We were sworn to secrecy (sort of): during the AACA National held last year in Saratoga Springs, NY, attendees were offered the chance to tour a nearby private car collection. Upon arrival, our host, Jim Taylor, warmly invited us, but also cautioned us that while photographs were allowed, he did not want to see his name, face, location, and automotive particulars “splattered all over social media”. Taking his request literally, my posts from that event in June 2021 made no mention of the visit. Did my fellow visitors also comply? I have no idea, but I generally follow the rules when requested.
This was not my first visit to the Taylor Collection. While on the 2013 edition of the New England 1000 classic car rally with my rally brother Steve, we were granted access to the huge facility. At that time, there was no request to keep things quiet; perhaps social media’s outreach was not quite as far-reaching eight years prior.
In both instances, the impression left by visiting his four-wheeled treasures was the same: complete awe. Not only are the cars in immaculate condition; most of the collection is represented by sporting machinery of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, which strikes at the center of my own passion. Even so, the variety of cars cuts across numerous domestic and import brands, so no matter your taste, you’re sure to see at least one car that will make you smile.
I have broken Jim’s privacy request very simply because Jim himself has. In recent weeks I have received several emails letting it be known that he plans to auction off his entire collection. The auction will be conducted by Broad Arrow Auctions in October of this year. With the exception of Jim’s Jaguar D-Type, the collection will be offered at no reserve. Here’s some verbiage from the auction company’s website:
Broad Arrow Auctions, a Broad Arrow Group Company, is thrilled to announce the single owner offering auction of Mr. Jim Taylor, taking place this 14-15 October in his hometown of Gloversville, located a short distance from Albany, New York. The grouping of more than 120-motor cars represents one of the finest assemblages of European, British, and American sports and vintage cars including an impressive selection of Allard, Alvis, Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Cunningham, Dodge, Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, and Shelby motor cars.
I don’t pretend to know Jim, but I met him and heard him speak at some length, both in 2013 and in 2021, and frankly, I’m surprised he’s doing this. Of course, one never knows another’s full personal situation. He’s had the chance to enjoy his cars over many years, and his family situation may warrant that a selloff now is better than one in the future.
Jim and his family have owned and operated Taylor Made Marine products for years. A quick Internet search revealed one change that occurred between my first and second visits: the company was bought out. Whether this has anything to do with the liquidation of the collector cars is not for me to guess. However, I assure you that based what I’ve seen and heard, these cars are pristine and are kept in top-notch mechanical shape too, so bidders, bid with confidence!
Below is an assortment of photos from my most recent visit in June 2021.
Jaguars are obviously one of Jim’s favorite brands, as verified here by his collection of XK-120/140/150s, E-Types, and ’60s-era sedans.
ASTON MARTIN ZAGATO:
CHEVROLET CORVAIR STATION WAGON:
PRE-WAR ALFA ROMEO:
MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL ROADSTER:
FIRST- AND SECOND-GEN FORD GTs, BOTH IN GULF LIVERY:
The NJ Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) held its “annual” car show on Sunday May 1, 2022, at a new location: the Lakeview Elementary School in Denville, NJ, immediately off Route 10. The word “annual” is in quotes because the last few years had proven to be a challenge to actually hold the show, either due to poor weather or due to Covid. My blog posts clearly document the lousy atmospheric conditions in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. The pandemic wiped the 2020 and 2021 shows off the calendar.
The 2016 to 2019 events were held at a new location for us, the Mennen Arena in Morristown, and I had, on multiple occasions, made it clear to those who would listen that this was not a great spot for a car show. As much as I’m not superstitious, I also began to wonder if the spot was jinked.
There were no weather jinxes in play for this one. The day was near perfect: sunny, warm but not hot, with a few stray clouds high overhead. Compared to the wet years, when turnout barely got above two or three dozen, there were well over one hundred vehicles at this year’s event. Most of the vehicles were in classes numbered by decade and were judged to AACA standards (25 years or older, in stock, as-new condition). There were also classes for HPOF (Historical Preservation of Original Features, a non-judged class), as well as trucks, two-seat sports cars, Mustangs, modified vehicles through 1997, and ‘modern classics’ 1998 and newer. (Some of these classes are not officially recognized by AACA and are added to bring additional vehicles to the show, making all feel welcome.)
I was especially pleased to see the strong turnout of pre-war and immediate post-war (WW2 in both cases) vehicles. Despite what many think, interest in vehicles from this time period continues to be strong. For example, I had a delightful conversation with the owner of a 1929 Packard, who to me looked like he was perhaps in his late 30s/early 40s. He told me that this generation Packard had been his dream car since he was seven years old!
My 1967 Alfa Romeo, which ran without an issue, got me safely and soundly to the show and back. This was the first AACA event for my beloved Italian stallion since the Buffalo Farm Car Show in Flemington NJ in June of 2019. (It was the following month when the brakes failed, necessitating a complete overhaul, followed by a necessary carb overhaul.) My good friend and fellow club member Ed Geller, who owns multiple Alfas, parked his HPOF ’69 Spider next to my car, and we made for an attractive 1-2 Alfa punch.
A treat for the club this year was the addition of a new member who goes by the name “Gup” (don’t ask because I don’t have a clue) who has his own DJ business. He parked his heavily modified Ford rig about center stage, and spun the tunes all day. His ability to mix styles and genres meant that there no complaints that I heard about the music! In previous years, we broadcasted SiriuxXM “Forties on 4” or “Fifties on 5” through the PA, and it got monotonous. Gup was a great addition to this year’s festivities.
Below are photos of show cars which captured my attention. Since AACA requires judged cars to have open hoods and trunks, obtaining quality images can be a challenge. When the opportunity presented itself, I also tried to snap photos of cars which by virtue of their locations in the parking lot would allow a better framed composition.
Featured car #1: 1929 Packard Phaeton
The Packard’s owner, a man perhaps in his 40s, told me that he wanted this style Packard since he was seven years old. His car had been restored in 1951, and was an award winner at that time, but then had been put into storage. When he bought it, the car required a thorough recommissioning, but he assured me that I was looking at paint that had been applied 71 years ago.
Featured car #2: 1993 Lotus Esprit
One does not see Lotus Esprits at many AACA events, so the appearance of this gorgeous white one grabbed my attention. Presuming that it had a V8 mounted amidships, the owner corrected me and said that the engine was a Lotus-engineered V4, and turbocharged to boot.
One of the principal reasons for attending the Spring Carlisle Auction this year (a two-day event, which ran on April 21 & 22, 2022) was to take the temperature of the collector car market. It’s no secret that special-interest car pricing has exploded since the Covid shutdown began in early 2020. It’s difficult to pin down the exact reasons, but there’s been some influence from new and late-model used vehicle pricing having jumped sky high. We also have collectors who have decided that there’s no time like the present to get the toys of their dreams, and are willing to break open their IRA piggy banks to fund such dreams.
Online auctions, led by Bring a Trailer (BaT), provide real-world results, not just asking prices. A general observation has been that many collector cars are selling for double or triple what they might have fetched several years ago. This in turn has brought back the age-old argument that “the collector car hobby is too expensive! Everything is priced completely out of my range!” And for the umpteenth time, I’m here to argue that this is simply not true, provided you’re open minded as to what you would consider as a ‘collector car’.
I cover 13 sales results below from last week’s Carlisle event. Although I wasn’t necessarily targeting the lower end of the price range, 11 of the 13 cars listed below sold for under $10,000. And these aren’t junk. They are mostly domestic product, with a German economy car and two British sporting roadsters included. Yes, a few of them are 4-door sedans, however, that body style is gaining respect in the hobby. Four of them are convertibles. There are 4-cylinder cars, 6-cylinder ones (including one supercharged) and many V8s. Again, open-mindedness gets you something fun, and most importantly, a foot into the hobby, meaning a car you can drive to a Cars & Coffee event, a Cruise Night, or on a tour with a car club.
Carlisle Auctions is primarily attended by dealers who are looking to pay wholesale so they can flip for a profit. For the individual collector, this event continues to present an opportunity to buy a first or a twenty-first collector car at a price that’s more than fair.
As always, Richard’s Car Blog sorts the auction results IN PRICE ORDER, to give the reader an idea of what types of vehicles sell in similar price ranges. The blog also strives to provide multiple photos of each car, capturing the front, rear, interior, and engine compartment whenever possible.
$3,000 – $5,000:
T215, 1996 Cadillac Eldorado, dark blue/green, taupe interior. Northstar V8, auto, factory alloys, blackwalls. Interior shows expected wear for age. Sign claims “low actual mileage” but miles not verified.
SOLD $3,000. The deal of the day or a never-ending money pit? This car sold midday on Thursday, and I didn’t check it out until after the sale. Is there a bad CarFax? Branded title? Major accident repair? I don’t know, but someone may have done well just to get a running driving car for this money.
T112, 1976 Buick Electra 4-door pillarless hardtop, silver, red vinyl roof, red interior. 455 V8, auto. Clock shows 87k. Blackwall tires, full wheel covers, fender skirts, faded bumper fillers. Paint is shot, silver looks more like primer. Interior ok, driver’s door armrest deteriorated. (No mention if roll of duct tape is included.) Engine compartment a mess. Last year of GM’s full-size cars before the Big Downsizing in ’77.
SOLD $5,000. A neglected old boat, only for the Buick devotee. But hey, who says you can’t get into the hobby cheap? Bring a gas card.
$5,700 – $6,500:
T145, 1960 Rambler 4-door sedan, 6-cylinder, auto (push button!), dark blue body, white top, blackwall tires, white painted wheels with Rambler hub caps. Sign claims 41k original miles, could be true. Interior multi-grey, rubber mats on floor. Quite basic transportation even by 1960 standards.
SOLD $5,750 Rambler/AMC collectors are out there (I know a few), but this car is as plain as plain gets. Perhaps the best one can say is to acknowledge that the car survived. Only for the hardcore Rambler enthusiast.
F470, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair convertible, yellow, white convertible top, wire wheel covers, whitewall tires, aftermarket brown velour seat upholstery, dash cover. Flat-6, 4-speed, claimed 67k miles.
SOLD $6,000. To me, car’s appearance was greatly held back by incorrect seat upholstery; should be all black. No engine specs stated, so presumed this is lower HP version (110?). If underbody is solid, this is something of a deal on a 1st gen Corvair droptop (with the manual a plus). Recent BaT sales have been higher than this.
T101, 1979 Pontiac Bonneville 4-door sedan. V8, auto, Two-tone brown/cream, beige interior. Odometer shows 85k, could be actual. Fender skirts, whitewalls, full wheel covers, color-keyed bodyside molding. Interior shows little wear (driver’s door panel looks amazing for age and miles). Engine compartment could use a detail.
SOLD $6,250. Four door sedans are gathering more respect as collectibles, helped in part by rising values of two door cars. If you’re ok with pillared sedans, this one was nice. The orphaned marque could help or hurt depending on your point of view. (Saw this car in the Car Corral the following day, ask was $10,500.)
F450, 1996 Buick Riviera, 3.8L supercharged V6, auto, FWD. Black paint, chrome factory wheels, grey leather interior. Sign claims 69k original miles. Looks like a 10-year-old well-kept used car.
SOLD $6,500. A great touring car, eligible for all AACA events now that it’s over 25 years old.
$7,500 – $8,250:
T102, 1974 VW Super Beetle, light blue, white interior. Sign claims 53k original miles. Blackwall tires, VW hub caps. Exterior shows well except for (hopefully removable) decals. Interior has cracked dash, paint chips on inside driver’s door, lace-on steering wheel cover, coco floor mats. Engine compartment clean, shows signs of recent service.
SOLD $7,500. #3 condition car sold for #4 money, a rare deal in today’s market. Was the 2nd car run on Thursday, to buyer’s delight and seller’s chagrin.
F492, 1996 Ford Mustang GT convertible, 4.6L V8, auto, sign claims 65k original miles (and 6-digit odo backs that up). Teal green, tan top, tan cloth interior. Blackwall tires on factory alloys, factory rear spoiler. A decent looking used car.
SOLD $7,500. These SN-95 models succeeded the Fox-body cars, and the original styling was derided as being a bit too soft (rectified in the 1999 refresh). These mid-to-late ‘90s Mustangs represent a tremendous value if you’re looking for pony car fun, especially in top-down mode.
T121, 1975 Triumph Spitfire, red, black top, non-original two-tone black/red interior. Painted wheels, center caps and trim rings, blackwall tires. Sign claims 45k original miles. Engine compartment clean.
SOLD $7,750. It doesn’t get much simpler than a Spitfire. You might want to try one on for size before plunking down your hard-earned cash. Still, lots of wind-in-the-hair fun for little money. Great first collector car, as parts are plentiful and the wrenching is easy.
F472, 1952 Packard 200 4-door sedan. Light green, full wheel covers, whitewalls, fender skirts. Original selling dealer emblem on trunk lid. Interior is grey/black, odo reads 23k, no mileage claim. Straight-8 flathead, stick shift, 6 volt. Trunk shows a wide-white 7.60-15 bias-ply tire on spare wheel; how old is that tire?? Sign claims “all original survivor”.
SOLD $8,250. I looked over this car as carefully as I could and could find zero evidence of a respray. It’s entirely possible this car was wearing factory paint. No rust-through was found during a cursory inspection. I’m smitten by any car that can remain as original as this one appears to have done. If true, a wonderful find for the Packard aficionado.
T134, 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible, V8, auto, dark red, tan top and interior, 88k miles, factory alloys, blackwall tires, interior shows little wear. Sign claims recent service to timing chains and coolant inlets. First year for the XK8.
SOLD $8,250. These have consistently sold in the high four-figures up until recently. Several BaT sales earlier this year were in the mid-teens, so based on that, consider this sale a bit of a bargain.
$17,000 – $32,000:
T217, 1988 Ford Mustang GT convertible. 5.0 V8, automatic, claim is 46k original miles. Blue paint, grey lower cladding, dark blue convertible top, luggage rack, factory alloys, blackwalls. Interior is grey plaid cloth. Overall hard to fault.
SOLD $17,000. Halfway between a CPI #3 and #2 value, price was fair for both parties. I maintain that Fox-body cars are still somewhat of a good deal in this overheated collector market.
F449, 1967 Buick Sport Wagon (with 2nd windshield above passenger seat). Silver, black interior, roof rack, what look like later Buick alloys with oversize tires. Buick 340 V8/automatic. Sign states upgraded with 4-wheel disc brakes and 4-wheel air ride suspension. Interior stock except for auxiliary gauges below dash and light grey floor mats.
SOLD $32,000. This result blew me away. It’s almost twice what CPI shows for a #2 car. Overall, the car was ok but was not presented in a very detailed manner. Perhaps the relative rarity of the Sport Wagon body (similar to the Olds Vista Cruiser) drove the bidders to exuberantly wave their bidders’ cards.
The 2022 edition of the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) began this year’s run with two press days, on Wednesday and Thursday, April 13 and 14. The show is open to the public from Friday April 15 through Sunday April 24. Located in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in the west 30s, the NYIAS was last held in 2019. Covid halted the proceedings in 2020 and 2021. Through my job at CARiD.com, I and two other gentlemen on our Creative Team were able to attend with press passes on Wednesday the 13th.
Walking into the Javits Center as I have done for this show since 1987, which is when it moved from the NY Coliseum at Columbus Circle, I could not help but be struck by the imagery. Everywhere I turned, the banners, posters, and signage all indicated The Main Attraction.
Can you say ‘electric vehicles’?
You would be forgiven for thinking that you had perhaps stumbled upon an All-EV show. Almost every vehicle manufacturer in attendance was touting the EVs in its lineup. Some of them, such as the Ford F-150 Lightning, have been known about for months and have been eagerly anticipated by the general public. Others, like the new brand Vinfast, have little name recognition at present.
Before we get further into the EVs (and there were plenty of very interesting ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles on the floor too), it’s worth listing the manufacturers who were conspicuous by absence. This is nothing new, as the combination of online launches, rising costs, and new car intros scattered across the calendar have driven many manufacturers to conclude that physical auto shows are no longer worth the time and expense. Here’s who was missing: BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Acura, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Rivian, Tesla, Audi, Porsche, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC. Most puzzling was the participation of only some brands under a corporate umbrella: Chevrolet but not sister GM brands Buick, Cadillac, and GMC; and VW but not their Audi and Porsche brethren. While Chevy, Ford, Toyota, and Subaru among others consumed significant floor space, there still was lots of room for other stuff. And that other stuff was not one, not two, but three indoor test tracks, devoted to providing rides in EVs.
Think about it: with no concern about tailpipe pollution, EVs can be run indoors all day long (as long as charging is available). Ford had its own dedicated track, running the aforementioned Lightning and Mustang Mach-Es; Hyundai had its own track, with both Ford’s and Hyundai’s on the main floor; and downstairs, a larger track was shared among legacy and start-up EV makers including Nissan, VW, Volvo, INDI, and Vinfast. You should not be surprised to learn that attendees will be invited to ride, but not drive; for each ride there will be a professional driver behind the wheel. By the time the NYIAS wraps up, thousands of show-goers will have had an experience as a passenger in an EV. The car makers are hoping to turn those experiences into showroom foot traffic for their expanding EV offerings.
The two big surprises to me were the two brands I had not heard of until last week: INDI and Vinfast. INDI seems to have one model, cleverly named the INDI ONE, a large, 5-door, sloped roof hatchback reminiscent of the Tesla Model X. I had to do some online research after the show to learn that the company is based in California, although it’s sourcing parts from around the world. Their claim to fame is the under-hood computer, intended to allow a higher level of gaming for passengers. (Full disclosure: I do not see the attraction.)
(Above: the INDI ONE EV)
Vinfast was founded in 2017 in Vietnam, and plans to be the first Vietnamese car maker to expand into global markets. They had three different EV models on the floor: the VF7, VF8, and VF9, all variants on the currently popular crossover SUV. Their styling was unoffensive bordering on mildly attractive (no attempt at ‘weirdness’ to make them stand out), and I was surprised to read online that the company has had styling assistance from Pininfarina and BMW. They have also announced that they plan to open a manufacturing plant in NC.
It had not occurred to me that I might see the VW ID.Buzz at the show, and a nice surprise it was. Photos don’t do justice to the ‘cheekiness’ of it. I broke into a spontaneous smile as I rounded a corner and found this update on the classic V-Dub Bus in front of me. It’s sized right, and for EV fans, it could be a worthwhile alternative to an EV SUV.
The Subaru Solterra, which shares its EV platform with the Toyota bZ4X, was featured within the vast Subaru exhibit. Let’s see if the Subaru faithful, whose passion is wed to that flat-4, will embrace a product without it. Volvo, despite a full lineup of sedans, station wagons, and SUVs, had only 2 cars at the show: an XC40 Recharge (hybrid), and a C40 EV. Rides in the C40 were available.
The Mustang Mach-E, which has been on the market for a year or so, was also visible at other displays. Here are four examples of the Mach-E EV done up in different liveries:
This automotive giant, created in 2021 from the merger of FCA (Fiat-Chrysler Automotive) and PSA (Peugeot-Citroen), sells the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo brands here. Roaming their large footprint on the main level, Jeep and Ram dominated, which is not surprising given the profits generated by those products. As examples, the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer was there, with one floor model priced at $103,000; the Ram TRX, which has been out for a while, was also present, with an MSRP of $97,000. The sole Chrysler vehicle on the floor was a Pacifica, although an updated version of the Chrysler Airflow EV concept was unveiled. Stuck in the poorly-lit back corner were Dodge (a single Challenger), Fiat (including two 500e EVs) and Alfa Romeo. The NYIAS marked the U.S. debut of the smaller Tonale SUV from Alfa, and it was quite the looker. Those attending the show specifically to see it might have a difficult time finding it.
ELVIS PRESLEY’S CONTINENTAL MARK II:
Petrol power still has its advocates. Corvettes, Camaros, and Mustangs were on hand to entice those not ready to join the plug-in revolution. Toyota debuted its new GR Corolla, with a 3-cylinder gas engine pushing 300 horsepower to its front tires. Several copies of the new Nissan Z were there to be gawked at. And if you truly long for the good ol’ days, a small display of classic European and Asian performance vehicles, including a BMW M3, Acura NS-X, Porsche 911 Turbo, and Renault 5 Turbo, were clustered together in the rear of the main floor.
(Above: the Nissan Z)
(Above: old-school Euro sports cars)
CHOOSE THE LEXUS GRILLE WHICH LEAST OFFENDS YOU:
Despite making up fewer than 50% of the cars and trucks inside the Javits Center, EVs were clearly the stars of this year’s show. I wasn’t surprised by Tesla’s absence; I was by Hummer’s and Rivian’s. The other EV makers had no problem filling in the space they would have taken. As I was leaving, I realized there is a battle which has begun between the legacy automakers and the start-ups.
The legacy manufacturers are affronted by the new kids on the block. Many of the old timers have been at it for over a century and feel that they own the R&D process, whether ICE or EV. Yet Tesla, itself old enough to be considered a legacy car maker, went its own route, and did it successfully. Today’s start-ups, observing that success, are raising the cash, rushing to market, and trying to distinguish themselves in a field getting more crowded by the week.
Even the experienced ones are still trying to figure it out. Ford has 100,000+ orders for its F-150 Lightning, and after surveying existing truck owners, Ford paid attention when the survey results said “don’t make it weird”. On the other hand, Chevrolet’s new Silverado EV doesn’t resemble the existing truck, and the company is still about two yeas away from building deliverable units. Nissan, Hyundai, and Kia are deciding how different to make their EVs look compared to their ICE counterparts.
And here are INDI and Vinfast, expecting to ride the swelling EV wave. There is an understandable expectation that as the EV segment grows, there’s still room for new companies to capture their own slice of the pie. If history is any guide, and it should be, many of the companies entering the EV road race won’t make it to the finish line.
Das Awkscht Fescht, better known as “Macungie” (the name of the Pennsylvania town which hosts it) is an annual car show held on the first weekend in August. Their website claims that this year’s show is its 59th annual, and my Sharp calculator computes that to mean the event began in 1963. I first attended this show in the early 1980s, when there was a large turnout of BMW Isettas and I was in search of basically anything I could find out about mine. I’ve also written about this show previously: my Isetta was on display there in 2010, and I added posts after my visits in 2017 and 2021.
Continuing my look back through old photos, I found these from the 2013 show. Visiting Macungie is delightful. It’s set on grass in a park, there’s huge car club support, and for the most part, vehicles are arranged by make and model. For significant others and young ones whose interest in old cars wanes after a few minutes, there are plenty of non-automotive attractions too, including craft booths, petting zoos, live music in an outdoor bandshell, and even a pool. It’s certainly small enough to cover in one day, but if your time is limited, or if it’s too hot to trudge into all 4 corners, you can always seek out the brands of your preference.
This year, my camera seemed to be trained more on cars of the 1950s. Perhaps it was the colors, or the ornate details one finds on the chrome behemoths of this decade. Of all the included photos below, my favorite is the unrestored Cord. I can become jaded when looking at one over-restored car after another. The very idea that someone would keep such a valuable and rare car in this condition is wonderful and refreshing.
Richard’s Car Blog’s first post was February 13, 2015. My Alfa Romeo had already been in my possession for almost two years, and I wasted no time in creating posts about my adventures with the car, including my participation in that’s year’s New England 1000. (The Alfa was also driven in the 2013, 2014, and 2018 versions of that classic car rally).
Perusing photos taken before this blog’s launch, I’ve come to realize that many of the events I’ve attended or participated in prior to 2015 have never been covered here. So I am dutifully making amends, and enjoying the glances in the rear-view mirror.
In June of 2013, having owned the Alfa for a grand total of 3 months, I entered it in that year’s Greenwich (CT) Concours D’Elegance. Bruce Wennerstrom, founder and chairperson of the show, knew me well, as my Isetta had been at this same event in 2001, 2004, 2007, and 2010. For 2013, I was grouped with a variety of other beautiful Italian machinery. The weather was gorgeous, and so were all the other show cars. While no trophy came my way that day, my wife and I enjoyed the drive to and from CT, and also enjoyed taking in the sights within Roger Sherman Park, the verdant location of the Greenwich show each year.
My musk green 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior had barely been in my possession for two months in 2013 when I entered it in its first judged show. This was the annual event conducted by the NJ Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America), held by tradition on the first Sunday in May. In 2013, the actual show date was May 5, and also following tradition, it was held in the parking lot of the Automatic Switch Manufacturing Company in Florham Park NJ. (Long-time club members simply referred to the location as “Automatic Switch”.)
The drive from our home in Neshanic Station was only 30 minutes, but it was a good test for the much longer 2013 New England 1000 classic car rally, coming up two weeks after this outing. When I had purchased the Alfa from my good friend Pete, it had already earned its HPOF (Historical Preservation of Original Features) award, and by AACA Judging Rules you cannot switch classes back and forth willy-nilly, so it was dutifully entered into HPOF. As the photos attest, there’s always an eclectic assortment of vehicles on either side of you in this class.
Arriving and parking early gave me the chance to grab my camera and walk the field, looking for other interesting cars to photograph. I was not disappointed by the fine mix of pre-war and post-war, dometic and import, all glistening under the bright spring sun.
All cars are judged (unless an owner expressly requests to be excluded), and NJ Region judging loosely follows National’s rules. By the end of the show (around 3pm), the parade of vehicles driving up to the ‘viewing stand’ to receive their trophies from the Region’s President arrived three abreast. My Alfa received a special award, considered only for cars owned by club members: it won the “Best Unrestored Vehicle” in its age group. I was pleasantly surprised at the recognition, not expecting much of anything for the car at its first outing! Aside from a battery and a set of tires, I had also not done anything to it yet. The Alfa got me home without incident, and back into the garage it went as I patiently waited for this year’s NE1000 to begin.
My dad was no different than most fathers in that he wanted a better life for his son than he had. Yet I was so influenced by my father that, in spite of my occasional anger toward him, I wanted to be like him. Therein lies the conundrum; my father, a man who didn’t finish high school, was a brilliant mechanic/machinist, mostly self-taught, who had a knack with tools that allowed him to fix almost anything mechanical. I, his college-educated son, was completely bored with my post-graduation desk job and wanted to work with my hands, essentially as way to get paid while learning how automobiles work.
These worlds collided in August of 1978 when I quit my job as an Economist with the U.S. Department of Labor to become an apprentice mechanic at a car dealership. (The specifics of this career move are covered in the blog post “Working in the Retail Automotive Business, Part 1: Autosport”.) My father was more upset with me over this decision than anything else I had done up until this point. Through tears, he expressed his concerns about quitting a “guaranteed government job” for what he saw as the difficult life of a blue-collar worker. But my mind was made up, and he was eventually resigned to it.
He didn’t agree with my decision, but that didn’t stop him from providing me with some of my first tools. The one tool that stuck out above the others was his Black & Decker corded electric drill. Its all-metal case and hefty weight made it obvious to anyone who lifted it that it could take some abuse and still function. I soon replaced its ¼” chuck with a 3/8” version. That drill got me through two years of professional wrenching, most notably as the tool used to drill all those holes in the roofs of new Volvos for roof rack installations (a very popular dealer-installed option on 245 wagons). My Service Manager borrowed it once and commented, “this is a serious drill”.
By 1980, I had moved to Service Advisor and my full-time technician days were finished. I kept all my tools, although they didn’t see much use through the remainder of the decade. By 1990, I owned my first house and began restoration on the BMW Isetta (the drill is visible in the 4th photo of the linked post) and the B&D drill was the only one I owned. It never failed to get the job done, whether I was drilling in wood or metal, or using it to spin a wire wheel brush of some kind.
Fast forward to 2001 and, now in a different home, this drill continued to see extensive duty. At some point, the power cord’s attachment to the drill began to fail, and required partial disassembly to repair. The trigger and its lock button began to stick, and another partial disassembly was needed to lube and service. I wasn’t even considering replacing the drill, though; I had owned it so long, and it had done so much work for me, that I thought of it as an old friend.
About 20 years ago, I supplemented the B&D with a Ryobi cordless drill. It had features which were completely missing on the ol’ metal job: keyless chuck, two speeds, and reversible direction. Still, the Ryobi just didn’t have the oomph of the Black & Decker. I kept both, using the Ryobi primarily for driving screws, and using it for drilling only when a 120V outlet was not nearby.
Last year, the trigger on the B&D began to act up again. There were times when the drill wouldn’t operate. I looked at the beaten metal housing and asked myself if it was time. During some routine visits to Home Depot and Lowe’s, I began to check out replacements. I’ve owned a few DeWalt tools, and their lineup of drills impressed me. I was determined to stay with a corded model for power, and a keyed chuck for its ability to better tighten around bits. I found one on sale for around $100 and went for it.
Here is where I realized that sometimes, sentimentality can get in the way of rationality. I was holding onto the Black & Decker drill longer than I should have, convinced that it was a great drill (emphasis on the past tense). Once I brought the DeWalt home, I learned what I had been missing. Yes, its case is plastic; yet it has a nice heft to it. The chuck spins like a precision mechanism. It has a variable-speed trigger and is reversible. It’s a wonderful drill.
A quick Google search for my Black & Decker turns up some references to this model drill dating back to the 1950s/1960s. My recollection may be cloudy, but I remember the drill being “old” when I got it in 1978. Let’s be charitable and presume that it was 10 years old when it was gifted to me. It died in 2021. That means it lived as a functioning tool for 53 years (and I didn’t pay for it!). Thanks dad; it was a great gift, and it’s fair to say that we both got our money’s worth from it.
In Chapter 34 of the Isetta Saga, it’s October 2012, and my restored bubble car is making its one and only appearance at the AACA Eastern Fall Nationals, a name that no one uses; everyone refers to it as “Hershey”, named after its host town. Obviously, I had a lot going on that week, what with trailering the car out there, unloading it the morning of the show, driving it onto the show field, finding my spot, and prepping the car for judging. Of course, my car was just one of hundreds of other cars on the field vying for trophies that day, and somehow, I found time to stroll the aisles and take a few snaps (and my car buddy Larry took a few of these shots too).
Based on these images, the weather was flawless, and so was the condition of the cars on display, which always makes it a challenge to decide which ones to photograph. Below is a selection of cars which were standouts to me. As a final comment, I may have said this before but it’s worth repeating: if you have not been to Hershey in October, it is not to be missed.
I can’t put my finger on exactly when I started to notice the change. As far as I could remember, the old car hobby had always treasured restored cars, the more beautifully restored, the better. Trophies were awarded for the cars which had the most perfectly polished paint, the most mirror-like metal, the most crease-free upholstery. I’d see cars with paint that far exceeded any factory spray job. Formerly polished parts now wore triple-plated chrome. Cars entered into judged shows lost points for a scuff on a sidewall or a foot mark on a floor mat. It took many years of hobby participation to come to grips with the reality that for some owners, their immaculately restored cars would never be driven on the road, as that would cause (horrors!) fuel stains on the carbs, heat stains on the exhaust, grass stains on the tires, and points deducted on the judging sheet.
Some of the images of these cars are embedded in my brain. There was the line of two-seat T-Birds, each with identical yellow ink stamps in the exact same locations in their engine compartments. There was the E-Type roadster, top up, whose owner told me that the top has never been down, and never will be, as that might crease the plastic rear window. Then there was the owner of the perfect Mach I Mustang who told me the totality of the car’s mileage since restoration has been “driven onto the trailer, and driven off the trailer”. It got to the point where AACA issued a statement that over restored cars would be no more likely to win trophies than cars restored “just” to factory standards.
But the hobby started to change, and it was subtle at first. Some non-restored original cars were winning prizes formerly reserved for the over restored beauties. Values of well-kept originals began to rise and keep pace with fresh restorations. Some pundits came up with a few key phrases like, “a car is original only once”, and “anyone with a checkbook can restore a car, but it takes perseverance to keep a car original”. The word “patina” entered the hobby’s lexicon, and the condition itself was embraced, indeed, celebrated. An all-original car with dull paint, tattered carpets, and a greasy engine compartment could seriously compete with a restored version of the same make and model, and depending on judging criteria, might beat it. This was, as I called it at the time, the hobby taking a hard right turn in valuing originality over restoration.
It was 10 years ago, in October 2012, that Bonhams, the esteemed auction house, teamed up with the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia PA, to present the first of what they billed as “Preserving the Automobile … the first-ever auction to promote the concept of preservation of collector cars.” Bonhams was attaching itself to a theme that Dr. Fred Simeone himself had practiced with his own collection and would eventually author a book about, which is the notion of preserving vehicles in much the same way that one preserves fine art and historic furniture. All the cars on auction on that 8th day of October were unrestored. To be fair, not all of them were what one would call “preserved”; in fact, a few of them needed a good deal of restoration or might even be of value only as parts cars. But Bonhams and the Simeone Foundation together where out to make a point: there was value to be recognized in offering lots without the shiny bits, in the hopes that others would agree with the efforts to keep the cars as original as possible.
I attended the auction that day and clearly recall thinking that there were some bargains to be had, presuming that the sold cars ran and drove (unlike most other auctions, lots were not driven across the block during the bidding process). Some of these values look even more remarkable with 10 years’ hindsight. Since this inaugural auction in 2012, Bonhams has returned to the Simeone location in most succeeding years with the same theme. In this sometimes over-hyped hobby, it is refreshing to see the efforts made by these two organizations to support and encourage preservation as an important component of it.
Sold lots are listed in ascending price order.
Lot 415, 1946 Lincoln Model 66H Sedan, sold for $2,530 with buyer’s premium. One of the least expensive lots at this auction, and understandably so. Bonhams made no claim that this V-12 Lincoln 4-door started or ran, instead falling back on typical auction hyperbole like “strikingly original”, “dirty but complete” and “a lovely project for the winter months”. These late ‘40s Lincolns were not as attractive as the cars that preceded them or came after them. Still, if your starting budget was $2,500 and you wanted a project, here you go!
Lot 451, 1927 Buick Master Six Opera Coupe, sold for $5,520 with buyer’s premium. The description states that this is a running, driving example which is all original except for its upholstery. In 2012, interest in pre-war cars had been on a long and steady decline but has since picked up. I called this a fair deal in 2012 and it looks even better 10 years later.
Lot 461, Chrysler Town and Country convertible, sold for $9,200 with buyer’s premium. Calling this car “rough” is an understatement. It may have been drivable, but the woodwork alone would soak up most of the next owner’s budget like a brush dipped in shellac. On the positive side, this was the final Woodie American convertible built, with 2022 values hovering close to six figures.
Lot 445, 1970 Jaguar E-Type 2-door coupe (NOT a 2+2), sold for $15,000 with buyer’s premium. The website notes that the car had been off the road since 1990, and had been repainted once in its factory color. The paint does not show well. The description further states that the engine spins freely and “it is anticipated that the car could be made to run”. Even with those caveats, this is a deal for a Series II E-Type, which today carries a value as per my CPI guide between $40-80,000.
Lot 418, 1965 Mercedes-Benz 230SL Roadster with Hard Top, sold for $17,250 with buyer’s premium. One repaint in a shade of red a little off from the factory red. Runs, but has been sitting. This was another deal in 2012 dollars that looks especially attractive today. Although I didn’t photograph it, one front fender had a dent as if an object had fallen onto it, so there was the potential for some body work in its future. Today’s values for the 230 SL are between $75k and $130k according to CPI.
Lot 443, 1957 Lincoln Continental Mark II with factory A/C, sold for $33,350 with buyer’s premium. These cars are rare and in my opinion, not as collectible as other ‘50s icons in part because not everyone knows about them and in part because some people know too much about them, to wit, parts are unavailable and they are notoriously expensive to restore. If this one was all there, and that appeared to be the case, this was a decent deal on a Mark II.