MMR Blog

MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on December 24, 2014 Comments (0)

On behalf of all the people who put the MMR Community Newsletter together, Editor Dom Miliano, IT folks Lucy Iannotti and Garret Vreeland, Correctness Advisor Dianne Isaacson, Social Media editor Ashley Novack, our wonderful writers Denise McCluggage and Sandy Cotterman, and all the sponsors who make this possible and who we pray you support, Merry Christmas! For those among us who celebrate Christmas, we hope you have a day filled with good feelings towards family, friends and life. And to everyone else, this may be the only gift you will receive today, but comfort yourself, it is a labor of love and it ain’t shabby.

THE MMR Christmas Letter

Peter Bourassa, at his desk

The other day John Gallagher, good friend and MMR subscriber, sent me a joke about a man who asks the police to find his missing wife. As the police question him about her age, what she looks like and what she is wearing, he exhibits little knowledge. When asked about the car she might be driving, he describes his Corvette in infinite detail. Don’t worry, says the cop, we’ll find your car. Guys find that funny and women, often with good reason, do not.  The MMR Christmas Letter is about a similar person. I will only say that men generally find it funny.

Sandy on Assignment

In this issue we wind up the year with  the Sandy on Assignment review of the recent Winter Park Concours d’Elegance in Florida. Our images this week are all from that event. While Sandy took most of them, we thank longtime MMR subscriber Alex Dearborn and motorsports historian Bill Rothermel for helping us with additional images.

More Good Books

Troy Spencer, MotorBinder, and Harry Hurst, 12 Hours of Sebring

In last week’s issue we recommended some recently released books that would be at ease on your shelves. This week, I want to mention two books, one, Troy Spencer’s MotorBinder is an excellent book about SoCal’s racing scene in the fifties and sixties and the cars which his father owned and sponsored in the day, and Harry Hurst’s book 12 Hours of Sebring 1965 with pictures by Dave Friedman. Both great reads. So take a minute and tell us what great book you read this year and that we may have missed.

A Word about Words

If you are one of those people who is constantly pummeling your friends about the correct pronunciation of words belonging to foreign languages, you might enjoy this week’s short treatise on words.

Michael Furman, Photographer

Michael Furman, 1937 Dubonnet Hispano

Michael’s image this week is a 1937 Dubonnet Hispano from his book Curves of Steel.

Ad Wars

Fiat Environmentally Sexy video still

Nobody can be certain if Fiat or Chrysler will actually survive the next five years. But, and this is coming from a former GM and now Ford guy, if it comes down to who is making the best ads, Chrysler/Fiat wins. If I have to listen to one more deep voice intone the torque stats of a highly polished pickup truck that dominates a scene of scrub land, plaid shirts worn by the same middle-aged women who are waiting for “the right moment” and populate Cialis ads, baby lambs and distant mountains, I will be ill. Serve me information on a clever plate and I am your man. Check out this week’s video.

Help Us Have a Great Holiday

Support our  sponsors, Like us on Facebook and pass this on to a friend. Thanks and have a great holiday.

Peter Bourassa


My Word: Serial Collecting

Posted on August 21, 2014 Comments (1)

by Denise McCluggage

It seemed to Joe Marchetti it was about time to get the Breadvan back. Joe, who died way too early at 68 in 2002, ran the Como Inn—a huge Chicago eatery—as well as more intimate restaurants. He also set up some terrific car events at Elkhart Lake because he probably liked cars as much as food and he knew how to celebrate both.

Como Inn Restaurant

As for the Breadvan, it was a Kamm-backed special Ferrari based on a 250 SWB Ferrari and was a GTO beater in some circumstances. Joe ha­­d maybe owned it a couple of times by then because that’s the way people collected cars in those days; they’d have a handful of interesting cars at any one time and sell them to each other for a few years while they experienced other fare. They’d buy them and drive them until someone else expressed an interest in them or they had a yearning for one they’d owned back when and want another go at it and let the word out.

Ferrari Breadvan

It was a sensible way to experience an assortment of entertaining vehicles and I was fascinated to hear Joe tell about the time when such serial collecting was the way to go. Amassing more permanent collections required more space to keep the cars, more commitment for long-term care and certainly tied up more money. Serial collection done in the pass-it-on mode also offered more flexibility and variety in rolling stock. A good thing for people who liked to experience what they owned, not just list it to impress others.

But the change in collector style inevitably came. When Joe went looking for the Breadvan he’d discovered what seemed like downright treachery. The latest owner instead of enquiring around to see who might want it next had quietly sold it for a goodly sum to a Japanese collector who in turn had swept it off to his home country. The unlikelihood of it ever returning to the US darkened the sky.

The Japanese, heady with a booming economy, were buying everything then—ski areas, Rockefeller Plaza. But those more fixed-in-place purchases didn’t bother car people as much as the portable collectibles did. Cars just disappeared into ship holds without a beep. Prices soared. And that ended the friendly turns-taking approach to collecting. The temptation to literally sell out was hard to resist. Money doesn’t talk; it sidles up to whisper sweet everythings in your ear.

Actually, many of the cars swallowed by Japan at that time found their way back to the US as fortunes changed and the Japanese economy weakened. But I don’t think Joe ever had another crack at the Breadvan before his untimely death.

Not that I had started out in these ramblings to write about the Breadvan and Joe Marchetti’s serial ownership of some appealing Italian machinery. What I had intended to do was write about how you could tell the year that bidders at car auctions had been in high school by the cars they bid on. But did anything up to now even hint I was heading there? No.

But starting now I’ll write about Muscle Cars and how popular they suddenly were on the auction circuit, lighting up the eyes of ball-cap wearers in easy-seat jeans and marking up record prices. And how I never liked the damned things. As a driver I had grown fond of brakes with stopping power. And I admired cars that took to cornering with a pleasing kinesthetic feedback. I found Muscle Cars awkward. Even brutish. You might say their power was a guy thing but I thought it simply loutish.

Yes, going fast in a straight line has its appeal but that quickly fades when you get used to the speed and fast doesn’t feel fast anymore. Phil Hill called that becoming “velocitized” in stories he told me about the Mexican Road Race and how he relied on his tach when going through villages so he knew his actual speed and not how fast he felt he was going. That kept him out of village plazas at the end of long black skid marks. He did go off the road rather dramatically once but everyone was exiting there because on-lookers had taken to removing signs from the highway, especially those warning of sudden road changes. He soon learned to use the size of a collected crowd (and its visible anticipation) at any given spot along the road as an indication of the risk involved. As good a marker as sign posts with sharply bent arrows or exclamation marks.

I think I’m meandering again so let me say that I’ve always preferred “quick” to “fast.” Quick is an esthetic without numbers. You’re not fooled by it, just pleased. Fast can suck you into trouble and wrap you around trees. Quick works with you if you let it. And it has that collected canter feel. Quick is rarely a characteristic of anything called “Muscle”.

When muscle cars at auction started pulling such large numbers some participants in Keith Martin’s client sessions at the auctions started asking questions. Will this surge in prices for these cars hold up? Keith is my favorite expert on values of collector cars. He’s been putting out “Sport’s Car Market” magazine since it was a typed newsletter. He knows the field and I admire his integrity. Living up to that he told his group a simple “no”. He said that the blossoming of muscle car values was the product of guys who cherished the cars when they first appeared and the guys were in high school. They craved them but couldn’t buy them. Now they’re older and richer and can pay anything to realize their high school dreams. And do.

As powerful as such whims can be (especially when you can now afford to be the coolest guy ever if you were still in high school) such whims are not makers of sustainable value. And that’s what Keith in effect told his students. The boom won’t last. But that’s not at all what the auction guys—rubbing palms together—wanted known. Hey, moneeee is involved here. The auction guys, making a lot are ready to make more.

Someone overheard Keith’s questioning the endurance of the muscle car’s popularity and told the auction guys. The auction guys then ordered Keith to leave the building. (Yep. Leave.) And in effect “shut up”. And that after all the good he had done for what is known as “the collector-car hobby”. Thank you from the auction houses. Greed is a powerful whatever.

But all that was several years ago. Both Keith and the auction guys may be okay again. I don’t know. But Keith was right about muscle cars and their bubble of extreme popularity. Didn’t last. Golly, what power high school wields, even in memory.

But what got me thinking about muscle cars in the first place is their return – not as vintage cars but new ones. Will the return bring on a new boom in auction prices when today’s high school kids get rich and nostalgic down the line? No. Because cars don’t seem to matter as much to today’s high school kids. Or the kids today have the ability to get what they want at the time they want it and thus forget the forgettable. It’s only our unresolved yearning that power memories.

Anyway, the new muscle cars are certainly better cars than the old ones. But then all cars are better in that they stop better, take corners more neatly and still go as fast in a straight line as the current culture allows. Old or new muscle cars, I still don’t like them much. Most are still more crude than I like a car to be. Except for one instance which I’ll be getting to after circling the barn another time. A well-mannered but manifestly muscular Muscle Car.

Shoot, I might as well jump right in: 2015 Chrysler Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Hellcat

I’ll let you Google it and note all that appeals to you. Basics: It’s fired by a Hemi 6.2 liter V8 and Chrysler says it is the most powerful production car ever. Doubt them if you like but it does have this: 707 (707!) HP and 650 pound-feet of torque. You can have a six-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. And a lot of clever engineering.

I find all that quite amusing because what I said to the Chrysler people was “What a sweet car!” And I meant it. Never thought ‘til later they might be insulted that their hairy new beast, their halo car, should be called “sweet”.

I like the 707 HP. It says “flight” right off the bat and it does move instantly and rapidly. I’m more an admirer of torque than horsepower (and why don’t they simply list power-to-weight ratio?). This Challenger has the ability to wreathe the departure zone in billows of smoke and shorten your tire life if you wish, but there are controls that allow you to simply reduce the world as seen in your rear-view mirror at an impressive pace without a lot of showing off.

I put that in the sweet column.

It also is simply a handsome vehicle. Inside and out. Simple. Larger than I like but it is a Challenger and needs some presence for those with memories. Actually it drives small. Neat turning circle which matters to me. (I’m a fan of four-wheel steering, you know.) This is not a show-off hey-watch-me car. It simply performs. Results without visible effort. Now, by damn that is Sweet!

The Challenger comes it two lesser levels of performance but for highway dot to dotting quite adequate. For similar duties the Hellcat can be a slit-eyed pussy too at a sun-bathed purr. That’s another sweet attribute. You rumble when you want. Blast when you wish. The capability is there but you summon it quietly as desired or needed. That’s a trait I found “sweet” in two other vehicles—the GT-R (hoping the Infiniti Eau Rouge follows) and the 1001 HP version of the Bugatti Veyron. Ultra capable non show-off cars.

So that’s my view of muscle cars. Come to think of it there was one I rather liked in that original go-round of the breed—a Barracuda. I can claim a little consistency here. But I’m not sure what all this has to do with Joe Marchetti and his Breadvan.