Winter’s Coming – Store Your Car or Drive It?


We had an unseasonably hot summer in Portland. I went so far as to buy a vintage Volvo 122S with factory air-conditioning just to beat the heat. It’s been dry as well – the desiccated skeletons of the potted plants on my deck bear mute testimony to the futility of my normal watering routine.

But in the last three weeks, summer finally decided to leave, and we’ve skipped early fall and gone directly to near-winter.

Sheets of rain have washed the summer grime from Portland streets. Drivers, as always, act as if they have never seen wet highways before and are busy sliding into one another with abandon.

As it gets colder, darker and wetter, the question of which vintage cars to keep in service this winter, and which to put away in the SCM vault, becomes relevant.

Drive in the Rain?

I continue to maintain that our vintage cars are simply not suited for daily driving in urban traffic conditions. Compared to new cars, they have terrible brakes, sub-standard handling, and are lacking in safety features, including airbags.

In the winter, add to that poor lighting, abysmal wipers that often have just one speed and poor defrosting abilities.

Compounding all of this is the alarming increase in the number of distracted drivers — people who are texting or talking away on their cell phones while aiming their hulking SUV directly at your precious MGB.

Nonetheless, I hate to think that I will be putting seven cars and one truck away for the winter, and that they won’t see an Oregon two-lane road until March.

So I’ve done a mental inventory here, and this is how I plan to approach the wet season.

Checking the Boxes

The 1984 Defender 90 will come out a few times whenever the club plans a run. I don’t mind getting it wet; what’s a little more electrolysis among friends? Running up a muddy, slippery hill in Tillamook Forest with the rain pouring down is kind of masochistic fun. If I put the muff over the grill, the engine makes good heat and the cockpit stays warm. The wipers are ridiculous, small and slow, but at 2 mph, who cares?

I think the 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce will enter its annual cocoon. For some reason, water gets into the trunk when the car is driven in the rain, and everything gets soaked. Some time in late November the car is scheduled to go to Bill Gillham in Albany to tidy up some rust repairs he did 25 years ago, and that may include a new trunk floor. But other than that, this car is just too old and fragile to subject to winter conditions.

The Duetto may fare better. With the help of Guy Recordon, I just acquired a factory, steel Pininfarina hard top for the car, which Guy is restoring. The car itself is very dry and doesn’t seem to leak in the rain. (So far anyway — I haven’t found any goldfish swimming in puddles behind the seats.) I’d like to get the hard top installed just for the experience and see how the car is as a winter driver.

The 1958 Sprint really needs to go into storage as well. As it is one of just 149 built, why put it at risk in inclement weather? I’ve got a short list of things that still need to be done, and one of them is to put the car on a chassis dyno. It has about 1,500 miles on the restoration so far and gets better with each mile. But I think they should be dry miles.

The 1967 GTV does fine in the winter. I haven’t got the defroster tubes hooked up just right, so the prodigious output from the 105-series heater isn’t really doing its job. When I took the car on a tour last year in the rain with two adults and two kids on board, the entire interior stayed fogged up for three hours. That wasn’t much fun. However, the car is dry and tight, so it will stay here at SCM and not go into storage.

After six months, the 1967 Giulia Super has come home, with a fresh 2-liter engine built by Dan Sommers of Veloce Motors. I haven’t driven the car yet, as it has been raining since it arrived. This is another car that is very dry and has no rust, so I don’t mind getting it wet. This one stays.

And then there are the two Volvos: the 1967 122S and the yet-to-arrive 1800S. Once again, they are both dry cars with no evidence of rust, so the chances of them catching cancer from a few days in the rain are small. The 122S has a decent if not overly capable defroster, but the 2-speed wipers go really slow and then slower. It’s toss-up between choosing it or the Super if I need a backseat for Bradley, but I think I’ll keep it here ready for use.

The last car I need to look at is the 1800S. No rust, so no worries about getting it a little wet. I don’t know how it drives or turns or heats or defrosts, but it was designed for life in Sweden. At least for the first few months, I think I will keep it here and see how it does on the days that I have to scrape frost off of its windows if it is parked outside.

Other Things

All the cars will live on Save A Battery trickle chargers, whether here or in the vault, and the cars that are put away will have their fuel thanks topped off and then run a few miles with either SeaFoam or Stabil additives in the fuel system.

I will pump up the tires a little above spec before storage.

The off-site storage has a small heater in it to keep the temperature around 50 degrees. So far, in 10 years of using it, the cars have always fired right up even after a few months.

Chances are I won’t go over and try to start them each month and drive them around to get things warmed up. Finding the right confluence of time in my schedule and good weather is a rare thing.

So that’s the report from the SCM garage as we head into another wet and cold Oregon winter. It’s still sports car time, but you have to pick the right car for the right day.

 Do you agree with my choices? How do you make your decision on what cars drive and what cars to store in the winter?

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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