I’ve pursued a two-tiered approach to my changing tastes in cars.
On the one hand, I have realized that there are fully depreciated late-model exotics, usually less than 20 years old, that offer tremendous values.
These are cars that have been owned by collectors, are in excellent condition and have anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 miles. Like my 2004 Mercedes SL 55 AMG, they had an original sticker of over $125,000 (and now are plentiful under $25,000).
At the same time, I have been looking for options to get back behind the wheel of one of my small-displacement four-cylinder Alfas. I don’t know when or if I will be able to safely operate a clutch pedal again. So, with the guidance of our SCM Tour Director Neil d’Autremont I have engaged fabricator Fred Lux to create and install a hand-operated clutch on my 1971 Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato. Operated by a button, it engages the clutch. The regular operation of the clutch mechanism isn’t affected, so the car can be returned to stock at any time.
Fred said he was getting close and I hope to be testing the car next week.
I also continue to explore other two-pedal small displacement options. At the top of my list is a Citroën DS21 with a bespoke “Citro-Matic” manumatic – an autobox you shift manually. My mentor on this is guru Greg Long. As with any old car, buying the right car is 90% of the path to successful ownership.
The biggest challenge to owning a DS21 is that there are no Citroën specialists in Portland. The nearest one is 200 miles away in Seattle, and that’s a 400-mile round-trip for anything that requires attention, large or small.
But another option has appeared.
My Facebook friend Alex Csank sent me a listing for a 1970 Porsche 911 2.2 with a Sportomatic semi-automatic transmission. Said to be in exceptional condition with 56k miles, the asking price is $74,250. To be fair, I haven’t followed the Sportomatic market, but it seems fully priced to me.
It is listed on the website of a long-time SCM advertiser, DriverSource. The seller notes that although cosmetically it is in fine condition, a top-end rebuild will be in order. That will not be inexpensive, and who knows what else you will find “while you are in there.” I wouldn’t be surprised to have $100,000 “invested” by the time the car was to my standards.
This reminds me that the classic cars we adore tend to be extraordinarily expensive when compared to the more modern cars I have been chasing. For the $75,000 asking price I could have a modern 911 and a Boxster, and if carefully bought, would expect minimal maintenance costs from either.
However, I believe the Junior Z has a street value of about the same as the asking price here. It has been professionally upgraded to a 1750cc engine, and the complete original 1300cc, with carbs, comes with it. I had a 4.1 LSD installed so it cruises easily at 80 mph. It’s a very handsome car.
So what would you do? Just play out the hand-clutch installation and see how it goes? Try to trade the Junior Z for the Sportomatic?
Notice my first choice was not to keep searching for a DS21. I’m a former owner of a Citroën ID19, and as much as I adore those cars, the term “minimal maintenance” does not apply.
So which two-pedal car would you pursue? 1971 Junior Zagato or 1970 Porsche 911?