Donald Osborne ~ Lecture at Blackhawk Museum

So enjoyed the lecture today at Blackhawk Museum by Donald Osborne, author, classic car historian, regular on Jay Leno’s Garage television program, appraiser, consultant and even opera singer! A video of exactly how they positioned all of the cars in the Museum for the exhibition is a must watch.

He was touting his stunning new book Transatlantic Style/ Stile Transatlantico  which beautifully illustrates the exchange between Italian and American car designers from the end of World War II until 1960.

But the most fun was when an audience member asked what he drives every day. He reported that he just bought a 2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia Ti 2 weeks ago and has already put 2300 miles on it. So last month I took a test drive of this very car! So this is what he wrote when he signed his card for me. And I quote: Grandma deserves a Guilia Ti!!

The expert has spoken! It’s a sign! As soon as my ship comes in, I’m going to buy mine!

Vroom! Vroom!

Having had a delightful birthday (hers) luncheon with my daughter at Berkeley City Club in Julia’s (i.e.,  Julia Morgan of architectural fame, who designed hundreds of buildings including this club and Hearst Castle to name a couple), and with nothing else to do on a Friday afternoon, I trotted over to an Alfa Romeo dealership in Berkeley and took a test drive in an Alfa Gulia ti.

So this is my old lady’s dream, to have one more great car in my life. A very nice young man pulled it out of the dealership lot and turned it over to me a few blocks down. Now, downtown Berkeley is not the best place for a test drive, but within a few turns we were on a deserted side street. A perfect place to the put the pedal to the metal and experience that Alfa Romeo smile as it took off like a bat out of hell. Not, of course, the power of the top of the line Quadrifoglio model, but then again, not the price tag either. And how badly do I want to get arrested for speeding at my age…not.

I sunk down into the luxurious interior with it’s wood paneling, softer than soft buff leather seats, adjusted the driver’s seat that moves every which way at the touch of a button to make even a 73 year old back with its attendant aches and pains quite comfortable. I start to imagine long rides on the open road. Although I may have to cave and get the “regular” model with it’s smaller wheels in order not to feel every bump in the road. But then again, with that choice I can’t have the cool rims. Beauty…pain…beauty…pain! Such a dilemma!

The only glitch, of course, is the lack of funds. Do you think a Go Fund Me campaign would fly? Help this elderly woman buy a car beyond her means. Well, one can dream and if I could settle for the “regular” edition, perhaps it is doable. Stay tuned.

Mormon Meteor at Blackhawk Museum

I enjoyed learning about the Mormon Meteor III (video by Jay Leno) and hearing historian David Fetherston’s speak (video of lecture) about “Bonneville Then and Now” last Saturday September 10th as part of the Blackhawk Museum’s Speaker Series. Took Meteor will be there for only a few more days before returning to the Price Museum of Speed in Salt Lake City, Utah.

224343_10101824926848780_1538848895_nNext Sunday is annual trek to the Go Pro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway. It is the final of this year’s Indy series.and my last chance to see my favorite driver Helio Castroneves race this year.

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You’re NEVER too old for Legos!

So I’m in Sacramento for a business meeting and I drop by the local mall to take an air-conditioned walk and what do I see but the Lego Store. A few days before I’d gotten an email about their Speed Champions set. Marked for ages 8 to 14, I figure at 72 I’d have it made. So back to the Hilton and I begin to build the Porsche 917 K.

A few days and 732 pieces later, it all comes together. I dare you to find the photos of the real cars? Love the detail right down to the wrenches on the wall and in the drawers, the video monitors, the hydraulic lift that goes up and down, fuel line, and air guns for tire changes, and all the itsy-bitsy decals (a little difficult for arthritic fingers!). And I watched this Sunday’s Indy race at Long Beach while I was putting it together. So I’m a happy camper, except that Helio Castroneves didn’t win and Simon Pagenaud got away with murder. Someone asked my if I’m going to share my new creation with my grandchildren…no way! However, my six-year-old granddaughter has already managed to break Mimi’s rule. Okay…I’ll share.

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Danny Sullivan’s 1985 Indy Spin and Win

IMG_1209I enjoyed a delightful interview with Indy and Formula driver Danny Sullivan at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum this morning. Interesting story about how he got into racing despite his father’s objections and with the mentoring of Dr. Frank Faulkner, famed pediatrician and professional auto racing figure.


IMG_1210Danny was one of the first professional drivers to fully understand that he had to take his image and reputation beyond the racing world and into the more general world in order to find sponsors and rides, even as far as Hollywood and starring on an episode of Miami Vice in 1986 and appearing in other films.


In the 1985 Indy 500, after two prior DNFs, he won for Roger Penske in the never to be forgotten Spin & Win incident, considered one of the most electric moments in Indy history. It was fun hearing him take us through every moment of that incredible event.

Here is a video of his closing comments this morning.

IMG_1212And after the event it was fun to again spend some time viewing the European Model Train Enthusiasts fabulous layout and trains, sponsored again by the Museum as a regular holiday treat.


Pebble Beach Redux

The end of my forgot-my-cell-phone saga at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It’s the crack of dawn and I don’t realize I don’t have my phone until half-way to Blackhawk Automobile Museum in Danville, CA where I am to take the “field trip” to the event. So I dash into a CVS pharmacy and buy two disposable cameras–yes they still have them. Processing of the film afterwards takes three weeks and the quality of the photos leaves much to be desired. So to the tune of $15 each for the cameras and another $17 each for the processing, I share the results herewith.

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The view from the 18th fairway of Monterey Bay

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Nice parking spot

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Old royalty – Jackie Stewart

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New royalty – Fast and Loud’s Richard Rawlings


Color matches my Alien Green II KIa Soul

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Who wore it best? Moi?

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Or this stunning young spectator?

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Back in the day – lighting the headlights fueled by a butane tank


On the way to the awards area


Wouldn’t you love a ride in this rumble seat?

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The end!


Days 2 and 3 – Indy Sonoma Grand Prix

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Dario Franchitti out of racing after a terrible accident but at the track signing autographs for kids and helping his team


At the garage area pre-race


Helio emerges from his trailer to meet his fans


The Number 3 leaving the garage area for the track


Helio ready for morning practice


The boss…Roger Penske with his game face on


Juan Pablo Montoya and son arrive at autograph session.


Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Ray and others at autograph session


Top Hitachi official checking out the Number 3 which Hitachi sponsors. Definitely getting the VIP treatment.


Outside Helio’s trailers. What little girls do when Daddy goes racing.


Firestone team getting the tires ready.



I’m going on a field trip!

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CLICK on POSTER to see all the fabulous POSTER ART created for the Concours over the years

The Blackhawk Automotive Museum is sponsoring a trip to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The perfect “field trip” for this classic car enthusiast. We’ll meet at the Museum in Danville at the crack of dawn on Sunday, August 16th, and return late that night, riding in a VIP coach with all the amenities. They’ve added a travel fee on top of the regular Concours ticket price of $300, but seeing it just once in my lifetime in person is well worth the tariff. There will even be a Museum docent led tour from someone in the know.

My original plan was to attend the Rolex Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca that weekend, but I’ve done that several times. So I’ve chosen quiet elegance over the roar of engines to satisfy my classic car fetish for this year.

For anyone who is jealous and lives in the SF Bay area, there are still some seats left on the bus (there will be pickups in San Jose as well). Just contact the Blackhawk Museum.


The house


The morning view of downtown Oakland and SF Bay beyond from my little patio on the ground floor (behind the lower railing on the house pic

P.S. For those of you who have mentioned my recent lack of posts, I’ve been deep in the throes of a move from Contra Costa County to the Oakland hills, moving in with my daughter and her family so that my bilingual granddaughters can go to kindergarten and preschool at two different French schools in the Oakland/Berkeley area. The little one will attend Ecole Bilingue and the older one the new Francophone Charter School, where her mother will be the curriculum director.  A guided tour to the Concours will be a welcome change from all the weeks of packing and unpacking.


Calling all Classic and Indy car racing fans

It’s that time of year again, and I’ll be moved and settled in just in time for my two favorite auto races. First, I’ll do one day, Saturday, August 15th, at Laguna Seca at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Second, I’ll do all three days, Friday, August 28 through Sunday, August 30, at the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma, which will be the last and deciding race for this year’s Verizon INDYCAR series championship. GO, HELIO!

And here’s the exciting part for YOU! I would love to find a race car fan to go with me. Friends and relatives are eligible. Even new friends if you’re the companionable sort. A single ticket (pre-purchased) for Laguna Seca is $80 and you have to be a very early bird willing to drive down at the crack of dawn the morning of the race to get parking. I already have purchased two 3-day tickets for Sonoma and price depends on which day(s) you chose to attend and how close a friend you are (hint, hint!). Friday is practice, Saturday qualifying, and Sunday the race itself. Very exciting track–I’ve done three amazing and very scary charity laps on this track on two different occasions.

Here are some photos and videos from prior years to whet your appetite.


Pit passes enable you to go on the track just before the start.

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My “date” last year!

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Not quite the real thing

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Explore the paddock at Laguna Seca


Name this VERY famous driver!


With my favorite driver. Go Helio!


The vintage cars on the track.

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Helio’s pit at Sonoma

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Oh! Soul-oh! Me-oh!

IMG_0002On car buying and losing weight…part two. This is a cautionary tale. When you sign a lease for the car, pay attention to those mileage limits.

So I’m weighing (no pun intended) my options and I discover that I’m already over the mileage limit on my leased Kia Optima. Sort of snuck up on me like those daily calorie counts. I take off to the Kia dealer to see if I can negotiate. But, no. If I buy elsewhere, I owe the last 6 payments, 20 cents per mile over the limit (already racking up at $540 and on its way to a gut-wrenching $1870 by August) plus a $400 penalty for early termination.

I’m sitting there in a morose mood, waiting for the finance manager to work out what the deal would be if they pay off the leased car for me and I buy a new one from them. Enter stage left…Dante, an amiable low-pressure sort for a car salesman, who asks if I’ve ever considered a Kia Soul. Well, I’ll admit, color freak that I am, I’d had a slight hankering for the boxy little chartreuse green (aptly named Alien II) charmer. I gave a moment’s thought to the Solar Yellow which is almost Corvette-ish but makes the Soul look like a Stingray that got smashed between a brick wall and a semi and morphed into a pudgy yellow cab.

feature_soul_2014_18-alloy-wheels_S--Kia-600x-jpgSo off we go on a test drive in an Exclaim (!) version with all the bells and whistles and the snazziest 18″ alloy wheels I’ve ever seen. I’m a sucker for wheels…and a few other things in life!

I found the 2.0 L engine was powerful enough but a bit sluggish on the acceleration as the car mags say (okay, I shoulda gotten the Porsche Cayman and attached a trailer for the little ones….but then there’s the arrest and jail time, etc.). The three driving modes took me from cushy comfort to hard-driving sporty, the high end audio system had speakers that glowed different colors and vibrated with the music (and just who is looking at their speakers at the bottom of the side doors while they’re driving…maybe the young have better peripheral vision), and, compared to the Mini I had been salivating over the day before, one can actually put five full-sized adults in the car without first shrink-wrapping them. Also, because it rode a bit higher (reminding me of my long-deceased 1972 Chevy van) and with windows all around, I had the visibility that an old person like me needs in order to avoid making a squishy mess out of pedestrians and splintered relics out of telephone poles. I suddenly realized that I could have semi-sporty, major cute, even that stand-out-in-a-crowd vibe, and have a way out of that onerous lease.

Then the part I dread…the deal. There was $400 off for this and $1000 off for that which sounded fair to me, but I knew I needed to consult my daughter first–the one I had not consulted when I signed that lease. Mom, she muttered with great annoyance and authority, get out of there right now. We need to comparison shop. On my obedient way out the door, the finance guy, in Superbowl warm-up mode, almost tackled me by my ankles and offered another $1000 off, but out the door I went.

Later in the day, my daughter took me to another dealer–who ended up quoting $1800 less on the exact same car (they would bring it up from the first dealership I had visited). But my daughter escorted me out that door as well. She gets on the phone to the first dealership and closes the final deal. If I come back in–by now it was nearing their Sunday 6 pm closing time–I could have it for $2100 less than their morning offer. SOLD AMERICAN…or should I say Korean.

IMG_0003The moral of the story…take along whomever among your family or acquaintances can function as a premier wheeler dealer if you are ever car shopping. And keep your mind open. Your car is out there. I found mine…c’est moi and it matches the lime and pink Fragonard fabric on my couch.