MMR Blog

Sandy On Assignment: The Bucket List

Posted on January 15, 2015 Comments (10)

Sandy Cotterman
Motorsports Enthusiast

Sandy on Assignment

Yes, a glamour shot, but the suit (not the shoes) gets me into the hot pits!

No matter what your age, I bet you have a list of things you want to do ... someday. Since setting myself loose in this amazing world of motorsports, I realize my someday is now. A bit late to the motorsports party, I have come to peace with the fact that I am neither going to become a race car driver, nor am I going to trip upon a million dollar barn find. So instead, I have been knocking out my very own bucket list ... to get as close to everything motorsports as I possibly can.

Looking at my list got me thinking. Does every car guy have a bucket list? What’s on it? What are their plans? I started asking around and this is what I discovered. Generally speaking, there is no limit to what a car guy wants to do with cars, events they want to attend, and cars they lust over owning or re-owning. What did surprise me was the final hesitation ... someday.

My hope in sharing my adventures under Sandy on Assignment is to get you excited about building and actually tackling your own motorsports bucket list.

You are never too young to appreciate motorsports

It is never too soon to introduce children to motorsports.

I appreciate that this sport or hobby, depending upon your level of participation, requires resources. Although some are financial, many just need some time and planning. This may not be the year to hit Pebble Beach, but it may be the time to take your children or grandchildren to the races or a local car show. It may be the year to hop in your car and do a Club autocross or a road tour.

As for my motorsports adventures, here are my top ten recommendations. See where your dreams fit. Write them down.

Sandy’s Top Ten Favorites

1. Take a high performance sports driving course. My favorites are the 2-day Porsche Sports Driving School outside Birmingham, Alabama and Monticello Motor Club’s high performance courses, just 90 minutes north of New York City. Interestingly, most participants attend as a birthday present from their spouse! What I learned in both courses stays with me every second I am driving on the road.

Bruce Ledoux and Sandy Cotterman

Meeting driver Bruce Ledoux, founder of the  Guardian Angels of Motorsports, opened my eyes to the world of racing.

St. Petersburg Grand Prix

Smaller races, like the St. Pete Grand Prix let you get close to the cars and the drivers.

2. Go to the races. The Rolex 24 hours of Daytona was my first and got me hooked. Whether it’s local stock car racing or Formula 1, the electricity is always there. Splurge on a paddock pass. Meet the drivers. Le Mans can’t be beat. Formula 1 in Monaco is breathtaking. Vintage racing during the Lime Rock Historics and Monterey week at Laguna Seca are favorites. Watching the Elegance at Hershey hillclimb is a blast.

3. Get out and drive. Whether it’s a Club track day, family drive, or week-long rally, just get out and drive. Enjoy yourself in your car. After taking my performance courses, I realized you don’t need a Ferrari or a Porsche to get out and have fun!

Sandy Cotterman, judging a concours

Judging has gotten me closer to the pulse of a concours.

Sandy Cotterman and Norman Dewis, OBE

It is one thing to go to a concours like Villa d’Este, it’s another to meet a legend like Norman Dewis, OBE and the car that made history.

4. Attend a Concours d’Elegance or local car show. A concours can be a step back in history or a waltz down memory lane. It’s like a living history and a chance to meet the owners. The atmosphere is always fun, often lasting a weekend. You would be amazed at the classic cars entered in local car shows! There is nothing that beats the fun during the British Invasion in Stowe, Vermont. Sandy on Assignment has taken MMR readers from Pebble Beach to Amelia Island and across the pond to Villa d’Este and Hampton Court.

Max Girardo, RM Auctioneer and Managing Director

Max Girardo, RM’s auctioneer and Managing Director captivates his audiences.

5. Feel the excitement of an Auction. Whether you experience it live in person or on television, watching a car auction is a blast. I love to hear guys talk about prices as cars roll onto the auction block. What looks like their high school car or the car they almost bought, is now priced out of sight! You can get caught up in the bidding frenzy without even opening your wallet! Preview days are often free, and a great time to walk around and check out the cars. My favorite is RM with auctioneer Max Girardo. Also at the top of my list are Gooding, Bonham’s, and Artcurial auctions.

First Porsche sports car

The first sports car bearing the Porsche name. The 1948 Porsche Type 356, “No. 1” Roadster.

6. Check out your dream car. There is no harm in test driving your dream car. There is no harm in surfing the internet for your dream car. There is no harm in tracking down the car you once owned. Dream it and someday you may own it. I want a Porsche 911 in the worst way.

Goodwood is fun for everyone

The Goodwood Revival is magical and fun for everyone.

7. Head to the Goodwood Revival, Retromobile, or the Mille Miglia. These events are for everyone, from the vintage racing buff to the reluctant spouse. If looking through memorabilia at Retromobile gets boring, there is always shopping in Paris. There are enough trade-offs in Italy to spare a couple of hours watching the cars take off at the Mille Miglia. As for the Goodwood Revival, the entire family cannot help but have a fabulous time.

1902, the oldest Mercedes still in existence

The oldest Mercedes still in existence, the 1902 Mercedes-Simplex 40PS.

8. Tie an automotive museum into your vacation. Automobile museums are everywhere. Admission is often nominal. In the States, favorites on the west coast, besides Jay Leno’s Garage, include the Blackhawk Museum, Mullen and Nethercutt Collections, Peterson and LeMay Museums. Heading east, the Seal Cove Museum in Maine and Simeon and AACA Museums in Pennsylvania are fantastic. Heading to Europe? Take the train from Paris to Mulhouse for a treat — the Schlumph Collection in the Cité de l’Automobile National Museum. If you are flying into Milan, the Museo dell’Automobile in Torino and Museo Mille Miglia in Brescia are unique. Once in Stuttgart, Germany, the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums were phenomenal. The crème de la crème was The Collier Collection in Naples, Florida.

Katies, on a Saturday Morning

With over 300 cars on a Saturday morning, at Katie’s, you can always find something to talk about.

9. Get to a Cars and Coffee. If it’s 7am, Saturday morning, you will find me sipping coffee with hundreds of car guys and gals, at the local cars and coffee. I love being around other like-minded motorsports enthusiasts. Classics to exotics, you’ll see everything and just talk cars. My favorites — Katie’s in Great Falls, Virginia and the duPont Registry in Clearwater, Florida.

Sandy's dream come true

My dream come true.

10. Don’t stop at 10 ... keep dreaming. On my bucket list for decades was to own a convertible, something sporty. I never let up on that dream and I’m glad I didn’t. Who would have guessed that dream would change my life.

Rallies enough to last a lifetime

There are enough rallies on my list to last a lifetime.

So what is still on my bucket list? My dreams span the gamut, from tinkering under the hood of an E-Type to navigating in the Peking to Paris Rally. And, of course, there’s the 911.

Donald Osborne at the Mille Miglia

It is just as much about the people as it is about the cars. Donald Osborne at the start of the Mille Miglia.

I hope I have sparked your interest. Get out and have fun with your own bucket list. Sandy on Assignment, under the MMR Blog, gives you a glimpse into many adventures, with specific suggestions on how to go about planning. When it comes to motorsports adventures, it’s all about the cars, the people, and having fun.

Please keep me posted on your bucket list ... and I promise to write about mine.


In Praise of Older Cars!

Posted on July 8, 2010 Comments (0)

Two weeks ago, on a very cool New England evening, I had dinner with a new friend who has a collection of sixties era sports cars. Which, I asked him, did you drive tonight?

Amelia Island Christian Delbert Photography

He told me had his older Ferrari coupe parked in the lot. Nice, I said, don’t you have a modern car? No, he said, I have a modern truck for winter transportation.

I know him to be a collector of Fifties and Sixties sport cars but I was curious. Why not a modern sports car? Because, he replied, they are very complex and when you begin to have problems, they are very expensive to repair. Besides, he said, I don’t think they have an upside. In twenty years time the cars I now have will still be repairable. And I can do much of the work myself with the tools I currently own.

Manufacturers are obligated by law to supply parts for ten years from the date of manufacture. In order to protect their dealer service network, some manufacturers are known to make computer diagnostic programs difficult for the aftermarket to access. But after ten years, the dealer who can no longer get factory components, even with access to the computer diagnostics, is also shut out of the business. Where does that leave the car owner? Manufacturers will not let their customers down simply because the law says they can. That’s not good business and it is reasonable to expect that they will supply parts for a longer period. That is good business as anyone, with an old Ferrari can testify. But the parts won’t be inexpensive and at some point they could run out. When that happens, the traditional secondary source, the aftermarket, may not be able to supply.

My friend’s point here is not that computer equipped cars are bad, quite the contrary. We could never enjoy the power or convenience and safety features we have in our cars today without them. But for the most part, electronic components are not repairable. The factories fight to make their parts proprietary; that allows them to control price and availability. Aftermarket manufactures are loathe to reverse engineer and hi-end car computer for a comparatively low volume application. So, if your are considering the purchase of an eleven year old supercar you must ask yourself a few basic questions about who will repair it and where they will find electronic parts.

What are your thoughts?

Peter


An Electric Car in Your Future… Now

Posted on June 7, 2010 Comments (0)

2010 Tesla Roadster Sport at Larz Anderson Auto Museum (photo credit: Greg PC)

It’s no longer a question of whether or not you’ll have an electric car.  The question now is:  When? and what color will it be?

A small company in California has made the strongest effort yet to end your recurring nightmare about battery operated cars:  It’s a dark rainy night and you’re muttering bleakly to yourself as you guide the slowing little electric “econobox” to the side of a dimly lit highway.  The battery is dying, the lights are dimming, and the wipers are slowing. And your heart is sinking because you know there are no electrical outlets or clean bathrooms for miles.  Not a pretty picture.

Tesla Motors, maker of a new breed of high performance electric cars, has addressed your three major concerns. One, Tesla calms I'll-never-make-it-home fears with a mileage range of between 240 and 300 miles per charge.  Far beyond the mileage required for the average daily commute. Two, Teslas perform exceptionally well against what are considered current standards of comfort, safety and speed. And three, rather than looking like mobile meat lockers, both sport and sedan Teslas are unquestionably among the most handsome of cars.

So how does this happen?  Well, for one thing the evolution of the current modern car has laid the groundwork for Tesla’s acceptance.  Cars have changed dramatically from the finned behemoths of the ‘50’s. But our continued demand for greater efficiency in transportation, combined with the volatile politics of fossil fuels and the myriad finicky computers that control every aspect of the modern car, have created a huge opportunity for a simple and innovative solution. Mass transit systems, high speed rail, even bicycles, hold little appeal in this huge country as they are often deemed transport for students, the poor, or the environmentally awestruck.

Enter the Tesla. Forgetting for a moment that coal fired generators supply the electrical charge, this car is attractive, comfortable and environmentally friendly. Surprisingly, the Tesla Roadster Sport model, the only flavor available at this point, can trace its roots to the innovative Lotus Car Company of the Sixties and their popular Elan model. When the Lotus Elan first hit the roads and tracks of America, it had as disruptive an impact on the dinosaurs of its day as the Tesla is having on accepted technology today. At that time, the Elan’s nimble handling, great brakes and Ford Cosworth 1.55 liter twin cam engine pitted it against the likes of Corvettes, M-B 300Sl's, Porsche Carreras, anf Ferrari 250Gt's in SCCA B-Production racing.  It proved to be a very competitive car, setting a standard for small car speed and agility for years to come.

Today, the Tesla’s rolling chassis is built in the original Lotus Cars plant in Hethel, England.  The body is 4” longer than today’s Lotus Elise model, successor in spirit to the Elan. The Tesla is styled after the Elise but its body is made of carbon fiber rather than fiberglass. This adds great structural rigidity and lightens the car by 200 lbs. The “glider”, as it is called at that point, is then shipped to California where battery power components are added and the car is finished to the customer’s specifications.  Customers spec their car on the Tesla website.

That’s right, no local dealerships. This transaction is all done online and you are always a single keystroke from canceling the whole deal. But if you don’t, your local UPS delivery truck will bring your brand new Tesla to your doorstep in somewhere between 90 and 120 days. And your neighbors will all deem you to be either an eco-weenie or a visionary.  Comfort yourself, at some point, whether in reality or in their dreams, you will silently glide by them all at the local Mobil, a spot you wont have visited in months.

While Tesla is currently assembled in the United States from parts made elsewhere, a government subsidy to encourage further electric vehicle development will change all that.  But Tesla Motors’ fate will not be determined by politics and environmental demands alone. This company will also need to succeed on the merits of its products, and its first offerings bode very well indeed for that to happen.