I got back home late last night brimming with wonderful memories of our Meet-up in Nashville. It was almost overwhelming, given the sheer number and density of cars at the Lane Motor Museum, and all of the socializing. On Saturday, I must have talked almost nonstop from 7AM to 10PM. Unfortunately, my iPhone decided that 4:20 AM was a bit too early to get up and take the plane with me, so I had no camera on Friday at the Frist and on Saturday morning, when we assembled in front of the Lane to check out the several curbside classics that had been driven to Nashville by some of the attendees. But others did, and we’ll post them later.
And since I’m totally slammed today, I’m going just post a couple of Outtakes for now. Although the cars were splendid, the highlight was meeting other CC readers and socializing, including this lunch on Saturday at the cafe inside the nearby Harley Davidson dealer. I think I’ll await some group shots someone else took to identify everyone, as half of them are not visible here. But you get the idea.
Jason Shafer picked me up at the airport on Friday afternoon in his ’63 Galaxy 500, after an almost 500 mile drive from Missouri. Since I had no phone, I just hoped for the best in terms of his making the drive without incidence, but just minutes after I stepped out on the arrivals curb, I spotted the Galaxie heading towards me. That was a good omen, and everything else went equally smooth for the whole weekend.
Friday night we went to the Frist for the Italian car exhibit, which was a specially curated show of some of the finest cars of the classic Italian design period 1945-1975. I didn’t have my camera, but Vic Ceicys, seen here in front of Pininfarina’s seminal 1946 Cisitalia, sent me his, and we’ll get to them eventually.
If you want to know where the Buick designers got the idea of a triple-fin version for their ’59 cars, here it is, the very wild Alfa Romeo BAT 7, on of three aerodynamic concepts from 1954. Of course, the Alfa also had a pointed fastback, which made its dorsal fin look a bit less tacked on. And these cars were refined in a wind tunnel, and this one is the slipperiest of the three, with a superb Cd of 0.19. I’m no aerodynamicist, but I assume the curving fins help to keep the airflow attached to the tapering fastback, improving laminar flow.
The main floor of the Lane has some 150 cars, almost all foreign. It has the largest collection of Tatras, which was a particular draw to me. Here’s perhaps their finest one, a splendid silver 87, with its rear dorsal fin and air-cooled hemi V8. There were several Tatra streamliners, although none of the T77, which was the first one. One to add to the Lane wish list. And there were a number of earlier Tatras too.
We got into a long discussion about the ambiguous automotive empire of Carl Borgward,who had assembled several brands to create a mini GM in Germany by the mid-late 50s, including the very significant Borgward Isabella, which was the proto-BMW sports sedan of its time in the 50s, with a lively OHC four cylinder, independent suspension all-round, and exceptional performance and handling for the times. Borgward’s empire collapsed in 1961 (I had the year wrong), due to a liquidity crisis triggered by being too ambitious with the very advanced Lloyd Arabella and the luxurious six-cylinder P100.
The conspiracy theory is that the Quandt famlily, which had just recently bailed out BMW, had some pull with the banks to force the liquidation of Borgward, but the company’s cost structure with multiple brands and factories had been an on-going problem.
We’ll save the rest for another time. One of Jeff Lane’s particular interests is micro-cars, and the collection is anything but micro. This is just a microscopic slice, and we’ll get out the microscope and take a closer look soon.
The basement floor of the Lane is the holding tank for several hundred more cars, and more arrive all the time. In addition to a tour of the basement in the morning, Lane’s Rex Bennet gave us free rein to explore it again in the afternoon.
It’s a cornucopia of European and a growing collection of Japanese cars, many of them very obscure and very small too. Jeff loves the underdogs, which means there’s only one Mercedes in the whole collection, and it is a very rare and unusual (and relatively small) one.
One very important aspect to the Lane: every car gets registered with Tennessee plates, and over 80% are driven regularly, to keep them “exercised”. The staff gets to drive them, and we saw an Isetta getting a good workout on the street in front of the Lane.
Rex took us through the workshops, where the cars are repaired, restored (if needed) and maintained. The Corvair Corphibiam, created by a group of GM engineers in 1961, is getting some serious attention, as it has some leaks, and is not currently sea-worthy. But like all the Lane cars, it will be again soon, and will take its first plunge in a long time as soon as possible.
We were given access to Nissan USA’s collection, which is currently housed at the Lane. It includes a number of “Job 1” cars and trucks, the first to come off the lines at Nissan’s huge Smyrna, TN plant, as well as some historical cars and trucks and some show-circuit concepts like these three.
One of the highlights was to savor, ride and drive some of the classics that were driven to Nashville. On the way to lunch, I rode in the back of Robert Elliot’s fine white 1970 Charger 500, which he drove from the Atlanta area. He’s following Jason Shafer’s ’63 Galaxie. More pictures later…
Rob Tessier drove his exquisite ’67 Corvette convertible to Nashville, and we all oohed and aahhed over it in the morning. It’s absolutely perfect, and its silvery Elkhart Blue paint shows off Bill Mitchell’s masterly lines to perfection (the hood was not fully latched here). It was also equipped to perfection, with the desirable 350 hp version of the 327, four speed, and manual steering and (disc) brakes). A real driver’s car, although it was ordered with power windows. Don’t want the arms to get too much of a workout.
As we left the Lane to head for our dinner destination some 10-12 miles away, Rob offered me a ride there. Then he upped it to “would you like to drive it?” Would I ever. This is the car that I obsessed on as a kid; the Sting Ray came out in ’63 when I was ten, and it instantly vaulted to the top of my lust list. And I’ve never actually driven one of these. So he tossed me the keys and I had a peak experience.
Well, it had a minor low, given that the quite heavy clutch wants to be absolutely floored, unlike my Ford F100 clutch, whose bottom 35% of travel does nothing. That meant that I had trouble getting into first on a couple of starts, and made the syncro a bit unhappy on a shift into third (sorry Rob), but other than that, it was a dream, literally. The 327 is the sweetest running American V8 of the whole 60s era, period, and running it through the gears on an on-ramp, and trotting down the freeway on a balmy summer night with the top down was intoxicating.
Others (Vic here) took a turn sitting in the ‘vette, but I got lucky. Thanks again, Rob.
His father bought it in 1984 (IIRC), and it’s now his. Now that’s an inheritance to savor. Rob has replaced the rear steel transverse leaf spring with a fiberglass unit, which is 50lbs lighter and improves the ride. The Corvette rode quite well, and the manual steering lightens up quickly underway, but it’s a real vintage feel to steer this car through that big steering wheel. Quite the contrast from today’s synthetic electric assists.
We spent a good four hours yakking it up at the restaurant, and finally called it a day at about ten, to give our feet and tongues a break.
In addition to the Corvette, Ray Zilke drove his pristine low-mileage 1972 (IIRC) Ford F100 to the event, and Bill Walters drove his BMW Z3. And others came some distance in newer cars. But the real hero was Scott Bennett, who drove 1300 miles from Bangor, Maine! He said he’d been wanting a good excuse for a road trip for ages, and we gave him one. A long one, at that.
On Sunday morning, everyone hit the road, but not before Jason gave Jim Cavanaugh and I some wheel time in his ’63 Galaxie 500. As you all probably know by now, this has been in Jason’s family since new, and Jason has had it since he was fourteen. Meaning, it’s a family time capsule, and dripping with stories, which makes its original (and well-worn) interior something one might give pause to ever tearing out and restoring. There’s just too many stories embedded in that upholstery. Here’s Jim getting situated.
Jim is obviously enjoying the drive, as I did too. The big Galaxie has the 352 FE V8, which makes wonderful music through the dual exhausts with medium-loud mufflers. And it’s got a three-on-the tree, with overdrive, Armstrong steering, and manual brakes. It’s not the kind of car you want to take on a shopping trip with lots of parking, but this car just loves the open road. It’s got great thrust through the gears, and the overdrive makes it a real long-legged cruiser, with a very good ride to boot. Jason says he got 18-19 mpg on the drive to Nashville.
Well, after such an intense day and a half, I was quite happy to have a few quiet hours at the Nashville airport before my plane headed west at 5PM. I arrived in Eugene at a bit after 10PM, and there was still a psychedelic red glow over the Pacific, on the second-longest day of the year. But it was the best weekend of the year.