You could hear the screech of the A/C compressor belt up and down Main Street. Forty classic cars were lined up for the start of the concours wine tour.

Now in its 49th year, the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance is the oldest concours in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1973, it is certainly the finest.

The weekend was just starting. During the next two days, Bradley and I would participate in the tour on Saturday morning, attend the dinner that evening and show two cars in the concours on Sunday.

Our all-original, 28,000-mile 1971 Series III Jaguar E-type V12 coupe was entered in the Preservation Class.

Forest Grove was celebrating 70 years of Corvette. The class head judge — longtime SCMer and NCRS Senior Judge Michael Pierce — noted that there was no 1982 Collector’s Edition entered. He asked my son to put his newly acquired example on the lawn for display.

Proving once again that apples fall proximate to trees, 16-year-old Bradley earned his driver’s license and a few days later got his first classic car. He had been pining for a C3 Corvette. Then, because this is SCM, we immediately entered it in a concours.

Rite of passage

Bradley and the Shark have already formed a strong bond. Pierce enrolled him in the National Corvette Restorers Society and got him a copy of the C3 Corvette Technical Information Manual and Judging Guide. The two have already spent a couple of hours together decoding the car.

The NCRS process reminds me of the first course in art history I took at Reed College. One of our texts was Learning to Look by Joshua Taylor. Although that was four decades ago, I still recall the book providing me with a framework with which to look thoughtfully at art. The terms impressionist, pointillist, portrait and landscape artist all took on singular meanings.

Bradley is getting a similar experience with NCRS. Once he learns what an alternator, starter or coolant-overflow tank is, he will forever recognize one when he opens the hood of any car. “As-delivered” now means something to him.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a thoughtful approach to my automotive education. My learning consisted of busted knuckles and greasy Chilton’s guides.

Teething pains

Shortly after the Corvette’s acquisition, a new A/C compressor was installed out of necessity. On a sunny day, the Shark’s glass T-tops create an interior environment that resembles a convection oven set to pre-heat. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a pizza roll feels like…

Somewhere along the way, a slightly-too-large belt was installed, leading to the squealing sound at start-up.

When the belt started making noise this day, we got to watch the miracle of community participation. Like bees to honey, half-a-dozen people were drawn to the car, taking turns poking at the belt and offering opinions. Robert Newcomer from Canby, OR, offered that he had the tools and breaker bar necessary to tension the belt.

Suddenly, Bradley was one step deeper into the community of analog-car people, for whom working on a small-block Chevy is like ordering a burger with fries from McDonald’s.

Our lunch destination was the lovely Terra Vina winery outside Wilsonville, OR. While the adults enjoyed a delicious rosé, Bradley and Bob fixed the belt. “It’s still not quite right,” said the tour mechanic as he put his tools away. “But it’s better and will do until you get the right part.”

One of the gang

The next morning Bradley was out the door at 6 a.m., headed to the concours about an hour away. He drove his mother, who was judging at the event, in the C3.

While his car was not entered for official judging, Bradley said all the Corvette judges still wanted to see “the Corvette owned by a 16-year-old.”

They gave it a cursory once-over and he got a collective thumbs-up. They said it looked like the paint and interior were original. Under the hood, the “Cross-Fire Injection” V8 seemed tidy and correct. The car shows 95,000 miles and we have documentation for the past 30 years. It appears to have been carefully taken care of.

With new tires, an alternator and the A/C compressor, we will be in the car about $20,000. That seems like a very fair deal to me. You can’t buy much Porsche, BMW or Alfa for that kind of money. And getting a 40-year-old Corvette as your first car makes a pretty great entry to the world of collector cars. It may not be the most desirable or fastest Corvette, but it’s still a Corvette.

Come together

A week after Forest Grove, I attended the Volvo Club of America’s national meet here in Portland. The closing remarks were made by Cameron Lovre, owner of vintage Volvo restoration shop Swedish Relics and a longtime friend of SCM.

His words resonated with me: “We live in times that cause us to feel a distance from others. Our love and affection for old cars brings us together to enjoy our mutual interests.”

As I thought about my son being mentored by the tribal elders, I couldn’t agree more. Bradley has now become part of a larger community, with a shared interest in old cars. He’s making new friends of all ages, and already sharing stories and experiences with them.

Like water coursing slowly down a brook, these connections trickle from one enthusiast to another. The process reinforces that what’s best about our old cars is less the cars than the people who own them. ♦

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