Keith’s Blog: To Denver and Back in the Same Morning, Plus New Year’s Resolutions

daves 69_mini

Facebook followers already know that my day started early on Friday, December 29, with a 5:45 am flight to Denver from Portland. At 11:25 am, I flew back home. Of course, to most of the world this would seem like madness, but just 1,850 miles from achieving coveted “Premiere Executive” status on United, it was a small price to pay for bonus miles, faster upgrades and the like for all of 2012.

It seems to me that jets have become the Greyhound buses of the 21st century, with constantly full flights, crammed overhead bins, surcharges for nearly everything and constantly rising fares. As a result, the mere notion of waived luggage fees and a nominally bigger seat feels like personally discovering the Holy Grail.

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But the New Year has arrived, and it’s time to talk cars. (Suddenly even the most austere Bug Eye Sprite seems like an upgrade from coach on Frontier.) You’d think that after all these years of buying and selling, some the resolutions described below would be self-evident, but I’ve proven myself a slow learner when it comes to navigating the passion and logic of adding a car to the SCM collection.

Keith’s Blog: It’s My Birthday, and I’ll Buy If I Want To

Last Thursday marked one more happy year of existence on this planet for me, and unsurprisingly, it put me in a car-shopping mood. I casually posed the question of  what to buy on my Facebook wall and had twenty responses in less than six hours. Here are some of the highlights.

Harvey Briggs recommended an Austin-Healey 3000.

Alex Martin-Banzer recommended a Porsche 911 SC.

James Long recommended a 1960s Mini Cooper S.

Joe Beckner recommended an Alfa Sprint Speciale.

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Keith’s Blog: Look Homeward, Volvo!

As SCM readers are keenly aware, the key to buying any old car is turning the process into an adventure. I knew that picking up the newly purchased 1973 Volvo 1800 ES with four-year-old Bradley would have to be full of first-times if I wanted the experience to compare with fresh and visceral memories of Disneyland, whence we had just returned.  (We rode every thrill ride his 43” height would allow, including the Hollywood Tower, where he remarked in the plummeting elevator, “Gee, Dad, those ghosts don’t look very real,” and the Matterhorn—“I didn’t know snow monsters had red eyes”—as I struggled to keep from tossing my cookies.)

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Keith’s Blog: Last Year You Sold me a Range Rover, This Year Sell Me a P1800!

It’s Road Trip Time

It’s time for my annual fly-and-buy road trip with my daughter, Alex. She’s returning home for Christmas break after a semester studying marketing and business management in Grenoble, France, and she’s already asking what we’re going to buy this year.

Last year I was on the hunt for a Range Rover to use for our “civilized” off-roading; the crude part was served by our Series III rig (which has since gone to Colin Comer’s father  – I know, if Colin REALLY loved his dad why would he stick him in a mobile Waring Blender?). The SIII was replaced by our turbo-diesel D90.

SCMer Jeffrey Stout of Manhattan Beach contacted me, and I was immediately seduced by his 1989 Range Rover Classic – in fact he had even taken Sir Stirling Moss for a ride in it (presumably not off-road). Alex and I flew down and drove it back to Portland, where it has become a much-beloved member of the SCM stable.

Keith’s Blog: What Do You Want Under Your Tree This Year?

For those in need of a reason to buy a car, the holiday season offers the perfect excuse. As my birthday comes near Christmas, I conjure up even more fantastical justifications.

It’s the time of year that you’re likely to hear phrases like these from around the SCM office:

     “It’s Christmas, I deserve an Alfa Sprint.”

     “I haven’t bought a car in months, and I need one more Lotus before the year is out.”

     “If I buy a TR6 before the end of the year—for business purposes of course—I can take an entire year’s depreciation.” 

Keith’s Blog: Audi S6 Avant vs. P1800—And the Rovers Are Ready To Rumble

Well, 73 blog comments later, my search has narrowed. I appreciate the knowledge, enthusiasm and opinions you’ve all shared during the past week, and you have definitely propelled things forward.

Here’s where we stand. I’ve located a gray / gray 1995.5 Audi Avant in the Pacific Northwest that seems like a good candidate for the SCM fleet, with an asking price of $7,000. I’ve forwarded the information to my new-best-Audi-friend, Mark Weiner, President of Concours Cars of Colorado. He is the SCMer responsible for the Audi shenanigans; his email to me mentioned that he had extensive experience with all three of the cars I was considering—the BMW 2002tii, the Volvo P1800 and the Alfa Berlina—with two in his shop at that very moment.

As much as he liked the cars, he thought the one-year-only S6 Avant would trump them all and offer a worthwhile new driving experience for us here. The one I’m currently considering is the only Avant I’ve found available in the entire country. So I’ve sent him the pictures and history, and I’ll let you know his recommendation.

At the same time, three gurus from the local Portland Round Fender Volvo Club have banded together to help me sift through the surprisingly large number of P1800s for offer on both Craigslist and eBay. Dean Koehler, Cameron Love and Peter Eulau are evaluating the links I’m sending them, and Dean has even gone so far as to make a couple of phone calls on my behalf. It’s the first time I’ve ever had my own personal scouting team!

The search has narrowed.  There is a white/blue 1973 wagon (ES) listed in Washington; same owner for many years, properly maintained, with a Buy-It-Now price of $15,000. It looks nicely used.

Keith’s Blog: Is it P1800 time? Or Would a 1995 Audi S6 Trump All?

Passions and opinions run deep in the world of sports cars. To the many, many people who emailed me their suggestions as to whether the next addition to the SCM stable should be an Alfa Berlina, a BMW 2002 tii “roundie” or a Volvo P1800, I thank you.

Just when I thought I had settled on an 1800, a subscriber from Colorado opined that the one-year-only 1995 Audi S6 was better than all three of the older cars combined. Turbocharged, five cylinders, all-wheel drive, locking diff heated rear seats, what more could anyone want? I’m not fluent in modern cars but look forward to reading your blog comments on this one. 

As far as the older cars go, a few sentiments resonated particularly strongly: “The Alfa looks like the tissue box the other cars came in. Nothing beats the sound or the handling, everything else beats the appearance and lack of reliability. You’ve already got two Alfas, get something else.”

“You’ll never be happier than when you wind out the tii and scoot away from the competition. Not much of a looker, but comfortable and easy to live with. Best updated with a 5-speed from a 320i. At the end of the day, just one more BMW.”

“Who would ever brag about owning a Swedish car? Drivetrain sourced from a tractor. Goofball looks. Terrific reliability.”

Keith’s Blog: What’s Next – P1800, 2002 tii or Berlina?

Christmas is approaching, and I’m wondering what to get SCM to celebrate the holidays. In the past few months, we’ve sold our Series III Land Rover 88, our Volvo 544 and all three of our MGBs. Our Mercedes Ponton went away as well, but through mishap rather than planning.

So it’s time to think about what to add to the SCM collection. Topping the list of my current first choices are an early, pre-1968 Volvo P1800, a roundie BMW 2002tii or a euro-spec Alfa 1750 Berlina. I think decent driver examples of each can be found under $15,000 and should provide entertainment for the coming winter months.

Keith’s Blog: Sensory Bombardment at SEMA

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, in that case, here is the pictorial equivalent of 25,000 words, which is still not sufficent to describe the sprawling acreage of automotive sensory bombardment that is SEMA. It wasn’t our first time at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show, but there really is no amount of mental preparation for such a massive event. You could walk for three days non-stop and still not see it all—which is exactly what the SCM team did. It’s an industry-only event focused on aftermarket parts, and you have to either be buying something, selling something, or a member of the media to score a ticket. In addition to repping SCM, we handed out promotional materials for our new title American Car Collector. The magazine was very well received, and we returned home eager to put the finishing touches on the first issue, slated to hit mailboxes and newsstands by the end of the month. Here are a few shots from our trip.

Keith’s Blog: Our 25th Anniversary

Our January issue, which ships to the printer in a couple of weeks, will mark the beginning of our 25th year of publishing Sports Car Market. The 1960 MGA that was 27 years old in 1987, when we began, is now 52. In 1987, chances are it was very, very worn out, or “gently used” at best. At that time, “restoring” an MGA or almost any inexpensive car meant giving it a paint job (more often than not an imperfect  color change to red), doing a quickie rebuild (avoiding new pistons and turning the crank if at all possible) and finding a nice JC Whitney seat cover kit.

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