Our circuitous, car-filled week started with a trip to the Autofair at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, where I was co-host of a Speedvision special, "Muscle Car Mania," to be broadcast Thanksgiving weekend. The swap meet and car show occupied the entire infield of the Speedway, and presented over 100,000 enthusiasts with the opportunity to fill their little red wagons with vintage Edelbrock intake manifolds and reproduction Hemi-Cuda air cleaners.
Our favorite car was a 1969 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II, one of just a handful built for super-speedway competition. Still in its original Wood Brothers red and ivory livery, it featured an elongated nose for better aerodynamics and a front bumper fabricated by slicing the rear bumper of a Fairlane into three parts and reshaping them into a single smooth piece. We still don't quite know how to respond to the Porsche 928 we came across with a Chevrolet 350 V8 installed, although it did cause us to wonder if enthusiasts in Germany would put Porsche 928 V8s into Corvettes.
As the former owners of a Plymouth Superbird (440-4bbl, V8, pistol-grip 4-speed), we enjoyed the true glory days of NASCAR, the late '60s and early '70s, when the manufacturers were cranking out limited-production special editions designed to grab a few miles per hour advantage on the banked tracks. While NASCAR today presents the most spectator-friendly, thrill-filled racing on the planet, the tube-frame silhouette cars that compete look more like mobile, 4-wheeled boxes of Tide soap or packages of Skoal tobacco than production cars. Contrast this with the grand days of winged Dodge Daytonas and slope-nosed Ford Torino Talladega Specials.


From Charlotte, we headed north to Burlington, Vermont for the U.S. press introduction of the new Mercedes CLK430 V8 sports coupe. It was an appropriate transition from the Speedway, as the rumble from the Benz 4.3 liter V8 had more in common with the 390 cubic inch Fords of the '60s than the laid-back sophistication of the more recent M-B V6s. I mentioned to Steve Rossi, General Manager of Corporate Communications for MBNA, that all the CLK needed was a set of dual exhausts stretching through a pair of cherry-bomb glasspaks, along with a floor-mounted 4-speed Hurst shifter, and it would have been right at home at Charlotte.
Ms. Banzer joined me in Burlington, and we headed off towards Bennington in a silver CLK430. A Cook's tour of Hemmings Motor News awaited us there, provided by HMN CFO Perez Ehrich, the brother of HMN publisher Terry Ehrich. That night at dinner with the Ehrichs and friends, we had a chance to talk about the collector car hobby and how it has evolved over the years. We confess to feeling like a gnat on an elephant's knee as Terry described HMN's path from a Ford-dominated niche newsletter to its current 200,000+ subscriber base and position of integrity and respect in the industry.
From Bennington, we wound our way to Essex, New York, where we found a quaint bed and breakfast, then spent the next day enjoying the roads through the Adirondacks, visiting John Brown's grave (where he possibly still molders), and ending in Syracuse visiting our oldest son, McKean, now a senior at the university there.
With the exception of having to keep a constant vigil for the dreaded radar police, our time through Vermont and upstate New York in the CLK GT, as we believe it should be called, was as close to a European driving experience as we have had in the States. The car, as you might expect, performed superbly and allowed us to cover hundreds of miles at close to triple-digit speeds in extreme comfort. There is nothing quite like the muscular feel of a V8, and that, combined with the taut, no-nonsense suspension and the striking lines of the CLK, makes this car a near-perfect high-speed touring car for the modern enthusiast. Something to use when the vintage Ferrari is in the shop.


And speaking of Ferraris in the shop, Nasko tells us we can pick up our 1964 330 America any day now, the new clutch assembly, transmission mount and drive-shaft doughnut having been installed (funny what things you find worn out when you take a 34-year-old car apart). The mechanical fuel pump still isn't behaving properly, even after a rebuild (perhaps the cam is worn out) and we've decided to bypass the electro-magnetic mechanism on the fan and leave the blades permanently engaged, as it's better to have too much cooling than too little. The redone front seats are spectacular, and tires are next on the list, with contributor and former 250 SWB owner John Apen recommending Michelin XW4 205/70 or 215/75 SRs. If we can get the heater to work in cold weather (currently, we have the typical Italian reverse climate control, with hot air in the summer and cold in the winter), we'll be set for November tours.
Our '68 911L leaves this week, headed to a new home with our good friend, Jurgen End, in Saarbrucken, Germany. He plans to rebuild the engine and gearbox to "S" specifications, repaint the car as necessary and use it in the European rallies and tours that are limited to pre-1971 cars. For those, including Porsche guru Bruce Anderson, who have asked why we moved on from the Porsche so quickly, let us emphasize that we thoroughly enjoyed the performance, handling and styling of the 911.
However, my cohort, Bill Woodard, and I purchased the car as part of a plan to experience three or four under-$10,000 sports cars every year, cars that we have never owned before. What we've learned so far is that we would easily own another SWB Porsche 911, but at the moment it is time to find and live with another vintage car, something completely different. All old sports cars have reputations that precede them, and we'd like to see just how the myths coincide with the realities. With cash in fist from the 911 sale, we're ready to buy. Nearly everything, from Volvo Amazons to 450SLs, is on our radar screen; if you've got a great car in our price range, fax or call us.


Once again it is a Frank Wooten print that graces our cover, depicting a TR2 or 3 (but certainly not a 3A) with all its chrome still in place, leading a Healey 100/6 in a mid-50s race. In this innocent, pre-Armco era, the spectators lining the course are separated from the speeding machines by only a thin picket fence. SCM is always looking for artists to feature on its covers; if you have something you would like us to consider, please contact me directly at 503-261-0333, or send some samples to Cover Art, c/o SCM, at 7017 SE Pine, Portland, OR 97215,

Comments are closed.