If I don’t drive my old cars in the winter, I feel like I am losing out on part of the ownership experience.
Growing up in San Francisco, with its temperate weather, I recall keeping a down-filled parka behind the seats of my Bugeye Sprite. I never put the top up, and the little bit of warmth that came from its Smiths heater, combined with my cold-weather jacket, was enough to allow me to keep the top down all year long.
There’s something special about driving a convertible in cold weather with the top down. You are a part of the world, instead of observing it through the front and rear windows. The smells of the city and country become part of what you experience. Inevitably, you’ll have a ruddy complexion by the end of your trip.
But it isn’t just an old car that let’s you have that crisp-weather experience. One of my favorite memories with my daughter Alex is of driving our 2000 Porsche Boxster S home from Bend, Oregon, after attending the Oregon Festival of Cars.
It was mid-September, and the frost was thick on the car when we headed out at 6 a.m. We put the top down, switched on the heater and heated seats, made sure the wind-blocker was properly installed, rolled up the side windows, bundled ourselves up and headed out Highway 26.
With the top down, we watched the sky turn from black to dark blue to pale blue to day.
We drove through through Madras, crossed Mt. Hood via Government Camp and arrived home four hours later. We passed people in hard-top cars with their windows up — for them, it was just a trip. For us, it was an adventure.
Perhaps I should make a point of taking the 1967 Alfa Duetto out this winter, at least on a clear day. It has an effective heater, and it deserves to be exercised. It’s hardly a concours-prepared car, so a little more dirt won’t really affect its appearance. I know I’ve got a winter jacket hanging in a closet somewhere, along with a cap with earflaps and some lightweight insulated gloves.
With the right attitude and a little extra gear, my old cars engage me just as they did when I was younger — turning ordinary activities into adventures that I can reminisce about with my children and friends, long after the events themselves have passed.