As happens every winter, the collector cars (loosely defined as the cars that don’t get driven in snow) are put away for the winter. The ritual is one that has evolved over the years and is now consistent: fill the tanks with fresh fuel, add Sta-Bil, pump up the tires at least 10 p.s.i. over normal to avoid flat-spotting, put a trickle charger on the batteries, and cover the cars with a dedicated car cover. It’s easy, takes little time, and doesn’t cost very much.
Before going further, let’s take a moment to say a few words about the brands I use, and have continued to use. (I’m a firm believer in finding good products and sticking with them, even if they cost a trifle more. As the cliché goes, ‘you get what you pay for’.)
The Sta-Bil brand of fuel stabilizer, made by Gold Eagle, has been in use in my garage since I’ve owned powered lawn and garden equipment. Many moons ago, I heard stories about lawn mowers and snow throwers, two examples of gas-engine devices which see seasonal use, failing to run because the old gummed-up gas gummed up the works. As soon as I got my first lawn mower, Sta-Bil went into its tank. The gumming has never happened to me, and I’ve stuck with the brand ever since.
Yes, I had my doubts about their ethanol treatment after it seemingly made the Alfa run worse (a conclusion which I now doubt since discovering my carbs are running rich and fouling the plugs a bit), but your basic ‘storage’ version of Sta-Bil is the way to go for any fuel tank in which fuel may sit more than 6 weeks or so.
It’s a similar story with battery chargers. I still have my dad’s Sears charger, which looks like it was made in the 1960s. It works great to jump-start a dead battery, but it ain’t no trickle charger. Long-term battery storage requires both a slow charge (the “trickle”) and a volt-sensing cut-out that won’t overcharge the thing and boil it to death.
The Deltran Battery Tender brand came onto the market several decades ago, and they found their niche for the car collectors whose vehicles are stored in the off-season. While many competing brands have since been introduced, I’ve stayed with what I know works. I think I’m up to 3 of these Battery Tenders in the garage.
Car covers are a relatively new accessory to my winter arsenal. Up until a few years ago, frankly, I didn’t believe in them. It was a combination of fear of paint damage from moisture trapped beneath the cover, and frustration with my inability to find a custom-fit cover for the BMW Isetta (my expectations were a bit high with that one).
Since working at CARiD, I’ve learned a lot about the usefulness of good quality car covers, and one thing I learned is that the Covercraft brand is my favorite. The fit is perfect, and the variety of material choices will satisfy any indoor or outdoor cover needs at any price point.
The Alfa has a Covercraft Block-It Dustop (yes, they had the ’67 Alfa pattern in stock), and the Miata wears the Covercraft Evolution indoor-outdoor cover. In the garage, both covers do more than keep dust off the paint; they also protect the interiors from sunlight, and provide some protection from wayward nuts and bolts spinning out of control off my workbench. I would never again think of storing a car without a cover. Even in the nice weather, if it’s going to be more than a week or two before one of the cars gets driven again, the cover goes on.
All this is a prelude to an announcement about my Mazda Miata: after giving some thought to selling it, I’ve now decided to keep the car. What’s more, next year, in 2018, this 1993 automobile will be 25 years old, making it eligible for AACA events. So I’m going to turn it into a show car.
The plan is to spend the winter tending to some mechanical maintenance, but also attending to some detail work in order to display the car at shows next year as a 25-year-old original unrestored car.
The mechanical list includes new rear brake calipers (one of the parking brake adjusters is stuck), new tires (tread is good, but they’re 10 years old), and a continuation of the LED bulb upgrade. The detail work involves a new convertible top (worn and dirty), an engine compartment detail, Paintless Dent Removal work on some small dings, and a complete polish and wax.
Here’s hoping for a mild winter, which will encourage me to get out to the garage! As long as the temperature is above freezing, I can spend a few hours out there. Watch this blog for updates on my progress with the Miata.
Have you replaced a fuse on one of your modern daily-driver automobiles recently? It’s likely you have not. Today’s motor vehicles have much more sophisticated electrical systems, and while your typical 2017 four-wheeled 2.5 ton behemoth still uses fuses, the days of fuses just “wearing out” are behind us.
If you have needed to replace a fuse, the first trick may have been to locate the fuse boxes. My wife’s 2017 Honda Odyssey has FIVE fuse boxes: two in the engine compartment, two under the dash, and one at the rear, containing a total of 107 fuses. It makes me pity the shop tech who needs to fault-trace an intermittent electrical problem.
My 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior, by contrast, has one fuse box, located in the engine compartment. Access to it is easy, as it’s mounted high up, on the right-side inner fender. There are a total of 10 fuses: one for ignition, five for exterior lighting, and three which are helpfully marked “other electric devices” (of which there are few; my Alfa lacks the power sliding doors, climate control, and ‘Lane Departure Warning’ of my wife’s minivan).
Italian cars get a bad rap for their supposed temperamental electrics. But there’s not been a lick of an issue with mine, save for a battery which died shortly after I got the car (because it was 10 years old at that point). Preventative maintenance goes a long way toward keeping the electrons flowing in the proper direction and in a complete circuit.
With any old car, I will gladly get on my soapbox and preach the ’12-Volt Gospel’: 99% of electrical gremlins are caused by poor connections. Terminals must be clean and tight; ground wires must be securely connected to clean ground; and fuses and their terminals must be clean, tight, and protected with dielectric grease. In no case should an electrical component be replaced without first ensuring that all connections, hold-downs, and crimped or soldered terminals are in the best shape they can be.
Soon after acquiring the Alfa, I removed all 10 of the European-style ceramic fuses, cleaned the spring-tensioned holders with a brass brush, and bent the holders inward to make them tighter. Next, I applied a light coating of dielectric grease. Upon reinstalling the fuses, I ran continuity tests with my multimeter to check that there was minimal (ideally, close to zero) resistance in the connections.
This dielectric grease is magical stuff. It seems counter-intuitive to grease electrical connections, but it prevents corrosion from forming. You still need to have a strong mechanical connection. It should be used on battery terminals and spark plug boots as well as fuses. Don’t waste your $1.99 buying the point-of-purchase 0.001 oz. packet at the retail store checkout counter. I bought a 5-ounce tube about four years ago, and even after multiple applications on multiple cars, I’ve only used about 25% of it.
While on the subject of fuses: I recently cleaned out an old shoe box full of automotive miscellany which had belonged to my dad. In it were several tins of glass-style fuses. While none of the cars I own today use this style, my ’68 Mustang did, and I recall how difficult it was to reach the fuse box on that car, as it was mounted above the gas pedal.
If you have a newer car, here’s hoping that you never need to replace a fuse (much less find the fuse box). If you have an older car, here’s hoping that you invest in a tube of dielectric grease, and in a half-hour of preventative maintenance. Let me know how it works out.
The Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club (AROC) held its 2017 annual convention in Montreal, Quebec, in conjunction with the Alfa Romeo Club of Canada. Billed as “Alfa Expo17”, the choice of this city was not arbitrary. This convention celebrated the 50th anniversary of the showing of the Alfa Romeo concept car at Expo ’67 in Montreal. When the car went into production a few years later, it was named after its debut city. Alfa Expo17 promised a significant showing of Alfa Romeo Montreals, as well as some special events planned around this very special vehicle.
This was my first participation at an AROC event. My 1967 GT 1300 Junior turned 50 this year, so partly in honor of the car’s birthday, we drove the car there, the decision helped by Montreal’s relative proximity. My wife accompanied me, because she likes riding in the Alfa (claiming that it’s the most comfortable collector car I’ve owned) and because we’ve enjoyed our previous visits to our northern neighbor.
When the convention’s agenda was published in the club magazine, I was somewhat surprised to see that “activities” were scheduled to begin as early as the Monday before Sunday’s concorso. Taking that much time off was not practical for either of us, so we decided to arrive early on Friday July 14. To help with that plan, we departed from home on Thursday evening the 13th, and spent the night near Saratoga Springs NY, almost exactly half-way to our destination.
Friday’s convention agenda included lunch at the Orange Julep fast-food restaurant in downtown Montreal, followed by a gimmick rally for the afternoon. We decided to aim for lunch at the Orange Julep, and take a wait-and-see approach to the gimmick rally.
Our planned lunch arrival of 12 noon was missed by almost two hours, because the combination of rain, traffic, and road construction had us crawling at 10 mph for much of our time in the city. (Oh, and this driver, unable to read street signs in French, made a wrong turn and drove in circles through a residential area for 20 minutes.) As we finally pulled into the Orange Julep parking lot, the threatening skies opened up again.
There were perhaps four Alfas remaining in the lot. We ordered our food and said some quick hellos to a few Alfa owners. As soon as we had our food in hand, the rain picked up and the temperature dropped. The Orange Julep only had outdoor seating. My wife asked if we could eat in the car. THAT was not an option. I gave her my hooded jacket, we found seating in an outdoor shed, and wolfed down lunch as quickly as possible. The gimmick rally was not going to happen for us.
With the rains continuing, we dove back into the car, and began to plot our route to the hotel. Next issue: both of our phones lost internet coverage, so, no Google maps. The filling station across the street sold me a street map of Montreal, and we were back on the highway, again brought to a crawl by traffic and construction. What should have been a 20 minute ride took closer to an hour. We were happy to arrive and get into a warm and dry hotel room. It was not the best start to our holiday weekend.
Friday night’s dinner was on site, so there was no need to get back into the car. We sat down and met all the other couples sharing our table. For the first time but not the last, we were treated to the warmth and openness of our fellow Alfa owners. Everyone was gracious, humble, and willing to make us feel included. My wife, who is not a car person, managed to gain the sympathetic ear of several of the other ladies who understood that she was not at the dinner to discuss double overhead cams, oil viscosity, or Spica fuel injection.
At the conclusion of the meal, about five Montreal owners lined up their cars along the back entrance of the hotel, and Wes Ingram, Spica guru, gave a technical presentation. All the cars had their engines started, and it was an incredible sound to hear these V8 engines roaring.
Saturday’s schedule included a number of optional events. For those who wanted to test their driving skills, autocross-type drives were conducted at a nearby raceway. That’s not my thing, especially when the car in question is also my transportation home, so we opted instead for a bus tour of Old Montreal.
With the rain holding off, the bus departed the hotel at 9 a.m. sharp, and our driver/tour guide, a pleasant local chap, was knowledgeable if a bit difficult to understand through the accent. The bus meandered through town, then parked for a 2-hour lunch break, which put us out on our own. The gloomy weather was changing over to sunshine, and it was nice to walk around. Back on the bus, we finished the tour and we returned to the hotel by 3 p.m. I didn’t mind being a passenger for the day.
By this time my wife was ready to relax in our hotel room. The sunny skies meant that this was my window to prep my car for Sunday’s big show. The hotel provided a wash station, complete with hose, soap, bucket, and wash mitts. Of course, about 50 other owners had the same idea, so there we all were, having turned the back lot of this Holiday Inn into a major preen and primp area.
But Alfa owners never miss the opportunity to engage fellow Alfisti in banter. I made about a dozen new friends in our mutual admiration society as we compared notes regarding the history and authenticity of each other’s cars. Modestly, my car garnered some significant attention because of its originality, with owners of similar Giulia coupes interested in knowing, for example, if my 3-spoke steering wheel is original (it is).
Saturday evening was another arranged dinner at the hotel, this time with speeches and awards. The winners of the gimmick rally and the time trials were presented their due. Cindy Banzer, the president of AROC, gave the keynote speech in English AND French, impressing us with her bilingual skills. Things wrapped up by 11 p.m., and good thing they did, as we would all be rising early Sunday morning.
The Sunday Concorso, arguably the highlight of the weekend, was not at the hotel, but rather in “Petite Italie”, French for Little Italy, in the city center. Planning an 8 a.m. arrival, but dreading the traffic, we departed the hotel by 7:30 a.m. Of course, we breezed right in. The weather was perfect.
The show was held in conjunction with the Fiat Club of Montreal, and was billed as “Montreal’s Official Italian Automobile Festival”. In addition to the dozens of Alfas, there were Fiats, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and DeTomasos. All the cars were parked on Rue Dante, a main drag through Little Italy, and the locals came out in force to take in the sights and sounds. The neighborhood featured Italian restaurants, bakeries, and shops, so breakfast and lunch were closer to what you’d find in Rome rather than Paris. Given star billing at the head of the street were eight Alfa Romeo Montreals parked in a row, a sight that I never thought I’d see.
AROC members had the option to choose “judge my car” or “don’t judge my car”. I chose the latter, if only because I didn’t want to spend Sunday morning on detail alert. My plan was to relax, take in the sights, and continue to chat up my fellow Alfa owners, which is exactly what I did. At 2 p.m., the AROC judges announced the winners. As an especially nice touch, cake and champagne were served at the awards ceremony.
With that, Alfa Expo ’17 was officially over. We had decided to stay in Montreal Sunday night, and take our time driving back on Monday. We left about 9 a.m. Monday, drove through some nasty but brief storms, and once on the other side of that weather, had bright hot sunshine for the rest of the trip. We arrived home by 6 p.m. Monday night, exhausted, but pleased with our active weekend.
These were my takeaways from my first AROC convention:
Unless the Alfa in question is a non-street-legal track car, almost every owner drives their Alfa to an Alfa convention.
Alfa Romeo owners, as a group, are the most friendly, knowledgeable, yet humble car folks I’ve ever met.
The AROC Organization, which has quite of few of these events under their collective belts, puts on a top-notch event.
The “pre-convention driving tours” (the reason for planned activities starting a week before) are a Big Deal to Alfisti, who love to drive their cars.
Alfa Romeo owners like ALL Italian cars.
Alfa owners love to drive their cars (did I say that already?).
My GT 1300 Junior continues to amaze me. We drove 880 miles round trip. The car started, cold or hot, on the first turn of the key. We comfortably cruised on the highway between 70 and 80 mph. There were no unwanted noises or behaviors. With a trunk full of spare parts including plugs, wires, a coil, and a fuel pump, none was needed. (My theory is that the quantity of spare parts on board is inversely proportional to their need.) The car used no oil, and never missed a beat.
The AROC has announced that the 2018 convention will be in Olympia WA. I’m already plotting my trip out there.
The final day of official events for the AROC (Alfa Romeo Owners Club) arrived. The Concorso was held in the Petite Italie (Little Italy) neighborhood in Montreal, populated with Italian restaurants, shops, and bakeries.
The AROC show was held in conjunction with the Fiat club of Montreal. Hence, many Fiats, Ferraris, and other Italian exotics joined.
The weather was perfect, and the crowds were large and enthusiastic.
A full event report covering all three days will follow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….)