Summer is officially here in Los Angeles. It takes you about 45 minutes to go 10 street blocks in downtown Santa Monica on a weekend afternoon, so unless you have a penchant for overcooking your engine, you're best off leaving your aircooled-whatever at home on the battery tender. If we're being honest, you probably want to avoid the late day beach-goers and tourist anyways.
I will admittedly say I’m not used to some of the mugginess either, though my standards for what that means have dropped significantly since leaving the East Coast. There is a great bit by the comedian Kevin James, who, absolutely drenched on stage mid-way through his set, is discussing the difficulties faced by someone who sweats profusely. “Jesus man, did you just jump rope in the attic for an hour?” a friend asks. “Uhhh no, I peeled an orange in an airconditioned room about thirty minutes ago, why?” Most days the summer sweats aren't this bad, but they do have me thinking about bringing extra t-shirts around when I'm in the 911 for prolonged periods of time...prolonged meaning more than 10-15 minutes (side note: if you need extra t-shirts, peep Heritage Gruppe's latest blueprint series!).
But enough about the bummer parts of summer - it also means that the bright colored cars that zoom about SoCal have become your hottest vibe accessory. I will forever been in the minority, believing that the best automotive color ever created is brown, and bonus points if its metallic. But when the temperatures rise, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a pretty big part of me that didn't want a 911 Targa in Miami Blue for sunset cruises up and down the PCH. Summertime just feels that much better when your evening's automotive backdrop is sheathed in Dakar Yellow, "Pink Panther" Pink, Long Beach Blue or Birch Green.
And then there’s orange - that citrusy blast cool enough to quench your vintage thirst on even the warmest of summer mornings. Starting July, Heritage Gruppe is offering VIP registration and show placement for special cars, so make sure you reach out to the team if you're interested in having your car front and center at the monthly meets. This month's VIP group included Steve Vartantian's (@svarooom) 914 in Signal Orange, and what a very important car it is.
As with most car stories, many times you find the car, but quite often the car finds you. In this case, the 914 found both Steve and an original set of magnesium Campagnolo wheels.
"I've always been into vintage stuff, particularly Campagnolo bikes. We were a big Volkswagen family growing up, and I had a Rabbit pickup for a period of time that I wanted to redo in a Campagnolo livery to haul my bikes around." Alas, that project never happened, but fortunately Steve saved a blue 'Campagnolo' decal somewhere in the recesses of an apartment closet...you know, just in case he needed it one day in the future.
Steve purchased the 914 back in 2014 after a long hunt for an unmolested, as-original-as-you-can-get example. Living in New York at the time, he found the car up in Connecticut - the full history of the car is unknown, but he suspects that it spent a fair bit time near the West Coast due to an Arizona Air Force Base sticker that came on the windshield. A purist at heart, Steve has strived to keep everything as original as possible - no engine re-tunes, no widebody kits, and certainly no Porsche Classic headunit in the dash pumping out today's Top 40. The fanciest parts of this car, aside from the wheels (and we'll get to that) are those parts that came with the optional Accessories Package in 1972 - fog lights, a leather steering wheel, and a center console tray. Aside from the leather wrapped steering wheel, I'm pretty sure those options come standard on a Honda FIT these days.
But back to those wheels - these are something truly special, and went through a bit of their own journey before finding their current home. Steve had a Lancia Fulvia Berlina that he got back in 2008, which came with stock wheels - dreams of something unique and period correct-esque sent him on the hunt for a set of Campagnolos, which he dutifully found and had refinished and repainted. Unbeknownst to Steve at the time, and a learning for me, magnesium wheel refinishing is not for the faint of heart, and he ended up having to have them completely redone in Los Angeles after the wheels took on too much air exposure in the prior process. "The wheels are supposed to have a bit of a porous look to them - a lot of guys out there will finish them smooth, but I really like the way they were meant to look."
In all likelihood, this is the only 914 spec'd with 14" Campagnolos that you'll see here in the US - Steve's been able to find one in Germany and another in England, maybe, that has a similar setup. The 4-bolt VW lug pattern means they were a perfect fit for this car, and it's almost like the world was secretly waiting for the confluence of all the aforementioned events to come together to produce this very special 914. "The wheels are the reason I bought the car". Damn if that isn't beautiful.
Be sure to keep your Heritage Gruppe IG feed on, your cars clean and your cameras ready these next few months for a whole bunch of new stuff - the team is hard at work prepping some great new things. In the meantime, stay cool - until next time crew!
- Brendan (@b.g.mckay)