4th of July

There is something great about the American ideal.  We will call the man that washes our car for us sir.  Sir, a word not reserved for royalty in this country and not someone knighted; there is no difference between the President of the United States and the man working in a saw mill, the law applies to them both, they both are granted the same opportunities.

The American ideal makes me want to like American cars, it makes me want to have pride in our automobile industry and point to it and say, there, beat that.  I think our cars were made with the open road in mind; endless miles of pavement and few turns.  Getting from the east coast to the west coast with the family.  So in a way, they are great.  On this anniversary of our independence from Great Britain I won’t bash them, but celebrate what they were made for regardless of my preferences.

So, happy 4th of July!  Enjoy the cars in my neighborhood 4th parade!

Fireworks down town over the river
Packard Limo
Packard Limo lining up for the parade
Chevy Belair
Chevy Belair in line at our round a bout
Chevy Belair2
Another Chevy Belair
Chevy Impala
A nice looking red Chevy Impala
Miata and MGB
PRHT Mazda Miata and a rubber bumper MGB
4th at the Circle
Part of the 4th of July neighborhood crowd

AC Owners Club of France in Peyriac de mer

Where: Peyriac de mer, France
Who: AC Owners Club of France
When:  June 19, 2014

As I already posted I missed LeMans due to mechanical problems with my flight getting to Paris, so my new intent was to at least get some pictures of cars that we normally don’t see in the US or maybe just some nice sports cars in the Paris environment.  I was slightly disappointed with Paris, car wise anyways.  We stayed in the Opera district and walked to the River Seine and all the attractions every day, but saw very few cars to take a picture of.  I saw one Lotus Elise a couple of times, but I never had my camera to the ready.  We saw lots of cars we don’t see in the US, but mostly just economy cars that have no sporting value.   There were the new scooters with two front wheels that were pretty cool and seemed to be the preferred scooter of the upper level business men in Armani suits, but the only car worth a picture was the original Mini’s and there were a number of them.

Mini and SMART in Paris
Mini and SMART in Paris

Eventually we did see a Ferrari and a Lamborghini rental cars parked as we were leaving the Tuileries Gardens that were for rent, 89€ for a 20 minutes’ drive.  They had some crazy advertising on the side of them so I was almost embarrassed to take the picture, and didn’t, but did find them on someone else’s site here.   Other than to say you drove them, I’m not sure it would be that great of a drive in that particular area.

The second half of the trip was much better car wise.  We headed to the south of France to stay in a little town called Peyriac de mer.  From there we traveled to the Mediterranean Sea, a small city called Narbonne, and to Carcassonne where one of the largest castles in Europe is located.

As we are entering town we are met with the AC Owners Club of France just finishing their lunch with all of their cars parked in a circle immediately outside of the door to our residence.  What a nice surprise.  We dropped our bags and starting taking pictures.  Besides ACs there was one Jaguar and one “real” Shelby Cobra.  There was a language barrier, so no stories, but lots of great pictures and videos.

AC History:

AC Cars are Britain’s oldest car manufactures having been produced since 1901.  In 1953 the AC Ace was launched and found a following among sports motorists. It was very successful in British Club racing and the Shelby AC Cobra eventually evolved from the AC Ace.  In 1961 AC was approached by Carroll Shelby to use a small block Ford V8 engine in the Ace chassis, producing the AC Cobra. Shelby needed a car that could compete with the Chevrolet Corvette in US sports car racing. The resulting Cobra was a very powerful roadster.

1953-1963 AC Ace
Manufacturer:  AC Cars
Production: 1953–1963
Body and chassis: 2-door roadster

2.0 L I6 (AC)
2.0 L I6 (Bristol)
2.6 L I6 (Ford)
4-speed manual (With overdrive available)

Wheelbase: 90 in (2,286 mm)
Length: 152 in (3,861 mm)
Width: 59.5 in (1,511 mm)
Height: 49 in (1,245 mm)
Curb weight: 1920 lb (871 kg)

Links around the web:


LHD AC Ace Dash
France AC Club Badge
One of many beautiful ACs
AC Aceca Bristol Coupé
AC Ace cabriolet
Two more ACs, all gorgeous

My Trip to LeMans Recap: Really United?

What: 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 Heures du Mans)
Where: Le Mans, France
Who: The Automobile Club de l’Ouest
When:  June 14-15, 2014
Link: http://www.24h-lemans.com/en/

It was the 82nd running of LeMans, as organized by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) since 1923. The race was the third round and the premier event of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship, with half of the race’s fifty-five entries contesting the championship.

The race was won by the No. 2 Audi driven by Swiss Marcel Fässler, German André Lotterer, and Frenchman Benoît Tréluyer, who previously won Le Mans as a trio in 2011 and 2012. The victory was Audi’s thirteenth since the company debuted at the race in 1999. The Audi team took the lead after the No. 7 Toyota came to a stop after leading half the race distance, but were challenged by Porsche when two Audis required turbocharger replacements. The No. 1 Audi finished in second place, three laps behind the race winners, while the No. 8 Toyota recovered from an accident in the first hour to finish in third.[1] The LMP1-L category was won by the No. 12 Rebellion Racing Rebellion-Toyota of Nick Heidfeld, Mathias Beche, and Nicolas Prost, the sole finisher in the class. The LMP2 class finished with the Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan of Simon Dolan, Oliver Turvey, and Harry Tincknell ahead of the TDS Racing Ligier-Nissan by less than a lap’s distance. The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari won the LMGTE Pro category with drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella, and Toni Vilander, while the LMGTE Am category was won by Aston Martin Racing’s trio of Danish drivers: David Heinemeier Hansson, Kristian Poulsen, and Nicki Thiim.[2] Approximately 263,000 spectators attended the event, the largest crowd since 1989.

Okay, those were the facts as anyone could look up on Wikipedia or just about any other website, just like I did.  Why ?  United Airlines left me stranded in Washington DC with a broke down 767 and was unable to get me to LeMans before the end of the race.  They did put me up in a very nice hotel after I spent hours and hours in the airport and standing in lines to be rebooked.  I’ve traveled for a living  in the past, so you would think I would learn not to trust an airline, especially United, but no, I took them at their word that I would be there even a day early for the race.

What I spent weeks planning and thousands of dollars investing in; United Airlines was able to dismantle in two short days.  There were electrical problems on the plane when we left Houston; we were delayed for mechanical issues and when we were flying to DC no one’s overhead lights worked.  So, instead of fixing the problem at their major hub, they moved it to DC and stranded hundreds of passengers.

Anyways, I’ll get over it, but I don’t have any pictures or personal experiences to share with you.  Maybe next year I’ll try American Airlines.

Here is a picture of my Audi TT in celebration of Audi’s victory anyways….

2001 Audi TT with about 27k miles

Le Mans facts:
Location: Le Mans (France)
Track Length: 13.629 km (8.469 mi)
Race Distance: 24 Hours
Longest Distance Covered: 3315 miles
Turns: 21
Direction: Clockwise
Closest Train Station: Gare de le Mans (7 KM)
Closest Airport Marce: International Airport (78 km)
Closest Main Road: E502

Three Invesment Cars – Part One

What: Three picks for investment cars
Where: USA
Who: Anyone with the money
When:  Now 

We’ve all done it, we’ve all said it.  If I had bought that car when I was looking I would have tripled my money by now.  I’m sure I’ve said it multiple times a week for a long time.  I bought my 1978 Lotus Esprit Series 2 for a song a couple of decades ago; it was low mileage and in pristine condition.  When I was ready to sell it I took it to Barrett-Jackson when they were at West World and after commission I made $9k in profit.  The sale earned a Sports Car Marketplace magazine  comment “well sold” and they said that it set the Esprit price going forward.  Well, the prices have gone up, but I think my buyer was someone wondering why they got such a cheap Ferrari and not any great insight of mine.  But, please don’t repeat that because I use that example every time I want a new ride.

So with this post and the following two I will choose three cars using my “special investment intuition”.  In this post I’ll pick my three car, one $5k or under, one $10k or under, and one $20k or under.  I’ll give you my thoughts on why I like them without additional research.  My next post will be what I have found out from researching these cars as actual investments.  Then my third post on the subject will be where I decide to head to the bank and make a withdrawal for the big buy or where I eat my words and stick with my ’78 Lotus story.

Okay, my first car will be a sound 1973 SAAB Sonett III.  First, there are not a lot of sports cars under my $5k limit, but I think I can pick up a Sonett in that range,


I could be wrong and I’ll find that out in the research.  Swedish cars are an acquired taste, not everyone will go for a front wheel drive fiberglass car, but don’t they look cool.  This pick may be a little biased in that I owned one and taught my wife to drive in it.  They have a little 1.7 liter Ford V4 engine in them and there are over 200 specialty tools to work on them.  The headlights are manual, so they always work, the car always runs, it’s fun to drive, and you can always count on it being fairly unique outside of a SAAB rally.   Five thousand dollars is almost pocket change for a car these days, so how could you go wrong?


Other cars I considered: an early Mazda Miata, a later MG Midget,

For $10k there are a lot more cars to pick from and since I’m not using any outside resources yet I hope I stay within budget.  I’m going to go out on another limb with this pick as well… a presentable 1969 Datsun Fairlady 1600.

Datsun Fairlady 1600
Datsun Fairlady 1600

The Datsun 1600 has dual Hitachi carburetors and a 1595cc engine from what I remember.  The top flops back with a single hand, much like a British MG, but when you turn the key it usually starts, not necessarily like a British MG.  This is a more proper sports car than my SAAB Sonett pick for under $5k with a front engine and rear wheel drive.  They drive nice on the curves and can keep up with traffic on the freeways.  They turn my head every time I see them, at first you think British then you see there are no oil leaks under it.  They are solid, well-engineered cars.  Other cars I considered: a nice Austin Healey Sprite MKIII, a presentable Triumph GT6, Porsche 914 1.7 liter, Fiat 850 Spider.

For under $20k the field really opens up, so let me say up front my pick will be 75% emotion and 25% everything else.  I’ll turn those numbers around in the next post when I do the real research.  My under $20k pick is 1969 BMW 2002 roundie.  This is the car that turned BMW around and gave them the real image of the ultimate driving machine, the 3 series before there was a 3 series.  Don’t be tricked into buying an automatic, a real classic sports car is a manual.  These cars have clean lines, the engines are bullet proof, and great performance for the era of the car and a 2.0 liter engine.  The round tail lights and the all chrome bumpers give it such a classic look.  The later 2002 Tii has much better performance, but not the classic look.  Other cars I considered are: Porsche 914 2.0 liter, Lotus Europa, early MG B, Lancia Fulvia, BMW Z3 M

This post reminds me that I am a bit short on my scaled car collection as well…. no BMW 2002.

My Return to Le Mans

What: 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 Heures du Mans)
Where: Le Mans, France
Who: The Automobile Club de l’Ouest
When:  June 14-15, 2014
Link: http://www.24h-lemans.com/en/

LeMans 2001 literature
2001Le Mans literature and tickets

It has not been since Father’s Day in 2001 that I have gone to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in Le Mans, France.  Although I have been a “car guy” my entire life, it was my first Le Mans style race I had been to and the highlight of my first trip to France.  2001 marked the return of Bentley to Le Mans after a 71 year hiatus and was also the year I purchased my Audi TT.  It was a very good car year.

Well, I will finally be going back this year.  My wife will already be in France on business for a month and I was able to get a week away to meet up with her.  I could have chosen either end of her trip; at the beginning and attended Le Mans or at the end and attended Le Mans Classic.  I chose the former.  I love the smell of the fuel, the sound of the cars, the raw power you can feel and see as they pull out of a Chicane and down a Mulsanne straight with their unbelievable amount of torque.

I am on a bit of a shoestring and will only go to the race on the 15th to watch the sun come up and finish of the race.  I am a romantic Lotus fan, wanting to see the great marque’s return to prominence.  They make great cars; my first was a 1978 Esprit Series 2 but, I’m not sure what my second one will be yet.  I would love a Lotus VI, even though the more practical side of me says Evora.  It’s hard not to enjoy seeing the dominance of Audi though, no other constructor has had such a run as they have since their debut in 1999 and to watch them race you know why.

We’ll be staying in Paris and taking the train in.  Le Mans in not a big city and hotels are near impossible to get at this late time.   I found a receipt for a Le Mans Polo shirt and baseball cap I purchased in 2001; I don’t remember paying that much (and won’t this time).  Wow!2001 ReceiptIf you are expecting to go on the cheap you will have to work at it.  You can buy tickets on line before the race or I found, in 2001 anyways, that you could purchase them at the gate as well.

If you don’t have a budget here is a VIP race package that might interest you: http://www.project100.com/LM%202014%20PLATINUM%20VIP%20PACKAGE%20-%204%20day%205.8.13.pdf

I think this is going to be another great Father’s Day.  I hope yours is as good, but if I won’t be seeing you at the track you may be able to sneak in a few minutes of the race when you are out and about on your phone with live streaming here: http://www.lemans-tv.com/

Le Mans facts:
Location: Le Mans (France)
Track Length: 13.629 km (8.469 mi)
Race Distance: 24 Hours
Longest Distance Covered: 3315 miles
Turns: 21
Direction: Clockwise
Closest Train Station: Gare de le Mans (7 KM)
Closest Airport Marce: International Airport (78 km)
Closest Main Road: E502

1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal

What: 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
Who: Val Herrera
From: Double Oak, TX
Where: Seabrook, TX, Lakewood Yacht Club
When:  May 3, 2014

My eyes were drawn to the Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe I saw sitting up on the hill overlooking the docks at the Keels and Wheels Concours d’Elegance.   Throughout the day I had stopped by a couple of times hoping to meet the owner and get a few words with him or her.  On my last pass by I was listening to a gentleman that I later learned to be the owner, Val Herrera, talking to others interested lookers about his car.  He was telling them about it’s history and what work he had done since owing it.  The car’s front end has four headlamps partly covered by grilles that retract when the lights are switched on, but Val was able to show us how they worked manually.

1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal
Interior of Val Herrera’s 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal

Val is a retired Texas Instruments engineer with a collection of 10 different Alfa Romeos.  Val bought his first car, an Alfa Veloce Spider,  in Hollywood, CA almost at the corner of Hollywood and Vine in 1965.  Val found this particular Alfa Montreal in the Alfa Owner’s magazine in the cars for sale section and it was first come first serve; so Val headed to Phoenix, AZ back in 2002 and has not regretted that trip yet.

Val Herrera's 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
Val Herrera’s 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe

Val’s Montreal has 42,000 original miles on it and other than replacing the timing chain the engine has not been opened.  Val has installed both new paint and a new interior on his car.  That was good enough to enter it in Concours Italiano in Monterey, CA.  A recent record setting sale at Gooding and Company Scottsdale set the bar at $176,000 for a 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe.

1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe at Keels and Wheels 2014
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
Val Herrera’s 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe, rear view

 Val also owns one of only 35 copies of the Alfa GT6 Callaway.

Val took home the Silver award for misc. Italian cars; Congratulations!!  I hope you enjoy the pictures of Val’s beautiful car!

The Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe:
Years Produced: 1970-1977
Production: Total number built was 3917
Driveline: longitudinal engine at front with rear wheel drive
Engine:2593cc (80×64.5mm) DOHC V8 with 200bhp @ 6,500rpm with mechanical fuel injection, and dry-sump
Suspension front: Double wishbone, telescopic dampers, coil springs and anti-roll bar, rear: live axle, coil springs and dampers
Wheelbase: 92.5 inches
Front Brakes: discs, ventilated
Rear Breaks: discs, ventilated
Gearbox: 5 speed manual, ZF limited-slip differential
Kerb Weights: 2493 lbs.

Comments from around the web:

It made 200hp out of just 2.6 liters, a very respectable specific output for a naturally aspirated car. Its high redline and small displacement made it one of the most lively powerhouses of its day.” Concept Carz,  http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z14231/Alfa-Romeo-Montreal.aspx

“the soul of a concept car and the V-8 heart of a race car” Hemming’s Motor News, http://www.hemmings.com/hsx/stories/2012/11/01/hmn_feature1.html

“Very few road cars can claim an engine with antecedents in both long-distance sports car racing and Formula 1 but the Alfa Romeo Montreal is one of them. ”  Bonhams, http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20099/lot/233/

Keels and Wheels, May 2014

What: Keels and Wheels
Where: Seabrook, TX, Lakewood Yacht Club
When:  May 3, 2014
Link: http://www.keels-wheels.com/

Outside the entrance to the 2014 Keels and Wheels
Outside the entrance to the 2014 Keels and Wheels

It was my first time to visit Keels and Wheels.  I’ve been to many car auctions and many car shows, but this is the first boat and car show combined; it was fantastic.  Even if you are not a boater, you can appreciate the work and care put into these beautiful floating machines.  Most of them were wooden Chris Crafts from decades and centuries gone by.

I was only able to make it to Seabrook for Saturday Concours d’Elegance and did not attend the auction or awards, so I’ll need to catch up on those after the fact.  There was a great collection of automobiles from the early 1900’s through today.  From the entry gate around the first corner they are mostly American brass cars, beautifully restored, many for much more than their value.  I started out talking to Don Sable who had almost 5 years into the restoration of his 1911 Ford Model T Torpedo Roadster.  The picture below is my wife sitting in his car.

1911 Ford Model T Torpedo Roadster
My wife sitting in Don Sable’s 1911 Ford Model T Torpedo Roadster

Although these were all great cars and restored to levels better than when they came from the factories, I thought I was going to be disappointed.  I came to see sports cars since they are my passion.  As we wondered down the road we came across a gaggle of Corvettes;

1955 Corvette
Carolyn Sikes’ 1955 Corvette

they were magnificently restored and then a lineup of Ferrari’s down by the docks.  There were some beautiful 430’s, one Dino that was a little rough on the outside, but presentable.

Though I had many favorites for the day, the one that I spent the most time with was a blue 1959 Maserati 3500 GT.   The owner wasn’t around, so I didn’t get any background on the car’s history.

1959 Maserati 3500 GT
1959 Maserati 3500 GT

Enjoy the pictures from the show and I’ll post some specifics about a few talks with some owners I had in a day or so.

The full list of the 2014 awards can be found here: http://www.keels-wheels.com/Assets/2014%20car%20awards%20script%20indiv.pdf