Seinfeld drives two of my favorite cars

Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee has gone through some great rides in its eight seasons on the Crackle internetwork, but the two latest episodes had two my favorite classics and two of the few classic cars I’ve driven: a ’55 Mercedes Benz 300SL “gullwing” and a ’64 Studebaker Avanti.

I drove a red 300 SL a few years ago at an automotive writers event, when Mercedes brought a few cars from its collection at its Classic Center in Irvine. Seinfeld talks about the car briefly at the beginning of each show; believe me, what he goes through just to get in and out of the car is very true.

Seinfeld exits the 300 SL

I found it to be powerful, noisy and scary, because while it still looks great, it’s a 1955 car with wobbly steering, questionable brakes and a jiggly ride. But it looks great and was a thrill to drive.

The Avanti was a revolutionary look for its time, designed by a team under the direction of Raymond Lowey in a rented house in Palm Springs. Seinfeld says this is “somewhere outside of Las Vegas” and I guess Palm Springs is “somewhere outside of Las Vegas.”

Anyhow, the car was the baby of my late friend Dennis Burns, who let me take it out for a cruise one hot afternoon. The Avanti was a last-ditch attempt by Studebaker to get folks into its showrooms. It was based on the Lark, which competed at the lower end of the automotive spectrum and itself was a heavy restyle of a platform that dated back to 1953. So in some ways, the Avanti and 300 SL are contemporaries a decade apart. More wobbly steering, questionable brakes and a lot of noise and jiggles. But what a beautiful car, inside and out.

Seinfeld’s show is fun if you haven’t seen it; only about 20 minutes, he picks up a comedian and they drive to a restaurant to have coffee, yacking all the way. Saturday Night Live legend Lorne Michaels gets a ride in the Mercedes; actor/comedian J.B. Smoove gets the Avanti. The topic is generally the craft of comedy, but because they’re both comedians, it’s a very enjoyable 20 minutes or so.

Thanks to Crackle for the screen-grab photos.


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Fins fly until Sept. 25 at SD Auto Museum

Fins aren’t just at Sea World this summer as the San Diego Auto Museum in Balboa Park has an exhibit highlighting tailfins, the biggest automotive fad in history before the era of the mega SUV.

As part of the museum’s salute to the centennial of the park’s 1915 Panama-California Exposition, the museum has had a series of exhibits with cars representing different eras over the last century.

The 16 cars on display through Sept. 25 include: 1948 Cadillac Series 62, 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette, 1957 Ford Country Sedan, 1957 Chevrolet, 1958 Chevrolet Brookwood, 1959 Chrysler Saratoga, 1959 Cadillac Coupe, 1959 Dodge Coronet, 1959 DeSoto Sportsman, 1959 Chevrolet Impala, 1960 Buick Le Sabre, 1960 Plymouth Fury, 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air, 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood, 1962 Ford Thunderbird (Bullet), and 1970 Plymouth Road Runner.

The exhibit also features exhibits about the major designers of the time, drive-in restaurant and movie culture, prosperous life and times of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and famous roadside attractions. A visit to Balboa Park and the museum is a great San Diego day trip.

The museum has extended summer hours, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through until Aug. 27, with the last admission at 6:30 p.m. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for seniors (65 and over), $5 students (with ID), $4 children ages 6-15. Children under age 6 are free.

The museum is free to all San Diego County residents and military with
ID on the fourth Tuesday of each month. There is a $2 charge for residents to see special exhibits on Free Tuesdays. The museum is located at 2080 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, (619) 231-2886, The San Diego Automotive Museum receives funding from the City of San Diego through the Commission for Arts and Culture.

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Big car show weekend for the Fourth

Check out Mark Maynard’s column in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune for all the car events going on this weekend. It’s a big time of year for the car-show crowd and it’s open to anybody who wants to check out some classics, customs and other creations. It’s a San Diego day trip that gets you into some neighborhoods you might never visit.

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Good Guys Del Mar Nationals ’15: No place to park

It looked to me to be the biggest Good Guys Del Mar Nationals yet over the weekend at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The 15th annual edition for 2015 filled the midway, two exhibit halls, the back parking area, the front of the grandstand, side areas and the main concourse of the racetrack grandstand. Plus, a couple of other buildings that hold the livestock shows during the fair were opened up for overflow.

Hotrods and customs were the order of the day, plus a number of restored classics and a slalom course that featured racing champ Al Unser Jr.

Here are some photos to enjoy.

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Good Guys has hot cars in Del Mar this weekend

Make your San Diego day trip a cruise to the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the Good Guys Del Mar Nationals. Here’s a sample of what I saw just walking in the door. #ggdelmarnationals



Great time at Exposition Road Race centennial; take it yourself

It was a great showing for the centennial of the 300-mile road race around then-undeveloped Pt. Loma neighborhoods. Back on Jan. 9, 1915, the Automobile Club of Southern California and the Al Bahr Temple of the Mystic Shrine sponsored the race mapped out a nearly six-mile course around the point.

This 300-mile race attracted the top drivers of the day, making 51 laps around the nearly six-mile course. Barney Oldfield, Eddie Rickenbacker and Bob Burman were the Jimmy Johnson, Kevin Harvic and Jeff Gordon of their day.

The event attracted, by my count, about 50 cars that were on the road when the Exposition opened in January, 1915. They met at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park on Jan. 10 for the commemoration of the event, with nearly 30 taking off for the trip to Pt. Loma.

If you’d like to take your own trip around the route, here’s how.

  • Find your best route to the San Diego International Airport. Continue west to Nimitz Boulevard.
  • Right at Rosecrans Ave. The start/finish line (by my reading of the ancient map, provided by the event’s 2015 sponsor, the local Horseless Carriage Club of America chapter) was at today’s Elliott Street. A grandstand that held 10,000 people was built there.
  • Left at Lytton Street. Continue onto Chatsworth Boulevard.
  • Left at Catalina Boulevard.
  • Left at Talbot Street.
  • Left at Cañon Street.
  • Left at Rosecrans Street.

This is a nice route that runs through the lovely Pt. Loma neighborhood. Enjoy seeing the homes, mostly built in the 1920s, and the gently curving roads.

Not much of this was developed in 1915 and photos show the streets were dirt.

Enjoy photos of the cars as they crossed the Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park.

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100 years later, a cruise commemorates Pt. Loma race

Courtesy Automobile Club of Southern California
Cars race on the dirt/gravel course in 1915.

Here’s something not to be missed this Saturday morning, the San Diego Exposition Road Race Centennial car show and tour, starting out at 9 a.m. at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park.

“Barney Oldfield, Eddie Rickenbacker, Earl Cooper, and San Diego’s own “Bad Bill” Carlson would fight it out on a six-mile elliptical circuit laid on the dirt roads of Point Loma,” reporter Richard Crawford wrote in a 2009 story in UT San Diego. “The race was planned as a promotion for the Panama California Exposition. Shriners from the Al Bahr Temple sponsored the event.”

Back in those days, the Automobile Club of Southern California sponsored and sanctioned road races; this was one of them. The photo here is one from its archives.

On Saturday, January 10, 2015, cars from that era will meet up at the Auto Museum, not only to commemmorate the event, but kick off the museum’s new exhibit that celebrates cars from 1915, the year of the Panama-California Exposition. In case you don’t know, the exposition was responsible for bringing thousands to tiny San Diego a century ago, as well as creating the iconic look of Balboa Park.

Members of the Horseless Carriage Club local chapter will be bringing their cars to the show, then “road worthy” cars will make their way to Pt. Loma for a drive around the course. Let’s hope you don’t need to get to the airport while these pieces of history are rattling down Harbor Drive.

Find out more.

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Car guy Edward Herrmann dies; who knew he was an actor, too?

Yes, I know Edward Herrmann, who passed away Dec. 31, 2014, was a noted actor and had a great career. But he was also a car guy. This episode of Car Crazy includes an extended interview at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2002 0r 2003. He also lent his voice to several car documentaries on History, including this Packard history. I couldn’t find another show where it included footage of him going through the restoration of a late-30s Packard 120 convertible; he was a Packard guy. Here’s a great story talking about his car hobby.

So, here’s to you, Edward Herrmann. Hope you’re motoring in pleasure.

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San Diego motorheads help homeless at Alpha Project

It’s the annual cruise to the Alpha Project homeless shelter organized by the legendary Hot Rod Holly and KUSI‘s Dave Stall. Very early on Christmas morning, a couple of dozen classic cars, motorcycles and trucks, including a vintage OMBAC vintage fire truck, drove from the station’s Kearny Mesa studios to the downtown San Diego shelter with a load of clothes and other items to help out those in need. Here are some photos from the cruise.

Holly picked a fun route worthy of Weekend Driver San Diego day trip, heading south on I-15 up the hill from Mission Valley to the University Avenue exit (where the O.B. Davey Studebaker dealership once stood). We then wound through North Park, down one of the narrowest streets in the city, Upas Street, and through a onetime auto dealer and repair shop hotspot, Upas and 30th streets. From there, it was through Hillcrest and down 6th Avenue, crossing the historic Cabrillo Bridge into Balboa Park. We stopped for a few minutes in front of the San Diego Automotive Museum to let the radiators cool off on the truly classic vehicles.

From there, it was down Park Boulevard, past the sadly now demolished (by the Salvation Army!) old Pearson Ford location (by the way, the Chinese restaurant that was for years in the nearly untouched Oscar’s restaurant on the other side of the block is now fenced off; I hope it’s not going to be torn down as well). Our destination was at the Alpha Project, 15th Street and Newton Avenue.

It was a great event; hope to see you there next year! And for those of you who enjoy a white Christmas, snow chains aren’t required.

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Take a look at the ’14 British Car Day in San Diego

Oct. 14 was British Car Day by the bay in San Diego, where on dislpay were beautiful representatives of the MG, Triumph, Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Austin, Morris, Mini, Morgan and more! Enjoy these cars in one of the few places in the world where they’re mostly rust free.

Check out the sights in this video.

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