Rookie RV Drive

41 Years Delayed

In 1968 a pair of newlyweds (us) took a honeymoon through most of the great National Parks of the Northwest. On the way to Banff and Jasper in Canada, we arrived at the eastern entrance to Glacier National Park only to find the famous Going to the Sun Road buried under snow.

How circumstances change! Now our younger daughter is enrolled in the pre-vet program at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Of course we wanted to see what that was like, and since we now have Lifetime Senior Passes to the National Parks, why not finally see that Park while we were in that neck of the woods?

To visit her though, we’d have to board Rosebud, our 74 pound rescue “Lab mix” (she was found abandoned so her actual lineage is unknown), and with abandonment issues and an unresolved tummy issue, that was not an option. Besides, our daughter misses her!

So what’s a muthah to do? Why, rent a motor home of course!

Five and a Half Tons

Since 1966, the name “Winnebago” has been nearly synonymous with a rolling mini-home. Today, they account for perhaps 43% of the RV market. If we rented one of those we could take Rosie along. It’s only about double what you’d pay to have your dog boarded, drive your nice sweet-handling high mileage personal car and stay in comfortable motels for twelve nights.

So the decision for anyone in bondage to a beloved pet is a no-brainer, right?

What Have We Got Ourselves Into?

Anyone with an ounce of automotive passion will know without being told that this is not driving for pleasure.

The 2018 Minnie Winnie we rented was built on a Ford E350 truck chassis. GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight rating) is about 11,000 pounds. Even lightly loaded like ours, that means all the springs and dampers are designed to support that much. In short, it drives and rides like what it is, a truck. We would not be carving apexes, late braking, and building lateral gs on twisty mountain roads.

“Our” Minnie Winnie, Mono Vista RV Park, Lee Vining July 1, 2019.

A typical sedan or SUV today doesn’t have a big-block V8, so it’s quite a step to Ford’s three-valve Triton® V10: 6.8 liters (415 cubic inches), developing a mere 305 horsepower at a moderate 4,250 rpm, but a more important 420 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm. We needed every one of both, and a transmission willing to downshift climbing passes as high as 8,735 feet.

With a creaky RV cabin mounted on that chassis, it makes for a rough, noisy ride. We were never tempted to test the sound system.

RV Park Living

When I was a kid, our cabin cruiser was optimistically rated for sleeping six, but was tight for Mom and Dad and three kids. Our 24’ Minnie Winnie was also a “six-sleeper.” Maybe – if they packed like a backpacker, and those people were very friendly. We maxed out every storage space with clothes and provisions for two plus Rosie, and we grocery shopped and made use of laundry facilities on the trip.

Then there are the details of living with an RV. Taking full advantage of the capabilities of the vehicle, one could “dry camp.” That means pulling over at a convenient spot (where legal), powering up the generator, and being self-sufficient wherever you alight. But generators are noisy, and security anxiety makes a dedicated RV park more attractive. You plug into their electricity and water supply, which are covered by the space rental, at a cost about a quarter to a third of what you’d pay for a motel stay.

Many sites have 80PSI water connections that require a pressure reducer (the brass fitting on the hose). It had us flummoxed until a friendly camper (most are) demonstrated that the whole head slides up the pipe to open.

On the road you have the advantage of skipping many rest stops with your built-in bathroom, although the driver still needs to take occasional breaks. Also, you need not rely on the hygiene of the RV camp showers, although if you are a large person, you may find the one in the vehicle a bit tight.

The other side of that advantage is the dreaded Dump. Our background is in architecture so the workings of a plumbing system are not foreign to us, but this is – quite literally – hands-on stuff. In your home plumbing, every drain goes into the same pipe eventually. An RV is the same, but you are the one who combines the icky stuff (called “black water”) with the more innocuous dishwater and shower discharge (gray water). It’s all held in separate tanks until you dump it.

A note to guys: In an RV the only thing you do in the shower is shower.

At every site, the RV’s waste water discharge has to be connected to the park’s sewage system. You either attach your RV to it at the pad or do it on your way out at a community dump station.

You pack disposable gloves, and wear them as you attach the flexible line (provided) from the RV’s discharge port to the sewer inlet, and separately “dump” the black and gray water (in that order, to flush the line) once a day. You open and shut off the discharges in order, disconnect the dump line, flush it thoroughly with clean water, collapse the line (It accordions into a remarkably compact coil.), and store it for the next dump.

Camping in an RV, you have to be your own Ed Norton (Art Carney in The Honeymooners.). Gravity is your friend.

Plan Ahead – Way Ahead

Our nominal two-week trip bracketed the Fourth of July Holiday. As you can imagine, everyone in the US is vacationing around then. We began reserving both the RV and places at all the stops we’d be making back in late April. That was a challenge, researching the route, keeping each day’s drive within a reasonable range, and finding an available site at an RV Park that looked attractive, near the planned route.

The Rental

The easy and cheap way to rent an RV is to go to Cruise America® and rent an RV similar to ours, but emblazoned with graphics advertising to the world that it’s rented. When you do that you take the RV that’s available. You don’t get pre-rental inspection privileges months in advance, and when you have questions on the road (Trust us. If it’s your first time you will have lots.), you deal with whatever faceless person answers the phone that moment.

Most RV owners use them occasionally, so to defray the cost many rent them out. Research online turned up Outdoorsy®, a broker that handles all the administrative work of renting an individual’s personal RV. You have the advantage of talking to the owner, actually seeing it if you want, and knowing what exact vehicle you get.

Surveying the available vehicles, we found Efrain Vega – accessible, responsive, familiar with every detail of our RV, and empathetic. His 2018 Minnie Winnie seemed perfect for our needs. We calculated about 3,200 miles worth of driving and he agreed to comp us the mileage in excess of the maximum allowed before a $0.35 per mile charge kicks in. It may be the assurance of getting paid for fifteen days that made him so generous.

To sleep six you have to convert the dinette into a bed. We did not do that. The panel on the wall is for the RV air conditioner. During a heat advisory it was welcome, but the lowest fan setting is still pretty noisy. Outdoorsy image.

RV Campgrounds

All you have to go on when reserving a campsite is what you can get from the websites and forum comments. The quality and character of these parks varies widely. All the pads at our sites were acceptably level but only one was paved. Most will be close to a major highway so be prepared for traffic noise. Our first site (See top image.) was fairly typical. There was a nice grass area for walking the dog (bring paper towels and poop bags) and connections were convenient.

The feature that varied most was public facilities. We were very aware of the implications of using the onboard toilet and made use of the sites’ conveniences. Usually they require a code to enter. One had tokens for the showers – two of which were provided free. Each got you five minutes. You could buy more.

The municipal RV Park in Pullman, Washington, was unique in only having portable toilets close by. The better restrooms were a short walk away at the sports fields and only open during business hours. It was about half the price of other parks and the walk was along a river, so there were compensations.

At the other end of the spectrum from the Pullman Park was Columbia Sun RV Park in Kennewick, Washington – about double the price but offering a veterans’ discount – with manicured lawns, immaculate washrooms and showers, lots of recreational facilities, but breed-discriminatory dog restrictions.

Lots of new smells were a treat for Rosie. Paw-friendly walking areas were an important requirement for a good RV Park.

The Payoff

No RVs

Glacier National Park West Entrance. Once you drive the Going to the Sun Road you will understand why driving it even in a small RV is a bad idea. There are places where rock outcroppings threatened the mirrors of our rented Corolla.

Your correspondent has ridden the Rockies on a motorcycle, so we should have been prepared. We were not. The reality beggars expectations, and a mere photograph utterly fails to capture the experience. Here are a few anyway.

Only the beginning. Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park.

Along the Road, hints of majesty to come.

The Going to the Sun Road crosses the Continental Divide over Logan Pass at 6,646 feet, 1,492 feet lower than US 395’s Conway Summit in the Sierra Nevada.

IMG_0695The Glaciers for which Glacier National Park was named are disappearing because of climate change, threatening the future of the fresh water supply in the Western US.

Water, water and more water. We Californians have to be careful not to make fools of ourselves gushing over the abundance of H2O just laying around in vast lakes or flowing in rushing streams throughout the Northwest. Flathead Lake in Montana, at just under 200 square miles, claims to be the cleanest lake of its size in the world.

IMG_0934California has its alpine wonders too. Tolkien fans may be tempted to call Mount Shasta, Erebor – “The Lonely Mountain.” The hot wind of a heat advisory was turning its snowpack to a plume of cloud.

Summer vacationers of every age crowded into the Antlers RV Park at Lakehead, on Lake Shasta, making it a bustling family playground. The lake and pool were popular as temperatures reached 98°.

Bottom Line

We are experienced road trippers, but no trip we ever took prepared us for this experience. Our circumstances powered the decision, and we are delighted with the results. The RV we rented gave us perfect satisfaction once we learned the drill.

For peace of mind we bought all the insurance. Damage waiver, trip interruption insurance, and roadside assistance raised RV rental to just under $400 a day. Pass on that and it’s $179 a day plus tax. Park reservations averaged about $43 a night.

Gas, as you might guess, was expensive. If you have a modern car, you may experience sticker shock at the pump. One fillup was just under 40 gallons (The tank holds 55.) and cost $146. We traveled 3,133 miles and averaged about 10.35 mpg. Gas cost averaged $3.23 a gallon varying from $2.76 a gallon to $5.00 (We didn’t fill up there!) – $1,036 for the whole trip.

Words to the Wise

Be patient as a driver. Don’t be intimidated by those protruding mirrors. Use them all. Aim for the middle of the lane. Turns are to be taken very slowly. Plan ahead for stops. Even well-secured items make a lot of noise when jostled. Use a spotter. These things have long tails. Take at least four spaces in a parking lot.

As a passenger, trust your driver – and save your friendship (or marriage). It can be scary not being in control cresting a pass at 50 mph in a 10,000 pound vehicle and finding the narrow road takes an unexpected turn, but shrieking is not constructive.

Our RV had no GPS. When our two cell phones lost signal (frequently) we had a portable Garmin and some old tree-ware maps (remember those?) from previous trips to keep us pointed in the right direction. The Minnie Winnie had scattered USB ports, and we brought lots of chargers.

It’s important to choose your route for scenery to keep your eyes from glazing over. Apart from the I-5 drive home and parts of Nevada, we enjoyed the views, if not the driving experience. The longer driving legs did grow tiring. Share the task.

Would we do it again? With more time we could shorten the drives and stay longer at the stops, so . . . maybe. We still have those lifetime passes to the National Parks.

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Long Distance Heroes

Parker Subaru, Coeur D’Alene, Idaho

You can only pack so much into a Yelp review, but we had an experience finding a replacement for our daughter’s car lease return that deserves expansion. Briefly put, if you need a Subaru in Idaho, Parker in Coeur D’Alene (By now the spelling comes easier.) gave us service above and beyond all expectations.

No More Focuses

The community college system in the Los Angeles area offers a good opportunity for someone working part time to build a class portfolio without piling up student debt. The trouble is that you have to take classes where and when you can find them, at scattered campuses.

That drags out the process, and means a student needs a car. Your correspondent knows a thing or two about them, and has some contacts that prove useful from time to time, so our daughter has had a succession of Ford Focus sedans. One of them saved her life, sacrificing itself in a collision and calling 911 while she was briefly dazed.

One of those was subject to the transmission problems that plagued the model. She learned from that experience and that problem did not return. The last three have been leased, and my contacts at Galpin Ford in North Hills have always treated us well.

The Ford Focus is what the mainstream auto writers call a PGC – “Pretty Good Car.” But beware of stop-and-go-traffic uphill on hot days. If you stop, holding your position with the throttle, the dual-clutch automatic has a tendency to overheat and yell at you.

Education – Higher Yet

With two Associate degrees, our daughter was ready for a four-year college. The University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, accepted her as a virtual senior into their pre-vet program. One winter in that snow convinced her that when her lease was up in October, she would not be buying her leased Focus. All Subarus (other than the sports coupe) are all-wheel drive and our experience with Subies has been great, so with year-end deals it was a no-brainer.

The Search

All her cars had been leased in our name, so to establish credit, we agreed to co-sign on a new Subaru purchase. They make a sweet little crossover hatchback, the Crosstrek, but after learning what they sell for, we settled on an Impreza hatchback.

Our contacts here quickly had us finding a great deal on a local car at Pacific Subaru. Unfortunately, they can’t register a car in Idaho.

Among Idaho dealers, Brendan OReilly at Parker Subaru in Coeur D’Alene, shot to the top with his responsiveness and availability, answering texts after midnight on Sunday!

Doing a third party deal as co-signer by long distance from Los Angeles is no picnic. Just finding a particular car in a “small market” can be a challenge, but Brendan found a car in the pipeline – in Washington – and dealer-traded for it. His associate Devin coordinated the process and handled all the paperwork.

They needed wet signatures to get the car, so she drove her Focus to Coeur D’Alene in snow and rain to turn it in across the street at Mike White Ford.

After a delay across the street (They badgered her to buy a Ford!) she signed all the papers, and they gave her a loaner to drive until the new car arrived. That was Saturday. There was some confusion because they thought we’d be coming to Coeur D’Alene to co-sign, so they didn’t send the documents to us until Monday.

FedEx overnighted them, and we signed them Tuesday and shot them back. They arrived at Parker on Wednesday in time for Jason to drive the car to Moscow where our delighted daughter took delivery.

Delighted daughter, 2019 Subaru Impreza,

Now THAT, my friends, is service!

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2019 Monterey Auctions – Collector Cool

Market Malaise?

Reports show that sales at the auctions in Monterey 2019 were 34% lower than 2018. Those that did sell mostly brought less than their estimates. You could look at that both ways. On the one hand, owners of collectable cars might have been disappointed by the apparent reluctance of their colleagues to shell out record amounts of cash for their cherished consignments.

Auction Disappointments

One of the most anticipated lots up for auction was a 1994 “Le Mans Specification” (The race version won Le Mans in 1995) McLaren F1. The original F1 was universally acclaimed as the last “analog supercar,” with its naturally aspirated V12, gold foil engine compartment insulation and Guinness-certified record 240 mph top speed. They only built five LM-Specification cars.

The McLaren F1, estimated to sell for $21 – $23 million, only reached $19.8 million, and that includes seller’s fees, so the hammer price was “only” $18,000,000.

Similarly, Gooding & Co.’s marquee offering was Niki Lauda’s 1975 Ferrari 312T. Wikipedia’s entry names the 312T “the most successful car in the history of F1” and this one won the French Grand Prix driven by Lauda, as well as its class at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2017.

LaudaSerrari312T01Apparently Gooding & Co. was a little optimistic about their 312T’s value in today’s market, and its hammer price of $5.45 million was more than a half million under their low estimate of $6.0 million.

Ferrari open cars from the ’50s and early ’60s are reliable sellers, and Gooding & Co.’s 1959 LWB (Long Wheelbase) example reached a winning bid of $9.0 million, still two million under its low estimate.

The 1959 car above is a California Spider, designed by Scaglietti. It’s unclear what makes the 1958 Pinifarina car below a “Cabriolet” instead. In any case, this one only bid to a hammer price of $6.8 million, $200,000 below Gooding’s low estimate.

It Wasn’t Just Ferraris

The split-window Corvette Stingray appeared in only one year, The one to have would be equipped with RPO (Regular Production Option) Z06. That got you the L84 fuel injected 327 cubic inch V8, suspension modifications, and upgraded brakes suitable for racing. For endurance racing, you’d want the larger RPO N03 36.5 gallon gas tank like this one’s.

SplitWindowVet04The sticker shows all the right pieces, but even with all that, and beautifully restored, Lot 48 only bid to $530,000, about 25% below the low estimate

Classic cars also suffered the same fate.

A Bugatti Atalante sold for $2,550,000 last year. This one bid to “only” $1.2 million.

The 1913 and 1914 Indianapolis veteran Isotta Fraschini Tipo IM was estimated to sell for $3.0 – 4.0 million. It bid to $2.4 million. With fees, that was $2.645 million.

Or Opportunities

On the other hand, if you were looking for a bargain, there were a couple that were picked up at pretty amazing prices.

This 2007 Ferrari 430 Challenge was offered without reserve and bid to a hammer price of just $65,000. At $35,000 below low estimate, that’s a heck of a bargain.
Below: Another 2008 430, this one a Scuderia, sold for $165,000, plus fees. If you consider its low estimate was $220,000 you could consider that a bargain as well.430Scuderia01

The Dreaded DNS

Many attractive cars just simply failed to reach their reserve price and Did Not Sell. We remarked on this at the Gooding & Co. Auction as consignment after consignment reached a bidding plateau and Charley Ross would announce “we need just one more bid.”

One of these was the last of Pininfarina’s four Alfa Romeo Superflow exercises, the 1953 6C 3000 Superflow IV with its all-glass roof that included sliding halves over the passenger compartment that seem to disappear under the huge rear section. It did not meet expectations set by its estimate of $6.0 – $8.0 million.

The shape of the tail and the concave section on the sides of the Superflow IV inspired design elements on the 1966 Geneva Motor Show 1600 Spider that became known as the Duetto. Even the automotive illiterate know that car from the Dustin Hoffman film, The Graduate.

A rare Alloy-bodied 1965 Ferrari 275GTB “Long Nose” failed to sell, bidding a million dollars short of its $3.5 million low estimate.

Gooding & Co. claimed the highest “sell-through” rate of the week. We counted 28 out of 129 cars that did not sell, so one can only imagine the level of disappointment among sellers at RM Southebys and Bonhams.


There are always outliers – a car that you think no one cares about but somehow attracts a couple of determined bidders who just have to have it. This year it was a 1961 Fiat Jolly – essentially a toy. It was estimated to sell for $75,000 – $95,000. Including seller’s fees, it doubled the low estimate and sold for $156,800.


You can imagine all kinds of reasons for the drop-off in sell rate and prices, the most often cited being uncertainty about the economy both domestically and worldwide.

One that sounds plausible is that the number of well-healed people who lusted after the cars when they were new, who now can afford them, is dwindling as they die off.

The other is that federal income tax used to waive capital gains taxes on the sale of a collector car, as long as you plowed that gain into the purchase of another car. They don’t do that anymore, and selling a car now costs you not only the seller’s fee at the auction, but also the taxes on the capital gain.

You got it – death and taxes.

Written, edited, researched and published by Richard Stewart of CARMA; Your Automotive Advocate
All images above are by Ephraim Levy and are covered by copyright law. Use is permitted if attributed. Click on the image to enlarge.

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August Elegance – The Flying “B”

The Suspense is over.

If you haven’t heard yet, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has selected one of the Bentleys from their huge contingent of entries celebrating the marque’s 100th birthday as the 2019 Best of Show.

The last Bentley built under the direction of the founder, W. O. Bentley, was the 8-Liter. The Honorable Sir Michael Kadoorie brought his 1931 Gurney Nutting Tourer from Hong Kong, earning honors for this year’s Best of Show.

So Many Bentleys!

The management claimed that fully a quarter of this year’s Concours field would be Bentleys, and it would be difficult to dispute it. Among them are race winners, historic firsts, and just plain stunning cars.

The Bentley Boys (and Girls)

Created in 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley (“W.O.” to just about everyone), Bentley began selling cars to the public in 1921. A private owner took one of his 3 Litre cars, with its four-valve heads, to the first 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1923 and placed 4th. Encouraged, W.O. mounted a factory effort that won the race in 1924, and every Le Mans from 1927 through 1930, along with numerous other races.

Somewhere in there, Bentley needed capital, and invited Kimberly Diamond Mine heir Woolf Barnato to finance the design of a new 4-1/2 litre six based on the 3-liter. After an impromptu race with a Rolls-Royce showed the car had insufficient performance advantage to satisfy him, the bore was increased from 80 mm to 100. A 140 mm stroke gave it 6-1/2 litres.

In racing form that model won Le Mans twice. The 6-1/2 Litres thereafter were nicknamed the Speed Six.

“Old Number 1,” the 1929 Bentley Speed Six Gurney Nutting Sports Two-Seater that Bentley Boy Woolf Barnato drove to victory at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930, becoming the only driver to win Le Mans back-to-back in the same car. It won Class F3 for 6-1/2 Litres

The World’s Fastest Lorries

Looking at the huge 1929 4-1/2 Litre Vanden Plas LeMans team car and comparing it to Ettore Bugatti’s single-seat 1925 Tipo 35 Gran Prix racer (Inset), one can understand how he might have considered the Bentley, with its 10′-10″ wheelbase, a “truck.” After all, it’s exactly the same wheelbase as a new GMC Yukon Denali XL.

The Greatest Derby Bentley

The Bentleys built in Derby under Roll-Royce ownership after 1933 are referred to as “Derby Bentleys.” These Bentleys were looked down on by the old school Bentley drivers as not suitably sporting. (The Rolls-Royce club is an Owners’ club. The Bentley club is a Drivers’ Club.)

The first postwar Bentleys were the Mark VI. Mulliner Park Ward coachbuilt three aerodynamic bodies designed by Stanley Watts on Mark VI chassis, and tested them in the Rolls-Royce wind tunnel. The R-Type Continental that won Class F6, Bentley Centennial Postwar, was based on that design.

Dunlop placed a weight limit of 3,740 pounds on the R-Type Continental so their tyres could survive its expected top speed over “medium distance.” Thus the prototype, number plate OLG 490 – affectionately nicknamed Olga – is coachbuilt by H. J. Milliner in aluminum alloy, including the seat frames. Price was the equal of 3.7 average houses in England.

In 1951 Olga averaged 115.8 mph over five laps of the Montlhery race track near Paris, establishing it as the fastest four-seater in the world.

Cinematic Connection

Those who actually read Ian Flemming’s spy novels know that while the cars associated with James Bond in popular culture are Aston Martins, those were “company cars.” 007’s personal “locomotive” was a Bentley.

In a twist that sounds like fiction, the first Bentley sold to an individual, chassis number 3, was this 1921 3-Liter Open Two Seater Sports sold to Ivor Llewelyn, father of Desmond Llewelyn, who played Q, the quartermaster who made all the modifications to the Bond Aston Martin in the Bond movies.

Stay Tuned

Of course there’s more to the show than Bentleys. Fear not! We’ll be back with some of our other favorites forthwith.

Written, edited, researched and published by Richard Stewart of CARMA; Your Automotive Advocate
All images above are by Ephraim Levy and are covered by copyright law. Use is permitted if attributed. Click on the image to enlarge.


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Concorso Coincidence

On the Road

Casual Car Encounters

Those who go to the Monterey Car Week know you don’t have to pay a cent to see spectacular cars. Time it right and sit along the route of the Tour d’Elegance on Thursday and you can watch many of the stars of the Sunday Concours drive by. For many it’s better than just watching them sit on grass.

If you miss that, you can stand on the Main street in Monterey, Carmel or Pacific Grove (the later in the week the better) and you’ll see more exotic sports and racing cars drive by than you will anywhere else at any time. Walk around and you’ll find many of them parked for your perusal and photography.

Downtown Monterey is a good place to wander with a camera, with photo opportunities like this Ford GT along Alvarado Street.

Free Shows

If you don’t mind that there are no Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys or Duesenbergs, The Little Car Show in Pacific Grove is a good place to see “cute” cars. They limit entry to cars under two liters. You’ll see plenty of Porsches, MGs, Minis etc., but strangely, few Alfa Romeos.

At the other extreme from the Ford GT is the observation car built on the VW Pickup chassis at the Little Car Show.

The Classic Encounter

If you are willing to pay, Saturday’s Concorso Italiano is the first event we ever attended on Monterey Week, and it’s a Must See for the car-obsessed. I hope this will not be perceived as politically incorrect, but it’s difficult not to notice that Italians imbue there cars with a style and grace unique to the culture. Concorso Italiano is the place to see that characteristic on full display.

Early Departure


Parking for the Concorso is on the fairways of Bayonet Black Horse Golf Links in Seaside, on old Fort Ord. It’s a bit of a slog to the show if you arrive late so we advise arriving early. We kept that in mind, leaving our digs with plenty of time in hand, driving through light morning traffic in Pacific Grove.

Ahead of me was a lovely 1960 Ferrari 250GT Cabriolet. Behind was a black Maserati Ghibli – one of the original coupes, not the current sedan. We got on Highway 1 and kept pace (Nobody speeds in Monterey during Car Week.) until our GPS took us off onto surface streets and they stayed on the freeway. Presumably they were on their way to the entrance for competitors in the Concorso.


At most concours, there are a few cars that stand out and catch your eye. These are the ones you immediately tag as candidates for awards. Among all the Alfa Romeos, De Tomasos, Ferraris, Fiats, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, etc. at this year’s show one really grabbed our attention. As it turned out, it was a black Maserati Ghibli.

People don’t bring cars to these shows just to let them sit there and be admired. They all have stories, and one of the pleasures of attending is to hear them. The black Ghibli is owned by Ron Corradini of Newport Beach, California, where we briefly lived in 1971. Like us, his career was in construction, so there was a connection of sorts and we had a pleasant conversation.

IMG_1257GhibliEnhineMany (ourselves among them) consider Giorgetto Giugiaro to be the greatest of Italian car designers of the ‘sixties. One of his early designs while at Ghia is the original Maserati Ghibli. In absolutely flawless black over creamy Italian leather, Ron Corradini’s 1967 example, with its powerful 4.7 liter 4-cam dry-sump V8 was positively stunning. If you were wondering, this is not the model Joe Walsh claimed “does 185.”IMG_1256GhibliCockpit

Ron has quite a collection, and he had brought two cars to the event. Wouldn’t you know, the other was a 1960 Ferrari 250 Cabriolet – the very one we had followed to Seaside.

The Big Reveal

You can’t both see the cars and sit and watch the host doing his schtick at these events. So much later, we’d been casually listening to the announcer name the class winners, and were gratified to hear that Mr. Corradini’s cars – both of them – had won their respective class.

That finally interested us enough that we wandered over to the presentation ramp to see what would happen. They had a few moments of confusion when it turned out the judges were deadlocked on the choice between two cars. At last they declared a compromise. One car would get the Best in Show award, while another would get another “Judges’ Choice” or some such.

Ron Corradini, driving his 1960 Ferrari 250GT LWB Cabriolet (Left) shares the presentation lawn with his 1967 Maserati Ghibli Berlinetta.

We’ve been going to this event for sixteen years now, and it gets harder every year to find something new to say about all the beautiful cars. It will be hard to top this year’s story that began and ended with the same two cars.

Written, edited, researched and published by Richard Stewart of CARMA; Your Automotive Advocate
All images above are by Richard Stewart and Ephraim Levy and are covered by copyright law. Use is permitted if attributed. Click on the image to enlarge.


Posted in Car Commentary, Car Shows, Concorso Italiano, Ferrari, Maserati, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

2020 Porsche 911

My How You’ve Grown!

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles will be winding down it’s Porsche Effect exhibit in the next few months, and Porsche just introduced the 2020 911 at the LA Auto Show, so now’s a chance to investigate just how much their famous sports car has changed in 55 years.

Disclaimer: the new car is not expected to be available for purchase until the spring of 2019, so the following information is subject to change.


The story should be familiar. In 1961 Porsche, in order to expand its market, wanted a larger, more luxurious, more powerful car to follow the 356, by then in its 12th year of production. His son (also Ferdinand, but nicknamed “Butzi.”) and Body Construction specialist Erwin Komenda, retained Ferdinand (“Ferry”) Porsche’s layout, with an air-cooled boxer (horizontal opposed) engine mounted behind the rear axle, this time a six, with a single overhead cam on each bank.

Cutaway image of 1965 Porsche 911. (From Car and Driver Archive Road Test)

The cars were polarizing, but then Porsches always were. The rear-engine layout had always had a reputation for wagging its tail in unskilled hands, often with embarrassing results.

Even some of the Porsche faithful were suspicious of the six-cylinder, viewing it as abandoning the lightweight Porsche ethos. Designer Robert Cumberford, writing in Automobile, went so far as to say, “. . . the 911’s initial design was quite weak, and early models were simply bad cars.”

Others have been more charitable, and most were impressed by a car that, through the skill and hard work of those who prepared them, and the bravery and skill of the drivers, achieved almost instant success in racing. I was one who was hooked.

Your correspondent in full ‘seventies regalia in his 1967 911.

Purity v. Profitability

The evolution of the Porsche has been purity compromised by competitiveness. Porsches have never been inexpensive, and over the years 911s, to appeal to those with the means to buy one, have gotten bigger, more luxurious, more powerful, and alas, heavier.

Filling a Gap and Restoring Posterity

Until 2014, the Petersen Museum had a car in its Collection that even Porsche’s impressive museum lacked.

At the Rodeo Drive Concours in 2013, Beverly Hills Porsche had to borrow the Petersen’s 901 for the 50th anniversary of its introduction in Frankfurt.

82 901s were produced before Peugeot objected to the name, claiming the right to all three-digit numerical labels with a zero in the second position. In 2014 Porsche finally filled the void in its collection when 901 Chassis number 057 was discovered in an old barn in Brandenburg (Yes – literally a “barn find.”) along with a gold 911L from 1968.

We are under no illusions that this is an actual photo of the car as-found, but it’s the first image in the on-line article by Road & Track.

The car was missing wings and doors, along with other absent pieces and significant rust, posing a challenge requiring a three-year meticulous restoration. The gold 911L that shared the barn will not be restored.

Tah-dah! At the 2018 Los Angeles International Auto Show, Porsche showed the results of that restoration.

The 911 you could buy in the US in 1965 was just under 167 inches long on an 87 inch wheelbase. It was 63.4 inches wide and 52 inches high. It rode on 15 inch steel wheels carrying 165/80 radial ply tires. The 1991 cc engine began by making 130 gross horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 119 pound-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm. The car in the archived 1965 Car and Driver road test had 148 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 140 pound-feet at 4,200 rpm.

And Now?

Like many of us, the 911 has gotten wider.

The most obvious visible difference between the early car and today’s is the width – it’s an even six inches wider to accommodate today’s wide low profile tires.

It’s certainly recognizable as a 911, but the 992’s windshield is lower and more steeply raked, the roofline slopes more gradually, and – those wheels!

In the last 55 years, the car’s wheelbase has stretched nine and a half inches, each increase moving the rear engine farther ahead in relation to the rear axle, for a little less tail-wagging rear weight bias. A 20 millimeter shift forward of the engine mounts this year also helps.

The 2020 911 is more than a foot longer, reportedly about an inch longer than the 991; so it’s up perhaps 14 inches overall at 177.9 inches. The only place it’s shrunken is in height, down 1.1 inches – that wide open feel from the tall windshield of my 1967 may have diminished somewhat.

Some basics have not changed. The 2020 car is still a rear-engine, rear-drive car powered by a horizontal opposed six-cylinder engine. The biggest change is a sacrilege – there is no manual transmission. Instead power is transmitted to the rear wheels (and the fronts in the 4S) through an eight-speed version of their dual-clutch PDK gearbox.

The torsion bars in the original suspension got twisted into coils in 1989 with the 964, and air cooling gave way to a radiator and related plumbing with the 993 in 1994. Four-valve heads arrived in the 996 in 1997.

With the added inches and plumbing, you know it’s also added weight, a whopping 40.3% increase over 55 years – almost a half a ton more, 959 pounds – for a road-hugging 3,340.


All that extra weight over the years has been countered with a steady increase in displacement and power. While the weight has increased by about a third, engine displacement ballooned over the years to keep up, with the 991 GT3 version peaking at 4 liters. Lately though, the ubiquitous turbocharger (It has two.) has permitted a return to an even three liters – still up by half from the original – permitting the sort of early torque arrival and flat curve common in modern turbos. Horsepower has gone up by a factor of 2.4, to 444. And that’s net, while the original engine was rated at gross.

To handle all that power, for the first time all 911s will have staggered wheels – 245/35-20s at the front, 305/30-21s at the back on the Carrera S. Treads measure 3.15 inches wider at the front (+48.5%), 5.51 inches wider at the back (+84.8%).


Fifty-five years of constant development by some of the world’s best engineers is bound to raise performance level, but we doubt even the most optimistic prognosticators would have predicted these results.

Car and Driver’s Archived Road Test Review ( had the ’65 doing the 0-60 sprint in seven seconds flat, which seems a bit optimistic for a car where every horsepower has to move 16 pounds. The XK-E did the same with a weight/power ratio of around 11. The 992, with only 7.1 pounds burden on each horse is expected to do the deed in about 3.7. And that’s just the base 911 Carrera S. Top speed is similarly elevated, from 130 mph in 1965 to a predicted 191 for the 992.

At what Cost?

The 911 had an MSRP of $6,490 in 1965 (About $45,235 in 2018 money). If you can keep out of the multipage options list on a 992 it is expected to list for about $113,200. There’s a silver lining though. In the last 55 years the 911’s expected mileage has improved by 2 MPG. So if gasoline stayed at $3.50/gallon (Yeah. Right. If.), in just 587 years you could amortize that cost increase through gas savings.


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Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2018 II

Pretty, Fast I

Manufacturers of automobiles learned early that there was a market for cars that allowed the driver to “choose the people who pass” them. A Rolls-Royce might appeal to prestige car buyers on the basis of quiet operation, smooth ride quality, and trouble-free ownership, but there is always someone who wants to go faster than everyone else. It turns out, there is a Class (or two or three) for those cars at Pebble Beach.

Fast Brass

We’re suckers for shiny brass, polished wood, and gold pinstripes on dark green paint. In this case the judges agreed, awarding the win for the Antiques Class to Joe and Janica Conzonire’s magnificent 1910 Thomas Flyer 6-40. It’s like the one that won the New York to Paris race in 1908 that took 171 days and included driving across the ice from Alaska to Siberia.

One does not normally think of early Rolls-Royce when considering “sporting” vehicles, but a 40/50 Rolls, now called a “Silver Ghost” after that car’s performance in the Scottish Trials (over 16,000 miles in 1907) won an endurance trial from London to Edinburg against a Napier in 1911. The “tribute” cars, called “London-Edinburg” now, had underslung rear suspension for a lower look. This is Steven Brauer’s 1912 example.

Well Matched

When we think of a Mercer Racebout we always imagine it in bright yellow. This blue 1913 model J-35, is from the year a Mercer placed second at Indianapolis. One of 17 T-head examples, this blue one, entered by George Wingard of Eugene, Oregon, seems to have been lavished with nickle plate, since the invention of chromium plate was still 14 years in the future. It’s been restored, but retains most of its original parts.

Before incandescent lighting, many cars had headlights that burned acetylene produced by adding water to calcium carbide. Union Carbide produced the chemical under the name Prest-O-Lite.

In 1911, Mercer drove two cars from the factory in Trenton New Jersey to Indianapolis and took the fenders and lights off. The lottery placed Hughie Hughes in 32nd place in the middle of the seventh row. A second car was outside him in 33rd.

Gil Anderson, driving the only Stutz in the race, with a 90 cubic inch advantage over the 300 cubic inch Mercer, started in 10th position on the far inside of the third row.

By the time Anderson crossed the finish line in 11th place, more than eight hours later,  Hughes was a minute, fourteen seconds behind him in 12th. the other Mercer finished 15th.

Mercer put the fenders and lights back on their two cars and drove them back to New Jersey, giving the Raceabout the title of first sports-racing car.

The 1911 Stutz was designed and built by Harry C. Stutz in  just five weeks. that 11th place Indy finish earned it the nickname “the car that made good in a day.” This is the 1913 model B Bearcat from the National Automobile Museum (formerly the Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada.

They Call Them “Vintage”

The consensus among collectors is that the class for antique automobiles extends to 1918. Cars made after 1918 and before 1928-1930 when the “Classic” era roughly began are called Vintage.

The Collier Collection at the Revs Institute in Naples, Florida, houses many of the cars from the Briggs Cunningham Collection. This V8 1919 Cunningham (no relation) Series V-3 Speedster is believed to be the one that Ralph DePalma drove to three world records on the Sheepshead Bay board track in Brooklyn, after which he drove it back to the factory in Rochester, beating the New York-Rochester record by an hour.

Seven years of development separates this 1920 Mercer Series 5 Raceabout from the Antique Class version above. A more civilized car, yet potent with its lightweight alloy body, this one was entered by Rick and Lucy Rawlins of Newport Beach, California.

Amelia Earheart, Douglas Fairbanks, and Al Jolson were among those who drove the sporty Kissel Model 6-45 “Gold Bug” Speedster, made in Wisconsin. This 1921 example, exhibited by Andrew and Tanya Heller of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, won the Vintage Era Sporting Class.

Chrome yellow seems to be a popular color choice for early sporting machinery like this 1921 Page Model 6-66 Daytona Speedster from Tom and Joann Martindale of Santa Cruz, California. That year a stripped down prototype broke the world record on the beach at Daytona.

Judges examine the engine in the 29/30 “oval tank” race car. It’s the first Bugatti straight eight, and features a single overhead cam, It was brought over from Osaka, Japan by Takeshi Fujita.

The 1923 Steyr Type VI Targa Florio Rennwagen displayed by Jaap Braam Ruben of the Netherlands sports a “V”-shaped radiator called the”spitzkuhler” much like the Mercedes Targa Florio of the same vintage. Its 4.8 liter overhead cam six was designed by a young Hans Ledwinka, who later created the innovative Tatra.

More to Come

There were plenty more sporting classes at Pebble Beach this year. Watch this space for further eye candy and innovation.

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