As the Pacific Northwest settles into winter and the temperatures drop below freezing each night, we dress our cars in their winter clothes just as we make sure our heavy coats and gloves are hung by the door. Cindy's '83 Mercedes-Benz 123-body 300 Turbodiesel, which lives outdoors, suckles nightly on an orange extension cord attached to its block heater.
Our two-car (and four-motorcycle) garage houses her '78 Alfa Spider and our '62 Ferrari 330 America. They sit side-by-side, connected to automatic battery chargers so they will be ready to rumble if the urge occurs.
Over the years, we've come to realize that the affection we feel for our cranky old cars is in direct proportion to how much they need us.
Starting an old car in the winter is a wonderful and mysterious process, like waking up a camel and watching it rise to its feet. Bearing some similarity to the checklist followed when launching a Saturn V, first the charger leads are carefully disconnected and tucked away (yes, we've driven away with the charger still attached, or at least run over it when backing up-haven't you?). Oil and water levels are inspected, and tire pressures checked.
In the Ferrari, a twist of the key and the fuel pump springs to life with a muted but angry snarl, then slows to a quiet tick-tick-tick as the float bowls of the three Weber 40 DCZs are filled. Tug on the fast-idle knob under the dash and give the throttle pedal six or seven pumps to squirt fuel into the carbs.
Push in on the ignition key and the starter begins its slow, lugubrious turning as it begins to spin the pistons, faster and faster until first one-cylinder fires, then another and finally all twelve come to life.
Then it's a matter of letting the engine pop and snap at 2,000 rpm while all the various fluids begin to flow. The shifting, heavy at the best of times, is even more so when the car hasn't been driven. Our neighbors are used to seeing the red Ferrari go by at 5 mph, snorting and bucking as it eases back to life.
In 30-degree weather, it takes fifteen minutes to begin to warm up-it's easy to tell when the engine is getting to temperature, as the air that leaks in past the firewall turns from frigid to tepid.


Contrast that with a contemporary car. From time to time I have the opportunity to review new cars for The New York Times and other publications; hence, there is generally a current model year car in the driveway, surrounded by our mobile financial catastrophes, a.k.a.
collector cars.
The new cars are uniformly trouble-free and ask for nothing. They always start, the heaters always warm up quickly and the
gearboxes are never sluggish when cold. Our review car this week is an Audi TT convertible, as brilliantly and consistently executed as their A8 L is an ergonomic failure. There's a lot to like about the TT, from its squat, aggressive appearance to its extraordinarily well laid out cockpit.
But I hypothesize that we will never bond with our TTs the way we do with our far less perfect, older cars. Cars that need to be hand-fed with different grains as the seasons change. Cars that snarl at you with grinding gears if you don't get the shift just right. Cars with electrical systems which function under civil service rules, taking "mental health" days off when they feel overworked.
As I approach my 50th birthday later this month (how did so many years go by so fast?), I am comforted by the repeated routine of wrestling with old cars. I have been leaving greasy handprints on various kitchen sinks for the past forty years, and, much to Ms. Banzer's dismay, plan on doing the same for the foreseeable future.


The Thanksgiving through New Year period is a quiet one for the high-end car market, with the exception of the Brooks Europe all-Ferrari sale in Gstaad on December 19. Collector's thoughts are turning towards Scottsdale, Arizona, where the Barrett-Jackson Auction is about to come alive for its colossal five-day extravaganza. Perhaps in response to the high-end competition coming from the RM event held the same weekend, we're told that Barrett-Jackson is foregoing its "Exposition" and will send its high-dollar consignments across the block this year, rather than simply displaying them adorned with "For Sale" signs as in years past.
Mitch Silver will also have an auction in Phoenix, bringing his low-key, affable style and affordable entry list to those looking for an interesting car at less than nose-bleed prices. Finally, Kruse, with John Levisay from eBay working with Bruce Knox, will continue to blend and refine the practices of the on- and off-line auction houses, and will be having its annual Arizona sale as well.
Competition improves the breed, and while we're sure that each auction house would prefer that it were the only one having a January auction in the Southwest, in fact more auctions means more consignments, more bidders and ultimately more sales. As each auction company tries to out-do the other, the quality of the top offerings increases, catalogs get better and the style and presentation of the events becomes more user-friendly.
No matter which auction or auctions you attend, you're sure to get an education. Self-proclaimed experts abound; if you want to learn about Kaiser-Darrins, for instance, find one for sale and go stand by it. Before long, like a fly drawn to honey, someone will come wandering along who will begin pontificating to you, the eager acolyte. This type of history, presented in the classic oral Greek tradition of the Iliad and the Odyssey, is one of the great benefits of going to a collector car event. And what better place to get a collector car education than in the bright winter sun of Scottsdale. We'll see you there.


A 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2 driving through a snow flurry in Manhattan graces our cover this month. Created by Ken Eberts in 1993 and titled "Dr. Ferrari," it was inspired by his memories of growing up in New York. "One of my favorite pursuits was car-watching," he said, "especially from the window of the surface transportation GMC bus that I rode from the Bronx to the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan."
He particularly recalls this red Ferrari, and how it could be parked anywhere without receiving a ticket as it was driven by a doctor.
Eberts, who now lives in Temecula, California, was a founder of the Automotive Fine Arts Society in 1983 and has been its president since its inception. He was a designer for Ford Motor Company before he became an automotive artist full-time in 1968. Over 1,000 of his paintings are in collections worldwide, his numerous awards include two "Best of Show" at the AFAS exhibition at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and he has been honored with more than fifteen one-man shows of his paintings at galleries across the United States.
An edition of fifty 8" x 10" Giglee prints of "Dr. Ferrari" are available at $80 each. Prints of other paintings are available; a brochure is $3. Contact the artist at P.O. Box 613, Temecula, California 92593.

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