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Classic Car Corner - Dec. 30, 2013

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere

JOE’S FIREBIRD: I’ve been going to The Woodinville Bagel Bakery every weekday morning that I’m in town for almost 20 years. I have the same thing every morning so as soon as they see me pulling up in whatever car I’m driving that day they start making my tall decaf americano and then I order my bagel choice for the day heated with nothing on it.

This was originally a muffin shop and then was Bigfoot Bagels for many years. My daughter even went to high school with the original Bigfoot. Many people know that this is my morning office and will catch me there before I wander over to my real office at Windermere. I even sold a home to someone I met there.

So what’s this got to do with classic cars? I’ve gotten to know Joe, the store manager for several years, he likes my cars and I talk to him about his car. Unlike me, he has had his car since 1995 and plans to be its last owner. He’s just going to keep fixing it till either he or the car dies.

Joe has a 1991 Pontiac Firebird and you’ve got to see it to believe it. It would not really be a classic by most people’s standards but is interesting so I’m going to write about it anyway. It has a V-6 engine that was replaced because the oil change company didn’t tighten the oil drain plug, the oil all drained out right away and the original engine blew up. The rear end and automatic transmission also wore out and were replaced. This car is the t-top model of which one side was replaced when it blew off at 70 miles an hour! Joe has been run into three times by others and never collected a dime (or done the repair). When I first saw this car it was flat black and since then Joe has rattle can painted it with flat black Plasticote. He even did the wheels AND tires with flat black. This car has the retractable headlights and like many cars of this era they don’t retract anymore.

Recently, the VAT device (vehicle anti-theft) went out and prevented Joe from starting the car so he ending up riding his bicycle to work for a few weeks. Two local shops were unable to fix the car so he had Mac’s Towing haul it out to Mike’s Repair (whom I seem to keep busy myself) and Mike easily made the repair as well as found a vacuum leak that had apparently been affecting the car’s performance for quite awhile. Joe has also replaced almost everything else on this car by now. I believe that part of the reason he has had to do so much work on this Firebird is that sometimes those doing the work were not very competent. When you stop by The Woodinville Bagel shop check out Joe’s Firebird and say hi to Joe (or me).

For those who read last month’s column (it is available on line) there’s an update on my 64 Studebaker GT Hawk. I did burn up the engine and Mike is doing a complete engine re-build for me. It’ll be done by Jan. 11 so watch for my low slung, dark green Studie darting around Woodinville.

Classic Car Corner - Risky Endeavours

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere

RISKY ENDEAVOURS:  Sometimes in life we take chances – calculated risks. 

Berg photo2I try to weigh my odds and decide what’s the worst that can happen and can I live with that outcome. I live my life this way and it carries over to my classic car purchases. 

I’ve driven cars back from San Juan Island, Bellingham (in the snow), Pullman (ran out of gas), Port Townsend and Portland (broke a fan belt and spent the night in Chehalis) so I figure why not Ogden, Utah! The worst that could happen is it breaks down and gets towed back and I have a repair bill so I figured I could live with that and decided to buy a real nice 1964 Studebaker Gran Tourisimo Hawk. It’s a sleek looking 2-door hardtop with a Studebaker 289 c.i.d. V-8, 2 barrel, automatic. Studebaker only made 1400 of these 1964s and actually ceased production in December of 1963. In the pictures the seller sent it looked great but I, of course, had the option of not buying it after my personal inspection in Utah which means I would have had to get back to the airport and see if I could catch a plane back home. Not a great option but I figured I could live with that if it wasn’t as nice as the pictures.

On Friday morning I took two days off from selling homes and I caught the 7 a.m. flight to Salt Lake City (had to get up at 4 a.m. – Ugh).

It’s only 1 hour, 25 minutes air time but of course 14 hours – plus a hotel – by car to get back to Woodinville. With the help of a friendly local I managed to catch the light rail into town and a commuter rail out to Ogden where the seller picked me up. Upon reaching their home I quickly checked out the car and it looked great. It’s totally stock except for an older re-paint, and the interior is especially nice – looks brand new but it’s 50 years old.

I took a short demonstration drive, paid up, did some paperwork and was off by 12:45. It was cold and there was snow in the foothills right next to town but the sky was clearing and I figured I’d make it 330 miles to Boise. 

The weather cooperated, the car ran great and I made Boise by just after dark and checked into the first place I could find.

As I woke up in Boise I saw that they had just gotten their first snowfall of the year, but the freeway was clear so off I went to cover the 500 miles home by dark. I did come upon some light snow flurries and lots of wind but made good time to Baker, Pendleton then Yakima and the Hawk was running great. My Karma must have caught up with me because as I headed up the hill out of Yakima I heard a ticking sound and noticed my oil pressure was right around zero. I quickly pulled over and saw no oil on a very hot dipstick. I walked back to the gas station I had just passed (next building north of any kind was about 30 miles), bought some oil, walked back and filled up the crankcase. The car started but still had that ticking sound and low oil pressure so I backed up on the freeway to the gas station and called my buddies at AAA. I am one of their better customers.

A driver came all the way from Ellensburg to haul me and my new Studie 132 miles back to Woodinville, the Studie to Mike’s Repair and me to my home. I did make the entire trip in two days, just not quite how I planned it.

I didn’t wreck the car, or catch it on fire, or break down many hundreds of miles from home so it certainly could have been worse. I may even end up with a newly re-built engine (for a few thousand dollars) but I’m going to own another really cool car. Keep an eye out for the dark green, low slung studie in my #1 parking spot next to the street at Windermere Real Estate.

Classic Car Corner - And Racing Breaks Out!

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere Real Estate

And Racing Breaks Out!!       I recently made my annual trip to the Monroe Swap meet to check out acres of cars, parts and accessories. This time I did not bring a car to sell and managed to not buy a car.  I did find a really nice 1962 license plate for my new 62 T-Bird and ate several scones (jam, no butter).  My friend Jeff joined me later and we kept noticing loud, smokey burnouts over on the track.  Usually cars are racing around the track and not just spinning their wheels, so after we had seen enough car parts we headed to the grandstand to see what was going on.   It turns out they they were doing  "Bracket Racing."  I am a car guy but was never a huge racing fan so I had heard of bracket racing but certainly didn’t know how it worked. We sat in the stands for the entire event and had fun watching and trying to figure out what was happening.  After I got home I read up on bracket racing and discovered that it places a premium on consistency of performance of the car and driver rather than raw speed, so winning is less dependent on large infusions of money and more dependent on driving skill such as reaction time, shifting ability and ability to control the car.

Bracket racing is sometimes called "run-what-ya-brung"  since you can race just about anything with wheels. We saw blown 57 Chevys, new Hondas, a guy’s grandmothers 1960’s pickup, a super quick dune buggy thing that weighed almost nothing and had 10’ drag bars on the back and just about any other kind of car you could think of.  Any of these cars might be running against another just based upon the elapsed time they expected to run in the 1/8th mile.  Some of the really fast cars arrived by trailer but many were just driven to the track. If you choose to be in the 7 second class then you have to beat the other guy down the track but if you are under 7 seconds it is called "breaking out" and you lose unless of course the other guy is even faster than you in which case he loses even though he crossed the finish line first.  The quickest class was 5.5 seconds which was close to 100 miles an hour.   These drivers were really skillful and in one of the 7 second races the time were 7.02 and 7.04.   I didn’t quite understand but reaction times sometimes also figured into who won or lost.   It was a very casual but well organized racing event and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys cars.

Classic Car Corner: Auction Time

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere

lucky aug 13AUCTION TIME: On August 31 and Sept 1, I was able to attend the Lucky Car Auction held at the beautiful LeMay Family Collection grounds at Marymount in Spanaway. I had entered my 65 Mustang in the auction so took it down there on Friday which allowed me to include a round of golf at the nearby Classic Golf Course. 

It’s always good to combine one’s interests whenever possible. I drove down again on Saturday which was the 36th annual open house put on by the LeMay family. I figured I would hang around my Mustang to tell potential buyers what a great car it was but actually ended up wandering around looking at the other cars, talking to their owners and trying to figure out which one I would most like to have as well as watching most of day one of the auction.  

On Sunday I once again made the long drive south because this was the day my car would reach the auction block. I was one of the earlier cars to come up and had managed not to buy anything so far. When watching the auction each lot seems to take a long time since they are trying to squeeze out as much as they can from the bidders. Most of these cars had reserves and a little more than half actually sold. When it was my turn on stage time really seemed to fly! I got a decent opening bid and it increased quickly to a price I could accept after I asked the auctioneer for a discount on his commission. After all the preparation and waiting time I did get a decent price for the car I really didn’t want anyway. Later when I went to sign some seller papers I met the buyers and they were the one couple I had actually talked to at my car earlier.   I had discounted them as buyers since she was an older lady and wanted an automatic and this was a 4 speed with a stiff clutch and a hot engine.   I hope she likes it. Had I hung out around my car and talked to people I may have gotten a better price. 

I had promised myself I would buy no more cars this year but since I now had one less car and some money burning a hole in my pocket I thought I could get a little more serious about buying another one. I bid on a nice 60 Studebaker, a beautiful 90 Jaguar with low miles, a great looking red 62 Thunderbird and a well worn Studebaker Avanti all of which fortunately went for more than I was willing to pay.

Not surprisingly  though I have accidently found a car with my name on it and my new-found dollars are long gone again. Now I’m in the midst of building another covered parking area at home. It was an all-together entertaining weekend and I will certainly be there again at the end of August 2014. 

After two of  my cheap vinyl carports collapsed during "Snowmageddon" and cost me a lot of repair $$$ in 2012 I bought a decent metal carport from Ron at R&G Automotive here in Woodinville.

I’ve now decided it needs some sides on it so I went back and introduced myself to the new owner Brad Dammen  (Ron’s now at home in his rocking chair eating Bon Bons). Brad does the same work as Ron but also specializes in high end paint jobs so welcome to the community, Brad. 

Classic Car Corner - Good Guys

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere

car1Catching up: This year, due to the resurgence of the residential real estate market, trips, hiking, golf and  life in general, I missed the early swap meets in Puyallup, missed the Monroe swap meet and had only been to one car show (Big Rock-Duvall in June) so it was time to catch up.

One Saturday I headed down to the "Good Guys" car extravaganza at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. They claimed to have 2500 vintage cars there and I believe it. Some were for sale but priced a little high for me and besides, I’m trying to reduce my old car inventory, not increase it. I must have missed seeing a few cars but I saw enough as well as a myriad of car parts. Good Guys is a national organization that puts on 20 huge shows a year throughout the U.S. and many of the cars were from other states and even Canada.  

This show is unique in that the car owners can drive their cars around the fairgrounds right through the crowd. I wonder how the insurance company likes that. The show uses up the entire fairgrounds and by mid-afternoon I was worn out, full of fair food and probably missed something but that was enough for one day.

Being a glutton for punishment, the next day I went to the Kirkland car show, a well respected show that I had never managed to get to. This show takes up all of downtown Kirkland and had about 90 percent fewer cars than the Good Guys show but was lots of fun since they were very nice, local cars and it was in Kirkland with the park at the lake and lots of good food. 

After awhile my grandson showed up and we had to look at all the cars again. Even though these were local cars there were many I had not seen before and I even saw a nice Diamond T and a great Citroen 2cv like the ones I had seen in Scotland. I hadn’t seen another one in decades. Put the Kirkland show on your schedule next year – it’s local, well run and lots of fun.

At the Kirkland show my friend Matt (to whom I had sold my 36 Chevy ) suggested I go to the car show in Juanita on the 24th so I grabbed my grandson and his favorite vehicle – my Toyota FJ40 – and went to Juanita.

This is a small show (less than 100 cars) in a convalescent care  parking lot and adjacent street but had some great cars. There were TWO Studebakers, two pre-war Lincolns and a nice 61 Corvette just like my 62.

I had a long discussion with the Vette owner and even saw him the next day as I was driving through Tuscany after my open house in my 38 Ford pickup. Yes, I use my old cars in my real estate business whenever I can. 

There are lots of great cars  in Woodinville. Recently as I was walking to lunch I spotted a really nice 39 Ford pickup right in front of the Goodyear store. The 39 is virtually identical to my 38 and you just about never see them. Perhaps that distinctive oval grill is not appealing to some because the other 30’s and early 40’s trucks are much more common.  I’ll be visiting the owner of this truck to see the rest of his collection including a 36 Woolsey he’s re-building and I’ll give you readers a full report.

This weekend (last weekend as you read this)  I’ll be off to the Lemay Family Collection open house at Marymount in Spanaway.  This is the 36th year they’ve opened the grounds up to the public. It’s a great event and this year features an auction where I’ve entered my 65 Mustang and I’ll even have a bidder number this time so you never know what might happen at an auction.

Stay tuned ...