For the love of the 1600
The moment is here, its time to show and shine! But if it was only easier said than done.
Let me take you to how Derby got prepped for the Hillsborough Concours de Elegance.
First of all, the Hillsborough Concours is the longest consecutive running concours in the world! No joke. They have gone longer than the "Quail" or even the Pebble Beach Concours. For 63 continual years, they are proud of this tradition of honoring and celebrating excellence in automotive design and engineering.
Derby had been selected this year again to be judged in the TC2 Imported Passenger and Touring Cars from 1965-1987. Last year, it was an honor to have both Derby and Tesoro selected to attend and be judged . The cars presented themselves very well, however, that was my first ever "Concours d'Elegance" and I had no idea what I was getting myself into as it was evident that I came home empty handed.
That is when the fire was lit, and started burning a competitive desire to enter Derby again for 2019.
In preparation for this concours, I had Derby's tired matching numbers engine restored to its factory glory. I had entrusted North Bay Bavarian in Santa Rosa, CA to do the dirty work and within a month, they had Derby's engine spic and span! No more smokey exhaust or squeaky suspension. The engine, suspension, manual 4 speed transmission, and new exhaust was all repaired, rebuilt, and restored as if this early NK Derby colored 1600 was driven off the assembly line in Germany. Amazed with the fastidious and attention to detail work, Derby was ready for show!
After driving and breaking in the engine, Derby drove like a champ! Engine was idling like a calm ambient tone that could put babies to sleep. I was so pleased, that I started to daydream about how excited I would be if I had won an award. Well, that daydream turned into a nightmare 5 days before the concours. Derby's rebuilt generator had failed! How could this be? I had the generator rebuilt a year before the engine restoration because Derby had an issue with the generator in the past. Fortunately, I was at North Bay Bavarian picking up some items for Derby, when I noticed a strange noise coming from the generator. Dr. Rick Row had used his "stethoscope" to listen to the front and rear of the generator and it was undeniable that the bushing inside the generator broke. He quickly took the generator apart and found a new bushing he had laying around and recommended that I not drive Derby home until he felt certain that it was the bushing. So I took the train back home and it was the longest excruciating hour I felt in my life. My thoughts of not being able to attend the concours truly crushed my spirit and I think Rick Row could sense that within me too.
However, the next morning, Rick calls me and excitedly tells me that after testing the generator and voltage regulator, he had fixed the problem and said I could pick up the car right now. RIGHT NOW?? Could someone pinch me?? I couldn't believe that the car was fixed and ready to come home and I would still have the day to detail the car proper and head out to the concours in the morning. I stayed up with Derby from 6PM to 11:30PM detailing Derby that night and I went to bed feeling assured that everything was good to go!
On the morning of the show, I woke up early and got myself ready and when I went in the garage to start Derby, I heard that horrific, dreadful, generator failing noise again! If I can ever tell you what it felt like to have a heart attack, I can tell you I felt like I had one that morning. In a panic, I called the closest trustworthy mechanic to me and that would be none other than Bill Arnold from Bill Arnold BMW.
The conversation went something like this: "Hi Bill... uhhh... sorry to wake you at 6AM on a Sunday morning, but ... uh..... Derby's generator failed and its making a really terrible noise and I have the Hillsborough Concours this morning.... um.... can you, .... would it be possible if you could..." Bill then says, "I'll be right there!" (CLICK).
Bill arrives in less than 20 mins and he's tinkering and wondering what is making that darn noise in the generator? Luckily, I happen to have three extra generators that were just spares for parts and one extra working generator that Daniel Echeverry allowed me to borrow "in case anything happens" to Derby's generator. Bill tried on the working generator that Daniel let me borrow, but that one wasn't charging properly. Bill found that Derby's generator had a bad bearing too, so out of the three spare generators he "McGyver'ed" and replaced a bearing in Derby's generator and got the grease out of Derby's hubcap to fill the space where the bearing belongs and then Bill says.."crank it!" The moment of truth is when that little red charge light turned off... and YEEE HAW! I was READY FOR CONCOURS! I happen to arrive 10 mins before judging and told the judges I had an issue with the generator and they equitably agreed to judge Derby last.
I was so gracious that they allowed me that time to clean Derby up, get myself together, and be ready to have Derby judged.
Derby's competitors looked like: 1966 Fiat 2300S Coupe, 1967 Alfa Romeo GTV, 1968 MG B-GT, 1971 Mercedes Benz 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet, 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV, 1988 Mercedes Benz 260E, 1993 Mercedes Benz 500E. The competition was fierce!
When the judging came to Derby, I couldn't tell if they were impressed by what they saw. Did they consider that this little car's history of it being one of only 4 in the world documented as a matching numbers, surviving ORIGINAL, early 1600? or how this little car put a smile on Jay Leno's face when he drove this car on his Jay Leno's garage show? Did they have any idea of the amount of work that was involved with the engine and all that was included with it? Did the judges have any idea of the trials I went through to get to the concours? Did they notice that what I want to do with this car is to keep the torch burning by preserving this vehicle in its original factory engineering and design?
They must have. Because the next thing I know... I have a yellow card on Derby's windshield... "Congratulations, your car has been picked for an award...."
Unbelievable! I had no idea what place Derby came in until the moment at the podium. They called out the 1967 Alfa Romeo GTV for 3rd place. Then it was the 1971 GORGEOUS Mercedes Benz 280SE 3.5 Cabrio for 2nd.... and all of the sudden... my mind went to that moment... in my daydream... where I was truly here, in real life, to drive up on the red carpet to pick up the award with Derby for 1st in Class. It was an amazing feeling that I will never forget and all for the love of the 1600.
It really does take a village... That day was not just about being in it to win it. I am truly grateful of the First Place in Class for Derby. But what I am truly grateful for are the car enthusiast friends that share my passion for these classic cars and I am blessed that they are always there for me no matter what. Time to celebrate and get ready for Monterey Car Week!
(print for BMW CLASSIC magazine, by Lisa )