I’ve been “into” cars since I was 15 or so. By the time I hit 15, I had been driving all the back roads in my small Arizona mining hometown of Miami for about a year and a half — lots of dirt roads and one old pickup means a lot of fun. I got to reading about racing, got into Formula one (still am), followed drivers, and fell in love with old cars. My uncle had an old VW that I started wrenching on; that and my first real car (Fiat 131) and began to make the whole experience real.
Trouble was twofold; the Fiat was new, and my dad bought it. I needed something that was mine.
With the first $350 I made the summer of my freshman year in college, I bought my very first old car, a Citroen DS, simply because it was different. I’ve had at least one old car in my garage ever since, mostly Citroens but a few other glorious standouts.
Twenty-six restorations and old cars later in January of 2005, I decided to take a hiatus. I sold my last Citroen (pictured above) and decided that I would like to do a “final” restoration; something that I could possibly be happy with for a very long time after the few years I expected to invest in it. So here’s the current short list:
Another Citroen DS — I have to admit to a very quirkly and possibly misguided love affair with these cars. I’ve had 10 Citroens now, and I’ve restored most of them to near-showroom condition and have put more miles on them than most frenchmen. Being an engineer, I have yet to see anything that really screams engineering like a DS — 911’s are close and possibly better built, but the DS was and in many ways still is the car of the future. A car that had everything pretty much justified, engineered and added only after it had purpose. There’s very little on a DS that is put there just for looks. They are solid, original and when maintained properly, absolutely bullet-proof and reliable. I always felt that I’ve “left something on the table” with the restorations that I’ve done on these cars. If I could find the “right one”, I think it would be my hands-down favorite.
Alfa-Romeo 2600 Bertone Sprint — The least-loved of the “big” Alfas, the Sprint Coupe is really a great car. The six-cylinder motor is familiar to the two 3500 Maseratis that I’ve done in the past, as well as most of the bits in the car are from Italian parts bins of the era, which I have great familiarity with regards to the aforesaid Masers, one Iso Rivolta and a Alfa 101. These guys can be had fairly inexpensively, and although a restoration would be challenging, the final result is something that I would dig driving to work a few times a month.
1964 Corvette Coupe — Probably one of the cheapest to really restore well, they cost a fortune to obtain. I don’t want one of those big-block monsters with all the go-fast goodies — A nice 327-340 engined set-up with an Automatic and Air, well, that’s fine with me. Silver/red interior? Maybe Yellow/white? The second-series vette is the ultimate cool car, the 327 to me is the ultimate small-block, and the Automatic/Air combo is the ultimate road-tripper/commuter/arrival car. Gotta make me some more money before I can throw down for this one!
Porsche 356-A coupe — Going fast isn’t all about ponies. Going fast is also weight and cornering. While the 356 is definitely a vintage car, I’ve driven quite a few of these over the years and two things come to mind. They are just stupid-fun quick, even if you’re the only one that knows you’re going fast, and they are really well made. There are parts galore to make your car anything from a Concours Lawn Bird to a Sleeper Hot Rod; Porsche likes to race and the go-fast factory parts are just bitchin’. I’ve had two 911s, but I would love to have a Semi-Sleeper A-series Coupe.
1967 Porsche 911s — I had one of these about 10 years ago. I had really been into Italian cars for years, thought Porsches were over-glorified and just too ubiquitous. That is, until I drove a ’67 S to its factory 8000 RPM red-line. OhmyGODnobodytoldme that a car could pull through 5th gear like that! Sold. I lost that car to trailing-throttle oversteer one dark night. Even though it rolled 1 1/2 times I was still able to drive it home. Just couldn’t fix it. Now I know why they lengthened the wheelbase a few years later to make it at least less squirrely. The early 911s are just so well-made and yet so light and airy. It seems like the builders took a block of steel and carved away everything that didn’t look like a 911.
The thing that upset me about the early cars was you couldn’t put a decent stereo in it. Being in my 40’s, I only listen to PBS and old stations anyway, and the interior noise in that car really doesn’t make a large investment in sound equipment a realistic idea.
The rest of the pack and the other stuff in my life…
There are others — another ISO Rivolta, a really early Facel-Vega FV, possibly another 101 Alfa or a mid-60s two-headlight Giulia Sprint GT — I may hit the lotto and really step up to something that would cost more than my house, but I really don’t see that happening — I’ve got a kid to educate, a wife to be happy with and lots of other things to do. Still, there’s a part of me that misses my old iron, the insane pleasure I get from restoring old cars, and the zen-like pursuit of an unobtainable perfection that keeps one grounded and centered.
I want to thank HNM3 and the other writers at R&T for their writing, my Uncle Moon for giving me the confidence to turn a wrench on anything, and my wife for smiling and not saying “no” as much as she should. Since I haven’t narrowed the car down to one, I’m going to keep looking until I do. That may end up being more fun anyway.
update –> 1/9/2008 read about what I finally did.