I’ve never counted the number of cars that have passed through my garage over the past four decades, but they’ve numbered in the hundreds. They’ve ranged from mundane 1965 MGBs to exquisite Maserati 3500 GTs. Sometimes there have been 20 cars at my place, other times just one.

Fishing for my acquisitions (I hesitate to call it collecting) has always entailed the same method. I drop a hook baited with my wallet into the eBay Motors ocean, the sea of Craigslist, the lakes of the marque forums and bulletin boards, the river of Facebook and the streams and rivulets that run through every repair shop and club meeting. Once an old car wanders along, the hook sinks in and the vehicle is mine.

Miles Collier once described the theory behind my car choices as: “I’ve never owned one, I can afford it and it’s red.”

When I bought and sold cars for a living, circa 1988–91, I was putting about 30 used — and often decrepit — sports cars a month into containers here in Portland bound for Holland, Germany, England, Italy and Japan. I liked all the cars, but I liked the money I made on each deal even more. The market was buoyant, and I could barely keep up with orders from my overseas clients.

Buying and selling for a living gave me an insight into the collector-car world that has proven invaluable as Sports Car Market has developed. Why? The mindset of someone who has to make a profit to pay the rent is very different from someone who is buying the Ferrari Lusso of his dreams — and paying with discretionary funds.

From business to pleasure

But my day job for the past 25 years has been helping to develop SCM — and now American Car Collector magazine as well. However, my trolling with my line of credit has continued, and SCM readers know there has been no shortage of good, bad, ugly — and just plain stupid — car buys over the past few years.

I have been very aggressive about seeking out new experiences, hence cars like the Mercedes 220S, the Saab Sonnett, the BMW 633 CSi, the Range Rover Classic and more. Each has offered something interesting, and each has taught me something about the manufacturer’s philosophy of motoring.

It’s also no secret that my home base for collecting has always been Alfa Romeo. I got my first Alfa when I was 18 years old, and I’ve had one ever since.

Sometime last year, I got tired of playing the field. Partially it was “refurbishment fatigue,” in that each new car from a different marque meant creating a whole new network of parts suppliers and specialists to get them running properly. Nearly every sports car that is 40 or more years old has a host of needs that will be expensive to fix. Heater fans need to blow, wipers to wipe, and lights to light. Suspension bushings are always worn out.

But even as I became an expert in spewing cash to turn badly maintained cars into drivers, I began to wonder why I was messing around with all of these different marques instead of attending to my fascination with Alfa Romeo.

Every collector has the car that hits his hot spot; for some it is Auburn Boattails, for others Corvette Sting Rays, and for 39 privileged collectors, it is Ferrari GTOs. I’ve owned my Sea Gray (grigio mare) 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce for more than 25 years, and it was time for it to have some stable mates from the same era.

Over the past two years, I’ve added a 1967 GTV, a 1958 Sprint Veloce and a 1967 Giulia Super to the collection. And I do think I can call this a collection. These are the Alfas that had a duckling imprint on me when I was in my formative car years.

Further, I have a terrific support group. I know the restorers and the parts suppliers who can get me exactly what I need, and they include Bill Gillham, Conrad Stevenson, Nasko, Jon Norman, Matt Jones, Joe Cabibbo and Tom Black among others.

I can drive Alfas of this era reasonably well — I used to vintage-race a 1958 Spider Veloce I bought from John Ireland with some success. The GTV and the Super have back seats, so I can take 6-year-old Bradley with me on trips.

Narrowing the field?

Have I progressed — or regressed — to a single-marque focus? Not exactly. Late at night, if you listen closely, you can hear our ex-Ned Scudder BMW 2002 tii challenging the GTV to a few hot laps of Laguna Seca. And I’m sure there will be other stray dogs, aka overlooked treasures, that fall to my baited hooks — witness the “Renntransporter Blue” ex-California Melee 1960 Mercedes 190B that somehow snuck into a slot when I wasn’t looking.

However, I think the core of the collection — and Miles, I am trying to be all grown up and act like a serious collector when I say this — will stay. There is just one more Alfa I’d like to have, a 1967 Duetto upgraded to 2-liter hot-rod specs, and then I’m done. Really.

Is there more satisfaction in having a cohesive logic behind this grouping? I can’t say for sure, but I do know there is much less collective grief, fewer dead-ends when it comes to parts, not so many problems with getting them to run right, and fewer Internet searches to find obscure bits of information.

It’s only taken me 40 years and several hundred cars to get to this spot of collecting quietude. But between you and me, I’m not quite ready to completely reel in the hooks. Donald Osborne just mentioned that he knows of a Lancia Fulvia Zagato about to come up for sale. I’ve never owned one, it’s within my budget — and of course, it’s red. ?

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