Stories from the 2019 AACA Spring National in Parsippany

As I said in my post about the recent AACA Spring National, it’s really about the people and their stories behind their automotive treasures, more than is it about the cars themselves. This has been true at so many recent car shows, and it was evident again last weekend.

Below are three stories about three individuals whose paths crossed mine on Saturday: one whom I met for the first time that day; one whom I thought I was meeting for the first time when in fact we had met six years prior; and one whom I had gotten to know but had not seen in almost 20 years.

 

RIDING IN RON’S E-TYPE

Saturday morning; in a golf cart with Leif Mangulson, the Chief Judge, who wants to show me the spot to locate the club’s PA system. While we’re stopped, a gentleman approaches the cart. “Hi Leif, I’m Ron, and we spoke numerous times. I have the Jag”. Hmm, I ponder, a Jag. This gets my attention, and I find it impossible to not speak. “Excuse me, Ron, my name is Richard. What kind of Jaguar do you have?” “Oh, a ’66 E-Type”. “Fixed Head Coupe or Open Two Seater?” I ask, trying to impress him with my use of the preferred Britishisms for the hardtop and roadster. “Mine’s the OTS”. “Oh, and as a ’66, it’s got the 4.2 liter engine, all-synchro gearbox, and better seats, yes?” “Yes, and my, sounds like you like these cars. Why don’t you make a point of stopping by to see it on the show field?”

Not only did I “stop by” to see the car – it was one of the cars for my Judging Team to evaluate! I was happy to see Ron again, and I assured him, AND my Team Captain, that I could fairly and objectively perform my duties within the engine compartment. When we were done, Ron again invited me to seek him out before the car was loaded back onto his trailer.

It was late in the afternoon by the time I worked my way back to Ron’s gorgeous opalescent silver-blue roadster. Ron and his son were packing up their chairs and other paraphernalia when Ron turned to me and asked “Would you like to ride with me back to the trailer?” The look on my face provided the answer. But I did ask “do I need to remove my shoes?” Ron laughed and said not to worry about it.

Ron entered the driver’s side while I squeezed in the passenger seat. With a little choke, ignition key turned to “on” and a push of the starter button, the big 6 immediately came to life. At 5’ 10”, I was surprised that my head grazed the erect convertible top, but at the same time, the seat cushion felt either overstuffed or not broken in, which could explain the lack of headroom.

The passenger’s view from within an E-Type

With the shift lever in 1st, Ron eased out the clutch and we were moving. The view out the front over the L-O-N-G hood was gorgeous. We were in a parking lot with dozens of other valuable cars, so he kept to a reasonable speed, perhaps 20mph tops. But the ride was sublime. My first ride even in an E-Type was worth it, and I certainly hope it’s not the last.

Watch out for that DeLorean!

When I got out, I couldn’t thank Ron enough for his kindness and generosity. Turns out that he lives about 45 minutes south of me, and he invited me to keep in touch. I certainly shall.

 

OWEN AND THE ISETTA

As I alluded to in my previous post, judging a class of cars was a rewarding, if very time consuming, undertaking. One of the most rewarding aspects of it was the sharing from the vast pool of knowledge among the five of us. We were judging Class 24, two-seat sports cars, so each of us had some level of familiarity with these vehicles, and the stories started to pour out.

Somehow, I let it be known that I had owned a BMW Isetta for the better part of 30 years. A while later, when judging was over, Owen, our Team Captain, came up to me. He asked me “do you still have the Isetta?” “No, Owen, I sold it.” “What year was that?” “I sold it at the RM Auction in Hershey in 2013”. With that, Owen removed his wallet from his back pocket, reached in, and pulled out a black and white photo. It was a snapshot of an Isetta with two boys standing next to it. One boy, a teenager, was quite tall, and the younger fellow was pre-school age.

“Wait!” I exclaimed. “I’ve seen this photo before, but I’m not sure where.” Owen asked “do you read Auto Restorer magazine? The photo was in there”. “Nope, that’s not where I saw it”. “What color was your car?” “Red, solid red”. Owen said “I now know where you saw it”, and related this story to me.

He was able to recite in some detail the location of my car within the RM Hershey tent, and remembered that he had approached me in 2013 to tell me how his parents bought a new Isetta which they kept for many years. He had shown me that photo in Hershey, explaining that the tall fellow was his older brother, and the little guy was he at 5 years old. A few days later, Owen kindly mailed me a photocopy of that photo, along with the letter he had written to the magazine.

The Isetta with young Owen, as printed in Car Restorer magazine

The coincidence of again meeting someone who had shown me a photo of the family’s Isetta 6 years ago was uncanny. That we would end up on the same Judging Team goes to show how small this automotive hobby can be. But Owen would not be the ONLY person on the Team with whom I had a connection.

 

YES, THAT IAIN TUGWELL

Day-of-show judging at an AACA event always starts with the judges’ breakfast. There, you meet your team, get an overview from the Team Captain, and preview the list of vehicles to be judged. I was a bit late for breakfast, so while the others talked, I was still getting up several times to fetch my eggs and coffee.

When I got back to the table, I finally saw the list of cars, and noted that the printout also included the names of all my fellow judges. A quick eyeball scan revealed that I knew no one at my table, except….. How often do you come across a first name like “Iain?”

I looked up from my coffee. He was sitting directly across from me. The din in the room forced me to raise my voice almost to a yell. “Hey Iain! I KNOW YOU.”

His expression told me he didn’t quite know what to make of that comment. I continued. “I don’t expect you to remember, but the first time was 1998. A buddy of mine and I were on the New England 1000, in a British Racing Green Sunbeam Tiger”. Slowly, his puzzled frown changed to the slightest of smiles. Once I heard the accent, there was no mistake. “Oh yes, the Tiger, yes, I do remember it. How are you?”

Well, other than shocked to hell, I was fine. I grabbed my phone and texted Steve, the Tiger owner.

“You are NOT going to believe this. I’m at the judges table at the NJ AACA show in Parsippany. On my team is a guy named Iain Tugwell. Yes, THAT Iain Tugwell.”

Iain smiles for the camera

As if I needed to prove it, I snapped a shot with the cell and sent that to Steve too. To the two of us rookie rally drivers, Iain Tugwell was a legend. He ran the Sunday night “Famous Navigators School”, teaching us the finer points of scoring zero in our rally stages. There was probably some ex-military in him, as he was so set in his ways we nicknamed him “The Carmudgeon”. He was probably on the NE1000 with us until about 2001 or so, making it 18 years since we last connected.

Judging with him was fun; he was the old Iain, short, brusque, to the point, but ultimately big-hearted and good-natured. Later on, I got to meet his wife Jane, and then bade them farewell, as they departed the hotel immediately after judging ended, to get home to Buffalo before midnight. I promised Iain that we would again see each other at an AACA event. I certainly hope to make that true.

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The AACA Eastern Spring National, June 2019

What a show! Over 400 of the country’s finest classic and collector cars gathered in Parsippany NJ to participate in what was officially known as “The 2019 AACA Eastern Spring National”, but what was simply referred to by the NJ Region members who put it all together as “the National”.

Saturday morning’s last-minute detailing

Here’s the background: sometime last year, after a visit from an AACA Director encouraging us to take the leap, the NJ Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) decided to host a National event (static car show, as opposed to a driving tour). This would be the first time since 1968 that a National meet would be held in the Garden State. It was “all hands on deck”, and dozens of Regional members (including yours truly) volunteered for duty.

The dates were picked: June 28 through June 30, 2019. The location/host hotel was found: the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany NJ, conveniently located a mile from Interstate 287 in the northern part of the state. As with any National, the several days prior to the actual car show would include a chance for car owners and club members to join optional tours to points of interest in the area. For me, Thursday and Friday were consumed with staying at the hotel to assist with behind-the-scenes work on merchandise and raffle ticket sales, as well as transporting the club’s PA system.

NJ Region staff in the merchandise/raffle room

Saturday, the big day, arrived, and many Regional members were already scurrying around the hotel’s hallways at 6am. After I got the PA moved into position, I put my 1993 Mazda Miata on the show field in the HPOF category (Historical Preservation of Original Features), and rushed to judges’ breakfast.

Last year, as part of my contribution to making this show happen, I decided to offer my services as a judge for The National. Serving as an AACA Judge is a major time commitment. First, one is obligated to attend at least one judging school a year (I managed two, one in Gettysburg PA in August 2018, and again in Philadelphia in February 2019). Then, the day of the show, judges’ breakfast is mandatory. This is your opportunity to sit with your Judging Team, including Team Captain, review the list of vehicles to be judged, and make preliminary plans to tackle the task.

We judged the Jensen-Healey. We did not judge the truck.

We were assigned Classes 25 A/B/D, which were two-seat sports cars of a variety of model years. We began our duties at 11am, and judged 10 cars, mostly European sports cars (MGs, Triumphs, Porsches, Jaguars, a Jensen-Healey) plus a Cadillac Allante. When one includes the review and tallying of the score cards, the actual judging took over 3 hours. (Besides the Team Captain, the team includes one judge each for exterior, interior, chassis, and engine compartment. I had engine compartments, and spent my time scrutinizing valve cover finishes, hose clamps, and wiring connections, among other things.)

Fueled by water and chips, judges check and double check the score cards

Finally, released by my Team Captain, I grabbed my camera and dashed back to the show field to snap as many shots as possible. We were blessed with a sunny and dry day, if a bit warm (93 degrees and humid). Staying hydrated was paramount, as was protecting one’s skin from the relentless rays. The 400 or so cars were mostly in the points-judged classes, but we had ample turnout in both HPOF and DPC (Drivers Participation Class) too.

Looking at the placards, while most vehicles were from the metro NY/NJ area, I did note many vehicles from PA and CT, and cars from as far as NC and WI. In my haste, I forgot to photograph my Miata, which was vying for its “Original HPOF” award. I’m pleased and humbled to state that it did achieve that milestone.

Cars 25 years old and older are AACA eligible

The caliber and quality of the show cars amazed me. I’ve been attending Hershey since the late ‘70s; I’ve been to various Concours all along the East Coast, including Greenwich, Misselwood, and New Hope. Subjectively, I thought that the vehicles in attendance in Parsippany were collectively the most stunning group of AACA-eligible cars I’ve ever had the pleasure to gaze upon. Brief conversations with some fellow Regional members revealed that they felt the same way.

Saturday evening’s banquet was the icing on the cake. We finally had a chance to relax, have a drink or three, and chat with friends old and new. I’ll happily repeat myself: the older I get, the more I enjoy the PEOPLE and the STORIES more than the cars. And I’ve got stories, and they will follow as separate posts in the coming days.

 

1951 Willys station wagon

 

1966 Chrysler 300 convertible

 

1962 Hillman Minx convertible

 

1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk

 

1982 Plymouth Horizon

 

1966 Cadillac

 

1963 Chevrolet Corvair

 

1956 DeSoto

 

1968 Cadillac Eldorado

 

1973 Ford Mustang convertible

 

1970 Plymouth Barracuda

 

1970 Plymouth Barracuda

 

1961 Pontiac Catalina bubble top

 

1981 DeLorean DMC12

 

1966 Ford Mustang GT fastback

 

1964 Amphicar (note fire extinguisher)

 

1953 Nash Healey convertible

 

1967 Ford Mustang

 

Baby ‘birds line up for their photo op

 

1956 Ford Thunderbird, one-of-one in “Lincoln cinnamon” factory paint

 

1957 Ford Thunderbird

 

1968 Chrysler 300 convertible

 

1968 Mercury Cougar

 

1968 Pontiac Grand Prix

 

1969 Pontiac Firebird

 

1970 Buick Riviera

 

Boattail Riv’s extend their shark noses

 

1976 Pontiac Grand Prix

 

1964 Buick Riviera
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado

 

1963 Studebaker Avanti

 

1948 Willys Overland Jeepster

 

1959 Chevrolet El Camino

 

1931 Packard

 

Event shirt? Check. Name badge? Check. Car ID card? Check. Judge’s sticker? Check. Can I go out now?

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

NJ AACA at the Buffalo Watch, Flemington NJ, June 1, 2019

The New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) was invited to arrange a display of classic collector cars as part of the 21st annual “Buffalo Watch”, held at the Readington River Farm in Flemington NJ on Saturday June 1, 2019.

Part of the lineup

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that there is a real honest-to-goodness buffalo farm east of the Mississippi River, and may be an even bigger surprise that one exists in the most densely populated state in the nation, but it’s true. Better still, the farm is about a 15 minute car ride from your humble blogger’s home, so it was a no-brainer to buzz over there in the Alfa and join up with some of my fellow club members.

Another view

The Buffalo Watch officially opened at 9 a.m.; I arrived just before 9:30 and there were already 8 or 9 cars in their assigned spots. The Alfa was parked in line with the rest, and before the morning was out, another 4 or 5 cars made the event, for a total of about 14 classic cars. As is the Region’s tradition, a tent was erected, under which were displayed magazines, brochures, and handouts, all to encourage club membership. We were popular enough that two new members joined the Jersey Region that day. Our classics provided plenty of competition for the pigs, goats, and rabbits in the pens across from us, and I dare say we smelled better too!

The 4H Club competed with us for attention

The day stayed dry, if a touch warm and humid, and as the afternoon crowd began to peter out, the cars started their departures. I was off the grounds by 2 pm and home before 2:30. The Buffalo Watch was something of a different event for the club, and to me, it proved once again that no matter what the venue, interesting old cars will always grab the public’s attention.

 

1962 Buick

 

1988 Mercury Cougar

 

1964 Pontiac (with Regional tent to the left)

 

1969 Ford Mustang

 

1950 Oldsmobile

 

1957 Chevrolet

 

1929 LaSalle

 

Callaway Corvette C4

 

1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass

 

1964 Ford Galaxie

 

1946 Chevrolet pickup

 

1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Jr

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 2019 Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day Parade

The members of the New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) again provided a number of antique and classic cars to participate in the Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day parade, held this year on Saturday May 25, 2019. This was my third consecutive year in the parade, as it’s local to me. (You can read about the 2017 and 2018 events at the underlined links.)

Brian Pritchett and event chair Bob Hudak

The splendid late May weather helped produce an excellent turnout for the club, with over 20 vehicles participating. The event chairperson, Bob Hudak, encouraged non-AACA members to also drive with us, as long as the vehicles were 25 years old or older. Several pre-war cars, including a 1929 LaSalle, a 1935 Packard, a 1939 Ford, and a 1940 Buick showed up.  Orphan marques Hudson and DeSoto were there, as was good ol’ American muscle, amply represented by a 1966 Corvette 427 (still with its original owner). A new club member brought his pristine 1959 Ford 2-door sedan. And like last year, I was again the only driver with a non-domestic vehicle.

The lineup waits for the green light

 

The Alfa driver’s view of the parade

 

The parade started moving precisely at 10:30 a.m., and seemed to snake along more slowly than in previous years. Hillsborough is a diverse town, and I have always enjoyed taking in this true slice of modern America: people of all ages, races, and genders wearing and waving the red white & blue, cheering us on as we slowly inched past. I’ve also noticed, as you can see in the photos, that once a camera is pointed at them, most people love to smile and wave!

It’s a short parade; we cruised past the viewing stand and were on our way back home before 11 a.m. The Alfa performed flawlessly. It had better behave, as it’s taking me to Pittsburgh and the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) annual convention in July. We’ll have more to say about that in the coming weeks.

 

1940 Buick
1957 Chevrolet
1966 Chevrolet Corvette
1964 Pontiac Bonneville
1967 Pontiac
1970 Pontiac GTO
1951 Hudson
1952 Ford
1959 Ford
1968 Ford Mustang
1939 Ford
1957 DeSoto
1987 Mercury Cougar
1950 Oldsmobile
1929 LaSalle
1967 Alfa Romeo

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

AACA NJ Region Annual Spring Meet, May 5, 2019

The New Jersey Region of the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) held its annual car show on Sunday, May 5, 2019. It has long been the Region’s tradition to hold the meet on the first Sunday in May, and it’s also policy that the show is a rain or shine event.

This was the 4th consecutive year that it rained on show day. In the recent past, the rain reduced but did not completely suppress the turnout. This year was different, as fewer than 20 brave souls brought their cars (your reporter was not one of them). At its peak, this show has been known to garner upwards of 250 classic and antique automobiles, so to state that the car count was off its highs is an understatement.

Even with such a diminished number, the quality of the machinery remained as stellar as always. Below are photos featuring most of the vehicles in attendance. As always, members of the NJ Region had boots on the ground, as registration, parking, judging, and awarding of trophies still went on.

But we’re not done for the year! For the first time since 1968, the NJ Region will host a 2nd car show, when it sponsors the Eastern Spring National from June 26th through the 29th, at the Parsippany Hilton on Route 10 in Parsippany NJ (which some of you may know as the home of Lead East). The club is expecting upwards of 200+ cars, and I have it on good authority that it WILL NOT RAIN that weekend.

1941 Chevrolet

 

1946 Chevrolet pickup

 

1956 Ford
1961 Chrysler 300G

 

1964 Pontiac Bonneville

 

1965 Ford Mustang

 

1966 Oldsmobile F-85

 

1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass S

 

 

1969 Alfa Romeo Spider
1969 Ford Mustang
1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass

 

 

1988 Porsche 928

 

All photographs copyright © 2019 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The Hillsborough NJ Memorial Day Parade, May 26, 2018

WHAT MEMORIAL DAY MEANS TO ME

  • It means that we must remember the true spirit of the holiday, as we honor those who served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
The flag display at the parade
  • It means that we have the freedom to pursue our own vision of happiness. For many of my friends, as well as for me, that means sharing our passion for the old car hobby.
AACA members chat before the parade start
  • It means that I can volunteer to spend a few hours to participate in a local parade, giving citizens a reason to come out and smile, cheer, and wave the flag.

  • It means that I have freedom of choice to purchase and drive the car that I want, not based on what someone determines is “the right choice” based on that vehicle’s country of origin.
My ’93 Miata, the only non-domestic car in the parade
  • It means that our children, our future generations, can learn from the past, and work toward a future that we hope is peaceful and safe for them.

  • It means that there is great joy in recognizing that Americans come in all colors, from all different backgrounds and nationalities, and they are as proud and happy as anyone to celebrate this momentous holiday with all their fellow Americans.

 

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

 

 

 

NJ AACA 67th Annual Car Show, May 6 2018

The New Jersey Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) held its 67th annual Antique Car Show on Sunday May 6, 2018, at the Mennen Arena in Morristown NJ. Yes, you read that correctly. This was the 67th annual show, meaning that the Region began this tradition shortly before I was born. The vast majority of cars at today’s show were manufactured AFTER the premiere event.

NJ Region Pres. Jerry Peck kept on the smiling face

This was the third consecutive year for the show’s “new” location at the Mennen Arena. This was also the third year in the row for show-day weather to be wet and cool. The less I say about the climatic conditions, the more positive this blog post will remain. If there were silver linings, the rain did stop by about 10 a.m., and the dense cloud cover did make for better photographic light.

Hudsons front…

For us car guys and gals who can tolerate some dampness, the real disappointment was the reduced vehicle participation. While I didn’t count, I estimate that there were perhaps 50-60 cars on display. Previous years at the old location in Florham Park would net us in excess of 200 show vehicles.

… and rear

But it is about the cars, and we still had gorgeous vehicles (and their owners) braving the elements. Below is a selection of today’s cars arranged in model year order. Your scribe entered his 1993 Mazda Miata, which at 25 years of age this year, is officially allowed to enter AACA events. Its owner is also humbled to state that the Miata took first in its class (#13b, imported two-seater cars), and it was also awarded a Membership Trophy for “Best Unrestored Car, 1976-1993”.

Enough words, here are the pix, enjoy.

1946 Mercury

 

1952 Ford

 

1953 Chrysler Imperial

 

1955 Oldsmobile

 

1956 Chrysler

 

 

1956 DeSoto

 

1957 T-Bird blue

 

1957 T-Bird white

 

1962 T-Bird

 

1963 Cadillac

 

1964 Ford Galaxie

 

1964 Pontiac Bonneville

 

1964 Pontiac Grand Prix

 

1965 Mustang blue

 

1965 Mustang red

 

1966 Ford LTD

 

1967 Cougar

 

1968 Mustang

 

1969 Mustang blue

 

1969 Mustang red

 

1973 Alfa Romeo Montreal

 

1983 VW Pickup

 

1984 Chrysler LeBaron

 

1985 Cadillac Seville

 

1988 Cougar

 

1993 Miata

 

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