The past three years have been a non-stop series of car adventures, one after the other. Unable to drive a manual-shift car since my stroke, I’ve pivoted and started exploring cars with automatic gearboxes.

While my entire life I have looked at these two-pedal cars with disdain, my life has changed and my choice has been to enjoy my life to the fullest given my current circumstances. I am still doing rehab every day. I don’t know if I will get my clutch-leg back, but if I don’t keep working at it, I certainly won’t.

I found an original-paint 1965 Volvo 122S automatic. I had Cameron Lovre at Swedish Relics “optimize” the car with to my specs, which meant an upgraded suspension. The car was rock solid.

But the 1,800-cc, 86-horsepower engine desperately needs a modern PDK style transmission. I have learned that the smaller the engine, the better the autobox needs to be. My previous 122s and P1800s, always with a stick and overdrive, had a “wow” factor when pushed hard.

With the Borg Warner tranny, the car simply seemed like it was half-asleep and would never wake up.

So Matt Crandall (911r on BaT) sold it for me. I was in it about $20k, and I think I got most of my money back.

It was quickly replaced by what has become a favorite, a 24,000-mile 1971 Jaguar E-type V12 coupe. The engine is magnificent, as is the A/C. It has copious amounts of power and can get you moving faster than the suspension and brakes are happy with. So careful but exuberant driving is in order.

I think I paid around $35,000 but I don’t exactly recall. I’ve put another $5k into it for “stuff” from Ed and Barb Grayson at Consolidated Autoworks and it has been great.

I’ve driven it on two SCM 1000 Tours, and I look forward to the next one.

I had a wonderful 1991 Porsche 928 S4 that I just couldn’t bond with. I have discovered that cars born in the transition from analog to digital era (like this one with its 60 fuses) are more complicated to live with than I want.

Somewhere in this time period SCM contributor and Turtle Garage founder Philip Richter seduced me into buying a 2004 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG.

With just 50,000 miles and always collector-owned, it has been both a revelation about how good cars have become (at 18 years old, it still seems like a new car to me). I paid full market, around $24,000.

I’ve put 7,000 delightful and trouble-free miles on it, driving to Montana twice with my son Bradley. I also drove it on the SCM 1000 AMG Invitational, and used it as a courtesy car on this year’s SCM 1000.

I had a new entertainment system with Car Play installed, and the AMG feels as modern as my daily driver, a 2021 Hyundai Elantra. (I’ve even found a compact rollator that fits in the SL’s smallish trunk, so I have increased mobility options.)

The SL55 has never disappointed me.

Sort of by accident, I acquired a wonderful, fully restored 1971 Citroën DS21 Pallas. I hadn’t owned a DS or ID in 30 years, so it was time to revisit the experience.

It had a BVH semi-automatic transmission, which allowed me to drive it. It performed perfectly on the SCM 1000 this year, driven by Ken Gross and Bill Warner.

However, my time with it is done; it has taught me all I want to know. Its restorer, SCMer Greg Long, is putting in on Bring a Trailer for me. I paid around $70,000 for it. I will be interested to see where the market is for that car now.

Next week I’ll bring you up to date on our four Alfas, and why three of them are having the dry-ice spa treatment right now.

Plus the German car we have acquired to take the place of the DS. “Non-stop,” indeed.

 

6 Comments

  1. Forrest Schuck

    Having had a similar 122 and a couple of autobox 140-series Volvos, I think you mean “torpid” rather than “turgid”. Perfectly described. Closest thing to a ‘50s Dynaflow.

  2. Jim Rosenthal

    Using the word “leisurely” to describe the Volvo’s progress from one light to the next would be entirely too kind. It’s amazing how a sluggish automatic will ruin a good manual-shift car. The current generations of automatics are so good that they encourage people who wouldn’t have dreamt of owning an automatic to actually have fun with the new ones. That said, a manual is STILL better.

    You may do quite well with your DS Citroen- the last DS Pallas models are the zenith of the line, and if everything works and the maintenance is all caught up, someone will want it. Hopefully, two someones, since a bidding competition will be to your advantage.

  3. John Gillespie

    Keith, I’m glad to hear you are putting in the good work of physical therapy and I hope you can get back to the joy of driving manual transmission vehicles. I find myself in a similar (by no means the same) situation. I herniated two discs in my lower back and have been experiencing pain and weakness in my clutch leg. A variety of medications and physical therapy have helped only slightly so I’m off to a specialist later this week. Much to my surprise I managed to get my three pedal sports car out and took a short drive around my neighborhood yesterday. Something I could only have dreamed about a few weeks ago. That short drive, mostly in second gear, really lifted my spirits. But it also got me thinking about an auto trans sports car. I think, if I had to, I could live with one. It sure beats the alternative of no sports car at all!

  4. Griffith DeNoyelles

    Keith: I sympathize but for less “fraught” reasons. At 74 and no longer track dating my GTV6 Alfa, driving in traffic became just too much work. I was the successful BaT bidder for a 1992 VW Corrado SLC VR6 with automatic trans. Not the same but boy is it better in heavy traffic.

    Keep working at doing what you like and stay safe.

    • Griffith,

      I think you bought an under the radar car – the VW Corrado – if you think about other 1992 cars this surely has to be the best at that price range.

      We are all proud of Keith – he continues to inspire and force us to pay too much money for overpriced cars that we wish for.

      Love to all

  5. Thomas Taylor

    One word: E-Type! 🙂

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