The Isetta Saga, Chapter 30: Two Events in 2009

It turned out to be an eventful year, 2009, which in retrospect was no surprise at all. It started with me (again) telling my bosses at Volvo that I had every intention of taking voluntary retirement in December, to which they continued to react with disbelief. My recent promotion to Manager of Technical Engineering kept me busy, and my own work ethic wanted to ensure that I would depart without leaving unfinished assignments for others to clean up. I was informed that there would be at least one more business trip to Sweden, likely my last. Finally, I would be turning 55 in March, not a major milestone in my mind, but one that still deserved some reckoning.

I still had the ’68 Mustang, and I still had the Isetta, both tucked safely away in the garage. I had toyed with the idea of selling the Isetta, and even ran a few print ads, which got zero response. Since participation in the New England 1000 classic car rally seemed to be on hiatus for now (we last drove in it in 2007, and wouldn’t again until 2013), I continued to search for new opportunities to show the Isetta. The first such opportunity of the year came about when I saw an ad for the Readington Township Memorial Day parade: the parade organizers were looking for “old cars”.

Various old clunkers are staged before the parade’s start

My entry was accepted, and we trailered the car to the assembly area, a local strip mall. (In fact, we live in Readington Township which is quite large. I considered driving the car there but it would have meant crossing several major thoroughfares.) The variety of vehicles in the parade confirmed for me that there were no limits to vehicle type, as long as the cars were “old”. Volunteers handed us the obligatory red, white & blue accoutrements, and we were off.

Yes, a VW Beetle IS larger than a certain BMW

 

The King and Queen of the parade pose for a pic

 

 

Appropriately attired, we’re about to take off

 

You can’t be an introvert and ride in an Isetta during a parade

 

The challenge with driving an old car in a parade is maintaining an appropriate speed. Too fast, and you’ll zoom by spectators who’ll barely get to see their reflections in your shiny chrome. Too slow, and you might overheat, or, if you’re driving a stick, you may find yourself slipping the clutch. This parade was S-L-O-W. I had trouble maintaining a steady pace of, oh, about 2.5 mph. More than once I would pop it into neutral and coast, even if that meant leaving a greater distance between my car and the car in front of me. Nevertheless, it was a delightful parade, with Main Street lined with the cheering residents of Readington. The tortoise-like pace, though, bored me, until I got the bright idea to throw the door open while driving. The car can still be steered, however, the door opens both outward AND upward, which blocked my forward view. It was worth it, though, because the crowd (ok, just the kids) went wild with screams and laughter every time I did that.

A different kind of horsepower

Later that summer, I dragged the little red bubble to the Boonton Cruise Night, a Friday tradition in northern NJ. Boonton’s affair is possibly typical for a suburban cruise night, set in the large parking lot of a strip mall anchored by a WalMart, so there’s plenty of regular traffic along with that generated by the car nuts. A pizzeria kept us nourished with food and caffeine, and a few friends showed up. This September outing was the second and final one for the Isetta in 2009. In December, as promised, I retired from Volvo Cars of North America after 23 years of employment. I had no idea what I would do in 2010, but I certainly hoped to have more free time to play with cars.

Two red cars, one just slightly more powerful – note the Isetta Jeopardy board on display

 

The view from the folding chair

 

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

Boonton NJ Cruise Night, August 10, 2018

The Boonton (NJ) cruise night has been a Friday night tradition in that town’s WalMart parking lot for at least a decade. Known for its ability to draw upwards of 300 cars, the show on Friday August 10th of this year was well below capacity, possibly in part due to vacation season, but more likely a result of a sudden change in the afternoon’s weather from sunny and hot to cloudy and threatening.

This was my first time back to Boonton in several years, and I enjoyed the smaller number of cars and trucks as well as the lighter crowds. It made for a very relaxing evening. Oh, and it sprinkled for about 5 seconds, causing a small number of drivers to jump in their rides and split. It was their loss, as the evening stayed dry.

Cruise nights in general have a greater variety of vehicles on display. By that I am referring to a large mix of pre- & post-war, stock & custom, and original & restored. It provides a chance to look over cars that I otherwise might not go out of my way to see. If there was one ‘class’ of vehicle lacking, it would be imports. I could count on one hand the number of non-domestic vehicles on display. That made the few there all the more interesting.

The pictures below are displayed in random order, which is how the vehicles are parked, unless family members or friends arrive together. (Although if you didn’t know better, you’d think that the night’s festivities were sponsored by the local Buick club.) Enjoy the photo-documentation of this classic NJ cruise night.

1941 Buick Roadmaster sedan

 

1948 Pontiac Silver Streak

 

1965 Buick Gran Sport

 

1967 Buick Gran Sport

 

1968 Buick Gran Sport

 

1958 Dodge Coronet

 

1967 Ford Mustang

 

Buick Reatta convertible

 

1953 Chevrolet

 

1966 Chevrolet Corvair

 

His-&-her C1 Corvettes, ’62 on left and ’58 on right

 

2nd generation AMC AMX

 

1963 Corvette with steelies, dog dish caps, and redwalls

 

Ford Pinto Runabout

 

Naming a car after a cartoon character was a huge success for Plymouth

 

1962 Chevy Impala big block, claimed barn find

 

Ford F-1 pickup truck

 

Triumph TR-8

 

1963 Corvette split-window

 

1973 Buick Riviera boat tail

 

A pair of Chevy Novas

 

1956 Ford Crown Victoria

 

 

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

 

 

Boonton NJ Cruise Night, June 10, 2016

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The Boonton NJ cruise night, held on Fridays in the WalMart shopping Plaza, had its first show of the 2016 season on June 10. This year’s festivities were scheduled to start on June 3, but that show was cancelled due to inclement weather.

The cruise night, sponsored by the Starlight Cruisers car club, began in 2007 and has proven to be one of the better attended events of its kind in northern Jersey. The parking lot is roped off to allow parking for up to 250 cars. Because of the show’s popularity, vehicles are limited to those with QQ (NJ antique automobile) plates, or those which are at least 25 years old. The club provides music and door prizes.

The weather on the 10th was perfect – sunny, warm, cloudless, with low humidity, which brought out the crowds. The show cars were 99% domestic product, with a large percentage of them easily defined as “modified” – everything from bolt-ons to full customs in the old-school sense. GM vehicles from the 50s and 60s dominated, but there was also enough variety to keep things interesting for those who seek the unusual. There was a smattering of pre-war iron, including a lovely 1940 LaSalle convertible. Original owner and/or unrestored cars were present, such as a 1967 AMC Marlin whose owner has had it since 1971. And some imports dared to show up among all the Chevys and Fords, including an Opel GT, a Saab 93, and your author’s Alfa.

 

AMC products are rare sightings at any car event. This cruise night featured a number of them, including this Rebel “The Machine”, and this 1978 Concord AMX.

 

This 1967 Marlin was striking in several ways, most notably because its owner told us that this was his first car when he bought it in 1971. His daughter was dutifully deployed to attend to polishing duties. When asked about the missing fuel door, he replied that the door has been shipped to Sweden (!) for color-matching. We were left unclear as to why.

 

The number of Corvettes in attendance easily reached several dozen. What was especially impressive was the large number of C1 and C2 cars.

These C2s lined up their beautiful rear ends
These C2s lined up their beautiful rear ends

 

It is often stated that American car styling reached its bizarre peak in the late 1950s. While that may be true, what is sometimes missed is that interior styling also captured some of that strange creativity, and that included functional items such as transmission controls. This 1958 Edsel and 1960 Plymouth both used unusual solutions for transmission control placement. (Note that the Edsel has a floor shifter as part of a complete drivetrain swap.)

 

 

Studebaker’s history began 50 years before the dawn of the motorized vehicle, when the Studebaker brothers manufactured covered wagons. By the 1950s, they struggled to compete with the Big Three. “Daring to be different” was a strategy employed by them (as well as by AMC), as borne out by this Hawk and Avanti.

 

Despite the dominance of 50s-60s muscle, a few cars from an earlier time were also on the show field. None was more striking than this 1940 LaSalle. The LaSalle brand was a “junior Cadillac”, but alas, could not compete in the marketplace. Production ended in 1940, making this car a representative of the marque’s final year.

 

Not all T-Birds are restored to AACA standards. This '56 was ready to rumble.
Not all T-Birds are restored to AACA standards. This ’56 was ready to rumble.

 

This Saab has been in Boonton before. Although we did not have the pleasure of seeing it run on this particular evening, the owner has kept the 2-stroke motor and has opened up the exhaust a bit, resulting in some glorious albeit raucous noises.

 

DeLoreans never went away; they’ve been hiding in plain sight all these years. For a vehicle which was manufactured for only two years (1981-1982) and in limited numbers, one always seems to turn up. Their collectibility may be on the rise, though, as a recent change in government regulations will allow the “new” DeLorean Motor Company to begin to legally manufacture cars again.

No BttF jokes, promise!
No BttF jokes, promise!

 

In 1970, if you could not afford a new Corvette, you may have been drawn to the Opel GT. Buick dealers sold them as captive imports. Built in Germany, the Opel GT was available with either a 1.1L or 1.9L inline 4-cylinder. You certainly didn’t pay the Corvette’s price, but you didn’t get the Corvette’s horsepower either.

 

This '67 Firebird has the optional hood-mounted tach
This ’67 Firebird has the optional hood-mounted tach

 

The Alfa may have looked lost among the sea of U.S. built cars (it certainly is physically smaller than all of them), but several spectators stopped by to tell the typical “I had one of those” stories. The car ran flawlessly up and down Route 287 that evening.

One last shot before wheeling the Alfa back home
One last shot before wheeling the Alfa back home

 

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