Friday, December 31, 2010

Never Say Never Again: 1982 Alfa Romeo GTV6

In the auction description of this car, the seller evokes images of James Bond's Octopussy and the famous chase scene which used a similar GTV6. Given my experience with this model, my reaction is sadly closer to Never Say Never Again.

I don't normally feature Ebay auctions or offers by dealer but this car seemed noteworthy. So many of these cars have turned to dust in such a relatively short time that it is great to see a clean example 29 years on.

The flaws for GTV6's were numerous. Pervasive rust that started in the inner fenderwells, crept up the A-pillars and encompassed the whole car. The engine had a lag off the line that facilitated clutch slipping for sporty starts; said clutch was an expensive twin-disc unit that had to be replaced as a balanced assembly in the rear transaxle. Rear inboard disc brakes were a bear to service. Metric-sized rims limited tire choices to 400mm diameter. An ungainly shifter throw and vague linkage that played havoc with fussy 2nd gear synchros. The ergonomics of a vinyl-covered bathtub; the Italianate driving posture even more accentuated than usual- straight armed, splayed-knee and peering out over a high dash binnacle. Faulty ignition switches, disintegrating plastic heater control valves and weepy head gaskets. And on and on.

Having said all that, I really like this car.

Perhaps it is the ubiquitous silver and blue scheme, which seems to account for nearly 2/3 of the GTV6 production. Or the new basecoat/clearcoat paint- which goes without saying given that the inferior original paint would have checked and faded long ago. Or that the interior- which on its best day offered all the warmth and richness of a New York Taxicab- seems tidy and intact.

This auction should set the market price for good GTV6s. Despite this being a less-desirable early car, the condition should compensate in the valuation. I'll be watching it with interest-but sitting on my bidder's paddle.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crossover Kaiser: M715 Jeep Fire Truck

 A friend who is an exotic car dealer once told me, "Dollar for dollar, you can't have more fun than owning a fire engine." Certainly they are cheap enough (initially!) and almost always well maintained. But older units lack a transmission overdrive -which means they are pretty tough to drive anywhere over 50 mph. And then there is that concern about where to store it...

This cool unit hits a lot of buttons with me: Jeep, 4x4, Fire Equipment, Military...all there in one delightfully scruffy package.

Starting in 1967, Kaiser made over 30,000 of these M715 Military Jeeps available to local fire departments for brushfire, ambulance, and search and rescue trucks. The canvas soft top indicates that indeed this vehicle was originally supplied to the military. Other civilian units had factory hard tops. Powered by the venerable 230 cubic inch Inline 6 Engine with a four speed transmission and mated to a Dana 60 axle in front and a Dana 70 in the rear. Many of these vehicles remain in service to this day around the country.

This truck has charisma that a Hummer could only aspire to. If I had a tree farm or logging operation, this would be a no-brainer. With the bumper mounted winch, it is practically daring you to go out and try to get it stuck in the mud. How about an engine swap with a 5.9 Cummins diesel?  The possibilities are endless. And yes, you can still get in the Fourth of July parade.

Available in Kenosha, WI for $5950.


Volumex: 1979 Lancia Beta Zagato

As far as I know the Lancia Beta Zagatos never raced in period. However, you would be hard pressed to prove otherwise given the level of preparation on this car.

The seller is moving and must dispose of the car. Anyone who has ever owned a Beta knows at first glance that only fractional expenditures could hope to be retrieved from this example at this price.

Done up in period Martini livery and sporting a factory 2 liter supercharged "Volumex" induction system on the splendid Lampredi-designed DOHC inline four, this car would please any Italian car fan. The car was built by the former owner of Performance Fiat and is set up specifically for small track use.

Included in the sale is a complete stock interior to return the car to street use.

At $2500 -admittedly a distress sale -this is a steal! The car is located in Westminster, CO.

for the full info.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Diamond Still Rough: 1967 Lancia Fulvia 1.2

This car just popped up on the radar, and the seller is still pondering his asking price. It comes from a self-described "hobby dealer" in Ontario, New York and was just moved from his "Restoration and Keepers" category to "Inventory" on his website to facilitate a sale.

First let me congratulate the seller on his transparency. The site description is remarkably candid in documenting the car's purchase and refurbishment from long storage (including a roadside breakdown!)  But I have a few more pointed questions for the seller:

Did you put new tires on the car? One photo shows the stock steel rims sandblasted and painted. Fulvias are finicky on tires and should wear nothing wider than a 165 Series tires to preserve their wonderful feel. These are now "vintage" size and would have to be ordered from a specialty tire house. Larger tires may also interfere with the Fulvia fender lips. Many cars have had their wheel openings tapped in to fit larger rubber. A side view leads me to believe that the tires might be a bit disproportionate.

The seller notes some brake work... typical of a sitting Fulvia. How well are they working now? Usually nothing short of brass or stainless re-lining of the cylinders will fix these Dunlop calipers once they have seized. I would be wary when testing the car. Brake work is not sexy.

There is nothing mentioned about the interior. Fulvia interiors are pretty straightforward, but I'd inquire about the dash veneer and wood steering wheel. Replacements are available for the dash panel but it is a time consuming project.

Relative to similar Italian cars, Fulvias in particular stand head and shoulders above. They are mechanically straightforward, do not rust as severely as their Alfa brothers, and are much rarer and exclusive. They can keep up with modern traffic and make great vintage daily drivers. In fact, of the few old cars still on the road in Italy, a great many are Fulvias...testimony to their legendary durability and craftsmanship.

I have a magic number in my head for this car that would surely disappoint the seller. It will be interesting to see what he comes back with on his asking price.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Zebra Three Under A Tree: 1975 Ford Gran Torino

I might very well get some hate mail on this one. But allow me a moment to explain.

As the baby boomer generation ages and sheds their earthly treasures, one is left to wonder what cars will have significance to future generations of collectors. Arguably, there are not many cars built after 1974 that have the craftsmanship, performance or desirability to warrant collecting. Similarly, we have to imagine how wealth will be redistributed to different countries around the world in the next twenty years of globalism and what cultural trends will influence those desires.

Remember the television show "Starsky and Hutch"? To most Americans it was an average buddy-cop show that (despite a 2004 Ben Stiller send up) remains wonderfully trapped in the 1970's. The show's popularity was partially due to a seemingly bulletproof 1975 Gran Torino that was relentlessly flogged through the streets of fictitious "Bay City". It even inspired Ford to produce a run of 1000 similarly equipped replica Torinos, featuring the distinctive "Striped Tomato" paint job.

While America has given up on "Starsky and Hutch", the rest of the world has not. It lives on in syndication, and has become a smash hit in places like Italy and the U.K. It is translated into Arabic for the Middle East, and shown in Malaysia and Venezuela. It is still a heavily licensed franchise, with everything from video games to toy cars still being produced and sold.

Go to any car show or swap meet in Europe and there is bound to be a S&H Torino replica. It will be the one car swarmed with smiling kids and photographers. This is the definition of a cultural icon.

This example on the Boise Craigslist is nothing special. It could be one of hundreds for sale across the country at any time. This one is not a Brougham (which has C-pillar windows) and seems reasonably rust free. It is overpriced by at least 50% and you will need to recommission the interior and paint in the S&H theme. I would ad a vintage police radio and the infamous portable roof beacon light for full effect. Then think Export Market.

Now let me burst the bubble of wannabe Bay City Detectives everywhere: These are horrible, horrible cars to drive. They are slow and ponderous, with a vague steering response usually indicative of large watercraft. Even "Starsky" actor Paul Michael Glaser goes out of his way to ruthlessly bash the cars in his public comments.

But who are we to question someone else's car fantasy?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

All Jacked Up: Ebay 1958 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider

I like how the seller seems forthright in his auction description about the work needed for this car. Let me make his case why this isn't as bad as it seems, especially for the reasonable opening bid amount of $1500.

Let me first say that this looks considerably better than I would expect for a car that has been sitting in a pasture with a peacock and a horse lifting a leg on it every chance they get. Which leads me to think that it may have been tarted up a bit for the auction. Maybe he spray-bomb painted it red, painted the brake drums black or just buffed out the existing paint to give it some shine. It looks tidier than it should.

All that aside, there is nothing worse than starting into a restoration on one of these 750 or 101 Alfas and finding terminal rust near the rear trailing arm mounts. As pictured and as testified, they look very solid. If they check out that alone justifies the beginning bid price. Welding in a patch on a firewall tunnel is not nearly as critical as rust in those areas.

The cut floorboards/pan don't scare me either, because you will end up cutting them anyway to put a 5spd. Alfa box in to make the car livable on the freeway. Most Giuliettas have had it done, albeit crudely. This gives you a chance to do it right. However, I would want a closer look at how badly the frame was molested before jumping in. It looks like at least one crossmember has been cut away.

The seller says he is ordering new tires for the car? Let's hope they are the proper size (which limits it to Vredesteins 155/15s) and let's hope they go with the sale. That would be $500 right there.

Check behind the nose on this car. Very few remain unscathed due to their delicate bumperettes. Look for a grafted nose or signs of metalfinishing. If its a clean one it's a big bonus.

This car is on the wrong side of the country. It's in sunny, rust free California and in the epicenter of Alfa Enthusiasts (S.F. Bay Area). Alfa guys there can afford to be picky-they have a lot to choose from. If it were in Chicago -or Germany for that matter- it probably would not have lasted on Ebay for a day.

Giuliettas are one of the few vintage Italian sportscars that can be restored out of a catalog. That is to say that almost every bit of it can be sourced from suppliers, just like the American classic and muscle cars.

Get this in the hands of a craftsman. It deserves to be saved. And the current market range for good G.S. Normales ($20k-$45k) should make it doable.


Simply Simca: 1971 1204 3 door

More than two years ago I ran across this car in a three-car parcel of Simcas for sale. The cars had been purchased by a church parish for use by their rectory and were being offered by a small town motorcycle repair shop. Now it is for sale again on Craigslist. There was a yellow car and a light blue car as well, and I believe the current seller also acquired those. This was the roughest of the three, but with its racing stripes it was also the most intriguing.

Simcas in the U.S. are pretty rare. Though critically acclaimed by the motoring press, they were a huge flop in America. The cars themselves were pretty interesting, with 62hp four cylinder, front wheel drive powerplants. Lots of headroom and a quirky French ergonomics. They were sold by Chrysler dealerships in the early 1970's. What could go wrong with that plan?!

This car was relatively solid for a Simca in The Rust Belt. The seller has the right idea...this would be an interesting car for the 24 Hours of Lemons (which is essentially an enduro for sub-$500 cars). Or a true Francophile could outfit the car to mimic one of the factory 1204 Rally cars. At the $300 asking price, you will have more money tied up in your time and effort to get her home.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Barnfinder 101: 1962 Studebaker Champ

While much of the content on this blog are exclusive finds, I will from time to time feature a vehicle that I found advertised somewhere else. As everyone in America eventually gets wired, the barnfinds have moved into the digital realm. But there are still deals to be had.

Consider this obscure 1962 Studebaker Champ truck. What great quirky looks. Moreover, what are the criteria that make this ad a potential barnfind or overlooked deal? Read the ad carefully…(By the way, this ad is real and current.)

1. Brand of vehicle misspelled in listing. Virtually guarantees that unless you stumble upon it in a general listing it will never come up in an internet search. Also suggests that the seller does not know what he has.

2. Selling for a deceased relative. Often more of a burden for the seller and perhaps no emotional connection to selling the vehicle.

3. Phone number listed. Usually indicates a real sale and not a scam, also suggests that the seller may not have internet access and therefore may not be able to widely advertise or gather comparable sales for that model.

4. Collector Plates in photos. Suggests a loved vehicle.

5. Garaged in photos. Hopefully where it has been kept.

6.” Trades Possible”. This seller wants to move this vehicle and will consider all options.

7. Listing City: Oshkosh, WI…not a teeming metropolis. Suggests that this one could have been overlooked by most car hunters.

8. Active Since Nov. 8.: If they were desperate to sell it at the time of listing, they are more so now given winter and the need to get their garage space back!

These Studes are unique and evocative trucks with appeal that goes beyond the marque diehards. You certainly won’t see one coming down the road at you. Old trucks as such are difficult to price as so much rides on condition. This one is assumed to run and drive ok, as well as have a decent enough coat of paint to get you into the local car show. You can’t ask much more than that for $3500.

Shipping Thoughts

Photos like this are bittersweet. It can either be a new love coming into your life, or a past one moving on. Sometimes they are torture; evidence of relationships that have parted too soon -or a reminder of an overly exuberant and irrational affair.

The middleman who makes it all happen is the shipper. Most of the transport advertisements you see in the trade publications are not from shippers, but brokerage houses. They take a cut of anywhere from $150-$300 to post your load on a bulletin board which is then bid on by independent shippers. That process can be full of false starts as different shippers fall through and your car sits in limbo. Sometimes a shipper can only take it part-way and the car sits in a freight depot somewhere to get passed off to another shipper. There are a lot of reasons not to like this process.

I always try to go with a local owner/operator. The guy who loads the car is the same guy who will drop it off. You can look him in the eye and you can hold him accountable for anything that goes wrong. Typically he owns his rig and has a vested interest in getting there safe. Communication is better. And he is usually a lot cheaper. Next time you are on the road and see a car hauler, jot down the company name and number from the cab. Some guys just prefer to deal with commercial accounts and set routes, but they may take your car to round out their load.

Listening to the shippers you can learn a lot about the dynamics of the economy and the car market. For instance it is pretty cheap to get a car sent from the Midwest to California nowadays. However that same mileage on the return trip is almost double the cost. This is because there continues to be an exodus from the West Coast into the more affordable Midwestern cities. Supply and demand. The trucks going west are empty; the trucks coming east are full.

Shippers going to Florida report that they are dumping a lot of their collector cars at the port bound for South America. Brazil in particular is enjoying huge economic prosperity right now, and despite an unfavorable exchange rate and massive import duties, car guys are buying stuff up like crazy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Body without Bones.

This Ferrari 250 GTE was robbed of its chassis as the basis for a 250 Barchetta replica. It is a sad trend among the 2+2 Ferraris which are beautiful Grand Tourers in their own right. With good original 250 GTEs easily over the $100k mark, it might be worthwhile for someone to fabricate a modern tube-frame and suspension and source an interesting powerplant for a unique retro-rod.

The car has lots of rust (even in the roof!) and a cracked windshield. However the grille, aluminum hood, driving lights, dash, trunk lid, misc. trim, doors and other glass are intact... which quickly add up to the seller's asking price of $7000.

I have also seen guys making neat furniture out of bodies like this. Picture that nose as the front of a desk.

The car is sold on a bill of sale. Again, no chassis so it would have to be transported on a crib. The car is located in Southeastern Wisconsin. For more information contact bestbarnfinder

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

1961 Fiat 1200 $2000

This 1961 Fiat 1200 is available in Milwaukee WI for $2000.

It is the same car that I inspected last fall. The owner was moving and rather than take the best offer, he shuffled the car into a storage facility where costs started accruing. He has no interest in the car and may now understand the economic foolishness of paying to store something you really don't want. Now the price has been lowered (in the middle of a harsh winter) to a reasonable asking price.

Quick memories: the car needs a back window at minimum. Replacement rockers were replaced with crudely fashioned sheetmetal. Car seemed complete with all the rare trim. Needed hydraulics and the brakes were seized. Mechanicals looked as though they have been refurbished at some point. Paint was thick. Does not run. Needed a fuel pump?

Kinda neat looking cars, but not fast by any means. By 1963 the series had adopted the new 1500 cc motor, delivering almost a third more horsepower. But these earlier cars have the better bodylines and grille. This could be a decent Sunday grocery getter without much work.

The seller is motivated! Contact me at for details.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First Post

There are lots of blogs out there by classic and exotic auto enthusiasts waxing poetic about this and that.Certainly I will engage in a bit of that too; but this is about the other side of the classic car hobby: discovery.

Finding (and sometime purchasing) those rare, lost artifacts of the automotive world or getting them in the hands of those that can appreciate them. Not a car dealer- rather an antiquities trader. Barnfinder!

But even the Barnfinder can't find- or buy- them all. And so I invite you to share your barnfind stories as well to celebrate a golden age of modern archaeological discovery-one that will probably not last past this generation.

For the first official barnfind, let's start from the start: S.C.C.A. racing in America took hold after World War II with returning G.I.s piloting lightweight M.G.'s on hastily-prepped road courses and airfields. Up through the 60's and 70's, M.G.'s remained the cheap and sturdy weapon of choice for entry level club racers. Today they form the backbone of the numerous vintage racing associations around the world.

Quick digression (Hang on tight, I do it a lot): the buzzwords among the Chief Judges at Pebble Beach this past year were patina and originality. This after many many years of rewarding and encouraging high buck, better-than-new restorations which ultimately destroyed those qualities which they so value now. Recent auction results of "survivor cars" have reflected this: folks want old things that look old, and this will be the driving trend in collector cars in the next decade.

This old M.G. Midget racer has buckets of patina. The car was campaigned around the Midwest in the 1970s and by the age of the safety equipment onboard it was probably retired to a barn by the early 1980's. It has no engine or trans and needs everything...except paint!

If it was me I would carefully buff out the great old livery. Clean the hand-lettered sponsor names and competition numbers and blend in some paint where needed. Repaint the rusty old rollbar and tidy up the spartan dash setup. I would repaint the wheels (as nothing sets off a car like a clean looking set of wheels and tires). Go through the car mechanically top to bottom, but keep that LOOK. Build your own engine to suit and wow 'em in the paddock of the next local track event.

I am going to pass on this one, but the seller is a great guy and I can hook you up with him. He only wants $1700 for the car, which I think is a cheap amount for a glimpse into 1970's SCCA MG Racing. The car is located in Oshkosh, WI. All of us will live long enough to laugh (or kick ourselves) at this price. Contact me at for further info.