Our Sunday Morning Breakfast Runs, about which I’ve blogged so much, started well before I joined the fray. I believe I had been told that the initial trio who launched these events began back in 1999 or 2000.
Earlier this year, someone in our group who had joined around the same time as I did asked me, “when did all this start?” Great question, I responded to myself as much to anyone else, and decided to pore through my photos to see how far back I could trace my involvement.
The earliest photographic evidence of my participation takes me to early spring of 2006. Since the trees in the photos have yet to bloom, I would pin the timeframe as late March/early April. The photos were taken in Cold Spring NY, which was a frequent destination for many of the early runs. We parked our cars around a little cul-de-sac, with the Hudson River in the background, and this served as a wonderful photo op (that’s Burton standing on the bench, primed for some excellent shots). Note that there are SEVEN cars, a typical number for our group at that time.
My ’68 Mustang California Special (GT/CS) had been in my possession for only 2 ½ years. The year 2006 would be the year in between driving that car in the ’05 and ’07 New England 1000 rallies.
The next time I photographed a Breakfast Run was June of 2008, and since the pictures reveal that our destination was Granny’s Pancake House in Hamburg NJ, I know that this was one of the, if not THE first time that Larry and I “hosted” the run. Granny’s had been recommended to me by a colleague at Volvo, and it proved to be a tasty breakfast place.
As we exited the restaurant, I asked each driver (and passenger, if there was one) to pose next to their automobiles. As is always the case, the eclectic mix of vehicles is a big part of the draw. Our NE1000 buddy Ron dared to show up in his 1937 Packard convertible. I can report that he doesn’t baby the car on the road, as I had to keep my foot into my 390 to keep up with him!
Again, there were seven cars, which made it easy to keep everyone together in a caravan. Little could we imagine the size to which our outfit would expand.
In a future post, we’ll continue to look back at some of our older Sunday Breakfast Runs.
A 1937 Packard Super Eight convertible coupe, with a 135 hp, 320 c.i. inline-8, cost $2,680 new. Or, one could purchase a 1937 Ford DeLuxe cabriolet, with an 85 hp, 221 c.i. V8, and pay $719 (27% of the Packard’s cost).
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.
Went to visit my pal Pete yesterday. He’s the family friend from whom I purchased the Alfa. A trip to Pete’s place is always a guaranteed entry into some automotive fun, as he has a nice collection of “older” and “newer” cars, and always gives me a chance to take several of his cars out for drives.
There was no way I could have anticipated the “drive” which was on the horizon this day for both of us.
We were cruising in his 1979 Volvo 265 (original owner, 41,000 miles, AACA Preservation Award winner), with me behind the (thin-rimmed, non-air bag) wheel, when Pete said “see those cars on the left? Pull into that lot”. Those cars on the left were unmistakable, even from a distance of several hundred yards: a first-generation Corvair sedan, and a mid-fifties two-tone Packard sedan. I stopped the car. Pete got out and said “let me find the guy”.
The guy was the proprietor of the gravestone marker business in whose parking lot we were sitting. Pete returned within moments, the Packard’s keys clutched in his hand, the guy right behind him. They were discussing a test drive route in the area. The guy motioned for me to climb in, said to both of us “have fun”, and went back to tend to several ladies who were shopping for granite.
“We” were going for a test drive in this car, a 1956 Packard Clipper 4-door sedan.
Observation #1: there is a lot of room in the front seat of a ’56 Packard. The bench seat, combined with a dash barely extending out from the windshield base, provides a lot of stretch-out space. Pete, who is fit and slender, looked lost behind that enormous steering wheel. With the key in the ignition, the big V8 fired right up. Pete moved the column-mounted shifter into “R”, which on this car is at the far right, next to “L” (can’t say “PRNDL” here), and backed the car out of its parking spot.
Observation #2: a 1956 Packard does not have seat belts, unless some previous owner had decided to install them at some point during the car’s 50 years of life. No previous owner had made that decision here.
As we headed toward the road, a busy two-lane highway with a de facto speed limit of around 60, I asked Pete “are we turning left or right?”
To myself: “oh shit”.
We both were trusting that this rig would not stall when the gas was mashed, that the steering wheel would at least pretend to be vaguely connected to the front tires, and that the brake pedal would not sink to the floor upon initial application. In other words, there was no parking lot test drive before stepping out to play with Friday’s traffic.
Pete successfully made the left turn, and the car was up to 50-55 with little effort. We cruised for several miles at that speed. I noticed that with Pete’s hand steadily on the wheel, the steering did not need constant correction in order to continue straight – impressive (and certainly not how my ’57 Ford steered).
The road started downhill, the posted speed limit dropped to 40, there was construction on the right, an 18-wheeler was behind us, and the traffic light up ahead turned red. We needed to slow down QUICKLY. Pete braked with his left foot. The car dove to the right, he let up on the pedal, reapplied the brake, and the car darted left. The brakes pulled badly. The tractor trailer, in Pete’s words, was “up my butt”. To his credit, Pete controlled that big wheel, modulated the brakes, and got us safely stopped. Speaking of stopped, my breathing did for about 10 seconds. I recovered. Did I mention that the car had no seat belts?
As we turned left into a residential area, I was relieved to be away from that busy 2-lane. This was when Pete pulled over, put it in Park, and said “OK, your turn”. I had not driven a ‘50s-era automobile in many years. I had never driven a Packard. This was going to be a thrill.
With the transmission back in “D”, I pulled out onto the quiet 25-mph street. The car’s power steering certainly was effortless, but inputs did have a direct effect on the car’s direction. Accelerator tip-in was fine, and the V8 had lots of torque. The most remarkable observation during the test drive was the car’s ride. It was supple without being too floaty. There was nary a squeak or rattle from any of the four corners. The car handled better than a 2-ton ‘50s American car would be expected to handle. (And this on bias-plies.)
The two issues with the car were the aforementioned (drum) brakes, which needed adjustment or perhaps a service, and the transmission, which needed its quadrant adjusted, and which at one point during a downshift made a groaning sound.
The car’s odometer indicated 57,614 miles, and Pete and I agreed that nothing we saw before, during, or after our test drive would give us reason to doubt those miles were original.
Back at the gravestone store, I parked the Packard exactly where we had found it. Pete ran the keys back to the owner. It was then that I got the story that the Packard (and the Corvair) had belonged to the owner’s father, who passed away a year ago. He was just getting around to putting them up for sale. The ask was $16,000. Pete told him that he would think about it.
I know that Pete would love to have the car, but like many of us, he has an issue with room. His 4-car garage is full, and there’s still one (newer) car outside. Additionally, at almost 19 feet in length, there’s some doubt that it would fit (unless one drilled holes in the wall for the Dagmars). This car looks like it’s had one high-quality repaint but otherwise appears to be in fine original condition. It’s just several weekend’s worth of detailing away from being an HPOF candidate at an AACA event.
Observation #3: a 1950s-era Packard motorcar would make a fine addition to anyone’s car collection.
SIDEBAR: 1956: the year of the last “real” Packards
The history of the Packard Motor Company is a fascinating study of how a successful maker of some of America’s finest luxury cars still managed to go out of business. It is impossible to go into great detail here, except to note that by the 1950s, Packard merged with Studebaker, and finally replaced its straight-8 engine with a V8 for 1955. But there was much more to the 1955 Packards than that. Quoting from my copy of the Encyclopedia of American Cars, by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide:
“… the 1955 Packard was a technological marvel. Prime among its wonders was “Torsion Level” suspension: long torsion bars connecting front and rear wheels on each side. A complex electrical system enabled the suspension to correct for load weight, and effectively interlinked all four wheels for truly extraordinary ride and handling despite two-ton bulk…. …these were impressively fast and roadable cars…. Customers were scared away by … the ’55 Packards’ notorious quality and service problems. Ironically, the ‘56s were better built….”
Their write-up goes on to say that in a truly desperate move, Packard decided that the “Clipper” would be an entirely separate make for 1956:
“Besides registering the name as a distinct make, (company President James J. Nance) decreed separate Clipper and Packard dealer signs…. As a final touch, “Packard” appeared nowhere on ’56 Clippers except for tiny decklid script – and some didn’t even have that.”
By the 1957 model year, Packards were being built in South Bend, Indiana on restyled Studebaker bodies. It was the end of an era. But reading the above, it’s now understandable why our test-drive car rode so well (and why I’d want to learn more about the suspension’s electrics before plunking down my hard-earned cash). I also had no idea that “Clipper” was a separate make in 1956, which explains the badging on this particular car. Based on the quality and the engineering of the example we drove, it is a shame that Packard did not survive.