There’s been a lot of talk recently about Baby-Boomer collectors “thinning their collections” and “right-sizing them.” Whether you have six cars, 60 or 600 — the dilemma is the same. Over the decades you’ve been collecting, as you’ve found the specific model you’ve been looking for, you acquire it — often paying above market — and tuck it away. However, now, as you look over your garage, you realize that you can’t possibly drive them all. Further, the longer they sit, the more bad things happen to them. Seals dry out, fuel systems get gummy, tires get flat-spotted. The core of my modest collection is six 4-cylinder Alfas built from 1958 to 1967. It has taken me a lifetime to get these cars. Each one of them represents exactly the year and model that I wanted. Like a wine collector, I have searched out what appeals to me the most. I consider my little grouping to be equivalent to a “vertical flight” — one example each of a special year of a special car. I was speaking with SCM Contributor Philip Richter at a preview of the RM Sotheby’s auction in New York City in December. He asked why I had three 1967 Alfas (Duetto, GTV and Super). 1967 represents the pinnacle of unfettered automotive engineering and design. In 1968, we saw the beginnings of federally mandated smog and safety regulations. Prior to 1968, engineers, stylists and marketers had nearly full control over a company’s offerings. Look at the dainty bumpers on a 1965 Mustang — or the lack of headrests or shoulder harnesses. Think of the prodigious horsepower produced by the 427-ci, 435-horsepower Corvette engine — and the blanket of pollutants it laid down as it cruised through the countryside. None of my collectibles is a post-1967.

Culling the herd

I now have five Alfas that are essentially on the button (1958 Giulietta Sprint Veloce “Confortevole,” 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce, the GTV, 1967 Duetto and 1967 Giulia Super). They are all in fine — if not concours — condition, and all of them are mechanically fettled and ready for a drive. They are fundamentally “correct cars” in the ways that matter to me. Soon the 1961 Giulietta Sprint Speciale will join their ranks. If I drove each one 1,500 miles a year, that would be 9,000 miles total between all the Alfas. I doubt if I put 4,000 miles on the fleet during a year, which means one or more barely gets driven. What’s the point in owning cars I don’t drive? Surely I could part with two Alfas. The four I drive most often would bring me plenty of pleasure. Would I really miss the ones I might part with? But here’s the conundrum: It has taken decades to find my six cars, and then more years and dollars to make each one right. Every one of them has needed its suspension rebuilt and upgraded. Interiors and exterior cosmetics have needed lots of attention.

I’ll never own another

All of this has led me to the following realization: If I sell one of these Alfas, the chances are good I will never own another one of this particular model. For example, the Super is a marvelous car. Last summer I took it on a 1,000-mile tour to the town of Joseph in eastern Oregon with two kids in the back seat and good friend Bill Woodard as my navigator. It took two years to get it into this condition, and I simply don’t have the energy or interest to look for and restore another one. Should I find one, it fatigues me to think about “building it” to my specifications, as I have done with all my cars. It’s the same with all the other Alfas in my little collection. They are hand-crafted expressions of exactly what I expect from these 4-cylinder marvels. My daughter Alexandra will inherit the 1965 Spider Veloce, Bradley the Bertone Sprint. I’ll let them duke it out over the other Alfas. However, Alex has made it clear who is getting (or getting stuck with) SCM’s rickety Bradley GT. And it is not her. At 66, I don’t have an endless road ahead of me. These current cars may be the final iteration of my Alfa collecting. I don’t want to look for another 1967 GTV and bring it up to my specifications. A ’67, with its two-headlights, step-nose hood and thin-shell bucket seats is the only year I am interested in. I can’t even imagine restoring another Giulia Spider Veloce. I haven’t recovered from the $100k-plus it cost to make the body and paint solid on the one I own now. As fewer than 200 were built, I might never find another “eyebrow” Bertone Sprint Veloce. And if I did, how much would I have to pay, and what would the inevitable full-or-partial restoration cost? So none of my cars are for sale right now. And when I do decide to part with one or more of them, it will be a signal that I have realized that my time with this particular model is over. That is the point where I realize that I won’t ever have a Super or a Duetto or a Sprint Veloce again. It will be a rite of passage. I’ll know it when the time comes. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the dreams-come-true represented by the wonderful machines in the SCM garage. ♦

Comments are closed.