For more than 20 years, enthusiast Ken Ivey and his wife Bernice have hosted an informal gathering of car fanatics at their home in Aurora, Oregon, just south of Portland.
Ken, a long-time 289 Cobra owner, recently exchanged his car for a Ferrari 246 GTS — and a completely different driving experience. I sit with Ken on the board of directors of Oregon Ballet Theater. He’s a CPA, and I find his comments about the arts and the community thoughtful and engaging. Of course we somehow always manage to get around to cars.
This year, due to an opening in my schedule, I was able to attend his event for the first time.
The forecast was for sun with temperatures in the low 70s, so I decided to fire up our 1958 Sprint Veloce. The car hadn’t been out since Miles Collier and I drove it on the Forest Grove Tour, so it was due. Also, I’d realized that it was an anniversary of sorts for the Sprint: just four short years ago, the car was being loaded on a transporter in Southern California to make its trip to Oregon from Concorso Italiano, where I had purchased it. I bought it because it was freshly restored and “needed nothing.” $50,000 later, it has become a pretty nifty little car.
Not that the other Alfas are being neglected. This coming Thursday, local Alfisti Fred and Lisa McNabb are hosting the annual “Red Duetto Tour.” To participate, you must have a red “long-tail” (1966-69). I have gone on it twice, and it’s always a glorious sight to see eight to ten of these striking cars (that seem to become more beautiful with age) on the road together.
Following that, on Saturday I’m packing up the 1967 Giulia Super, and with co-pilot Dean Koehler and two nine-year-olds in the back seat, we’re heading to the Oregon Coast for an overnight trip. Tom McGirr is organizing it, so I’m looking forward to a weekend of brisk driving, interesting roads and enjoyable camaraderie.
But back to the Ivey’s gathering. The Sprint fired up after the Marelli starter exhibited its typical unwillingness to at first spin the engine.
I do enjoy the special sound the Denny Pillar-built engine makes, and with its 1422-“big-bore” kit and modern cams, the car pulls more strongly than you might expect.
When I was restoring the car, I was urged by some long-time Alfisti to convert from the early-style four-speed to a later split-case five-speed. I resisted and I’m glad I did. There’s something unique about the way the early gearboxes shift, and the Sprint is so correct and original that I like the pure driving sensation it offers.
It has no problem cruising at 70 mph on the freeway.
I exited I-5 South and began looking for Prairie View Drive, where their house is located. I wondered if it would be hard to find, but I shouldn’t have worried — I came around a turn, and to the right, in large grassy area, were 30 or so classic sports cars marking the location.
Cars on display included a S1 Jaguar E-type convertible, a Lotus Elan S2, Ferrari 246 GTS, the prototype Aston Martin DB3, a pair of Alfa Giulietta Veloces and one GTV, a 300SL roadster and an authentic 427 S/C Cobra.
Copious amounts of good food were available, and SCM’er Joe Angel, who formerly owned a chain of Burger King restaurants, emphasized that a perfectly cooked burger needs only mustard to be delicious. Ketchup and relish are viewed as palate-compromising irrelevancies.
While we all sat and kicked tires, I reflected on how many decades I had known some of these people, and all of the pleasure we had gotten out of our cars and the activities they allowed us to be a part of.
As the sun began to set, one at a time we walked to our 50-and-more year-old cars, fired them up and headed back toward the freeway. The Sprint Veloce is back the garage now, excitedly sharing the story of its day with the Super and the Duetto. You do know, of course, that our cars talk about us when we’re not around as much as we talk about them. It’s a mutual admiration society.