Keith’s Blog: Why I’m Not Buying a Lancia

I’ve owned well over 500 cars during the past 40 years. If I really got serious about counting them, I might reach 1,000.

They have ranged from ’62 Nova Wagons to Plymouth Superbirds to Ferrari 330 Americas to BMW Isettas.

There wasn’t a car that I couldn’t talk myself into. As Miles Collier noted, my collecting philosophy was centered around, “It’s red, I’ve never owned one and I can afford it.”

However, as I approach my maturity, my thoughts about collecting have changed.

I am no longer as interested in collecting marques and models that are new to me. I have also come to realize the staggering effort involved in making old cars into functioning machines.

Each car that is new to me has to have the suspension rebuilt, and often the engine and gearbox as well. Brakes are suspect. Seats need to be redone. It’s a lot of work, energy, time and money. The end result is a fine machine that is a joy to drive. But getting old cars to this condition is quite a chore.

A friend recently offered me a pair of Lancia Fulvias. One is a true 1.3 HF that I owned 30 years ago, and bought for $3,000 and sold for $3,250. The second is an alloy-bodied Fulvia Sport Zagato.

They are both reputed to be in decent shape, and the asking prices are within market range.

I thought long and hard about this, but I decided against the deal.

Over the past few years I have assembled a very tightly focused group of Alfa Romeos from 1958 to 1967. I now have one of each of the models of Alfas that mean the most to me and are within my budget.

Each of the cars represents a monumental financial and emotional investment. And these are cars that I have spent 50 years learning and loving. I’ve developed a knowledge base about of information, service, parts and other resources.

If I bought either or both of the Lancias, I’d be starting over. I’d have to learn what “correct” is for two models I am completely unfamiliar with. I’d need to find mechanics (none local to Portland, I’m afraid) to work on the cars and set them up properly.

But there’s something even more important going on here. I’ve just returned from a two-day, 500-mile Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon Tour. There were 30 cars on the tour, and we had a rollicking good time.

I don’t think there is a Lancia Club in Oregon, and if there is, it is not nearly as active as the Alfa Club.

So even if I got my Lancias finely fettled, I’d have no other Lancias to go out and play with. No matter how wonderful they are as cars, they’re not much fun sitting in a garage.

Perhaps this means that I have given up new challenges and am only interested in refining Alfas — the marque that I know best. Clearly I am denying myself the opportunity to experience how other vintage cars accelerate, handle and stop.

But I’m okay with that. I’d rather take the energy and money I’d put into the Lancias and use it to finish the Sprint Speciale that’s now been in the shop for two years.

I’ve got five Alfas in nice condition to use and enjoy, and one that should be finished this year. Attending to their minor needs is actually a source of pleasure rather than frustration.

So I’m going to let these Lancias go to someone else — someone who has more time and energy for them.

I’m settling in with my six Alfas, and going to keep refining them and using them.

By letting one opportunity pass by, I’m deciding to make the cars I already own better.

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

10 comments

  1. Betcha dollar you buy another non-Alfa.

    I’d also bet the Alfa club would let you bring a Lancia. And, you’d be quite popular for doing so.

    Having said that, my ’67 Fulvia is at Santo’s having the engine rebuilt. I’ve had it for about a year and already done all of the suspension (and much more). I’ve driven it maybe 4-5 times for 50 miles. I live in Kansas City. So, I know what you mean about the hassles of fettling. Still, buy the Lancias any way–sure to make the value of mine go up!

  2. I agree, mostly. As we mature we have less time and learned lessons along the way about prioritization. I used to own seven special interest cars, Alfas, Jaguars, Maserati, MG and Corvair. The MGTC is now in NZ, that’s good and better there for me to visit. The Maserati likewise needs a younger enthusiast, its a Vignale Spider. I’ll likely sell a Jag soon too. However I take exception with your observation about car clubs. They should be more inclusive rather than exclusive as our hobby matures with us and old enthusiasts pass on.

  3. After 50 years of restoring and collecting interesting automobiles I find that it is important to sometimes switch gears and move to an entirely different type of automobile. By doing so you will learn new things, have new experiences, and most importantly make new friends.

    My experiences with cars has taken me from Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts to vintage racing and about everything in between including a couple of 300SL’s and a Ferrari 250 GT #997.

    Our British Sports Car club here in Tampa Bay has great members who own Corvettes, and other American iron. I would suggest not getting too narrow as we age in this hobby.

  4. It maKes perfect sense. Perhaps Jerry Seinfeld had this very same paradigm shift a few decades ago.

  5. Good for you Keith. There’s a lot to be said for focussing your efforts.

    Me, well my approach is that my collection needs one daily driver, one grand tourer, one convertible, one supercar, one stylish and practical four door, one pre-war sporty, and one race car.

    The ideal would be if I could find one car that does all those things (Lagonda??), but until then I’m glad I now have a Lancia to accompany the Alfa*-)

  6. Keith my shoe string budget is shorter than yours. I sold all my Fiats and Lancias back in the 90’s. I sold all my non-Alfa 164s about 2003 when I bought another house. I have whittled down my 164s to three when I sold Fred DeMatteo’s white 91 164L last November. I had already sold Jane Bartel’s 91 164B in last August. I bought my first 164B new in 1991 and it hooked me on that model. Spica Spider, GTV6 and Milanos did not do it for me.

  7. Hello Mr. Keith is very hard to compare Alfa Romeo and Lancia because the Alfa Romeo was officially imported to the U.S.A. in till 1992. Lancia did not bring cars after 1968. I am pretty sure you know the history. Now I agree with you that less Lancia’s are available and less mechanics are available who know the car. But let’s focus in the Fulvia model my car I have owned over 20 Lancia’s and I have sold over 20 Lancia’s to customers in the past 12 years so things are changing and I will continue to improve the Lancia Fulvia’s experience for the future buyers as soon. I will open a Lancia service shop in Los Angeles. Change is

  8. What you and Rob Siegel do with the cars represents the best of the car hobby. They were made to be driven.

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