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.
For only the second time this year, our informal “breakfast club” got its act together to go for a drive on Sunday July 30. After a prediction of heavy rains for Friday and Saturday, the weatherman promised a good day on Sunday, and we got it! At my 7 a.m. departure, it was actually cool (probably low 60s), quite unusual for midsummer NJ. The great combination of bright sunshine, comfortable temperature, and low humidity stayed with us all day. As Ken said to me, with only the slightest exaggeration: “this isn’t the best day of this summer; this is the best day of the last three years!”
The turnout was impressive, something we don’t take for granted, what with everyone’s summer schedule so jammed. We had 15 vehicles, four of which held passengers, for a total of 19 hungry mouths. We were happy to see some new faces out with us for the first time. We pushed off from the Sheraton Crossroads, as promised, as the clock struck 8:30 a.m. Destination for the morning was a perennial favorite, Stella G’s in Hackettstown NJ.
A casual observer of our motorcade would be forgiven for thinking it was the local Porsche club’s outing, with a few non-German cars thrown into the mix. At least it seemed that way, with a total of five 911s plus a 944 cabriolet. The two additional German cars were both BMWs: a 320 and an E30. Three other European sports cars rounded out that continent’s representation: an MGB-GT with a V8 conversion, a Jaguar F-Type convertible, and your scribe’s Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior.
Four domestic vehicles completed today’s field, three of them GM products: a C6 Corvette, a ’66 Buick Skylark convertible, and a ’94 Camaro Z-28. The nineteenth vehicle was a ’64 T-Bird convertible.
After a short run on Route 287 South (we try to minimize highway driving), we exited onto Route 23 north, then turned south / southwest, heading toward Sparta and a rendezvous with Route 517 which would take us the rest of the way to Hackettstown. With a group this large, it wasn’t possible to keep all the cars together on the road, and the back half went their own way in Sparta, eventually taking the highway again, but getting to the restaurant only minutes behind the first arrivals. For those who did stay on the planned course, the roads and scenery made for spectacular driving.
The good news about Stella G’s is that the food is great; the less good news is that it’s packed on Sunday mornings. Our hostess Lauren informed me that “a table for 19” wasn’t going to cut it, so we were seated in waves of three. The seating arrangement didn’t affect the food and coffee, which were top-notch as always.
And what did we do after breakfast? We did what we always do: we retired to the front sidewalk, where the yapping continued for an unspecified amount of time. The party broke up by 11:30 am, which put everyone home by early afternoon. We start early, get a lot done, and still get home in time to tackle that honey-do list. What’s better than that?
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.
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.
We had an excellent turnout for our early October outing, with 16 like-minded friends willing to venture out in spite of a gloomy forecast (for the record, it didn’t rain during the drive). All in, we had 12 classic cars, 2 modern Volvos, plus a motorcycle! Several first-timers seemed to like it well enough that they’ve threatened to show their faces again.
You could be forgiven for looking at the photos and thinking that this was a meeting of the local Porsche 911 club, what with four of them (three red) among our assortment. We still had a fine mix of American, British, Italian, Japanese, and other German cars, old and new.
Our ride this day took us north from the Sheraton in Mahwah, along Greenwood Lake, and eventually to New Windsor, NY, where we dined at the Ikaros Diner. The diner staff had a table waiting for us, and somehow, in spite of constant blabbering, we also managed to consume food and coffee.
The diner’s parking lot made for an excellent staging area for group photos. (Thanks to Bill W and Andy M for the panorama photo of us). We must be doing something right, because at the end of the event, most everyone wanted to know when we’re going to do this again. It must be the coffee.
My parents certainly were tolerant of my boyhood fascination with automobiles. It was bad enough that instead of watching TV, I was building 1/25 scale models; and instead of studying, I was sketching tomorrow’s designs. My appetite for reading, which began when my dad took me at age 6 to the New York Public Library, was fed by devouring every car magazine that came into the house.
Perhaps the greatest display of parental tolerance occurred every year around September. My extremely patient mother would drive me to the local new-car dealers, where I would collect all the new car brochures I could. (In retrospect, I have a much better appreciation of how difficult it was for my mom to constantly fight off salesmen with the line “it’s for my son; he loves cars; we’re just looking”).
The annual New York Auto Show, held during the 1960s and ‘70s in the NY Coliseum at Columbus Circle, was another opportunity to add to the pile. My father loved going to the show anyway, so it was a natural for him to take me. I would sit in bed at night and pour through the pages of the sales literature, memorizing models, colors, and engines.
This, uh, obsession of collecting new car brochures continued as an adult; eventually, there were boxes and boxes of it, hardly touched by me. When I moved for the umpteenth time in the late 1990s, I cried uncle, called a good friend whom I knew would appreciate the horde, and gave it all away (Steve H., is it still in your good care?)
Well, I gave almost all of it away. There were a few, very few, pieces which were too precious to let go. This Jaguar XK-E brochure from 1967 fascinated me from the moment I picked it up. Forty-nine years later, it is just as fascinating, maybe more so. First, let us acknowledge that the Jaguar E-Type (funny to see proof here that the U.S. market did indeed call it “XK-E”) is one of the most beautiful cars ever; it consistently makes Top Ten lists when votes are tallied for best designs. (Enzo Ferrari allegedly called it “the most beautiful car ever made”). The brochure is a beautiful piece of artwork on its own, displaying this magnificent automobile.
There were no Jaguar dealers on Staten Island where I grew up, so although I have no direct recollection, I must have picked up this piece at the New York Auto Show. I’m certain I’ve had it since it was new. Compared to the typical American car sales brochure, the photography, imagery, and colors were like nothing my teenage eyes had seen before.
Start with the cover photo, showing the new 2+2 sitting on a dirt-strewn pier, surrounded by dock workers. Who were these guys? Models hired by the ad agency? I doubt it. Unlike every other car in this brochure, the primrose yellow car is RHD, so this one was likely taken in the mother country.
Opening up the booklet (it’s six pages, three on each side, folded twice), there are two photos of a red coupe and black roadster. Your eye is drawn to the wood steering wheel, chrome wires, whitewall tires, and “JAGUAR” license plates. It is impossible not to swoon over these cars. The page between these two is devoted to the 2+2 model; pictures highlight the rear seat, automatic transmission, and ample luggage space. The text provides the line for husband to deliver to his spouse: “The XK-E 2+2 thus becomes the Jaguar family coupe.”
The award for most-interesting-photo-ever-in-a-car-brochure may go to the red roadster, what, on safari? What photographer was brave enough to stand behind the lens, while several dozen bulls loitered in the background? Was it the job of the two guys on horseback to drive away the herd should they decide to charge? (I would have chosen another color for my vest.) At least the Jag, with its dirty blackwalls, looks like it was driven, not trailered, to the location.
The back page provides all the specs you could wish for. My young brain could not pronounce “monocoque”, and didn’t know its true meaning for years. And the list of optional equipment, taking up four lines of text, sharply contrasted with the typical American car brochure, which needed several pages to describe all the add-ons.
I’ve always wanted an E-Type; like many other collector cars, their affordability always seems to be just beyond reach, as their values continually climb. In the meantime, I’ll happily stare at my 1967 XK-E brochure (make mine the red coupe please).
All scans of the “Jaguar 4.2 XK-E Coupe, Roadster & 2+2 Family Coupe” brochure are from the copy in the author’s collection.
Our final drive of the 2015 season took place on Sunday, November 15. The day dawned sunny, dry, and as the weatherman might say, “seasonably warm”, with midday temps approaching 60 degrees. The emails with regrets I had received during the week led me to believe that we would have a light turnout. This was incorrect, as we had 11 cars and 15 guys, not too shabby! As has been the tradition this year, two gents new to the group joined us for the first time. We must be doing something right.
We pushed off from our usual Mahwah Sheraton Crossroads departure point at 9 a.m., one hour later than usual, in deference to the shorter November days. Heading down Route 287 South, yours truly was all too happy to cruise in the Miata with the top down, but not too many other convertibles took advantage of the sunshine, at least not at first.
Our destination for the morning was Stella G’s, an excellent breakfast joint in Hackettstown, NJ. We’ve been there before, but not this year. The drive consisted of three roads: Route 287 South to Route 23 North to Route 517 South. A new tradition is the now-obligatory pit-stop, christened the “Bill Whited fuel and bathroom break”. This time it was a Quick Chek. Your scribe observed that once we stop and let everyone start yapping again, it can be problematic to get the boys back into their cars.
After a beautiful cruise down Route 517 (we will NOT mention that the chase car made a wrong turn and ended up on Route 80), we were at Stella G’s at exactly 11 a.m. Customer Service in the state of NJ can indeed be spoken about in the present tense, as proven today. We called Stella G’s twice to ask them about seating 15 arrivals, and even though they do not take reservations on the weekend, we walked in at 11 a.m. sharp to find tables reserved and set for our large crowd. The food, coffee, and service were excellent as they always are at Stella G’s (thank you Kate!).
We were having too good a time. It was difficult for the group to leave the restaurant, and leave Hackettstown, knowing that we would not have the opportunity to do this again until the spring of 2016. Since time moves faster the older we get, it remains an unspoken truth that our first drive of the New Year will be here soon enough. To a man, we can’t wait.