I’m a believer in “value in use” with old cars. In other words, take them out as often as possible. The more they are used, the better they run. Plus, you get the simple satisfaction of being behind the wheel of your personal time machine.

Of course, each time you take a car out in public you run the risk of something happening to it.

Our poor 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider S4 is a case in point. Last year we were sitting in line in a parking lot waiting for an Alfa tour to begin. Without warning, a brain-dead driver in a BMW X3 backed up 20 feet directly into our door.

While the outer skin was dented, the power windows weren’t affected, and the door fit was not altered. Magician sheetmetal worker Tom Black made the car almost as good as new. But I admit to some sadness that what was once a never-hit, never-painted car was no longer a virgin.

Continuing its indignities, I managed to spill a 16-ounce latte into the carpeted interior of the car. I didn’t have a way to soak up the mess at the time. I paid the price, as three days later I could smell the sour milk from 10 feet away. It was disgusting.

A quick call to Matt Crandall at Avant Garde Collection and it was soon in the hands of his shop manager, Tom Floyd. A week and $375 later, the Alfa was back, carpets removed and steam cleaned. The real test will come this summer when the car sits in the hot sun all day and we find out whether the odors were completely vanquished. It was pure stupidity on my part that caused this, but that didn’t stop me from again ordering a latte the next time I had the car out.

Shortly thereafter, my son Bradley was shuffling cars, taking the S4 to the SCM Batcave and bringing the 1982 Corvette back to our condo. He took a turn too tight and ran the edge of the right-front wheel against the curb.

While I was not as calm and collected as I might have wished when I saw how hard the wheel had been curbed, Bradley was properly apologetic. I doubt this will happen again. It also gave us a chance to talk about the risks you take when you take a car out on the road. It just goes with the turf. If you are not prepared to suffer the consequences, you should leave your trailer queen under a cover in the corner of the garage.

This was no minor scrape, and I was told it was cheaper to buy a replacement Rota “Panasport-style” wheel for $140 than have it refinished. To Bradley’s credit he had the money deposited into my bank account the next morning. He understands he will be responsible for arranging for the mounting and balancing.

In some ways, the S4 is the “least collectible” of our cars. It is neither rare nor particularly old, and good ones are not difficult to find. But simply because we decided to “use the car,” it has now had a door repaired, the carpets cleaned and a wheel replaced.

None of the above are going to keep me from grabbing the keys when the next Alfa tour comes around. There’s no reason to own a car like this if you’re afraid to drive it.


  1. Dennis White

    I used to obsess over damage to the cars, but over the years the more I saw of photos showing the great classic GT race cars of the 50’s and 60’s beat to crap (and now fully restored), I thought, “hey, no big deal”. Just a little history. Now, this is not to say I don’t immediately address damage; I’m just way too retentive not to!

  2. The more you worry about damage, the more likely it is YOU will cause the damage.

  3. Dave Peterson

    Keith, I lived near 20th and Sandy, and used to see you driving something in that neighborhood at least monthly. Before you know it, thirty years have passed and I doubt you’re driving in that area with any regularity. I just wanted to give a shout out for a good memory. Car guys were once quite rare, so we of a certain age saw familiar faces at various get togethers and recognized a fellow sufferer. Now, a car “collection” has become de rigeur accessory for any wanna-be “influencer”, even if their chosen mode of transport is Uber. My Father and Bill Harrah are both turning in their graves.

  4. Hi Keith,
    I agree with you adamantly about Driving what you own! This is one reason that I sold out my 50% of what became the Mullin Collection, because with too many cars, there’s never enough time to drive them all! I now have only 10 cars, but all of which are ones that I love to drive! Since I met you on the Colorado Grand in 2013 with my just- finished magnesium-bodied “Electron Torpedo” Type 57SC Bugatti, my wife and I have now driven it over 15,000 km in twelve different countries on Bugatti Rallies. If you have a way for me to send a few photos of us with this car in a few of the most amazing locales imaginable, please let me how to send these photos. JIM HULL

  5. Randy L Bauder

    I would love to read an article about Mr. Hull’s adventures in the Bugatti…complete with pictures!

  6. John Gillespie

    “To Bradley’s credit he had the money deposited into my bank account the next morning. He understands he will be responsible for arranging for the mounting and balancing.”

    Wow, this warms my heart! Being responsible and accountable for one’s mistakes…what a concept! Good parenting Keith. As you said, he will most likely not repeat that mistake and have the satisfaction of knowing he did the right thing in owning up to and making good on his error. Kudos Bradley!

    Lesson learned.

  7. Glenn Baxter

    Tell Bradley that, in the last 5 years, I have had to refinish ALL 4 of my Minilites, due to my inattention. I also just bumped into some shelves in my garage that have not moved since installation. It happens.

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