Odometer (Legend): 528,906
Odometer (ILX): 69,807
Trip Distance: 562 Miles
Lydia’s glistening chrome bumper winked at me with a flash of reflective sunlight from the parking lot outside her garage. I approached her and admired her 225 inches of reflective Willow Mist metallic paint, highlighted by chrome trim that pierced my eyes with gleaming Palm Springs sunshine. Lydia was a sassy 1963 Buick Electra 225.
I gave the heavy driver’s door a tug and climbed inside, then took a deep breath while she transported me 51 years into the past. The switches, the fabrics, the smells — everything true and perfect according to factory-spec equipment. Then I looked down at the odometer showing only 20,223 miles. Lydia may have been half a century old, but it was as if her heart was that of a teenager.
You all know I get stir crazy if I don’t get out of the state often enough. I was way overdue for a long-distance drive since my last big one (trip to Utah) was a month ago. This time, I hopped in the Acura ILX and headed west instead of north. The destination? I was about to get an exclusive look at a classic car collection that belongs to my friends Scott and Sandy. And boy was I in for a treat.
My drive in the ILX was an easy one since Interstate 10 westbound would guide me to PSP from PHX without need for any other directions. I managed to pry myself away from the office a little early and set out on Friday afternoon toward a beautiful desert sunset. The next 5 hours were filled with music, contemplation, and some ILX photos / urban exploration as you saw from yesterday’s Drive to Five post.
Palm Springs is a desert oasis in southern California’s Coachella Valley. It’s home to fewer than 50,000 full-time residents but boasts a full roster of attractions that bring tourists year-round. Where else can you find a 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn Monroe with a wind-ruffled dress?
Scott is a long-time friend of mine, but I think the last time I’d seen him was at the Metric Listening Event in Hollywood back in June 2012. Scott and I have a similar affinity for collecting automobiles. Our tastes, in fact, align on a couple of models specifically. Scott’s Formula Red 1992 Acura NSX is one example of real keeper that we both own and appreciate. His car’s production number, in fact, is just 26 digits off that of my NSX. However, the rest of his fleet is as diverse as they come – from a go-kart sized 1972 Honda Z600 to Lydia the Electra who nearly doubled the Honda’s length. I immediately felt at home in the 1965 Honda S600 Roadster.
After a brief tour of Scott and Sandy’s beautiful home, I rode with Scott in his Alfa Romeo to his storage location. As the large garage door rolled up, I realized I was standing before about 15 unique and rare vehicles. While the domestics and the Japanese were certainly well-represented, a couple of oddball cars rounded out the collection, including a 1985 Bertone Fiat X1/9. I had the distinct opportunity to drive several of the cars, so today I’ll share some of my impressions.
With its dash-mounted shift lever, the orange 1972 Honda Z600 struck me immediately as the ancestor to today’s Civic Si. Scott brought the 2-cylinder air-cooled engine to life with a few pumps of the engine primer. Yes, all 36 horses giddied-up enthusiastically. And for a car of that size, 36 is all it really takes! The clutch was stiff and it took a row or two through the gears to get acquainted with the 4-speed shift gate, but I felt right at home in that little rig in no time. The Z600 has a cozy cabin with no frills. Such simplicity is an attribute that I truly appreciate, especially in today’s world of driver assistance technology that goes so far that it often becomes invasive or detracts from a raw driving experience.
At the other end of the size spectrum, the 1966 Lincoln Continental was the first car I’ve ever driven with suicide doors. After watching its convertible top hide away mechanically in the trunk, I took the wheel and drove the 5,300 pound tank around the neighborhood. Except, it didn’t feel like it weighed nearly 3 tons. The car was remarkably light on its feet, and steering effort – well, let’s just say the car could be driven with just one pinky finger. For a big car, it had the skinniest steering wheel ever. It also seemed only fitting that Scott and I extended the retractable antenna and listened to an oldies station KWXY on the car’s AM radio while we cruised around Palm Springs. That drive was better than any history lesson I ever received in college.
My longest test-drive was in this 1977 Honda Civic CVCC. I love that Honda proudly badged the car “5-speed” on the rear hatch. Despite having sat for over a month, it purred flawlessly when Scott fired it up. The bright yellow coupe with a chrome bumper guard and roof rack grabbed a lot of attention on the road. The shifter and suspension performed so well that I would never believe they were parts of a nearly 40-year-old vehicle. It took me a minute to get used to the fact that there was no passenger sideview mirror. The CVCC brought a grin to my face as we drove it back from brunch.
Scott’s pride and joy is a green Honda N600 that was his first car. Though it sits half-covered up with expired plates and a flat tire, I could see the sparkle in his eye when he talked about the memories associated with that old Honda. He plans to treat that old car to a full restoration, and it won’t take much to get it back to showroom condition since like most California cars, the body is rust-free and the mechanicals are still solid.
Part of the intrigue about Scott and Sandy is that they gladly adopt vehicles that other car aficionados consider runts or outcasts. Consider the 1979 Mercury Bobcat (aka gussied-up Ford Pinto) in Tangerine paint with plaid seating and rally wheels, lovingly named Bob. Or the now-sold Cadillac Cimarron which proudly wore “WRSTCAD” license plates and won POS “Worst in Show” Concours d’LeMons. There’s something endearing about showing love for a car that nobody else seems to appreciate.
We closed the day out with a ride back to Scott’s place in the Emberglo Metallic (“don’t you dare call it brown!”) 1966 Mustang convertible with its potent 289 V8 and Pony Package. A classic Mustang is a true piece of Americana that every car collector should own at least once.
Huge thanks to Scott and Sandy for their incredible hospitality! Enjoy the rest of the pictures below, as well as a video showing start-up of a few of the cars in the collection.
Scott, Tyson, Sandy
Scott’s answer to, “How do you keep track of all the car keys?!”
1985 Honda CRX Si
1959 Mercury Park Lane
No such thing as too much chrome here.
Meet Lydia, the Buick Electra from my opening paragraph.
And Lydia’s interior, complete with a dealer-installed tissue dispenser (the chrome box underneath the dash/glove compartment).
I loved the 1966 Lincoln dash with its driver-oriented instrument layout. Even the cruise control was set up as a dial. The speedometer worked like a thermometer, with a strip of numbers and a red bar that would extend across them to indicate the speed.
Suicide doors, anyone?
The car that needs no introduction. Just 45,000 miles on this 5-speed beauty. It’s also one of only 421 cars that were produced in this color /transmission combination for the year.
The Bertone X 1/9 is a mid-engine rig that’s in stunning condition for its age.
Along with the cars, Scott and Sandy have a lot of old literature and advertising.
Scott’s favorite (at least I kind of got that vibe) was the 1965 Honda S600 Coupe. Right hand drive. It was fun watching him squeeze into the driver’s seat before firing it up!
Front of the S600 Coupe.
Another S600 in the collection, this time a Roadster, started out as a project car but has finished beautifully. Scott showed me some ‘before’ pictures from a photo album.
Loved that there were unique switches on the dash for headlights and marker lights.
1976 Cadillac Seville – the first year for that model. This example has only 40,000 miles on it. It had a characteristic smell.
This 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III is literally one-of-a-kind. It’s the only one that was built in this configuration, color, and trim without a vinyl roof. The car stickered at $8,356 when it was new.
Bobcat interior – thanks Sandy for sending this, as I forgot to take one! That plaid is factory original!
Interior of the 1977 Civic. Exactly as it was intended to be, right down to the AM radio.
Here’s the 2-cylinder air-cooled engine that powers the Z600.
Taking the Z for a spin.
After our full day of test drives, I headed back to Phoenix but stopped in Blythe, California per Scott’s recommendation. For any who ever travel the Interstate 10 corridor, remember this place! It’s called Courtesy Diner and it’s a must-visit.
I was craving a grilled cheese and a bowl of homemade chili. Both hit the spot.
I even got a smiley face on my bill when the total came out to $10.01.
Hope you enjoyed coming along!