Shifting Gears (183)

  Many years ago, I was considering buying a Mercedes 230SL and called Mercedes guru, SCM contributor and collector Alex Dearborn to ask for his advice. I told him the car was straight enough, a little scruffy in and out, would need a torn swing-axle boot replaced, had a 4-speed and both tops. At that time, the price of $18,000 was about right. Alex was direct in his response. “How much imperfection can you stand?” he said. “You’ll need to fix anything mechanical that creates safety problems, but after that it’s all up to you.” I decided that if the…
  I love the way the collector-car year launches. Arizona in January is like Mardi Gras, with cars to be auctioned replacing floats. The procession of delectable automobiles is non-stop, with the six big auctions pulling out all the stops. For me, the action started earlier this year than usual. It included a quick trip to London for a dinner at Bonhams’ new headquarters at 101 New Bond Street — a most tony address, in a most tony part of a tony city. I was fortunate enough to stay at the Royal Automobile Club. For a blue-jeans-bred, West Coast boy,…
At times, the SCM offices resemble an automotive confessional. Emails, texts, Facebook postings, faxes and sometimes even old-school, hand-written letters flood in — each missive asking for collector-car absolution or permission. “Dear SCM, please forgive me as I have sinned and bought a car over the Internet without seeing it in person… again.” “Keith, I am offered a great deal on a Ferrari. It’s a 308 GT4, friends tell me they are the last undervalued Ferrari, and they’re sure to jump in price soon. This one has been color changed from yellow to red. I’m told the engine was recently…
 There’s no question that America’s love affair with the car has changed dramatically. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal regularly report on the decline of numbers of driver’s licenses among young people, of fewer miles being driven and declining sales figures of new cars. This lack of interest in driving is even more pronounced in Europe, where tight-knit cities and excellent train systems make having your own vehicle increasingly irrelevant — and expensive, due in part to high taxes on gasoline there. One option among many I used to think cars were the solution to our transportation and…

A Concours Comes of Age

Written by January 2014
 Concours d’Elegance is just a fancy name for a fancy car show with fancy awards. Whether it’s the weekly Beaches Cruisin’, which draws 1,500 vintage cars and thousands of gearheads every Wednesday all summer long in Portland, or the rarified air that surrounds the multi-million-dollar cars at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance — car shows are about owners who enjoy preparing and putting their cars on display and spectators who enjoy gazing at them. I’ve just had my first visit to the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance, now in its 12th year. Located on the gorgeous, lush…

36 Hours in Modena

Written by December 2013
The invitation came on a Monday, from Luigi Orlandini of Canossa Events Srl. “Would you like to spend two days in Modena, learning about the restoration program Modena Classic Works, tour both Ferrari museums and drive some classic Ferraris on the Modena Circuit? The event starts this Friday, so you would have to leave from Portland on Thursday. You would be back in Portland Sunday morning. “And we’d like your daughter, Alex, to come as well, as we have enjoyed her blogs and think she could bring a fresh perspective to the activities.” Could you have said no? We hustled…

Passing Into History

Written by October 2013
We just put 1,611 delightful miles on our 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce. It was our first real road trip in years, and it brought home the reasons we fool around with these old cars. The occasion was the Alfa Romeo National Convention, held in Rohnert Park, CA, south of Santa Rosa. Good friend Doug Hartman was my co-pilot on the way down, and Wendie flew down to ride with me on the way back. We’ve owned the Spider nearly 30 years, selling it once and buying it back during that period. Conrad Stevenson in Berkeley did the engine and transmission…
I’ve never counted the number of cars that have passed through my garage over the past four decades, but they’ve numbered in the hundreds. They’ve ranged from mundane 1965 MGBs to exquisite Maserati 3500 GTs. Sometimes there have been 20 cars at my place, other times just one. Fishing for my acquisitions (I hesitate to call it collecting) has always entailed the same method. I drop a hook baited with my wallet into the eBay Motors ocean, the sea of Craigslist, the lakes of the marque forums and bulletin boards, the river of Facebook and the streams and rivulets that…
If the collector-car market were a cappuccino, its frothy foam would spill over the sides of the cup and cascade to the tabletop like a miniature Niagara Falls. Is there a major auction that doesn’t set a few world records? Even Toyotas are now worth more than a million dollars. Well, not all Toyotas. As you might expect in this time of valuation acceleration, my inbox is full of questions, many similar to this one from David Cohen, of Malvern, PA. Keith, it’s been a long time since we spoke; I’m so pleased your publishing efforts have succeeded so well.…
Dear Keith: Now that I’ve purchased the SCM Volvo 1800ES and it’s on the way to my garage, I’d like to ask your opinion on a 356C sunroof coupe that’s been offered to me. I’ve taken a quick look at it, and it appears to be a really nice older restoration, holding up well. There are several relatively minor issues with the body, none of which seem to be rust-related. The engine number matches the COA, and regular and good-quality maintenance has been performed during the current owner’s 21-year stewardship. My major concern is that both the body and interior…
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