Could you commute to work in an 80-year old classic?
By Larry Edsall
One of our local classic car dealerships and restoration shops, Brighton Motorsports, recently invited me to a Cars and Coffee, one of the weekend morning gathering of car guys and gals and their vehicles in shopping center parking lots held in various locations across the country.
In this case, the Cars and Coffee was in Scottsdale, Arizona, and instead of showing up in something ordinary, the Brighton boys suggested I arrive in one of their cars.
My drive to the event was a numbers-matching 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 convertible.
Since Brighton had invited a few others to attend, I got to swap the Chevelle for a 1964 Porsche 356 SC for my drive back to the dealership. The Chevelle had that wonderful carbureted gurgle at idle, responded wonderful when I tipped into the throttle, and had me thinking road trip! But with its skinny tires, touchy clutch and hunt-for-the-next-gear shifter, the 356 SC provided a dramatic if delightful lesson in just how far sports cars have progressed in the last four decades.
Also in our group were Brighton’s 1973 DeTomaso Pantera, 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo coupe, and the first of the “continuation series” of 1958 Scarab roadsters Brighton is building. Soon after we arrived at Cars and Coffee, we were joined by a 1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia SS (Sprint Speciale) that recently won its class at Concorso Italiano. The Alfa is owned by Julio Picchio, a Brighton customer.
We shared the parking lot with an eclectic though exotic assortment that ranged from hot rods to Ferraris (my, there are a lot of Ferraris in Scottsdale) and from a marvelous 1949 Cadillac to a new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG with its gull-wing doors.
Driving the Chevelle and Porsche and seeing all the other classics roll in that morning got me to wondering what it might be like to drive such a car on a daily basis, not just to a special event on a sunny weekend morning.
But I really don’t have to wonder what it might be like because Jonathan Klinger is doing just that. Klinger works for Hagerty Insurance. Since late October, his daily driver has been a 1930 Ford Model A that he’s vowed to drive for a full year, a year that will end next fall at the big classic car celebration at Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Klinger grew up around old cars and tractors on his family’s farm. He’s also a graduate of the automotive restoration program at McPherson College in Kansas, though his duties at Hagerty are white collar -- he’s the public relations director – though even if you’re white collar at Hagerty, you’re still encouraged to get grease under your finger nails.
One day Klinger suggested out loud that it might be an interesting challenge to forsake his contemporary car with all of its modern conveniences and instead drive a vintage vehicle for a year. McKeel Hagerty overheard Klinger’s comment and decided to make it a corporate project. Through Craig’s List, they found the 1930 Model A that an elderly couple in Indiana had owned for 15 years and had used primarily to participate in community parades. Hagerty bought the car for $11,500, then spent a couple of thousand more so Klinger could get it ready for its year-long, real-world daily-driver duties.
Since Hagerty Insurance is based in Traverse City, right on the shores of Lake Michigan where its cold and it not only snows, but it gets lake-effect snowfall, Klinger was thrilled to find there was an active automotive aftermarket back in the early 1930s and that he could equip the car with a vintage aftermarket heater.
The only modern device he added was for safety – a set of brighter than factory installed LED tail lamps.
Klinger thought he’d need those lights because he saw the biggest challenge on his year-long drive as going not over the river and through the woods but through downtown Chicago on his way to Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
As it turned out, the trip went so well that Klinger is thinking about driving back through Chicago for Christmas.
The drive from Traverse City, down through Indiana and up through Chicago to the family home near the Illinois-Wisconsin border was a 1000-mile roundtrip. Klinger said there wasn’t “a lick of trouble,” well, except for a loose bumper mount that was easily tightened as a gas station and for a broken lock on a tool box he mounted behind the front bumper.
Fortunately, he said, most of what he carries in the box– tools, extra oil, etc. – was heavy enough to stay in the box when the lid blew open. “But I did pepper Lake Shore Drive with a stack of red shop rags I had in the box,” he admitted.
Since returning to Traverse City after Thanksgiving, Klinger has been driving to work through some significant snowfall. Perhaps because he’s become a much more careful driver in the Model A, he says he’s really noticed how careless many people are when they’re behind the wheel of their modern machines.
“We’ve had a lot of snow the last couple of days,” he said. “The car’s been great, and I’ve passed at least four modern 4WDs that have slid off the roads.”
Klinger’s blogging about his year-old adventure in a vintage vehicle. To ride along, visit www.365DaysOfA.com.
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