Grooming the Young Collectors

 There’s no question that America’s love affair with the car has changed dramatically.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal regularly report on the decline of numbers of driver’s licenses among young people, of fewer miles being driven and declining sales figures of new cars.

This lack of interest in driving is even more pronounced in Europe, where tight-knit cities and excellent train systems make having your own vehicle increasingly irrelevant — and expensive, due in part to high Read More

A Concours Comes of Age

 Concours d’Elegance is just a fancy name for a fancy car show with fancy awards.

Whether it’s the weekly Beaches Cruisin’, which draws 1,500 vintage cars and thousands of gearheads every Wednesday all summer long in Portland, or the rarified air that surrounds the multi-million-dollar cars at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance — car shows are about owners who enjoy preparing and putting their cars on display and spectators who enjoy gazing at them.

I’ve just had my first visit Read More

36 Hours in Modena

The invitation came on a Monday, from Luigi Orlandini of Canossa Events Srl.

“Would you like to spend two days in Modena, learning about the restoration program Modena Classic Works, tour both Ferrari museums and drive some classic Ferraris on the Modena Circuit? The event starts this Friday, so you would have to leave from Portland on Thursday. You would be back in Portland Sunday morning.

“And we’d like your daughter, Alex, to come as well, as we have enjoyed Read More

Passing Into History

We just put 1,611 delightful miles on our 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce. It was our first real road trip in years, and it brought home the reasons we fool around with these old cars.

The occasion was the Alfa Romeo National Convention, held in Rohnert Park, CA, south of Santa Rosa. Good friend Doug Hartman was my co-pilot on the way down, and Wendie flew down to ride with me on the way back.

We’ve owned the Spider nearly 30 years, selling it once and buying it back during that period. Conrad Stevenson in Berkeley did the engine and transmission several years ago, Bill Gillham oversaw the redo of the interior using original materials sourced by Matt Jones, and Tom Black put the finishing touches on preserving the aged paint. In short, it has never run nor looked better.

The trip down was uneventful. Our convoy of Northwest Alfas drove Interstate 5 to Eugene, Highway 126 across to Florence, then 101 to Santa Rosa with an overnight in Eureka. All the Alfas performed well except for a 750 Giulietta Spider that lost its water pump in Eureka; it was towed to the convention, repaired and driven home.

I’ve known most of these club guys for decades, and we remarked on how much better prepared our cars were than in the 1980s. As they have evolved into collectible artifacts, we have started lavishing unprecedented amounts of care and money on their maintenance.

From Acquiring to Collecting

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 Read More

New Money Chasing Old Cars

If the collector-car market were a cappuccino, its frothy foam would spill over the sides of the cup and cascade to the tabletop like a miniature Niagara Falls. Is there a major auction that doesn’t set a few world records? Even Toyotas are now worth more than a million dollars.

Well, not all Toyotas.

As you might expect in this time of valuation acceleration, my inbox is full of questions, many similar to this one from David Cohen, of Read More

Dodging the Bullet on a 356

Dear Keith:

Now that I’ve purchased the SCM Volvo 1800ES and it’s on the way to my garage, I’d like to ask your opinion on a 356C sunroof coupe that’s been offered to me. I’ve taken a quick look at it, and it appears to be a really nice older restoration, holding up well. There are several relatively minor issues with the body, none of which seem to be rust-related.

The engine number matches the COA, and regular and Read More

Becoming a Florida Car Guy

We’ve seen more gators than ducks or beavers recently, as we’ve spent 20 of the past 30 days in Florida, with our home state of Oregon becoming more of an imagined entity than a place.

We had barely unpacked our bags from our February trip to Rétromobile when it was time for another early-morning taxi to PDX. Our ultimate destination was the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, but we thought we’d sneak in a side trip to a resort in the Bahamas for a non-car-related vacation. (Such a thing exists for the Martin family? I can already see you shaking your box-end wrenches in disbelief.)

Atlantis, as the resort was called, was an exercise in fantasy — especially if you are 5-year-old Bradley Martin and get to feed manta rays and swim with dolphins. One of the mega-yachts docked at the resort was named “Never Again III.” I’m sure every SCMer has cars they would christen the same.

Cacti and Campari

Just weeks ago I was toodling through the Arizona desert, sneaking away from the auctions for a quick drive to Sedona in a lovely dark blue Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

I was seeking a brief respite from the ceaseless shattering of world records at the auctions being held, where one high sale after another was recorded. And it wasn’t just Gullwings and Ferrari Cal Spyders causing skyrockets — lesser cars, such as Alfa Duettos ($50,600/Gooding) and Fiat 124 Spiders Read More

Let’s Get On With the Next 25

I remember clearly when I decided to launch the Alfa Romeo Market Letter. It was 1988, and the market was beginning to heat up. I had recently left my day job as a manager of Ron Tonkin’s Gran Turismo in Portland, OR, where I sold Ferraris, Maseratis, Alfa Romeos and Lotuses.

I devoured the various market letters when they arrived. The patriarch of the clan was Gerald Roush’s Ferrari Market Letter, unique in its insistence that sellers list the Read More