Three cars from the SCM fleet recently completed the 2021 SCM 1000 Classic. While they all finished the tour (“returning home on their wheels rather than a flatbed”), they were walking wounded at the end.

This is not a bad thing. Old cars like to be driven, and by putting miles on them, we expose weak links that we can address before they lead to catastrophic failures.

An old cat

The 1971 Jaguar V12 E-type was once again a wondrous GT car. At 50 years of age, it cruised easily in the 80- to 100-mph range. The a/c blew ice-cold in the 100-degree temperatures of the Oregon High Desert.

The Jaguar is completely stock. With just 23,000 original miles (maybe that’s 24,000 now), it is totally as-delivered.

I am always pleasantly surprised by how flat the car stays through turns. With my vintage Alfas, it is mandatory that you add a thicker front sway bay (and maybe a rear one as well), along with stiffer, shorter springs and Bilsteins to get them to corner well, without the ridiculous amount of body-lean that Alfas are known for.

Driving the Jaguar rapidly still offers challenges. The 272-hp engine easily overpowers the brakes and suspension. Often, I found myself heading into a turn marked at 50 mph going 80 or more. That led to some incidents of mildly elevated blood pressure as the brakes hauled the car down to a manageable speed and I got the tires properly planted to keep the car from drifting to the opposing shoulder.

Disappearing brake fluid

What caused the E-type to join the “fix me now” gang was that, once again, my brake-fluid warning light started coming on.

This has happened before. The first time, it was solved by adjusting the hand brake (it shares the same warning light with the brake-fluid reservoirs). The second time, the shop that services it, Consolidated Auto Works in Portland, replaced the cork floaters in the reservoirs that activate the light when the fluid drops. They get saturated with age, start to sink, and give false readings.

But this time it is surely another issue. We know that brake fluid is going somewhere, and it is not leaking from a wheel cylinder or the master cylinder. We just need to find out where. “Legal Files” columnist John Draneas has a similar problem with his Series 1 E-type, and the suspicion is that the fluid is being sucked into the brake booster.

The Jag will go to the auto brake services next week for a diagnosis and see if it needs brake repair, and then it will be completely road-ready for the next spur-of-the-moment outing.

More to repair

Two of our Alfas also racked up repair needs. The 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce that Executive Editor Jeff Sabatini and Senior Editor Rory Jurnecka drove needs a new tach cable. The one in the car started making loud noises and we disconnected it.

If this were a different time in my life, I would simply reach under the dash, pull out the metal inner cable, lubricate it and reinstall. But now I prefer to source a new cable from Jon Norman at Alfa Parts. Our local Portland Alfa guru Nasko will install it. That should solve that problem for another few decades.

The 1967 Duetto needs a bit of attention. While at lunch at the High Desert Museum in Bend, we noticed that the driver’s side front tire was worn badly on the outside edge. All of the wear had happened in the few hundreds of miles since the car left Portland. It appeared something had gone awry with the suspension. The car will go to our specialists, A-n-T Tire and Wheel, and have things sorted out. It’s probably time for new tires as well.

The three vintage cars covered more than 4,500 miles start-to-finish. They never “failed to proceed.” Like fenced animals allowed to run free, all three cars seemed to enjoy being on the kinds of roads for which they were built — two-lane twisties with speeds in the 50- to 75-mph range.

The repairs needed are minor. The cars are solid and will soon be ready to run again.

It is only through using our old cars in this way that we bond with them. From behind the wheel during the tour, it felt like it could easily have been 1971 again. That week of driving allowed the cars to act as the mobile time machines they have become.

Celebrating the next generation

I would be remiss if I did not underline that this is our second “40 Under 40” issue. 

A few months ago, we asked the collector-car community to nominate people who were making a difference and helping to push the hobby and community forward. Thank you to everyone who participated by submitting nominations.

Starting on p. 56, you will see who, out of the hundreds nominated, we decided are worthy of being honored. Keep your eyes on these folks. I’m sure you will be hearing more about them in the future.

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