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April 27, 2017

Texas to Oregon in a classic Mercedes 280se Coupe: Day 1, Houston to Comanche, Texas.

Filed under: 2017 - Texas to Oregon,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 11:57 am

The greatest of civilizations share a truly singular unit of measure: Roads. Not militaries, nor fleets, nor banking systems. Roads. Great roads are built by great civilizations. The Romans of course took the concept from rough path to fully realized and useful road. The greatest civil engineers ever, the Romans made roads that spanned their entire empire, from the edge of Scotland to the Fertile Crescent and beyond. Those roads largely still exist. I know because I lived very near one when I lived in Wiltshire in the UK. Laser-straight, unlike the crazy, winding roads the British build, this road went southwest from Gloucester, towards someplace NE of Marlborough. Now mostly paved over by the A419, it became a back-road that ran from right in front of the farm we lived on, and into the village of Wanborough. It even maintained its unBritish, very Roman straight line through the Cotswolds and the hills south of the Thames valley. Who knows what the Romans were connecting, but they did it as they did everything; ruthlessly and STRAIGHT.

As the Romans did then, so do the Texans now.

Having driven in all fifty of these United States I have to say that nobody builds roads as well, and with a Romanesque desire for Euclidean geometric precision as the Texans. If it has two lanes, why not make it four? If it has four lanes, why not make it access-limited and build multi-lane frontage roads on either side of it? While we’re at it, let’s make this thang as straight as possible y’all?

Gawd, I love ’em. Hate the weather. Could care less for their religion (Football: High School, College, and The Dallas Cowboys are the Holy Trinity of Texas.) Nor am I a fan of the landscape, which outside of a couple creases in the corners where it buts up against the Mexicos, Antigo to the south, and Nuevo to the west but, hot damn ya gotta love those Texas roads!

Leaving Houston

Testa Rossa and I get a late start out of Houston, partly to avoid morning rush hour, but mostly because we’re slow, and know we are not going that far. We plan on driving out to a family farm outside Brownwood where Testa Rossa has some memories, and some closure to seek. She was very close to an older woman there for many years. But life and issues put time and space between them, and the older woman passed away about four years ago. They had not seen each other in close to a decade, and the fact that they never had their farewells was a source of pain for her. Knowing that this drive was planned, I offered to make that our first planned stop, and she gladly accepted, made some contacts with the right people to make the arrangements.

Texas Highway 36

Thirty-some years ago, I too was familiar with these roads, as I occasionally shuttled between family in Houston, and my chosen place of higher learning: Texas Tech University in Lubbock. More on that later, but suffice to say, Brownwood was on one of my usual routes back then, and I knew the way. About an hour west of Houston, we leave the Interstate and strike off northwesterly on Texas State Highway 36. This fine road, which is built to a standard that some states would only reserve for a major US Highway, takes travelers through central Texas. It zig-zags its way between the Brazos and Colorado rivers, managing to thread its way northwest without going through any of the bigger cities and towns of central Texas, such as Austin, or Waco. I chose this route back then as I do now, because you can maintain forward momentum and avoid delay. Texas Highway 36 does go through many tiny towns, each with the Texas trademark town square holding the courthouse, memorials to their town’s part in whatever past conflict (from 1845 onwards), and some unique way of going around said square. Some towns on Texas Highway 36 have a circular roundabout for their square, others have a square you navigate around, others just have theirs off to the side. The largest town Texas Highway 36 encounters is Temple, which has a nice loop road to take you around it. Overengineered roads make Texas travel pretty nice.

At Gatesville we leave Texas 36 and traverse due west to Goldthwaite on US 89, then northwest to Brownwood on US 183. The landscape is just starting to take on the slight flavors of West Texas; fewer trees and broader horizons.

Outside Brownwood, we find the county road, that takes us to the gravel road, that takes us to the family farm.

At the farm

I have no connection with this place, I am merely the driver that brought her here. She has deep emotional ties to this place and that woman who she loved an admired so much. We meet the current caretaker of the property, who Testa Rossa initially mistakes for his father… ah, the genetic blessings and curses we all carry. We walk the property that hasn’t seen Testa Rossa’s footfalls in over a decade. She needs to see her mentor’s resting place, so we head for the tree.

Approaching the Memorial Tree

Here beneath this tree, in the middle of the property so dear to her and her family, lies the woman who meant so much more than I could ever describe. I kept to myself and let the two make their peace and savor the memories. Afterwards, we walk the property some more, seeing places, landmarks, and objects that allow the other two to share memories, tall tales, and stories of human foibles. A bystander, I just serve as audience, and observer. As the sun sets it brightly illuminates a nearby thunderstorm an I happen to capture a moment, and a look on her face that sums up all the joy, sadness, melancholy, and happiness she is feeling…

Testa Rossa at the farm

Back at the farmhouse we talk into the night. All the words said, we climb into the old car, and drive to Comanche with Texas thunderstorms in the distance to provide a light show, where a hotel room awaits us.

April 23, 2017

Texas to Oregon in a classic Mercedes 280se Coupe: Prologue

Filed under: 2017 - Texas to Oregon,Cars — chuck goolsbee @ 3:04 pm

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280se 3.5 Coupe

A bit less than twenty years ago, my father added an unusual car to his collection. He has always been a “car guy” with a bent for European sports cars. When I was a kid, he drove creaky, leaky MGs mostly. After I left the house he tried a Corvette, and a Porsche 911 for a while. (The latter even tried to kill him once.) When he retired, he upgraded to Jaguars and Mercedes-Benzes mostly. His summer play toys that he participated in dozens of vintage car tours and rallies. I was lucky enough to be his co-driver on most of the competitive rallies (as long-time readers of this blog know.) The Mercedes were a nod to my mom, who loves the marque, as it seems most “women of a certain age” tend to do. A couple of SLs from the 50s and 70s rounded out the collection. His last acquisition though was… unusual. It broke his collecting pattern. He emailed me a grainy low-res photo of the car and I laughed, thinking he was pranking me. No svelte two-seater this time. It was a big, brown W111, aka a 280se.

Still laughing as I replied to his email, I said “Dad, that’s a DENTIST’S CAR!

But, he wasn’t joking. He had bought a 1971 280se 3.5 Coupe. It was a two-door early S-class. Truly a Dentist’s car. He and my mother drove it not only in vintage car events, but to-and-from Vintage car events all over the continent. From their home base in Texas, to and from Arizona, West Virginia, New England, etc. The car had two things his sports cars did not: Luxury comfort for long-distance cruising, and working Air Conditioning. This latter feature was a boon for events in the Southwest, such as The Copperstate 1000 in Arizona, and the Texas 1000. My father is a man who knows his limitations and he wanted to give up towing vintage cars on trailers around the country. The 280se 3.5 Coupe was just the ticket. Vintage style, and cool luxurious comfort combined.

As my father aged, he sold off the collection bit by bit. I bought the E-type from him in 2003 (to keep this kernel of his collection in the family!) and helped him sell his XK-120 online to a buyer in Europe. His other cars sold off, but the big brown Coupe stayed. For the past five years it has been in a family friend’s workshop in Brenham, TX, keeping company with race cars, Ferraris, and Jaguars. I even flew down to Houston about the time it went into storage to shoot several dozen photos with the intention of listing the for sale car on the then-nascent Bring A Trailer website. It always was delayed for some reason or another. Mostly my father knew the car had some small, but annoying issues he wanted to fix prior to a sale; slightly loose steering, a wiggly driver’s seat, an A/C recharge, etc. He is just that kind of guy.

Time went on…

Then, last year my parents sold the house they have been living in for over twenty years. All their belongings were distributed to kids and grandkids, with the remaining collapsed into an apartment. Then, as they were unpacking in the apartment, my mom had a stroke. Up until that point, my dad was the one with mobility issues. Now my mom too.

The plan now is to move into an assisted living complex, and they are once again paring down their possessions. Dad told me it is time for the big brown coupe to get sold.

Testa Rossa and I flew down to Houston last week, and spent five days visiting my folks, and my sister and her family. We picked up the 280se, and are driving it home to Bend. Once there, I’m going to finish the job of photographing the car, namely the underside and other details, using the lift in my shop. Then it is going on BaT ASAP.

Follow along…

April 5, 2017

The Road To Utelle…

Filed under: Car Photo Of The Day,Cars,Road Photo — chuck goolsbee @ 3:23 pm
An amazing road in France
An amazing road in France

Just wanted to share a glimpse of some of the roads I drove during a trip to France & Italy. More on that later. Meanwhile, just look at those switchbacks! It is all one road.

November 5, 2016

BAT Success Story: Part 2, M6 from Wisconsin to Oregon

Filed under: Cars,Creative Work,Review & Criticism,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 11:45 pm

This is part two of a two-part series. Part one is here.

Another M6 shows up on BAT
Another M6 shows up on BAT

Just about every E24 M6 that appears on BAT over the past year has drawn my attention. I’ve actively bid on several, including a few that I lost in the final minutes to a higher bidder. Most of my attention went to M6s that are not either Black or Red. I’ve owned a black car before and never liked how it shows every flaw. I’ve just never liked red cars. Sorry for all you red car lovers, but to me they look flat, completely lacking in depth. In my opinion the metallic blues are the best colors, as they have amazing depth and change in different lighting conditions. The week before this auction there was another M6 on BAT, upon which I was the high bidder, but it failed to meet reserve. I was having a few offline conversations with the seller, when this one appeared. Soon regular BAT commentators are calling me out by name:

You guys have my back. Love it!
You guys have my back. Love it!

I happen to be in Maui with my girlfriend (she has taken me there for my birthday) as the auction is coming to a close, so I set an alarm to get me off the beach and back to my laptop in time to make some bids. As with every BAT auction, the finale seems to end up like that final showdown scene in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, with two or three bidders virtually staring at each other, and finding the courage to up their bid as the timer counts down again, and again… and again.

Turns out I am the last man standing.


October 29, 2016

Proposed BAT “Success Story” post

Filed under: Cars,Review & Criticism,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 8:39 pm

Working on some stories for the website Bring A Trailer. Feel free to comment/correct in the comments.

BAT Success Stories: Two almost flawless Arrive & Drives.

I’ve never owned a BMW until a few years ago, now I have a shop half-full of them; two of those are thanks to BAT. I’d never even driven a BMW until 2011 when I joined a 24 Hours of Lemons team who campaign a beater 1990 325i (E30). A few laps into my first race I fall in love with the little lightweight coupe and its perfect balance between power and handling. Thus begins an addiction.

I bought a used 2007 M Roadster (E85/S54) as my daily driver a year later, which is a pure joy to drive. Then, last summer while visiting Portland, Oregon for a week of business I tack on an SCCA Track Night and Portland International Raceway, and a BMW Club tour through the Oregon Wine Country. At PIR the only car in my advanced run group that out-runs the M Roadster is a race-prepped Mustang with 2X my horsepower, and I still managed to stick to his tail through the corners. Then the next day on the tour I find myself behind a late 80s E24 M6. The big coupe never fails to pull away from me on every straight. I’m dumfounded. How could this old car do that? I’d seen E24s for years but never really noticed them… even a good car-guy friend in Bellingham, WA has two “Sharks”… but I always look right past them at his E-type Jaguar.

But here this elegant and clearly luxurious machine is also now making me work to catch up to it in my, lightweight, fairly minimal roadster. And the sounds that it makes… GLORIOUS! At every rest stop I linger over the M6, looking at every angle. I decide I had to have one. Thus begins my hunt…


March 25, 2016

Magic Moment in the Shop

Filed under: Cars,life,Photography — chuck goolsbee @ 3:45 pm
Magic Moment in the shop.
Magic Moment in the shop.
Magic Moment in the shop.

Frequently the magic happens when you get two parts to mate effortlessly, or you save yourself from screwing up and breaking something. Other times it is when you look up and see an amazing sunset.

This happened last fall as I was swapping a gearbox between two engines, and the only camera I had handy was my cell phone. I looked up and snapped this pic. Ran inside the house to grab my “real camera” and the moment was gone.

July 15, 2015

Return to The Ridge

Filed under: Cars,The 24 Hours of LeMons — chuck goolsbee @ 10:52 pm
yep, this is the right place...
yep, this is the right place...

With the Clowntown Roadshow BMW E30 out of commission indefinitely with a blown head, I’ve been catching rides as an “arrive and drive(r)” with various teams at west coast races for the past year. I drove a Humber Super Snipe (really) at Sonoma in December, a Volvo station wagon (a really fast turbo one!) at The Ridge at a “Lucky Dog racing League” event, and with The Flying Scotsmen in their expanding fleet of E30s at Buttonwillow last month. Often times these have been last-minute affairs, that have cost me very little, if nothing beyond travel costs. Right after Buttonwillow I check the 24 Hours of LeMons forums and read a plea from a new rookie team for an experienced driver willing to help them out at The Ridge. I reply, and after an email exchange with the team captain, agree to help them out. We swap lots of emails about their car, passing tech, things to bring, things I will bring, track etiquette, the paddock scene, etc. With as much wisdom imparted through ASCII and RFC2822 as possible, the day comes to drive up to Shelton, meet the team, and race.

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