Passion for cars takes over downtown Connecticut

MC’s in New Canaan and Connecticut’s Caffeine and Carburetors sounded like a radio disc player because, well, it’s one. Peter Bosch has a long career on radio stations like 95.9 “The Fox” in Connecticut, but classic cars are his passion. He’s one of those deeply knowledgeable men – Jay Leno himself – who, for almost any famous model, can tease out obscure details, sub-models, and production secrets.

To attendees at the informal event—which runs through downtown New York, the affluent suburb of New Canaan, when he’s not in a nearby park—Bush spoke of a chance encounter with a legend. “I was in the Walgreens parking lot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I saw an older guy sitting in a C8 Corvette. I went up to him and said, ‘It’s not a good car, it’s a great car.’ Wins at 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Daytona, and 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

Bosch, who is presenter and producer at Caffeine as well as MC, said the meeting of the same name took place for the first time in 2008, when it attracted 35 cars. Today, there are hundreds, from abandoned Trabants to multi-million dollar restorations. The streets became so crowded with spectators – including many families – that it was difficult to make progress forward. It was all over by noon, and shoppers took back control of the streets. “He grew up organically that way,” Bush said. “And now there is a real sense of community.”

The introductory story goes back to 1995, when Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee’s Doug Zumbach began hosting small batches of car nuts on regular Sundays, but that effort stalled after a year and a half. The idea in the form of Caffeine and Carburetors has been revived with fewer events (four this year) but much larger crowds. The cafe is still ground zero, cars spread out from there and park wherever you can. The cars are not judged, and no one wins the cup. It’s against Concours, although some cars could make an appearance at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance on the road (this year, June 3-5).

Michael Stach and the Tatra 603. He has another 1975 Tatra. (Photos by Jim Mutavali

The original and aerodynamic 1975 Czech-made Tatra 603 in basic black was owned by Michael Stach of nearby Reading. “It has an air-cooled V-8 in the rear,” Stach said. “That was last year.” When asked how he handles the V-8 in the tail, he said, “It’s lighter than a Porsche.” Born in what is now Slovakia, the Stach has several other Tatras, going back to the more traditional 1934 T75 with a front-mounted 1.7-liter air-cooled boxer engine.

“You only see Tatra in the caffeine and carburetor,” Bush said. “And it’s not a Russian car, by the way.”

1972 3.0 cs, Caffeine and Carburetors: A Passion for Cars Dominates Downtown Connecticut, Journal
Yes, it is a genuine cobra – said to have been found in a coal mine. (Photos by Jim Mutavali)

A block of the Tatra was the Shelby Cobra. Replicas are thick on the floor, but this one exudes authenticity from its rich patina red leather seats. “It’s a real 289, and it was found in a coal mine,” Bush said. “The white paint is original.” Now there is a story. The Cobra in the Coal Mine looks like Tom Cotter’s book.

Looking like it just came out of a seven-figure restoration, the Jaguar Type C was surrounded by fans. It looked totally real, but Bosch said it was actually a very accurate and rare UK Hawker replica. The original 1952 C-Type, one of only 53 cars, sold for $5,285,000 at a RM Sotheby’s auction in New York circa 2017, but even replicas like the ones in New Canaan are a great value.

At some auto shows, marquis are neatly lined up, but it’s all done voluntarily in Caffeine and Carburetors. However, there is a fairly consistent British car alley at the end of the street, this time scoring Austin Minis, Austin Hills, Lotus or two, MGs and Triumphs. But the Bullitt version of the Mustang and the very original Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” were not far behind. In the 1930s, a group of Ford cars came together for protection.

1972 3.0 cs, Caffeine and Carburetors: A Passion for Cars Dominates Downtown Connecticut, Journal
Not many BMWs were present in April, but this original 1972 3.0 CS Coupe was. (Photos by Jim Mutavali)

As usual, there were dozens of Porsche 911s, with the blue metallic GT4 getting a lot of attention. BMWs are also popular, and this time around the original 1972 3.0 CS coupe stood out. The 1963 Corvette Stingray “split” looked like a work in progress, it had a rear bumper. A cheerful blue-and-white Nash Metropolitan and Ford’s hard-hit “Dirty 8” convertible may have been omitted from some shows, but it was appreciated in New Canaan.

1972 3.0 cs, Caffeine and Carburetors: A Passion for Cars Dominates Downtown Connecticut, Journal
The 1963 Corvette Stingray “Split Window” is missing the rear bumper. (Photos by Jim Mutavali)

Anna Hering of New Canaan sat in a well used white 1967 Triumph TR4A IRS that had been in her family for 30 years. When I left an hour later it was loaded with more family members than you think fit. The owner of his small European “suicide” rear-door sedan said it was a 1951 Lancia Aurelia B10 with a 1750 cc engine.

1972 3.0 cs, Caffeine and Carburetors: A Passion for Cars Dominates Downtown Connecticut, Journal
This British TVR now boasts American V-8 power. (Photos by Jim Mutavali)

There is no policy that your vehicle will not be sold at this event, so buyers can go home with a 1974 TVR 2500M that ditched its original engine in favor of a Ford 301-cubic V-8. Owner, Angelo Bonvenuto of Danbury, Connecticut, said he bought the car five years ago with the original 106 horsepower Triumph inline-six already gone for the British Ford V-6 that put out around 150 horsepower.

“There were only 947 2,500 cubic meters built between 1972 and 1977,” Bonvenuto said. “I wasn’t going to cut an original car, but this one has really been altered. When creating what I call the TVR 5000M, I thought it was important to keep it balanced and not put a very massive engine in it – it’s a very light car.” TVR Griffith was sold in the early 1960s from last century with Ford 260 V-8s under the hood, and they have a reputation for being tough to handle.

Somewhat more discreet as well for sale was a fully restored 1974 MGB, and a 1990 Mazda Miata with only 39,000 miles. Definitely not for sale a 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible. The owner uses it on long-distance cruises, it has been in the family for a long time.

Bush said he hung up his radio mic mostly, and now spends time in his New Milford, Connecticut, third garage restoration shop. The garage specializes in Porsches (a tribute to Steve McQueen, “Outlaw” 356) but recently completed a 1967 Mercedes-Benz 250SE convertible. It parked there. The next Caffeine and Carburetors event, at the same location, will be on May 22nd.

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