Rise and Drive – August 2018

          If you’ve been paying attention, you probably would realize I love Rise and Drive, for me it’s the perfect cars and coffee style event.  Never too big, never too small, always something interesting, and always good people to hang out with.  So when I realized I completely missed July’s event, I was crushed.  It unfortunately came on the heels of my day covering Gridlife/Automass in the sweltering heat of the Autobahn Country Club, and between my exhaustion and the fact that I completely forgot that the following Sunday also happened to be the first day of July, I missed it.  So I was incredibly excited to get back to Collectors Car Garage for the first Sunday of August, for my favorite car meet.  Let’s get right to it!

     If you are a fan of vintage European sports cars, there never seems to be a lack of at least one or two fine examples at Rise and Drive.  This month, a beautiful 356 made an appearance, fresh from a full Willhoit restoration.  If you are unfamiliar with Wilhoit, as I admittedly was, they are a shop based in California that has made it their sole purpose to lovingly restore early Porsche’s like the 356 to the highest level of perfection possible.  Looking at the car that showed up to Rise and Drive, I can say their mission has been accomplished.  This looked like a brand new car that rolled off the assembly line just before arriving at the meet.  The paint work, completely flawless in a rare factory orange offered for the model, likely has a better finish today than it did when it left the factory back in the 1960’s.  Wilhoit’s work is impressive, do yourself a favor and peruse their gallery of finished and unfinished projects, it is quite a sight to behold.  (Also, if you dig a bit, you’ll find what has to be one of the worst photos of Jerry Seinfeld publicly available.)  It isn’t everyday you see a vintage Porsche 356, but even less common to see one with so much time, money and effort poured into it.  

      I’ve touched on the topic before when highlighting a previous brown Volvo, that Volvo’s aren’t supposed to be cool.  At least that’s the common logic when you consider some of it’s notable attributes; boxy shape, ultra safe design, diesel engine, and family friendly.  Here again though, is another Volvo, this time a 242DL coupe, that defies the un-cool stereotype.  My mind can not compute why this works, but the baby blue paint, lowered ride height, and probably the prettiest steelies you’ll ever see on any car, just works.  This car is the automotive equivalent of having a “dad bod”, it defies logic but for some reason ends up being sexy anyway.  Then again, maybe it’s not so crazy after all, since the 242 has some rally racing heritage, and that’s arguably one of the most bad-ass and cool forms of racing one can do.  As soon as I finish writing this, I am going to sit down at my desktop PC, wearing my cargo shorts, black socks and flip flops, and start shopping for a Volvo 242 of my own, all whilst sipping coffee from my “World’s Greatest Dad” mug.  Hey, somebody turn the A/C down, what are we made of money?!

     I am not much of a Ferrari-file, so you’ll forgive me if I did not immediately recognize the model pictured below.  In fact, at first glance I shamefully admit I mistook it for a DeTomaso Pantera!  I know, I know, how awful of me, but slaps on the wrist aside, the 308GT4 is a handsome, Bertone blessed wedge of a car.  This Dino 308GTS4 is also a bit of a pioneer, starting off the adoption of Ferrari V8’s in a mid engine package.  Commonplace in the modern Ferrari line up, but back in the early 70’s a Ferrari with a V8 was considered slumming it versus having a “proper” V12 engine in the back.  They even refused to adorn it with the Ferrari name and prancing horse until later in production, when presumably no one was turning their noses up at the V8 engine after all.  The specimen on hand for this month’s Rise and Drive was particularly well restored.  The paint is an extremely subtle off-white, as if Giancarlo spilled just a drop of his espresso into the white paint being mixed.  The coffee break is likely a running theme in the construction of this car, as signs of early Italian manufacturing standards are abound.  The rear bumper is very nearly installed in an almost straight line, Antonio was almost done lining it up when Giancarlo offered some fresh brew.  A team effort by Marco and Giovanni installing the seats in the interior, they decide to rotate espresso break shifts; one on and one off, but the disconnect in their efforts shows.  Marco being a larger figured man, the driver seat is a few inches from the driver door, giving him plenty of elbow room.  Giovanni, on the other hand is built like a horse jockey, his passenger seat is installed nearly touching the door.  In addition, the two seats seem to be leaning ever so slightly away from one another, likely because Marco and Gio eventually sat in the car at the same time and realized their shoulders kept bumping.  The lovely gated shifter is about as close to the driver’s knee as any I can remember ever seeing, which I suppose makes for quicker shifts just as I’m sure they intended.  All these things in a modern car of any make, let alone Ferrari, would lead to a deluge of criticism.  For a vintage Ferrari though, it all just adds up to charm and personality.  Think of any object made by a machine versus one made by human hands.  One is a work of CAD designs and precision machinery; cold, calculated, mathematically perfect and impressive to behold because of it.  The other is carved with sturdy calloused hands of a craftsman; flawed, imprecise but possessing charm, human-like uniqueness and a beauty all it’s own.  Such is the case here, despite all this cars imperfections, it is a gorgeous little wedge of sheet metal, and without question full of more personality than many contemporary models.

     I tend to keep things strictly car-centric on the blog, rarely diverting into the vast realm of trucks, motorcycles or SUV’s (yuck), but the next thing on my highlights defies categorization.  It is the Morgan 3 wheeler.  It has a driver seat, a steering wheel, shifter, and three pedals just like many sports cars, so perhaps it is a car?  However, it is steered by two bicycle tires in front, and propelled forward by a motorcycle tire in the rear, not to mention it’s source of propulsion is a V-twin bike engine mounted on the nose of what appears to be a chopped portion of an airplane fuselage, so what exactly is this?  Have you ever watched the Peanuts Halloween special, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”?  In it, their is a sequence where Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s pet dog, is imagining he is a World War I fighter pilot.  Perched atop his dog house it becomes his prop engine fighter plane, the Sopwith Camel.  It is an oddly dark sequence contrasted to the rest of the special, the jazzy musical score that is a constant presence in the cartoon drops away, and only the sounds of Snoopy’s ensuing dog fight are heard. The engines roaring in varied pitches as they climb, dive and loop, the sounds and sights of flak exploding all around as he takes fire from the ground.  Snoopy’s expression becomes one of blood lust and bravado as he’s bathed in a blue and purple light, furiously pumping his fists to mimic the firing of machine guns at approaching enemy fighters.  His craft is soon riddled with return fire, Snoopy dodging harm only narrowly, but his plane has seen the worst.  With a patriotic salute, he goes down into a crash landing, somehow surviving but now pinned deep behind enemy lines.  Here the music returns, but with haunting and forlorn melodies.  He slinks back in the tall grass, the back drop is the fading purple glow of dusk bathing a rural countryside.  Soon it turns to night, and he continues, crossing through the desolation of bombed out trenches and barbed wire.  Somehow he gets through it all, into the wee hours of the night and finally rests at home, atop a haystack under the full moon.  As a young child watching this, it transported me to a place of incredible danger and adventure that I couldn’t fully understand, but sent my heart racing all the same.  I still don’t fully understand why this sequence struck such a chord that I would remember it so vividly, even into adulthood.  That feeling though, is what I get when I see this Morgan 3 wheeler.  It is the adult equivalent of hopping into your own imaginary Sopwith Camel, on the hunt for the Red Baron.  Happy hunting gents.  

     If you have yet to make it out to a Rise and Drive meet, do not fret, you have two more left in the season.  The first Sunday of September and October, mark your calendar and come out to say hi!  Thanks again as always for reading!

-photos and writing: Robert Sixto

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