steel
Audi A4
1967 Dodge Coronet
1969 Chevy Camaro
Tastefully customized VW Karmann Ghia

Ford Econoline with a non-standard wheelbase

Lamborghini Gallardo

Ferrari 348

C2 Corvette coupe

Audi R8

Plymouth Barracuda

1967 Chevy Nova

The food truck had a line all morning (& the fried egg sandwich was pretty good!)

FAVORITE CAR OF THE SHOW: 1965 CHEVY II

I spoke to this owner at length, who told me that his great uncle had purchased this car new, and it has remained in the family ever since. He stated that it’s all original, including paint, interior, and inline-6 engine. While there were a few scrapes along the sides, there was absolutely no sign of rust or corrosion anywhere. This Chevy II was a “Nova”; many may forget that the Nova name began as an upmarket trim level on this compact before eventually replacing “Chevy II” as the model name. The ’64 NY license plate includes mention of the World’s Fair; growing up in NYC, I remember those plates as a boy.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Car Spotting, Staten Island NY, March 2021

A few weeks ago, on one of the first sunny Saturdays we’ve had this season, my wife and I decided to cruise over to Staten Island, NY, where we both spent time as youngsters. (I was born and raised there; my wife did the “Western hop”: she was born in Brooklyn, moved to S.I. and then to New Jersey, all before she was out of her teenage years.) Our goal was simply to drive by a few of our old haunts, grab a cultural lunch at an Italian deli, and head back home before it got too late.  

The last thing on my mind was that this visit, my first trip back to The Old Country since the pandemic shutdown started, would turn into a Car Spotter’s Event. But Event it became. I don’t recall noticing this many old cars on the Island during any previous trip. Perhaps most surprising is that two of these cars were parked on the street as if they’re seeing regular daily driver duty.

I grabbed what photos I could, but traffic congestion caused me to miss a few, notably a 1973 Buick Century two-door coupe on a trailer parked on the street; and a Lincoln Continental Mark III in the parking lot at South Beach.

It is also complete coincidence that the two Fords below are the same year, and the Chevy is also the same or within one year of the other two. (Any of you Chevy experts able to distinguish a ’62 from a ’63 from a ’64 Chevy II from the rear?)

This 1963 Ford Falcon convertible (first model year for a Falcon droptop) was parked on Bement Ave. in West Brighton. Looking at Google photos of similar Falcons, I believe that there was a substantial amount of exterior trim along the sides and back which have since gone missing on this one. That top may not be keeping out much moisture, but the car is plated, and looks like one could drop that top and enjoy a sunny ride to the South Shore.

This 1963 Ford Thunderbird hardtop was spotted in a driveway on a side street off Bard Ave. in West Brighton. It hasn’t moved in a while, and its outdoor storage isn’t doing it any favors. From this angle, it appears to be all there, but needs someone with welding skills. It’s the final year of the three-year run of the “Bullet Birds”, a personal favorite.

This 1st generation Chevy II (1962-1964), fuzzy dice and all, was parked on Father Capodanno Blvd. in South Beach. The best I could do for a shot was to pull in behind it and shoot through my windshield. It’s a four-door sedan, and Chevy probably sold a million of these “normal” compacts (compared to the “abnormal” Corvair compacts). The “Godeny” dealer emblem from Carteret NJ (just over the Goethals Bridge) likely means that this car has never left the area.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

DRIVEN: The VW ID.4 Electric Car

“Hey, how you doin’?” Jason exclaimed as I vaulted through the front door of Flemington Volkswagen. He recognized my masked face, even though he hadn’t seen me since 2017, when I returned the Jetta I had leased from him. Like the good salesperson he is, he remembers customers (and admittedly, he was expecting me since I had booked this test-drive with him last week). “I’m just finishing up with this customer and I’ll be with you in a few”. That was fine with me, and gave me a chance to do my own brief walk-around of the ID.4 on the showroom floor.

To bring you up to speed, Volkswagen, after the debacle that was Dieselgate, changed directions as a company. This was partly forced upon them as part of their governmental settlements, and partly done voluntarily as a way to reinvent their future. They have established an all-electric sub-brand called “ID”, with several models already available in Europe. Here in the States, the first of them, the ID.4, has been launched, with online ordering having started a few months ago. The “1st Edition” launch model is sold out.

Once Jason was free, I sat at his desk, we exchanged pleasantries, and I asked him a few questions about the ID.4. He quickly brought me up to speed from the dealer’s perspective: cars are trickling in very slowly; aside from demos, every unit that arrives is pre-sold; if I (or anyone else) want one, it’s best to simply go online and order one; expect to wait ‘about a year’ for it to arrive; and on the chance that someone cancels their order, you might get lucky and move up the line.

He fetched the key and a dealer plate, and gave me a choice to either wait a few more minutes for him to ride along, or take the car out on my own. I told him that I was comfortable doing a solo test drive, so once he showed me the most basics of basics, I was off. Actually, I drove the ID.4 into the back lot to spend a few non-distracted minutes familiarizing myself with the interior controls.

The dash layout doesn’t necessarily scream “EV!” but it is spartan by my standards. There are two screens: a small one directly in front of the driver (which moves along with the up-and-down adjustments of the steering wheel, a nice touch), and the larger, primary screen in the center console. There are very few physical controls. The steering column keeps the two conventional stalks for lights and wipers. On the right side of the smaller screen is the “shift quadrant” such as it is: a spring-loaded knob which can be rotated forward or back changes the gearing from P to R to D/B. What’s D/B? It’s your choice between conventional “D” for Drive, or “B” for Drive with regenerative braking. More on that later. A button in the side of the knob engages “P” for parking brake.

The interior, also spartan, is not unattractive, except for that bright white steering wheel. The white interior accents may be part of the launch edition cars, but I would need to see some other color choices in there. I don’t drive with dirty hands (most of the time) but cannot imagine that wheel staying white.

The center screen has all the controls for the HVAC system, sound system, phone, nav, apps, etc. At the bottom of the screen are “slide bars” that don’t physically move, but swiping one’s fingers left or right will raise or lower temperature, volume, etc. There are no conventional knobs. Considering I had no tutorial, I did ok with it, but did not find it as intuitive as other vehicles. However, learning the center screen was not my primary objective: I wanted to experience how the ID.4 drove as an EV.

Tip-in was like the other EVs I’ve driven: the torque is there with zero delay. I should mention right here that ALL 1st Edition ID.4 models are rear-wheel-dive only, with an electric motor only at the rear axle. According to Car & Driver magazine (VW’s website frustratingly hides the vehicle specs, and only presents marketing info with as little technical detail as possible), the RWD car makes 201 horsepower and 229 lb. ft. of torque. Acceleration was perfectly adequate, although it came nowhere near the neck-snapping jolt I experienced in the Polestar 2 (not an apples-to-apples comparison, with a 20 grand difference in prices).

The car was mostly quiet inside, but coast-down produced an annoying sound of a motor winding down. Intentional? Don’t know. The biggest surprise during the test-drive was reverting to “B” mode, and feeling very little in the way of regenerative braking. The only time the car brought itself to a complete stop was at parking lot speeds below 5 MPH. In every normal driving situation, I needed to use the brake pedal. Not a big deal compared to an ICE car, but the fabulous one-pedal driving in the Polestar is not to be had here.

I stopped for a bit, took some pictures, and opened all the cavities. The rear hatch is electrically-powered and opens wide. I did not fold down the rear seats, but the lack of a mechanical drivetrain might make for a smidgen more cargo room (the ID.4’s wheelbase beats its two competitors by several inches). There is no “frunk” storage, that space consumed by other stuff. So resign yourself to putting your shopping bags in the wayback.

Resuming the test-drive, the best I could muster was to tell myself that the driving experience was fine. After a few minutes to become acclimated to the lack of exhaust noise, it drove like many other cars. The touchscreen controls will require a learning curve (I couldn’t figure out how to pair my phone), but VW fans and really anyone looking at small crossovers who’s willing to also consider an EV should add the ID.4 to their shopping list.

I got back to the dealer and returned the key to Jason. We chatted a bit more about electric vehicles in general. He expressed some frustration about the lack of stock from which to sell, but acknowledged that with the sold-out status of the 1st Edition, this might not be a bad problem to have. Then Jason shocked me by stating that VW, as part of the sale price, is offering “free charging” for the first three years of ownership. Sure enough, I found this statement on VW’s website:

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 comes with 3 years of unlimited charging at Electrify America DC Fast Chargers at no additional cost. Electrify America chargers can be found along most major highways.

Kudos to VW! That fact alone will go a long way toward alleviating some shoppers’ charging concerns. Jason stressed that the free charging offer also applies to the chargers installed at the dealership. Depending on your proximity to such things, this offer could sway someone on the fence about an EV.

The ID.4 is continuing the trend of building EVs that look normal. Is it new and stylish looking? Yes, somewhat. But it’s not different for the sake of it. As a CUV (compact utility vehicle), it’s sized to go head-to-head with two of the best-sellers in this segment as these specs bear out (figures courtesy of Car & Driver):

 VW ID.4Honda CR-VToyota RAV4
wheelbase (in.)108.9104.7105.9
overall length (in.)180.5182.1181.5
overall height (in.)64.466.567.0
passenger volume (cu.ft.)101103101

Looking at the Monroney, I think that the well-equipped 1st Edtion, at $42,995 plus $1,195 shipping, is a compelling offer. The car is eligible for the full $7,500 Federal tax incentive too. One issue with the 1st Edition is that RWD for most of us in the Northeast is a deal-breaker (the last time VW sold a RWD car here was the 1979 VW Beetle convertible). According to VW’s website, adding a 2nd electric motor to make it AWD adds $3,680 to the check you’re going to write, and the website states that the option isn’t available until “Oct-Dec 2021”. Oh well, you’re waiting for the car anyway.

Points in favor of the ID.4 include a ‘right-sized’ CUV, VW quality, a well-equipped car at this price point, and the bonus of 3 years’ worth of free juice. On the flip side, it’s RWD for now, the regen braking is poor for an EV, the AWD option adds almost four grand to the bottom line, and there’s a long wait for a car once you commit to placing an order. You also need to like that interior.

If price weren’t a factor, I’d jump at the Polestar in the time it takes an electron to (never mind). But price is almost always a factor. The Mustang Mach-E, with a starting price close to the ID.4, offers a nicer interior and (probably) a little less cargo capacity. I personally greatly prefer its looks versus the ID.4. The Mach-E’s AWD option is pricier than it is for the ID.4, and it also lacks the free recharging. The fun part is, more and more EVs are going to be introduced over the next 12-36 months. Competition makes everyone’s game better. If the VW ID.4’s size, shape, and cost hit your sweet spots, go for it. For me, I’m waiting to see what ‘s coming next. I’ll be ready to move into an EV in about two years. I’ll keep you posted.  

What the ID.4 wants to be when it grows up

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

First Day of Spring Brings First Car Show of the Season

A new entry on the collector car calendar has sprung up in 2021: the Neshanic Station Car Show, which held its inaugural event on Saturday March 20, nicely coinciding with the first day of spring. And a glorious day it was, with sunny blue skies, no wind, and moderate temperatures reaching close to 60F by midday. The clear air made for some stunning photography.

Side by side and as different as can be

The car show was combined with a general (not automotive) flea market, which deserves some background history. The tiny hamlet of Neshanic Station for decades held a flea market every Sunday during decent weather, with a wide range of vendors selling a great variety of new and used goods. It became quite well-known and would draw an audience from all parts of the Garden State. A few years ago, the private property which hosted the flea market was sold, and the lot was taken over by the county, merged with a local park. The old flea market was dead.

A nice show for a good cause

The Neshanic United Methodist Church resurrected the flea market, combining it with a car show to help draw a crowd. For 2021, it will a once-a-month-on-a-Saturday affair. To sign up, one only needed to send an email stating the desire to exhibit a car. There is no fee, but the church requests a voluntary donation to the food bank that it sponsors. The church has access to a spacious lot across the street from the original flea market location, a flat and grassy piece of property easily 5 or 6 times the size of what had previously been used.

I had registered my Miata a few weeks prior, and since the location is literally three miles from my house, I departed a few minutes before 9 a.m. and was still there in plenty of time. There were close to a dozen cars already in place as I motored past them, with a dozen or more yet to show up after me. This was a “run what you brung” kind of show: no limitations based on age, condition, restoration quality, or modifications, and sometimes that’s the best kind of show, because you truly get the largest variety of vehicles. It’s also a great way to make sure that anyone who owns what THEY consider an interesting car can feel included in a group that frankly might shun them at another type of show.

The new mid-engine C8 Corvette

Domestic iron from the 1960s comprised a large percentage of show cars, with two late-model Ferraris covering the exotic end of the spectrum. Not to be outdone, the Corvette contingent was out in full force, including a C8 mid-engine beauty in an eye-searing yellow. Late model cars included a Challenger, an Audi, and an Alfa 4C.

The flea market vendor turnout was smaller than I expected; the show cars dwarfed the vendors based on the amount of real estate taken. The crowd was a decent size, and the vast majority of folks walking the field outside adhered to the ‘masks on’ request except when eating or drinking something they bought from the on-site food truck. There is no doubt in my mind that for car owners and spectators alike, there was an overwhelming desire to get back to normal compared to 2020, and that helped account for the turnout.

As has been said many times before, after a certain amount of time in the hobby, it’s the people and their stories who become the real center of interest, and I met several fine folks whose stories are recounted below. The Neshanic Car Show organizers have already laid out their calendar through the remainder of the year, with the next two shows set for April 17 and May 15. My personal goal is to get that Alfa out of the garage where it’s been since 2019 in time for either the April or May event.

Twenty years later, another white over red Chrysler convertible…


1962 Lincoln Continental 4-door sedan

I approached the owner of this 1962 Lincoln and told him how refreshing it was to see a sedan since what I see at car shows are almost exclusively the four door convertibles. He told me that he was at a dealer in suburban Philly who had both the 4-door sedan and the 4-door convertible. Although he really wanted the droptop it was so outside his price range, he went with this green-on-green one. The car is all original, everything functions, and he named the car after his departed mother, calling it the “Queen Maryellen”. He went on: “Listen, I’m really not a car guy but I just love this thing, it’s so easy to drive and attracts so much attention no matter where I take it.” He also has an Olds Aurora at home and he hopes to come back next time with a friend so he can bring both cars.


2014 Audi A4

A young man in his mid-20s approached my Miata and struck up a conversation, telling me about a friend who has a Miata with an LS motor in it. I told him that I was familiar with the conversion and that kits are available to do just that. This got us both talking about cars in general. I could tell that he was a genuine enthusiast who seemed to harbor no prejudices when it came to interesting cars. He finally let it out that he was the owner of the 2014 Audi A4 at the other end of the aisle from me. It’s a four-cylinder stick shift car, and he’s done some “minor” modding as he called it, with a performance chip, cat-back exhaust, and some other tweaks. His car was spotless. I truly admired this young guy’s devotion and enthusiasm. The hobby needs to find a way to be inclusive to gals and guys like him who have a late model vehicle which is their pride and joy. ‘Our’ rules cannot be forced on them. They are the future of this hobby if it is to survive.


1965 Pontiac Bonneville 2-door hardtop

This 1965 Bonneville, at first blush, was a nice looking car without anything overtly special about it. I began a conversation with the owner, asking my usual first question: “how long have you owned it?” He answered by telling me “my grandmother bought this car new in Pasadena California”. This Bonneville is a one-family-owned car which resided in southern CA until he brought it to NJ when he married and relocated. The car was in a collision in the 1980 s and got a total repaint at that time; otherwise, it’s all original. This was my favorite car of the show.


1963 Studebaker Avanti

The Studebaker Avanti is an automotive enigma – born out of desperation as the company was going out of business, it was manufactured only for two model years, 1963 and 1964. Fewer than 5,000 were built as “Studebakers” before the factory shut down. (Don’t confuse these with the Avanti II, which is an almost-identical car manufactured when the tooling was bought by two Studebaker dealerships.) This owner has had this car for about 10 years, stating that he pulled it out of dry storage and got it roadworthy. It’s an unusually low-spec car, with a 3-speed manual floor shift, and lacking power steering, power windows, or A/C. This too was claimed to be a mostly original car, and I saw little reason to doubt it. Perhaps most convincingly, old-fashioned service stickers from 1967 and 1975 were still in the driver’s door jamb.

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

DRIVEN: My weekend with the Polestar 2 EV

Until the day arrives when we are ferried to and fro in anonymous autonomous pods, THIS is the future of human-piloted automotive transportation.

After 48 hours, I didn’t want to give it back. My extended test-drive of a Polestar 2 began when I signed up for a 30-minute drive, and the return text message asked: “would you like to take the car home for the weekend?” (It helps to be good friends with a former colleague who is a Polestar exec.) I didn’t need to be asked twice. I drove up to Volvo/Polestar HQ in Mahwah NJ on Friday afternoon, left my Volvo V60 in the lot, and returned home in the “2”. Sunday afternoon I reversed the process, putting about 200 miles on the vehicle during my time with it.

Picking up the Polestar 2
Kissing cousins

Polestar is a name which has had an ongoing connection to Volvo since the first decade of this century. Starting as Polestar Racing, the company prepped modified Volvos for competition. By 2009, Polestar was the official performance outlet for production cars, analogous to Mercedes-Benz’s AMG or BMW’s Dinan. As Volvo grew under ownership of China-based Geely, Polestar was designated to serve as an upscale, breakout brand for hybrid and fully electric vehicles (EVs). The first Polestar-branded vehicle, Polestar 1, is a two-door hybrid, built in very limited numbers (see Sidebar). The next model to be released, and the first with some volume aspirations, is the Polestar 2, a five-door hatchback sedan.

It simply is not going to be possible to cover everything there is to say about this automobile. I’ve broken down my observations and comments as: the vehicle as an upscale brand, the vehicle as transportation, and the vehicle as an EV.

AS A BRAND

While the desire to project an image of Polestar as a notch above Volvo is understandable, the car has Volvo genes, and that’s a good thing. This isn’t some unknown startup launching its first-ever automobile. (It’s not been widely publicized, but Volvo has been working with EVs at the concept level for at least a decade.) It is comforting to think of this vehicle as “Volvo+”.

Polestar shares space with Volvo’s NJ HQ

These attributes include quality, attractive minimalist (Scandinavian) design, and safety. An exterior walk-around assures the viewer that fit and finish are top-notch. Doors and front and rear lids open and close with authority. Interior components are well-trimmed and operate like precision machinery. It was very easy to find a comfortable seating position and adjust everything to the driver’s needs. Anyone who has spent any time behind the wheel of a late-model Volvo, or indeed any European luxury car will quickly feel right at home.

Volvo has owned “safety” for its entire time in the U.S. market, and although the competition keeps threatening to catch up, Volvo, and now Polestar, work at staying ahead of the pack. There are no optional safety features on the Polestar 2: a full suite of air bags, front and rear collision mitigation, run-off mitigation, cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, 360 camera, and more, are all standard.

AS A CAR

Eric greeted me at the Polestar pod, informed me that he was expecting me, and told me that my car was ready. The model I was given had two major options: an all-leather interior upgrade, and the Performance Package. My car, finished in black (Polestar calls the color “Void”) was offset by an interior trimmed in gorgeous tan leather with birch-looking wood trim. The most eye-catching accents are the gold calipers (Brembo in front) and matching gold seatbelts. It’s just enough bling to let you know you’re in something special.

Masked Eric in the Polestar pod

Controls were easy to find and intuitive to operate. I set the power seat and mirrors, and adjusted the wheel for reach and rake (it’s manual, which may irk some, but a power-adjustable steering column is overkill).

Gold Brembos behind 20″ wheels, both part of Performance Package

The vertically-oriented center screen uses large-font typeface and large icons, a boon for operating while driving. I didn’t want to be too distracted while driving a car that didn’t belong to me, but I was pleasantly surprised by its ease of use. Polestar uses Google as its screen Operating System, and once your phone is paired, using the various features (navigation, phone calls, plus any app that’s on your phone) is a snap. Voice commands were especially reliable (“Hey Google, navigate me to 777 MacArthur Boulevard in Mahwah New Jersey” was correctly understood on first try each time). This stuff is far from my area of expertise; I’m convinced that if this were my car, I’d learn a lot more about it the more time I spent with it.

There is no “ignition” – with key in proximity, once the driver is seated and belted, the gearshift can be moved from P into either R or D, and a tap on the accelerator (can’t say gas!) starts it rolling. At first, the quiet is eerie. Once you’re at or above 30 mph, tire noise is the predominant sound, but is not obtrusive. The car is so much quieter than an ICE vehicle, and it’s a quiet that you quickly accept, then appreciate.

The Performance Package concerned me, with its 20-inch wheels shod with Continental high-performance summer tires. I expected a harsh ride as a tradeoff for good handling. My concerns were assuaged within the first five minutes of driving. The suspension tuning provided both a quiet and comfortable ride along with rail-like handling.

Once I pulled out of the parking lot, with Nav set for “home”, I was on local roads for about 15 minutes before reaching the Interstate on-ramp. I rounded the curved ramp at about 35, and a quick glance in the mirrors showed that both middle and right lanes of the highway were empty. I said to myself ‘what the hell’, and floored it. The acceleration caught me by such surprise that I slammed the back of my head into the head restraint. The car jumped from about 35 to about 75 in 2.5 seconds. I have never experienced automotive acceleration like that in my life. The problem is it’s addictive: it happens so quickly and so quietly, with so little drama (aside from the self-induced headache) that you’re only discouraged from this behavior by its effect on battery life (and the threat of summonses).

Forward and side visibility are very good to excellent; to the rear, the fixed rear seat head restraints and blocky rear pillars limit your view (which is where the 360 mirror comes in handy). Braking is superb, but really deserves to be discussed as an EV-attribute.

Some final comments about styling: from the front, it looks like a mid-size 4-door car, although you will also notice it sits a little higher than a typical 2021 sedan (the matte black wheel-well trim provides an accent for its slightly higher ride height). From the rear, the hatchback is not obvious (the long sloping rear has become a styling cliché on late model sedans). Opening the hatch and folding the rear seat backs forward reveals a generous cargo hold that it limited only by its lack of a vertical tailgate.

Rear hatch open, rear seats folded, charging cables on the left

Some of you may be thinking “sedans are dead; EVERYONE wants an SUV”. Yes, well, maybe most, but certainly not everyone. It’s time to bring up that T word for the first time (5 letters, ends in A, last name of electrical engineer Nikola, company founded by that guy Elon something….). If sedans are dead, how is Tesla doing so well with its Model 3 sedan, the best-selling EV vehicle in America? “Oh that’s different” you might say. How so? I don’t know Polestar’s future model aspirations, but I think the Polestar 2 neatly splits the difference between “sedan” and “SUV”.

Another view of the folded seats

AS AN EV

Aside from a 10-minute test drive in a BMW i3, and several rides in EVs (most recently, a long test-ride in a Mustang Mach-E), I have not driven a pure EV long enough to get some sense of what day-to-day living with one might encompass. I had that chance this weekend, and I am a convert.

Starting with the driving experience, the quiet, the acceleration, and yet the normalcy of cruising down the highway brings you to the understanding that it’s still a car, and as long as it’s a good car (which the Polestar 2 is), it could be your daily driver.

Earlier, I mentioned braking and said that my comments will fit better under the EV discussion. The “2” has adjustable regenerative braking. The screen calls it One Pedal Drive, and the 3 modes are “off”, “low”, and “standard” (which is full regenerative). When turned off, releasing the ‘go’ pedal will allow the car to coast for as long as momentum and gravity will let it, just like an ICE car. At “full”, the accelerator is like an on/off switch. As soon as it’s released, the car starts to slow down. If you’re at very low speeds, the car stops almost immediately; at higher speeds, it will roll for a few yards, but you’ll sense that the brakes have been applied. If this sounds weird, I gotta tell you: I got used to it in about 30 minutes. One pedal driving. It’s easy. It’s safer. It’s fantastic. I wish all my cars had it!

Center screen, One Pedal Drive options on lower left

I tried the “low” mode and frankly didn’t see the point. It’s an unnecessary compromise. I suspect drivers will either get used to and enjoy “full” or will want it to be as much like an ICE car and turn it off. When you do need to quickly get on that brake pedal, those front Brembos haul this 4,700 lb mass to a stop quickly and quietly. Those batteries are heavy, but the car does not have a heavy feel when driving.

I was provided with charging cables for home use, both 120V and 240V. I do not have a 240 setup at home, so I plugged into a 120 outlet in my garage, snaked the cable under the garage door, and let it charge overnight. Admittedly, the battery was only 25% depleted when I started, but I had a full charge in the morning. I was told that at 120V, a full charge from 0 to 100% would take 24 hours. The 240V charge would happen much more quickly. Owning this vehicle would really require the one-time investment of a dedicated home charger – figure roughly a grand for that.

I cruised by two public charging stations, both within a 15-20 minute ride from my home. Spots were available, but I did not take the time to top off the battery. At one (Charge Point) juice can only be purchased if the app is downloaded to your phone. The other, Electrify America, offers the option of an app or will take a credit card at the charging station.

Don’t even think of parking your ICE car here!

The following comments are true for all EVs, not just Polestars: not enough has been made of the savings in repair and maintenance costs. Starting from the moment of purchase, you will never need to be concerned with spark plugs, engine oil, oil filters, transmission or gear oil, oxygen sensors, charcoal canisters, exhaust systems, radiator coolant, belts, or hoses. There’s nothing to leak. I’m having a difficult time imagining what happens at a dealer service visit: check your tire pressure and fill your washer solvent bottle? Your “consumables” are reduced to tires, brakes, suspension bits like shocks and bushings, wiper blades, light bulbs (less and less of an issue with LEDs), and…what, THE BATTERY? By that time you’ll be trading in for a new one.

 

Even the funnel, Sta-Bil, and drain pan become obsolete

TO THE NAYSAYERS

I know that some of you, including friends and colleagues of mine, don’t agree that the advantages of an EV outweigh the disadvantages. Listen, I get it. You should drive what you want to drive. However, living with this Polestar 2 for 48 hours also brought me to the conclusion that many of the stated opinions why EVs won’t replace ICE cars are excuses. Let’s address some of the commonly-cited issues about EVs:

“Range is too short”

Three factors influence range: the size of the fuel tank (or for EV, energy supply, i.e., the battery); the fuel economy of the engine (for an EV, its ability to efficiently consume that energy as motive power); and finally, the driver’s influence (local vs highway driving, frequent stops, idling, heavy accelerator usage, etc.).

The range on the Polestar 2 with 100% battery is 230 miles. Some critics have knocked that as not up to Tesla standards, and it’s not. But how large a factor is that in the purchase decision? It’s never been for me; fuel economy, yes, but my earliest car purchases were vehicles with 10-gallon tanks, so 30MPG still only netted a range of 300 miles, and that’s if I drove it dry, which I never did. Realistic range was 250-275 miles (and that’s what it is in my Miata, also with a 10-gallon tank).

Committing to a purchase of an EV, I now realize, requires a mental shift and a mindset change. Some planning ahead will help ensure that you’ll get there and back. You do the same thing now with gasoline: if you’re leaving early in the a.m. on a 300-mile trip, you’ll likely fill up the evening before. Why wouldn’t you do the same with an EV? Yes, with an ICE, you’ll always find gas stations to refuel, no waiting. The Polestar 2 has tools to overcome “range anxiety”.

“Range anxiety means I’m nervous about venturing far from home”

Google Maps very happily responds to the voice command “Hey Google, where are the nearest charging stations?” by displaying a list of EV chargers within sight on the map. Amazingly to me, this list includes information about the total number of chargers at the site, and how many are presently occupied.

Choice #1 has 1 of 2 medium-speed chargers open, and both slow chargers open

Wouldn’t that be neat to do for the local Exxon station? “Hey Google, how many Exxon stations are nearby?” and you not only get a map of them, you see that “Ed’s Exxon” has 6 pumps, and 4 are being used at present.

“Ha!” You laugh at this notion. “Who needs that? There’s never a wait at a gas station!”

Above: gas lines, 1979. Photo courtesy of https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/oil-shock-of-1978-79

I’m convinced you have short memories. Many of you were driving in 1979, when we had our 2nd fuel crisis of the decade, with OPEC turning off the taps, leading to oil shortages, and eventually, rationing. At that time, I was making an 80-mile round-trip to work, and I could only purchase fuel on “even days” based on my license plate. I could do no extra driving outside of my commute during the week. In 1979, I had range anxiety, although we didn’t call it that.

How stable is the Middle East today compared to 40 years ago? Let’s see: Iran’s nuclear buildup, the wobbly Iraqi government, civil unrest in Syria, the Khashoggi murder by Saudi Arabia; I guess we can expect unlimited oil supplies to continue from the region …. The truth is we don’t know what could happen in one, five, or ten years down the road. I would not bet against another large price jump or oil shortage.

“I can’t charge my car if there’s a power failure”

This is very true. Actually, there are a lot of things you can’t do if there’s a power failure. At my house, loss of power means we can’t charge our phones, keep our refrigerated food cold, wash dishes, take showers, flush toilets, light up rooms after sundown, use the microwave, or watch TV. The last time we had a lengthy, large scale power outage was during Superstorm Sandy in 2011, when the neighborhood lost power for four days. At least we weren’t alone in our misery: a quarter-mile away from me is a Shell gas station. They lost power too. You know what they couldn’t do?

They couldn’t pump gasoline.

“I can’t fill up my car with gas if there’s a power failure”. What WE did, based on the forecast, was fill both cars before the storm arrived. Then we didn’t go anywhere anyway. True, we don’t always know when the power will go out. But if I had an EV and we were expecting a major outage, I’d top up. And probably not go anywhere anyway.

“I’ll miss that incredible thrust from that massive V-8”

Anyone who says that has not driven an EV like the Polestar 2 with its instantaneous 487 lb-ft of torque. End of that discussion.

NITS TO PICK

Trying my best to be objective, there is nothing I found that would be a deal-breaker if I were in the market for an EV in this price range. Like so many other vehicles today, the exterior and interior color palette is limited. To my eye, the “2” looks better in lighter colors. I wish there were interior options between the basic grey/black synthetic and the full-zoot tan leather. My V60 has power-folding rear seat head restraints; I miss them here only because I have them already. The buttons on the side of the little black key fob are ridiculously small for my old eyes (yet admittedly I didn’t need to touch them once). That’s all I can think of.

Basic grey interior; functional and un-fancy
Yeah, at 3x magnification I can see ’em!

HOW DOES IT COMPARE?

I would spec it out in white with the tan leather (I would spring for the upscale interior and skip the $5,000 Performance Package). All Polestars are eligible for the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit. $59,900 plus destination, metallic paint, and leather interior, minus the credit, puts me right at $59,000.  Don’t forget to factor in the fuel and maintenance savings.

I’m hard pressed to think of another $60,000 sedan, ICE or EV, that beats this car in equipment, safety, driving dynamics, and environmental care. Teslas have their advantages, including a dedicated charging network, and extensive range. The Model 3 is smaller and has less equipment than the “2”. The Model S is closer in size, yet is priced starting at $10,000 above the “2”, is no longer eligible for any Federal Tax Credit (no Tesla is), and have you seen that yoke of a wheel? How is that thing even legal? A close competitor might be the Volvo S90; I’d hate to suggest that Polestar would cannibalize its own sibling, and the choice might come down to preferences over things like colors and motive power.

When I was checking out one of the charging stations, a guy in a pickup truck stopped and yelled out the window: “Nice car! What is it?” When I responded “a Polestar”, he asked “where do I get one?” I told him NYC. Hope I made a sale.


SIDEBAR: THE POLESTAR 1

There were seven of these beauties lined up in the same lot where I picked up my loaner. This was my first time seeing this car in person. It’s lower than I expected; at first glance, I called it the “Swedish Camaro” – it has that pony car stance.

On closer examination, I began to see hints of the P1800 coupe from the 1960s. Make note of the jutting grille and the sweep of the roof’s rear pillar. The taillights are current Volvo design language. Hoping for a drive in one of these on my next visit.

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The Mustang GT/CS at Fords at Carlisle, 2008

Perusing some older photos, I’ve realized that there are some gaps in my coverage of events which were attended with my 1968 Ford Mustang GT/CS, aka California Special. One such event is Fords at Carlisle, where my green machine and I made an appearance in June 2008.

“Carlisle” as a hobbyist destination should need no introduction here: the organizers have been hosting Spring & Fall Carlisle since 1974, and in the ensuing years, have expanded the number of events via marque-specific weekends, including Corvettes at Carlisle, Chryslers at Carlisle, the Carlisle Import Show, and so on. The Ford event is traditionally scheduled in June, and having attended many of the other smaller mid-year shows, the All-Ford (and Mercury, Lincoln, Edsel, Merkur, etc.) National is one of the larger ones in the series.

The previous month, we had been to the Carlisle Import show with the Isetta in tow. Although not mentioned in my coverage, that particular May day was brisk, with daytime temps in the low-to-mid 50s. Typical for the Northeast, the weather can change on a dime, and two weeks later, on the day of my 5-hour round trip, the thermometer hit 100F (38C for those of you in the rest of the world). It was HOT! The A/C, factory-equipped in my car, remained non-functional during my entire ownership. My deepest regrets for failing to fix it were reserved for this particular day. At the same time, my 390 big block never pushed the temperature gauge past its mid-point. The car ran strong and cool all day.

My Lime Gold GT/CS and me; note the late-model Mustangs in background

At least I had company for the ride. A family friend with whom I had recently become acquainted, Mike Larkin, was more than willing to ride shotgun. Mike wasn’t a traditional car guy but said he was always up for an adventure. The heat seemed to bother him less than it did me as we cruised with our 260 air at full blast.

Mike Larkin relaxes behind his ride home (photo taken with 120 roll film camera)

Arriving at the fairgrounds, the number of Mustangs on the grounds was overwhelming! Carlisle could probably host “Mustangs at Carlisle” and have a large enough turnout for a standalone show. To my surprise and delight, the “Specials” (California Special and its Colorado cousin, the High Country Special) were afforded their own display area. We pulled in, found a spot, and climbed out of our steaming hot car to bask in the even steamier fairground air.

All CS (California Specials) & HCS (High Country Specials) were in their own group

The photos can tell the rest of the story from here, although I must confess that there were many other interesting Fords which did not get photographed. Someday, whether there’s a Ford in my future or not, I’ll work my way back to Fords at Carlisle.

A striking ’68; note wheels and model car on air cleaner
A modern GT/CS sandwiched by two 1968s
Yes, there is a Yellow Mustang Club, and the word went out to show up in force
Difficult to tell, but this is a High Country Special, lacking “California Special” script on rear quarters

Above: flippin’ for Ford’s Flip-Tops! The Ford Skyliner Retractable Hardtop was made only for 3 years: 1957, 1958, and 1959. The top photo shows a ’57; note the front plate, “NON SCRIPT”, referring to the earliest production cars which lacked the “Skyliner” script on the roof’s C-pillar. The bottom photo shows two ’59s side-by-side, both with the garage-challenging Continental kits added.

Yes, people collect Mavericks….
Long gone, but far from forgotten: the 1958 (first year) Edsel with its infamous grille
Full-size Fords were on plentiful display too
The Breezeway window on a mid-60s Mercury
The Ford GT, made in ’05-’06, was “just” a used car here

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.