By Steve Laifman
March 27, 2000
Ad Asper Per Astra:
In it's last days with us, after 7 years of faithful service, the 356 is still looking good in it's new silver paint job.
Here is it's successor, imported from Germany with the European hounds-tooth wool seat that is so much better than vinyl centers, is the new 66 911S. This is a formidable machine, with 5 speed all synchro gearbox, two triple choke Weber carburetors, stock fog lights, Blaupunkt AM/FM/SW, and auxiliary gas heater. Absolutely useless in Southern California.
But this was a time of career moves. Accepting a job in industry, initially as a VP of Operations, for a machine tool manufacturing subsidiary of a major steel company, we moved to Highland Park, IL. Here, that heater would be needed, as well as the air-conditioning I added. Jay stands before the car , and our new home. Although the car was thoroughly Zeebart protected from rust, I could never bring myself to take it out of the garage to the salt laden streets in the winter, opting instead for a used 65 Corvair coupe for commuting to the train station. Hey, the Corvair wasn't that shabby, with the air-cooled 6, and it always started on the coldest days. And I mean COOOOLD. Two weeks of below zero weather are not something a California boy has ever seen. But the people were wonderful, as were the schools. To this day I have never found an Italian restaurant to equal those in the Chicago area, or the pizza.
After 6 years in the Midwest, achieving a career goal of becoming the President of a multi-million dollar firm before the age of 39 and being elected to membership in the Young President's Organization (Y.P.O), we headed back to California for personal reasons. While sorry to leave the friends we had made, it was good to come home to family and sun. A change of cars was in order, and this time I wanted something uniquely mine. While tearing into this project, I still needed daily transportation until it was finished. To this end, I found a 67 Sunbeam Alpine S-5 that wasn't running. Linda was now driving a 71 Ford LTD 400 CID, which was the largest car I had ever owned. Can't be equaled, today, in sheer people/baggage capacity. Yet with 6 feet of rear seat, do you think two little kids good keep on their own side across country?
Oh yes, We added a 66 Mustang GT convertible to our stable, just for fun. Jay learned a great deal that summer. First we yanked the engine out of the Sunbeam and rebuilt it, and fixed all the items necessary. The car was not remarkable to me, at the time. Aside from a propensity to blow cylinder head gaskets, and a resultant white cloud behind, it was very reliable transportation and fun to drive.
I found a custom body style that really spoke to me, with it's cross between a Ferrari, and a Lotus, with a great deal of Battlestar Galactica thrown in. The donor car(s) were VW and Porsche. The project car was a Sebring, and was constructed as a unibody, including the monocoque floor, interior, and exterior. If it weren't for Jay, getting into small spaces and cutting/grinding fiberglass with the particles falling on his hair and body, this job would have been impossible. His experience with rebuilding the Sunbeam, and this would give him all the confidence and knowledge he needed for his restoration of the Alpine, many years later.
The top rose up on electric screw jacks for access through the door-top. It's light weight, and a Turbocharged VW engine, made this car perform with it's looks. Some 25 years later, it is still remarkably current, and draws stares wherever it goes. The kids go wild when the top opens. Later in life a Pontiac Fiero V-6 resides in the rear, giving even more push to the light weight aerodynamic car.
The Sunbeam can be seen in the background. The rear view of the Sebring, with CA Plates Red Toi, shows the recessed rear window, and Ferrari/Lotus shaped rear. To give you a real concept of proportion, the top of the car would be about level with the top of a Corvette door top! When parked, a group of kids all gather around. When the top lifts up and forward for egress, you can hear the exclamations. Get lots of Thumbs-up on the road, much like I now get with the Tiger, from those who recognize what it is. Not leaving the Sunbeam off the personalized plate rage, Jay selected NLovinIt! exclamation of Don Adams, when the car became his.
This is the "Left Coast" (where all good things started - then and now). A little picnic at Malibu near Sunset (time and Boulevard). The Chardonnay compliments our dining, as the kids watch a video rental and some take-out at home. Jay would have been in high school, and Amy in middle school. The top of the Sebring, is just above the pretty one's head, and below a Corvette's door top. Yeah, it's that low, as can be seen above next to the Alpine. Jay helped me build this car in 1975. getting under the dash with fiberglass grindings falling in his face, trying to get all the aircraft wiring harness installed. Today (Spring, 2003), he just sold his 356 B, took possesion of the "Red Toi", now with a Fiero V-6, and is restoring it. Still a head turner today, the pretty one has fared better than I (so my waistline is a bit larger, hers is not.). The Sebring is a head-turner as well.