I’m wrestling with the “size” question again.
What should a “right-sized” collection look like? And what should the philosophy behind the cars selected be? How many cars is enough?
First, with a nod of the head to vintage car events, I would suggest you need two pre-1975 cars, one open and one closed. While some events have more stringent model-year requirements, the older a car is, the more difficult it is to get into “event-ready” condition, and the more it will beat you up as you drive it.
Having driven a 1947 Nardi-Abarth Siata in the 1991 Mille Miglia, I can attest to what it is like to lock yourself into a dryer set on spin cycle for 1,000 miles. The Siata had a “hopped up” 750-cc four-cylinder engine, cycle fenders, no doors and no top.
If I were offered the chance to drive it another 1,000 miles, I think I would offer it to my daughter, Alexandra. My time driving cars that punish me, mile-by-mile, has passed.
We chose the 1974 cutoff for the SCM 1000 as the 1965-74 era saw some quite wonderful cars. As smog and safety regulations began to influence cars, nearly every model from every manufacturer looked less elegant and offered less performance by 1975.
I have always liked cars with back seats, no matter how tiny. You can carry someone along for a short distance, or throw your travel bags back there. One of my most memorable trips was in a 308 GT4 that I bought from Bruce Trenery at Fantasy Junction. SCMer (and now Giulia Super owner) Richard Lincoln and I drove it back from the Bay Area to Portland. Squeezed in the back seat were Bradley and Richard’s dog, Carrera. And we had a trunk for our bags!
Good examples are any 911, Alfa GTV or MGB GT. Our 1971 Jag S3 V12 2+2 coupe ticks that box for us.
You also need to be able to cruise comfortably at 70 mph. America is a big country, and nearly every vintage event will have lengthy transits.
Putting a five-speed transmission, most often from a Japanese economy car, into an MGA or MGB simply transforms the car. Buzzing along at 4,000 rpm at 65 mph for hours on end isn’t much fun.
Our 1967 Duetto gives us an open car, with a five-speed, exemplary handling and enough power.
I always upgrade the suspensions of the cars I am driving. I’ve never been very interested in mods that significantly increase horsepower; I’ve owned Vipers and driven Veyrons. If you need big horsepower, buy a car that starts out equipped that way.
Even 1.8 liters and 90 hp will let you keep up with traffic. A good suspension will let you carry your speed with you through the turns. While front disc-brakes are a plus, if you drive a drum-braked car the way it was meant to be driven when new, you will be just fine. Just be aware that every Kia in the world can brake in a shorter distance than you can.
Let’s get back to the collection. I also think you should have something fun for casual off-road use. Land Rover Defender 90s more than 25 years old are coming into this country with some regularity. I find the prices of the NAS spec D90s to be ludicrous; I would have a Rover expert do a thorough pre-purchase inspection of anything coming in from overseas as they are often totally used up before being shipped to us. The turbo-diesel engines are magnificent off-road.
A Discovery that has been well-kept is an affordable choice as well. But that’s another car that requires a PPI by someone who really knows what they are looking at.
My final car would be a fully depreciated super car, like the SCM AMG SL 55. If you search thoughtfully, you can find one for under $25,000 with under 50,000 miles that you can drive to the moon and back.
Recall that we rarely put more than 3,000 miles a year on our collector cars. So if you think you can go 20,000 miles before a valve job or head gasket, that is nearly seven years of use.
No longer are these daily drivers that get 15,000 miles of use a year and are left parked outside.
That leaves me with a four-car collection. Two early cars for vintage events, a 4WD for casual off-roading, and a 15-year-old depreciated modern super car for gobbling up long distances.
I’m sure you agree then, four cars should be plenty for anyone.
Then why do I still have ten? You’re not expecting me to sell the Lotus Elise, the Volvo 122, the 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce or the 1971 Junior Zagato are you? I’m sure it won’t take me long to justify owning every one of them…