IT SEEMS I GOT A LITTLE AHEAD OF MYSELF. . .
. . . in the preceding Chapter (#33) . . . The nineteen eighties and a good deal of the nineties were simply left behind!
Well, a heck of a lot went on in that decade, and up into the early nineties, that didn’t have anything to do with either Ray Brown or Doane Spencer!!
In the eighties, I had become very active in the buying and selling of the tether cars, and had honed and refined my antique toy business in my typical fashion of jumping directly in the deep end!
The toys and models were so much easier to handle in the coming and going. You could purchase any number of tether cars, antique toys or trains, and carefully pack them in your trunk, and be on your way.
BOYD CODDINGTON & “LIL” JOHN BUTTERA . . .
Late one Saturday afternoon Boyd Coddington and John Buttera called from Boyd’s office. They were using a speaker phone. Both were very famous, highly talented hot rodders. After joking me around a bit they said they were interested in buying some of the gas engined racers that they had heard that I might have. Lil’ john favored the smaller Thimble Dromes and Ohlsson & Rice cars and Boyd favored the larger Class C Doolings, Rexner’s Alexander’s.
After having their fun with the star struck kid in Philadelphia, they bought a handful of good cars. And they kept on buying! They pretty much called every Saturday afternoon! Abusing me weekly became very much a part of their end of week drill!
A RUNAWAY TRAIN . . .
I was just waking up on a cold winter day in 1981.
The telephone rang! I glanced at the clock and it was just past seven AM!
I grabbed the phone before it sat Marilyn bolt upright.
“Kirk! It’s Charlie Schalebaum, I’m in Florida. You won’t believe what I picked up yesterday . . .”
(. . . The late Charlie Schalebaum was known as the “King!” The title was richly deserved. He found and acquired the most extraordinary antiques and paintings. Charlie was also highly adept at extracting huge monies when he sold them along. . .)
“Charlie, its 7AM here. What the hell are you calling me for at this ungodly hour??”
“I was driving through Florida yesterday,” said Charlie, “on my way to Ft. Lauderdale and I stopped at the Halifax Museum in Daytona Beach and was able to buy eight of those gas engined racers they had in their museum!
“Good for you Charlie, do you know what type of racers they are?” I was sure they would be a mundane mix of little interest . . .
“Let me get my notes . . .”
I relaxed my way slowly back onto my pillow and I was drifting back to sleep, when . . .
“Kirk, you still there . . .??”
I was, but barely paying attention to Charlie.
In applying serious effort to the tether car business, I had discovered that there were a good many other people who were fascinated with them as well.
The more one looked into the hobby that stormed the country in the late 1930’s and up through the mid-fifties, the more you came across a vast number of different manufacturers and an amazing number of tether and rail racing tracks that were spread all across the country. The workmanship and engineering in some of those miniature racing cars was astonishing!
The hobby had reached a high point in the early forties when there over 70 manufacturers of the race cars, not to mention the many high quality cars entirely created from scratch by talented builders.
But, in the hobby there were a handful of cars that were on the “Holy Grail” list. You heard quiet talk about them, but you were never, ever going to see one . . .
Charlie finally read off what he had purchased, and had with him, in Lauderdale. . .
After hearing his list of cars, I was suddenly dressed and reaching for the other phone to catch the first plane I could get on for Fort Lauderdale!
Yeah, you could really do that in those days with a simple phone call back then. No mileage account numbers, no credit card on file, no TSA. Just be in the airport by 10:30 that morning, pay for your reserved ticket and you were in Lauderdale in the early afternoon,
I’m pretty sure I told Marilyn where I was going. . .
The race cars, it turned out, had belonged to a Lawson Diggett ( below ) who was a very wealthy, eccentric bachelor who had become totally immersed in the miniature racers. In fact he was so taken with the hobby that he built a beautiful solid concrete, dedicated tether car track, in Ormond Beach, Florida!
(. . . Lawson was an eccentric bachelor of the highest order. He loved and built models of everything. Everything! He’d light a cigarette and then make a model of the match . . . just kidding, but not by much! . . .)
I got to Fort Lauderdale and met Charlie at an automobile agency in Lauderdale. He had carefully arranged the cars on the showroom floor. All of them were brush painted in ivory and red. Diggett wrote his name on a few of them and four of them carried a rudimentary Diggett family crest!!
There were eight altogether, all of them were pure no-nonsense racers. Five of them were “good” original cars. The other three rang the Holy Grail bell!! Over the top, great cars.
And, of course Charlie was going to be the “the hell of it all” to deal with.
He wanted $5,600 for the cars. Hearing the figure I guessed Charlie had given $600 for the entire batch and was looking to lay me out for the $5,ooo!
You could make a career out getting him to take, say $5,400. . .
So after the usual pre-amble of:
“. . . That’s outrageous! I couldn’t retail this stuff for anywhere near what you’re talking about moneywise! . . .”
“. . . Look at these cars. The guy must have painted ‘em with the paint he had just used on his barn. . .”
.”. . How could you let me come all the way down here for this mish mash?? . . .
. . . What did you do, buy ‘em in a dark alley with a gun at your head . . . ?
No need for concern. . .
This was not only part of the Buy/sell ritual; it was always acted out in a similar fashion . . .
Charlie came right back with a fusillade of arrows. Including the one arrow that’ll usually fold me up like a fallen kite.
“No problem, Kirk. Two hours ago a guy came in here, saw the cars and asked how much they were. I told him the price and he was fine, but I told him my friend was in the air and I had to give you first crack at the cars. I’ll just call him in the morning and get on my way back to New Jersey . . .”
(. . . What was I supposed to do with that??. . .)
I paid Charlie and someone in the agency gave me directions to a shipping store.
ONE MORE . . .
( . . . A quick “always happens at Hershey” story . . .) This common scenario is always fun to act out . . .
Often this scene is played out at the Fall swap meet of the AACA in Hershey, Pennsylvania; We would generally have a substantial offering, always trying to have a handful of special items for Hershey.
We would open early the first morning 0f the swap meet and invariably people descended on our tents eyeing this and that and then often a voice would say:
“Hey! What can I buy this racer for.??”
I was always at the other end of our tables when our prospect would grab the car off the table and come up to me and proceed to ask every question known to man. On every subject known to man!! He would continue to hold on to the car, so everyone who strolled by thought it belonged to him!
An hour would slip by.
“Take $10,000” he’d say.
“No, the car is $12,000 . . .” I’d say.
“Let me think about it, I’ll be back. And he always was! He had thought of thirty more questions!!
“I really like it, take the $10,000 . . .”
He was going to think about it some more. Late in the day I spotted him headed our way. I quietly grabbed the car and put it in a box under our table.
“Hey, where’s the car?” He’d say . . .
“I sold it. . .”
“What?? I was coming back to probably buy it. What did ya’ sell it for . . .?”
“Hell, I would have paid ya’ that . . .”
“Well today’s your lucky day! I’d say, with a grand smile. . . I was just kidding you! Here’s the car! It’s yours if you want it. . .”
Then, finally, came the fun part. . .
Through the course of many years I love watching “Mr. I’d a’ bought it for that” Wiggle away . . .
Okay, we’ll save the rest of the “back & forth” tales for another time . . .
AS RUDE AS HE COULD BE . . .
Since my return flight to Philadelphia from Ft. Lauderdale was early afternoon the next day, the next morning I screwed up my courage and strapped on my mental armor and made my way to an antique shop on Federal Highway around 50th Street. I was familiar with the shop, having been there with a friend and actually seen “it. . .”
The “it” was an early 1930’s Marklin PLM, Gauge 1, antique toy train set: locomotive, tender, and the PLM hand enameled passenger cars with interiors. It was an expensive set when new. Rarely you might catch a glimpse of an available passenger car in your antique toy pursuits, or the locomotive might appear, usually without the tender!
Here in America one simply didn’t find a full set that always had been well cared for.
Substantial in size, it would stretch end to end on a good sized fireplace mantel.
Yep, it had been there the first time I visited the shop three years back. I had not spoken to the shop owner about the train set because I had heard him, for no apparent reason; drive two customers straight out of his shop.
I had, though, talked to the shop owner two 0r three times on the telephone over the course of the last three years. He won the “Oscar” for rudeness each time we “talked.”
So, why did I want to actually walk in his shop and subject myself to a serious blast of rudeness?
He still had the train set . . . is why.
I’d come by the previous night after dinner, and like a school kid, cupped my hands against the glass and peered into the closed shop . . .
Yep! He still had train set.
So, it was still pretty early in the morning, but the shop was open and I walked in. I already knew this guy “suffered no fools . . .” and sure enough here he comes with a sour look!
“How much is your Marklin train set?” I asked knowing full well that he wanted an over the top price. So high, that no one had chosen to buy the set.
Over the course of the past three years, just about every serious antique toy dealer that dealt Marklin knew of the set, but found the seller rude beyond words and the price was simply stratospheric!
My problem was, I had never been able to get that train set out of my head from the day I laid eyes on it.
“$5,800” he said dismissively. Like, the door is right behind you . . .
“May I look at it, a piece at a time?”
I looked him right in the eye signaling that he may have someone right there in his shop at 9:45 in the morning who was prepared to buy his treasure!
He eyed me closely and we proceeded. With every component of the train intact, the patination was uniform. There were no broken items, missing door handles, knocked off steps, missing intricate interior components, or damaged couplers. It was simply terrific! Nothing was wrong.
It was a killer set! The seller saw that and also realized that he indeed, may have the buyer in the building.
“I’ll take it!” I said . . .
I gave him a check and we carefully wrapped and boxed the set. He kept glancing at me throughout the whole episode as if he was expecting someone to step out and say:
“Hi, you’re on Candid Camera . . .!!”
I got in the car and started back to the shipping store again!
Once clear of the antique shop, I finally opened the gate and allowed the rational side of my brain to comment on what had taken place in the last 24 hours!
Two antique toy acquisitions at what had to be “World Record” prices in each case. I only knew that both the tether car collection and the Marklin train would not be coming my way again anytime soon!
The late Tom Barrett, co-founder of the famed auction, Barrett-Jackson, said it best:
“You can never pay too much. You may pay a bit sooner . . .”
Well, I had paid “. . . sooner” twice in 24 hours!
THIS MIGHT BE A GOOD TIME . . .
. . . To explain what’s with these major antique toy purchases. Well, all through the eighties I was dealing and collecting in the field of antique toys and European model trains.
As always, my interest had quickly gravitated to the very finest segments of the business. In other words the rarest and most expensive pieces.
The prices I had paid Charlie for the race cars and the big sum I had handed over for the Marklin train were good examples of “paying all the money” . . . probably “sooner”.
But, I would rarely have to “park” an antique toy or tether racer to let it grow up into a profitable commodity. Rather I would go to my overstuffed bag of “words” and compose an advertisement, generally of some length, and attempt to push the market value forward.
With the very scarce treasures, or pieces in superb condition, it would work out just fine. Was I utilizing smoke and mirrors selling to collectors? Quite the opposite, it turned out. I soon became a nuisance to a good many of my customers, pestering them to sell the items back to me as the antique toy and tether car market grew very quickly in the 1980’s.
Below are a few photographs demonstrating the extent to which I had stretched to be in that field.
The article in the Philadelphia Inquirer shows me in our basement with me “lording over” a Ping Pong table loaded with antique European trains, stations, signals, all manner of temptation. The European train business was red hot. It was during that time that I had a customer come to the house most Friday evenings to sit on my basement steps and determine which items he would like to take home that weekend.
There were weeks when he would spend $50,000 . . .
And, I had another gentleman out on Long Island who I generally saw on Thursday evenings. When we finished dealing and his very young daughter had finished playing with whatever I’d brought that evening, as though it was a Tonka Toy truck, he would excuse himself and in a few minutes, return with the requisite number of cold damp bricks of cash . . .!
WAIT, HERE’S JUST ONE MORE . . .
Oh yes, here comes yet another “Hat!” that I wore - another ziggity path where I might unearth a dollar or two.
Three of “us” . . . through the legendary Molin Body shop had been buying high line automobiles. They were largely Mercedes Benz and Porsches that had sustained superficial sheet metal damage.
We then had Molin repair them to Molin’s high standard. In spite of Molin’s repair prices, we’d be able to sell them on, generally at a consistently tidy profit.
I was always amazed that the customers were totally nonplussed by the fact that their “new” Mercedes had been involved in at least some degree of accident repair.
But, then some years prior I’d seen the same phenomenon transpire with flood cars. The buyers just couldn’t wait to pay the requested pittance in return for a vehicle that had spent some segment of time under water!
But back to Molin Body Shop . . .
Some weeks back I had purchased yet another six door Mercedes Benz 600 limousine that you see below. It was my fourth Mercedes six door 600!
(. . . Whatever possessed me to have developed a lust for the most diabolical passenger vehicles developed by the mind of man . . .?! )
The fascination had started a couple of years back when Al Balis let it be known he was selling, at his upcoming dealer’s auto auction, the two anthracite gray six (6) door limousines that had belonged to the famed Cunard Lines. The cars had been at their Manhattan headquarters.
As “dealers” we all took Al’s “facts’ with a grain of salt, but of course I went to the auction since Balis always served a great lunch. When I got there the cars were right out front and very impressive.
When the cars rolled in to be auctioned, Balis took to the auction block and gave an eloquent description of the pair of six door 600’s, finishing his spiel with a tremendous blast of the cars horns! It sounded like we were in New York Harbor!
“Those are the very horns from the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary Ocean Liners!!” Al exhorted!
Yeah, you saw it coming. I bought them both. . .
I will say I did go on to sell this pair with no dramatic sideshows.
AND YET A FINAL 6 DOOR MERCEDES BENZ 600. . .
This dark blue car, which I had just purchased, had suffered a “scrape” type hit all down the upper portion of the driver’s side. It didn’t look all that bad when I bought it and the price was quite agreeable!
Molin agreed to undertake the repair. I happened to be there when the car commenced an act that only a 600 could carry off.
Almost as soon as the car entered the shop the Mercedes went “down.”
What does “down” mean? It means the car sinks to the ground. Not near the ground . . .
Flat on the ground! And if you had a quick eye you could simultaneously watch all of the windows descend.
As a final gesture the seats will give up the ghost and sink to their fullest extent!!
Almost everything on the 600 series Mercedes that dealt with in or out, up or down, latch, lock, seat adjustment and more was handled by an intricate hydraulic system.
Simply crying was out of the question. Although some of Molin’s bills may well have brought tears to customers’ eyes through the years!
Someone took pity on me and began opening hidden compartments throughout the Mercedes which contained all manner of wooden wedges, braces, etc. to cover for just such an occurrence! These unobtrusive receptacles were stashed behind the seats, in the lid of the trunk, lower portion of the doors etc.!!
The shop people got the car reasonably mobile and repairs commenced. It was plain to see this whole deal was going to cost a hell of a lot of money.
It took a long time.
“Parts.” I was told. Lots of parts and lots of time went by.
A couple of weeks before the end of the fix a salesman from a local Mercedes Benz agency came to look at the car.
“I have a customer for this car if it is returned to “factory new”
(Well, we ain’t the factory, bud, but it’ll be right . . .)
The sales type was a pretty well known guy who was a bit of a stuffed shirt and probably would have been more comfortable seating favored people at Le Cirque in New York than he was selling automobiles in suburban Pennsylvania.
I told him we’d let him know when the car was ready.
But, before it was ready to roll out the door, the salesman reappeared. He wasn’t much of a card player. He tipped that he had someone for the car, again if it was as new.
Duly noted, I thought. I still had trouble seeing that scenario ever come to fruition.
Finally, the 600 was ready to go and here came my “stiff” salesman. The car passed his inspection and he said in no uncertain terms that he was recommending that his customer who was the head of the Federal Aviation Authority . . .
Whoa wait a second . . .!!
We’re pretty good at what we’re doing here, but I wasn’t at all picturing the head of the FAA in the 600 when the car may choose to take a nap!
What could I say?
“Nah, you don’t really want this car.”
“We whack these things together with paper clips and glue!
Cadillac still builds a damn nice limousine don’t they??”
I didn’t know if I could handle this sale! (. . . I pictured Mr. FAA as six foot five, dead serious and someone who would not handle any of the vast number of treats the 600 could dole out . . .)
I told “Mr. Stiff” I’d get back with him tomorrow after the expenses were taken care of.
$5,500 FOR A WINDOW REGULATOR?!!
I went in to take care of the bill. At Molin you just bit the bullet and paid. However, there was a part on this repair that was so far out of whack . . .
“Jim, what’s with this window regulator at a cost of $5,500?”
Actually it was the regulator that controlled all of the hydraulic functions throughout the car!!
Jim must have been expecting a skirmish as he reached under his desk and produced the damaged one.
There were none in the US. It seemed each rare order for one was tooled by hand out of brass. So, of course, it had to come from the factory! Don’t forget that $5,500 was close to thirty years ago. I can’t even imagine what the cost of that solid brass “regulator” would be today!
The regulator was no more than eight inches in length and nearly two inches thick. The intricacy and tooling were staggering. That regulator controlled all of the hydraulic suspension, window regulators, all seat adjustments and a dozen more functions including the opening and closing of the trunk!
Through having worked with my Dad in his machine shop, I could appreciate the work and the cost.
That Repair order sum raised my courage level; I called the “salesman” and told him the car was his.
Mr.FAA be damned . . .
The end of this saga is that the car was sold and it never skipped a beat! I had all but forgotten the 600 when the phone rang one morning well after the delivery date.
The voice said: “Kirk, I’m just calling because I thought you’d get a kick out of this:
“That blue 600 with “Mr. FAA” in the back stopped for fuel recently and the driver got out, started the gas pump and went into station. When the driver came back out the meter was just sailing past 48 gallons! It was pumping away “nicely filling the trunk!”
After a huge clean-up, no harm was done I gathered.
ALWAYS TAKE THE TIME TO READ “HEMMINGS . . .”
And so I did one summer evening in 1992. I started through the new issue of Hemmings Motor News. Hemmings was and remains the largest marketplace for all things with wheels and any companies that offered a service or parts that could be tied to the collector car field.
It was late in the evening when I turned the page to the “M CARS-FOR SALE.” It had been a long day and I was tired.
Just as I was thinking maybe I should do this tomorrow, I spotted a small photo of a 1951 Mercury custom and a bit of copy in a small classified ad.
I loved those “Barris” type customs. But, a custom Merc had to be right for me to have even the slightest interest. Almost without exception Custom cars, other than those done by a handful of builders, missed the mark usually by a wide margin.
Through the small description in the ad I could determine that the car being offered had been built by George Barris. It looked too good to be true.
Too late to call. I’d ring the gentleman tomorrow.
And late the following morning, I introduced myself on the phone to a gentleman named Bill Layman. And, yes, he owned the Barris Mercury, but he had a new project he wanted to undertake and he was going to move the Mercury on.
I then asked him to tell me a little bit about the car.
Holy Smokes, Bill Layman was another John Delamater! He too had spotted the car in a tiny ad. It was close to drawing its last breath on a run down used car lot in west Los Angeles.
Then for the next solid hour Layman proceeded to lead me through everything he had done to resurrect the car. In addition he mentioned that the original owner was Fred Rowe who bought the Mercury brand new and turned it over to George Barris having driven it for less than two weeks. The result of Fred’s checkbook and the Barris shop craftsmen was stunning.
A Hollywood film producer saw the car and was really taken with the custom Mercury convertible. Soon after the sighting the car was featured in the movie “Running Wild” with Mamie Van Doren.
I’m sure you’ve seen the film time and again.
Finally, in our telephone conversation there was spot of dead air . . .
“How much is the car, Bill?” I asked.
“You come out here and look at with your eyes and we’ll discuss the price,” he said.
I hated the drive to Pittsburgh. It wasn’t like the I-5 in northern California where you could run close to 100 MPH. And what was I thinking of anyway!
I had a house full of antique toys and too many cars and hot rods on hand. Plus, I didn’t really know really a damn thing about the custom car market.
But sure enough a week later I took off for Pittsburgh to see the Barris Mercury!
And the photos show what I saw . . .
I’ll make this as brief as possible. The car was beyond great, certainly the finest restoration of any automobile I’d ever seen!
Well, after a substantial period of back and forth talk I was told the price was a firm $75,000!!
Back in those days the market for the great customs was virtually non-existent! Oh yes, you heard of the odd “cool old custom car” selling for 15-20,000 dollars. But they were few and far between.
So, of course I’d be glad to open the market for these top of the line Barris customs at 75K. Surely a wise and well informed move.
You’ve seen the photographs. It was a star! Though I must admit throughout the long drive back to Philadelphia, the generally ignored rational portion of my brain was literally shouting:
WHAT IN HELL DID YOU JUST DO . . .???
When the car was delivered, the truck driver was one that I knew pretty well with Inter-City and he said to me:
“Whew, I hope we won’t be moving this one around too much. This car scares me to death, and it was absolutely damn perfect, but then the guy in Pittsburgh insisted on placing the car in the truck. And that was when this happened . . .
He showed me the lower passenger door and front fender. I was looking at a long, low scratch stretching from the front fender into just a bit of the passenger door. It was just enough that it would have to painted. It could not be polished out.
So, I finished with the driver and took the car to Molin. Bob Barber was the top paint gun at Molin at that point in time. He was perfect for a job like this one. He’d have to pull a perfect color match and put it “right there” in what they call “center ice.” In other words the cosmetic repair would have to be undetectable! And that’s exactly what Bob did. Today in his own shop, Paintworks in Stowe, Pennsylvania, Bob continues to do “perfect.”
(. . . Yeah, that was a commercial. Bob deserves it! . . .)
A few days later I was in Molin’s shop and wandered over to have a look at how they were coming with the car.
Suddenly the Merc spoke to me: “Kirk, how the hell do you get out of this damn thing?”
Bob Barber was inside the car frantically looking for a button that would pop open the doors! The Merc had “shaved” door handles for a smooth look. I had told Bob how to get in, but failed to let him know how to get out! Together we found the release buttons tucked up under the dash by the radio!
I was beginning to think the Mercury was mildly cursed . . .
After the scratch drama was over I saw the Hot Rod and Custom car show in Macungie Pennsylvania was coming up. Marilyn and I decided to take the Mercury. Macungie was a great show in the municipal park of the borough of Macungie a few miles west of Allentown.
We were in the Mercury heading north on Route 100 with a friend following. We had decided to position the car Friday evening knowing the place would be overrun Saturday morning.
It was a perfect early summer evening and I had just settled in with the Barris Merc when suddenly this rat-a-tat noise emanated from the engine.
I coasted off the highway, opened the hood and stared at the world’s most immaculate full house flathead engine that was sounding like a “Hit & Miss” engine. Had to be a collapsed tappet . . .
Can you believe this . . .?
But then the page turned.
Directly across the road from where we were parked a man came out of his farm house along with his wife.
Now, get this. The man introduced himself. John Stine. He was a long time hot rodder and Hell, he could fix whatever was wrong with that Mercury engine.
He and his wife invited us into their home. They offered us refreshments and introduced us to their family!
The Stines collected antiques and John’s shop right out there in the barn was the real deal, as was the hot rod John had done entirely on his own!!
No, we didn’t get to be “show-offs” that weekend but we met and became friends with a remarkably giving family. And the car was repaired with no further drama.
ALFA ROMEO SZ CODA TRONCA
Yep, that is quite a mouthfu
I guess you could blame it on having owned, driven, and really enjoyed both an Alfa Romeo GTV and then one of the rare “street” GTA’s.
I had always been fascinated by Alfa SZ’s and the final series with the “chopped” tail was the most desirable.
Maybe four or five years prior to the end of the eighties I located a clean example of an Alfa Romeo SZ Coda Tronca. It belonged to a physician in South Carolina and each time we talked I urged him to sell the Alfa to me. Finally, I got him to think in terms of selling. But then he hung such a viciously high price tag on the car that it took until the end of the eighties to finally get the little jewel purchased.
And, yes I stretched out past the end of an already quivering limb to meet his final price. And yes, it was in the lower six figures.
The Alfa arrived via Intercity Lines on a Friday early afternoon. Marilyn drove me down to where the eighteen wheeler was waiting. It wasn’t quite so stunning in white, but Hell, Kirk, you knew it was white . . .
I drove the little jewel back up to the house on Deepdale. The power band was narrow and commenced pretty damn far up the RPM ladder.
Late in the afternoon I went back outside and the Alfa looked great in the late afternoon sun.
I took the car for a spin through the neighborhood. It didn’t really help in getting me past the crudeness of the car. Well, what did I expect? The car was built as a lightweight racing car!
So, you’re going to have rattling Perspex windows, seats that are essentially thin cushions, various squeaks, groans and generally noisy Zagato bodywork.
And, boy you had to push that throttle fully open and then wait while everything in the ripping power department reports for work. Once all the skirts had been gathered up, the sucker did zip down the road.
But then as you turned back onto your street the driver’s door plastic window descended a few more crooked inches. . .
TIME TO SQUARE THINGS UP . . .
Or, time to take a deep breath. I was just in the garage when the telephone rang. It was Jim Francis. Jim was one of the few really landed guys in the Italian car business. He had used parts for all things Ferrari and often had a complete Ferrari that may have stayed at the party too long or was missing the odd door . . .
“I heard you finally bought ol’ Doc’ -------‘s Alfa SV Zagato . . .”
“Yeah, I did. In fact I just took it for quick spin . . .” I said.
“Pretty nice $7,500 dollar car ain’t it?” said Jim.
Perfect timing! Jim’s call summed it up! And, I can still today use it on myself to pull up short when I start to get myself out there where the breezes are getting crazy and the branches are too thin . . .
I had allowed myself to get to a point where the logistics of running a full blown antique toy and train business was just barely manageable. But I had six private garages in one Apartment complex and eight in another! No, no, they weren’t even remotely close to one another. You had to travel 8 miles between the two. Plus, you always had a few cars being serviced by Mike Tillson, Jim Garttmeyer or Bud Huggler. Molin may have one or two and a few more inbound or outbound over the road!!
The Alfa was simply the straw that cracked through the bubble and allowed a bit of common sense to waft into the building.
I called every prospect I could dream up re: the Alfa. I made so many calls that I was reminded of my days in the Life Insurance business!
And, sure enough Mark Smith came through with a genuine enthusiast customer who would truly care for and vintage race the SZ.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you !!