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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The SCM Isetta which so nobly sacrificed itself in Monterey is at the shop, and the initial diagnosis looks quite bleak. Watch this space for updates as we learn more. “Rangie,” our a1984 Range Rover, is in good running order and will be ready for the mud and snow as soon as winter tires are on. Rangie’s stablemate, the Defender 90, is doing well but will sit neglected until my foot sufficiently recovers from surgery to manage the third pedal.
As we settle into winter, we’ve started thinking about next year — and the next road trip. We invite your suggestions for the next under $10,000 road trip — both for vehicles and destinations.
I’ve been kicking around driving C4 Corvettes from Portland, OR to Anchorage. 1992-1996 only, with the 6-speed gearbox (or auto) and the magnificent LT1 engine. I’ve actually done this once before in a 1992 coupe, and what a terrific drive. That time, I was lucky enough to have a friend fly up to Anchorage and drive the Corvette home — it’s a long enough road one way, it would be crazy to do it both ways.
As my Facebook friends are already aware, I had a foot operation last week that will keep me driving automatics only for the next couple of months.
Which, coupled with the fact that we have a four-year-old who needs to ride in a car seat, made this the perfect opportunity to look for a four-door automatic of some novel flavor.
The search narrowed to either a Corvair or an XJ6. My friends don’t really understand the Corvair, but they also don’t have any objections to it. With the XJ6, however, they overwhelmingly tell me I’m nuts. I respond to them, “But I’ve never owned a car with built-in picnic tables before.”
A local Craigslist advertisement caught my eye – a 1960 Corvair (first year!), four-door, auto, 32k original miles, original paint and interior, $5,500. Pricey, but worth a look. I had my operation on Thursday, my pain med intake had slackened by Sunday, and I was out on the hunt.