Help Pick My Next Car

I’ve got that classic-car itch, and only you can help me scratch it.

In my column in the February issue of SCM, I wrote about the three cars that are calling to me right now. I invited subscribers to vote and comment on your choice. As a blog reader, I’d like to hear your opinion as well.

In brief, the three cars are similar in price and performance, but they are very different in concept and execution.

Alfa Junior Zagato

The first is an Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato. Built from 1968 to 1975, it’s the last of the carbureted Alfas, but its Zagato coachwork is really what sets it apart. While I don’t find it the most inspired of the Zagato designs, nonetheless it is immediately recognizable. There is nothing remarkable about the chassis or drivetrain — the suspension is shared with the 105-series Spider, GTV and Super. They came with either a 1,300 cc or 1,600 cc engine.

Prices are in the $50k-$60k range. The primary reason for getting a Junior Z is that it would be a nice seventh Alfa to add to my tightly focused collection of Alfas. They currently range from 1958 to 1967. The downside is that I’m not sure what it offers that is superior to the GTV or the Giulietta Sprint Veloce I already have.

Should this be my choice? You tell me and why.

Healey 3000 BJ7

The second classic car I am very interested in is an Austin-Healey 3000 BJ7. It’s not a rare car, with just over 6,000 made from 1962-63. It’s also not the most desirable, in terms of market value, of the Big Healeys. I’ve owned one before, and I like the Spartan look of the vinyl-covered dashboard — and the plain interior with no center console. I would, however, opt for the wind-up windows due to their superior weather sealing. That these are 2+2s makes them more useful — and also decreases their market appeal.

The top dogs in the Big Healey world are the 100-4 and the last-model BJ8 Phase II. Either of these can set you back $80,000- $100,000 for very nice examples — and significantly more for great ones.

The BJ7s are $45,000 – $55,000 cars these days.

My primary reason for wanting one is that there is a large Healey meet planned for September in Monterey, CA. Monterey International Healey Week is projected to be the largest gathering ever of Big Healeys. Those with a demographic bent have noted that this may be the largest Healey meet that will ever be held, due to the advancing age of Healey owners.

While the driving characteristics are far inferior to an Alfa of the same period, the Big Healeys have an undeniable visual charm and make great sounds.

Should this be my choice? Vote and let me know.

Porsche 356B

Finally, we come to the venerable Porsche 356. My Porsche friends tell me that when measuring 356s in terms of fun per dollar, I’m going to do the best getting a 356B coupe that has some slight outlaw upgrades. They say forget a sunroof, and don’t worry about a Kardex-correct car. Having a correct factory color paint job is a plus. With a 912 engine and some thoughtful suspension upgrades, I’m told a good B coupe should be a $50,000 car.

I’ve never owned a 356 and lived with it on rallies and tours. Is now the time?

http://www.sportscarmarket.com/kmchoices

One of these is going to end up in my garage. Help me decide which should be my Christmas present to myself.

 

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.

Posted in Keith Martin

46 comments

  1. Keith, Is stick with the Alfas and go for the Junior Z. It may get called a CRX but it’s a beautiful passionate Italian CarX. Last time I inquired of him, Reid said his is for sale.

    Joe Sweeney

  2. I see a dead end here.

    The Alfa is already represented in your garage. The Jr. Z would be much like the boyish urge to collect a full set of Pokémon cards. I bet you’d never drive it. Your Veloce Sprint will be more exhilarating.

    The Porsche? You’d have to accept the stigma of being a Porsche owner. One owns a Porsche to draw the admiration of others, and not for their intrinsic merits.

    Healey? Really? OK, why not? It’s a pig, but you’d be smiling while you drive it. Until you recall the sensations your Spider Veloce would have delivered.

    Then, shortly, you will sell the Healey and go in search of something with more intrinsic interest.

  3. If it were me I would go with the Healey. I have always liked the looks and to me it is head and shoulders above the other two in looks. You already have enough Alfa’s and the 356 reminds me of a VW.

  4. I don’t see any of these as particularly appealing. I think you ought to think way outside your current box and get a Mercedes. At that price point, you can get the world’s best 500E, more than likely, maybe even two of them, or a really good 6.3. Quite a lot different from your present cars, and a chance to experience something altogether apart from what you now have. You already have better Alfas, the Healey is an undistinguished iteration of its peers, and the Porsche… well, that’s the most defendable of your choices. But you can do better and still stay in Deutschland.

  5. A 356 is fun, if your idea of fun is driving backwards into the shrubbery and the Healey is a truck.

    You made the correct decision when you decided to concentrate on Alfas. Don’t abandon it. The Zagato is speciale, if not a Speciale and you’ll feel better driving it than either of the alternatives.

  6. I would go with the 356. I think you are right about adding another Alfa it’t not a lot different than what you currently have. Being a British car guy the Healey would be the last on my list. I owned a 59 100-6 and it was my least favorite car. It was hot, the exhaust sits to close to the ground and the drivers ass. Mine had side curtains and the flat windshield with baby wipers. I had the opportunity to drive a newly restored 67 BN7 thinking they would be worlds apart. It was better but not enough for me. Yes, I love the sound and the look. But driving is what makes or breaks it for me. The Alfa’s and the 356 win in that category.

  7. Go with the Alfa…you already have a few, and as my English friends say… “In for a penny, in for a pound.”

    More to the point, it’s different and rarely seen.
    Let’s face it, a big Healey and (especially) the 356 are stereotypical cars for guys in our age group spending too much money trying to relive their youth.

  8. Without a doubt, go for the Alfa. The junior happens to be an interesting design that will blend in well with your other Alfas. Honor your collection. Become the expert on that make.
    The Healey has a fabulous exhaust note but is harsh and uncomfortable on the road. Pass.
    As far as the 356B, I just don’t see you as a Porsche guy. So, back to the Alfa – you already have spares.

  9. Based on the column I just read, I believe you have already made your choice – the Healey 3000 BT7. If you felt passionately enough to write so much more on her than the others (4 paragraphs vs. 2), the answer seems very blatant to me. You’re not sold on another Alfa even though that is a true love for you; maybe you’re wanting something with a far more interesting provenance. And finally, zee German Porsche 356B… Again, lack of enthusiasm in the writing leads me to believe that your lust, love and want belongs to the Healey. And the meet in Monterey. Good luck, whichever you choose! Merry Christmas to you, your family and your staff!

  10. I would pick the Alfa from among this group, as it would be the most fun to drive. I have a 356C coupe and a GTV, and the Alfa is my favorite. But I’d suggest there’s a better Zagato alternative in this price range – the Lancia Fulvia Sport. It’s similar to the Alfa but different enough from your others to make it more interesting.

  11. Well you’ve got prices all over the place so I’ll guess this decision would be based on the driving experience. Given that, the 356 should be on top. I can’t say what the Alfa Z-Jr. is like but if it’s like a GTV then ……. get a GTV. The Healey? With all due respect to those who regard it as a truck, it is a truck but it’s British and that makes it all better.. I’d like to think you should have to choose between a Alfa Montreal, an XKE or a 280SL. IMHO

  12. Everyone who owns a German car should also own an Italian car, and everyone who owns an Italian car should also own a German car! The designs, styles, engines, and driving experiences are totally different–and the contrast is remarkable. I have owned American, British, German, Italian, and even French cars, and I encourage you to spread your wings a little. Life is too short not to taste the other flavors of ice cream. Go with the 356!

  13. I would recommend the Healey just to add some variety.You already know what Alfas are like. I have a BT-7 and 101 Normale Spider and as you might expect they are worlds apart each with thier strong points. The BT-7 is crude in a number of ways that to me are somewhat appealing. Just to really mix things up why not add a forth and consider a Lotus Elan to go with the reacquired Elise? It would help one to appreciate what a remarkable car the Elan is by any standard.

  14. Since you are a dyed in the wool Alfa guy, I say go with the Junior Zagato. If you want to stay Deutsche, go with an E34 M5, a C63 AMG, or an E63 AMG. I am partial to the M5 and the E63 as I own both.

  15. I’d go with the 356, though I would chose a “C” in order to get the disk brakes. While they don’t have the power or handling of Alfas from the same era, 356’s are high-quality cars that are fun to drive and have great support and owner communities.

    As you observed, the Junior Z just isn’t that different from the rest of your 105-series collection of Alfas. If you are primarily a collector, it might make sense to get a copy of every 105 variants. But if you are a driver, then the Junior Z experience won’t be that different from your existing Alfa stable.

    The Healey is a distant 3rd on my list (and yes, I have owned big Healeys, as well as 356’s and Alfas). Nice to look at, less nice to drive and maintain. Just borrow one for this year’s meet in Monterey and get it out of your system.

  16. Germany, Italy, Great Britain…I love these countries, but sometime (hopefully soon) I’d love to see a Japanese project car. My personal preference is a Datsun 1600 or 2000 roadster. I have 67 and 68 Datsun roadsters and my first car was a 66 1600. I realize 99.9% of your advertisers are specializing in the European cars but there is a loyal group of Japanese car lovers out there and interest in the 50 year old cars is on the rise, as are prices. As a loyal subscriber with a 10 year subscription, please expand your horizons to the Land of the Rising Sun.
    Hope to see you again during Monterey Classics Week either at your opening welcome party, McCalls, The Quail,The Little Car Show, or the Concours…

  17. Find a 3000 for the International Healey Week. Afterwards can always trade for the next marque event or hang on if you like. Have fun, memories are the most lasting.

  18. On the Junior Zagato–you seem a bit strong on the value. Given that there’s nothing exceptional mechanically here, and that the looks are an acquired taste, I’d have to agree with you that this is more about filling out a collection. However, this car should be more pleasant to drive than the Healey but not as sturdy as the Porsche, which will run forever. My pick? Go 356 Outlaw if lots of driving is in your plans.

  19. Easy decision. You’ve done the Alfas to the point that another in the garage will just take up space. You’ve already had a Healey so the thrill is gone there too. Never had a 356? You owe it to yourself to try one and now’s the time. The experience of ownership and participation will give you lots of grins and likely change your perspective on many of the articles you write.

  20. Hi Keith, Go for the Big Healey ! Top-down motoring at it’s classic best. I’ve been a Healey owner for over 40 years, and though I’ve had many other memorable cars during that time, I always come back to the Healey with great pride and satisfaction.
    By the way, if you want a Healey with the vinyl covered dash AND roll-up windows, you are describing a ’62-’63 3000 MK II BJ7—not a BT7.
    Best of luck on your hunt…I’m sure you’ll enjoy whichever car you choose from the fine group you’ve selected.

  21. Keith, you probably already know which one I am going to pick but here is why.
    A fellow Alfa collector, Alan Frick, before he was fully immersed in Alfas, took his 356 Carrera on one of the California Milles. After chasing a Sprint Veloce for the better half of a day, he promptly put his P-car up for sale after the event and started looking for a Sprint Veloce. But you already have a SV.
    The Jr. Z does not drive anything like a GSV or a GTV. It is a much more modern feeling car but is on a shorter wheel base than the GTV and also a couple hundred pounds lighter. It handles like the proverbial go-cart. I have owned my 1600 Z for over thirty years and when I down-sized my Alfa collection from about a dozen cars, it was one of three road cars that I kept.
    Oh, the big Healey! Well, let’s just say that all the people I know that own other collector cars along with a big Healey, it is the one that is least used in every case.
    Look for a well-sorted 1600 Z. Unique and beautiful body with the modern 115 chassis. Rarity in looks with abundantly available mechanical and repair parts. The 1600 also gives it that extra zip to match your heavy foot.

  22. Keith, if we could diagnose your particular strain of the disease, it would be a particular driving experience that each of your cars provides. I would say that puts the Z at the bottom of the list. The B would be outright winner, but the Healey may provide a dustinctly British drive, making all the right sounds from that torwuey 6.

  23. Big Healey, more fun to drive, better noises, best looking. If you already have all the Alfas, that Porsche was great in the 60’s but pretty boring now, except for the Speedster. The Healey is different.

  24. When I was a kid driving (when not broken down) a ’53 MG td, several TR3’s and the first car I had with roll down windows a TR6, I always coveted Healeys, so that is the one I’d go for in a heartbeat.but, then again, the alfa looks sweet. Do not buy any car which has a video teaching you the proper pronunciation of its name!

  25. Big Healey, tweed jacket, pipe and driving cap….. expect to see lots of pictures from the meet since I can’t go.

  26. It seems to me that you’ve already talked yourself out of the Alfa Junior Zagato, as you are not wild about the styling and it doesn’t really add to your formidable Alfa collection (you are an Alfa guy – why buy one you are lukewarm about?). Then, buying the Healy 3000 BJ7 half-heartedly just to be an owner at one (albeit historic) event seems superficial at best and I imagine you already know that you will be the least enthusiastic owner at that event (not something you’ll relish) – and forget about how you will likely feel the next day. The logical choice is the Porsche 356B. You’ve never had one (reason enough!) and the adventure of experiencing this iconic foundation car for the Porsche brand will be fulfilling for many years to come.

  27. I would and you should pick the Alfa, but you will pick the Healey for the access to the Monterey gathering. Have fun.

  28. I would get out of the box…as an Alfa owner you have done the classic ones (might need to try a type 33)…I have had 1300 and 1600 spiders. I have owned the Healey they have lots of twist but little else…356B is just another Porsche. My daily driver is a 1993 Mercedes 500E and I think you should give one a try…modestly rare German car, built in Mercedes and Porsche in both plants with a lot more twist then the Healey…just no Italian genes…believe me it is a sweet car on the open road and even works well in the Oregon rain!

  29. If I were you, I would try to make a good impression at the Healy meet at Monterey. Get the Healey, but after the show, you could sell it. You’ll have a fun experience and get to know the car better, but in the end, you should really end up with the Junior Z. What about the Porsche? It’s a cool car, but let’s face it, you’re an Alfa nut, and no Alfa collection is complete without at least one Zagato example.

  30. The Junior Z is quite a different driving experience than other 105 series cars. It definitely feels more nimble and lively compared with my GTV 1750. The shorter wheelbase and lighter weight makes it not just another 105. It’s also rare and special, with about 38 on the registry in the US and maybe another dozen 1600 cars stateside.

  31. The Healey for sure. Lots of grunt. Good interior space. Beautiful, masculine design. Light metallic blue looks fabulous.
    Great parts availability. Rising prices. Just need the blonde!

  32. I have always been a Healy fan since my first car which was a bugeye sprite. Whether it’s American, British, German, or Italian, nothing puts on a bigger grin than an open roadster with a nice sound. That’s why I’ll never give up my Sunbeam Tiger.

  33. I have owned a Jr. Z and tell you they are a kick to drive. It’s like a go cart with a beautiful body. The ride is comfortable and the handling great. Raise the rear hatch with the button on the dash and the air flows in and out with no buffeting. I would look for a 1600 if you can find one. Try out the seating position. I’m 6’1″ and found that I wished I had more leg room. A friend loaned me his 356 SC cab for the summer. I could never quite warm up to it. It drove well if you remembered that it was rear engine, but the sound seem like a big sewing machine even with the sport exhaust. The interior was spartan with a minimal heater.I have never driven a Healey but I love the looks and the sound. Then there are the electrics to deal with. I do remember that a friend who had one was frequently replacing the muffler because it hung down so low. As long as you looking in that price range why don’t you consider a 456 GT Ferrari? That is a beautiful car with Italian flair, and great fun to drive. I know where there is a low mileage car in great condition if you are interested.

  34. Hey Keith, You are wise to keep the Alfa’s you have, but the junior Z will not fill any void. I’ve been an Alfa guy for decades as well, but when I got my 1st porsche, I never looked back. I joined the 356 Registry in an effort to own one, still looking.
    Keeping my Alfa’s and 911’s. Buy the 356, you won’t regret it. Solid reliable fun! !!

  35. Hi Keith, I have owned 4 different 356 Porsches, including a ’58 Speedster. I firmly believe 356 Porsches are obsolete from a mechanical standpoint. Buy yourself another 911 which is years ahead in performance. I recommend a 997 911 non-turbo Coupe or Cabriolet with a 6 speed manual trans. You will enjoy a great, reliable performance road car.

  36. Its REALLY hard for me to not argue for the Junior Zagato. I’m an Alfa fanatic and that’s one of my favorites. God I love the style of it. But you have a lovely collection of Alfas, and as far as driving experience I’m dubious that the Jr. Z would widen your horizon experience wise. The Healy would be a fun and different, but I am voting for the slightly modified 356B. It’s the polar opposite driving wise from an Alfa. I say it’s time to spend some time with the precise Germans.

  37. I enjoy the 356 as a usable car that can be driven at highway speeds. It is quite reliable and a joy to drive. The Alfa is a better fit for your collection and you know the network of service and parts supply.
    Ed.

  38. All good choices, may I suggest something more modern and a model moving up the ladder in auction results. Get a 71-72 240Z. Like the 356 a couple of upgrades would help (5 speed, warmed over 2.8, F & R sway bars) a/c is nice. Reasonably reliable, daily driver usable, fun to drive, if the engine is properly modified it will easily keep up with much more expensive vehicles, usually to the annoyance of their owners. Gets looks and compliments at gas stations and gatherings. Just a thought, had one for years before moving on to (not necessarily) “better” and I’m looking for a proper replacement now.

  39. Buy the car that “Speaks” to you. I happen to be a big 356 fan, but also have a Bugeye” Sprite. I never buy for an investment, only what makes me smile whenever I look at it, and what I want to drive.

  40. Keith–The BJ-7 you sold at the Lake Tahoe Healey meet is for sale by the same guy that bought it from you in 2003. Mort is finding it difficult to get in and out of it and has decided to sell it. I read you SCM article and thought it would be neat for you to reacquire your old Healey and drive it to the West Coast Healey event in 2017. He is asking $39,500. It has been maintained by Jim Shope since the sale in 2003. Jim is a noted Healey guru in our Club–British Auto Club of Las Vegas. The owner, Mort Zwick can be reached on 702-617-1924 or emailed on mimz@cox.net. And after the event you could probably sell it for more than you paid for it. Transport to Portland is a possibility as Jim Shope is from the Portland area.

  41. Keith, you date cars; you don’t marry them. This car will go down the road sooner or later, so even if you go for the Healey and you don’t like it, there could be a 356 in your future. But I will say Bradley is too big to go in the back of a 356 esp if he brings his buddy and all their … stuff.

    The 1.3 Junior might be a Zagato but Zagato didn’t make cars drive better. We just sold a Fulvia Zagato 1.3 and I would say that motor is a bit of a let down even for a small motor fan like me.

    The Healey is the only car with an event attached beckoning you, and since cars are substantially about the people with the cars, I’d do the Healey.

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