Wallowing in Vintage Cars

longtails

I’ve been an Alfa Pig this past week, wallowing in a twin-cam world of twisting roads and five-speed gearboxes.

Last Thursday, the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon held their annual Red Duetto Tour. Organized by Fred and Lisa McNabb, participation is limited to long-tail Alfas (1966-69) painted red. If you own a blue Duetto, you’re out of luck.

This year there were nine long-tails on the tour, and they created a visually striking scene as we lined them up. Among the participants were Denny and Pat Pillar, Jim and Nancy Gunter, Reid and Sue Trummel, Rick Martin and Dave and Colleen Rugh.

The fifty-year-old sports cars ran well. AROO members tend to be an active group, more attuned to touring than showing. The cars were all presentable, with enough road-rash from driving to be attractive.

Our 100-mile tour started at Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton, Oregon and took us over Bald Peak to Cape Kiwanda, Pacific City and the Oregon Coast. We had lunch at “The Grateful Bread”, a local bakery with a variety of “Dead-themed” offerings.

That afternoon we came back to Portland on two-lane roads, including a stint on Highway 6 with a stop at the Charles Sprague Wayside. There, Denny and Reid tried to troubleshoot Reid’s brake lights and had some success.

It’s been a good year for the SCM Duetto. In August, I drove it down the Oregon and California coasts to Monterey, where it was included in the “50th Anniversary of the Duetto” celebration. Earlier this summer, it was one of my three 1967 Alfas (including the GTV and the Super) that Miles and Parker Collier drove on the 1,200-mile tour we took with the Oregon Region of the Porsche Club of America.

It simply hasn’t missed a beat over these nearly 2,500 miles of touring and has been a delight. I owned a 1967 Duetto during my junior year at Reed College in 1971, and I’m reminded of why I was so fond of the car then. It cruises easily at 80 mph, has plenty of luggage room if you stick to soft-sided bags, a good top, and is very comfortable inside. In some ways, it is the perfect four-cylinder vintage sports car.

 

A Super Tour to the Oregon Coast

After the long-tail tour, the next Alfa adventure wasn’t long in coming. Just two days later, good friend Dean Koehler joined me in the Giulia Super for the annual Alfa Club Fall Tour. We had my son Bradley in the back seat, along with his buddy Grayson.

The two boys were veterans of our five-day, 1,300 trip to the Wallowas in late August, so they had all of their resources at hand. Their iPads, chargers and other electronics were in the gearbag, the snack sack was full of “road trip food” (Oreos and Cheetos rule!) and they each had coolers with their favorite soft drinks in them.

I’ve learned that it’s important to have things for kids to do when they’re on a road trip, as sitting in the back seat counting cows just isn’t very exciting.

It’s a fantasy come true for me to have a well-fettled 1967 Super, and to put this half-century-old Italian four-door sedan through its paces. While the kids are aware they they are in an “old Alfa Romeo” instead of a modern Hyundai, what they really enjoy is the trip itself. Perhaps Bradley will remember road trips as something that have a high fun factor, and have the same adventures with his kids.

Organizer Tom McGirr always puts on a good event, with scenic routes and plenty of places to stop – perfect when you have 9-year-old boys who have lots of energy to spare.

Along on the tour was another 1967 Super, a beautifully restored example owned by Stu and Shirley Moss. Fred and Lisa McNabb, and Jim and Nancy Gunter brought their long-tail spiders, and Denny Torgeson had his newer square-tail spider as well. SCM’er Michelle Rand drove her MGB-GT, handsome in blue with gray-painted wires.

All nine cars gathered in Salem, Oregon and headed towards the coast. We stopped at Alsea Falls, where Bradley managed to slip waist-deep into the river. Luckily, I was carrying extra clothing and shoes for him (this wasn’t my first kids-along-rodeo).

Our destination was the Fireside Motel in Yachats, Oregon, nearly 300 miles from our starting point in Portland.

The weather started out clear and sixty-degrees, but by mid-afternoon we were driving through a steady rain. Since AROO owners are drivers, there was no concern about the cars “melting because they were getting wet.”

Our Super held its own — the freshly-built two-liter engine, coupled with the 4.1 rear end, let the car accelerate strongly, and then cruise easily at 70 mph and more.

The motel was right on the coast, and from our room window we could see the waves crashing against the beach. The kids enjoyed playing in the tide pools and touching anemones, until Bradley fell into one of the tide-pools. By this point he was testing my supply of dry clothes.

Dinner at the ONO restaurant featured perfectly prepared fresh seafood.

Driving back to the motel, I discovered I had no instrument lights. In the three years I’ve owned the Super, this may be the first time I’d driven it at night. Poking around a little, we discovered we also had no running lights, no horn and no “headlights on” indicator light on the dashboard. These all run on the same circuit and a quick glance at the under-hood fuse block confirmed our suspicious — a blown fuse.  We robbed a fuse from another circuit, but as it blew immediately, we knew we’d be looking for a short somewhere after we got home.

Other than that, the Super and all the other Alfas ran perfectly.

Another 200 miles later we were back in the SCM garage, my vintage Italian family car ready for its next adventure.

It is only through use that I find value in my old cars, and every time I take them out on the road, I’m reminded of why I’ve been behind the steering wheel of an Alfa Romeo for nearly 50 years now. And by including Bradley on these adventures, I’m hoping he might just get a little “car guy” DNA into his bloodstream.

 

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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  1. Thanks for continuing to wave the Alfa flag! I’m on my 5th, a blue ’62 spyder and always marvel at what a completely satisfying driving experience they are and how I should have at least two or three more…