The AACA Annual Meeting, Phila. PA, Feb. 2018

The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) held its 82nd annual meeting in Philadelphia PA, from February 8-10, 2018. There is a long history of annual meetings for the club in this city. This was not the first such meeting I’ve attended, but it has been a while since I’ve headed down there. There are years when the Atlantic City Car Show and Auction conflicted with the timing (as was the case this year), but I chose the AACA meeting.

The registration counter at the host hotel, The Sheraton in downtown Philly

The primary purpose of the annual meeting is the Saturday banquet, during which prize winners from the previous year are recognized. There is a General Membership Meeting on Saturday afternoon. Other meetings for officers, Regional Presidents, and judges are also scheduled. Seminars on various topics of interest to the hobby are held all day Friday, and half the day on Saturday. In parallel, a Trade Show is on site, populated by businesses which support lovers of old cars. For someone like me who attended only on Friday, there is lots to see and do.

If there is an issue with the Seminar schedule, it’s that one cannot attend every seminar of interest! There are five time blocks during the day on Friday, but each time block is hosting SEVEN different seminars in seven different rooms. So you need to pick the most interesting one. Given that each time block is 90 minutes, there is the option of jumping from room to room, with the obvious downside of potentially missing something interesting.

Friday’s jammed-packed Seminar schedule

I began Friday morning in the “Market Value Trends” seminar, hosted by the Auto Appraisal Group (AAG) Company. Larry Batton was the presenter, and he showed us various slides which crunched the sales figures from the most recent (Jan. ’18) Arizona auctions. By his own admission, Larry is a numbers guy, and of course, dollars are numbers.

Larry Batton of AAG during his presentation

One of his more interesting observations was summarizing “average sale price” for the auctions MINUS the $1M+ sales, and MINUS the charity sales (which tend to be beyond “fair value”). It gave a somewhat refreshing look at what cars really sell for, once these outliers are struck from the equation.

Larry’s slide shows average sales prices minus the million-dollar cars

He also regaled the audience with a humorous story about a man who “bought back” his own car at an auction, and in doing so, set a world’s record price for that make and model. A few months later, the owner tried to sell the car privately, claiming that the car was worth what he bought it back for. Larry’s point? Do your homework, ask a million questions, ALWAYS ask to see the title, and seek professional help (a plug for his own company).

Next was a session called “Repair, Restoration, and Maintenance” by James Cross. Jim approached his topic in a folksy, low-key, somewhat random way. He’s an old-school, likely self-taught restorer who has focused much of his own collection on pre-war cars (he owns a 1909 Buick). He entertained AND educated us with his list of home-brewed remedies (for example, ketchup will clean the outside of brass radiators, and Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda will clean their insides).

Jim Cross with a bag of his homemade gaskets

One topic covered by Jim which inspired quite a bit of Q&A from the audience was the repair and restoration of wooden wheels. Based on participants’ reactions, your humble blogger was pleasantly surprised to learn that so many hobbyists still have a need to know how to do this. And this observation brought out the one issue with this presentation (which does not cast the slightest aspersion on Mr. Cross): the room was full of old white men, not one of whom was under the age of 50. All this knowledge is great stuff; but how does it get transferred to succeeding generations? This is not an original thought, of course, and yet it remains a vexing issue for the entire old car hobby.

Jim showed this photo of his own contraption for reassembling wooden wheels

The third and final morning seminar that I joined was given the somewhat misleading title of “Decorating Your Garage”. Dan Matthews, the presenter, is an extremely knowledgeable expert in automobilia and petroliana, having written three books on the topic. His main focus was giving advice to the audience about distinguishing “real” tin and porcelain signs from “reproduction” ones. His fast-paced delivery did not always mesh well with his goal, but it was enough to highlight some of the clues one should look for.

The crowd anxiously awaits the start of “Decorating Your Garage”

It helps if one has some basic knowledge (he was able to rattle off statistics such as “there were only 12 made of this particular sign, and the last one sold for $20,000”), and perhaps one of his books on the subject would help the serious shopper. At the end of the day, the warning is one we’ve heard many times before: “if the price seems too good for it to be real, it probably isn’t”.

Jim Matthews making his presentation

My two post-lunch choices were much more AACA-specific. The “Publications Seminar” hosted by outgoing AACA Publications Chairperson Mary Bartemeyer was designed solely for those who work with their own Regions’ newsletters. (Starting this year, I will be taking a more active role in writing for the NJ Region’s newsletter.) AACA has a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for these newsletters, and there is special focus on copyright infringement. We were all admonished that you simply cannot take a photo off the Internet and reprint it in your newsletter.

Mary Bartemeyer, discussing Regional newsletters

We heard one sad story about a Region which violated a copyright and was contacted by an attorney. When the Regional representative said “hey, we’re sorry, we’re just a non-profit club”, the attorney’s retort was “too bad, this is the amount it is going to cost you to settle or we’re going to court”. Mary made the point that the Club’s insurance does NOT cover such matters!

Art Briggs of the NJ Region spoke about copyrights and newsletters

The final seminar for me was simply called “HPOF” (in AACA-speak, that’s Historical Preservation of Original Features). The presenter was Fred Trusty, who is the Chairperson for HPOF. He started with an interesting look back at the origins of HPOF. This new class one born in the late 1980s in part from the realization that many of the vehicles entered into Class Judging were over-restored, and it was no longer  possible to literally see how the factory made these cars. Preserving an original car as “original” was deemed to be in the greater interest of the hobby.

This slide from Fred Trusty highlights the emphasis on “preservation”

HPOF started off recognizing cars 45 years old and older; that cutoff was then moved to 35 years, and then again to where is it today, cars 25 years old and older. HPOF judges would rather see imperfect yet original, instead of perfect but non-original. There are some grey areas, such as re-painting, however, that also depends on the vehicle’s age.

Regarding paint, two examples were given: a 1920s car that was repainted once, in the 1940s, probably has so much patina that judges cannot tell with absolute certainly how old the paint is. The car would likely be judged to be “original”. On the other hand, a 1970s car with a complete repaint would not be considered eligible for HPOF.

With “30” a perfect score, note the lower standard for older cars to win HPOF

I have a more than passing interest in this class, as my 1967 Alfa Romeo already has its HPOF award, and one of my challenges as its caretaker is to maintain it in as close to original condition as possible, while still driving it about 2,000 miles per year. I also intend to enter my 1993 Mazda Miata (it turns 25 this year) in the HPOF class at Hershey in 2018. I’m anxious to see if it qualifies for an award.

If you are an AACA member and have not attended an Annual Meeting, I highly recommend that you do so. If you are not a member of AACA and are interested in old cars, the history of old cars, and preserving history, I strongly recommend that you join. Ownership of an old car is NOT a prerequisite. For me, the best part about my membership is conversing with like-minded individuals.

A meeting tradition is the hanging of Regional banners in the hotel lobby

 

An overview of the trade show

 

One last one of the Trade Show

 

You were maybe expecting Chapter Five of the Isetta Saga? It’s coming along nicely, and you’ll read all about it next week, promise.  

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

 

FUN FACT OF THE WEEK:

The original Mazda Miata debuted in the summer of 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show. The first vehicles were 1990 models, making them 28 years old this year. At the time of its introduction, the traditional affordable 2-seat roadster had all but disappeared (Austin-Healey, MG, and Triumph were gone). The Miata’s closest competitor was the Alfa Romeo spider, riding on a body/chassis design that had been introduced in 1966.

 

The AACA Mileage Award Program (MAP)

It’s been over ten years since I first joined the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), even though I have been attending the club’s Hershey events since the late 1970s.

In my opinion, the club sometimes gets undeserved criticism for being set in its ways, an organization whose membership is only focused on perfect show cars. As evidence to the contrary, I cite the introduction of the HPOF (Historical Preservation of Original Features) award, which recognizes vehicles which are in essentially original unrestored condition. Another recent addition was the creation of the Driver’s Participation Class (DPC), which has brought many previously-excluded vehicles onto the showfields. And to battle the image of “old guys and their old cars”, great strides have been made to get our youth into the club and involved in this hobby.

Along these lines, I accidentally stumbled across something called the Mileage Award Program (MAP) on the AACA website. Seemingly started in 2012, its purpose is to reward those who actually drive their antiques. I had not heard of it before discovering it online about a year ago.

Busy front end, what with personalized plate, HPOF award, and Mileage award

I sent in my application, and received an emblem and a mileage-tracking form. Once I pulled my Alfa Romeo out of the AACA Museum earlier this year, I noted the odometer reading, and began driving the car. The year 2017 saw plenty of use for the Alfa, the highlight of which was the almost-900 mile round trip to Montreal for the AROC (Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club) annual convention.

As I was putting the car away for the winter in mid-November, I recorded that the car had been driven just over 2,000 miles. I noted that fact on the MAP form, and mailed it in. Several weeks later, my “2” pin arrived, and today, I fastened it to the MAP plaque above the front license plate.

“2” is for two thousand. Additional holes are for future mileage pins.

The MAP recognition awards are given out at 2,000 and 5,000 mile intervals. (It is not clear to me if the mileage segments are cumulative or not; in other words, when I drive another 3,000 miles, am I then eligible for my 5,000-mile pin? Or must I now drive an additional 5,000 miles? I need to reach out to the club and ask.)

If you’re an AACA member (and if you’re not, please consider joining this wonderful club; old-car ownership is NOT required!), check out this relatively new feature. If you regularly drive your AACA-eligible car, it’s a great badge of honor, as well as a conversation starter if your car has the Mileage Award Program recognition on it.

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.


FUN FACT OF THE WEEK

In 2012, the AACA published its first-ever “Membership Album and Roster”. The hardcover book is in two sections: the bulk of the book contains color photos of hundreds of members’ cars. The final third is a phone directory-like alphabetical list of every AACA member. The book runs 919 pages.

 

AACA Fall Hershey, Part 3: The Saturday Car Show

In the 1980s, when I began to attend the AACA Hershey events, Saturday was the day to go. First, as a full-time working guy, I didn’t always have the luxury of taking time off, so it was the only day available to make the trek. Second, the best part of Hershey, “the car show”, was on Saturday.

About 20 years ago, I decided that my Hershey visit deserved to encompass multiple days. So I headed out on Thursday, and spent several days roaming among the flea market stalls and vehicles for sale. Saturday morning, wanting an early start, I found myself at the entrance to the show field by 8 a.m., when a funny thing happened.

I discovered the Hershey parade.

AACA rules require that all show cars be driven onto the field under their own power. So, starting very early on Saturday, all the cars line up and serenely motor their way along a predetermined route. What a delight it was to realize that much better than the static show was to witness these glorious automobiles, from early-20th century brass cars to vehicles “just” 25 years old, making their way, and allowing us the joy to see and hear them.

Since then, the Saturday routine has been the same:

  • Spend Friday night in a hotel close to Hershey;
  • Arise by 6 a.m. Saturday morning;
  • Grab some coffee;
  • Park by 7:30 a.m., and find a good spot along the parade route;
  • Stand for the next two hours and take it all in.

 

I’m not the only one with this idea

This routine was followed again in 2017. The photos which follow were for the most part taken along the parade route. The early morning sun only helped further glamorize what are already impeccably restored automotive gems.

This third report concludes our posts covering the 2017 Hershey events. It bears repeating: if you have not visited this fall classic, held every October in Hersheypark PA, it is worth the trip.


 

Chevrolet Corvair station wagon

 

Hudson Hornet convertible

 

1950s-era VW Karmann Ghia

 

1957 Dodge

 

Jaguar XK-150

 

1962 Chevrolet Corvette

 

Two Triumphs and a Fiat ahead of some American muscle

 

Triumph TR-3

 

Triumph GT-6

 

Pontiac GTO Judge

 

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

 

MGB roadster

 

AC Ace Bristol

 

Willys coupe

 

Nash-Healey roadster

 

Porsche 356

 

Mazda Miata

 

MGA

 

Stanley Steamer

 

Alfa Romeo Spider

 

Porsche 911

 

VW Karmann Ghia Type 3 (not officially imported into U.S.)

 

Spectators crowded the field on Saturday

 

BMW Isetta convertible

 

MG-TF

 

MG-TC

 

AC Ace Bristol

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

AACA Fall Hershey 2017, Part 1: The Car Corral

Fall Hershey (formally entitled the Antique Automobile Club of America Eastern Division National Fall Meet, which is why we call it Fall Hershey) is an automotive smörgåsbord: collector-car flea market, car corral, judged car show, and auction, encompassing such a voluminous spread of acreage that one needs at least three days to take it all in.

Corral in foreground, flea market behind it, and Giant Center in background

We’ve covered Fall Hershey on this blog in the past; this year, as a tie-in with the report on the previous week’s Carlisle visit, the focus shall be on the car corral. Unlike Carlisle, where one can offer for sale a fat-tired 2003 Toyota pickup truck if one desires, AACA’s rules apply. Vehicles placed in the car corral must be a minimum of 25 years old, and must essentially be in “stock” condition. Beyond that, asking prices are determined by the sellers, and negotiations are strictly between seller and buyer. A car corral office and public notary are on hand to facilitate exchanges.

Let’s not forget where we are

Overall, the quality and variety of cars were on par with previous years. Unlike the recent past, and eerily similar to Carlisle, were the long stretches of empty spots. It was not a ghost town, however, I’d estimate that 25% of available spots remained so.

Some empty spots in this section of the corral

The corral has changed in other ways. Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, most cars for sale were privately owned. Deals were often made among hobbyists who knew each other, or at least had a mutual friend. If buyer and seller were meeting for the first time, the sale would many times be the start of a new friendship.

Today, classic car dealers buy up an entire row in the corral, and place their half-dozen or dozen cars together. (You can always tell: the signage and lettering styles are identical.) Dealers are as likely to be buyers as they are sellers. Asking prices are set by picking numbers out of a hat (I kid, but you do sometimes wonder about the relationship between that number on the windshield and reality).

Cars of all sizes are for sale

Dealers spew the same lines: “it’s a good car, runs good, real solid, real nice condition, all restored, very rare with these options”. The lack of specificity is jarring. Not to disparage dealers, but if you do find an individual owner who is selling, you are more likely to learn more about a vehicle’s true recent history.

A private owner will talk specifics: “I bought it 10 years ago, put 5,000 miles on it, drove it in an AACA tour five years ago, re-did the brakes two winters ago, and drove it here from Maryland”. Comments like these were actually overheard this year.

Ford Skyliners flip their lids for you

This lengthy preamble is to set the stage for my eclectic selection from the car corral. The thirty cars below are arranged in order of asking price. No attempt was made to ascertain if the seller was a private owner or dealer. While all these cars “looked good”, condition was not analyzed, and mileage was not recorded. You can presume that none was modified to be non-original. In the case of American cars, the level of optional equipment was not noted. The vast majority of signage indicated “or best offer”, so think of these prices as a negotiable starting point.

Not hard to imagine that the presidential window sticker is original to the car

Organizing them in price ranges allows the reader to make comparative estimates regarding what your collector-car piggy bank can get you. Have fun on your imaginary shopping trip.

Part 2 will be my report on the 2017 RM Sotheby’s Hershey Auction.


Car Corral, $4,900 to $9,500:

1990 Mazda Miata, asking $4,900

 

1989 VW Fox wagon, asking $5,500

 

1978 Cadillac Seville, asking $6,000

 

1991 Alfa Romeo 164, asking $6,500

 

1971 MGB roadster, asking $7,995

 

1981 Chevy El Camino (6 cyl. 3-speed), asking $8,500

 

1964 Corvair convertible, asking $8,900

 

1980 Fiat 124 spider, asking $9,500

 


Car Corral, $12,000 to $18,000:

 

1982 Pontiac Grand Prix, asking $12,000

 

1964 Lincoln Continental sedan, asking $12,500

 

1963 Pontiac Grand Prix, asking $12,500

 

1975 VW Super Beetle convertible, asking $12,500

 

1976 VW Super Beetle convertible, asking $12,500

 

1952 MG-TD, asking $12,900

 

1963 Sunbeam Rapier convertible, asking $14,900

 

1963 Studebaker GT Hawk, asking $14,900

 

1976 BMW 2002, asking $17,900

 

1955 Packard 400, asking $17,900

 


Car Corral, $22,000 to $30,000:

 

1967 Mini Minor, asking $22,500

 

1968 Fiat 600D, asking $24,500

 

1968 Buick Riviera, asking $24,900

 

1951 Hudson Hornet convertible, asking $28,500

 

1955 Ford T-Bird, asking $29,500

 


Car Corral, $38,000 to $50,000:

 

1991 Acura NSX (automatic), asking $38,500

 

1967 Mercedes Benx 230 SL, asking $39,000

 

1975 Porsche 911S, asking $49,500

 

1955 Chrysler C-300, asking $50,000

 


Car Corral, $75,000 to $100,000:

 

1991 Nissan Skyline (RHD), asking $75,000

 

1974 Jaguar E-Type Roadster (V12), asking $79,500

 

1960 Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider, asking $100,000

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The 2017 Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day Parade

The town of Hillsborough NJ held its annual Memorial Day parade on Saturday May 27, 2017. The day dawned sunny and warm, in spite of a forecast which predicted showers, and the turnout from the NJ Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) was extensive and eclectic. The club has supported this parade for years, but this was the first time that your scribe was able to join in the festivities.

We were asked to convene by 9:30 a.m., with a planned kick-off at 10:30 a.m.  Over 20 member-driven cars and trucks were in attendance, including a LaSalle, a Stevens-Dureya, numerous Corvettes, several ‘60s-era Pontiacs, the ubiquitous 1957 Chevy, two Model T Fords, two Mustangs, and a first-gen Monte Carlo. Among non-American makes were two Alfas and a rarely-seen Sunbeam Alpine GT hardtop.

In a unique approach, we were asked to arrange ourselves by vehicles’ decade (not exactly year order), so perhaps the multitudes lining the route could get a sense of automotive history parading by. We moved along at something less than 5 mph, tough on the clutch, but the throngs were appreciative of all the gleaming sheetmetal and chrome.

We probably drove 1.5 miles, and it was over. The cars dispersed, having fulfilled our civic duty for the weekend. It was a thrill to see happy smiling faces waving at you, even as one young man yelled out to me, “hey, is that a Jaguar?” I suppose I should have been complimented.

 

The queue of cars awaits the starting signal

 

1962 C1 Corvette

 

1946 Chevrolet pickup truck

 

Ford Model T

 

1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider

 

1964 Pontiac Bonneville

 

1968 Ford Mustang

 

Stevens Dureya

 

1939 Ford

 

1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

 

C3 and C5 Corvettes

 

Sunbeam Alpine GT

 

1987 Mercury Cougar

 

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

 

Buick Riviera convertible

 

1967 Pontiac

 

Early ’50s Chevrolet

 

1968 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible

 

The author’s 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr.

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The 2017 NJ AACA car show

The New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America held its annual car show as it always does, on the first Sunday in May, which this year was the 7th.

Last year, the show was moved to the Mennen Arena in Morristown NJ, so 2017 was only the club’s second time here, after being held in Florham Park for the last 5 or 6 decades.

Last year’s inaugural event at the new location is remembered for only one thing: the cold rain, which kept all but a hardcore 30 or so cars from showing up. With weather the one variable outside the club’s control, we all presumed that the odds would work in our favor and we would be blessed with a perfect spring day.

Not quite.

While nowhere near the washout of 2016, this year still required participants and spectators alike to deal with cloudy and somewhat cool temperatures for this time of year. At least the promised rain held off until about an hour before the show was done. In spite of the threats, turnout was decent, with some unofficial estimates putting the vehicle count at close to 200 cars. Spectators turned out in decent numbers too.

I was proud to have my Alfa Romeo, fresh from the AACA museum, on display, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was one of three Alfas at the show, joined by a rare Euro-spec Nuova Giulia sedan, and a one-owner Milano. The Italian car feast was rounded out by a Lancia Fulvia coupe.

’67 Alfa GT 1300 Junior

 

’78 Alfa Nuova Giulia

 

’87 Alfa Milano

 

Lanica Fulvia Coupe

British cars included an Austin-Healey, a stunning MGB-GT, and two Lotuses (Loti?), an Elan and a Europa (yes, all Lotus model names begin with the letter E).

AACA rules allow cars to be shown once they reach 25 years of age. So on a rolling basis, each new calendar year means that there is a new “class” of eligible cars. For 2017, 1992 and older cars can be shown, so it was a pleasure to see this beautiful ’92 Mercedes Benz 500SL on the showfield.

1992 Mercedes Benz 500SL

Of course, American makes dominate the display, including the so-called orphan manufacturers (those whose marques no longer exist). Below are some examples of these, including Pierce Arrow, LaSalle, Crosley, DeSoto, and Pontiac (still strikes this writer as odd to see Pontiac’s name with the others).

One does not need to be a member of AACA to enter a car into the show. One of the draws for members and non-members alike is the chance to win something, as this show is one of the few in the area which is judged (to AACA standards). The NJ Region recently switched from trophies (aka dust-collectors) to tool and duffle bags, to make for more practical prizes. It’s the generosity of the sponsors who help make it possible to have awards.

NJ AACA sponsors

Here’s hoping for better weather in 2018!

 

1960 Corvette

 

A trio of 2-seat T-Birds

 

Detailing before the judges arrive!

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Drive Toward A Cure” California Adventure Rally, April 2017

When my rally brother Steve and I first started rallying together in the late 1990s, we both lived in New Jersey. Steve owned his ’66 Sunbeam Tiger, which was a great car for these events.

After several years of this, Steve took a job transfer to California, but we both wanted to continue participating in the New England 1000. This meant that Steve needed to fly east, and your scribe needed to provide the rally ride. Steve did come back to this area four times between 2005 and 2015. For those rallies, we initially drove my ’68 Mustang California Special. When that car went away, we switched to my ’67 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior.

Throughout this time, I had always informed him that should a left-coast event become available, I’d return the favor and fly west. Besides, the thrill of driving that V8-powered British sports car of his was something I savored to repeat. During the winter of 2016-2017, we found an opportunity that seemed to hit all the right notes.

The rally was called “Drive Toward a Cure”. Scheduled to be held in April of 2017, it would be a 3-day event, starting in downtown Los Angeles, and overnighting in Paso Robles in central CA. Its mission: raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s Disease. We would be driving in its inaugural run. We were in!

With a rally push-off date of Friday April 28, I flew out on Wednesday the 26th, to meet up with Steve on Thursday and attend to any last-minute details. It was great to see the Tiger again. We changed the oil and buttoned up a few loose ends. The biggest difference compared to last time was the installation of a hardtop, which meant no top-down driving.

Rally brothers ready for the next adventure

Friday morning arrived quickly enough. We were up at 4:30 a.m. (my body still on NY time), because we needed to depart his house at 5:15 a.m. to reach our destination, the Petersen Museum in L.A., at 7 a.m.

This New Yorker couldn’t believe the traffic on the highways of southern California at 6 a.m. on a weekday morning! Steve drove in without issue, and we parked at the Petersen to collect our registration papers, get coffee, and meet some of our fellow rallyists.

The Tiger gets its rally decals installed

There were approximately 20 cars with scheduled check-out times one minute apart. One of the unique features of this rally was that there were another 20 cars doing likewise, but starting in Danville, outside of San Francisco. They would head south as we headed north. We would not see those cars until our rendezvous at our host hotel.

The Petersen parking deck, Friday morning

 

The Tiger (with a Goat on the left) ready to depart

We left the parking deck of the Petersen, and drove directly into… downtown LA congestion. We were trying to get to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), just a few blocks away, but gridlock maximized our time getting there.

Once on the PCH, we were moving along nicely. After a few miles, we turned right, and went straight uphill into the mountains. By this time, there was a lineup of 4 to 5 rally cars behind us, and one in front of us. The lead car was a Jensen Interceptor Coupe, with a Chrysler V8. Another hybrid, just like our Tiger.

The Jensen Interceptor of Bob Humphreys leads the way

The scenery of oceanfront beaches changed to deep canyons full of verdant foliage. The roads were winding, with sharp bends and hairpin switchbacks. For long stretches, there were no guardrails between you and the bottom of the canyon. It didn’t matter. The weather was perfect.

Porsche 356 on our tail(fin), with more rally cars behind it

Our first stop was the Mullin Museum in Oxnard. Peter Mullin’s private collection resides here, and it consists of exclusively French automobiles. The museum’s interior design is just as impressive as the cars. The only drawback to our visit was a one-hour limitation, which meant we may have seen about 25% of it.

The stunning interior of the Mullin Museum

 

The Bugatti which sat at the bottom of Lake Como for 50 years, now at the Mullin

Yes, we were “encouraged” to keep moving, but it’s important to point out that very much UNLIKE the NE1000, our driving stages were NOT timed. This California Adventure was not a TSD (time/speed/distance) type rally, and as such, it made for a more relaxed driving atmosphere behind the wheel.

A collection of rally cars at rest

Lunch was in the charming town of Solvang (it’s redundant to say “charming” about these California towns outside of the metropolitan areas), and we were back in the saddle to be on time for 7 p.m. dinner at the Allegretto Resort in Paso Robles.

We were very, very late for dinner.

With me behind the wheel, Steve saw it first. The temperature gauge, which we monitored constantly, suddenly shot up well past what had been its normal 200 F. I pulled into a bank parking lot; we opened the hood; and it was a trifecta: the sight of green fluid all over the engine compartment; the unmistakable odor of hot coolant; and a loud hiss as the steaming liquid and vapor tried to escape.

Steve checked the radiator hose clamps for tightness. He had just replaced the factory radiator with an aluminum model to try to stay one step ahead of the Tiger’s Achilles Heel: excess engine heat. Steve reported that all clamps looked good. Because things were so hot under there, we were prevented from further diagnosis.

Our savior on Friday night came in the form of Hagerty roadside assistance, which was part of the rally’s benefit package. Within an hour, a flatbed truck picked up the car, and we rode in the cab with “Junior”. He drove us the final hour to the hotel. We walked into dinner at 9 p.m., tired, hungry, and most upsettingly, unsure of what was ahead for the car.

Junior loads the Tiger, with special thanks to Hagerty

What transpired on Saturday morning will restore anyone’s faith in human nature. Or, as Steve himself put it, “yes, there is a rally God”. (The details are in the sidebar story below: “Paso Robles Good Guys Rescue Stranded Tiger”.)

While we missed Saturday morning’s driving events, we didn’t miss lunch! After our meal (including a visit from the mayor of Paso Robles, Steve Martin), we were on the road again for the afternoon’s drives. (Another distinguishing characteristic compared to the NE1000: Day 1 is “rallying”; Day 2 is “scenic cruising”.) We drove through the mountainous landscape dotted with vineyards, then out to Cambria, on the coast, before heading back to the Allegretto.

The Tiger on the central California coast

Dinner was at a different nearby winery, and was served family style. You really get to know your fellow rallyists when you must ask the Ferrari driver “could you please pass the potatoes?” The free-flowing wine helped.

Sunday morning started with a surprise visit from the local San Luis Obispo-based AACA club. Several American classics, definitely different from the rally cars, were in the parking lot for us to admire. Soon after, we were headed to brunch at our 3rd winery stop (Paso Robles must have 100 vineyards). After brunch, it was adieus, and we were on our way home.

AACA cars:

The trip to Steve’s house was mostly on I-5, a north-south highway in the middle of the state. The ambient temperature increase was noticeable compared to the delightfully moderate Paso Robles, and we were glad for the hardtop. Had we been convertibling, we would have roasted.

The Tiger got us home in plenty of time for a celebratory dinner with Steve and his wife. All hot-running issues were behind us. The car did about 700 miles, and except for the hose failure, proved that you can drive a 51-year-old car in these kinds of adventures. We don’t exactly know what’s next in our quest for another rally, but it’s sure to yield stories.

 

 

 

Daimler and Bentley visit a vineyard

 

SIDEBAR: “Paso Robles Good Guys Rescue Stranded Tiger”

After being towed to our hotel on Friday night, it was a non-stop conversation centered around “what do we do now?” While it was necessary to begin to consider options for Sunday (Tow the car home? Leave it in Paso Robles and rent a car? FLY back to L.A.??), we also knew that we had to spend Saturday morning giving our best shot to a repair attempt.
Before breakfast, Steve worked the Google machine and compiled a list of local repair shops. Most of them didn’t open until 8 a.m., so we breakfasted at 7:30, then quickly headed back to the room to work the phones. With both of us making calls, I struck pay dirt on my 3rd try. “Jorge” at Dave Foltz Automotive answered the phone. I must have sounded like a broken-hearted teenager: “Hi, listen, I’m from out of town, we’re driving an old car, it broke down, we’re stranded, WWWAAAAAHHHHHH!!!”
Alright, it wasn’t that bad. Even if I did sound desperate, Jorge was cool and calm. “Listen, I don’t know what it is, but bring it in, and we’ll look at it right away.” “OK, Jorge, but I need it FLAT-BEDDED. Can you do that?” “No, but call Dennis at 123-456-7890.” I called Dennis. “Sure, I got a flat-bed. I can be there in 10 minutes.” Was I dreaming?
By the time we walked downstairs and out to the portico, Dennis and his truck were waiting for us. Dave Foltz Automotive was 1.5 miles away. As we pulled into the lot, I spotted a NAPA store next store. I mean, five paces away.
I jumped out and Jorge greeted me. But every bay was full, and I was doubtful they’d get to it anytime soon. Jorge said, “we’re finishing one up in 10 minutes, then we’ll bring in the Tiger”. Sure enough, the Tiger was next into the shop, and tech Antonio went to work. I sat in the customer lounge, and tried to distract myself with a year-old People magazine.
Within another few minutes, Jorge was in front of me with a blown lower radiator hose in his hands. “Hey, where do you get parts for something like this?” I said I had no flippin’ idea. He said that he’d walk next door to see what NAPA had. Back to People.
FIVE minutes later, the NAPA parts dude shows up holding a new version of the exact hose. I was so beside myself that I wanted to hug Jorge. (But I refrained.) A few more minutes with People, and I heard a honk. Antonio was outside, beckoning me to join him for a test drive. Halleluiah! They did it!
Antonio, our hero for the day
Total time at Dave Foltz: about 90 minutes. Total charges, including California surcharge for handling cancer-causing chemicals (I made that up): $106 (I didn’t make that up). Antonio got his palm greased to the tune of $20. The Tiger was back at the Allegretto by about 11 a.m. Saturday morning.
The fine auto repair personnel at Dave Foltz Automotive of Paso Robles deserve nothing but our highest praise. At 9 p.m. the night before, even my best-case fantasy didn’t have the car fixed THIS quickly.
The rally Gods smiled. “We’ll take care of you this time….”

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.