Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rat Rod or Project Under Restoration?

On the Western Side of the Eisenhower Tunnel the other I was driving and spotted(and my wife tapped the iphone pic) of this hotrod on a flat bed. Just thought it was a bit out of context to see this thing being hauled eastward. The flat black of the car popping against the brown of the mountains. The green of summer gone and the snow of winter still to come.

Heck, I even dug the hauler. I would love to have one of those drive trucks for my race hauler.

Pretty sure it was a '40 Ford. But my early-American spotting skills have diminished since my youth when I used to read my Dad's Rodder magazines everyday. Let me know if I am wrong.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Park My Classic on the Street. Do You?

I had 3 people yesterday ask me if I worry about parking my car on the street. They caught me as I made some trips back to the car to put some booze purchased from Mondo Vino in Denver in the back. A rare and cheap($12!) Amaro from Miletti and a six-pack of Pumpkin Ale. I'm addicted to the stuff. Love them all except the one from Shipyard. Some people wait for the Pumpkin latte at Starbucks to return each year, I wait for the Pumpkin Ales to hit shelves.

Anyway. I do not mind parking the MkII or any of my other cars on the street. Heck, I enjoy it. I bought this car to drive and drive it I do. It is insured if someone were to hit it. Besides, I love just looking at it parked next to all the dull weekend transports of the Yoga pant-wearing fraternity who usually traipses around Denver on the weekends. 

Seriously, it is pictures like the above that get me excited about classic cars. Not the really posed ones. Or the ones of a shined up car in a line of others at a concours. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Torque Trumps Revs. 500E Resides Next Door.

A nice benefit of living in Denver is that when you test drive a car you get to do so on some spectacular roads.

Test driving this particular car, I was able to take it up outside of Lyons, CO and into the hills that lead to Rocky Mt. National Park. Not too difficult a task.

A 1993 500E with 124,000 on the clock. We were lucky to find this in our home state, as my friend was looking nationwide for the right car.

Exterior, the paint is nice. Original. A couple of small fade spots and rock chips. But the lack of spoiler and large flares shielding original rims, it looks the part. Like the important small print on a document that most don't read, the details of this design are worth noting or you could get burnt.

Interior. The four place seating is wonderful. Like a business jet. Lots of wood detailing and Germanic efficiency. All works as it should except the headrest release. Radio is original. Steering wheel is large, as I and it seems Porsche and Mercedes engineers prefer. Cosy even.

Driving impression. Hmmm, like a sick overweight dog if left in D. Seriously, you wonder what all the prose is about. But, drop it into 2 and slam the throttle and all 320+HP raise up and shoot the big saloon down the road. All with a barely audible rumble. I would like more exhaust noise. The handling was a surprise with how little body roll was evident from the driver's seat. You feel the weight of the car, it is not lithe, but it does respond quickly to steering inputs. The brakes are well matched, stopping the car from decent speed on a steep mountain incline easily. No cupholders, again as God and the engineers intended.

No doubt at its best on longer drives, the 500E is also a good around town car with the torque to leave many a car behind at the lights. Subtle it is. But like with bespoke suiting or fine horology, those who know, know. And those who don't, don't matter.

And the price? Well, well below his $10,000 budget. Well bought sir.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Smartest Way to Buy a Classic Car

The smartest way to buy a classic car is to use someone else's money.

And with that in mind, I have been lucky enough to help my neighbor shop for a replacement classic for the past month or so.

He, like me, sold a nice 911SC to get a larger sedan. But unlike me, he wanted something modern. His budget, $10,000 or less. Let's review the shortlisted options.

1988 E28 M5. The original sports sedan. 252HP. Straight six. Great boxy lines. It is really surprising that you can still get a decent, not perfect, but a good driver for less than $10k. Mark my words. These will double in value in three years. Great if you like black, as that is the only color they came in.

Quattroporte III. Let me just say, that this neighbor's favorite car ever is the Citroen SM. That should give you a little insight into his proclivities. So, a Q-III is not that far a reach. Lovely V8. American transmission. No tricky hydraulics. And the swankest interior of any car built. Ever. You can almost hear the cocaine being snorted off the pleated seats.

Mercedes 500E. Built partially by Porsche in 93 and 94 when they were near bankruptcy, this Benz looks like a 300E to the untrained eye, but is so much more serious. Recaro seats. 2+2 seating. Flared bodywork. And a robust 5.0 litre V8 with 326HP.

Finally, E34 M5. Not quite as attractive as the E28 but still a rare, impressive sight. The looks are forgiven with a 7,000+ RPM six that puts out 340HP mastered by a the fluid 5-speed Beemer fans know and love.

So, a couple of straight six options. A couple of V8 options. All built in low numbers for a dose of exclusivity. All possessing great marque history. All a safe place to park some funds for the foreseeable future.

And, we(he) bought one of these today. Will reveal which one tomorrow.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Out Flat at Last Race of the Year

No, I didn't suffer a twinge of dyslexia in my post headline. Yesterday was going great. My first time at Pueblo a very fast 2.2 mile track until the main race at the end of the day.

Five minutes before grid did one last tire pressure check and WHAT. I had a flat. Scrambling, another SPEC racer lent me his 4 year old near dead RA-1. The results were not good. No idea what the pressure in that tire was. I was just happy to get it on and get in the race. But at the beginning of the third lap, when the tires were at full temp, I realized just how important a set of equally conditioned and pressured tires were. I was suffering massive push. And trying to keep up with the 944 SPEC national champ had me off the track. Twice. So I called it a day.

But I still had a great time at Pueblo. I was able to qualify sixth then finish the qualifying race in fifth out of fourteen. Oh well, that is racing. Better a flat than something more pricey to fix. So, now I will either do one lapping day to end the year on a high note, or just pack it up.

In the pics you can see how Pueblo's front straight uses the drag strip portion of the park. You come out on it flat out of turn 10 at about 80MPH and hit what I suspect is about 115 at the end of the straight.

Then there is a pic of Graham suggesting I add some coolant to the car. Good fun that my wife and son were able to see me in the qualifying race and had left by the time of the main where I flatted.

One note, my motor seems to be breaking in nicely. Revving a bit quicker and offering what seems a bit more mid range torque. Especially when I wrapped cardboard around my oil cooler to raise the temps. I couldn't get the oil above 160 degrees in the am. So for the qual race I wrapped it and saw my temps a better 200 degrees. Warm oil is fast oil, to a point. You don't want to go above 240.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cars & Coffee Boulder Pics

Today was designed to drive your classic car in Colorado. Sunny. High 70s. Just remarkable.

And it coincided with the monthly Cars & Coffee in Boulder/Lafayette. It is held at the Brewing Market in Lafayette. Which, by the way, brews a very nice Americano. But I would pass on the Breggo Sandwich, it is just an overpriced Hot Pocket. The scone however, was crumbly perfection.

The MKII ran very well. With my Wife upfront and Graham strapped into his Recaro in the back seat, we were all well cosseted on the forty minute drive from home. It was my first opportunity to use the overdrive on the car and it was great. Just like shifting into fifth, minus depressing the heavy clutch.

So, let me describe the pics in descending order from the top:

1. Yes, that is a 914 towing half a 914. I can't comment further. 

2. Flared and checkered Fiat Abarth.

3. Late Carrera and early Countach, both with gold wheels.

4. Ferrari 330 motor. Achingly pretty.

5. My MKII next to one of the few cars in the world that could make it look ugly, a Ferrari Dino. Owned by the same gentleman for 30 years. Some people know when they have some good and don't let it go.

6. One of the rows. Alfa GTV looking prettier for parking next to a Z3.