Lime Rock Park Historic Festival, Sep. 2018

Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park held its 36th annual Historic Festival during the Labor Day weekend, running from August 30 through September 3, 2018. If you enjoy vintage racing, then Friday, Saturday, and Monday are your days to watch classic race cars battling it out around this historic track. By local ordinance, racing is not allowed on Sundays. The Festival organizers have taken advantage of that restriction by hosting their “Sunday In The Park” event, with hundreds of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) cars arrayed along the entirety of track’s perimeter.

Each year there is a special featured marque, and for 2018, that marque was Bugatti. By my count, there were 70 of these famed French cars on display, a number that might be rivaled only by the former Schlumf Museum’s holdings. The strong turnout speaks to the high esteem with which Ettore’s cars are held. Many of the race cars appeared to be in original condition, while most of the road-going cars have been restored at some point. No matter, as Bugatti owners (like Bentley owners) are known to drive their cars rather than treat them like trailer queens.

While the Bugatti display bordered on overwhelming, there were plenty of other vehicles on the field to draw one’s attention. This show tends to attract primarily European cars, and the British, German, Italian, and Swedish turnout did not disappoint. A relatively new feature at Lime Rock is the so-called “Gathering of the Marques”. Open classes, sometimes labeled by Country of Origin and sometimes specified by make and model, are created, and owners are invited to park their vehicles on the track.

The Gathering of the Marques attracted particularly large volumes of BMWs (especially the 2002 model), Porsches (especially 911s), Mazda Miatas, plus the cars of Sweden, Great Britain, and Italy. (Where else but at Lime Rock would a fan of Italian cars such as myself see an Alfa 1900, Fiat Dino Coupe, and Lancia Stratos all on the same day?) A smaller but significant selection of domestic iron provided a nice contrast to the European cars.

The flea market area which used to exist near the start of the straightaway has all but disappeared, but a few vendors had interesting cars for sale, at what appeared to be reasonable prices. And let’s not forget that the paddocks are open to the public on Sunday, so race vehicles otherwise not on display can be ogled as part of the entertainment.

 

The threatened rain showers never materialized; in fact, the temps remained reasonable, staying in the high 70s/low 80s. Anything would have been better than last year’s deluge. It’s a three-hour one-way drive for me, but the quality and variety of offerings has drawn me back almost every Labor Day weekend for the past 25+ years. The track’s setting, nestled in a valley in the Berkshire Mountains, only adds to the ambience. The Lime Rock Fall Historic Festival is a must-see event on the calendar for auto enthusiasts in the Northeast.

 

Click on the photos to enable full-screen view!

 


BUGATTIS:


 ITALIAN:

Fiat Abarth Double Bubble

 

1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 (for sale for $395,000)

 

Lancia Fulvia Zagato! Here’s looking at you, Lenny!

 

Lancia Appia four-door pillarless sedan

 

1974 Lancia Stratos Stradale

 

1983 Lancia Rally 037 Stradale

 

Alfa Romeo Zagato GT Junior

 

Alfa sedan rear ends

 

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider

 

Alfa Romeo Spider

 

Lancia Beta Zagato

 

Fiat Dino Coupe, powered by Ferrari V6 Dino engine

 

Chrome-bumpered Fiat 124 Spider

 

Lancia Fulvia Coupe

 

Pre-war Alfa monoposto race car; note “SF” (Scuderia Ferrari) emblem

GERMAN:

1950 VW; note lack of chrome

 

BMW Isetta bubble-window coupe

 

Row of BMW 2002s poses with hoods up

 

Audi GT Coupe

BRITISH:

 

Jaguar E-Type Series II Coupe

 

Triumph TR3

 

Triumph GT-6

 

E-Type OTS stunning in gunmetal grey & red

JAPANESE:

 

Mazda Miatas

 

First-gen Mazda RX-7

 

Datsun 240Z

DOMESTIC:

Early ’50s Chevrolet woody wagon

 

1963 Chrysler 300 convertible

 

Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible

 

1955 Dodge, with original flathead-6

VOLVOS:

1968 Volvo 122 wagon

 

OK, Volvo experts, what’s not correct here?

 

Volvo 780 Coupe

 

Volvo 1800ES

 

Volvo 850 T5-R wagon

 

Volvo 1800E Coupe

 

Volvo C30

 

Brand-new Volvo XC40!

 


CARS FOR SALE:

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2017 Lime Rock “Sunday in the Park” Concours

The wonderful people who host various racing events throughout the year at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut have featured vintage racing on Labor Day weekend for the past 35 years. Since, by local ordinance, racing is banned on Sundays, the Lime Rock staff has taken advantage of that restriction by turning Sunday into one of the largest and most enjoyable special-interest car shows in the Northeast.

According to their website, the 2017 edition of this event, Historic Festival 35, included a Friday parade, three days of racing, the Sunday in the Park Concours & Gathering of the Marques, plus their newest feature, an on-site classic car auction. In years past, my interest has centered on the Sunday Concours, and so it was again this year. To my detriment, in spite of near-perfect weather on Saturday and Monday (great for the racers), Sunday’s weather bordered on a wash-out (bad for the concours).

Looking down the straightaway at the bridge over the track

Nevertheless, the trek was made. The drive from my central New Jersey home includes some terrific scenery through parts of NY and CT, and the Lime Rock track itself is set in a valley in the Berkshire Mountains, making for a truly park-like setting.

My buddy Enzo tagged along, as he had not had the pleasure of visiting Lime Rock before. We arrived around 9:30 a.m., and at first, we were pleasantly surprised at how relatively crowded the parking lots were. Venturing down to the track, which is where the show cars are arrayed (walking the track itself is a treat), it looked like the assigned spots were about 50% filled.

The far end of the straightaway was devoid of show cars

The rain held off for about an hour, giving us a chance to take in as much of the field as possible. But as we circled around and came near our starting point, the skies opened up. The soaking was not helped by the temperature which stubbornly held at 52 degrees F. After about 2 ½ hours, we had had enough. We saw everything on the track, but were unable to take advantage of any viewing of the Dragone Auctions cars.

A number of spectators braved the elements to take in the show

The short, wet visit did not dampen my enthusiasm for the overall ambiance of the Sunday show. Here, in no particular order, are the reasons why I’m willing to drive six hours round-trip to Lime Rock almost every Labor Day weekend:

  • The caliber of the show cars is among the best of any show I’ve attended. In the past, I’ve seen pre-war Alfa Romeos and Bugattis, rare European-spec vehicles, famous race cars, and one-off show cars. The quality of the more traditional entries is always top-notch.
  • The parking lot is a show within a show. This year, even in the deluge, we saw a Triumph TR-6 and an Alfa GTV-6 coupe in the lot. In previous years, it has been typical to see late-model Ferraris and other high-end delights parked like they’re nothing more than daily transportation.
  • True superstars have been known to make guest appearances. Several years ago, I had the honor of shaking hands with Sir Stirling Moss.
  • The Concours “classes” are like nowhere else. Each year, the Lime Rock organization gets creative with class names. You will NOT see cars arranged based on such traditional fare as “Mustangs 1965-1973” or “Front-engine V12 Ferraris”. Here’s a sampling of this year’s classes:
    • “Theoretical Efficiency: Microcars and Minicars”;
    • “Tifosi Fantasy: The Magic of Ferrari”;
    • “A Businessman’s Express: GT cars, ’62-‘67”.

In my opinion, this provides greater potential variety of show cars, and also allows for some inventiveness and ingenuity regarding which vehicles may best fit into a particular class.

  • The Gathering of the Marques deserves explanation. While the judged Concours entries are situated along the straightaway, the remainder of the track is turned over to attendees, giving them the chance to park their (non-judged) vehicles in groups with similar marques or countries of origin. We saw turnout from owners of classic BMWs, Mazda Miatas, FoMoCo brands, and cars of Italy, Sweden, France, and Japan. A vehicle owner just needs to pay the standard entrance fee, and ask to be admitted onto the track. It’s neat that “regular car” owners can be made to feel like they’re part of the show (which they are!).
  • In addition to all this, there is an on-site flea market, various vendor booths, and the freedom to walk the paddocks, taking in the race car prep in all its bloody-knuckled glory. (One year, we watched a race team pull an engine; in another paddock, a head gasket was being replaced.)

My calendar is already marked for Labor Day weekend 2018. If you have not made the effort to attend Lime Rock’s Fall Vintage weekend, I highly encourage you to do so.

 

1960 Porsche 356B; the color was a stunning bronze (not shown well in my photo)

 

1935 Studebaker, displaying wonderful Art Deco lines

 

This Fiat Topolino (“Little Mouse”) was badged Simca-Fiat, built under license in France

 

Any Jaguar E-Type is gorgeous; this ’64 in tan metallic was especially so

 

No matter the model, the Bugatti grille is photogenic

 

My kind of Italian fantasy

 

Ferrari 599GTB

 

Ferrari 365GTB/4 (Daytona) spider

 

1961 Ferrari 250GT Speciale

 

1952 Chrysler Ghia show car

Here is a very famous concept car: the 1963 Corvette “Rondine”. Designed by Tom Tjaarda, the full custom body was assembled upon a mostly-stock Corvette chassis and interior. A Google search shows that this car, the only one of its kind in the world, was sold at auction by Barrett-Jackson in 2008 for $1.76 million. Enzo explained to me that “Rondine” (pronounced in Italian as RON-di-nay) is the Italian word for swallow (the bird). Some of the rear quarter and tail light treatment would show up later in Tjaarda’s Fiat 124 Spider design. It was a thrill to see this car in person.


 

Lancia Fulvia coupe

 

DeTomaso Longchamp (the same one was alongside my Alfa in the AACA Museum)

 

1967 Mazda Cosmo (with rotary engine)

 

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

 

Lancia Aurelia B20 GT

 

Chrome-bumper Fiat 124 Spider

 

Rubber-bumper Fiat 124 Spider

 

Rarely seen on these shores: Fiat 130 Coupe

 

Lancia Flaminia

 

Alfa Romeo Montreal

 

BMW 2002s were given their own display area

 

1st, 2nd, and 3rd gen Miatas in a row

 

Volvo PV544 racer

 

Volvo 123 GT, built in Canada

 

Green speed: V70R in Flash Green

 

Fun x 2: ’58 Ford Ranchero trailering midget racer on purpose-built trailer

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

Drop-top Mopar: the 1967 Dodge Dart GT Convertible

Sometime in the late 1980s, someone told me about Lime Rock, that is, Lime Rock Park, which isn’t really a park, but a race track, tucked into a valley in the rolling hills of north east Connecticut.

Automobile races are held there all season long, but racing holds little attraction for me. However, every Labor Day Weekend, Lime Rock Park hosts what they now call the “Historic Festival” and what used to be called the “Fall Vintage Festival”. The three-day weekend features historic race cars on the track (on Friday and Monday). Because racing is banned there on Sundays, they’ve taken advantage of that restriction by hosting a vintage car show on that day. I began attending the Fall Vintage Festival on an annual basis.

Visiting the track on Labor Day Weekend in 1991, I spied a car in the parking lot with a For Sale sign on it. Normally, I would not have found myself attracted to this type of automobile. It was the combination of asking price combined with some its technical features which drew me closer.

The car was a 1967 Dodge Dart GT convertible, dark blue with a blue interior, and an unattractive (not to mention worn and dirty) tan convertible top. Popping the hood, I saw that the Dart had a V8, not the slant six I was expecting. Inside were buckets, floor shifter, and center console, with the desired three-pedal setup. The asking price was $1,500, and the sign directed me to the guards’ booth for further information.

I tracked down the owner, a young man who indeed was working as a guard at the track. He told me he had owned the car for about a year and just didn’t want it anymore. We went for a test drive, and I was impressed by how well the car drove. Although I certainly hadn’t visited Lime Rock with the intention of bringing home a car, I quickly agreed to pay the ask (concerned that someone else might snap it up), gave him some sort of deposit, and headed home on the promise that I would be back the following weekend with the balance.

Next weekend, I made the 3-hour trip back, and we again met at the track. The payment and paperwork exchange went smoothly enough. But it was then that the young fellow told me “Uh, the car isn’t running so well right now. I don’t know what it is, maybe the carburetor”. (Note: anyone with car troubles who doesn’t know the diagnosis always blames the carburetor.) Sure enough, the engine had a miss, although it was there at all engine speeds, and I suspected ignition.

I now owned the car. Under the circumstances, I had little choice but to get in the car, point it south, and hope that I would make it home. With my heart in my stomach for the entire ride, I did make it, and was so relieved that I put the car in the garage, deciding to deal with the problem sometime later.

 

Home (thankfully) after drive from CT
Still time to take a drive in the autumn of ’91

 

The following weekend, I popped the hood and began to go through the basics: plugs, wires, points, condenser, cap and rotor…. As soon as the distributor cap came off, I saw the crack. This was an easy fix, and given that none of the aforementioned parts looked like they had been replaced in a while, I gave the car a full tune up. It ran spectacularly after that.

 

Ratty but serviceable. Funny, I don't recall the manual brakes.
Ratty but serviceable. Funny that I don’t recall the manual brakes.

 

There was one administrative issue that needed attention: insurance. At the time I bought the Dart, my daily driver was a company lease car. The lease generously included insurance. As I owned no other automobiles, I didn’t even have an automobile insurance policy in my name. This was when I discovered collector car insurance. The Condon & Skelly Insurance Company wrote me a policy, and as a side note, I’ve had collector car insurance with them ever since.

I enjoyed top-down motoring for the little time I had left in the autumn of ’91, then tucked the car away for the winter.

When spring of ’92 broke, the Dart came out of hibernation. Truthfully, the car needed a complete restoration to be any kind of show car, but that’s not why I bought it. It was nothing more than a toy to cruise in during nice weather.

Removing the front tires to perform a routine brake check, I was aghast at what I found: both front brake hoses had been wrapped with duct tape, then clamped with small hose clamps. The rubber hoses were cracked, and it is a miracle that I didn’t lose hydraulic pressure. The temptation to contact and berate the previous owner was overwhelming, but 1) I had no proof that he even knew about it, and 2) many months had passed since buying the car, so I decided to let it go. New brake hoses were purchased, and were easy enough to install. Whew! Glad I caught that when I did.

The next order of business was carpeting, as in, the car had none, and I wanted it to have some. Lack of carpet at time of purchase was an advantage, because that allowed me to see the condition of the floor. Someone had welded in a totally new floor before my purchase. Except for some surface corrosion, it was solid. Removing the seats, I gave the floor a coat of Bill Hirsch Miracle Paint (similar, but in my opinion better than, POR-15). With the floor so sealed, in went a new piece of carpet. The sound level reduction transformed the driving experience.

 

Seats about to be removed for carpet install.
Seats about to be removed for carpet install.

 

Bill Hirsch Miracle Paint going down before carpeting.
Bill Hirsch Miracle Paint going down before carpeting.

 

The blackwall tires were serviceable but old, and I thought that narrow whitewalls would look sharp against the dark blue paint. I got the least-expensive tires I could at the local STS (Somerset Tire Service). Reinstalling the factory wheel covers also brightened the look. The car really needed a new top, but rather than spend the money, I hid it by driving with the top down.

I took the car to the office several times that summer, and let colleagues drive it. They agreed that it was a fun car to drive. The torque from the 273 c.i. V8 was impressive, as was the smoothness of the gearbox and clutch.

It was really fun to drive.
Summer of ’92, this was as good as the Dart looked under my ownership.

 

Working for the Swedish company Volvo, there were Swedes on location who would make comments about my “big American car”. “Big?” I’d reply. “The Dart was the compact car in a Dodge model lineup that included an intermediate-sized car and a full-size car!” It’s all relative. Yes, the Dart, with an overall length of 195”, was five inches longer than the contemporary Volvo 240 at 190”. Good thing I hadn’t bought a Coronet (203”) or Polara (220”)!

 

The final photo, taken just before selling it.
The final photo, taken just before selling it.

 

By 1993, I had a problem. Time spent with the Dart was taking time away from the restoration work on my BMW Isetta, which had been underway for three years. The decision was made to sell the Dodge. By late in the summer of ’93, it was gone.

All my friends in the hobby talk about the cars we’ve owned, and a frequently visited theme is “the ones that got away”. Of all the cars I’ve owned and sold, it’s this Dart that I wish I still had. It had good bones, was fun to drive, simple to wrench on, and had a drop top. Had I had a little more free time (and spare cash) it would have been a straight-forward restoration. But I was determined to finish the Isetta, and with the Dart out of the way, I did. THAT’S a story for another time.

 


 

THE 1967 DODGE FULL-LINE SALES BROCHURE

This brochure, from my collection, includes all of Dodge’s models from that year.

 

Brochure cover - polka dots and white boots were "it" in '67
Brochure cover – polka dots and white boots were “it” in ’67

 

The Dart GT could be ordered with any engine, 6 or 8.
The Dart GT could be ordered with either 6 or 8 cylinder engine.

 

 

Note that convertible had bench seat standard, with buckets optional.
Note that convertible had bench seat standard, with buckets optional.

 

Dart specifications page
Dart specifications page

 

Back cover; note "safety equipment" and also note shorter warranty for Hemi engines!
Back cover; note “safety equipment” and also note shorter warranty for Hemi engines!

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.