Interview with Neil Jaffe

An interview with Neil Jaffe, President of Chequered Flag International

Posted By Dmitriy Shibarshin on July 23, 2017 at 5:38 PM

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There’s no better way to get an inside look at the classic car market than speaking with the people who have been involved for decades. In our new interview series, we travel the country speaking with people in the classic car industry and sharing their stories. 

For our first story, we travel to sunny Los Angeles to speak with Neil Jaffe, the President of Chequered Flag International. Neil runs one of the best known classic car dealerships in California. He specializes in air-cooled Porsches. His dealership in California not only attracts nationwide buyers, but clientele from all parts of the world.

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Below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Dmitriy Shibarshin: How did you get started in the classic car business?

Neil Jaffe: It started with my dad. He was a university lecturer in England with 6 kids. It was a good job, but not a well paying job. He supplemented his income by going to the auctions, buying cars and selling them from his house. From an early age I went with him and picked up cars. I got the bug by the time I was about 10 or 11. And that was it, I was ruined for a decent life.

Then there was a guy who called himself America’s car man in England. His name was John Lewis and he sold 280SE convertibles in London. We used to make the trip from Bristol to London, and drive back in something different. He always used to say, “My dream is to be in Venice or Malibu with a cordless phone selling cars.” I thought thats a pretty good dream. I never consciously thought about it until I was sitting on the beach in Venice with a cordless phone selling cars. And I went hang on a minute, this is somebody else’s dream I was living.

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DS: What brought you over to the US?

NJ: When I was a kid, 7 or 8, we came to Ohio because my dad got a professorship. We stayed for a year. Then it sort of happened, I came here permanently in 1981. 

DS: And when did you open the dealership?

NJ: I opened the dealership in 1985. And almost 15,000 cars later, we’re still here.

DS: Did Chequered Flag begin as a classic car dealership?

NJ: What happened is I had some Dutch guys come in to the dealership around 1986 to look at an MGA. They came in and said we will buy the MGA, and we will do you a favor. There’s a move coming to America, it’s going to be a classic car boom like you won’t believe. Next time when we’re back here in about 6 months, your showroom will be filled with classic cars. And I said sure, have a nice day. They came back in 6 months, I didn’t have a modern car in the place.

Young guys would come from overseas with $200,000 in their pocket, buy what they could and go home. They would ship the cars, come back 6 months later and do it all over again. And those Dutch guys that came in were great! They would buy cars for $200 and they would buy cars for $1 million. They were good cars guys, they knew everything. Over the years, they bought hundreds of cars from us. I have done consistently more business with the Dutch than anyone else in the last 30 odd years.

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DS: Are you a classic car guy yourself?

NJ: Yea! I think you got to have a passion for the cars or you’re kind of doomed. If you do it by the numbers you are going to have two problems. I don’t think you’ll ever feel fulfilled, and you will have some unhappy customers. When buying a car, people look at a picture and they fill in the blanks themselves, and its generally to the plus side of the condition of the car itself. They are going on an old memory. Its a bit of a dream, it comes with a lot of optimism. What I found very early on is if someone is not coming to see the car, I better describe all the issues early on, because the same guy can buy the same car and pay the same price and either hate it or like it depending on what his expectations were. If you lied to him or haven’t told him about something, the first bad thing he finds will make him very unhappy with the car and you. I try to be honest and not give a big flowery description, I just give an honest description. They will either buy it or not, if they don’t want it someone else will. I try to be price correct, and I move enough cars to know the market.

DS: What draws you to classic cars?

NJ: I like the classic car people. They are a bit like dog owners, softer around the edges than regular people. A guy that buys a new Ferrari or Lamborghini you don’t want for a friend. As one of my partners always says, that says a lot about a person, and all if it bad. I like classic car people, and I also like to think of myself as an advocate for men’s rights. Its the middle age guy that's really taking a beating from everyone. If you could afford a classic car, and you like one, you should be able to buy it without feeling bad. It’s not a big indulgence and you could argue its an intelligent choice, at least they have the potential to appreciate in value. I will never tell anyone to buy a car because it will be worth 300% more in 5 years. Nobody knows for sure, nobody knows what the world is going to look like in 5 years. 

The downside is it is a harmless thing to do and its a really great thing to do. Its not as selfish as buying a new car or an expensive watch, or anything else that sends out the wrong signals. That’s filling an inside hole with outside stuff, it never really works. I think the people that buy classic cars are not buying it to scratch an itch they have, its to further enrich an already pretty good life. Its a quality purchase, its an unnecessary purchase maybe but its not a cry for help.

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I really think its a good thing to do. You go to a dealer auction and its a cut throat business. Everything is about the last $200 or $300. These guys know everything about any slight misrepresentation where they can get an extra dollar. I would rather give value and explain that it has original paint with original miles. You can try and buy something with 3 times the miles and make it this good, but it will still have 3 times the miles. 

But I also do see that if you’re an entry level buyer and you want to buy something good you can get away with a high mileage car like this Porsche we have here. A couple brought it brand new and now it has 172,000 miles. It has never been hit, and has never been abused. Its a great car for an entry level guy to buy. Sure it has the high mileage and the value ceiling will always be less than the other cars, but the cost of entry is plausible for a younger enthusiast. I like to have a range, you can't just stick yourself on the ceiling and say if you can't afford my cars then bad luck. Its good to have range.

DS: That's very true. We also ship million dollar cars and hundred dollar cars. Its good to be flexible. If you want to be successful you have to deal with everyone. 

NJ: The bottom line really is when you get a bit older a lot of the BS drops off and you try to enjoy your life. You gotta have fun. So why be a stuffed shirt, and be hung up on how the world sees you. Its almost an irrelevance.

DS: Totally agree. If you like something, do it. Sooner or later you will be successful. 

NJ: I get up at 4, and I'm here by 5:30. I'm always around, I'm always available. I would never say I work hard, I would say I have the easiest job in the world. Someone else might say I work really hard. I think that if you're obsessed with something, that's not work. I don't want to call it a passion because that's such an overused word. But yea, it absolutely is.

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DS: How do you think the classic car market changed since you started?

NJ: The one thing that is constant is change. Theres always this flux, but it isn't as if all classic cars did this. When I started a 1948/49 Town and Country was the holy grail, it was about $100k. Today you will struggle to get $65k for it. Where as a $130k Ferrari 30 years ago is worth $1 to $3 million now. The rising tide did raise all boats to some extent. But the market is squirrely. My partner bought a Jaguar D-Type in 1989 for a little over a million dollars. By 1991 they couldn’t get $300k for the car. Now its a $5-$6 million car. 

There was also a big drop that I watched after the Enzo Ferrari run-up in anticipation of his death. We had these anniversary Countachs we bought in 1989. They were $220k sticker price, and we were getting $400,000 for them. Then it went to nothing. I survived that, and a lot of others didn’t. Then around 2008 it got a little sticky again. When I sold a Ferrari 330GTC in 2008, I was happy to get $180k-$190k for it. They then went up to around $850k, and then back down to $500k to $60k or so. Its not a straight trajectory, its not a slam dunk.

My favorite thing to buy when I came here were Aston Martin DB5s. There were loads of right hand drive ones stuck up people's driveways that weren't running. They had bought them in England when the American money was really strong in the 1970s. Then they just got bored with them. I was buying them for $30,000 to $40,000. I sold them all to a guy in England. I didn't know the value disparity. At one point, they shot up to a $1 million for a RHD, and close to a $1.5 million for a LHD. I didn't buy any to keep for myself!

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DS: Are there any cars you see appreciating quickly in the near-future?

NJ: The smart guys made a killing with the Aston-Martins, and with cars such as the rare Porsche 993 GT2s that were built for collections. They were never cheap, but they bought the cars that became 20 times what they paid for. There's been a steady appreciation a lot like real estate. It looks like its going up overall but it actually is up and down. There's a lot of cars I wouldn't want to buy right now. I just sold a Ferrari 599 Aperta for $1.3 million. I don't think I want to buy that car because if the car market takes a dump that could be a $700,000 car. I don't believe in LaFerraris being worth $4 million either.

I think you buy what you love and buy what makes you happy. If you buy thinking it will go up maybe you have a 50/50 chance. I now think the cars have had their run and their values are fairly established now. They are going to move based on how the economy does. 

But some of the really special models from Ferrari and Jaguar, stuff that you could see in a museum, are only going to get stronger.

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DS: Are you seeing the younger generation express more interest in classic cars?

NJ: Yes, and its weird seeing the people born in the 1980s with money wanting to buy a late-model classic. I had a 2004 NSX with 4k miles that I sold to a friend of mine for $104k. He took it to an auction and got $140k for it. The buyers knew the car well, and they wanted it because they were born in the 1980s. To me its a great car, but its not $140k car. No one will ever put miles on that car, Its like the low mile Porsche 928 we have here, it will be in a collection forever.

I always saw myself as catering to the driver collector, the guy who just loves his car.


DS: Are there any cars you wish you would have kept?

NJ: The Aston-Martin DB5, I have loved them from when I was a kid. Its what you saw pre-puberty that imprinted itself on you. And for me it was the E-Types, DB5s, those kind of cars. I never really had a passion for American cars. And the appreciation for Ferrari came to me a bit late because I never saw many as a kid. I think the DB5 is the one car I would have to myself, that's out of my league financially. Although the convertibles are a lot more valuable, I think the coupe is the one to have. Plus I can fit in them, I cannot really fit in an E-Type anymore.

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DS: Which classic cars would you recommend to a first time buyer willing to dip his feet in this hobby?

NJ: The more you know about cars, the narrower the selection is because you base it on more things than on initial visual impression. You want it to keep up with the other cars on the road. You want parts availability. You don't want to look like you're trying too hard. You want it to be a classic looking car which inspires the right kind of appreciation. Its no accident that 75% of the cars in my inventory are Porsches, they do everything you need. They're drivers, and a tall guy can fit in them. They're comfortable, they've got functional air and windows. To me a Porsche is the consummate affordable collectible.

You can buy a Porsche for $30k that you can feel special in and you can enjoy and work on. You can also buy a Porsche for $3 million, and everything in between. And thats what gives people the Porsche bug. You buy a 924, and then you want a 944, then a 968, then a 911. It never ends. Its why people have a hundred cars in a Porsche collection and they are still going. Porsches are truly in a class of their own. A Ferrari collector will say that a Porsche is just an every man's collector car, and not a serious collector car. Ferrari's are silly. They are too delicate, they're too expensive. They're like the Italian temperament, they are unpredictable. And Porsche are like the German temperament, they are very predictable.

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DS: And Porsches are a driver’s car that are meant to be driven.

NJ: Yea, and you can drive them hard. Its a shame that it sometimes becomes about the low mileage examples that are only meant for the Concours field. I have never been a really big fan of that level of car collecting. 

DS: Are there any classic cars you believe are overlooked?

NJ: The English cars, even the Healey nobody really cares about. I've got a steel bumper, steel dash, MGB over here. Its the 1967 model, the last great year. I can't get over $20k for it. And to me if you could only afford one classic car, that would be a great car to buy. You don't want a bad one. With a lot of these the problem is the lowest common denominator of them gives them their relative worthlessness. They are either so cheap that they belong to people who can't afford to maintain them, or there is no point in maintaining them to a high level because the value isn't there. So they sort of fall bellow the maintenance level required to own a nice classic. But if they were worth 5 times as much they would not be a problem car because they would have the money spent on them. I think they are a little overlooked.

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Also the Japanese cars like the Datsun 240z, 260z, and the 280z. They may not be as overlooked as before, but they are still relatively affordable. Then of course there is the early M3, M5, and MGs. All of these are coming up, everyone is getting hip to them. 

For the longest time Porsches weren't valuable, nobody wanted the 964. Now the switch has flipped, the 964 is now even stronger than the Carreras and the 993s because they are so rare. Because they were a shitty car nobody bought them, and they had low production numbers. What made them shitty is only a simple issue where the engine leaks oil through the through bolts in the crankcase. Its only a $5k fix, and most have been fixed by now anyway. They are a brilliant car, and people are really starting to love them. 

DS: Do you think any modern cars will become classics in the future? 

NJ: I think there's too much ubiquitousness. And there's too much technology. And with that technology, an implied disposability. Because the new plug and play is going to be very different 3 years from now. There's not going to be any value to the old one. Its like an old nav screen. Theres a real attraction to analogue, its a demarcation zone. And you can get a one sided or the other, but thats really the big difference that made these cars so collectible is their basicness. And that I think is especially what the Germans, the Porsches, its the end of the form follows function era. The end of the evolution of the species era. Its a demarcation. I think now we are just into depreciating assets with modern stuff. I mean yes the Porsche does bring out these special cars like the 911R. All of a sudden it is $300k over MSRP. Thats a flash in the pan thing. They die out quickly. Its just “the I have to have the latest and greatest thing” and I have enough money so I can pay for it.

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If you are in the market for a classic car from the US, we highly recommend checking out Chequered Flag.

1955 Jaguar XK140 SE - By Andrew Golseth

This Preserved 1955 Jaguar XK140 SE Is A Patina Perfect Driver


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Porsche Carrera

Porsche Carrera I.M.S.A. GT 'O' RSR/935 


Porsche could not have wished for a more sensational start to the racing success of its 911 RSR. Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood won the Daytona 24-Hours, the first race of the 1973 season, outright. Their Carrara RSR running as a prototype since homologation had not yet been secured. The car would become a perfect choice for customers who could rely on upwards of 300 bhp from its 2.8 litre capacity and near bullet-proof reliability. Gregg and Haywood followed up their Daytona win with victory in the Sebring 12-hours and the Porsche RSR’s legend had begun would remain competitive over many seasons.

Originally a S.C.C.A race car in the late 60’s, it was re-built to full RSR specifications in the mid 1970’s by Bob Gregg, a legend in United States motor sport history, who not only had a great reputation as a driver but also as a team owner, entrant and engineer, this car has a truly amazing and well documented history.

Known as “Bullet Bob the Barefoot Boy” because he didn’t like racing with shoes on, Bob Gregg’s career spanned six decades, winning over 1000 main events and forty-eight championships racing all over the US and Canada, Gregg was as versatile as he was successful.

His exacting standards are obvious in the build quality of this highly modified Porsche, built to the best RSR specification of the day and continually upgraded during its long competition career more latterly with 935 parts, including suspension with desirable centrelock uprights, the gearbox installed “upside down” (to lower the C of G) and continual development of the 3.3-litre 12 plug injected engine - the final evolution prior to its retirement from international competition in the mid-eighties.

The car has an extensive well documented race history in IMSA Camel GT ‘O’ class from 1981 until 1985, including several appearances in world class events such as the Daytona 24-Hours and the Sebring 12-Hours and somewhat surprisingly for a car with such a race history, no major accidents.

Recently discovered still in the ownership of Ron Coupland, where it has remained untouched but carefully stored for more than thirty years, along with the original support equipment including refuelling rig, complete spare gearbox, ratios and bodywork all in the exact condition as the car last appeared in Daytona 1985 - A unique, completely original and undisturbed time capsule of early 80’s IMSA GT competition.

Never before offered on the open market, this ‘time warp’ package of car and all the supporting equipment with a huge amount of original documentation including historical photo’s, race entries, race results, passes, etc., is a rare opportunity for the new owner to restore this historically significant racing Porsche and be eligible for and highly competitive in all major historic events Worldwide.







THE RACE RESULTS 1981-1985


1981

Daytona 24 Hours. 1/2/1981.

Porsche 911 Carrera. 911/75 F6 N/A.

Entrant: Bob Gregg Racing.

Drivers: Bob Young (USA), Len Jones (USA), Bob Gregg (USA).

27th overall. 8th in GTO class.

 

Sebring 12 Hours. 21/3/1981.

Porsche 911 Carrera. 911/75 F6 N/A.

Entrant: Bob Gregg Racing.

Drivers: Bob Gregg (USA), Bob Young (USA), Joe Varde (USA).

34th overall. 14th in GTO class.

 

Riverside 6 Hours. 26/4/1981.

Porsche 911 Carrera. 911/75 F6 3000cc N/A.

Entrant: Bob Gregg Racing.

Drivers: Bob Gregg (USA), Len Jones (USA), Bob Young (USA).

20th overall. 7th in GTO class.

 

Laguna Seca 100 Miles. 3/5/1981.

Porsche Carrera. 911/75 F6 N/A.

Entrant: Bob Gregg Racing.

Drivers: Bob Gregg.

31st overall. 15th in GTO class. 

1982

Daytona 24 Hours. 31/1/1982.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR. Porsche F6 N/A.

Entrant: Bob Gregg Racing.

Drivers: Bob Young (USA), Bob Gregg (USA), Ray McIntyre (USA).

50th overall. 22nd in GTO class.

 

Riverside 6 Hours. 25/4/1982.

Porsche 911 Carrera. Porsche 911/75 F6 N/A.

Entrant: Bob Gregg Racing.

Drivers: Bob Young (USA), Bob Gregg (USA).

50th overall. 18th in GTO class.

 

500 Mile Pocono. 26/9/1982.

Porsche 911 Carrera.

Entrant: N/A.

Drivers: Ron Coupland (USA).

34th overall. 14th in GTO class.

 

3 Hour Daytona Finale. 28/11/1982.

Porsche 911 Carrera.

Entrant: N/A.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

39th overall. 20th in GTO class.

 

1983

Daytona 24 Hours. 6/2/1983.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA0, Speakman (USA).

58th overall. 28th in GTO class.

 

500KM Road Atlanta. 10/4/1983.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant John Hulen.

Drivers: Ron Coupland (USA).

51st overall. 19th in GTO class.

 

500KM Charlotte. 15/5/1983.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: Ron Coupland.

40th overall. 13th in GTO class.

 

Mid-Ohio 6 Hours. 19/6/1983.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

36th overall. 9th in GTO class.

 

500 Mile Road America. 21/8/1983.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

26th overall. 8th in GTO class.

 

500 Mile Pocono. 11/9/1983.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

12th overall. 6th in GTO class.

 


1984

Sebring 12 Hours. 24/3/1984.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

69th overall. 23rd in GTO class.

 

500KM Mid-Ohio. 10/6/1984.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

20th overall. 5th in GTO class.

 

500 Mile Road America. 26/8/1984.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

37th overall. 8th in GTO class.

 

1985

500 Mile Road America. 25/8/1985.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: Coupland-Hulen Racing.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

30th overall. 7th in GTO class.

 

Columbus (GT). 5/10/1985.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen

43rd overall. 21st in GTO class.

 

3 Hour Daytona Finale. 1/12/1985.

Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Entrant: John Hulen.

Drivers: John Hulen (USA), Ron Coupland (USA).

43rd overall. 12th in GTO class.

 



For more information about this Porsche Carrera I.M.S.A. GT 'O' RSR/935 visit ChequeredFlag.com or call us today at 310-827-8665



theCHIVE Field Guide to Finding Your Perfect Car

Mac just got his learner’s permit and he’s here to teach you the secrets to finding your perfect car.


Spike Feresten and the guys at theCHIVE spent the day with our all-knowing owner Neil Jaffe to really get down to the bottom of how to buy the perfect car. If you like classic cars and cats, you're in for a treat.  Chequered Flag International and theCHIVE are pleased to bring you: theCHIVE Field Guide to Buying Your Perfect Car.


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The New Classic Cars (Are Younger Than You Think)

If you liked gawking at these cars as a kid, imagine how much more you'd enjoy driving one right now. 

Read the full article here, http://www.gq.com/story/new-classic-cars 


1991 Acura NSX

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Chequered Flag Classic Sports and Performance Cars

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Morris - A Minor Documentary

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The Morris Minor is a classic British car which has been given another lease of life by a new generation of young drivers. Join us on a journey from its humble beginnings to it's current adventures on British roads with interviews with Mike Barson (Madness) Zac Ware (Charles Ware & The Proclaimers) Martin Wainwright (Author/Journalist) and a host of Morris Minor owners.

Published on Feb 28, 2014

Moss Motoring - 1968 Triumph TR250

Triumph TR250-11

DRIVEN – 1968 TRIUMPH TR250

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 28, 2015

Despite the success of the Triumph TR4 and TR4A in sales and competition, as the end of the 60s approached it was clear that the company had to improve its performance with the introduction of a new engine that could offer not only greater horsepower, but also smoother operation than the relatively rough and noisy 4-cylinder could provide. The answer would lie with the 1998-cc inline 6-cylinder engine from the Triumph 2000 sedan, which was stroked to 2498-cc for use in the Triumph TR250 and TR5.

Management had determined that the new powerplant would have to make 150 hp to provide the desired top speed of 120 mph and sub-nine second times from 0-60 mph, but the only practical means of doing so would require installation of the new Lucas PI fuel-injection system that would make its debut in the TR5. So equipped, the TR5 became the first mass-produced fuel injected British car and was the most affordable 120-mph vehicle in the country as well. With the exception of the new engine, the only external differences were a slightly revised grill with painted slats and new marker lights and chrome trim. Inside, a matte finish replaced the polished surface on the walnut dash while new seats debuted that were the most comfortable yet seen in a TR.

Triumph TR250-4

Now considered the most attractive of the four Triumph string eras – sidescreen, Michelotti, Karmann and Wedge – the shape pioneered by the TR4 combined with the grunt from the 6-cylinder engine is a winning combination

Alas, despite the impressive performance that the fuel-injection made possible, restrictive emissions rules in the United States made sale of the TR5 impossible because the primitive nature of the Lucas system could not meet the Federal standards. What this meant was that while the UK and continental Europe would enjoy the fastest TR ever built, the United States would get the Triumph TR250, which featured the same six-cylinder engine fed through dual tamper-proof Zenith-Stromberg carburetors that forced use of mild cam timing – compared to the TR5 – that resulted in only 104 hp at 4500 rpm – the same output as the 4-cylinder engine in the TR4A – but increased torque to the tune of 143 ft/lbs at 3000 rpm to allow for only slightly better acceleration and top speed. While response to the TR5 was enthusiastic – “without doubt the best Triumph yet” declared Autosport – in the United States, enthusiasm for the new model was decidedly muted, with Car & Driver musing, “to pay an extra $500 for a nearly identical but slower car doesn’t make much sense.” To be fair, the TR250 was much smoother and quieter than the TR4A and Road & Track found that the new engine “could hardly run more sweetly” and changed the essence of the TR from rough and tumble to relaxed and smooth.

Triumph TR250-16

The seats – unique to the TR250 – are the most comfortable and provide the most room of any TR from TR2 through TR6

For all the negativity that the TR250 engendered during its brief production run – only 14 months – it is appreciated now for having combined the best elements of the TR4 with the performance potential offered by the TR6. Modern advancements and technological know-how make it possible for current owners to replicate the 150-hp TR5 with the existing carbureted setup and for these reasons and others, the TR250 is now the most valuable TR sold in America.

Driven

The lines of the TR250 have only improved with time and the Michelotti design has an elegance that is lacking in both the TR3 and TR6 and despite having a wheelbase that is 3-inches shorter than the MGB with slightly more overall length, it appears to be the more substantial car. The muted tailfins, higher fender lines and larger 15-inch wheels add to that impression, although both cars are comparable in overall height. The interior of the TR250 is more luxurious than any offered by its competitors with its polished walnut dash, leather seats and high quality carpeting. The seats are comfortable and the travel adjusted such that any sized driver can be easily accommodated within, while the three-spoke steering wheel is both attractive to look at and well positioned for use. It would be hard to improve upon the basic instrumentation package that was largely carried over from the TR2. The face-level vents are a nice touch along with the generously sized lockable glove box that is situated before the passenger. The occasional rear seat provides a flat surface upon which soft luggage can be placed since it is no longer legal to place unbelted passengers in the diminutive space.

The Rostyle wheels and racing stripe are period touches that mark the TR250 as another matter from its TR4A predecessor

The engine starts with a turn of the key and it springs to idle with a growl reminiscent of a Big Healey. The pedal box is large enough that the dimmer switch – located on the floor adjacent to the driver’s kick panel – can be used as a dead pedal provided the driver is careful not to engage the switch with a heavy foot. The accelerator and brake pedal are closely located to allow for easy heel-and-toe operation and the clutch effort required for engagement is light enough to use the car in heavy traffic without much complaint. The gearbox – an all-synchromesh unit – is a delight to use although it is best used slowly – with a slight pause in the neutral position – to provide the smoothest shifts. The lever itself is short and well placed as it falls easily to hand from the steering wheel. Steering effort is very light and the slightest turns will result in a change of direction so it is best to let the car self-steer – with only a light hand on the wheel – down the freeway or long stretches of straight roads.

Triumph TR250-10

The stance is unmistakably Michelotti derived

The exhaust note is loud and powerful although unobtrusive at moderate speeds. The engine will pull strongly up to the redline and has the ability to cruise all day at 80 mph without fear of damaging any internal components given its stout construction. There is enough torque to remind you how much fun driving can be and the power band is tractable from idle to 5000 rpm. As much fun as an Austin-Healey 3000 or Jaguar E-Type, the IRS suspension provides a supple ride that easily handles irregular road surfaces with aplomb.

Sampled – It’s hard to believe that the TriumphTR250 was once unloved by even Triumph enthusiasts, but that train has long ago left the station, as it is now the most sought after of the TRs sold in America. The example that we were provided by Chequered Flag International in Marina Del Rey, California is the most original that we have ever seen with only one owner from new until 2014. Restored cars – no matter how much time and money is thrown at them – will never match the driving feel of an original car and this TR250 bears that out. More solid than any other example that we’ve driven, it was much as it must have been when first sold, a delightful roadster with added torque over the TR4A to play with in the twisty bits. With fewer made than any other TR, they’re hard to find but well worth seeking out.

Moss Motoring

Moss Motoring - 1961 Morris Minor

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DRIVEN – 1961 MORRIS MINOR

 NO RESPONSES AUGUST 27, 2015

Before the Mini left its mark as one of the most iconic cars to ever come from Britain, Sir Alec Issigonis had already established a reputation for brilliance with the Morris Minor. The first car built in the United Kingdom to sell more than one million units, the landmark Minor has been hailed as a design classic that combined an essential English character with utility and performance at an affordable price.

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The first British car to hit a million in sales, the Minor was the more stylish response to the ubiquitous Beetle

The first truly global British car, the Minor debuted at the London Motor Show at Earl’s Court in 1948 with a blend of qualities that made it the perfect car for a world still reeling from the effects of World War II. The original MM series was sold until 1953 and would eventually encompass a range of two and four-door saloons along with a convertible touring car. The front suspension used the torsion bar layout from the Morris Oxford and adopted a similar semi-monocoque bodyshell. The 918-cc engine was sourced from the Morris 8 and although horsepower was initially limited (27.5 bhp) it was an economical unit that delivered almost 40 mpg.

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The 948-cc engine is familiar to any fan of British sports cars

The MM was an unqualified success with more than 250,000 cars sold and as the size of the engines increased the performance grew as well. The ubiquitous A-series engine made its debut in 1952 after the Austin merger resulted in BMC. Despite lower specific output, the new engine felt like an improvement and would go on to power successive generations of the car. The popular Traveller was also introduced in 1952 and featured an external ash frame for the rear bodywork and two barn-style doors. Commercial versions soon followed and the Minor name encompassed several varieties of unique cars. The Series II Minors with the A-Series engines offered spritely performance and even better handling than earlier cars equipped with the side valve engines.

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A surprisingly roomy and usefully shaped cabin is a prime attribute

The 1000 series cars debuted in 1956 with the 948-cc engine and one-piece windscreens. Detail changes occurred on a regular basis to keep the car fresh and the market continued to buy the car in increasing numbers. The million mark in sales was reached in 1961 with 350 special edition cars built to commemorate the occasion. The next year saw an even larger version of the A-series engine (1098-cc) along with revisions to the interior and improvements to the heater. Amazingly, even though the Minor was born in 1948 just years after the end of the war it managed to live long enough to see men walk on the moon and then some. Although the convertible and saloon cars were withdrawn from the market in 1969 and 1970 respectively, the Traveller and other commercial versions soldiered on until 1972 with more than 1.6 million cars manufactured in total.

Driven

Much like the Volkswagen Beetle to which the Minor is inevitably compared, the Minor exhibits a build quality that belies its affordable price tag. Despite a Spartan interior – again like the VW – the Minor’s cabin is welcoming and capable of carrying four adults in reasonable comfort. The seating position is much more comfortable than in the Mini although the steering wheel is placed at an odd angle that takes some getting used to. The instrument panel is dominated by a centrally mounted speedometer – with an integral fuel gauge – and flanked by twin glove compartments with a generous parcel shelf located below the dashboard.

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When a Beetle is just too common …

While no one will mistake the Minor for a proper sports car, once the top is stowed it does a fair imitation given the deliberate acceleration (although it is no worse than in a similar vintage Beetle) and comfortable ride. While most Minor’s suffer from some balkiness while shifting, this example is easy to row through the gears with only the slightest hesitation present in second when rushing the synchros. With more torque than a Beetle, the Minor is more fun to drive and is the more unique mount (especially in Southern California where old VWs are plentiful).

Somewhat of a time capsule, this particular Morris was sold by British Motor Cars in San Francisco, California and has remained in the Golden State its entire life. While not a showpiece, there is enough patina present to make it look interesting, but not enough wear to set one’s thoughts to restoration. All in all, a better alternative to a convertible Beetle or Fiat 500, the Minor makes the ideal beach cruiser or weekend driver with room for friends and children.

Sampled – This 1961 Morris Minor Convertible is from the stable at Chequered Flag International in Marina Del Rey, California and displays its original black over red color scheme and California black plates. With a reported mileage of only 54,159 miles it seems to have led a pampered life. Some minor sorting could be done on the odd weekend or two, but this seems to be a great example of an all too rare English convertible.

 Moss Motoring