The New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (NJ AACA) held its annual car show at the Mennen Arena in Morristown NJ on Sunday, May 1, 2016. Compared to previous events, this year’s affair was unique in several ways: this was the first time that this location was utilized, as the venue which had been used for the previous 40+ years in Florham Park NJ was unavailable; and the turnout this year was the smallest your author has ever observed.
The reason why 30 vehicles instead of the expected 200+ vehicles were in attendance had nothing to do with the location, and everything to do with the weather. The NJ AACA maintains a strict “rain or shine” show policy, but a steady series of showers combined with temperatures parked in the mid-40s kept entrants and spectators away in droves.
Nevertheless, vehicles did arrive, even if for the most part they were owned by club members. An advantage for those whose cars were to be judged is that no class had more than 4 vehicles in it (some had 2), and with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes to be awarded, your chance of winning went up exponentially.
Below is a sample of the fine machinery, both domestic and imported, which graced the show field. A trend which has been noticed on the National level was also found at this event: as AACA’s “25-year” rule continues in effect, the inclusion of unrestored and/or original-owner cars is growing, reinforced by vehicles which were considered collectible when new and were salted away (think Eldorado, Fiero, Beetle convertible, and anything first-year, last-year, or commemorative edition).
The New Hope (PA) Automobile Show was held on the grounds of the New Hope-Solebury High School on Saturday August 8 and Sunday August 9, 2015. This event, which held its first show in 1957, celebrated its 58th anniversary this year. Vehicles are displayed according to predetermined classes, which are different on each day. In general, domestic vehicles are shown on Saturday, while European imports are featured on Sunday. These divisions are not completely strict, as we shall see. Your faithful scribe registered and showed his 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior on Sunday, so this report will focus only on that day’s cars.
Arriving at 8:15 a.m. and assigned to park with several Alfas already in attendance, I was pleasantly surprised to see our row quickly fill up. In all, 15 Alfas eventually arrived and parked together. While spiders (convertibles in Alfa-speak) were the dominant body style, there was enough variety to keep the Alfisti happy. And Alfas were far from the only well-represented marque. Car classes included Austin-Healey, BMW, Jaguar, Lotus, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Porsche, Rolls-Royce/Bentley, and Triumph. Some of these classes had total entries in the dozens. All the usual suspects were present, yet the Sunday show distinguished itself by drawing out some truly unusual and rarely-seen exotics.
The Alfa segment of our program will be covered in a separate blog entry. For now, let’s take a tour of some of the other beautiful, sporty, exotic, and downright eye-opening cars on the field. (Photos can be enlarged for viewing by simply clicking on them.)
Any classic car show which bills itself as featuring “MGs and Triumphs” will cause you to expect to find MGBs and TR6s. We had MGBs and TR6s in New Hope. We also had Triumph Italias. The Italia had Triumph TR3 mechanicals under a Michelotti-designed body, built by Vignale in Italy. According to Wikipedia, only 329 were made. To say that they are rare is an understatement. To see one at a car show is completely unexpected. There were two on display today (the earlier use of the plural “Italias” was not a typo).
Not as rare as an Italia, but still infrequently spotted, were several MGCs. To those unaware of its existence, the “C” externally appears no different than an MGB. Careful scrutiny will reveal a hood bulge, necessary to accommodate the inline-six cylinder engine shoe-horned into the front. While contemporaneous road tests derided the extra weight over the front wheels and the accompanying poor handling, a kinder and gentler revisiting of the model has critics responding favorably to the extra oomph brought on by two extra cylinders.
The Jaguar E-Type (more commonly known as the XKE on this side of the pond) is arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever designed, and among the Series I, II, and III cars, the Series I is considered the purest version of the form. It was our luck to have four Series I E-Types at the show. With three of them parked adjacent to each other, the photo ops were aplenty.
The Rolls-Royce and Bentley contingent was huge, no doubt sparked into action through the nudging of the local RR-Bentley club to get its members out and onto the field. We know from past experience that said owners are not afraid to drive these British beauties, so seeing 25-30 of them was not a surprise. The distinctive front-end styling is a photographer’s delight.
Rounding out our review of British iron were these more commonly seen models, still enjoyable to admire.
What’s a car show without Porsches? In this case, it would be a car show with many fewer vehicles on the show field. While no count was taken, it’s safe to presume that Porsche was the single best-represented marque at the event. Whether this was due to club participation or a wide and adoring audience for these sports cars, it was fun to see the variety extending from the 356, through the air-cooled 911s, to the water-cooled 924/944/928 series. If you were so inclined, new Panameras and Cayennes were also on display courtesy of a local Porsche dealer.
The rarest Porsche spotted today was this 959. According to my sources, a total of 200 were made. Originally not legal for sale in the U.S., these cars from the late 1980s are now old enough that they can legally be imported and driven. At the time of its release, it was considered the most far-flung supercar of its day. Its specifications may seem the stuff of normalcy now, however, it did lay the foundation for what would be expected among the world’s highest-performing machines.
A Porsche 959
The New Hope Auto Show’s website states that Sunday’s car show includes classes for production GM, FoMoCo, and Chrysler Corp cars through 1990. The American cars on site were not a large group, but several MoPar models were standouts, and are worth highlighting for their styling and engineering features.
Two different model Fiats were in attendance, sharing a unique attribute: neither car was badged “Fiat”.
After Fiat left the U.S. market in 1982, production of two of its popular sports cars, the X1/9 and the Spider 2000, was continued by Bertone and Pininfarina respectively, and these firms imported and sold the cars in the States under their own brands. (Malcolm Bricklin was somehow involved, but that’s too dark a story to include here.)
This 1987 Bertone X1/9 was an all-original car in pristine condition. Its current owner stated to me that he has owned the car for over 20 years, and drives it year-round (making sure that his winter driving is on dry roads).
This 1985 Pininfarina Spider looked brand new. While the owner was not available to answer questions, the condition of the car (flawless) spoke for him.
The first annual Ramapo Concours d’Elegance was held on the grounds of Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ, on Saturday June 6, 2015. The Concours was an outgrowth of a regular Cars & Coffee event held at the campus (and locally referred to as a “Caffeine & Carburetors” gathering).
Our Driving Club regulars started the day extra-early by meeting at Mary Ann’s deli for breakfast. As my Alfa was entered in the show (alas, the only car in our group so selected), I needed to leave breakfast early, not only to arrive on the show field on time, but also to detail my car after driving an hour in the rain that morning! Once there, detailing was not helped by an intermittent sprinkle which lingered until after 9 a.m., by which time the first of the spectators had arrived. By 9:30, the sun was out, and it turned into a beautiful, warm spring day.
The college enlisted co-sponsorship from the Prestige Dealership Group of northern New Jersey, and Hackensack Medical University Hospital. While all who worked the event made their best efforts to be helpful and accommodating, it was obvious that this was the first time any of them had put on a car show. It is not worth dwelling on “things gone wrong” that day, as frankly, most of them were minor and easily fixed with an increased focus on logistics, which should be expected from them now that they’ve done it once.
We will however, review the show cars (and the vast majority of these automobiles were outstanding) by “class”. If there was an overriding point of discussion during the day, it concerned the vehicle classes. While some classes were well-defined and well-populated, other classes were very small and/or left us wondering how they were decided upon.
At the end of the show, I heard one of the dealer principals comment that he was amazed at the large turnout of microcars. He need not have been. These puppy-dog cars have been steadily gaining in popularity, especially in the last decade. We had the “usual” Isettas and Messerschmitts, plus some less-frequently seen tiny cars.
Another well-populated class, these cars were not even considered collectible until rather recently. Now, Beetles, Karmann-Ghias, and especially buses have soared in popularity (AND price). Get yours while they’re affordable.
The class definition excluded 924s, 944s, 928s, and any 911 built after 1998. Nevertheless, old-school 911s and 356s turned out in force. Everyone loves these cars, as they are so recognizable, even if many of us have been priced out of the market.
MERCEDES SL PRE-71
While no 300SLs graced us with their presence, this 3rd class of German cars still impressed us with a nice selection of 190SLs, and various “Pagoda” cars (230/250/280 SL).
One of only 3 domestic classes, this was also the class with the fewest number of vehicles in it. In fact, there were a total of 3 cars, and since 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies were being awarded, everyone in this class took something home!
The above is the total class description. Ford made T-Birds every year from 1955 through 1997, then the Retro-Bird from 2002-2006. Yet of the 10 or so cars on the show field, every one of them was either a ’56 or ’57 (all 2-seaters, obviously, or perhaps not obviously if you are unaware). However that happened, it was nice to see the colorful collection on display. The original T-Bird still has a charm all its own.
The class definition assured us that we would see only “classic Jags”, the newest of which would Series 1 E-types. We were rewarded with some of the nicest machinery on the entire field. Several of the XKs were truly #1 cars, with gorgeous cosmetics, and paint better than ever applied at the factory.
Jaguars had their own class, so this class grouped some common and not-so-common British machines. This likely was the most eclectic grouping on the grounds that day, with a pre-war Triumph, a pre-war Aston Martin, and a Sunbeam Harrington battling it out for “most unique British car”.
Of course, this was the class into which my Alfa was entered. By definition, we might have seen everything from a Fiat 850 spyder, to a Lancia Fulvia, Maserati Mistral, Lamborghini Miura, and Ferrari 275 GTB. None of them showed. The class turned out to be one of the lesser-populated: 4 Ferraris and 3 Alfas were the total turnout. All the Ferraris were ‘70s era and newer, and all 3 Alfas were Giulia coupes!
This was the only class for which I recorded the class winners (noted in below photos).
A discussion that I became part of at the end of the show assured me that the wheels are already in motion to make next year’s event better. One of the show principals and one of the judges were engaged in dialogue to improve the class definitions. The important point is, whatever they decide, the 2016 Ramapo Concours should be that much more well-organized and well-run.