Keith’s Blog: Rockets and Rainstorms


It’s time for an update on the SCM fleet. We’ll leave the Alfas for last.

The D90 is at Ship’s Mechanical having a few little things attended to and getting a rear step installed to make it easier for Bradley to clamber into the back. The power steering pump has started leaking, but since it could cost up to $1,000 to replace, I’ve decided just to keep a case of ATF fluid in the back and top up at every stop.

The big Rover adventure this summer will be a five-day trip with Bradley through Central Oregon, camping in a very basic way and exploring the Lava Lands and obsidian flows. The highlight will be spending Friday and Saturday nights with Oregon Rocketry, who will be firing off more than 200 rockets. They have special clearance from the FAA to shoot rockets up to 40,000 feet. Won’t that be a surprise when you’re looking out the window of your 767?

Our 1967 Volvo 122S has been picked up in Wisconsin and should be here next week. I bought the car months ago before I settled on my five-Alfa collection, so I no longer quite understand why I own it.  However, it was built by Volvo P1800 guru Jim Perry, and it looks terrific. I just hope that the sole Swede in the garage gets along with the Italians — but not too well, as it could lead to strange offspring.

The Giulia Super is still going through its engine rebuild process with Dan Sommers at Veloce Motors. I asked him to check the carburetors “while he was in there,” and he reported that they were set up for a 1,600-cc engine — not the 1,750 that is in the car. So the correct jets, air correctors, venturis, etc. are on the way. I should just let sleeping dogs lie.

We got the Duetto back from Nasko with the completely rebuilt front suspension and the 4.56 LSD rear end with ATE brakes swapped over from the GTV. With the Rugh springs and Bilsteins installed, it sits a little low in the back, so we’re trying to decide if we should machine spacers or have new springs made. All of the parts to freshen the interior are on order from Matt Jones at Re-Originals. The next step is a visit to Tom Black’s Garage to see if he can remove the riveted-on door-ding guards and give me a presentable car, or if a $10,000 strip and respray is in the offing.

The GTV is very happy with the 4.1 rear end that Jon Norman’s Alfa Parts rebuilt (with parts sourced from the Alfa Parts Exchange). 4.1 is a perfect ratio for a 1750 engine, and I enjoy the long legs it gives the car. I’m hoping for some chances to exercise it. Nasko says it needs a new tranny, as the bearings in this one are shot, so I’ve asked him to put it on the schedule.

The 1958 Sprint is ready for more miles. I’m thinking of taking it on the Oregon Region Porsche Club of America‘s 1,000-mile Northwest Passage tour in late July, and it’s important that I identify any possible failure points before the tour begins. The mechanic that built the engine would like to see the car again to retorque the head and check the plugs, but otherwise the car is turning into a reliable runner.

And finally there is the Giulia Spider Veloce. It performed brilliantly on the Alfa Club Old Spider Tour two weekends ago. However, I drove back across Mt. Hood in a snowstorm with six inches of snow on the ground. When I got back to Portland, the trunk of the car was soaking wet, and the car looked like a movie prop from the film “Noah.”

Which leads me to this question: Is it okay to drive our old cars in the rain?

We use them so little that they’re never really going to get soaked for days on end, and they don’t sit outside like they used to. But the engine bay and undercarriage of the Spider are really filthy now, and it will take some time and effort to get it cleaned back up.

I used to think it really didn’t matter what kind of weather I drove my old cars in. After tall, “They’re just cars,” and they were built to be driven. But I’m starting to have second thoughts. At what point does the damage of exposing a classic to bad weather offset the fun of playing in the wet and seeing it behave like a real car — with wipers that wipe and heaters that heat? In Oregon, that’s a real question for consideration.



Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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