It's a good thing we thrive on change. During the past two months, the Martin-Banzer garage has seen a lot of comings and goings.
It all started back in June when our 39,000-mile 240Z went off to a subscriber in Lorton, Virginia. With a slot in the garage to fill, we were immediately on the hunt.
On July 22, our newest find arrived, a 1963 Lancia Flaminia Zagato, equipped with a 2.8-liter, triple-carbureted V6 engine. But our joy was short-lived.
Our trusty mechanic, Nasko, reported that it was rusty underneath. Not terminal, but not good either. We communicated this to the person we bought the car from, who expressed surprise and concern over the corrosion. Graciously, he sent a check for the estimated amount of the rust repair.
While we were made whole financially, the emotional challenge of embarking on yet another project was daunting. The 330 America was still sitting in the garage, looking for ways to suck yet more money out of our bank account. The Lancia, as a replacement for the no-problems Z-car, was supposed to offer instant pleasure without complications (or at least with as few as you can expect when dealing with cranky old cars).
GARY AND MITCH TO THE RESCUE
But things were about to change. SCM auction analyst Gary Hoisington and I headed out to a Mitch Silver auction at the Portland Expo Center on Saturday, September 29. Gary had several cars consigned, and I wanted to take a look at a 308 GT4 (S/N 10264) that had sold for $10,920 at Hot August Nights and was going back across the block.
At the auction, all of the usual suspects gathered around the tomato-red GT4, including SCM'er Bruce Russell of Vancouver, Washington. "Nice car; I'd pay $5,000 for it," Bruce proclaimed generously.
The smog equipment on the car was intact, and it came with books and tools. However, its theft-recovery branded title wasn't encouraging. Nor were the bits and pieces on the floorboards that looked they might have once been attached to the steering column.
Nonetheless, the smell of horse blood in the water caused all of us sharks to descend, ravenously waving bidding paddles. Deep in our hearts, we each knew that this GT4, alone among the many in the world, was the one that could be bought cheap, and would need absolutely no maintenance of any kind for the foreseeable future. In other words, the red mist of the auction hall had taken over.
When the bidding crossed the $10,000 mark, I dropped out and started to walk towards the door, only to find my path blocked by a 1991 Lotus Elan convertible, Fly Yellow over gray. The car belonged to Park Place Motors of Seattle, and had not sold on the block.
Bear in mind that a '91 Elan has never, ever been on my short, medium or even long list of cars. It was too new, had an Isuzu motor, and a dashboard that looked like it was sourced from a Chevy Cavalier.
Nonetheless, I had come prepared to buy something, and since I couldn't have the Ferrari, I figured I might as well take something else home. After a little dickering with Park Place's Andy Meyer, and a commission to Mitch, for $12,600 I was an owner.
New cars are pretty addictive. In the ten-mile drive home, I was surprised by how comfortable the car was and how well things like the heater, defroster, door handles and speedometer worked. Old-car fanatics will understand what simple pleasures these are.
And then I thought about the effort involved in rebuilding the undercarriage on the Lancia. And the engine work the Ferrari needed. I made my decision. Within two weeks, both the Lancia and the Ferrari were gone, the Lancia to an SCM subscriber in Irvine, California, and the Ferrari to an SCM'er in Roanoke, Indiana. Both cars were sold with all flaws I was aware of fully disclosed, so the new owners knew exactly what they were getting.
Suddenly where there had been a pair of expensive, arduous projects filling the garage, there was nothing but a 1991 Lotus and Cindy's '78 Alfa Spider. Just out of habit, we're spending some money on the car by having Gerry Follett of Ron Tonkin Gran Turismo give the car a once-over. The resultant list was short, and the bill should not be outrageous.
With the 330 gone, we are in need of a 2+2 for the Oregon winter. In keeping with our current "let's try newer" train of thought, Cindy, Alexandra and I are on the lookout for a Mondial Coupe Quattrovalvole. If you know of a decent one, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 503/261-0333. But please, no "only been under water for a little while," salvage-title specials or projects. I've had enough of those.
Don't worry, we're not giving up on stupid old cars that break all the time. We and our wallet are just taking a little breather.
MORE, MORE, MORE
Beginning with this issue, all of our auction reports will be completely in full color. This is not an inexpensive upgrade, but we are able to do this thanks to our continuing rise in new subscriptions, strong renewal rates from you, our loyal readers, and on-going support from our much-appreciated advertisers. We thank all of you.
There's also a new column this month, "Neat Stuff." It will showcase products that might be of use to you, whether collecting, restoring or just keeping your car looking its best. We would prefer to feature items used and evaluated by SCM subscribers-if you are using a product or service you would like us to consider, please contact Brian Rabold, SCM's editorial manager, at email@example.com.
ON THE COVER
Artist Ken Eberts is becoming SCM's Mr. December. Last year at this time, we featured his painting of a Ferrari 250 GTE on the streets of Manhattan. This year, it's "A Spritely St. Nick" that illuminates our cover.
The car is a 1961 Sprite owned by Ebert's wife, Liz, who participated in gymkhanas in similar cars in the '60s.
Eberts was a designer for Ford Motor Company in the mid-1960s. After switching to painting full-time, he founded the Automotive Fine Arts Society in 1983 and served at its president. He has exhibited his work at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Amelia Island Concours, Meadow Brook, and Newport Beach.
Eberts created this painting for Road & Track to use as a Christmas card last year. This watercolor and gouache painting is still in the artist's possession. "It hangs in our house every Christmas," he said.
Prints are not currently available; Eberts said if there was enough interest, he would consider commissioning a run. Contact him at P.O. Box 613, Temecula, CA 92593.