I propose we take a break from the constant bric-a-brac of the market. At least for a few days, let's transport ourselves back to a simpler era, when the fundamental question wasn't how much your motorcar was worth, but whether it could actually travel 60 miles without breaking down.

In conjunction with Steve Austin, we will be hosting a tour to the 2009 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. It's been on my short list for some time, and with the appreciation of the dollar against the pound, this seemed like a propitious time to head across the pond.

The tour, October 28 through November 2, 2009, includes all sorts of typical Steve Austin goodies, like attending a participant's luncheon at the Royal Automobile Club, viewing the race from a double-decker "chase bus," and admission to a VIP hospitality suite at the Brighton finishing line.

Of course, this being an SCM tour, it wouldn't be complete without favored treatment at the attendant Bonhams auction at New Bond Street. Non-car events will include visits to Churchill's war bunker "Cabinet Rooms" and the Battle of Britain Air Museum, plus orchestra seating to Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber's new musical reprise of "Oliver."

My wife has asked me to emphasize the shopping opportunities; all the events on Friday and Saturday evenings are staged at Regent Street and New Bond Street, which she says are the two major "high end" fashion streets of London. I sense that the potential expenditures may far outweigh the currency advantage we currently enjoy.

To keep things tidy and personable, space is limited to just 25. For more information, see p. 77 of this issue, or visit www.steveaustinsgreatvacations.com.

Time travel

Last Saturday, I took my 1965 Alfa Giulia Spider Veloce to restoration-maestro Bill Gilham, whose shop is located in bucolic Jefferson, Oregon. He restored the car more than 25 years ago, and welcomes the chance to finally get the doors to fit just right. As I pulled into his shop, he said, "This was a truly rusty car then. I'm glad to see the rust hasn't returned."

We talked about the checking paint, the small dents, and the patch panels in the floor and trunk (replacement panels weren't available then). "Ten years ago I would have told you that we needed to take the car down to bare metal, replace the necessary panels, and then put it back together," said Gilham. "Today, I suggest we just leave it alone. You're looking at a minimum of $40,000 to do the paint and bodywork, and the driving sensation really won't be any better when you are done."

He will also refit the top and have the seats rebuilt and restuffed, and attend to a host of niggling things I've written about earlier. The plan is to have it ready for the Alfa Romeo National Convention, to be held in Portland this July. I will be the emcee of the Concours, which will be sponsored by Sports Car Market, and the Alfa will be in the display section. It's the only Spider Gilham has seen in its very light blue with red livery, and it will surely enjoy being in the company of friends-at least for the day. For details on the convention, go to www

Roaring home

The 65-mile trip to Jefferson was a drafty one, with cold air pouring in through the Alfa's mis-aligned passenger door, as well as through the quarter-inch gap where the top didn't quite attach to the windshield. The typically anemic Alfa heater was doing the best it could, and its output could have been compared to that of a huffing woolly caterpillar. But toss on a down parka and ski gloves, and the car was more than tolerable.

The ride back was something completely different. A text message had arrived on my phone at 8 pm the previous night, saying: "C new 911 2morrow?" My response was quick: "Follow me south?"

My friend Michael Hummel had just, that day, purchased a 2005 911 Turbo (997 for you trainspotters) and was looking for a chance to go somewhere-anywhere-in it. He followed several car lengths behind me, the white glare from his halogen headlights menacing in my rear view mirror-or at least they would have been menacing if my broken day-night switch hadn't kept flipping the view between the inside of my convertible top and the road behind.

Black with a black interior, and loaded (as represented by its $104,000 MSRP, including ceramic brakes) it had cost him just under $60,000, including an extended warranty. He purchased it from a local dealer, and it had covered just over 17,000 miles. Graciously, he offered to let me drive it back to Portland.

I was immediately reminded of how every Porsche is different, and yet they all share some strands of similar DNA. The view over the sloping hoods is the same, and the feeling of being pushed by a giant mechanical hand never changes.

Certainly the current dash layout is a vast improvement over our 911SC, which had a dash that looked like it was designed by Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and also far superior to the one in our Boxster S, which has a center stack that looks like it was modeled after Darth Vader's mask.

In keeping with the Porsche (and BMW) disdain for American driving habits, the cupholders in Hummel's 911 were pathetic halflings that sprouted from the dash, guaranteed to spill your lattes all over your fancy Italian linen slacks. (Have you ever wondered why Porsche owners, so proud of the Germanic heritage of their cars, don't ever wear German clothes while they're driving? Like, for instance, lederhosen.)

Porsches and Alfas are like oil and vinegar, each eliciting their own sensory response and offering wildly different motoring experiences. At the same time, driving an example of each, built 50 years apart, made for a very good morning indeed.

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