The 2017 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

The 2017 edition of the Greenwich (CT) Concours d’Elegance marked the 22nd consecutive year for this prestigious event held every June in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, situated along the harbor in Long Island Sound. As has been the custom, the two-day show features domestic makes on Saturday, and imports on Sunday. Compared to other shows in the Northeast, the Greenwich show stands out for its garden-like setting; its manageable size of about 120 cars; and its high standard of presenting top-notch automobiles.

A longstanding rule for the Wennerstroms, family chairpersons of the Concours, is that any car shown at Greenwich must wait four years for a repeat showing. Your scribe showed his 1967 Alfa Romeo here in 2013, so the car became eligible again this year. Still, one must “apply” in order to be accepted, and my vehicle was readily granted entry.

It was an easy 1.5 hour ride on Sunday morning to the park, with a brief stop along the way to pick up my friend Enzo, making his first foray to this Concours. Unlike almost every other show, where attendees pay an entry fee, Greenwich accepts entrants without charge, AND, provides each owner plus a guest with breakfast, lunch, wine, and a harbor boat ride. The gate fee (which I understood to be $40 this year) supplies the cash for the goodies, as well as a substantial donation for the Americares charity.

Wayne Carini wears shades, goes undetected in Greenwich crowd

Another nicety: cars are arranged in circles, facing outwards, making for a unique and accessible way for attendees to view the wares. We were in Circle G, which I anointed the Etceterini Circle. We were kept company by Swedish, Czech, French, Japanese, German, and other Italian cars (in other words, “cars which did not otherwise easily fit into other circles”).

Other groupings were large enough to represent a single marque: Ferrari, Porsche, Bugatti. British cars (Jaguar, Aston Martin, MG) had their own circle, as did high-end Italians other than Ferrari (Maserati, Lamborghini, Iso). In fairness to the organizers, groupings depend so much on numbers and makes of vehicles, and only so many cars can fit into one “group”. The good news is, the show is small enough that you can walk around and see everything in a few hours.

Two other unique elements: first, new cars are on display. Vehicle manufacturers and local dealers lure the crowds with beautiful new machinery. This year, we were treated to the sights of BMW i8s, Alfa Romeo Stelvios, Maserati Levantes, plus Teslas, McLarens, Lincolns and Cadillacs.

Second, Bonhams held a classic car auction on-site on Sunday, about the sixth or seventh consecutive year for them to be at Greenwich. A large tent is erected at one corner of the park to hold all the auction vehicles. The trend toward barn-finds continues. We saw a Series I Jaguar E-Type roadster which, based on a windshield registration decal, was last on the road in 1975. The car appeared to have been stored top-down in a dusty barn since then. At the other extreme, there were some beautifully-restored vehicles which deserved top dollar. A limiting factor is that the tent precludes the possibility of driving cars across the block. Better do your homework before you raise that paddle.

 

Rupert Banner of Bonhams works the room, er, tent

While the day dawned sunny and dry, the forecast promised wetness by early afternoon, and unfortunately, said forecast was accurate. By 2pm, a gentle shower enveloped the field, and we headed out. While there was no award for the Alfa this year, the car continued to draw its fans, most of who cannot believe that they are looking at an unrestored 50-year-old car with original paint. Its owner will maintain that paint as best he can in hopes of returning to Greenwich in 2021.

GERMAN

White Porsches, 356 & 911

 

Porsche 928 with its apertures open

 

Split-window VW

 

Amphicar

 

BRITISH

Jaguar XK-120 Coupe

 

Jaguar XK-140

 

Jaguar XK-150

 

Jaguar E-Type

 

MGA

 

Aston Martin DB-4

 

FRENCH

The Bugatti Owner’s Club showed up in force, resulting in a significant number (a dozen or more) of these rare French cars on display together. Given their racing history, it is also not surprising to see a higher percentage of unrestored original cars.

 

NON-FERRARI ITALIAN

Maserati Ghibli Spider

 

Lancia Aurelia

 

Lancia Appia

 

Fiat 1200 Spyder

 

Ghia 450 SS

 

Iso Griffo

 

1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr.

 

FERRARI

Daytona Spider

 

308 GTS

 

Dino Spider

 

330 GTS

 

275 GTS

 

The End(s)

 

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

 

The Alfa is Loaned to the AACA Museum

The AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) Museum in Hershey PA frequently presents special exhibits on a rotating basis, as a supplement to the vehicles on permanent display. One such exhibit, entitled “Amore Della Strada: Italian Cars” (translated as “Love of the Road”), is running from November 19, 2016, through April 22, 2017.

Earlier this year, the AACA invited its members to submit applications for their Italian cars to be considered. I completed said application, and was thrilled and humbled to learn that the ’67 Alfa Romeo which normally resides in my garage was accepted to be part of the show. (Of the approximately 20 Italian cars to be displayed, all but one are privately owned.)

On the crisp clear Friday morning of November 11, 2016, I started up the Alfa for its two-hour drive to Hershey (this car is no trailer queen). After putting 260 miles on it on last Sunday, this 120-mile ride would be simple. Aside from dicing it up with the tractor-trailers on Route 78 through Allentown PA, the trip was uneventful.

The Alfa arrives at the AACA Museum. The Hershey Kissmobile was also visiting.
The Alfa arrives at the AACA Museum. The Hershey Kissmobile was also visiting.

Arriving at the museum a little past 10 a.m., I drove around to the load-in entrance at the rear. Glenn from the museum staff met me there, and we went through some of the small peculiarities that make Italian cars so lovable. Glenn seemed especially astounded to learn that the ONLY way to open the trunk is by opening the passenger door and pulling the cable release in the door jamb, something he needed to know in order to access the trunk-mounted battery.

In the basement. You can just make out a Fiat 124 in front of my car.
In the basement. You can see a Fiat 124 in front of my car.

My buddy Larry, who is a saint-among-saints as a friend, met me out there in his Silverado. We toured the museum (it was his first time visiting), and got a sneak preview of the upcoming show, as most of the Italian cars were already on display. After a local lunch at Red Robin, we were back on the road by 3-ish.

Sneak preview: DeTomaso Longchamp, Fiats 124, 850, and X1/9
Sneak preview: DeTomaso Longchamp, Fiats 124, 850, and X1/9

My wife and I will be headed out there again this coming Friday for the exhibit’s opening reception – blog story to follow.  And now that I have an empty garage slot for the next five months, we’ll see if I can slip something else in there. (Honey, I know you’re reading this….)

Hamburger with arugula, spicy black beans; does it get any better?
Hamburger with arugula, spicy black beans; does it get any better?

 

All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The Alfa Gets a Tune-Up

A tune-up? Who performs “tune-ups” anymore? Modern cars have spoiled us with their extended service intervals. My 2014 VW Jetta calls for an oil and filter change every 10,000 miles, and spark plug and air filter replacement every 60,000 miles. That’s about it. There are other new vehicles for which the manufacturer recommends spark plugs every 100,000 miles. You might forget they were in there if you wait that long.

It’s different, of course, with an older car. The ’67 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior taking residence in my garage still uses an ignition distributor with a cap, rotor, points, and condenser (ask any person under 30, even an auto buff, what are points and condenser, but be prepared to ‘splain).

GT 1300 Junior used Bosch electrics. Other Alfas used Marelli.
GT 1300 Junior used Bosch electrics. Other Alfas used Marelli.

When I obtained the Alfa in March of 2013, with 54k on the clock, I did what I normally do with any used car that’s new to me – I attended to all the normal maintenance items as a proactive measure, no matter how meticulous the previous owner may have been. In my case, the Alfa’s 1.3L engine got new plugs, wires, cap, rotor, points, and condenser. There was peace of mind knowing the tune was good for a while.

Remove air hose (2 clamps) and all 4 plugs are readily accessible
Remove air hose (2 clamps) and all 4 plugs are readily accessible

Right now, the car barely has 62,000 miles on it, so it’s only been eight thousand miles, but it’s been three and a half years. Earlier this year, I ordered a full complement of tune-up items, just to have them on hand. My plan was to revisit the tune at the 10,000 interval, or at 64,000 miles.

For some reason, last weekend, I decided to pull the plugs. First of all, I can’t think of an engine on which it’s easier to change the four spark plugs. Yes, I need to remove the air filter hose to access the #4 plug, but that takes 30 seconds. Once that’s out of the way, the plugs are RIGHT THERE. So out they came.

The 4 old Bosch plugs
The 4 old Bosch plugs

Plugs numbers one, two, and three looked almost identical. That’s not to say that they looked good. All three of them had significant carbon deposits on them. They were not wet from gas, nor oily, nor sooty with unburned fuel, which was some good news.

The shock was the fourth and final plug, which had so much material deposited on it that I seriously questioned how this thing was firing. (The engine mostly ran fine before I pulled the plugs, with the very infrequent high-speed miss. I was still attributing the miss to a fuel issue.)

I've been working on cars for 40 years. I can't believe this plug fired.
The #4 plug. I’ve been working on cars for 40 years. I can’t believe this plug fired.

Before proceeding further, I went into the house to pull my invoices on the car. When I bought the plugs, early in 2013, I had not yet settled on an Alfa supplier which I felt met my needs. The plugs were purchased from a U.S. supplier with whom I no longer conduct business. They were Bosch plugs, and from everything I’ve since researched, no one today recommends these plugs for Alfa engines. My principal supplier, Classic Alfa in the U.K. exclusively recommends NGK plugs, and that’s what went in as replacements.

Photo documents rotor direction, for correct orientation when reinstallling
Photo documents rotor direction, for correct orientation when reinstallling distributor

While I was under the hood, I removed the distributor (one 10mm hold-down bolt), and replaced the points and condenser. I lubed the distributor in three places, put on the new cap and rotor, and put it all back together. She fired right up, of course! – unlike three years ago, when I accidentally grounded the points….

Service book recommends distributor removal for points replacement
Service book recommends distributor removal for points and condenser replacement

Taking the car for a test drive, I was not expecting any significant power improvement. I mean, we’re starting with 100 hp, so, who’s going to feel a 5% increase? What was noticeable was the difference in throttle response. Touching the accelerator pedal gave an immediate jump in RPM. The car was such a joy to drive that I stayed out for about 30 minutes, taking it through the gears, and bringing that rev-happy Italian engine up to 6 grand on the tach. Oh, and no high-speed miss.

So, lesson learned. European sports cars which get driven infrequently need to have their state of tune checked more frequently. It’s easy enough to do, so there’s no excuse. This ain’t no 2014 VW. Thankfully.

 

All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

Sunday Morning Breakfast Drive, May 15, 2016

8 a.m.: sunny before departure
8:30 a.m.: sunny before departure

After a relatively mild winter, the spring of 2016 has been taking its sweet time arriving in the Northeast. Any fears of summer heat waves in early May have been unfounded, with daily temperatures often running 10 degrees below normal. Our little driving club tried to get an early start on the season by planning a mid-April event, which had to be cancelled due to the threat of snow! Our scheduled drive on Sunday May 15 did successfully occur, in spite of cool weather and surprise showers.

Hey guys, do you want to eat, or would you rather stand around and shoot the breeze?
Hey guys, do you want to eat, or would you rather stand around and shoot the breeze?

Checking back on last year’s blog entries, we never had more 15 participants on any one run (excepting Spousal Accompaniment Day). Today, we broke that record with 17 gentlemen occupying 12 cars. Obviously, we had 5 passengers, several of whom were joining us for the first time. Our destination was a crowd favorite, the Silver Spoon Café in Cold Spring NY.

We pull over to give those in back a chance to catch up

We pull over to give those in back a chance to catch up

The cars: we usually count up the Chevys, and then all the rest. Today, the Europeans won the day with a total of 7 cars: 3 Germans, 2 Brits, and 2 Italians. We had 4 U.S. brand cars, and one Japanese. There were old(ish) and new(ish) vehicles in all the subcategories with multiple vehicles.

The Mother Country was beautifully represented Rich S’s black MGB and Rich L’s white Jaguar F-Type.

The MGB of Rich S
The MGB of Rich S

 

The F-Type Jag of Rich L
The F-Type Jag of Rich L

The 2 Italians cars were both Alfas: EC was the proud papa bringing his ’91 spider out with us for the first time, while your humble scribe brought his trusty, un-rusty ’67 GT Junior.

Enzo's 1991 Alfa Spider
Enzo’s 1991 Alfa Spider

 

The author's '67 Alfa GT Junior
The author’s ’67 Alfa GT Junior

German marques ruled the roads today with 3 cars: Peter’s stunning red 911, Sal’s BMW 325is, and John M’s new Audi A3 cabrio.

Peter's Porsche 911
Peter’s Porsche 911

 

John's Audi A3
John’s Audi A3

 

Sal's BMW 325is
Sal’s BMW 325is

Among domestic product, it was all Chevrolet, including 3 Corvettes: Bill’s C1, Ron’s C4, and George’s C6. Larry ran his reliable Camaro.

Bill's C1
Bill’s C1

 

Ron's C4
Ron’s C4

 

George's C6
George’s C6

 

Larry's '94 Camaro
Larry’s ’94 Camaro

The sole Asian car was Jim N’s Datsun 280Z.

Jim's Datsun 280Z
Jim’s Datsun 280Z

We departed the Sheraton Crossroads parking lot (almost) right on time and headed north. As soon as we did, the skies darkened, and the clouds threatened. In spite of the weather, several drivers motored with convertible tops down. After a beautiful ride along Seven Lakes Drive and over the Bear Mountain Bridge, we were at our destination with 10 minutes to spare. The staff at the Silver Spoon had a table for 17 waiting. Coffee was almost immediately served, with hot breakfast plates soon following. As always, the camaraderie around the table made it difficult to leave.

The obligatory wave before breakfast
The obligatory wave before breakfast

When we finally wrenched ourselves away from the food and endless caffeine, we stepped outside to some slight sprinkles. Those who had left their tops down scurried back to their cars. Several of us continued to linger and chat, not wanting the festivities to end. But end they eventually did. We’ve assured the group that we’ll do our best to get out at least once a month this driving season.

A crowd favorite is the Silver Spoon Cafe, on Main St. in Cold Spring NY
The Silver Spoon Cafe, on Main St. in Cold Spring NY, survived our visit

All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.