Recently, I took another vintage-car-inspired trip through time. For 44 years, Portland International Raceway has been the home of the All British Field Meet. Cars arrive on Friday, there is an informal concours on Saturday, and a swapmeet on Sunday.
My good friends Paul Duchene and SCM contributor Jeff Zurschmeide were giving walking tours on Saturday and arranged for me to join them.
I spent the morning going up and down the rows of British cars, which ranged from valiant and successful ground-breaking models like the MGA to last-gasp defenses against encroaching regulations represented by rubber-bumper MGBs.
As archaic and outdated as all of these cars now are, for this one day they ruled the field.
Everywhere you looked there were British cars, from Triumph GT6s (always wanted one of these baby E-types, haven’t you?) to Jaguar Mk 2 sedans. Lotus Elans and Elises. A solitary Triumph Vitesse. And Austin-Healeys, from Bugeyes to 3000s, stretching nearly to the horizon.
The row of TR-250s reminded me of how impossibly sexy and alluring the reflective stripe across the hood made those models when they were introduced.
I’ve owned examples of many of the cars on display and created memories in partnership with them.
Owning means driving
In 2002, I drove an Austin-Healey BJ7 to the Healey 50th Anniversary International Meet at Lake Tahoe, a trip of about 500 miles. Watching English-car expert Bob Macherione of the Sports Car Shop in Eugene, OR, replace the Healey’s overdrive switch at midnight provided an evening’s entertainment.
Almost a decade later, longtime SCM contributors Miles Collier and Thor Thorson joined me to drive through the Sierra Nevadas again, this time in an SCM-owned trio of 1972 MGBs. Our destination was MG 2011, the North American Council of MG Registers’ all-MG meet in Reno, NV.
Miles commented to me afterwards that he had learned that he could have 90% of the fun driving a $4,000 MGB as he did driving his multimillion-dollar Alfa Romeo 8C 2900, with zero percent of the angst and trepidation that accompanies taking a hugely important and expensive car on the road.
That said, when SCM sold the three MGBs (two roadsters and a GT) after the tour, Miles didn’t put his hand up for any of them.
I enjoyed my trip down British-car memory lane, and I look forward to another one next year.
Remembering Robert Brooks (1957–2021)
The collector-car world lost a good friend and innovator on August 23. Robert Brooks, founder and principal of Brooks Auctioneers and later Bonhams, died of cancer at age 64.
Robert’s influence can be felt in every issue of SCM, including the one you are reading now.
It was at the home of a Brooks representative in San Francisco that I saw my first auction catalog. I was enthralled by the aggressive, “take-no-prisoners” descriptions the auction house applied to the lots being offered.
I found most classic-car writing insipid and repetitive. (Yes, we all agree that disc brakes on the D-type were revolutionary; do we need to read about it again?) With the Brooks catalog, every car was magnificent and important, surely the best example of this model ever to put wheel to tarmac!
That purple prose motivated me to set up a counterpoint by our SCM experts — hence our profile format came to be. We have used it for 35 years, the auction company description followed by our analysis.
Robert believed in SCM. I routinely benefited from his counsel when we would chat about our businesses. He encouraged me to start the SCM Platinum Auction Database to track auction results; it now contains more than 375,000 transactions.
More recently, Bonhams provided me with an ultimate father-daughter experience. In spring 2014, I was about to lead a Land Rover group across central Oregon, driving my D90 turbo-diesel.
My cell phone rang. It was Malcolm Barber, co-chairman of Bonhams, asking me if I could please join them in four days at their London headquarters on New Bond Street. They were celebrating an anniversary and they would like me to be there. As a sweetener, I could bring my daughter Alexandra along, and they would put us up at the Royal Automobile Club.
A few days later, Alex and I were off, business-class to London.
When we arrived at Bonhams, everyone was wearing their best Cheshire cat smiles. Robert turned to me and said, “You know, we really didn’t bring you here for an anniversary. We’re announcing tonight that we are selling Ferrari GTO s/n 3851GT at no reserve in Monterey this year. We wanted to give you an exclusive on breaking the news.”
I recall calling SCM World Headquarters and asking for an e-blast to be sent out immediately with the news and the exclusive photos I had just taken. The car sold that August for a then-world-record of $38.1m.
These reminiscences barely scratch the surface of capturing the great influence Robert had on SCM and the collector-car hobby. Thank you, Robert, for your vision and your friendship. ♦