Keith’s Blog: Which Slushbox for the 2020 SCM 1000?

I’m a planner. There’s always a chance that my clutch leg won’t be fully operational time for the 2020 SCM 1000.

I plan on driving the route, so I’ve been musing about affordable, 1974-and-earlier two-pedal options.

If I had an unreasonable budget, my first two choices would be either an Iso Lele or a Maserati Ghibli coupe. Both have engines powerful enough to mask the power-and-joy-robbing characteristics of the 3-speed automatics from that era.

However, both cars are well over $75,000, and I don’t see this as a long-term ownership play.

I wouldn’t mind an Alfetta sedan, but the smog-crippled engines coupled with the dreadful ZF automatics don’t really make up for how affordable (cheap?) they are. The best one in the world should be under $10,000.

I’ve learned that you soon forget a bargain price when you get behind the wheel of a deficient car. You instantly wish you had spent more and gotten something better.

Just to sour the pot a little more, ZF forced Alfa to buy their load-leveling rear suspension for the Alfetta when they sold them the automatic. Luckily, by now most of those complicated and unreliable rear suspensions have been swapped out for a simpler stock unit.

My two favorites for the tour would be a Series III V12 Jaguar coupe or a Citroën DS21.

I owned an auto Jag coupe, and it was a delightful cruiser. One of the advantages of any sports car with an automatic is that the engines were rarely — if ever — run hard. The transmissions of the era simply weren’t built for quick shifts up or down.

The V12 makes prodigious power, and the a/c, power brakes and steering make this an exceptionally comfortable cruiser. While the hunchback 2+2 styling is unfortunate, it does provide space for luggage in the back. And friends with short legs will fit perfectly into the rear seats.

I think I could find a nicely fettled one for $30k to $40k — especially in these winter months, as the market continues to cool down.

Aside from the styling, the only drawback is that these are large cars on the outside, with cramped footwells on the inside. However, I can see enjoying 1,000 miles of Oregon two-lane roads in one.

Finally, I’m getting a hankering to own a Citroën DS21 automatic. I owned a down-market ID19 when I was growing up in San Francisco. A 1959 model, it was only seven years old. It was fun, comfortable and quiet.

For all things Citroën, I refer to our resident baguette specialist, Greg Long of Citroëns of Cascadia in Seattle. Join the Facebook Group Citroens of Cascadia to learn more. Or go to: https://www.foundmotorcars.com

If I edge closer to a purchase, I know he will provide me with a mind-numbing amount of minutia. But I’m not quite there yet.

Long says a good DS21 should run $25k to $35k, and he just happens to have a couple for sale. Funny how that happens.

I’m in no hurry. My clutch leg is improving daily and I fully expect to be driving my Alfa Junior Z on the tour. But it never hurts to be thinking ahead.

I welcome your thoughts and suggestions on this topic.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

19 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Much as I’m a Jag man, I’d nix the V-12 E-type and start Jonesing for a 4.2 Series 1 with 4 speed when your clutch foot is ready for action again. In the meantime, the Maserati Ghibli would be my choice for the tour. And I think its value will creep up while the others on your list will decline a bit before coming back. Just a hunch…

  2. Keith,

    Why not keep the flexibility of a manual transmission without the need for a clutch pedal? I suggest you consider a Porsche 911 Sportomatic. Shift all you want, while your left leg relaxes.

    TC

    1. The sportomatic is a great option. I own a 73 911E with the original sportomatic, and as I get older and my hips and knees seem to be wearing out more quickly, I enjoy the car immensely.

  3. Great, funny article, Keith! Do you ever wonder how successful Citroen would have been with some beautiful bodied cars? Great riding machines, they are! Go for it- and keep it in reserved should your leg heal sufficiently.

    1. Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder… or the most accomplished auto designers in history….

      Feb 6, 2009

      A panel of well-known car designers recently voted on what they thought was the most beautiful car of all time. While Ferrari garnered the most votes as a brand, the Citroen DS received the most votes as an individual car.

      The Citroen DS is a beautiful car regarded as a technical masterpiece in addition to winning praise for its sculpted exterior. The DS’s self-leveling suspension, power steering, and amazing clutch and brake feel (compared to cars of the time) helped the car achieve its status as a technical wonder and a mechanic’s nightmare. The car’s exterior was styled by Italian sculptor Flaminio Bertoni and became an instant classic.

      Classic & Sports Car magazine brought together the judging panel that consisted of well-known designers including Ian Callum, Gordon Murray, Peter Stevens, and Giorgetto Giugiaro…

      https://www.automobilemag.com/news/top-car-designers-voted-citroen-ds-most-beautiful-car-of-all-time-655/

  4. While this may be blasphemy to the ears of a true Alfista, have you considered a 69-71 C3 Corvette? The big block cars had the TH-400 transmission. I had a 71 LS5 back in the day. A daily driver, and occasional rally and autocross weekender for 6 years. And when your leg is better, you can pass it on to your team at ACC. I’m sure one of them would love to take it on the tour

  5. Keith, standing by!

    PS for those that want to learn more about Citroening in the USA / Canada join Citroens of Cascadia on Facebook and/or check out my website at https://wwwFoundMotorcars.com and/or my ad on SCM Magazine for a wonderful (and genuine) ’67 DS Chapron Convertible!

  6. Keith – you may want to expand to Japanese (Z car, etc.) or German brands. As you know Japanese cars are getting really hot.

  7. There are lots of Vettes, Mustangs, Camaros, and even V8 Falcons, etc. out there with autos too. But Maybe not eligible for your portfolio😉

  8. Keith,
    I would suggest considering a Peugeot 404 or 504 Coupe automatique. Pleasurable car and a good opportunity to do a tour with one.

  9. To shift or not to shift?. This is the question. In 2003 I purchased a new Miata MX-5. I was all gung ho for the manual transmission. A click shifter on my favorite winding twisties! What could be better. The only problem is my wife insisted on an automatic since she doesn’t drive a manual. She had past experience with a shift and didn’t like it at all. So it came down to, do I want to keep the clutch and ignore my wife, or keep the wife happy and do without the clutch? I decided it was happy wife, happy life so I bought the automatic. I still have the car and have never looked back wishing I had held out for the manual. In fact, when I drive the car I’ve found I can more easily concentrate on the line I want to drive which actually increases the fun factor.

  10. 1. Jag XJ6. The V12 isn’t necessary. Relax and enjoy the cruise.
    2. Why not go with the inventor of the automatic? Go American! Get something big. My preference would be from the Mopar family, 1950s era. Or perhaps Studebaker/Packard from same era. If you want to get something from later, a Buick Rivera or a Toronado couldn’t fail to make a statement. Plus they are easy to get in an out of.

  11. This sounds like the perfect opportunity to hunt out the intriguing but still underappreciated NSU Ro80, with clutchless manual. IMO this would trounce an ISO or Ghibli in the engineering interest stakes.

    Or perhaps a more achievable option could be a similarly clutchless Karmann Ghia. Much cooler than a Porsche!

  12. An Automatic 240Z is actually not a bad choice, nimble and reliable with plenty of room for baggage. The early 911 Sportmatics were, in the hands of someone who could run them, pretty good sports cars.