It’s been a hot summer in the Northeast, but the morning of August 28, 2016, dawned with somewhat cool temperatures. This usually means that while it would still get quite warm, the humidity would fail to be oppressive. Most importantly, it gave every indication of staying dry for our breakfast drive, a gathering which we last did back in May.
Our turnout today was great: 12 cars and 14 participants. Showing the diversity of our automotive interests, we had a mix of 5 domestics and 7 imports, and almost every decade represented from the 1960s through the 2000s. For a switch, let’s list our cars alphabetically by make (OK, I admit it, I want to get the Alfas first):
Alfa Romeo – THREE! Two ’91 Spiders, and your blogger’s ’67 GT Junior.
BMWs – Three: Two Z3s (one an M), and a rather new 2-series convertible.
Cadillac – a ’66 Eldorado convertible.
Chevrolet – Two: A ’72 Nova, and a C4 Corvette coupe.
Dodge – The Green Viper.
Ford – A late-model Mustang convertible.
Porsche – a late ‘80s 911 coupe.
Our breakfast destination was the Readington Diner on Route 22 in Whitehouse Station NJ. Once we got off Routes 287 and 10, the roads were a driver’s delight. The diner was most accommodating, as we called ahead, and there was a table waiting for us when we strolled in at 10:30.
Coffee, food, more coffee, talk, and more coffee finally concluded with the usual “why don’t we do this again soon?” So we will. We’re hoping for at least two more runs this year before our classics are tucked away for the winter.
After a relatively mild winter, the spring of 2016 has been taking its sweet time arriving in the Northeast. Any fears of summer heat waves in early May have been unfounded, with daily temperatures often running 10 degrees below normal. Our little driving club tried to get an early start on the season by planning a mid-April event, which had to be cancelled due to the threat of snow! Our scheduled drive on Sunday May 15 did successfully occur, in spite of cool weather and surprise showers.
Checking back on last year’s blog entries, we never had more 15 participants on any one run (excepting Spousal Accompaniment Day). Today, we broke that record with 17 gentlemen occupying 12 cars. Obviously, we had 5 passengers, several of whom were joining us for the first time. Our destination was a crowd favorite, the Silver Spoon Café in Cold Spring NY.
We pull over to give those in back a chance to catch up
The cars: we usually count up the Chevys, and then all the rest. Today, the Europeans won the day with a total of 7 cars: 3 Germans, 2 Brits, and 2 Italians. We had 4 U.S. brand cars, and one Japanese. There were old(ish) and new(ish) vehicles in all the subcategories with multiple vehicles.
The Mother Country was beautifully represented Rich S’s black MGB and Rich L’s white Jaguar F-Type.
The 2 Italians cars were both Alfas: EC was the proud papa bringing his ’91 spider out with us for the first time, while your humble scribe brought his trusty, un-rusty ’67 GT Junior.
German marques ruled the roads today with 3 cars: Peter’s stunning red 911, Sal’s BMW 325is, and John M’s new Audi A3 cabrio.
Among domestic product, it was all Chevrolet, including 3 Corvettes: Bill’s C1, Ron’s C4, and George’s C6. Larry ran his reliable Camaro.
The sole Asian car was Jim N’s Datsun 280Z.
We departed the Sheraton Crossroads parking lot (almost) right on time and headed north. As soon as we did, the skies darkened, and the clouds threatened. In spite of the weather, several drivers motored with convertible tops down. After a beautiful ride along Seven Lakes Drive and over the Bear Mountain Bridge, we were at our destination with 10 minutes to spare. The staff at the Silver Spoon had a table for 17 waiting. Coffee was almost immediately served, with hot breakfast plates soon following. As always, the camaraderie around the table made it difficult to leave.
When we finally wrenched ourselves away from the food and endless caffeine, we stepped outside to some slight sprinkles. Those who had left their tops down scurried back to their cars. Several of us continued to linger and chat, not wanting the festivities to end. But end they eventually did. We’ve assured the group that we’ll do our best to get out at least once a month this driving season.
In March of 1967, for my 13th birthday, I was given a subscription to CAR and DRIVER magazine. I already had been reading everything I could on the topic of automobiles. Up until this point, the majority of that had been my dad’s Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines. While their automotive articles were good, they encompassed but a fraction of those magazines’ editorial content.
It was my father who selected C&D among the then-available buff books; it was a decision which profoundly affected and still influences the way I think about automobiles. CAR and DRIVER, in 1967 under the helm of David E. Davis Jr., was already displaying a slant toward European machinery and away from American iron. They were also several years into embracing a tone of irreverence, in part fed by 1960s counter-culture, that would grow stronger in the decade of the 1970s.
I recently plucked that March of ’67 issue from the bookshelf for a revisit. Their preference may have been sporty European cars, but they were also in the business of selling magazines (at 60 cents per copy), so the newly-announced 1967 Pontiac Firebird graced the cover. The statistics page at the end of the Firebird road test swings between factual calculations (0-60 in 5.8 sec.), and a “Check List” which uses “excellent”, “very good”, “good”, “fair”, and “poor” for its subjective ratings. Nice to know that the “synchro action” was excellent, while the “trunk space” was poor.
C&D regularly featured articles on personalities and/or topics related to, but not necessarily directly about, cars. Case in point was this article about the photographer Pete Biro. The sharpness of the color photos I find especially enthralling.
Some of the real fun in browsing through an almost-50-year-old magazine is re-reading the advertising. The Volvo ad for the 122 uses the “Stronger Than Dirt” tag line which Volvo aficionados know well. But look at the fine print: “Stronger than dirt copyright Colgate Palmolive, used with permission”. The Porsche ad, like Volvo’s, quotes a 3rd party source for credibility. With prices ranging from $4790 to $6990, these German sports machines were expensive cars, especially compared to other cars featured in ads in this issue such as the Renault 10 for $1647, the Fiat 124 for $1798, and the MGB/GT for $3095.
By contrast, note that these two ads from domestic manufacturers are in color. Bigger ad budget perhaps? The Camaro ad pointedly attacks the perceived discomfort and unreliability of other (unnamed European) sports cars, finishing off with “… and go show those purists”. The biggest surprise in the magazine for me is this ad: “Mercury, the Man’s Car”. Really? Try that today. Nevertheless, they still attempt a tie-in with the overseas competition by informing you that “European elegance comes to Cougar Country in Mercury’s Car of the Year”.
Cougar print ad from 1967
Bringing up the rear is “The Classified Marketplace”. While Road & Track magazine’s classified section was probably better-known (and more likely to contain exotic sports cars), there are still interesting tidbits here at CAR and DRIVER. Among them are a Lancia Flaminia for $1100, a ’63 Porsche 90 coupe for best offer over $3000, and a 1934 Rolls-Royce for $1450 FOB England. My favorite is the picture ad which ran in C&D for years: “A Playboy’s Dream”, the Volvo 1800 convertible. With all my years around the product, I’ve rarely seen one in the metal, which makes me wonder how many were made, and how many survive?
This glance back to March of 1967 was fun, and I think we’ll do this again with other ancient periodicals that may be in the collection.
All scans are from the March 1967 issue of CAR and DRIVER magazine; the copy of the magazine is from the author’s collection.
History was made on Saturday, October 17, 2015, when the New York Mets (sorry, wrong blog) the Sunday Morning Driving Club went out for a ride, and changed all the rules. What exactly did we do? We drove on a Saturday (for the first time); we scheduled a breakfast AND a lunch (for the first time); we visited the Jersey Shore (for the first time); and we allowed drivers to invite their Significant Others along for the experience (for the last time; sorry, wrong blog – for the first of what we are sure will be many more times).
As best as we know, all the participating husbands and wives were still married to each other at the end of the day. Seriously, we think the ladies enjoyed themselves, and got a taste of the genuine fun we men have had for years, namely, riding through beautiful scenery in interesting cars, and sitting down for a hearty meal with affable and like-minded people.
The formal part of the day started at the Bridgewater Diner in Bridgewater, NJ. Changing with past tradition, attendees arrived on their own between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and fortified themselves with good local diner food. By 10:30 a.m., after a few who skipped breakfast but were joining the group arrived, we were out of the parking lot, embarking on the first half of the day’s drive. This 30-mile-route, dotted with fall foliage, took us along the Millstone River, through the farmland of Monmouth County, into the historic village of Cranbury, and eventually to a Wawa pit stop, sorely needed by the men after all that diner coffee.
This deserved Wawa-stop allowed us time to hang and chat in the parking lot. Old friends caught up with each other, new friends were made, and Bill Whited bought gas. After sufficient time was given for life’s necessities, the lead Alfa driven by your humble servant (who assigned the 90-horsepower car to lead??), with 11 other cars in caravan, headed east on Route 33 for the second leg of our drive – a 25-mile straight shot to the seaside resort town of Ocean Grove.
We allowed plenty of time for folks to find parking and wander along the picturesque Main Ave. before our 1:30 lunch reservation at The SeaGrass restaurant. Our table was set and ready for us ten minutes early, and our rowdy crowd was ably handled solo by one young waitress who, to her credit, smiled through the whole ordeal. The food was excellent, and more than one person in our party remarked that while not expecting to be hungry after breakfast, the food at The SeaGrass was too good to pass up.
It bears mentioning that as the popularity of our drive events has grown, participants have told friends, who have told friends…. For this drive, we had two drivers who were with us for the first time. Several others had only made their first trips with us earlier this year. By my count, half of today’s drivers are people I’ve met through other drivers. It’s been rewarding to see the group grow in this fashion.
Lunch was over by 3 p.m. The shoppers delayed their departures so they could wander through the many gift shops in Ocean Grove. Others hit the road in order to get back home before the ever-earlier darkness closed the day. Overall, our many “firsts” combined to make this drive one of our most successful, read, enjoyable outings yet.