As I write this, it’s Monday morning and Day Three of this year’s journey from Portland, OR to Monterey Car Week.
Our 1967 Alfa GTV has covered over 700 miles and is packed and ready for the final leg.
My co-pilot is SCM styling and design analyst Robert Cumberford, who started this trip from his home in Saint-Geniès, France, a village about 350 miles southwest of Paris.
Traveling with someone who has spent their entire life around the giants of the automotive industry, including Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell and Chuck Jordan, has led to invigorating conversations. We seem to spend a lot of time making snarky comments about the vehicles we are passing, many of them from the “Godzilla — Size Matters” school of design.
This is my first extended trip in the GTV. For the past year, we’ve been chasing down a vibration in the driveline that had all the experts scratching their heads. Finally, Doug Hartman determined that the driveshaft that had been professionally balanced a year ago was still not right. We took the driveshaft back to the shop, they found their error, and 36 hours later we were on the road, the car running more smoothly than ever.
Cumberford and I have talked about how important it is for old cars to be put “right.” If you drive them with worn-out suspensions, crappy brakes and substandard engines and gearboxes, you simply won’t get the experience that caused you to fall in love with these cars in the first place.
The GTV is 50 years old, and many of the cars we love are even older.
We’ve learned that it takes enormous amount of time, energy and money to bring them back to top condition. Essentially, they need to be reconditioned from the ground up, from stem to stern.
Further, those who understand the essence of these old cars — and know how to put them right — should do the work. This is not work for amateurs or beginners.
We’re taking a leisurely route this year. For the past 29 years, when I’ve driven from Portland to Monterey, I’ve done it in two days. Day One takes us down Interstate 5 from Portland to Cottage Grove, and then we cut over to Bandon, OR, for a favorite meal of fish and chips. From there, we head to Eureka, CA for the locally-caught fresh fish of the day at the Sea Grill. We’ve never been disappointed.
Day Two has always been a grind. We go through Ferndale and along the Lost Coast, following a route I was introduced to by Martin Swig, founder of the California Mille. We end up in Monterey at the end of the day, but it’s always nasty passing through the San Francisco Bay Area during rush hour.
This year, Cumberford and I are pretending to be grownups, and we are taking a more relaxing route. We stopped at Novato for the night, and had delicious grilled salmon at the Hilltop Inn.
Our plan for today, Monday, is to drive down the east side of the San Francisco Bay, passing through Berkeley and Oakland. It’s about a three-hour drive, which will put us into Monterey in the early afternoon.
The GTV has been spectacular. It cruises easily at 80 mph, which is just 4,000 rpm in 5th gear (I’ve installed a 4.1 rear end replacing the stock 4.5). Even though it has been nearly 100 degrees outside, the car has a very efficient ventilation system — including vent windows — and we’ve been comfortable.
Cumberford has always been a fan of Alfas, and he bought a Giulia Super new from the factory. He never drove a GTV before this trip, and he has been effusive about the pleasure of driving the car — and the memories it brings back of his Super.
So far, in 700 miles we haven’t burned a drop of oil, and have been averaging 24 mpg. I’ve discovered the 185/65/15 tires on the car are rubbing slightly when the car is fully loaded; I’ll source a slightly smaller size when I get back to Portland. If you have suggestions, I’d like to hear them.
Last year I drove our 1967 Duetto to Monterey, and what I’ve learned from that was that driving an old car to Monterey is a first-rate appetizer for the main course ahead.
I look forward to seeing all of you during Monterey Car Week. I’ll be at the Concours on the Avenue with the Bradley GT on Tuesday.
I’m leading a SCM Consignment Tour at 10 am Wednesday at the Gooding & Company Auction in Pebble Beach. www.sportscarmarket.com/monterey2017
On Wednesday evening, we’ll visit Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival 2017 at the Monterey Jet Center.
On Friday, I’m emcee of Legends of the Autobahn.
I’m emcee of Concorso Italiano on Saturday.
On Sunday, we’ll all be at the world’s best and most-exclusive concours — the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
I’m sure you have your share of car stories as well, and I look forward to hearing them.