I’m one of those kids whose birthday comes close to Christmas – December 22 in my case. I recall wallets and bottles of Jade East cologne with notes that said, “Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.”

I’ve learned to give myself the gifts that matter. Each Christmas, I take my family to see the Nutcracker and watch the evil Mouse King meet his demise. On my actual birthday, I take my family out to a nice dinner. No shopping for food, no cooking, no cleaning up. It’s a calming rather than frenetic experience.

I also make a little list of the things I would like to do for my small car collection. It’s winter and they are mostly dormant, so now is the time to address little aggravations before they become big ones in the spring.

My list is small. The Lotus Elise could use a new set of tires, but I hesitate to spend the nearly $1,500 until we are ready to start using the car again. It’s Alexandra’s favorite, but with the demands of her job and her recent engagement, she hasn’t been in the car in two years.

The Giulia Spider Veloce needs a new speedometer cable. It was ordered from Jon Norman at Alfa Parts months ago and is now at Nasko’s waiting to be installed.

I have to teach myself how to operate the vacuum operated hand-clutch in the Junior Zagato; I’ve been successful in parking lots but need a sunny winter day to test it out on the highway in the Columbia Gorge.

I’ve also got to order the little plastic bits that go on the heat and air levers on the Z. The last time someone got into the center console they removed and didn’t replace them (why?) and it’s the kind of thing that makes me crazy when the rest of the car is so right. But that’s just another phone call to Norman.

As an aside, I’m a little frustrated by the path of my clutch-leg rehab. I’ve had a couple of setbacks and am not as strong as I was two years ago. But my doctors tell me if I was strong then, I can be strong again. They keep using the word patience, which I barely know how to pronounce, let alone spell. My habit is to do and then overdo; my New Year’s Resolution is to be more disciplined.

The Duetto has new tires and is really all set to go. It was delivered with relatively rare (for a U.S.-spec car) covered headlights that included a small chrome trim ring under the plexiglass. Most Duettos have the headlights recessed completely into the fenders with no headlight ring. I like that look better, but I also respect the “as-delivered” aspect of my car. This is definitely a first-world problem.

SCM contributor Greg Long came to the SCM holiday party (our first in two years) and brought along a fresh solenoid that cured the starting problem with the DS21. It’s a delightful car and I look forward to learning more about it. All I need is more seat time.

Our 2000 Land Rover Discovery II has been fully kitted-out by Doug Shipman and is ready for the next snow run. From Rovers North, he fitted steel bumpers front and rear, along with rock sliders. It’s not a hard-core off-road rig like my D90 was, but getting rid of the plastic fascias will keep them from getting torn off on the trails. It’s got a problem with one of the door locks, but Mike Christopherson at Pro-Tek, where we store some of our cars, says it is simple and he will attend to it.

We’re waiting for clear weather to run the ’71 Jaguar E-Type V12 coupe to the Graysons at Consolidated. The brake-fluid warning light keeps coming on. Ed Grayon has already replaced the cork float in the fluid reservoir, so they want to see if there is fluid leaking into the booster. But other than that, the car is on the button and continues to be a delight to drive.

That brings us to the SL55 AMG. It has been fully fettled by Mike Burback and performed flawlessly on the SCM 1000. With the new Apple CarPlay stereo and screen installed, it navigates and communicates like a much newer car. I recommend this upgrade to anyone with an older car that has space in the dash. It will transform your touring experience.

Lurking in the background of all of this is Bradley’s impending 15th birthday this May, when he will take the test to get his learner’s permit. In my mind, the closer he gets to being behind the wheel, the larger and safer I want the car to be. Let him get a few thousand miles under his belt before he starts to take an archaic sporty car out on a twisty road.

The Jaguar has always been his favorite, but I think the Disco would be a much more logical choice to venture into today’s traffic.

That’s how I’m celebrating my birthday and Christmas. Spending time with my family, making a car fix-it list and checking it twice, and counting down the days until Bradley is ready to slide behind the wheel.

I wish you and yours a fulfilling holiday season.



  1. Merry Christmas to all (the cars), and to all a good night!

    Keith and family, too. And Happy Birthday!

  2. K:
    Loved your birthday message. Have you considered a 280SL in your garage? I have one now, with enhanced AC, and chose automatic for the Sarasota traffic nuisance. Transplanted a taller rear axle gear. No carburetors, no drum brakes makes this EZ to keep ready to tour. Alex

  3. Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas…. I thought my list was long, but maybe I am still swinging at the big rocks… Much rather be dealing with the smalls… Good luck and look forward to the hearing of the fruits of the labor.

  4. Merry Christmas, Keith! I remember back when you had a Midget that was ostensibly going to be Bradley’s first car, my mama instincts were horrified. 😀

  5. The 2nd car I had as a kid growing up in Ft. Lauderdale was a 1969 Citroen DS-21 (1st one was a ’63 Opal Kadett wagon)… an engineering marvel of an automobile way ahead of it’s time that I used to call “The Chick Magnet”. It’s still on the road w/a collector in S. FL. It was the most comfortable car in the Universe “according to me” – beautifully appointed, exquisite leather interior – it was very obscure then & even more so now in automotive history. That single spoke, sweeping steering wheel & smooth semi-automatic trans shifter operated by a mere flick of a pinkie finger was akin to controlling a Saturn 5 rocket entering deep space. I once had it up to 119mph on St. Augustine Beach (as in on the sand) being faster than I’d ever driven before & since. Until the hydraulic pump that controlled virtually every aspect of it went out… causing me to switch to a 1970 Honda N600 mini – that subsequently became the 2nd vehicle I regretted trading… If that ’69 Citroen could talk it would be scandalous! The unfortunate consequences of being young & under-funded, albeit w/exceptional taste in automobiles, drove me to a life of various type 1 & type 2 air-cooled VW’s. As they say “Hindsight is 20/20” – I should have kept all of them…

  6. Both of the explanations about car racing have been accepted. I had a great time reading your essay.