It was a weekend to remember.
At 6 a.m. on a Saturday in February this year, my daughter Alexandra joined me on a flight from Portland, OR, to San Jose, CA. We’d bought a 1964 Volvo 1800S last July, and it was time to bring it home.
Mike Dudek of iRoll Motors picked us up at San Jose International Airport, and soon we were at his shop in San Martin, south of San Jose.
The Volvo was better than I expected — by a long shot. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it had a “lived and loved” feel to it that is impossible to fake. It still had its original 1964 California black plates. A bonus was a variety of in-period engine modifications that gave it extra scoot, along with a lowered suspension and magnesium-spoked wheels that created a menacing look.
A long, winding road
The straight shot home to Portland would have been north on Interstate 5. That’s about 700 miles, and doable in one long 13-hour day.
I’ve been up that highway many, many times. In an old car, it is akin to softly tapping yourself on the head with a ball-peen hammer. It’s straight, it’s boring, and all of the giant-sized pickups that make up today’s traffic go whizzing by at 80 mph and more.
We decided to take U.S. Highway 101 north through Eureka, CA, and then follow 101 along the Oregon Coast to Florence. There we could cut over to Eugene and I-5 for a 90-mile dash home to Portland.
That route added about 100 miles to our trip, and it meant taking two days instead of one. But it also changed a “drive” into an adventure.
This 51-year-old Volvo was about to become a time machine. Alex and I would be motoring on two- and four-lane highways that were similar to what existed when the Volvo was born.
There would be odd roadside attractions, and mom-and-pop motels and restaurants. We had plenty of time, so we could meander around, stopping when we pleased.
All the while, we would be getting to know the idiosyncrasies of this classic car.
The 1800S showed its personality immediately. The gas gauge stopped functioning. The heating controls seemed to have two settings — no air or sauna mode. And a window winder came off in my hand.
The overdrive would cut in and out at random. We became proficient at jiggling the Lucas-built switch “just so” to get it to re-engage.
However, this was not our first rodeo with old cars. From driving Ferraris in Italy, to rock-crawling through Tillamook Forest in our D90 or hammering our Lotus Elise at Portland International Raceway, Alex has been a great companion. She is always ready for a road trip.
You can go home again
As we headed north, we made several side trips. I visited the house where my grandparents raised me in the Parkside district of San Francisco. What had once seemed like a mansion was now just another row house.
The next stop was Abraham Lincoln High School, where I had been student body treasurer. Mike Holmgren, who went on to NFL coaching fame with the Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, was our star quarterback and student body president. I doubt he remembers me.
Then it was down to Ocean Beach. Alex had never been there, and we talked about the timeless pulse of the waves against the sand.
Back on the road, we passed through Novato, Petaluma and then entered Mendocino County.
The Volvo was a happy car, cruising along at 3,800 rpm in 4th overdrive, which translated to about 75 mph. The pushrod four, upgraded from 1.8 liters to 2.0, made enough power so passing on two-lane roads was an entertaining instead of terrifying exercise.
Looking into the future
For the first time, Alex and I talked about my will — and which cars she wanted left to her. At first she was uncomfortable with the discussion, as you might expect. No one likes to acknowledge mortality, especially when it involves those they love.
She told me that the cars that mean the most to her are our 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce (I have a picture of her in that car when she was 9 months old), the 1967 GTV and our 1967 Giulia Super.
I believe I should pull them out of the corporation now, pay the taxes, and title them in my and Alex’s name. That way there will be no question about where they end up.
My legal advisor thinks it is ridiculous to incur taxes now when we can’t foresee what the world will look like when I pass. If you have thoughts about this, I’d like to hear them.
We spent the night at the Eureka Inn, where I stayed many times while on the California Mille. I could almost hear the voice of Martin Swig resonating in the halls, talking about what a grand time he was having enjoying the great people, cars and roads on the event he created.
By 6 a.m. the next morning, we had visited Starbucks, the Volvo was packed and we were ready to go.
We passed Prehistoric Gardens, a roadside attraction near Port Orford with a large Tyrannosaurus Rex in front. I remembered seeing the dinosaur when I was 7 years old. My grandfather was taking the family on a road trip to Timberline Lodge in his newly acquired bumble-bee-yellow-and-black ’56 Mercury Montclair. He was making memories then that still resonate today.
After 800 miles and two days, we pulled into the SCM garage. My daughter and I had brought another old car into our lives — and created another set of road-trip memories. ♦