We began to wonder if the BMW had had some conjugal visits with our
failure-prone Fiat 2100 and been the recipient of its DNA

You might think that with all the transactions we track, and all the conversations we have, the principals at SCM world headquarters would make nothing but brilliant deals. We'd buy perfect cars cheap, have no repairs or unexpected surprises during their time with us, and then sell them for absolute top dollar. After all, what potential classic car owner could resist the descriptive phrase, "As written about in the pages of Sports Car Market magazine?"

At the same time, the writers and staff here (a mostly younger generation who view floor-mounted dimmer switches the way we look at fossilized remains at a museum) would have the educational and fun experience of blasting around town in old cars. And the sun would shine every day in Portland, the newly-ordained Camelot of the collector car world.

Well, somehow the evil knight Mordred has sneaked into our castle and wreaked havoc on some of our motorized steeds. So with the onset of winter, we decided a garage-clearing was in order, and that it was time to share our vehicular wealth with other fortunate-or at least willing-collectors.

The BMW from hell

Veteran SCMers are familiar with the wretched 1968 2002 we picked up from someone who bought it on eBay; it lived in L.A., and at first we entertained fantasies about flying down and driving it home, before it began disintegrating in a mechanic's shop there.

Why a 2002? As an Alfa owner in the late '60s, I recalled watching Jon Norman in his lime-green GTA duke it out with the little boxy cars (later replaced by Datsun 510s), and thought they were cute, even if totally bereft of visual appeal. The first time my wife saw our green 2002, she remarked, "Oh, you bought a Mr. Magoo car." All I needed was a bowler hat to complete the picture.

We sold the car on eBay a few weeks ago. We got $5,000, which was less than we paid for it, and certainly less than the $14,000 total we had "invested." The litany of replaced and repaired parts could fill a Chilton's Manual; suffice to say we discovered this was one of those cars that liked to break, and when fixed, to break again. We began to wonder if it had had some conjugal visits with our failure-prone Fiat 2100 and been the recipient of Fiat DNA.

Our affordable classics expert Rob Sass is trying mightily to convince me that what I really need is a 2002 tii, in orange or burgundy, with a sunroof and mags. But since his collection now consists of a Lancia Beta and an Opel GT, I have my doubts as to his reliability as well.

Wagon go

Our 1968 Colony Park wagon was a better story. I first saw the car when Automobile magazine Senior Editor Joe Lorio brought it to a dinner meeting we had in Detroit. He wanted it gone, and we wanted it here. We paid $7,500 for it, and a succession of willing SCMers drove it across the country. It was in superb condition when we got it and, after some ministrations to its fuel system and rear suspension, was even better after it arrived.

But it took up enough space for a dozen collector cars in the SCM garage, and frankly, it never seemed the vehicle of choice for quick lunchtime trips. Maybe the fact we had to use our Split-Window Corvette as a pilot boat to help guide it up the driveway was a factor.

During the weekend of the Kirkland Concours, while on a tour of Jon Shirley's garage (sadly, no Colony Park wagons on display there), SCMer and ex-F88 concept car owner Gordon Apker asked us, "Are you going to be selling your wagon?" As anyone who has ever sold cars knows, the answer to that question is always an immediate "Yes." And you can add, "We're going to list it on eBay tomorrow," if you want to ratchet up the pressure.

The wagon market has been vibrant, and we thought the car was worth about $15,000. We mentioned that figure to Apker, he agreed, we shook hands, and the deal was done. He confided to me later that he wondered if he had paid too much. I countered that I wondered if I had asked too little. Which means it was a perfect deal.

However, the massive profits on the wagon, plus more, were voraciously devoured by the 1965 Alfa Giulia Spider Veloce as fast as sea lions chomp down salmon at the base of Bonneville Dam. Some $8,500 vaporized from our checking account, to be replaced by the refreshed bottom end of a 1600-cc Alfa engine. Now our only projected maintenance costs on the Alfa are replacing the two quarts of oil it seems to leak onto the garage floor every month.

With the Alfa back, our 1967 Sunbeam Alpine could go to a good home. It was one of the best in the world; we paid $6,500 for it and had about $8,000 in it when done. It sold on eBay for $9,200, and that profit was immediately seized by our 1967 Volvo 122S for radiator repair, new front brake pads, and repairs to the heater fan. The fan was only working on its low speed, and one repair shop declared, "Volvos never had good heater fans." Come on guys, these cars were built in Sweden, not Phoenix, and it actually gets cold there.

Although it's a pretty good car, it's also pretty ugly, and the high beltline and low roof give it a driving position similar to that of a Sherman tank, as you look out at the world through a turret slit. We bought the car for $2,700, stupidly had the front suspension rebuilt and other needless things done, and hope we can get our invested $5,000 out when the dust settles.

Now that our winter stable-cleaning is almost over, we've vowed only to buy cars because we are interested in them, not just because they are cheap (Sass came running in with a Craigslist posting for a Rover 3500, referring to it as a "four-door Daytona"; we made him sit in the corner and have quiet time for an hour until his attack passed). All of us here like old cars, but we like driving good ones more than we like fixing marginal ones, and we hope the next few that find their way into our garage are gems, rather than gems in the rough, or four-wheeled lumps of coal.

Make that 20

In just a few months, we will be celebrating SCM's 20th anniversary. Our first issue was published in mid-year 1988. So to keep our own history numbers-matching and period-correct, you'll get your commemorative issue this summer. We're going to be asking you to share your thoughts about 20 years of collecting with us, so watch this column for further developments.

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