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.
Saturday night was a game-changer for car collectors. The long-awaited LeMay—America’s Car Museum had a preview party for 650 guests. While the building isn’t scheduled to be finished for another few months, the “Hard Hat and High Heels” party showcased the facility, and I can say this: It is impressive.
In many ways, the LeMay will be an “everyman’s” car museum, where cars representing all facets of production will be featured, from the most mundane Chevrolet Sedans to the most exotic Lotus Formula cars. The museum is in a perfect location, just off of I-5 in Tacoma, next to the Tacoma Dome.
I came prepared to be impressed, but even my high expections were exceeded. I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnificence of the structure and the generosity of the attending crowd. Over $550,000 was raised Saturday night alone, showing that even in these complicated times, the car community is willing to open its wallets for a cause that matters.
16,000 Corvettes. That’s just about 128,000 cylinders – and these aren’t your puny little thimble-sized European cylinders. These are the size of wine bottles.
One of the pleasures of being publisher of our sister publication, Corvette Market, is that a few times each year I get to immerse myself completely in the world of America’s sports car. At Mike Yager’s 18th annual Funfest in Illinois, I can unabashedly wrap my ass in fiberglass for three glorious days.
Unlike some snooty events (I’m sorry, I meant exclusive), Funfest is open to all Corvettes, from pure stock to personalized to resto-mod to outrageous. What the owners have in common is their passion for their thundering beasts.
We’re just back from the 9th Annual Kirkland Concours, and my 8th as morning host and co-emcee with Ed Herrmann for the awards ceremony. The weather was sunny, and in fact a record-breaking high temperature in the 90s was recorded. If I’d swathed myself in Saran Wrap under my sportcoat and tie, I surely could have come home at least ten pounds lighter.
In some ways Kirkland is my favorite event of the year. It brings together the intimate feel of a regional event with very nice cars, and a sprinkling of notable autos that would be perfectly at home at Pebble Beach. The setting at the Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club and Spa (a sybaritic trifecta in that name) could hardly be more alluring, with Lake Washington sparkling in the background and the Olympic Peninsula in the distance.
We finished our first day of shooting at Auctions America by RM in Auburn,Indiana, and for me it was a typical love-fest of driving old cars. During the day, I got the chance to evaluate and drive a 1966 Shelby GT350H with just 20 miles on a fresh restoration (oddly heavy steering, high idle (1,200 rpms), spongy brakes, and a tendency to run hot). The owner wanted $120k or so, which might be justified by the visuals only, but it just was not there yet mechanically.
Then I drove a restomod 1957 “Black Widow” Chevy 150 2-door post. I’d give the car a B-, as the modern 350 engine was strong, the updated front disc brakes stopped well, and overall the car was extremely attractive. It just didn’t handle well. If it were my car, I’d send it off to Colin Comer and have him dial it in. No one is saying that old cars handle like modern Ferraris, but they don’t have to be like pigs scrambling on a wet clay bank either.
Wendie and I are just back from the Mexican coast near Puerto Vallarta. Our five-day trip was a much-needed respite after the maddening crowds of Monterey.
We arrived at the airport and picked up a new Jeep Wrangler, equipped with a delightful and economical V6 engine and a 6-speed gearbox. It turned out to be the perfect choice for the trip we had planned, as once you’re out of the city and off of Highway 200, nearly every road is a Jeep road. The Jeep was so nice, in fact, that I might go so far as to say that my 1984 Turbo-Diesel Land Rover Defender 90 seemed crude by comparison—but I don’t want the local Landie gang to stone me with Whitworth wrenches.
Our destination was Costa Careyes, where a private casita awaited us, with a splashing pool and walls open to the sea. What we learned was that Mexico in the summer is HOT. Really hot, and really humid, with lots of meat-eating bugs that feast from 5pm until 10pm every night. Bug spray and long-sleeved garments turned the tide.
It’s Sunday night at 7pm, and I’m sitting in the Gooding tent watching a 1932 Alfa Romeo 1750 Series V Zagato-bodied Grand Sport hammer sold at $1.4m. Now, in most situations, that would seem like a lot of money. But this weekend, it’s just another million-dollar car. It takes something like a Mercedes 540K at $9m or a Ferrari 250 TR at $16m to get anyone excited.
I don’t have any overall totals, but I can say that the uncertainties of the stock market don’t seem to have reached the Monterey Peninsula. In our seminar on Saturday, several of our experts noted that gyrating stock prices, miniscule interest rates, and a depressed real estate market are all leading to more interest in, and escalating prices for, blue-chip collector cars.
Why are the most expensive cars getting even more expensive? Because those that can afford a $500k, or $1m or $10m car already have money. They’re not worried about losing their jobs or their homes, they’re just trying to get a better return on their funds. And compared to a lot of financial instruments, collector cars look pretty good right now.
Could it be any more ironic? Our family (Wendie, Bradley, Drew, and me) had just finished the annual Portland Bridge Pedal. Once a year, the freeways around the city are closed down, and close to 20,000 enthusiasts wearing tight shorts and jerseys grab their bicycles and go for a pedal. (I might say that a few of the jerseys on the “mature” men could have been just a bit looser.)
Bradley did well on his Trek tagalong, and in two more years I expect he’ll have his own bike. He insisted on wearing his Spiderman costumer and cast imaginary webs at passersby.
When we got home, I moved the 1967 GTV from the driveway to the street, so Wendie could get her BMW 5-series out of the driveway. I opened the door to get out, and smacked a bicyclist passing by. The rider, an elderly lady, didn’t fall but sustained a couple of pretty good scratches to her leg.
We tried to sneak away for a few days, to recharge our batteries before the Monterey whirlwind.
The Martin family spent four days at Morrow County OHV Park in central Oregon. With six motorcycles and a scooter, the days were spent cruising and crashing on one-track trails; at night we gathered around the barbecue pit and enjoyed good Oregon Pinot Noir.