Shifting Gears: Choices

Which car should I add to my collection?

I look forward to reading your comments and thoughts – KM

49 comments

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  1. Go with your gut, go with what feels right for you. What others choose is interesting, what you feel in your soul is what you should put in your garage. I don’t know you personally apart from your writings, but from what I see, the Alfa most closely matches you.

  2. I would pick the Porsche 356C because I like them and have owned a couple. BUT, your heart is Alfa’s, so I bet that would be the one to put the best smile on your face.

  3. The British car can satisfy your love of unreliable, combined with drop top motoring from another country. The Porsche will be fine, just fine…but why go with fine (just buy a newer one!), and the Alfa is another Alfa.

  4. Healey is a lovable brute.
    Porsche a must
    Alfa an affordable unicorn.
    For less than 200k, buy ’em all. Enjoy then all, Sell 2 and the 3rd will be free.

  5. I really like the looks of the Junior Zagato. It is the car I would have in your place, and I think it fits in with your current cars.

  6. I would select the 356B with 912 motor and subtle outlaw upgrades. I have been reading about Rod Emory’s work recently and have a strong desire for an outlaw.

  7. Although there are excellent justifications for the Alfa and the Healey both come up a bit short if you actually plan to use the car. I have done 3 Targa Californias in my ’59 A Coupe with little more than an oil change as prep. If driving the car isn’t a big factor, flip 3 coins and odd one out wins!

  8. Hey Keith,
    You need a BJ7, not a BT7, as BJ7 & BJ8 have the roll up windows ! BJ7 has the original style dash you want. Need one like the 63 BJ7 you commented about at this years Kiawah Island Concours you mc’d. Good hunting out there.
    Mike

  9. My ’64 356 C Coupe was one of my favorite cars that I’ve had the pleasure of owning. I wish I had never sold it. I’m sure your other choices are great fun as well however there’s a lot of pleasure to be derived from the 356’s that I haven’t found in the nearly 200 cars I’ve owned over the past 46 years of driving. It has enough power for its light weight and having driving it spiritedly on Mulholland Highway, it is a true driver’s car. Enjoy whatever you choose.

  10. Although I generally hate all Porsches after about 1958, this 356B looks like a decent buy and will be lots of fun on your Cal roads. The Alfa and the Healy are break mobiles, so I would vote for the “vacuum cleaner”!

  11. I started working on sports cars in 1962 How lucky I was to have started in a shop that recognized the superiority of the Porsche. I always wanted a Healey but they talked me out of that. They were junk when 4 years old. The Alpha was always in the shop for repairs. They seemed to come apart if driven daily and hard. Send me some pictures and call me about your 356 and I will tell you what kind of trouble you are in. My first choice would be an air cooled G-50 911 convertible then the coupe. The ultimate would be a G-50 air cooled speedster with the narrow body. Unfortunately I am too tall to drive one. al zim, al@allzim.com Lots of people know about 356 cars but have no experience with them. Your 1600CC normal will pull as good as the SC/912 engine but will be much more durable. 75 MPH is all a 356 can do safely.

  12. Which one looks like the most fun for you to drive? Otherwise, don’t choose until you lived with all 3, and sell the other 2….

  13. Good choice to have :). The big Healey is nice but the B and Z will deliver more smiles per miles. To me it’s a choice between the B and the Z. Would be nice to round out your Alfa collection, and you’ve really made be an Alfa wannabe. I think you recently blogged about how much you liked your modern 911. I say try out a B. Life is too short to own all the great cars that have ever been made but it’s just long enough to shepherd a few of them through your garage. Buy, enjoy, sell, buy again.
    Easy for me to say though. Up here in frozen eastern Canada it’s minus a billion outside and there’s a few feet of snow. My choices are between grades of Unimog. Try them all, buy the one you enjoy most.

  14. The 356 is one of the iconic sports cars of the 60s and instantly recognizable with a smile by even the most casual of car fans. Once sorted, it’s very reliable. My son and I drove my 356c to Monterey car week from LA three summers ago without incident, about a 1000 mile trip. Everything worked as designed, and did we have fun driving the back roads of Carmel and Monterey. The C model has all wheel disc brakes, a modification to consider on any B. It is very fun to drive, particularly in the twisty bits. A stock motor with its 75 horses will seem a bit tame ( until you rev it properly), but rebuild kits can take it to 90 horsepower and a 912 engine has a little more. I know you are fond of your twin cam Alfas, but these 356s are a blast, and stay on the road without the need of a mechanic following in a chase car. Good luck;you can’t go wrong with any of the three.

  15. Keith – Get out of your comfort zone, certainly do the 356, but better yet, for the next time itch hits, get a 4 or 5-speed 230SL!! Be sure it’s properly sorted and it has a few intelligent upgrades like higher 3:42 or 3:27 rear axle ratio from a later sedan, you might find a new favorite!!

  16. Once an Alfa man, always an Alfa man. Your friends assessment of the 356B is off the mark. Having owned many, the advice I would offer: 1) numbers matching confirmed by Kardex; 2) cabrolet, roadster, convertible, speedster, or coupe with factory sunroof; 3) factory color; 4) concours condition without rust; and 5) expect to pay north of $200k. Bruce Canapa has a beautiful Speedster for sale at $559. If the purpose is to drive, then get a 64/65 C or SC. Finally, do not buy a 356 unless you like to party with other Porsche fanatics.

  17. I’ve always wanted a 356 and since it’s not likely to happen I will live vicariously through Keith. Closest I’m going to be is the ’93 Miata I just bought.

  18. Go for the Junior Z. It’s much rarer. More wow factor. Plus, it’s a Zagato. Just paint the recessed middle section of the black rear bumper in body color paint for better looks.

  19. You should look at the purer Healey BN7 and forget the back seat and the roll up windows. Similarly, the 356A Coupe has cleaner lines, handles beautifully, and is similarly underpowered to the B’s. Haven’t driven the Alfa. Take them all for a spin, put them through their paces, and let the biggest grin win

  20. You are an Alfisti now and forever. The Zagato is, well, a Zagato. The Healey is a great car but it doesn’t drive like an Alfa and it ain’t a Zagato. 356B’s are the latest fad and you are not a fad kind of guy. Did I mention it’s a ZAGATO?

  21. Gotta go with the alfa, having as many as you have now the zagato would just add that sweet touch!!! Of course always been a big fan of alfas since i sold em in the 80’s and had 4 boattails, (2 ran 2 were in need-fresh from storage in 1985!!). But the 356 would be a fine stable mate to what you have too!!!

  22. As you, I am an Alfista at heart. I grew up in Italy in the 50’s & 60’s and dreamed of Alfas. My father owned a Giulietta Sprint. My uncle owned the family sedans of the day: a 1900 Berlina and 2600 Berlina. My first car was a 1966 Giulia GT Veloce and later I bought an Alfetta sedan as my family car. No marque will ever be closer to my heart.
    Nevertheless, I get the feeling you are looking for a change.
    In picking between the Healey and the 356 there is no comparison. The Healey lacks a sense of passion that I feel in your writing and see in you as a broadcaster. The 356, on the other hand, comes with the soul of a great engineer who carries a fascinating history and conceived of a car completely different from anything else of its day.
    Go for the Porsche!

  23. With my buddy, we just ran the Colorado Grand in a 356 coupe. There is no substitute for good engineering and good build quality, although massive horsepower or fabulous styling can cloud your focus in weak moments. Porsche 356s never fail to bring smiles to their occupants and passers-by. You owe yourself the experience.

  24. I am a corvette nut but luv the older Porsches and the 230, 50, 80 SL’s. Keith, the porsche looks the coolest and u would know best about appreciation among the 3. Oh, here is a better reason…The Porsche is better to pick chicks up in 🙂

  25. Junior Zagato gets my vote. Even though you enjoy an extensive Alfa collection, when pulling into an Alfa meet with a Zagato, it is less than likely you would see your identical car on display. I would also venture there is an SCMer that would share a big Healey with you for that convention, if only for a mention in your monthly column.

    Just sayin’.

    TC

  26. It’s good to diversify, adding the BJ7 to your Alfa collection. A classic, rugged, true sports car, with the first year of roll up window refinement.

  27. I have learned over the years that Classic cars are really just toys, so I believe the style and incredible exhaust note of the big Healey should win out. Your comment about the demographics applies to all Classics I’m afraid.

  28. for me it’s the same question i always put to friends who ask for advice when buying a boat or a car, what do you want to do with the car? if it’s to keep with the alfa theme, then the answer is obvious. if it’s for the next thing, then go 356. they are delightful cars,and very usable on a regular basis the coupe in your climate is ideal, warm and dry. however, as you now are closing on the 10 car mark, one wonders why add another car to the mix and not spend more times with the cars you already own?

    that said, if you go with the 356 you will have a car that you use all the time. you will feel good about letting your sun ride in it as it is a solidly built safe closed car, if you do the upgrades it will drive and stop well. you will wonder what took you so long.

  29. Another choice would be a Porsche 912 if you have to have a Porsche. It is a much better car than a 356B. Disc brakes, better handling suspension, more powerful motor, more interior room, really fun to drive. You could get a really nice one for that price. I’ve owned 2 of them. Get one with the optional 5-speed transmission.

  30. It’s past time for you to get a 356 (interesting you’re looking at the plain sister, the 356B T5 coupé but they’re all so very nice).

  31. As a 356 owner I’m admittedly biased, but I think you should get a 356. If you can find a well sorted T-6 B with disc brakes, a 912 motor and wider tires you will have a reliable car that handles well,has minimum oversteer and stops and accelerates briskly. In that configuration you can drive all day long at 75-80 mph in a car which is roomy, comfortable and economical. You’ll be amazed at how many people will stop you to talk about your car and you’ll have something you can drive every day if you so desire. Go for it Keith!

  32. I have a 1957 356A coupe with a 912 engine in it making 100+ hp. It is a delight to drive and 100hp in such a light car makes it fast. I think you will enjoy having a German hanging out with all of your Italians.

  33. While living in Europe back “in the day”, I owned a Giulia Sprint GT while most of my friends had Porsche Cs & SCs. My Alfa could walk (slowly) by them on the Autobahn, they were much quicker, and ‘funner’. Also, I owned a B Roadster for a while; it was a quick and fun ride. I definitely agree with your friends about the 912 or similar engine.

  34. Get a 1963 BJ7 … it is a great car! Lots of personality, style and performance. I have an original car bought from the original owner of 48 years and it is a very reliable and fun car to drive.

  35. I’ve been collecting and driving Big Healeys for 30 years: a factory 100M, BN7, BJ8, etc. Also a couple of early 911’s. But recently I bought a car I had always been curious about but have never owned or driven any distance. At 70 I am really enjoying the driving experience. Consider, as an alternative to your choices, a 1974 BMW 2002tii with a 5 speed installed. Great value, huge fun, and appreciation potential.

  36. Keith,
    I have been fortunate to own each of the cars you are considering. The Alfa is the only one I regret selling. The Junior Z offers a unique driving experience from other 105 Alfas because of its bespoke interior with unique dash, door panels, and center console reminiscent of a 33 Stradale. It is also much better than other 105s at high speeds due to far superior aerodynamics compared to a 105 GTV. The narrowed frontal area, raked windshield and fastback let it really slice through the air over 50 mph. If it is not fast enough, cubic money spent at Alfaholics can bring it to GTAR spec, an example of which almost won EVO magazine’s track car of the year against modern track cars like the Ariel. The other cars you are considering could not dream of that ! The 1600 is the one to have due to hyper rarity with just 402 made and less than 200 registered in the Zagato registry.

    A total of 42,926 Healey 6 cylinders were made and sorry, they all drive about the same, as the English would say, like a lorry (truck). Heavy steering, mediocre brakes, and heavy understeer due to the cast iron lump in the front do it no favors, nor does the exhaust which practically drags on the ground. It is cute and has a nice burble to it but that’s it. The 100 however is a great car due to a lighter engine and fold down windscreen making you feel you are going three times as fast as you are.

    The 356 is SLOW ! I had a C type Carrera 2 and I thought even that was slow. About 76,000 356s were made so it is not particularly collectible and like 6 cylinder Healeys, they all drive about the same… SLOW. If you like the sound, for a third the price you can have the same experience in a Karman Ghia with an Italian body thrown in as a bonus. If you go with a 356, definitely make it an outlaw so it can get out of its own way. Like the Alfa, the bits to do it are available.

    So of the 3 get the Alfa. I only sold mine because some jerk asked me if it was a Saab (Sonnet III) ! Better yet, for the same money get any Ferrari 308 (even a GT4) which is 3 times the car than any of those you are considering !

    Tom Vail
    President, Allferrariparts.com

  37. Yours was a good article of course with which to start 2017

    The Junior Z

    “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” …. over 10 years from the Junior Z’s introduction to that of the Honda CRZ. I have borrowed a Junior Z for a fortnight. It was ‘ok’. I have shared the driving in another, there and back to an event in event in Belgium ~ it was ok. With the 2600SZ taking so long to climb in value (unjustifiably), the Junior Z will probably follow as the last Alfa by Zagato, and with easy mechanical bit. Fine if that is your object. Zagato were at their best in the ‘50s/’60s for their competition cars.

    The big Healey. I have had a 100/6. A big rugged car but despite the six cylinders, I hankered for the 100/4 (in ice blue, of course) and with that folding screen. (I had the Healey Silverstone too, where of course the screen could be lowered). As with so many cars (especially of that period?). the first examples were the best in appearance and it was only the later models where changes happened, usually to present a ‘new model’. And as I like louvres, I would have an ‘M’ type fitted, regardless of originality. It now costs more than Healeys with 6 cylinders and the gear lever coming out of the top of the box (!) but that is what I would like.

    A Porsche 356.

    I have never had a Porsche although driven one or two 911/912 and 914/6. I remember an Alfa 1900 owner saying that he had a VERY early 356 in Sweden. I said to him “after the first corner you will have a front engined Porsche”. One needs much more skill than I possess, to get the best from a Porsche. And I never said that they look and sound like a squashed beetle.
    You are better off as you are. If you find you really love the appearance or diving of something, then save up for it. Did I mention a Stradale? Peter

  38. To Keith:

    Because you taught the Purple Lips Racing Team how to drive, I vote you buy the Healey.

    By the way! We still have the Rubber Chicken Racing team mascot on display in our museum…