Columns (1924)

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…

Leasing to Play

Written by October 2013
Auto leasing hit historic highs in the past couple of years and now finances about 27% of new-car sales. Leasing is particularly popular with the luxury brands — 75% to 80% of new Mercedes-Benzes and about 50% of new BMWs are leased. And specialty collector-car leasing companies such as Putnam Leasing and Premier Financial Services have become major players in financing collector-car transactions. J.J. Best Banc & Co., prominent in the field as well, offers traditional financing. But leases in the collector-car market are quite different from those in the new-car market. Different ends Traditional, new-car leases are called “closed…
At first glance, the first-generation BMW M3 looks like a boy racer’s dream. You see a big air dam, a big spoiler and big wheels rolling under big flares. You have to get into this car, start it and roll it down the road before you know exactly what the E30 (BMW’s internal designation for the car) is all about. In its first four years of production, it won more races and titles than any other BMW ever — and it is still the most successful racing saloon of all time. The 1988–91 M3 represents a purity of purpose that…
Delivered new to Mannheim, Germany, this 300SL Roadster was first sold to a Swiss customer. It has had no more than two registered owners since; it also features a factory hard top. Many aficionados consider the configuration of this example as the most desirable variant, with disc brakes in combination with the more reliable cast-iron block. This Mercedes has been the subject of a painstaking, five-year, body-off rebuild. Acquired as a rust- and accident-free original car, it was restored to international show quality, using NOS and Mercedes-Benz replacement components. The restoration is documented with an extensive dossier of invoices and…
Initially, the DUKW was rejected by the U.S. Army, but the unexpected rescue of a ship that had run aground convinced them of its efficiency and seaworthiness, subsequently confirmed by a channel crossing. Developed by Sparkman & Stephens in collaboration with General Motors Corporation, each letter of its name has a meaning: “D” for a vehicle designed in 1942; “U” for utility; “K” for front-wheel drive: “W” for two rear axles. Understandably, it was known colloquially as the “Duck.” Derived from the GMC ACKXW, it had a 4.4-liter, 6-cylinder Chevrolet engine that was capable of propelling the vehicle to 80…
The Lotus Mk IX was derived from the Mk VIII, Colin Chapman’s first full-bodywork two-seater barchetta. As with the Mk VIII, the Mk IX was designed around a lightweight steel tubular chassis, fitted with aluminum panels. The body was designed by Frank Costin (the “Cos” in “Cosworth”), and built by Williams & Pritchard. It had independent front suspension and a rear De Dion axle, with “in-board” drum brakes. The Lotus IX could be fitted with a 1,500-cc MG engine, but the most common configuration involved the Coventry-Climax 1,100-cc engine. With its low weight and aerodynamic design, the car performed brilliantly…

1958 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe

Written by September 2013
With the 250 engine came a family of cars that turned Ferrari from a small-scale marque to a world-renowned manufacturer. This range was based on a powerful 3-liter V12 engine designed by Gioacchino Colombo. The engine was adaptable to use on the road or the track. After the first examples of the 250 Ellena and 250 GT Europa, the development of this group of cars took off in 1958 with the arrival of the 250 GT PF coupe, designed by Pininfarina, who was also in charge of building it. It became the spearhead model for the marque, with competition versions…
Introduced in 3.8-liter form in 1961, the Jaguar E-type caused a sensation when it appeared, with instantly classic lines and a 150-mph top speed. Its design owed much to that of the racing D-type: a monocoque tub forming the main structure, while a tubular space frame extended forward to support the engine. The latter was the 3.8-liter, triple-carburetor S unit first offered as an option on the XK 150. The E-type’s performance did not disappoint: first, because it weighed around 500 pounds (227 kg) less than the XK 150 and secondly because aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer used experience gained with the…
At the start of the 1950s, Maserati was still producing cars on a small scale. It built high-performance sports cars that were a little too demanding for the wealthy clientèle just starting to appear after the war. The marque wanted to produce models that kept the same allure and were fast, but which had improved levels of comfort and security. The task of developing such a car was given to Giulio Alfieri, the brilliant engineer who joined Maserati in 1953. Four years later, the Maserati stand at the Geneva Motor Show displayed a stunning prototype of the 3500 GT, with…
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…