I grew up in the Parkside District of San Francisco, with a view of the Pacific Ocean from the bedroom in the back of our house. There was a bakery shop around the corner on Taraval Street. Each day on the way home from elementary school, I would stop in. The baker would squirt some icing into my mouth. I can still recall the sugar high when it hit my taste buds. It’s no different now when I’m at a concours. Inevitably, as I stroll down row after row of perfectly presented cars, I find special models that I suddenly realize I want to taste. Right now. That’s what happened when I walked by an appetizing Bertone 308 at The Quail, and again when I turned the corner at the Alfa National convention in Olympia and found a delicious Junior Zagato. Soon enough I owned one of each.

My own bucket list

I was honored to be the emcee at the 17th Annual Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance the first weekend of November. On Saturday, I was at the Car Club Showcase. Sunday brought the Concours. One of the featured models at the Showcase was Corvair. The second-generation coupes, from 1965 to ’69 are strikingly beautiful — and only get better with age. As I walked past them, I realized that a second-gen Corvair could easily be on my personal bucket list. Sunbeam Tigers were also a featured model. There were some stunning examples in British Racing Green with silver Panasport wheels. I suddenly realized I needed one. Badly. Today. As emcee, I presented awards to a pair of MGAs, one 1600 Mk II and one twin-cam car. They were both perfectly presented and took me back to my teenage years when I tried to drive one from San Francisco to Chicago. I’ll take one of those as well, please. The last two cars that grabbed at me were both diminutive. They were a Lotus Super 7 and a Morgan “barrel-back” three-wheeler. How great would it be to drive either down Highway 26 to the Oregon Coast?

More budget, better choices

I grew up owning my sports cars on a shoestring budget. So I bought decrepit examples and took every shortcut possible when I rebuilt their engines and gearboxes. The repairs were never done properly and didn’t last long. My budget is larger today, and I’m able to buy nicely done cars in the $25,000 to $75,000 range without having to sacrifice my son’s college fund. However, I also have to be honest with myself (always difficult for a car lover) about just how much there is to learn from these different cars. I also have to think about whether they bring anything new to my automotive table. This logical analysis competes directly with that interior, emotional voice that is suddenly shouting, “I want to own a good one of these before I die.” Let’s start at the top. Let’s say I buy a second-gen Corvair coupe, with a non-turbo 6-cylinder engine. After the first few trips to Mount Hood and back, what would I do with the car? Just how much do I need to scratch this itch? The Tiger is a little more complicated. By this time, most Tigers have had their suspensions and cooling systems modified and improved. Properly set up, they are extremely reliable. There’s a visceral satisfaction in having 200 American horses on tap in a 2,600-pound car. A Tiger would fit better in my collection. But would I be willing to give up the nimble feel of the Giulia Spider Veloce for the brute horsepower of the Tiger? The Lotus 7 and the Morgan Trike both fall into the oddity bin. These are limited-use vehicles that would provide a full dollop of enjoyment for a short period of time. I imagine that after 250 miles in the Lotus, and perhaps 50 in the trike, I would have scratched those itches and be ready to say goodbye to them. MGAs have a strong emotional pull on me, mostly because of my previous history with them. I fantasize that when Bradley turns 15 in three years and has his permit, we’ll pick up an MGA in San Francisco and revisit my 1968 trip — with the two of us sharing time behind the wheel. None of the above cars are likely to skyrocket in price, so there is no hurry to acquire one. Just having the ability to buy any of the above cars doesn’t mean I am mandated to acquire one. I have to decide exactly what each of them is bringing to the table, and what they offer to my driving needs. I’ve owned and driven hundreds of cars. Through this sifting process, I’ve come to a clearer understanding of exactly what makes me happy. But like a kid waiting for a squirt of frosting, when I walk past a row of perfectly presented sports cars, it’s hard not to fall in love with them — and dream about what it would be like to have one of each of them in my garage. ♦

Comments are closed.