Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Reading

Vacation time warrants vacation reading.

Pebble Beach — Leo Levine at the New York Times on the ultimate car show and auction.

1969 Mustang - Pebble Beach 08-10-14

1969 FORD MUSTANG BOSS 429 (Russo & Steele, no estimate)

MAX MUSCLE: The 375-horsepower Boss 429 peaked around $450,000 at the top of the market in 2007. With the recent sale of a Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda convertible for $3.8 million, the best muscle cars seems to be back near their prerecession highs.

The annual celebration of the automobile on the Monterey Peninsula of California, a vintage-car enthusiast’s version of the Academy Awards, hits the starter button this week.

By the time it concludes with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance next Sunday, records are expected to be set for practically everything that requires payment, be it a hot dog, a hotel room or a Ferrari. And as usual, reports of unimaginable prices for rare vehicles will obscure the fact that among all the glitter and precious metal there is much to see and do where admission is free.

The seed from which all this grew was planted in 1950, when a few dozen sports-car drivers raced on a makeshift road circuit through the Del Monte Forest, and about 30 owners of new cars organized a show, given the French appellation of concours, on the lawn next to the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

That was 64 years ago. This year there will be 10 concours of one sort or another, including Saturday’s Concorso Italiano at Fort Ord, expected to draw more than 1,000 entries; no less than six auctions, which market experts project will realize sales of more than $400 million; and a variety of events like Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival, a Wednesday evening social at the Monterey Jet Center. Admission is $325, limited to 3,000 guests.

High on the no-cost list is the Thursday morning Pebble Beach Tour d’Élégance, which typically includes about 150 of the 220 cars entered in Sunday’s headline concours. Intended to show that these cars are not just for exhibition, this year’s tour will cover about 80 miles, starting at 8 a.m. in the Del Monte Forest and stopping in Carmel for lunch before returning to the starting area. The opportunity to see some of the world’s great classic automobiles, at times with the Pacific Ocean as a background, can be a thrilling experience.

Admission is free for Tuesday’s kickoff, the Concours on the Avenue in Carmel, expected to draw some 200 entries. Other free events include Wednesday’s Little Car Show on Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove; Friday’s Porsche Werks Reunion at the Rancho Canada Golf Club on Carmel Valley Road and the Legends of the Autobahn gathering at the Nicklaus Club-Monterey.

One of the week’s regular curtain raisers, running Tuesday and Wednesday, is the automobilia exposition at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside, just off the Pacific Coast Highway. On offer are posters, badges, paintings and automotive memorabilia. Admission is $15 for one day, $20 for both. The Pebble Beach RetroAuto, where admission is free, runs Tuesday through Saturday at the Spanish Bay Hotel in Pebble Beach.

The largest crowds, as usual, will be at the Laguna Seca road circuit, where some 550 entries will be participating in a series of races Saturday and Sunday. No big-name racecar drivers will be competing, but there will be many great cars.

Other high-dollar events include Friday’s The Quail, at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. This is a concours with attendance limited to 4,000 and is sold out at $400 per person. The price includes parking, lunch, drinks, souvenirs and the accompanying feeling of well-being. Admission to the Pebble Beach concours is $275 in advance, $300 at the gate.

These numbers, however, don’t compare with what is expected at the various auctions. Favored to bring the highest bid of the week is a Ferrari 250 GTO to be sold by Bonhams on Thursday, with predictions of a hammer price that will be $40 million or more.

Doonesbury — Next question.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Short Takes

Droning on in Iraq: Political leaders are looking for someone to replace the current prime minister.

Syria: President Obama requests $500 million for rebels.

SCOTUS: The Court ruled against President Obama’s recess appointments and struck down abortion clinic buffer zones.

Arizona firefighter families sue over deaths.

End of the road for India’s iconic Ambassador automobile.

R.I.P. Howard Baker, 88, former Republican Senator from Tennessee.  Classy guy who couldn’t get nominated in the G.O.P. today.

The Tigers swept the Rangers 6-0 and extend their streak to seven wins.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

New Wheels

The last major phase of the restoration of the Pontiac is complete.  Steve Greenblatt of International Sport Auto Repair of Pembroke Pines offered to refinish the wheels on the Pontiac, and they’re now done.  Take a look at the Before and After below.


Before — March 2012


After — May 2014


Monday, May 19, 2014

Trophy Orchid

Yesterday I took the Pontiac to a car show at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens.  It was selected as the best in show for 1980′s cars and the trophy was this lovely orchid.


The photo was taken in close-up while the orchid posed on my kitchen counter in front of the window that overlooks the back patio.  Unlike the impression the photo gives, it’s not six feet tall.

Friday, May 2, 2014


I stopped in at the store on the way home last night.  I was in for about ten minutes and when I came out, someone had knocked off the passenger-side rearview mirror on the Mustang.  The whole thing.  It was dangling by the cord that runs the adjustment motor.

I was parked well within the lines and when I went into the store, there were no cars on either side of me.

Of course no one saw a thing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pony Tales

The New York Times had a nice piece about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Mustang and people who have owned a first-generation model since it rolled out of the dealership.

The earliest cars off the assembly lines have a special place in Mustang lore. Officially, they are titled as 1965 models, but enthusiasts draw a distinction between cars built before August 1964 and those built later, calling the early cars ’64 1/2 models. There is reason for this: The car was revised after a few months of production with trim changes, different engine options and a reset of the vehicle identification number sequence.

Among the fans who will be celebrating the Mustang’s 50th birthday will be some owners who bought the car when it first went on sale. Here are the stories of some early buyers who could never let go.

Somewhere deep in a box of family photos there’s one of me next to my first Mustang, a 1965 silver 2+2 bought used in April 1969 from Brondes Ford of Toledo.  It was supposed to be shared between me and my older brother and sister, but since they were both away at college, I drove it the most.  It was the car I took to college in 1971, and we kept it until the summer of 1973 when my dad convinced me that because Ford sold so many, it would never be a collectible.  Dad, I love you, but you were wrong: a restored-to-original 1965 2+2 goes for ten times the 1965 sticker price.

1965 Ford Mustang

1965 Mustang 2+2

I’m on my third Mustang now and don’t have any plans to trade it in.  I don’t think a 2007 convertible will be a collectible any time soon, but I still love driving it.

PS: I get asked this on occasion: where the did the nickname “Mustang Bobby” come from?  Here’s your answer.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Five Years Later

Five years ago today I drove my 2007 Mustang home from the dealer in Fort Lauderdale and took these pictures. Other than a new set of tires and routine maintenance, it’s been trouble-free. And it still looks pretty much like it did then.

007 Left Front003 Right Front

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lube Job

I took the Mustang in to Jiffy Lube yesterday for its regular oil change.  If I had gotten all the “recommended” maintenance that the very earnest and helpful sales associate told me the car needed, I would have spent over $300.  As it was, I  spent $22 for the oil change — I had a coupon for $20 off — and said no thanks to the rest.

Talk about upselling.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Car Show Photos

We ran into a bit of rain yesterday at the AACA national winter meet in Port St. Lucie, but that didn’t keep us from getting to the show field and getting ready for the show.


Getting ready: The car is wiped down, the hood is up. We’re relaxing.

The show brought out a large variety of cars from all eras.

1967 Chevrolet Corvette

1967 Chevrolet Corvette

1969 Chevrolet Camaro and 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle

1969 Chevrolet Camaro and 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle

1962 Pontiac Catalina

1962 Pontiac Catalina

1936 Chrysler Airflow

1936 Chrysler Airflow

1979 Lincoln Versailles

1979 Lincoln Versailles

Today we’re off to the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance where we’re judging. I get to do the muscle cars. I’ll have photos later.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Road Trip

This weekend is a busy one in the car show world here in South Florida.  I’m heading out this morning for Port St. Lucie and the AACA national winter meet where the Pontiac will be going for its second Driver Participation chip.


Then on Sunday I’ll be a judge at the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance which brings together some very nice cars from the 1900′s to the 1980′s.  Because I’m not one of the 1%, I won’t be going to the hangar party or the gala banquet, but the fun stuff — for me — happens on Sunday anyway.

Blogging will be light and variable until Monday.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jay Walking

Tonight is the last night for Jay Leno on the Tonight show.

I’ve never been a late-night TV watcher, and since I started writing this blog, I haven’t stayed up much past 11 on any given night.  So I don’t have a lot to say about Mr. Leno and his 22-year run on the show other than I’ve never found him to be particularly hilarious when I’ve seen his clips.  I do admire his collection of antique cars.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Art Deco Weekend

The 37th annual Art Deco Weekend is this weekend on Miami Beach.  Regular readers of this blog knows what that means and know where I’ll be today and tomorrow.

004 Barbizon Hotel

And you know what one of my tasks will be: escorting the South Florida Firefighters Calendar models in the parade on Saturday morning.

Back Camera

A tough job, but I’m willing to take one for the team.

There will be two days of car shows.  Saturday is the parade open to modern convertibles and all cars 1989 or older, including modifieds and customs.  Saturday will be a show of vehicles 1989 or older in original or restored condition.  This year for the first time I’ll have both of my cars in the shows.

In years past, Billy Joel has showed up with his collection of antique motorcycles. He’s on tour this year so he won’t make it, but here’s a reminder of the times he’s been with us.


If you’re in the area, come on out and say hi.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Long Road Trip Continues

Twenty-five years ago today — January 5, 1989 — I got on a plane in Denver and flew to the frigid climes of Traverse City, Michigan, to pick up my new car.  As I wrote five years ago, “My dad had found it for me through his friend Ernie Pobuda, the owner of the Hertz used car sales office in Traverse City. My 1984 Subaru had been through some engine trouble the summer before, including a blown oil sender unit seal that nearly prompted a lawsuit with the dealer who had sold me an “extended warranty” that initially denied my claim that the seal was a part of the engine and drive train. So for $12,700 — $4,000 of which came from me selling the Subaru back to the dealer — I bought a fully-loaded 1988 Pontiac 6000 LE Safari station wagon with 5,846 miles on it.

When I arrived at the dealership, Ernie asked how much my one-way airfare from Denver to Traverse City was, and when I told him $200, he knocked that off the sale price of the car. I drove it off the lot that afternoon, and the next morning drove back to Colorado. I’ve been driving it ever since.”

And I still am, twenty-five years later.  A year ago it became an official antique and participated in its first national Antique Auto Club of America meet last February.

Through the years:

Ten years old -- January 2009

Ten years old — January 1999

Twenty years old -- January 2009

Twenty years old — January 2009

Today -- January 2014

Today — January 2014

It was the car we took Sam home in when he was six weeks old and just adopted, and the car he rode in on his last journey thirteen years later. It’s been in parades, it’s delivered windows and doors to job sites, and it’s survived brutal Michigan winters and Florida hurricanes. It’s had its breakdowns and the usual expenses that come when a car has over 250,000 miles on it, and some people wonder why anyone would hang on to an unremarkable model of a car that isn’t even built anymore.

It’s hard to explain without going all pop-psychology, but as I noted in an article for the club’s newsletter last summer, it takes me back to the simple joys of family trips, of days at the beach or the ski slope, of going to places with friends and family, and carrying on a bit of family advice handed down by my grandfather who told his sons when they were starting out in life that Pontiacs were good cars.  They still are.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Okay, campers, it’s time for my annual re-cap and prognostication for the past year and the year coming up.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

- President Obama moves into his second term with pretty much the same situation in Washington and Congress as he has had for the last two years, so nothing will really get done.  The budget matters, including the fake drama of the Fiscal Cliff, will still be around in some form because it’s a lot easier to kick it down the road than actually do something, especially when you have a Republican Party that absolutely refuses to work with the president on anything at all.  It has nothing to do with policy, deficits or debt, taxes or revenue.  The reason is pretty simple: they don’t like him, and so like a kid in grade school who refuses to do his math homework because he hates the teacher, they refuse to budge.  You can pick your excuses, ranging from his Spock-like demeanor to his refusal to suck up to the Villagers, but most of it comes down to the unspoken reason that dare not speak its name: he’s black.  No one dares say that out loud, but get three beers in any Republican, and I’ll bet they’ll admit it by saying “He’s not one of us.”  How many dog whistles do you need?  A big tell was that in the last-minute budget negotiations, Mitch McConnell went to Vice President Joe Biden as the go-between the Congress and the president.  Why?  Because Mr. Biden was in the Senate and knows how to talk to them, and also because he’s the white guy.  So we will have another year of gridlock, and the new Congress will make the one just concluded look good.

That one was pretty easy, and I’m sorry I got it right.

- The Supreme Court will rule the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8 are unconstitutional.  It will be a very close vote, probably 5-4 on both cases, and they will narrowly rule on both cases, doing their best not to fling open the doors to marriage equality with a blanket ruling and leave the rest of it up to the states.  But they will both go down.  On the other hand, they will rule against Affirmative Action.  I also think there will be some changes to the make-up of the Court with at least one retirement, either voluntary or by the hand of fate.

Right on gay rights and marriage equality and a punt of Affirmative Action.  I had no idea about the decimation of the Voting Rights Act, but then who did?  And the court roster remains intact.

- Even if we went over the fiscal cliff or curb or speed-bump, the economy will continue to improve, with the unemployment rate going below 7% by Labor Day.  I know this only because I know that our economy, like the water level in the Great Lakes, goes in cycles no matter what the hand of Wall Street or Washington does… unless they completely screw it up like the last time and make it even worse.

A little too optimistic on the unemployment rate, but the economy really is getting better.

- After the extreme weather we saw in 2012, at long last we will move to do something about climate change or global warming or whatever it is fashionably called.  It won’t be done by Congress, however; it will be because the people who make a living off the climate, such as agriculture and coastal enterprises such as fishing and tourism, will make it happen through their own efforts.  (Yeah, I’m being extremely optimistic on this one.  A year from now I will happily concede I blew it.)

Blew it.

- The extremism from the right that entertained us in 2012 will continue, albeit muted because 2013 isn’t an election year except in New Jersey, where Chris Christie will be re-elected and start his Howard Dean-like campaign for the presidency in 2016.  The GOP will refuse to acknowledge they have a problem, but as 2014 looms and the wingers that were elected in 2010 face re-election, they will find themselves scrambling hard for candidates that can survive primary battles where the nutsery reigns and then win the general election.  The only reason Governors Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and John Kasich of Ohio will be re-elected in 2014 is if the Democrats don’t move in for the kill.

Not muted, and did not see Ted Cruz coming.  That’s not because he’s a formidable force to be reckoned with, but I thought that even the Republicans have their limits.  I guess not.

- I’ve given up predicting the Tigers’ future this year.  Surprise me, boys.

They did pretty well, and it was fun to see them live at Marlins Park.  But I was happy to see the Red Sox come from the cellar to the dome to win.

- We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

Losing Nelson Mandela, Peter O’Toole and James Gandolfini in the same year was a shock, but we all lost friends and loved ones who did not get a spread in The New York Times.  I hold them in the Light.

- Personally, this year looks good on a couple of fronts.  The Pontiac is due back from the body shop this week, and I have formally entered it in its first national Antique Automobile of America car show to take place in Lakeland, Florida, in February.  Things are looking better at work with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools getting a number of important grants, including a $32 million program from Race To The Top for math preparation, and the District won the coveted Broad Prize for Urban Education this past fall.  One of my short plays has been selected for production in May 2013 at the Lake Worth Playhouse’s Short Cuts series, and hope springs eternal for a full-scale production again of Can’t Live Without You here in Florida.  This time I have a good director who would love to do it if we can get a theatre.  I’ll be off to the William Inge Festival in May to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Inge’s birth, and plans are in the works for our annual trip to Stratford, Ontario, next summer.  My family continues to enjoy good health and good spirits.  The blessings continue.  (PS: No, I still don’t have a Twitter account.)

The Pontiac earned its first Driver Participation badge last February and goes for its second in February 2014.  Work continues to go on and the District is doing well: no F schools this year, a marked improvement over the last five years.  My short play, Ask Me Anything, has now been produced more times than any of my other full-length works (two on-stage and one directing project), and my writing continues.  It looks like our trip to Stratford in August was our last trip, simply because of relocation and logistics, but who knows?  My family continues to enjoy good health and good spirits.  And I finally have a Twitter account: @BobbyBBWW.

Now the predictions:

- Despite the terrible roll-out and start-up of Obamacare and the opportunity it handed the Republican campaign strategists, the healthcare law will not be as big an issue in the 2014 mid-terms that all the Villagers say it will be.  By the time the campaign hits the final stretch, the law will be so entrenched that even the people who claim they hate it — even though they support what it does — will have a hard time trying to run candidates who promise to repeal it.  Still, the GOP noise machine and Tea Party hard-core is locked in on re-electing their safe base and the morning after the 2014 mid-terms will show a House still in the hands of the GOP and the Senate closer to 50-50.

- Immigration reform and gun control will go nowhere because it’s the same Congress we had in 2013 and they didn’t do jack-shit.

- By December 31, 2014 it will be a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be running for president.  Joe Biden will play coy with the Villagers about running, but in the end he’ll demur to Ms. Clinton.  The Benghazi! non-scandal will be long gone except for the nutsery who still think Barack Obama was born in Kenya.  The GOP will be lining up its merry band that includes Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, and just for laughs, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.  President Obama’s approval numbers will be back up in the 50% range.

- Florida Gov. Rick Scott will lose his re-election bid to Charlie Crist, the newly minted Democrat, and Marco Rubio’s star will be as faded in GOP national politics as Pauly Shore’s is among Oscar voters.  He’ll pick up a primary challenge from the far right, but he’ll be safe in 2016 because the Democrats have nobody to run against him.

- Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania will all face tough re-election campaigns, but Mr. Kasich and Mr. Snyder will probably squeak by.  Mr. Corbett is out, and just for laughs, the people of Maine will toss their gaffe-prone Tea Party guv Paul LePage.

- The national economy will continue to expand and the drive for the living wage movement will take hold.  The unemployment numbers will finally get below 7.0% and stay there.

- Marriage equality will spread to more states as more cases based on the ruling by the Supreme Court in 2013 are heard.  Indiana will vote on a ban on same-sex marriage in November 2014, and it will lose narrowly. But same-sex won’t be the law of the land yet, and I predict that unless the Supreme Court issues a sweeping ruling, Texas will be the last hold-out.

- The Supreme Court will rule 5-4 that Hobby Lobby or any for-profit non-religious corporation does not have the right “to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.”

- This will be a rebuilding year for the Detroit Tigers now that Jim Leyland has retired.  They’ll do respectably well and may even win the division again, but it’s time for a breather.

- Fidel Castro will finally hop the twig, and the slow thaw between the U.S. and Cuba will begin as the generation that is as old as Castro continues to fade away.

- We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

- Personally, life will continue at its gentle pace in good health and good spirits.  In September I will turn 62 and begin the first steps towards eventual retirement, but that won’t be for a long time yet.  I’ve already started on my paper for the William Inge Theatre Festival in March, and I continue to write and produce blog posts.  My parents are happily settled into their “life enrichment community,” and I hope to visit them this summer.  I might even get a smartphone this year, but don’t bet on it.

- The Ford Mustang will turn 50 years old in April 2014.  That’s not the longest continuous run of an American car model — the Corvette started in 1953 — but it’s an impressive run for a car that re-defined the auto industry.  My prediction is that it will last another fifty.

- And of course, the usual prediction: One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.” Or not.

Okay, readers, it’s your turn.  What do you predict will befall us in 2014?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fall Roll-Out

It’s that time of year in South Florida… snowbirds start flocking to the Sunshine State, and soon we’ll see a lot of out-of-state plates on the roads.  It’s also time for the car show season, and the first of them for the AACA South Florida Region is today: Wings over Miami at the Wings Air Museum at the Tamiami Airport, 14710 SW 128th Street, in Miami. Admission is $10, and it goes to support the museum and the Neva King Cooper School for children with disabilities.  Showtime is from 10 to 2 p.m.

You might see one of these if you come.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

On With The Show

I’ll be heading back out to Miami Beach to keep an eye on the Memory Lane exhibit this morning at the Miami International Auto Show and get some better pictures than this one that I took of the Pontiac during set-up:

Pontiac 11-07-13We have two exhibits this year: the main display of 16 cars, and the “Havana Classics” display with cars that might have been seen on the streets of Cuba before the revolution.

We’ve got everything from a 1931 Model A to a 1960 Edsel Ranger convertible, plus two cars — a 1958 Mercedes-Benz and a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle — that were in this year’s Peking-to-Paris rally.  They really did drive all the way from China to France without running into Professor Fate or Tony Curtis.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Show Prep

The Miami International Auto Show starts tomorrow, and the car club here in Miami is doing the Memory Lane display, as it has for the last twenty years or so.  I always take the day off to help set it up, and this year the Pontiac will be a part of the show.

Ready for its closeup.

If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi.