Stories from the Saratoga Springs AACA Nationals

It may seem like I attend car shows for the cars; however, I discovered long ago that the more enjoyable element is meeting new hobbyists and uncovering the stories behind their prized automotive possessions. The AACA National in Saratoga Springs held earlier this month was ripe with such stories. Here are a few of them.

Bob and his 1969 GTO

My initial attraction to this Goat was the colorful striping; it’s so late ‘60s, and Ford and Chrysler were doing similar outrageous things with paint, decals, and the like. But think about the pure nerve to name a car “The Judge”, as if it ruled over everyone and everything (and that certainly was what the marketing folks had in mine).

The owner, Bob, saw my interest and approached me. He was low-key, but wanted to be sure that I knew that this was a one-owner car, bought new by him just before he entered military service. Here’s a partial quote from the car’s display sign:

“I purchased the car new in March of 1969 (and) married Nancy on June 7, 1969…. Nancy drove “The Judge” to work every day while I was gone (in the Navy). In the fall of 1974, I decided to put it in storage, where it stayed … until the fall of 2012, when I decided it was time to have a concours restoration completed on it….  (The shop) completed the car in August of 2013 and we have enjoyed taking it around the country, sharing the car and its story with others….”

The restoration looked top-notch to me, and it’s wonderful to behold this pinnacle of the American muscle car era, which was soon to fade away. Bob was beaming with pride the entire time he talked to me about his Judge. He had every reason to be completely proud of it.

Dave and his 1955 Thunderbird

Two-seat T-Birds, aka Baby Birds, are not an uncommon sight at an AACA show. There were perhaps a half-dozen in Saratoga Springs, but it was the color of this ’55 which drew me in and brought me to ask the owner “what is the name of this color?” Dave replied “Thunderbird Blue”, at which moment I recalled that I always found that just a bit odd, as the paint certainly has a greenish tint, appearing closer to aqua. This of course led us to talk more about his car, which is when he revealed that he bought this ‘Bird in 1969, and it was the very first motor vehicle he ever owned.

After driving it on and off for many years, he laid it up in 1991. Fifteen years later, in 2006, he decided to embark on a restoration. Dave said that one of the biggest challenges was seeking out a repair shop willing to let him participate in some of the actual work, which was the only way he was going to afford the job. One can only imagine how 15 years of off-the-road storage added to the complexities of the operation.

Whether it was due to the shop’s schedule, Dave’s availability to participate, his ability to fund the repairs, or some combination of all the above, the work which began in 2006 took thirteen years to complete. Looking at the photos, I think you will agree that patience was rewarded! Dave summed up the present situation by confiding “when I saw the finished product in 2019, I realized that the car was too nice to drive, so THEN I had to purchase a truck and trailer; but once this award circuit is done, I’m putting it on the road and plan to enjoy some time behind the wheel!”

Richard and his 1964 Riviera

What grabs you at first glance is the color. Not that “green” is an unusual color for a vehicle of this era; it certainly is not. It’s this particular shade of green, dubbed by Buick’s marketing team as “Surf Green”. The paint is complemented by the pure white interior, both in impeccable condition, and the entire package from bumper to bumper is undeniably appealing.

I’ve seen this car before; in fact, I photographed it at the NJ-hosted AACA Nationals in Parsippany in 2019. This time, I spoke to the owner, Richard, who was in Saratoga Springs seeking his Repeat Preservation award. He’s a long-time Riviera fan, and unabashedly told me that he’s owned “quite a few ‘63s, ‘64s, and ‘65s”, and this one might be my favorite”. He prefers the first two years, stating “those clamshell headlights are a pain, the doors always getting stuck part-way”. This ’64 has factory air which makes long summer drives that much more pleasurable, provided you’re prepared for the frequent fuel stops. He went on: “A lot of guys want the high-output motor with the two 4-barrels. Let me tell you, yeah, the top end jumps from 130 to 133 mph but you go from 12 to 8 mpg, and good luck getting those carbs synchronized!”

When I asked him to pose next to the car, he laughed and exclaimed “why do you want to ruin the shot?”. Only after I got home and looked at the snap did I notice that his shirt and pants matched his car….

Phil and his 1929 Reo

The day before the show, there was an option to take a tour of a private auto collection nearby. The AACA had arranged for a bus to take us to and from that warehouse, and it was on the bus where I met the entire family: Phil, the patriarch, with his wife Kathy, their son John, and John’s wife and 3-year-old daughter. Phil and I ended up sitting next to each other, and what else were we going to talk about but stock futures our own cars. “The family” was showing their 1929 Reo in the show, and it was in Saratoga Springs seeking its First Preservation award.

Now, you don’t exactly see Reo automobiles of any year on a regular basis, but a few are around. (For the uninitiated, Reo is the initials of company founder Ransom E. Olds, yes, the same person who founded Oldsmobile.) What was most intriguing about Phil’s car was that it had belonged to his grandfather. While Phil never revealed when his grandfather bought the car, I knew Phil’s age, and some quick estimations make it at least possible that grandpop bought it new (his grandfather might have been around 30 years old in 1929).

Just as interesting was hearing stories from Phil’s wife about how, before it was restored, the Reo was “just a driver” and they would throw all their kids into the spacious rear seat and go cruising. It sounded like the car was kept in decent running condition and the family didn’t hesitate to put miles on it during their younger years. Now that it’s been fully restored, it’s a trailer queen, and after Saratoga, they are trucking it to the AACA Grand National in Minnesota later this summer. Like Dave with the T-Bird, though, once it’s earned its Repeat Preservation, they said that the trailering ends and the driving fun begins again.

Obviously, the collector car disease has infected the next generation, as in speaking to their son John, he informed me that he already has a small collection of pre-war Fords (THIS from someone who was born in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s!). Hearing this should give us assurance that the collector car hobby will continue in some fashion, especially if it’s done as a family affair.


Bob’s GTO, bought new by him, was in storage for many years, then restored. Dave’s T-Bird, his first car, was put in storage then took 13 years to restore. Richard’s Riviera, one of many he’s owned, looks like it’s “the keeper” for him. Phil’s Reo, in the family since his grandfather owned it, finally got a full restoration after many years as a driver. Their stories are different but have common elements. Patience and perseverance are a huge part of each saga. It’s the passion for a special car, whether it’s a new acquisition or a long-term family member, that brings together people, machines, and memories.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

AACA Eastern Spring Nationals, June 2021

The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) held its 2021 Eastern Spring Nationals on Saturday June 19, 2021, in Saratoga Springs NY. The AACA Saratoga Region hosted the event, choosing the Saratoga Spa State Park as the show site, and selecting the Gideon Putnam as the host hotel, itself just a short walk from the show field.

My 1993 Mazda Miata was entered into the show, seeking a repeat Original HPOF (Historical Preservation of Original Features) award. There will be more to say about that in a future post. I drove the Miata up to Saratoga Springs on Thursday, enjoying perfect weather both that day and the next. The forecast for Saturday was for rain, but thankfully that was inaccurate, as Saturday’s weather was warm and a tad humid, but dry and delightful for an outdoor car show.

Approximately 275 vehicles were in attendance. AACA does tend to attract the best of the best, as the quality of the show vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles) was outstanding. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this kind of show is the chance to meet new hobbyists and learn the background stories about their cars. My next blog post will relate a number of those stories. For now, I will turn this into a “photo dump” and allow the reader to enjoy these images of beautifully restored classic cars.

Promptly at 3 p.m., the show cars were allowed to depart the field, and the exit parade began. I was in no rush to leave, but decided instead to walk under some tall pines to be able to stand in the shade for a few minutes. That’s when I discovered that I was in a perfect spot to capture some photos of vehicles as they left the park, which is when all of the following pictures were taken.  

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car Show Report, August 6, 2013

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The good folks at “Hemmings”, publishers of several well-known collector car magazines, held their 11th annual Sports & Exotic Car Show on the grounds of the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs, NY. The event took place on Saturday, August 6, 2016. In spite of a threatening forecast (and a published rain date of Sunday August 7), the organizers decided to press on, and the weather cooperated, as the show field remained sunny and dry, if a bit warm.

The show was open to “sports cars, GTs and exotics built outside the United States prior to 1992.” Those with newer imports were still welcome to attend, but would not have their vehicles judged.

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My good friend Peter agreed to accompany me (and did most of the driving – thanks Peter!). Since I had attended one Hemmings show at the same location two years prior, I had reason to expect a professionally-run event, with a decent turnout and quality cars. We were not disappointed.

Arriving by 10:30 a.m., the show field was almost completely full. Cars were arranged by class, which for the majority of attendees was Country of Origin. As in years past, this show had several Featured Classes, including pre-1992 Jaguars, Porsche 356s, and Toyota Sports & GT cars. The big attractions for me were the two Italian Featured Classes: Fiat 124 spiders and Alfa Romeo spiders. Both the Fiat 124 spider and the Alfa Duetto/spider were celebrating their 50th anniversaries.

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The entire event had a relaxed and casual feel to it. Most cars were prepped for judging, but unlike some other judged shows, the owners seemed carefree. (No one was spotted picking blades of grass out of their tire treads.) Everyone lazily walked the grounds, chatted up the drivers, and shared their stories. The verdant setting helped with the “stroll in the park” ambiance.

At 2 p.m. sharp, the Awards Ceremony began. There was a 2nd place and 1st place trophy for each of 13 classes. (I believe judging was done by that time-honored method known as “which cars do we really like?” Nothing wrong with that, either.) The winners were lined up and slowly driven past an admiring audience. By 2:30, it was over.

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Hemmings hold two shows each year in Saratoga Springs, this one, and the larger Concours d’Elegance in September. If you haven’t been, either is highly recommended.

 

BRITISH

This 1968 Triumph 250 was voted “Best of Show”. It was immaculate, and it deserved it.

This Sunbeam Tiger was in a most unusual shade of baby blue, and we’re unsure if the color was an original choice from the factory.

Triumph Spitfires have marvelous engine access.

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MG-TFs carried the marque’s octagonal badge shape to the instrument cluster.

This Austin-Healey Bug Eye Sprite was even cuter sans bumpers.

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A Jaguar XK8 Coupe.

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A rarely-seen Lotus Elan +2.

 

GERMAN

Porsche 356s were one of the Featured Classes.

Two of the more striking ones in attendance.

This 1960 356 coupe is an unrestored survivor.

One of my show favorites: this 1969 911 has been with the same owner for 25 years. Paint was peeling off the driver’s door. He told us he didn’t care; he owns the car to drive it.

There were German cars there besides Porsche. This Mercedes Benz 230-SL had a side-facing rear jump seat.

An Opel GT, sold new in the U.S. by Buick dealers.

Another favorite: this 1979 Ford (not Mercury) Capri had been privately imported. The car was tastefully modified, was clean and straight, and must be a hoot to drive.

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SWEDISH

This Volvo 123GT looked authentic; at least it wore the correct badging. I don’t think I’ve seen an actual 123GT in about 20 years.

This was the only Volvo 1800 at the show.

 

FIAT 124 SPIDERS

There were about 20 Fiat 124 spiders at the show, with cars from the first generation (late 1960s) right through to the Pininfarina-badged cars of the mid-1980s. As a former Fiat owner, it was difficult for me to believe that this many survived. Best of all, the owners were there just to have a blast. Bellissimo!

An early car: in addition to the chrome bumpers, note the slatted grille, and the small, round side marker lights.

The placard claimed this to be an unrestored survivor.

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We spoke at length to the owner of the Positano Giallo car. He recently bought this car after it had sat, unused, in the previous owner’s garage for 30 years. There had been a small carb fire, and that owner gave up on it. The new owner refreshed the fluids, washed off 30 years of dust, and here it is.

This beauty took home 2nd place in this class.

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More, more, more

The Pininfarina cars got their first dashboard redesign.

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Here you see the 124 Spider tail lights evolve and enlarge.

 

OTHER ITALIAN

The Alfa class was disappointingly small. However, the cars that were there were gems.

Fine Italian jewelry:

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This Duetto, striking in grey, took 1st place in its class.

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Modern Alfas, in the guise of a 4C coupe and 4C spider:

A Lancia Fulvia Coupe.

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