Planning Out My Old-Car Year

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I just got a call from Nasko, our local Alfa guru here in Portland, telling me that my late-model differential has arrived from Berkeley. Jon Norman of Alfa Parts did the build.

It is going into the 1958 Sprint Veloce. The diff that’s in the car now is noisy, and although it will probably last forever, it makes cruising on the freeway uncomfortable.

I thought about trying to save the original 750 Series rear end, but Norman talked me out of it. First of all, he said that you’ll have a dead car while the rear end is out. Most shops prefer not to store customer cars on a long-term basis, as it ties up space that could be producing revenue. (In this case, it’s been nine months since I ordered the rear end.)

Second, if it’s the gears that are bad (likely, as they are now 57 years old), finding replacements is a challenge. Alfa stopped making 750 Series rear-end gears in 1958 when they switched to the 101 Series drivetrains.

Norman explained what they do at Alfa Parts: They source a late-model limited-slip differential (generally from the Alfa Parts Exchange), completely rebuild it and then put on the mounting brackets from a 750 Series rear end.

According to Jon, once the new unit is installed, it’s essentially impossible to tell the difference when looking at it. And as I am not really a concours guy anway, “very close” is good enough. (I will keep the original in my warehouse.)

Planning the Summer

Nasko tells me he has the 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce ready for the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon‘s Old Spider Tour, which takes place the weekend of April 18–19 — and so the summer has started.

Of course, it really begins this weekend, with the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance on April 12, where I will be emcee. My daughter Alexandra will be a judge, along with SCM Contributor Michael Pierce.

The days, weeks and months of summer are going to rush by. My advice to everyone: make your old-car event plans now, and get your cars serviced — so you’re not calling your tow company from the side of the road while everyone else is whizzing by.

Here’s what I have stacked up so far, after La Jolla:

On April 19, it’s the Old Spider Tour in the Giulia Spider Veloce.

May 1–3, I am emcee of the Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance in Seabrook, TX, near Houston. Once again I will try desperately not to buy a wooden boat. If I escape the red mist of the weekend, I’m wooden-boat-safe for another year.

A couple of weeks later, May 16–17, the Oregon and Washington Alfa clubs host an overnight tour to Ellensburg, WA. I haven’t decided which Alfa to take, but I am leaning toward the Duetto. Now that I can actually shut off the heater box, it’s much less like driving a mobile sauna.

On May 31, I head to Italy. I’ve entered the 15th running of the Modena Cento Ore Classic which begins in Rome and ends in Modena. The organizers have graciously provided a 1974 Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera as my ride. I’ve driven this car before on this event, and it was perfect for “regularity” competition. I very much like this event, with its combination of hillclimbs, track racing and winding roads that always seem to end up at a castle in time for dinner.

In late June, my son Bradley and I head to the East Coast for the Alfa Romeo National Convention. “Alfamiglia Nordest” takes place in Warwick, RI, June 24–28. We are especiallly looking forward to the swapmeet and Clam Bake on Friday afternoon and watching good friend Donald Osborne emcee the Concorso the next morning.

July 1–7, we get away from cars altogether. Bradley and I, along with friend Michael Cottam and his son Benjamin, are whitewater rafting down the Rogue River. Bradley and I did it last year, and it was terrific. Best part: no cell phone reception the entire time.

Then, two days after we return, it’s time to put the 911 Turbo into service, as the Oregon Region Porsche Club of America puts on its annual 1,000-mile Northwest Passage.

Donald and I will be on the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance tour on Saturday, July 18. We then emcee the Concours itself on Sunday. Alex will be a judge there, as she was in La Jolla.

A week later, on July 26, I return as emcee at the Concours d’Elegance of America, held at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, MI.

Then things calm down until the week of August 10, when the entire Monterey Peninsula erupts in a celebration of classic cars, from races to shows to auctions. I return as emcee of the BMW Car Club of America‘s Legends of the Autobahn on August 14 and Concorso Italiano on August 15. We’ll announce dates soon for SCM’s annual Insider’s Seminar, held at the Gooding & Company auction tent.

I was planning to attend the Morgan Adams Concours in Centennial, near Denver, CO, on August 22, but the Gunnison Car Club just informed me that I’m receiving the Lee Iacocca Award from them that weekend. So Bradley and I will go to Gunnison, CO, to get the award on Saturday.

But the summer isn’t over yet. September 12–13, the annual Pacific Northwest Concours d’Elegance takes place in Tacoma, WA. I am emcee of the Dinner d’Elegance that Saturday evening. Then, along with esteemed judge and good friend Paul Inauario, I’ll emcee the concours on Sunday.

That concludes my summer events. But looking ahead a little farther, there is another event on the calendar. In some ways, it’s the one I’m anticipating most of all.

Thursday, October 8, through Monday, October 12, the Cottams and Bradley and I are going on a 1,000-mile journey in our 1984 Land Rover D90 turbo-diesel to the farthest reaches of Southeast Oregon. Our destination is the Alvord Desert, nestled in the Steens Mountains.

More than 20 D90s are expected, most owned by members of the Pacific Coast Rover Club; the trip commemorates the end of production of the D90. We’ll have the roof rack loaded up with jerry cans of diesel fuel and camping supplies. It’s desolate out there. The Alvord Desert lakebed is used for land speed record attempts in the summer, and it has a foreboding-yet-magical look to it. I’m sure all four of us little boys will have a grand time playing safari.

Of course the old car magical mystery show never really stops. By the end of October, it’s time for the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance. A couple of weeks later, on Nov. 15, Donald and I will be co-emcees of the 2nd annual Desert Concorso, held in a terrific new location in Palm Springs, CA. Desert Concorso happens during the same week as the Keith McCormick Auctions, making this the perfect time to visit sunny California.

2016 begins with the Arizona Concours d’Elegance on January 24 at the Biltmore, and the auctions take place the following week.

One day after the auctions end, I’ll be on a plane to Paris for Rétromobile.

Those of us who participate in this old car circus get to drive wonderful cars in fantastic places with great people. But if you car isn’t running, you can’t play with the gang. Call your mechanic today, and start prepping your car and yourself for the fun times ahead. Get out your calendar, block off dates for the events you want to attend, and make your room reservations. Your old car summer will be exactly as full and wonderful as you make it.

See you on the road.

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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