Friday, June 10, 2011

Flat Wrong: 1964 Lancia Flavia RHD

Finding a Flavia in the U.S. is a rare enough feat, let alone a Right Hand Drive variant. This one in Washington State is a barnfind that runs but does not drive. The underside shows no rust, and the interior and chrome trim looks complete and in good condition.

These Pininfarina-designed coupes are elegant and attractive, evocative of a smaller scale Ferrari 250 GTE. However, the Flavia-specific flat four will not be confused with a Ferrari. Performance is not very impressive, and the overall driving experience is not as rewarding as that of it's Lancia brother, the Fulvia.

Don't let the Right Hand Drive configuration turn you off from American road use. It is generally a lot easier to drive a RHD car on American roads than a LHD car on U.K. roads. Just remember, the shift gate does not change sides...1st gear is still in the same place no matter which side the wheel is on!

If you can get past the RHD, and don't mind doing the requisite hydraulic brake work for barnfind Lancias, the price is fair if the is car proves to be solid.

Dun Rovin':1960 Rover 3 Litre

This ones a runner, and has already been reduced by $1000. The seller claims 29k original miles. The perfect heavy cruiser for your next British Car Field Day.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

One Man's Opinion: 1963 Corvair Monza Spyder

As evidence that one man can change history, consider the case of Ralph Nader and the Corvair. How would we now be valuing these innovative, European styled cars had Mr. Nader kept his opinions to himself?

My guess is that we'd be looking at America's Porsche: an all-aluminum, mid engined flat six with clean European lines and Chevrolet reliability. Sounds pretty good.

This car pretty much embodies everything that I would want in a Corvair. Its a first series body, with the cleanest and purest lines. It's white with red guts- always a sexy combo. But most importantly it is the Monza Spyder variant, with the 150 hp Turbocharged flat six and four speed manual transmission.

This one is a no-brainer. The asking price is almost an insult to the memory of a car whose legacy was tainted by one man's opinion.

Friday, June 3, 2011

On Ice: 1960 Austin 7

Wherever you find a frozen lake, you will find ice racers. This old Austin has been shuttered for 17 years, which an optimist would point out is 17 years less of salt and road rage. The interior has been gutted for a roll cage and features a solo drivers seat. The suspension has been firmed up, and "somewhere" the seller has a dual Weber carb setup. Though not running, the car's engine has been turned over in storage to keep things free.

The "Seven" name goes back decades, denoting lightweight British- built cars that often found their way into competitions like hillclimbs and rallyes. It was one of the first accessible "everyman" automobiles, like the Ford Model T or the Fiat Ballila. In 1959 the name was used for Sir Alec Issigonis' remarkable Mini, aptly capturing the spirit of the original "Sevens".

Despite the seller's protestations to the contrary, the price for a decades-old non runner is always negotiable. I'd show up with cash and trailer for the best price on this old club car.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Don't Believe The Hype: 1964 Fiat 1500 Spider

Don't let the title fool you. We are big fans of these Pininfarina designed early Fiats. But for some reason, values on these cars seem to be all over the board. As near as we can ascertain, some of it goes back to a single episode of Wayne Carini's car-dealer reality TV show Chasing Classic Cars- where Wayne speculates and hits a big home run on a 1957 Fiat 1200TV Roadster.

But while mechanically similar, the 1200TV is a much rarer and more unusual car than these Pininfarina spiders. A bit of Apples v.s. Oranges. So the much lauded auction results that Wayne achieved do not translate as a market comparable for the army of hopeful Fiat owners searching for a benchmark value.

This car is a typical example of a seller fishing for an offer and not really knowing what to ask. What makes this car desirable is the interesting color combination and the factory removable hardtop. We love factory hardtops on old Italian cars; like everything from Italy they were designed to be beautiful and not accessories or afterthoughts. Do not confuse these with the more common aftermarket fiberglass tops which were manufactured without much thought for aesthetics. Having the factory hardtop is akin to having two cars for the price of one.

Reading between the lines in this ad, we would press the owner for a real honest assessment of the rust on this car. Minnesota weather is typically not kind to Italian metal, but in the age of the Internet this car could have spent the majority of its life anywhere.

 Having driven one of the best 1500s in the country, we can tell you: prepare to be underwhelmed. The single cam makes a pleasant-but-not-potent burble and the early car's four-speed transmissions can be tedious. The 124 Twin Cam Series make much more rewarding drivers, but the delicate and classy lines of the 1500 are more evocative of the heyday of Italian design.

$2000-3000 seems a closer estimate for this old Fiat, and at that price it might be considered for just the hardtop and any usable parts.