As 2016 has drawn to a close, I had some time over the Holidays to reflect over the year. I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many great clients over the past 12 months, and have had a lot of fun helping others connect with the right cars. At a couple of Holiday gatherings this season, I was asked about some of the cars I’ve spent time with over the past year. The most common questions were along the lines of what my favorite inspected or driven car was, questions about prices of the cars, fastest, etc. Some of the questions are easily answered, but others gave me pause, as the mental rolodex of vehicles I’ve seen this year started rolling in my mind. And so, after having some time to think about it, here are some observations of my year in review:
Favorite Car to Inspect: Ok; I’ve got it narrowed down to three. And all for different reasons. The first is a ’58 MGA, which was specialist restored with practically no expense spared, and featured pretty much all the upgrades one could wish for to really make it a very nice driving car, including an 1800 MGB engine and 5 speed Datsun 240 Z gearbox upgrade. Completely sorted and marvelous to drive.
The second would have to be the ’65 Fiat 1500 Cabriolet. This was fascinating because it was a one family since new car with only 30,000 original miles. Un-restored except for one re-paint and lovingly maintained. Since so many of these were lost to rust and the ravages of time, it was nice to see a survivor that was so loved. I felt like I was driving a piece of glass during the test drive; all the controls are so typically Italian; thin, stylish and fragile. Still, I had a fantastic drive in it, and it later sold to my elated client who loves the car. Third would have to be the ’70 AAR ‘Cuda. This car required a fair amount of work to determine authenticity, which is one of my favorite parts of my job. It helped that the car was beautifully restored, spotlessly clean, and a blast to drive.
Favorite Car to Drive: Another best of three! The first would have to be a ’75 Alfa Romeo Spider I looked at just last month for a client. This is prejudicial on my part; I’ve had a lifelong appreciation for these cars, despite their common weaknesses. I grew up around an Alfa Spider owned by my uncle, and I’ve always loved the styling, particularly the pre-’84 interior cars. This one was completely sorted, even the often-problematic SPICA fuel injection was functioning properly. The commonly notchy second gear synchro was smooth as glass, and it drove like an Alfa should. The second was a ’66 GTO, 4 speed, 389 tri-power car, which was a blast to drive because the owner, who was along for the test drive, encouraged liberal use of the throttle. I am often overly careful on test drives, after all, these are not my cars, but it’s nice to occasionally be told by an owner to punch it. The third would have to be either E-Type I looked at this year. Peter Egan once wrote that “as a conversation starter, a Jaguar E-Type is probably more effective than a St. Bernard with a tragic limp.” He’s right. While driving through the affluent community the car lived in, I lost count of the stares, admiring smiles, and waves while driving down the road. Men and women alike. Being the humble mid-westerner I am, I found all the attention a little too much, but nevertheless, look forward to driving the next one!
Worst car to Drive: Another tough call, because most of the time I can find appreciation in almost every car I inspect, from Model A’s to Panteras. That said, I’ve had two cars nearly overheat on test drives this year (nearly because I am constantly watching gauges in cars while on drives, as they are unknown to me. Luckily in both instances I was monitoring and able to pull over and shut them both down before the gauges pegged). I saw five cars this year with single chamber master cylinders that were bone-dry, fluid lost either to leaking wheel cylinders or back-filling past ancient seals into boosters or the interior itself. It happens more than you’d believe. Past that, I’ve seen a gearbox with no second gear, shot u-joints, steering vibration, noisy rear ends, a transfer case stuck in 4-HI, and a myriad of other issues too numerous to list. I’ve also identified a number of bogus cars this year, cars cloned into something else, or carrying incorrect power trains claimed as numbers matching. It’s happened at least 6 times this year alone. Within all that- my least favorite to drive would have to be a Scout I drove this summer, which was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever driven. Loose everything, it stuttered and popped its way to 40 MPH, which was as fast as I felt comfortable driving it. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was hinged in the middle. I literally felt more stable and secure driving the Model A I inspected last month, which I drove on snowy roads.
Most unique car: Easy. I inspected and appraised a ’47 Cadillac Series 75 Imperial limousine earlier this year. I love a car with a good story, and this car has a great one. Full documentation of history and provenance since new, including all original keys and paperwork from when the car was first sold. It also included a full dossier on the first family who purchased the car, an heir of the Remington arms fortune. The file even included the obituary of the chauffeur who had driven the family. Sold in ’57 to a gentleman who owned it for about 57 more years. He drove and enjoyed it, and kept every photograph and repair invoice outlining all maintenance and repair work completed under his stewardship. Fascinating car.
It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to the interesting and amazing cars I will see in 2017. I’m grateful to my clients, who trust me to research and provide all the information they need to connect with a classic that meets their expectations. We wish you only the best for 2017!
An Extra $5
March 17, 2017
Five Reasons to Consider a Pre-Purchase Inspection