AACA Hershey, October 2022

Hershey this year was a one-day visit for me, so I spent most of the morning canvassing the car corral, had lunch, then headed over to the RM Sotheby’s auction at the Hershey Lodge. I was there on Thursday October 6th, and the weather was great for an outdoor car show. The hobby continues to evolve and change, and we have observed the ups and downs at Hershey over the years. This year’s car corral was approximately 50% full, and that’s a guess of course. But for those who have visited in the recent past, I can inform you that the parking lot alongside the Giant Center was completely empty this year. As recently as 2018 (based on my own blog report) it was completely full. To my thinking, websites like Bring A Trailer have shifted many collector car transactions to online formats.

Nevertheless, even with the smaller number of vehicles in the corral, there were a few that were of more than passing interest to me. I’ve listed those vehicles below in model year order. (I will have a report on the RM Sotheby auction as a separate blog post.)

 

1931 Ford Model A Roadster. Tan body, wheels, and top, black fenders, whitewall tires on wire wheels. Darker tan vinyl interior. Single side-mount spare, rumble seat, separate trunk out back. Sharp looking all round.

Asking: $22,500

One of the least-expensive ways to enter a Glidden Tour, and the top goes down to boot.

1931 Ford Model A rumble seat coupe. Taupe body, black fenders, yellow wire wheels, whitewall tires. Single spare mounted out back.

Asking: $19,500

This one makes the ’31 Roadster at $22,500 look like the better deal.

 

1936 Ford DeLuxe 5-window rumble seat coupe, black, tan cloth interior. Wide whitewalls, appears original and unmolested. Sign on car claims just removed from 30-year storage (that can be good and bad) and no rust ever.

Asking: $34,900

Smart-looking coupe, V8 is nice upgrade from a Model A, rumble seat a fun option to have.

 

1953 EMW 327 Cabriolet. That is not a typo. After WW2, one of BMWs factories ended up on the wrong side of the West Germany/East Germany dividing line, and they continued production of cars now badged “EMW”, with the blue/white roundel now red/white. Black and red paint, blue and white interior, convertible top MIA. Interior needs a lot of work, no indication that it runs or drives.

Asking: $85,000

This was on offer from a large dealer. Lots of scratch for what might be a project, but for the BMW collector who’s looking for something different, this is bound to be a hit at the next BMWCCA convention.

 

1956 Continental Mark II, pale beige body with taupe roof, black and white interior. Full wheel covers and wide whites. Sign on car claims “runs and drives well”.

Asking: $28,500.

This car was one of FOUR Continental Mark IIs on the grounds (including the RM auction). Don’t call them Lincolns! They were badged as “Continentals”. Everything I’ve read about them has stated that they are an expensive nightmare to restore, which rings true given that they were essentially hand-built cars. This was cheap for a Mark II, but as they say about cheap Ferraris and Jaguars, that initial purchase price is only the first of many checks to be written.

 

1957 BMW Isetta, red, beige interior, BMW hub caps, blackwall tires on white wheels. Door has deluxe vents but single wiper. Was seen running and driving in the car corral.

Asking $27,000

Sign on car claims complete restoration. A quick lookover by me didn’t find anything glaringly wrong with the correctness of the job. Isettas are way off their highs of 10 years ago. This was priced fairly.

 

 

1963 Chevrolet Corvair convertible, teal, matching interior, white top. Sign on car only states “turbo”. Transmission was not noted. Full wheel covers, redline tires. Not all body panels appear to match.

Asking: $14,900

There are better 1st gen Corvairs for this kind of money.

 

1970 Jaguar E-Type roadster, silver, black top, red interior. As a Series II car, has the 4.2L 6 cylinder and 4-speed transmission. Blackwall tires on chrome wires. Look great in this color combo from 20 feet. Sign on car states: “usual rust in rockers, old paint with dings and flaws, body rubber dry”.

Asking: $69,000

Worth it only if you’re willing to drive it as is.

 

 

1971 Alfa Romeo Spider, red, black top and interior. Headlight covers, Campagnolo wheels; steel wheels also included. Sign on car claims total engine rebuild and new clutch in March 2022.

Asking: $21,500

Saw this car very early in the a.m.; there was so much dew on it that it was not possible to judge its exterior cosmetics. These early S2 cars which still had small bumpers are gaining in popularity, now that S1 Duettos are priced at two to three times the asking price of this one.

 

 

1977 Leyland Mini Cooper. Teal metallic, patterned cloth interior. Multiple driving lights, flared fenders over Minilite-looking alloys. Sign on car claims 1.3L 4-cylinder engine with fuel injection, 4-speed manual, big brake kit, performance exhaust, upgraded suspension, new tires.

Asking $19,995

This tiny thing looked like an absolute blast to drive, especially given the improved power-to-weight ratio. Might be a challenge to find this much fun these days for under 20 grand.

 

1985 Ford Mustang SVO, red, grey cloth interior. All SVOs had the 2.3L turbo 4 and 5-speed stick. Sign on car claims 66k original miles and no rust.

Asking: $14,250

I have had my eye on these for a while; they are an interesting, Euro-flavored alternative to a 5.0 Mustang. This one looked very clean, but the asking price is still higher than some recent auction sales which have been around $10k.

 

All photographs copyright © 2022 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AACA Hershey Car Show, 2012

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.

 

ENTERING THE SHOWFIELD
BRASS ERA
‘50s EXCESS
AMERICAN MUSCLE
IMPORTS
PERSONAL LUXURY

 

All photographs copyright © 2022 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

AACA Hershey Meet, 2011

My photos tell the tale: the weather during Hershey week 2011 was as pleasant as October in Pennsylvania can be, as borne out by the abundant sunshine and the swarms of car enthusiasts dressed in light outerwear. By this point in time, I had been a regular attendee at what is formally known as the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Eastern Fall Nationals. My first visit to Hershey was around 1980, and I returned only sporadically over the next 20 years, as Carlisle was more to my interest. Starting around 2001, when I joined the National AACA club, Hershey became a mandatory entry on my calendar except for the one year when an out-of-town business trip forced me to miss it. The five-day event, culminating with the Saturday judged show, consists of three segments: in addition to the show are the vast flea market and the Car Corral. (The RM auction at the Hershey Lodge, while not an AACA-sanctioned event, is always timed to occur during Hershey week and is supported by AACA.)

 

 

THE CAR CORRAL

I tend to focus on the rare or unusual cars in the Car Corral, along with any which strike me as potentially good deals. This year, the most unusual of the lot was this 1953 Fiat Topolino (the owner can be forgiven for his misspelling of it as ‘Topolina’), obviously a #5 condition car, and offered at $5,500 OBO. Wikipedia reveals this to be a Model C, produced from 1949-1955, perhaps not as cute as the Models A and B, but still with enough il fascino (charm) to make it an attractive project. The “Fiat-Heuler, Frankfurt a. M.” is the German Fiat dealership in Frankfurt. Check out this beautiful restoration which sold last year on Bring a Trailer for $19,870.

 

 

I’ve said this before: if someone had bet me money in 2011 that VW Beetles would see a steady rise in values and collector interest over the next 10 years, I would have lost that bet. So with 10 years hindsight, does this look like a deal? Here’s a 1963 Bug convertible, claimed to be ‘all original’ (whatever that means for a collector car), offered at $4,300. It’s difficult to gauge condition from my two photos, but as long as there wasn’t terminal rot underneath, this one could have been cheap fun. (The closest comp I could find on Bring a Trailer was this ’60 convertible, obviously in better condition, which sold for $20,000 in Dec. 2021.)

 

I have spilled considerable digital ink extolling my exploits in my rally buddy’s Sunbeam Tiger. The Tiger’s concept was similar to the better-known Cobra: take a British sports car, toss the smaller engine, and install an American lump of a V8. In the Tiger’s case, the ‘donor’ car was the Sunbeam Alpine, factory-powered by an inline four. The Car Corral had this 1964 version, with its asking price already lowered from $3,700 to $3,400. To me, that’s an instant indication that the owner is getting anxious and is ready to listen to offers. The red paint is oxidized, and the bumpers lack luster, but I bet it was driven into and out of the Corral under its own power. Bring a Trailer has had plenty on offer. Most appear to be fully restored, and many don’t reach their reserves. They did sell this ’64 project car in 2019 for $5,300.

 

The original AMC AMX, which debuted in 1968 when I was a young teen, was a car I always found attractive. Its shortened wheelbase and deleted rear seat put it in a class above the typical pony cars of the day; I saw it as a more affordable version of that other 2-seat sports car, the Corvette. I photographed this one because I like silver over red. The price caught my eye too, compared to what you’d pay for a similar Camaro or Mustang. As it sat in the Car Corral, the price was dropping, so a deal could have been made. This one had the small 290 V8, and almost every first gen AMX on BaT is listed with the 390. My CPI value guide lists the ’68-’70 AMX as worth between $16,000 and $35,000 for a good to excellent one, so in this case, let’s hope it was bought to enjoy rather than to profit from.

 

Sometimes the more interesting cars for sale are not in the Car Corral, but are rather found scattered within the flea market. This 1940 Continental convertible was tucked among the tents and tables, with an asking price of $75,000. The 1940 model year was a stylistic high-water mark for the Ford Motor Company, and first gen Continentals had the further advantage of a 12-cylinder version of Ford’s famous flathead engine. The 1939-1948 Continentals are on the official list of Approved Full Classics from the CCCA (Classic Car Club of America), a distinction not to be taken lightly.

 

 

THE SATURDAY PARADE AND CAR SHOW

Ever since accidentally discovering that Saturday’s earliest attendees gain the additional enjoyment of watching show cars arrive under their own power, it’s been a highlight of Hershey week to set the alarm for 6, grab a bagel and coffee to go, and hunt down the best vantage point.

 

With vehicles arranged by class (typically year/make/model) it’s best to wander to where your interests lie, as the vast show field is almost impossible to completely cover in one day. Many years ago, I read this advice in a photo magazine: move closer to your subject, and when you think you’ve moved close enough, move even closer. With cars, it can sometimes be more interesting to focus on only a portion (the crowds sometimes thwart all effort to snap the entire vehicle anyway). I’ve tried that effect for several of these shots.

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2022 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AACA Hershey Meet, October 2010

Continuing with my coverage of Hershey visits which preceded the birth of the blog, below are a few shots from AACA Hershey 2010. The photos show that the weather was beautiful and the turnout was significant. As I stated in the blog post for the 2009 event, my photographic coverage was not as all-encompassing yet.

Photos of cars with lot numbers on the windshields were there to be auctioned by RM at the Hershey Lodge. While I was not yet in the habit of notating auction sales results, my access to the RM Sotheby’s website has allowed me to search for and find the sale prices, which are indicated below. Since the website shows numbers “all in” with commission, I have calculated the actual hammer price by backing out the 10% buyer’s premium. It would be three more years before the Isetta was trailered to RM Hershey to be sold, which occurred in 2013.

The remainder of the shots cover the big Saturday judged event. My friend Pete showed up with “his” Alfa GT 1300 Junior, which he placed in the HPOF category. The expression on my face as I stood next to the car says it all: “Pete, someday, this will be mine!” It took him a while to come around, but the day did come, in March 2013.

 

THE RM HERSHEY AUCTION

1962 Fiat 1200 Cabriolet, sold for $33,000 (hammer price $30,000)

 

1970 Fiat 500L, sold for $15,400 (hammer price $14,000)

 

1955 Studebaker Speedster, sold for $55,000 (hammer price $50,000)

 

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado, sold for $45,100 (hammer price $41,000)

 

THE SATURDAY CAR SHOW

The morning parade of cars on their way to the show field:

 

Show highlights:

C2 Corvettes

 

Jaguar XK-120

 

A British sports car lineup

 

Additional sports machines

 

Not mine yet….

 

All photographs copyright © 2022 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

 

 

AACA Hershey Meet, October 2009

I’m filling in the gaps in my Hershey coverage. For the most part, I’ve posted a story in my blog within days of returning from the Big Event. The blog started in 2015, and I’ve posted stories and pictures from visits in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021 – there was no Hershey in 2020. (“Hershey” is so massive that in some cases, I had created multiple posts for the same year, so be sure to look for that.)

I’ve now gone back and found photos from visits which predated the beginning of my blog. My photographic coverage is not always as thorough as more recent visits – however, I’ll make the best of what I have. Here, we have jumped back 12 years to 2009. Most of the shots cover the Car Corral, and they leave me with the somewhat confusing impression that I was perhaps looking for a truck (I have never considered myself a truck guy). In retrospect, I believe that I had latched onto a suspicion that trucks were starting to gain traction as collector vehicles. Maybe I was right for once.

More older Hershey coverage will be posted in the upcoming weeks.

 

The Flea Market was still packed with plenty of original pre-war sheetmetal for your restoration needs
What, no masks? Oh wait, this was 2009. Attendance was still strong all week.

 

The owner of this 1940 Olds, on display in HPOF, claimed that it was one of the earliest Oldsmobiles factory fitted with an automatic transmission.
I took these photos for a friend who was looking for a Model A Roadster in the low $20s; this was the closest to that price I could find.

 

Even now I remember thinking this Chevy was a good deal in 2009; CPI values this truck in #3 condition at $17k and #2 condition at $47k.
Truck appears to be done similar to Lil Red Express; these were never as popular as Ford or Chevy pickups; CPI values this in #2 condition at $15k.
My dear friend Pete was there with his one-owner (him) ’79 Volvo 265; that’s Pete with his wife and my wife in the wayback. He has since sold this car.
No, pickup trucks CANNOT go anywhere they want, at least not without getting into a little trouble.

 

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

 

 

 

Hershey 2021, Car Corral Edition

After a consecutive run which began in the early 1950s and then dealing with its first-ever cancellation in 2020, the AACA Eastern Fall Meet (colloquially known as “Hershey”) was back in place for 2021. For me, most of my visits here in the last 20 years have been multi-day affairs, but this year, personal obligations kept it to a one-day-only event, and that day was Thursday, October 7, 2021.

It was almost as if nothing had changed. The flea market vendors took up most of the Hersheypark parking lot, the car corral occupied the perimeter road around the lot, and the Giant Center stood in place at the center of it all. However, the crowd was a little thinner than in recent years; the car corral was only about 65-70% full; many of the usual food vendors were MIA; and even the flea market revealed either empty spots, or, what has been a growing trend, modern cars parked as a convenient alternative for those willing to spring for a flea market spot.

Because my time was limited, I spent most of the day walking the car corral. Cars did change hands: I witnessed a ’64 Falcon sell, and my friend Larry saw someone purchase a ’68 Olds 98. It was reassuring to know that some business was conducted.

The cars below are the ones which I found interesting and affordable, and there weren’t too many of those this year. Cars are listed only with their asking prices; I did not record any other pertinent details about each vehicle. It is my hope that the photographs provide much of the info you might desire. I scooted out of the car corral and over to the RM Auction by about 4:30pm. The auction cars will be discussed in a separate blog post to be published later.

1992 Mazda Miata (auto), asking $6,800

 

 

1988 Ford Thunderbird, asking $9,900

 

 

 

1984 Porsche 944, asking $12,490

 

 

1995 Jaguar XJS (6-cyl), asking $17,500

 

1964 Morgan 4/4, asking $23,900

 

How Not to Sell a Car in the Car Corral

As soon as I opened the driver’s door on the Iso Rivolta, a voice from about 20 feet away barked at me. “You interested in the car?” “Maybe” I lied. “My boss wants $150,000 for it.” The only response to that was uttered to myself: this guy is crazy.

I wanted to show Larry the Chevy engine under the hood, but I couldn’t find the hood release. I asked the boss’ man “how do you open the hood?” “Dunno”. Oh boy, the boss sent the smart guy out with the car. While I continued to look over the exterior, someone else hopped into the driver’s seat and got the hood opened. “I owned one when I was a young man” he said by way of explanation.

Underhood was as filthy and unkempt as the rest of the vehicle, although we did note that an A/C compressor was in place upon which someone had fastened a label: “recharged with R134a in 2020”.  We were beginning to collect a crowd. The minion again spoke, this time to someone else. “Yeah, it’s an ICE-OH”. OMG. I quickly corrected him: “it’s pronounced ‘EES-SO’. One more time to the other interested observer: “my boss wants $150 grand for it, they’re very rare”. I pulled out my current copy (Sep-Oct 2021) of the CPI price guide. Iso Rivolta coupes, made between the years of 1963-1970, are in the book for $25,000 in #4 condition; $46,500 in #3 condition; and $85,000 in #2 condition. This car was clinging to its #4 condition like a rock climber clings to a cliff wall.

The exterior had not had a bath in months and the interior had not seen a vacuum in years. The front seat upholstery was obviously incorrect. The steering wheel was held together with electrical tape. Popping open the glove box, the door fell beyond its catch, dumping its contents of plastic cups, trash, and some aluminum foil (drugs??) onto the floor. I left it there, as the paraphernalia hid some of the dirt on the carpet.

So here’s the catch: these are neat cars. Renzo Rivolta, founder of Iso, took the oodles of Deutschmarks he earned when he licensed his Isetta to BMW, and invested that money into a hybrid GT car, hybrid in the original sense of “European sports car with an American engine”. They don’t exactly come up for sale with any regularity, and compared to the later and admittedly prettier Griffo ($350,000-500,000), Rivoltas are a relative bargain. (My Isetta license plate was LILISO, for “Lil’ ISO”. I wanted to buy a Rivolta, put a hitch on it, and use it to pull the Isetta to shows. If I had done that, the Rivolta plate would have read “BIGISO”.)

No Rivolta is worth 150 large. I was tempted to pull out a business card, write “$30k” on it, and give it to the mouthpiece to give to his boss. The danger of course would be the boss saying ‘yes’. Hey boss man, I hope you’re reading this, because I have some words of advice. Next time, spend 1/10 of 1% of that asking price on a detail job, and, give your representative something resembling working knowledge of the overpriced car you’re trying to peddle to the unsuspecting. I probably taught him more about your car than you ever did.

 

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

 

 

 

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 34: The Isetta Gets to Hershey in 2012

It was probably 1982 and I was at Hershey, in PA, in October, at the big annual AACA Hershey show. It was perhaps only the 3rd or 4th time I was there. I was young, and this was still all new, and I had so much to learn about the collector car hobby. I was living in an apartment without a garage. I had my Isettas stored in one garage not near me, and my ’57 Ford Skyliner stored in another garage not near me. I still dreamed of that future point in time when I would get back to these cars to perform a complete restoration on each of them. However, I had no real concrete plan for getting to that point.

As I strolled the aisles of that Saturday car show, I was still learning that these cars were here to be ranked and rated by AACA judges. The judging was a very strict and formal process. The car owners took this very seriously, and very much wanted to win. They wanted their 1st Junior, or 1st Senior, or their Preservation Award, things I had yet to learn about. It was neat for me, the neophyte, to discover that the vehicles were arranged in something resembling a sensible order, based on year, make, and model.

A particular recollection concerns the Baby Birds, the 2-seat Ford Thunderbirds only made from 1955-1957. They were all lined up, in their candy colors of red and blue, and pastel colors of green and yellow, and monochrome colors of black and white. They didn’t look like cars! They looked like edible sweets on a shelf. As I walked down this row of cars which were barely 25 years old, I could not get over how perfect each car was. With hoods up and trunks open, reproduction chalk marks and ink stamps were exposed. It was clear to me, the newbie, that these cars were rarely, if ever, driven.

The entire spectacle depressed me. How does an owner, I asked myself, get to a point that the car is so perfect that it’s not driven? Was this what the hobby was about? I was yet to learn that some owners did indeed treat their cars as trailer queens, driven only on and off trailers, and brought to shows only to collect awards. It was impossible for me to imagine a day when I would show a car at Hershey.

Fast forward exactly 30 years, and here I was in 2012, with a car of mine on the Hershey show field. I was as giddy as could be, and while I took the whole spectacle seriously, the event was eliciting a reflexive ear-to-ear grin that I could not erase. How did I get to this point? Having joined the National AACA around the year 2000, and attending almost every Hershey since then, the urge to enter a car was growing. With over 10 years of experience in showing the Isetta, as you’ve been reading in the Isetta Saga, it was time to put the car in the big boys’ show.

There was not much prep necessary. I had my trailer and my hitch-equipped Volvo V70 ready to make the journey. A logistical issue for anyone bringing a show car to Hershey is the question of “what do I do with my car during the week?” The judged show is always Saturday, but the flea market / car corral begins four days prior on the Tuesday. Owners who drive their show cars to the event leave them overnight in the hotel parking lot. They’ll then use those cars to commute back and forth during the week. If they have a flea market spot, they’ll just drive it onto the field and park in their spot.

Parked at the B&B in Dillsburg

My little Hershey secret, which I had begun to use about 10 years prior, was to stay at a local Bed & Breakfast in lieu of a hotel. (I refer to it as a ‘secret’ because if too many show attendees started doing the same, it wouldn’t be as easy to book a room. Compared to hotels, which start booking rooms for next year’s event the day after this year’s event ends, I found that local B&B’s had rooms available as late as 6 or 8 weeks before Hershey week.)

The B&B’s were more comfortable than hotels, they included breakfast (to go if I asked), and were about the same cost. There was a B&B in Dillsburg, located halfway between Hershey and Carlisle, which I started frequenting. When I called for the reservation, I asked permission to leave the Isetta on its trailer somewhere on the grounds. The woman proprietor, with whom I was on a first-name basis, told me that was absolutely fine, and said she had a spot behind the barn where my rig would be away from other guests’ cars, as well as out of sight from the road. Upon my arrival, I put the trailer where asked, unhooked it, and was then able to use the Volvo to-and-from the show during the week.

Larry hops in for the cruise to the show field

Once Saturday morning arrived, I reconnected the trailer and was off to ‘trailer parking’. AACA had set up a lot about 1.5 miles away from the show field dedicated to the dozens and dozens of trailers which needed to be staged somewhere. I asked my bestie Larry if he wanted to meet me there and ride with me in the Isetta, and he was more than game. As he climbed in, I handed him my camera and asked him to take as many photos as he could manage. We were literally in the parade of cars that I had witnessed as a spectator on so many prior occasions.

Once at the grounds, I was directed to my parking spot in Class 04B, “small vehicles 1942 and later” (04A is 1941 and older). I parked next to the only other Isetta at the show that day. Other cars in my class included a Vespa and several VW Beetles (which look large next to an Isetta). I exited the car, put up my signage, and stuck around as required for judging. The judging team was there soon enough to do their thing. Once that was done, I was free to walk around, but as is my wont, I preferred to stay near the car and engage with attendees.

We’ve arrived!

 

Three of the cars in Class 04B that year

The other Isetta was a beautiful two-tone blue & grey car, from Maryland, and the car was there for its Preservation Award, meaning that it had already achieved Senior status. Cosmetically, I thought it was a notch above mine; it certainly looked ‘fresher’ (I wasn’t telling anyone that the paint on my car was already 17 years old). The owner was sitting in her folding chair behind her car, and I went up to her to make a sincere effort to both compliment her on her car as well as engage her in conversation about it. When I asked her some details about the restoration process, she demurred, and didn’t really make any attempt to answer my questions. What eventually came out of our conversation was the realization that she was not an active participant in the car’s restoration. It’s what we call a “checkbook restoration”; she wrote the checks to the shop that did the work, and picked up the car when it was done. This is not to take anything away from the obvious quality of the work. But there is something to be said for taking more ownership of your own restoration, which helps elevate the understanding of how the car is designed, engineered, and built, and how it operates.

The blue/grey Isetta won its Preservation Award

 

Bubble cars side by side

Around 3 p.m., the show cars began to exit the field. It was a magnificent day on so many levels: the car ran great, the judging went smoothly, the audience enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the audience. It helped that the fickle Hershey weather was near perfect. I drove the car back to the trailer parking, loaded it up, and headed home, arriving before dark.

I had plenty reason to be happy

A few weeks later, a letter arrived in the mail from AACA, announcing that I had succeeded in winning my 1st Junior award (there was, as always, an Award Banquet on Saturday night, but I did not attend). Had I been there, I would have been handed my trophy. The letter from AACA informed me that if I wanted the trophy, I would need to pay the nominal shipping cost, which I did.

At the close of 2012, I realized that I had been trailering my Isetta to various shows throughout NJ, NY, CT, and PA for the past 13 years! While I had previously made half-hearted attempts at selling the car, with absolutely no success, I knew that 2013 was going to be the year to let it go. I had had my fun. An auction was the best choice, and it was a question of selecting an auction company, having already held preliminary conversations with both Bonhams and RM. The Bonhams auction I had in mind was their Greenwich event held in conjunction with the Greenwich CT Concours in early June. For RM, the Hershey auction in October was also being considered. I had some time to decide, however, the wheels were firmly put in motion at the end of 2012. After 35 years of ownership, and 13 years of show attendance, it was time.

 

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

 

The Isetta Saga, Chapter 33: 2011 Brings Out the Car for Two Invitation-only Shows

APRIL 2011: THE PETITE CONCOURS AT THE NY AUTO SHOW

Sometime early in 2011, I received an email from an outfit billing itself as “Teeny Tiny Productions”. Almost deleting it on the presumption that it was spam, I opened the email to discover that Teeny Tiny Productions was actually associated with microcars. Reading further, I learned that they planned to host a special exhibit at the upcoming New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), and this email was my personal invitation to participate.

I called the provided number and spoke to a gentleman named Burt Richmond who assured me that this was legit. He and his business/personal partner Diane Fitzgerald had hosted a number of microcar-themed events in and around the Chicago area, where they resided. The email targeted me as an Isetta owner who lived in the NY Metro area. There were no costs to me outside of the need to transport the vehicle in and out of the city. He asked “are you game?” to which I replied “sure”, thinking that adding a display at the NYIAS to my Isetta’s résumé could only be a good thing.

According to the schedule I was provided, the “Petite Concours”, as the special display was named, would run only for the first five days of the show, including press days, and not its entirety. We owners would load our vehicles into the Jacob Javits Center before the show opened, and would get them out on a Sunday, after that day’s show had ended. This made it easier for me, as traffic in the area would be (relatively) minimized. Burt and Diane were on hand when I loaded in, and Burt was in charge of the floor arrangement. My car was chosen as one of four Isettas to be arranged in an “X”, with the cars’ tail ends inward. Thankfully, the vehicles were stanchioned off, and there was 24-hour security provided by the Javits crew.

My car is the red one on the right

Because we were in a room on the lower level, and not part of the main exhibit, I won’t pretend that the Petite Concours was a major spectator draw. Certainly, the other vehicles on display, which included Messerschmitts, Crosleys, Citroen 2CVs, old and new Hondas, Fiats, and NSUs, attracted some of the crowd that just happened to be meandering past, not necessarily aware of the special showing. As I’ve observed when an assortment of miniature cars is at a show, the Isetta becomes viewed as something that’s almost ‘normal’ when surrounded by some of its more abnormal contemporaries.

A view of some of the other microcars on display

The five days went quickly enough; the probable highlight of the entire affair was being behind the wheel of my car and piloting it through the dungeon known as the Javits’s basement. I’ve walked the show enough times, and had the pleasure of attending so often on a press pass, yet never imagined there would be a day when my little bubble car and I would be in that locale together.

A balcony shot showing some of the audience
OCTOBER 2011: THE MONMOUTH COUNTY CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE

Later in the year, my good friend Dennis Nash called me up. He explained that he was very involved with an acquaintance of his who would be hosting a car show called the Monmouth County Concours d’Elegance, and 2011 was to be its 2nd running. Dennis said that they were quite short of judges, and asked me if I would judge for the day (no special training needed!). He also threw in the fact that the show vehicles were admitted as invitation-only, and he was extending such an invitation to my Isetta.

The show was scheduled for October 1, and checking my calendar, I noted that I had no conflicts, so I told Dennis I was in. Dennis’s only other request was that I arrive early that day for a judges’ meeting, and to be assigned to a team.

The day turned out to be cool and overcast, but we were thankfully spared the wet stuff, which counted for a lot, given that I was dressed in the de rigueur judge’s outfit of navy blazer, white shirt, chinos, and loafers (boater’s hats were optional). Dennis was running the judges’ meeting, and we were all put into teams of two. My judging partner was…. Dennis’s wife Ann Marie! I was happy to be with someone I knew, and the judging was quite informal anyway. There was a wonderful and eclectic selection of vehicles on the lawn, but to be blunt, the caliber of vehicles didn’t strike me as what I would expect to find at an “invitation only” concours. I did enjoy myself, in large part because the Nashes are a wonderful couple, and as dedicated to the old car hobby as any married pair I’ve ever met.

An elegant Rolls-Royce in some unusual colors

 

A decidedly non-original ’40 Ford

 

A personal favorite, the Lancia Fulvia coupe

 

Jaguar XKE Series III roadster

 

Award-winning Pontiac Grand Prix (even w/misaligned headlight doors)

 

I don’t believe that the Monmouth Concours continued much past 2012, if it even made it that far. As well-intentioned as the show organizers were, they learned how difficult it is to put on a top-notch fling, especially with the calendar becoming more and more crowded with collector car type events every weekend from April through October.

 

POSTSCRIPT: FALL HERSHEY

The following weekend was Hershey, and of course I was there. Wandering the aisles during the Saturday car show, I spotted this forlorn BMW out for judging:

This was the germination of an idea – could I, would I, consider putting my Isetta on display at Hershey? Stay tuned for the answer!

 

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

 

 

HERSHEY 2019: The AACA Eastern Fall Meet

HERSHEY! For old-car enthusiasts, that one word is all that needs to be said. Its official name is the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Eastern Fall Meet, held every October, but we know it simply by the town which has hosted it since the early 1950s. This 5-day event takes over all of Hersheypark’s paved lots, and encompasses a flea market, car corral, and AACA-judged car show.

SHOW CARS ARE ARRANGED BY CLASS:

With one exception, and that for a business trip, I haven’t missed Hershey since 2002, and have attended on and off before that, going back to my first visit in 1980. It not only represents the unofficial end of the collector car show season; it has become the highlight of my automotive year. Typically, I’ll come out Thursday morning and stay through Saturday afternoon. The first two days are spent wandering the flea market and car corral, and Saturday of course we’re all at the big show. This year was especially outstanding: the weather was close to perfect on Thursday and Friday, and although Saturday was cloudy and cooler, it was still pleasant to be outside (and not staring at a screen).

 

The crowd strolls through the Car Corral on a perfect weather day

There was nothing in particular on my shopping list this year; sometimes it’s enough to walk the aisles and take in the ambiance. I did end up purchasing a few items from Eastwood, and succumbed to my weakness for printed material by purchasing a book entitled “GM: The First 75 Years of Transportation Products”. This hardcover 223-page tome was a giveaway to GM employees, and had never been offered to the public. My copy even included the letter addressed to “Dear GM Employee” and signed by Roger B. Smith. With beautiful full-color photos courtesy of Automobile Quarterly’s archives, it was a no-brainer at a measly $5.

More and more dealers are setting up displays with cars for sale

While there were some empty spots among the flea market vendors, attendance seemed good, people were pulling out their wallets to make purchases, and many languages besides English were overheard. It’s reassuring to know that Hershey continues to attract an international audience.

FLEA MARKET OFFERINGS:

The car corral was unimpressive this year. There was a dearth of cars priced under $20,000 or so, and worse, many of the cars in the corral had been here in 2018, with no change in the asking prices! Do people put cars in the car corral to sell them, or to give themselves a way to park on the show grounds? (Don’t laugh, I’ve had some club members actually admit that to me.)

PROJECT CARS:

The Hershey Highlight continues to be the chance to watch the parade of show cars as they enter the field. By AACA rules, show vehicles (except race cars) must be driven onto the show field under their own power. Ever since rally brother Steve and I accidentally discovered this many years ago, it’s been a must to arrive by 7 a.m., and find a suitable vantage point. I tried a new spot this year which provided unobstructed views. The only problem was that it was a stretch of asphalt that allowed speeds somewhat above a parade crawl, and that made for some tricky photography.

WAGONS, AKA LONG ROOFS:

If you’ve been to Hershey, you can relate, and you have your own stories. If you haven’t been, and you consider yourself to be the least bit interested in classic cars, then it’s a must for your bucket list. You could visit only for a day; however, even the healthiest among you could cover about 50% of the flea market/car corral at best. If you attend only for the Saturday show, be aware that most vendors have closed up by Friday afternoon. Whether you attend for one day or the entire week, Hershey continues to provide proof that the collector car hobby remains vibrant.

DETAILING IT FOR THE JUDGES:

Below, please enjoy photos of the show cars as they paraded in on Saturday morning.

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

AACA Hershey 2018, A Play in 3 Acts: Act III, The Saturday Car Show

If you’ve read Act I about the flea market and car corral, and Act II about the auction, then you know that AACA Hershey has a little bit of everything for everyone in this hobby. However, this is still a meet and its raison d’être is the judged show on Saturday.

Driver’s Participation Class vehicles

The AACA judging process may seem arcane to the uninitiated, but First Junior, First Senior, Preservation, Grand National, DPC, and HPOF are embedded in the rule book, and are chased with unbridled enthusiasm. Why? For the same set of reasons: points, trophies, bragging rights. The weather, well-known to be unpredictable in this part of the world in October, hardly plays a role. When car owners have spent most of the year prepping their vehicles for The Big One, a little bit of water will not deter them from making an entrance.

U.S. spectators travel from as far as California to attend Hershey

Hershey is glorious when it’s sunny and 65. It’s barely tolerable when it’s cloudy, windy, and 50, as it was in 2018. Yet I would estimate that the show field was 95%+ filled, and foot traffic was more crowded than years past. Since vehicles are arranged by class, it’s easy to walk among the cars you want to see, and skip those you don’t. My continued infatuation with pre-war classics was rewarded with some beautiful machinery. And some newer cars weren’t so bad either. As you’ll read below under STORIES, meeting new hobbyists and hearing their stories continues to be an engaging part of the hobby.

 

1931 Lincoln

 

1926 Willys Knight

 

1931 Jordan

 

1933 Packard

 

1940 LaSalle

 

 

1961 Pontiac Ventura

 

 

1957 Dual Ghia

 

MG-TF

 

 

1963 Studebaker Avanti

 

Boattail Riv’s: ’73 (L) shows toned-down tail next to ’72 (R)

 

Mazda Miata NA (1st gen)

 

Mopar Muscle:

 

My 1993 Mazda Miata NA (1st gen), making its Hershey debut in HPOF:

 

STORIES:


Stan and the Bucket

“Hey, where’d you get the water for the bucket?”

“Ha ha! From my bathtub! I filled it up and carried it down to the parking lot.”

It was Friday evening, the day before The Big Show. The gentleman had alighted from his 1954 Pontiac at the rear of the Harrisburg Marriott where we were both staying, and watched me sponge off my quite dirty Miata using clean water from my bucket. Actually, my car had been spic-and-span clean two days before. It was the drive out on Thursday in the torrential rain which soiled it. Since it was wearing a fresh coat of wax, my theory was that a gentle bath with warm water would cleanse it again, and it seemed to be working.

Stan’s 1954 Pontiac in HPOF

“Gee, that would work on my car, if only I had remembered to bring a bucket.”

“I’m actually done with the Miata. You staying here? You can borrow my bucket and give it back to me later.”

“You sure? Ok, well, thanks.”

With that, Stan took my bucket while I said to myself, the worst that happens is I never see the bucket again. No big deal.

Saturday morning, I headed out to my car, and sure enough, my bucket was next to my car. Whether Stan had gotten to use it or not, he was honest enough to return it.

Heading inside for breakfast, I ran into Stan, and he invited me to sit with him. He was traveling by himself, as I was. We talked cars (natch), and he told me that his Pontiac was going to be a first-time entry in HPOF, as was the case for my Miata.

We shared some tips with each other about preserving paint and the like, which is when Stan told me that he had some other cars at home in Maryland, including a 1967 Volvo 1800S.

“Oh, I know those Volvos a little bit…” I always start out cautiously with a new friend about any Volvo knowledge I might possess. Treading lightly is a good start in case they have reason to despise the marque, and also to avoid any implication that I’m some kind of expert, which I’m not.

Stan continued: “I actually have a bunch of other Fords and Chevys home, and I like them all. But there’s something special about that 1800….”

I learned for the umpteenth time not to make suppositions about car people. Watching someone motor along in his 1954 Pontiac, I would never presume that the same collector would also enjoy a ‘60s Swedish sporty car. I was glad to be wrong.


Larry and the Fire Extinguisher

My Miata and I arrived on the show field a few minutes past 9am. Normally I would have preferred to make my entrance earlier, but the morning sprinkles caused me to delay my departure to minimize re-soiling my clean car. It got dirty anyway. Out came the cleaning supplies, and the Great Car Show Detailing commenced once again.

Judging was due to start at 10am. At 9:55, I was still wiping down the painted horizontal surfaces when I heard the voice: “Is this your car?” I spun ‘round to face two men wearing judge’s hats. They’re early, I muttered to myself. Can’t blame them; they’ve got a lot of cars to judge.

The judges spent perhaps five minutes looking over my car. As the proud owner, I was too anxious to answer questions they hadn’t asked. They thanked me for bringing it, and moved to the ’68 Camaro next to me. I looked at my watch: 10:01am. This was a blessing! With no need to hang around my car, the day was free to move among all the glorious machinery on the show field. I began by walking down the row of the remaining HPOF cars.

It stood out like a bright light among the cars surrounding it: a 1st gen Porsche 928 in white. The owner was still wiping it down when I engaged him with some questions.

Larry’s Porsche 928 in HPOF

“How long have you had it?”

“Since new.”

“Tell me, how are the maintenance and repair costs? I hear horror stories.”

“Not bad, really. Stay up on the preventative stuff, and it’s quite reliable.”

“Do you do your own work on it?”

“No, but it’s still not bad to maintain.”

With that, the 928 owner exclaimed “Oh crap. I forgot a fire extinguisher. Now what am I gonna do?”

“Listen”, I said, “my car’s been judged. I don’t need mine. I’d be happy to loan it to you.”

“Really? I’d appreciate it.”

I jogged back to the Miata, grabbed the extinguisher, and hustled it back to him.

“What’s your name?”

“Larry.”

“I’m Richard. I’ll swing by later, or, if you don’t see me, my car is the black Miata in the row behind you.”

“Thanks again, I really appreciate it.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that this was my weekend to loan items to fellow car owners, but it was OK. Again, the worst that could happen would be I would be out a relatively inexpensive fire extinguisher.

Hours later, I was finally heading back to my car. The extinguisher was on the floor, and I thought I would swing past the 928 one more time to see how he did. Its owner was sitting in the front seat. But I had forgotten his name. As I approached the car, I glanced at the dashboard placard: “Larry Holbert”.

“Hey Larry, how did you do?”

“Oh, judging went fine. And thanks for the extinguisher. I returned it.”

“Yes, I saw. Listen, I just noticed your last name, and the dealer plate on the back says this car came from Holbert Porsche. Any relation?”

“Yeah, my father started the dealership.”

“So you’re related to Al Holbert?”

“Al was my brother.”

A wave of emotion and nostalgia overwhelmed me. Al Holbert, a successful race car driver and team owner, was killed in a single-occupancy plane crash in 1988. I didn’t know Al, but at that time, I was in a band with a fellow band member who worked at the Porsche dealership and knew Al well. My friend was very broken up over the loss.

I told Larry about my band buddy, and expressed my condolences over his loss.

A while later, I looked up Larry Holbert. Up until the dealership was sold a few years ago, he had been president and CEO of Holbert Porsche. Yet when I asked him about his 928, said nothing about his executive status. He gave no hint that his stature meant that he could have these things taken care of. On a cool October Saturday on a show field in Hershey, Pennsylvania, he was just Larry, fellow car enthusiast.

 

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.