On Saturday, November 11, 2017, the New Jersey chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) held its Fall Foliage Driving Tour, starting at Fullerton Alfa Romeo in Bridgewater, and ending at Duke Farms in Hillsborough.
The day dawned sunny but quite cold, with sunrise temps below freezing. The wind, which had been a factor the previous day, was all but nonexistent, which made the cold more tolerable. The thermometer moderated as the day progressed, and it turned out to be a beautiful day for a driving tour.
The dealer did a great job hosting us in the a.m., with plenty of coffee, bagels, and other breakfast treats available. Early arrivals were there before 9:30, and during the subsequent hour, 17 cars and close to 30 attendees streamed in. While there, we enjoyed alternating our gazes between the new Giulia sedans & Stelvio SUVs, and the classic Alfas parked outside.
After a brief driver’s meeting, we were off and running. Our first leg had us heading north/northwest, through Oldwick and Long Valley. After an hour on the road, we arrived at our planned rest stop in Chester NJ. The intent was to give participants a chance to wander the streets of this quaint town, filled with antique shops, bakeries, and the like. But true to the Italian spirit, almost everyone stayed in the parking lot, hovered around our Milanese metal, and swapped stories (mostly lies about horsepower).
By 12:30, the second leg of the drive began, and we were on the road again, now headed back south. We briefly doubled back on Lamington Road (Route 523), then turned south/southeast, through Whitehouse Station and Readington. We arrived at Duke Farms exactly at 1:30, which was a good thing, as our catered luncheon was scheduled to start at that time. By complete coincidence, the second leg was also an hour’s length. Both drives were blessed with relatively light traffic, colorful autumnal leaves, lots of sunshine, and no breakdowns.
The café staff, led by Debbie, went overboard with our catered meal. We walked in to find a smorgasbord of sandwiches, wraps, salads, fruit, plus cookies and coffee. A section of the dining room was reserved for us, and we continued to catch up with old friends and/or make new ones, all while stuffing our faces.
Our chapter president, Enrico, declared the event a success, and there was widespread agreement among the chapter members. Based on today’s turnout, we are all counting on AROC’s NJ Chapter to hold more such events in 2018.
(Special thanks to my wife Margaretanne for accompanying me, and taking all the on-the-road photos.)
The original name of the company we know today as “Alfa Romeo” was A.L.F.A., which is an acronym. In Italian, it stands for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, which translates as “Anonymous Lombardy (Region) Manufacturer (of) Automobiles”.
During World War I, an industrialist named Nicola Romeo took over control of A.L.F.A., which was then in liquidation. He immodestly changed the name of the company to Alfa Romeo, with “Alfa” no longer an acronym. A recession during the 1920’s forced Romeo out of the company, but the name change stayed.
None of this stops people from continuing to spell the car name as “Alpha” (as if the car were Greek!).
You know it’s late in the collector car driving season when the 8 a.m. arrivals at your starting point are still in the shadows, waiting for the morning’s yellow rays to rise above the concrete and steel horizon.
And so our final Sunday morning breakfast drive for 2017 began, but we knew the day’s weather would be in our favor. Those of us in the Northeast are coming off what may be the best week of weather we’ve had all year: sunny, dry, daytime temps in the mid-to-high 70s, with the thermometer dropping into the 40s and 50s at night. And all this in late October to boot.
For our October 22 drive, we had 14 travelers occupying 11 cars. While the turnout was a bit less than our last motorcade, many of our regulars showed up, drawn in part by the attraction of a favorite destination: The Silver Spoon Café in Cold Spring NY.
The route to Cold Spring is an easy one, and includes Seven Lakes Drive in Harriman State Park. It’s a shame that we didn’t give ourselves a chance to stop and admire the view. At such an early hour, the water, smooth as glass, acted like a mirror for the fall foliage. The scene would have made a lovely backdrop for our myriad group of sporting machines.
We arrived at our destination in under an hour, and the attentive staff at the Silver Spoon had a table for 14 waiting for us (calling ahead and being patient when they say “we don’t take reservations” can still provide your desired result).
The Silver Spoon staff hustled to serve 14 or 15 hungry drivers, and the sometimes erratic service was not entirely the fault of our intrepid waiter. Plates remained unclaimed as diners endeavored to remember what they ordered! Even with the delay, the food was excellent, washed down with coffee by the gallon.
As is customary, as the meal ended, the crowd lingered in front of the restaurant, with no one in any great rush to depart. The warm October sunshine will do that to you. It sounds far away to say “see you on our first drive in 2018”, but it will be here soon enough. We’re also hoping to organize an off-season trip to a museum as we did last winter. For this scribe, it’s now time to put the babies away for the year. I’m pretty sure I still have some Sta-Bil in the garage.
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.
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.
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.
My excitement was barely containable. For the FOURTH consecutive year, I would be driving in Rich and Jean Taylor’s wonderful vintage car rally, along with about 50 like-minded car enthusiasts. My good friend and rally partner Steve would again be joining the troupe, with one significant difference: we would each be taking our own cars. Steve would be teamed up with his girlfriend (now wife) Carol in their Sunbeam Tiger, and I with my fiancé (now wife) Margaretanne would drive our recently-acquired ’72 MGB. Oh boy.
They can’t say they didn’t ask for it. As alluded to in an earlier post, after three straight years of hearing us rave about the rallies, the ladies wanted in. We departed from Steve’s home in Morristown NJ and caravanned to the rally starting point in Lake Placid NY. My B, purchased just a month prior, was relatively untested, and I’ll admit to some trepidation about its roadworthiness (Lucas electrics and all that). However, Steve’s British car (aside from its Yank lump) had been a bastion of reliability all these years, so I did my best to cast aside doubts.
Arriving at the Mirror Lake Inn on Sunday May 20, the field of rally vehicles did not disappoint; if anything, this year’s variety of cars got more interesting. The number of domestic vehicles was greater than previously seen, and included a ’64 Corvette Sting Ray, ’70 Ford Mustang, ’63 Dodge Dart, ’61 Chrysler 300G, and ’62 Ford Thunderbird (ALL convertibles).
The European sports cars continued to dominate the field, and we became almost blasé at repeated sightings of Mercedes 300-SLs, Porsche 356s, Aston-Martins, Jaguar XKs, and Ferraris. The BMW 507 seen earlier returned; and of special note to me, our friend Dave Allison, who had previously entered an Alfa Giulietta spider, a Porsche 356, and a Lotus Elite, showed up with a 1971 Austin Mini. His conclusion? Of the four, the Mini was his favorite to drive!
And drive we did; as always, it’s almost exactly 1,000 miles over four days (that’s why it’s called the N.E. 1000), not including our mileage up and back. Fears about the MGB were totally unfounded; we suffered no ill effects from driving an almost-30-year-old car (not counting a very fiddly convertible top). For my wife, truth be told, getting up early and adhering to a rigidly-scheduled day was not her idea of a vacation, but she did admit that the concept and the camaraderie made it fun.
The return trip was uneventful. I kept the MG for the remainder of 2001, but with the BMW Isetta finally being show ready, I wanted to focus on only one collector car. Besides, the newish ’93 Mazda Miata in the garage offered plenty of sporty top-down driving whenever I wanted, so in the spring of 2002, I sold the B for exactly what I paid for it.
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2001 rally, Steve and Carol relocated to California. Due in large part to our geographical separation, it would be another four years before we again entered a vintage rally together, driving a yet-to-be-purchased vehicle. Stay tuned for that story.
On the evening of November 18, 2016, the AACA Museum in Hershey PA officially opened its “Amore della Strada” Italian machinery exhibit with a reception at the museum. The public was invited to attend, and turnout was large, making for crowded aisles. The doors opened at 6pm, and your $20 admission included antipasti, beer, and wine. Those who owned cars on display were admitted “gratuito”.
There were approximately 20 Italian cars, and perhaps a dozen or so Italian motorcycles. The museum is arranged in such a way that there was no practical way for the curators to place all the special exhibits together. Therefore, they were arranged in smaller groups of 2, 3, 4, or more, and placards with each vehicle provided sufficient history regarding the make and model. Owners who were loaning their wares for the five-month duration of the show were dutifully acknowledged. (Last week’s blog entry covered this author’s drive to deliver his ’67 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior to the exhibit.)
Fiats and Alfa Romeos seemed to comprise the bulk of the vehicle displays, and some might agree with me that it was a refreshing change of pace for an “Italian Car Show” to NOT be dominated by late-model supercars from the Big 3 of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati. (Of these three makes, I counted only two Ferraris.)
Among the Fiats, we saw three 124 Spiders, two X1/9s, and an 850 Spider. The X1/9s were a study in contrasts, as the bright green one was a first year example wearing the original bumper-less design, while the white one from 1987 wore no Fiat badges at all, as it was manufactured and sold by Bertone, and badged as such, since Fiat left the U.S. market after 1982. The only Italian prewar car on the floor was a delightful 1937 Fiat Topolino (Little Mouse).
The four Alfa Romeos included two Giulia coupes, one early step-nose and one 2nd generation design, a rare Montreal Coupe (with a factory V8), and the last Alfa sold in the U.S. market (until Sergio’s recent resurgence), the large front-wheel-drive 164 sedan.
The show included vehicles that required an explanation how they passed the entrance exam, as two of them had big American V8 engines, and one had a British 4-cylinder lump. The DeTomaso Longchamp and Italia Omega are vehicles belonging to a class long known as ‘hybrids’ (decades before that term was used to describe a gas/electric vehicle).
Most car aficionados have heard of the DeTomaso Pantera, sold here by Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the early 1970s. The Longchamp is the squared-off, four-seat sister to the Pantera. The one on display featured a Ford 351 Cleveland engine mated to a 3-speed automatic. I’ve seen many a photo of Longchamps, and this was the first one I’ve ever seen in the metal.
The car labeled as a 1967 Italia Omega is more familiarly known to me as an Intermeccanica Italia. Based on my reading of the car’s placard, the history of this car company is convoluted at best. (Indeed, none of the several import-based compilation books in my library make any mention at all of this company.) The vehicle in the museum was an attractive convertible, using a front-mounted Ford 302 V8 paired with a 4-speed manual transmission.
The 1961 Triumph Italia on display is one of 329 built. While the design is certainly in the Italian mold, the sheetmetal hides what is essentially the drivetrain and chassis of a stock Triumph TR-3. One of the outstanding features of the Italia is that it is the handiwork of a young Giovanni Michelotti, who would later pen the restyle of the TR-4 into the TR-6.
Scan through the photos below for shots of other vehicles which were on display. (And as always, click on any of the photos to enlarge them.)
Among the motorcycles, which are not my primary interest, I could not help but be drawn to the 1958 Iso Moto, built by the same company that originally designed the Iso Isetta. Like the Longchamp, it was a first for me to actually see one of these in person.
The New Jersey Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club held an informal Sunday cruise during the afternoon of November 6, 2016. Five club members, led by our chapter head Enrico Ciabattoni, gathered at our starting point at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel NJ. We pushed off around 2pm and cruised to various spots in Monmouth County, including Atlantic Highlands, Sandy Hook, and Colts Neck.
The oldest car in today’s contingent was the 1966 Duetto driven by Alex and Carly. Richard’s 1967 GT 1300 Junior was just a year newer. The eighties were well-represented by two GTV6s, Enrico’s and Bill’s. The newest Alfa for today was John’s beautifully-kept 164. Alas, no new Giulia sedans showed up to surprise us. However, Enrico’s wife and daughter did a commendable job driving the sweep car in their Honda Odyssey. Thanks, ladies!
Plenty of time was allotted for photo ops (what with such gorgeous cars!), and a personal highlight was stopping for pictures at the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse in the country. The cameras were not always aimed at cars; the vista from atop the Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook in Atlantic Highlands provided glorious views of the New York skyline and lower bay.
Our day ended at Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck, which also gave us a chance to pick up some produce (Enrico was spotted heading for the Italian chestnuts). Since it was the first day back on Eastern Standard Time, the rapidly-diminishing daylight had this scribe heading for home before sunset.
For those who doubt the reliability of Italian machinery: combined with this morning’s breakfast run, Richard’s Alfa was driven a total of 260 miles today, much of it buzzing along the highways of New Jersey at 70 mph, fending off soccer moms in the SUVs. Not bad for a 49-year-old car.
It was wonderful to be out with fellow Alfisti and to delight in the sounds of 4- and 6-cylinder engines in full song. We hope to get the group back on the road in early 2017.
The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) hosted their Eastern Division National Fall Meet for the umpteenth (61st) time in Hershey PA during the first week of October this year. As someone who has attended “Hershey” at least 25 times over the years, I find myself asking “what is it that keeps drawing the crowds?”
After all, as has been reflected in numerous posts here as well as within every publication which covers collector cars, the old car hobby has changed in so many ways. The Internet, obviously, has driven transactions online. The greying of the hobby means that the aging boomers, who may finally have the means to buy that dream car, will buy it not as a project, but as a restored, ready-to-go vehicle, and may pursue that dream at an auction. Younger generations are not showing interest in 25-year-old and older stock vehicles, and frankly may be reluctant to join a club with the word “Antique” in its title.
This blog has now been up and running long enough that some annual events are being reported for the second time. And so it is with Hershey. It may be instructive to revisit what was said a year ago: in essence, thanks in large part to its six-decade history, Hershey continues to be the go-to place for cars and parts which can be found in few other places, in person or online.
The sheer size of the event, with its combination of old-fashioned flea market, car corral, and judged car show can account for the crowds. (Again this year, the influx of foreigners was huge.) Weather may sometimes play a role (who remembers the Hershey mud?), but even that is a relic of the past, as the entire flea market and corral are on pavement.
There certainly are things to see and do which cannot be duplicated on a tablet screen. For example, Hagerty Insurance, as they did last year, ran a “Search, Build, Drive” contest whereby they would purchase a project vehicle from the Car Corral, and bring it to running, driving condition using parts found in the flea market. And one more small detail: they challenge themselves to accomplish this within the 4 days of Hershey. You can read more about it here.
Due to personal commitments, I was unable to attend Saturday’s judged meet this year. I did attend the RM-Sotheby auto auction, held about a mile away at the Hershy Lodge, which will be covered as a separate blog post.
The bulk of this post will be a report on a random sample of cars, domestic and foreign, in the Car Corral. While there are hundreds of cars for sale, I’m especially drawn to both imports and to orphan makes. Comments about each car follow the photos.
This 1956 Packard Clipper 2-door hardtop was driven down from Ontario, Canada to the meet. It allegedly had 40,000 original miles, but much of the lower body was wavy with Bondo. The ask was $14,750. If that were Canadian bucks, it would be an even better deal.
This generation of the Mercedes-Benz SL (known as the “107” chassis to the devoted) was sold here from 1973-1989. We are so used to seeing them with their diving-board bumpers that we forget how elegant the original design was. This ’73 U.S.-spec car reminds us. This car claimed to have 45,000 original miles, and the owner was asking $18,500.
This 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire was rough around the edges, but it looked like it was all there. Price was $7,500 OBO. It was the only one at Hershey.
This ’61 T-Bird was claimed to be highly optioned with power steering, brakes, top, windows, and seats. It also had wire wheels. The beige-on-beige may not be your first choice, but I liked it. Asking $24,000 “cash! Priced to sell!”
The sign on this 1987 Alfa Romeo Graduate Spider gave little info other than “Low miles, $9,900“.
This 1980 Mazda RX-7, a first-generation car, still wore the original tail light design, which was updated a year later. The sign claimed this car was an Anniversary Edition (whatever that is), and with 63,000 miles, the ask was $9,800.
This 1977 Jaguar XJ6-C is a rare 2-door version of the better-known XJ four-door sedan. My recollection is that 100% of these vehicles had factory vinyl roofs. This one’s was removed in favor of black paint. The car looked like it had needs, and these are known to be rust-prone, so check carefully before you pay the $12,500 asking price.
This 1982 Lancia Beta Zagato is from the final year of U.S. sales for this Italian import. Like the Beta coupe, the transverse engine drove the front wheels. The Zagato version has a fold-down soft rear window plus a removable targa top, giving an almost-convertible feel. The sign claimed 59,000 pampered miles, and it looked it. The owner was asking $5,995.
The Buick Reatta has been on the “appreciating future collectible” list for so long that I think most people have forgotten it. There are always a few for sale, and this one’s colors and condition made it stand out. The sign claimed it to be a two-owner car for only $6,800.
This 1969 Jaguar E-Type OTS (Open Two Seater) was claimed to be an unrestored original car with only 48,000 miles. Primrose yellow is one of my favorite E-Type colors. If solid, it may be a good buy at $75,900.
This 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III was alleged to be a 62,000 mile all-original car. A little bland in white with a black vinyl top and black leather interior, it would look good in your garage (provided it fit) for only $6,500.
This 1994 Jaguar XJS convertible had the 4.0 six-cylinder engine, but had bad paint, with clearcoat failure on several horizontal surfaces. The ask was $7,850 /offer.
It’s rare to see a Triumph Spitfire this old that has not turned into a pile of iron oxide, but this 1968 appeared to be all there. Sure, it needed work, but it looked like you could drive it on weekends and attend to its needs during the week. The sign claimed that this car had been put away in storage between 1986 and 2015, and that accounts for the 28k original miles. The price, you ask? $4,975.
This 1964 Studebaker Commander (in Bermuda Brown Metallic, the same FACTORY shade as the GT Hawk at Carlisle last week) had 21,000 original miles on it, was an unrestored car, and looked it. We had a lengthy discussion with the owner, who pointed out that the only option on this 6-cylinder engine, 3-speed manual car was a cigar lighter. He was asking $5,500.
There were several Triumph TR-6s in the corral, and this was one of the nicer ones. A 1972 model has the smaller bumpers, and this green-over-tan car was nicely set off by oversize tires on Panasport wheels. The mods continued under the hood with dual Webers. It was cosmetically spotless. The owners were asking $12,900.
This 1958 Triumph TR-3 was in baby blue over a medium blue interior, with whitewalls on chrome wires. It looked like you could hop right in and go for a cruise. This “older restoration” was for sale for $17,900.
This 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible was parked next to an identical model from 1965. It was interesting to note the styling changes, both inside and out, with my vote going to the ’66. This one was cosmetically less attractive, but it had the more reasonable asking price of $20,000.
This 1971 Jaguar XKE Series III coupe, again in Primrose yellow, was claimed to be a 97,000 mile unrestored car (you may have noticed the continuing trend toward “unrestored / all-original / barn find” cars for sale). All Series III cars rode on the longer 2+2 wheelbase and used the V-12 engine. This one was a stick (many Series III cars were automatic). There were rough spots, but it was about as reasonably-priced an E-Type as you’ll find for $39,000.