The Oregon Festival of Cars is coming up next weekend. The brainchild of SCM’s Legal Files contributor John Draneas, it’s a relaxed way to spend a weekend in Bend, OR, looking at old cars and chatting with friends. It also marks the unofficial end of “car season” in our area.

SCM is a long-time sponsor, and we will be coming over in two cars. Several of us will meet up just south of Portland at Ron Tonkin Ferrari, and from there it is about a 165-mile trip. There will probably be five or six cars in our caravan. 

Last year our trip was eventful, as it was the first time we had put our recently acquired 1971 Mercedes 250C into service. To be brief, it ran like crap all the way there and back. The factory smog-crippled Zenith carbs either stalled at every inopportune moment (railroad crossings, etc.) or refused to make more than 10 mousepower under load. They have since been replaced by pair of Webers.

We took the car on the SCM 1000 this year, and it performed admirably. It’s a fantastic highway cruiser. So, my partner Schön and I will take the 250C.

The question is which car should Bradley drive? He’s got three to choose from, some more ready than others.

One choice is our 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider S4. Its rebuilt a/c works great, and with freshly calibrated gauges and new senders, a driver can actually have a sense of what the water temperature and oil pressure are. It’s a fun and comfy driver. A bonus, if the weather is cooperative, he could put the top down.

A second option would be his 1982 Collector’s Edition Corvette. After replacing the shocks and doing some other work, he recently put 600 miles on it. In traffic during recent 100-degree weather the car overheated. But after things calmed down, we believe the water level was just too low to begin with. It’s since been running reliably at 200 degrees.

An area of concern is that once, while driving at 45 mph, without warning, the car quit. No power. Zip. No ignition, no cranking, nothing. He coasted to the side of the road, waited a couple of minutes and it fired up immediately. We have not driven the car enough since then to get the problem to repeat. And unless we can get a total failure, there’s no practical way to figure out what is going on.

I would hate to have the car fail while crossing Mt. Hood and out of cell phone service range. On the plus side, while not a convertible, the t-tops come off and it’s almost like having the top down.

The final choice would be the newest addition to the SCM Fleet, our 1975 911S Sportomatic.

While we have had the car since last October, it’s taken this long to get it ready for a trip. Editor-In-Chief Jeff Sabatini drove it to Bend recently, and reported the oil seemed too hot, and the suspension too firm.

We had our resident 911 Guru Al Blanchard at A&P Specialties install a pair of Elephant Racing oil coolers. On the Sportomatic, the engine oil is shared with the torque converter, so extra cooling capacity is almost a requirement as an oil cooler was not standard. Al replaced the frozen OEM shocks with Bilstein B6s all around, and I had him set the ride height to stock European spec.

The difference in the ride was miraculous. Bradley has driven the car a few times, and actually operates the Sporto better than I do. As he has no idea what a manual-shift 911 should feel like, he is just operating the car in a way that makes it work.

We have no reason to think that it might fail, but then, we generally have no reason to think any car might fail.

Until it does.

So, which should it be for Bradley and his 400-mile round trip to Bend? The Alfa, the Corvette or the Porsche? And if you’re near Bend, come join us on Saturday at the Deschutes Historical Museum. Find out if your choice was the same as his. Or, if he actually arrives in one of the three cars we discussed.



  1. Hi Keith, given those choices the Alfa Romeo Spider S4 strikes me as just the right mix of sportività and modern car technology for a relatively worry-free road trip.

  2. Porsche, always my go to car …tho I must admit no familiarity with auto

  3. Beginning in the early 70s, I was a “Parts Guy”, first as the parts manager for an Alfa dealership (plus Triumph and Citroen). Later I spent a long time with BAP/ Geon.

    When you serve customers seeking parts for imported cars it’s unavoidable that you’ll observe various personality traits unequally distributed by type of car.

    Mostly we shared humor and sympathy with all types. With rare exception, we all owned one or more types ourselves.

    But. Don’t let Bradley become a “Porsche owner”. It has insidious long term effects that causes a parts guy to roll his eyes when one pulls up in front of the store. We understand they are fine vehicles. That’s not the point. They seem to cause their owners to assume an exalted status superior to us Parts Guys. That’s just a bad strategy. We have powers you will need someday.

  4. Alfa…no possible negatives mentioned. Less potential for unwanted road drama

  5. Supposedly, Ben Franklin said, “An optimist is frequently disappointed, while a pessimist is often pleasantly surprised.” Let’s assume that Bradley’s car is destined to break down. Which of the three do you want to try to fix by the roadside?

  6. Go with the Porsche, you won’t go wrong!

  7. Given the tough choices, my thought would be the Alpha, but the Porsche is a close second. A question that begs answering, however, is why isn’t the V-12 E-Type in the mix?

  8. Keith, regarding the Corvette check the firewall wiring harness connectors. Corrosion of the internal connections is an easy fix, just disconnect the battery, wire brush the green away and all will be well.

  9. Alfa all the way (with the top down of course!!)

  10. A common issue on later C-3 Corvettes is the wire harness connector halves at the bulkhead – water intrusion causes terminal corrosion and intermittent electrical issues. That being said, I would NEVER take a cross-fire injection Corvette (or Camaro) on a long trip. Period.

    I think your best bet is the Alfa. Plus, it’s a fun driver as well!

  11. Porsches will seldom disappoint