Monday, June 30, 2008

Please Don't Let Them Sit Silent!

Last week I was excited that the car received so much positive attention at the Burr Ridge car show along with the many thumb's-up while driving out there and later, back to Michigan.

Sunday morning came and with the car cooled from the previous day of driving between Chicago, Burr Ridge and Michigan, I now wanted to see what was going on with the cooling system. I opened the radiator, as sure enough...there was transmission fluid floating on top of the coolant. It was bright red and I wasn't very happy!

Fearing cross-contamination of coolant in the transmission, we agreed that we wouldn't drive the car further than the Ford dealer in Three Oaks. The internal transmission cooler is obviously leaking into the radiator and it is unclear if coolant is seeping into the transmission. Instead of driving the car on Sunday, we decided to tinker with other areas of interest.

1. The gas filler area drain-tube was clogged and needed to be opened. We tried 12-gauge copper wire from under the car to dislodge the offending blockage. From the top, we could get the wire about one inch into the drain hole. The blockage felt solid and I wondered if the factory workers forgot to drill out the drain tube. Mario and I cut a 10-inch length of heavy coat hanger wire and used the drill to slowly get through the clog. It worked and we no longer have standing water around the gas cap.

2. The leather seats being 30 years old need significant conditioning. We've driven the car only the past three weekends and noticed the seats were starting to show stress marks and heavy creases. Mario and I each chose a seat and vigorously massaged an entire bottle of Zymol into the entire seat. We did this over and over until the leather soaked up the conditioner. The last bit was applied just after putting the car away for the night. We let it soak in over night. Come Monday morning, the seats seemed to be a bit more pliable and not as dry to the touch.

3. We installed the new wiper blades that we ordered from British Victoria.

Wanting a better sounding radio, we also inspected the dash and cowl area to see how easily we can replace the current pioneer cassette player. The car originally was equipped with the equalizer/amplifier, however it is no longer attached to the dash. Just a bent bracket remains on the underside.

Later in the day we decided to take the car back to the Ford dealer to have the radiator, hoses and belts replaced. Without further ado, we removed the hood assembly by methodically removing the fore and aft retaining nuts and carefully counting the washers being used as shims to keep the hood aligned with the cowl and the grill shell. We figured it would be better for everyone if the hood was kept safely at Ken's house while the car was in for service.

Mario phoned the dealer midweek and learned that the radiator is basically a custom part and needs to be recored by an old-school radiator rebuilder. We spoke to the shop who exclaimed that he'd never seen a six-core radiator from any passenger vehicle. He promised a class-A job when finished, however the cost will be in the neighborhood of $1,200 for the rebuild.

Another nagging problem is that the car is sputtering and stalling at low idle when fully warm. Given it has a new fuel pump and filter, Mario insisted that the garage drop the fuel tank to see if any rust or corrosion could be blocking the fuel take-up. Just as I popped in on the garage this past Saturday morning, they already had the fuel tank dropped. I saw no rust, sediment or corrosion within the tank. To my relief, it was bright and shiny inside. I thought...well, there goes $65 worth of gasoline out the window! We also did a quick underside inspection. The left muffler seems to be a bit heavy, I'm sure it's filled with rust scale...or worse...a mouse condo!

Today is Monday, June 30th. I'm off work this entire week, taking some vacation days here in Michigan. I was hoping to play with the car all week...wanting to install a new radio and the power window kit, along with a missing snap for the convertible top. Instead, the car is sitting on a hoist at Three Oaks Ford with the radiator 35 miles away being rebuilt.

What a let-down!

I just returned from an estate auction nearby. Up for auction is a 1975 Dodge Charger SE, Gold Edition with only 48K on the odometer. From what I saw while inspecting her car, the door sticker shows a oil and lube service was performed locally in 1995. The mileage on the sticker is about 200 miles less than what's currently on the clock. Here too, is a car that the owner let sit for thirteen years without driving. Under the hood is a bright and shiny fuel filter. The heirs and auction house must have gotten the car running for the bidders with the least amount of effort or investment.

As I walk around the car, two men were discussing the carb being varnished and the old gas making the car run a bit rough! I simply smiled and walked away. I have my own neglected car to deal with and I'm not ready for another, thank you very much! Too bad, the car is very clean without any rust on the body and the cream colored interior is in excellent condition. I only wish I could say the same for under the hood!

So...anyone and everyone who reads this blog...please drive your cars! Don't let them sit still and silent, they are mechanical objects that need to be driven.
Ron Zarantenello

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Burr Ridge Show

I attended the Burr Ridge car show on Saturday the 21st with approximately sixty cars being shown. Link: I was happy to see a variety of cars being displayed along the Village Center. Everything from the pre-war classics through present day was on display. The Clenet being positioned alongside a late-20's LaSalle and across from a stunning '35 Packard. Centered on the lane were a brand-spanking-new 200-mile Ford GT in baby blue and a late-model red Ferrari paired with a Lamborghini in canary yellow. I have never been a huge fan of the Italian exotics, but after speaking to the owner of these cars and getting a personal visual thoughts are shifting.

The morning started with me detailing the Clenet at home in our garage wash-rack. I went back up to my condo to get ready and noticed rain showers moving into the area. I had 4 hours to arrive at the car show, and decided to take my time heading out. Mario entrusted my services to deliver paperwork and documents to a client of his in the far west suburbs, being that the car show was nearby to their home. I decided to leave about 45 minutes after the last rain shower that left the city streets a bit damp yet drivable.

The car was gleaming as I pulled out of my Gold Coast garage in Sandbur Village and drove up Sandburg Terrace towards North Avenue. Heading out on Lake Shore drive tested my patience with other drivers that were oblivious to me and my extra-clean Clenet! I must compliment the driver of the city-driven Dodge Neon who changed lanes ahead of me several times, kicking up copious amounts of standing water from between the lanes. As I headed westward on Interstate 55, the sky cleared and became mostly sunny. Within the hour, I delivered the parcel to Mario's client and could now concentrate on getting the car ready for the show.

While refueling at a nearby BP, I checked all vital fluids and noticed the newly filled transmission was low! Not finding Type-F fluid at the BP, I endured a quick jaunt through a nearby Wal-Mart, safely parking the Clenet far away from the local minivan-driving crowd. I topped off the transmission and then noticed a red glow within the radiator overflow tank, causing my heart to sink! Why would new coolant be deep red when it was yellowish-green going in? The transmission seemed to shift normally without any discernible variations in shift pattern or other quirks. I crawled under the Clenet and noted the underside of the transmission was dry without any leakage present.

Burr Ridge was all of 15 minutes away and I chose to get moving in that direction. I stopped along the Toll way at the newly remodeled oasis to let the car cool down while I enjoyed lunch at the Panda Express. After eating, I went back to the car to bucket-wash the insects and water spray from the fenders and front end. A good hour had passed, giving the car sufficient time to cool. I squeezed the upper radiator hose, checking for pressure with very little resistance. Opening the radiator, to my displeasure I found more transmission fluid floating on the coolant, confirming my suspicion of a problem with the trans-cooler within the radiator.

Spending over 90 minutes at the Toll way oasis, the registration time was quickly approaching. I was there at precisely three o'clock and took my spot as directed. Throughout the next five hours, the Clenet received a great deal of attention from fellow entrants and from the growing crowd. The few times I came back to the car, more and more people asked about the car and its history. I was very happy and eager to answer the many questions and enjoyed the pleasant comments and small talk. The show ended as the sun was fading, I was ready for my 70-mile cruise to return the Clenet. I found my way back to Lakeside utilizing Interstate 94, top down with the cool evening wind surrounding me. As I pulled into the drive, Mario and the gang came out to the car to greet me. It was a long day with the Clenet and it was time for a long-awaited glass of wine while Mario showed the car to his guests.

Knowing the car will now require a new radiator along with other work; we removed the hood assembly and delivered the car to Three Oaks Ford to resolve the newly found mechanical issues...we are sure more will be uncovered...proving that cars are meant to be driven!
-Ron Zarantenello

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Magnigicent Mile

Late Wednesday evening after enjoying the symphony at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, we took the Clenet out for a drive. Starting out from my Gold Coast neighborhood, we entered Lake Shore Drive southbound to Michigan Avenue. As we casually drove past the likes of Louis Vuitton, Neiman-Marcus, Gucci and Tiffany, we received many compliments from pedestrians, tourists and even a traffic cop.

There's something special about driving a car like this along Chicago's Magnificent Mile. With the top down, we were able to look up at all of the tall buildings and take in the sights. Each and every stoplight, we were the first car waiting for the light to change. The reactions were as simple as staring and smiling to cat-calls: Suhweeeet, nice car, cool ride, that a Rolls, check out that car, just to name a few.

Mario and I have only driven the car in the Harbor Country communities along Lake Michigan in the southwest tip of Michigan. Driving in the third largest metropolitan area of the country is a whole different game! There are so many people that must react to the car. On the road this morning, a car from two lanes over started blowing his horn and shouting towards my direction. I looked over and the guy simply had a huge smile on his face and his left thumb pointed up, hanging out the driver's side window. "Oh baby, that's one nice ride" was his only reaction just as the light turned green.

Fast forward to Thursday evening. After dinner I took the car out again for a quick jaunt up and down Lake Shore Drive, the Yacht Club and back to Michigan Avenue and the loop. It was about an hour earlier than when Mario and I were together the previous evening. More people were out and about and again, I received many of the same reactions and compliments.

This morning (Friday) as I drove to the office, a few co-workers on their bicycles passed me as I entered the GSP parking lot. They too have the thumb's up.

I must admit that the attention is fun, however there are times I feel a bit "too obvious" while waiting at a stoplight. A few less-fortunate people walking past in the crosswalk also gave the thumb's up and cat-calls...but I must say that I feel a bit guilty or embarrassed getting their attention. I return the gesture with a very heartfelt "thank you" as I do with all others.

The one fun thing is letting people know it's a Clenet...not an Excalibur or Rolls Royce. While downtown last night a car full of young guys asked about 172 questions from the next lane over. I had to quickly explain that it's not French and is an American car built by a French designer.

Who knows...maybe some of them will Google the name and find my blog? We'll see...

Tomorrow is the Burr Ridge Car show. I'm sure I'll have an update to add over the weekend.

Happy Motoring..

-Ron Zarantenell0

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lake Shore Drive

Mario and I just spoke on the phone. Tomorrow, he is driving the Clenet to Chicago so that I can have it this coming weekend to show at the Burr Ridge Village Center car show on Saturday afternoon. He will return to Michigan in my XK8 Thursday morning.

Wednesday evening we are meeting friends at Millennium Park to attend an outdoor concert at the Pritzker Pavilion. Our original plans were to drive the Clenet to our favorite restaurant in Old Town, however our plans changed when Bjorn sent an e-mail inviting us to the concert. Of course we will take the subway downtown for the concert...but something tells me that afterwards, you might find us driving the Clenet up and down Lake Shore Drive with the late evening wind swirling around us.

I'll have the Clenet in Chicago for a few days and let's hope the weather holds so that I can get some photo-ops in various settings!

We'll see...
-Ron Zarantenello

Stars and Stripes

On Sunday, June 15th we celebrated three occasions in Three Oaks, Michigan. The tiny village of Three Oaks continues to hold the title for hosting the world's largest Flag Day parade. We were entrant #130 for Century 21 First Team Realty. This is Mario's third year participating in the parade. Sunday was also Father's day and my sister Joan's birthday.

Most of our immediate family members live in suburban Chicago and welcomed the drive out to Three Oaks. Ken and I hosted the combined Father's day, birthday and pre-parade party at his Three Oaks home.

The morning was clear and sunny as I backed the Clenet out of the garage into the driveway. I then pulled my XK8 behind the Clenet to wash both at the same time. Just as I finished rinsing the cars, my brother Mario arrived, not in "car wash" garb! He had a listing appointment in an hour, so I delegated drying the Clenet to him.

Just as we finished drying both cars, the sunny clear skies turned dark with a west wind kicking up! We looked up and knew the heavens were about to open. He quickly pulled the Clenet into the garage while Ken was calling us in for breakfast. I didn't care about the XK8 getting rained long as the sand and mud was washed away!

As we began our wonderful breakfast, the first bolt of lightning flashed outside and a torrential, gusty downpour enveloped the neighborhood. The last thing I wanted was my family cancelling on us; and my parade getting rained upon! Mario departed to meet with his business partner for their listing appointment and would return in time for lunch with the family.

The local news channel reported that the severe storm would be short-lived and the sky would soon clear. Within the hour, just that happened and we were now able to go back outside and set up the back garden for our pre-parade family cookout. Ken was up 'til 2 a.m. that morning preparing the best homemade recipes and I patted out twenty half-pound burgers complete with my secret seasoning!

The family was scheduled to arrive at noon, giving me an hour to get tables and chairs set up. To my dismay, the lawn was too soaked for use and I had to change the locale. We were now going to dine alfresco on the front drive!

Tables, chairs and umbrellas were all relocated to the front driveway along with the grill and prep table. First to arrive was my sister Donna and our father. This was his first time seeing the Clenet and he headed straight for the car, still parked safely in the garage. My eldest brother and his family arrived next. He too made a beeline for the Clenet, asking many questions and giving his thoughts.

Suddenly, the sky turned dark and another gusty rainstorm plowed through the neighborhood leaving the outdoor furnishings toppled and blown into the next yard. Again, the local weather station Doppler showed a very thin line of storms moving quickly through the area. My sister Karen and her date arrived next. We were all accounted for with the exception of the birthday girl. Joan had decided to stay home on her birthday, I was very disappointed that she chose not to participate.

Ken was eagerly mastering the grill when Mario and Ginny arrived, and without further ado we served lunch at noon, all being very relieved that the skies were clear and sunny again.

The parade would be starting at three o'clock and the Clenet needed to be in its assigned spot by 2:00. Everyone helped clear the driveway of furniture to get the Clenet out of the garage. Once on the street, my father and brother Reno were the first to give it a whirl. Next were Karen and Clive who were both enamoured with the car! After the quick test drives, Mario and Ginny scurried off as everyone else prepared to leave for the parade route.

Ken and I walked to the other end of town to meet up with Mario, Ginny and the other Century 21 Realtors who were part of our group. Mario and Ginny prepared hundreds of flags to hand out along the route while Ken and I drove the Clenet. We threw 20 pounds of flag-wrapped tootsie rolls to the masses while navigating that wonderful car through town!

Over and over and over again...the cheers and compliments we received along the parade route resounded that our car was a huge hit. This was our second weekend with the car and again, we basked in the warm comments from the delighted crowd. I love driving this car! Whether down a winding country road or through town in a parade! I truly enjoy telling people about the car, how we found it and answer the many, many questions that are asked.

Now...if I can only get a pic of us driving the car in the parade! during all of the excitement, I completely forgot to have someone snap a few photos of me!

The day is only half over - there are two more post-parade parties where the Clenet took center stage. More to come...

Next weekend, I am invited to display the Clenet at the Burr Ridge Village Center car show.
-Ron Zarantenello

Monday, June 9, 2008

How many a's are in Fabulous?

Mario drove the entire distance from Three Oaks to the LCC-LMR meet, hosted on a 80+acre spread complete with a mile of paved driving track. As we turned into the private drive, about half of the attendees were gathered near an out-building at the end of the driveway, sharing lively banter. All conversations stopped, heads turned and all eyes were immediately upon us.

I didn't know what to say or expect from the group. We quickly asked where the show field was and drove off in the direction our host had gestured. As we drove away from the group, all I heard was "faaaaaabulous!" Hearing that many a's pronounced in the word fabulous, we knew we had a captive audience.

We took the next open spot and immediately fielded many, many questions from guys who own stunning mid-century Lincolns, Imperials, Cadillacs along with the Audi / Porsche / VW performance crowd. It wasn't too long that the host opened up the track and we had many of the guys asking to take the Clenet out. Of course we obliged!

Other than my brother and I discussing the purchase, I have not heard "Clenet" spoken so many times and by so many people...ever!

The Clenet looked great, we felt like celeb's and it was the perfect meet to debut our car. Next weekend: The worlds largest organized Flag Day parade!
-Ron Zarantenello

Off the truck and in good hands...

At 8:00 Friday morning, the carrier delivered our car. We were excited and relieved that it finally made its way to Three Oaks. The service team quickly examined the car as we discussed details to make it ready for a quick car show the following day. We agreed on a tentative completion time, barring any unfortunate findings once the car was thoroughly inspected.

Later in the day, Mario dropped in on the dealer and to his surprise, they had the car running. All it needed was a new fuel pump, filter and oil/trans service. We insisted on new tires which had been shipped via overnight service. A hearty thank you goes out to the guys at Three Oaks Ford and to Tom @ the Clenet Corner who phoned our service manager with information and suggestions!

I am the lucky brother who collected the car Saturday morning - 90 minutes earlier than promised. I was merely driving past the dealership and noticed our car off the rack and backed into the stall. The team met me as I entered the bay and told me to go ahead and take it out for a spin. A technician had already performed a road test and was confident we would be just fine for the afternoon LCC-LMR meet.

I immediately drove away to fill the tank with fresh gas and couldn't believe the amount of attention I was getting. After fueling, I drove back past the dealership to where some local friends were hosting a benefit car wash. As I approached the supermarket, I didn't see Mario driving towards me. He pulled his car up next to me and had the most incredible smile on his face! Wow...I knew that was you from a good mile away, he exclaimed!

He followed me to my partner's home where we spent the next three hours cleaning, polishing and buffing to get it ready. The sunburn was worth it! As I compose this posting, my neck is still tingling.

By 2PM we were off to the car show, not expecting the reaction received from our fellow club members...we never thought our Clenet would be the jewel of the show!
-Ron Zarantenello

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's a real car!

This car is a treat to drive, the frame is strong and rigid, the body is solid and the overall feel of the car is: it's a real car. The guys at Three Oaks Ford did a great job getting it ready for us to take to a car club event today. From Friday morning through Saturday morning she got a new fuel pump, new tires, a new steering bushing that was sorely needed and an oil and trans fluid change. Monday morning she goes back for chemical flush, belts, hoses, filters, plugs, rotor, cap, etc.

We did notice that there is a clunk coming from the drivers side rear axle. Either a trailing arm, spring or bearing. That will get a full check up too.

I'm going to enjoy this car very much.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

I've never been this anxious...

The car is scheduled to be delivered early tomorrow (Friday) morning with the service team at Three Oaks Ford ready rock and roll! We will be there to facilitate the car coming off the truck and then do a walk-around with the service manager once in the service bay.

I've never been this anxious over any other car that I have purchased over the years. Looking back on the first car I purchased on my own caused similar excitement because at the age of 18, it was the first car I had to myself. Back then my brother Mario and I shared our first two cars while in High School. I asserted my independence from Mario and my father by doing so. At that time, Mario and I shared the use of our father's '75 Buick Electra 225. Back then I wanted a Mustang or similarly sized car, however as I started to research quality used cars in my price-range...the mid-70's Opel Manta or GT were the cars I settled on.

Within a few weeks, a wonderful '73 Opel Manta Luxus edition was being advertised in the local newspaper. Burgundy with burgundy cloth interior and real wood accents. My brother and I drove over to the seller's home and found it to be in very good condition with just under 50K on the odometer. To me, this represented my freedom. Small, zippy and much better built than the Mustang II's and other similarly priced/sized used cars of the time.

I drove that Opel for 2 years without any breakdowns or repairs needed. That Opel served me well, however I now became interested in another "want" and that was the MGB! I sold the Opel for $100 less than what I originally paid for it and made certain it went to a good home.

The purchase of the Clenet brings the total number of cars I've owned by myself or jointly with my brother to about 43 or so.

Will I ever be this anxious over another car?
-Ron Zarantenello

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Now What!

The team got the car running for short periods of time by priming the carburetor. After several repetitions we all decided to stop to keep the raw gasoline from washing any remaining oil from the pistons and cylinders. Seeing that the car will eventually run, I handed over the nonnegotiable payment to the seller, which was a very fair price for us all, considering the amount of work it will require to make roadworthy.

The team had to disband and I again was left alone with the car. I opened the driver's door and sat in our car...our Clenet! It took 28 years to find it and now it was ours. I was now able to phone my brother Mario who had been anxiously awaiting a call from me. I told him that he'd be hearing from me by ten o'clock that morning and as I looked at my watch it was half past one in the afternoon! I quickly phoned Mario in New Buffalo, MI at his office to let him know it started and that we just bought a car! I could hear the excitement in his voice, however he had to maintain his professional composure. Looking down that long hood at the crystal ornament, I had begun to imagine myself driving this wonderful creation between Chicago and Harbor Country!

Now what! How do we get her home to Harbor Country! I had made pre-arrangements with the same transport company that came six months earlier to snap up the seller's other cars, however they were told the car was in full running order. How do we move a non-running four-thousand pound neo-classic? I called the transport service thinking the deal was off, and to my surprise, the shipping representative told me that she already had a truck in Dallas and the vehicle not running wasn't a concern...just a higher fee to winch it onto the truck. I told her to send the driver as early as possible. No less than 40 hours later, the car was being hoisted onto the carrier while I was back in Michigan having breakfast!

As of this morning (Wednesday 6/3/08) the car should have arrived by now. Mario just learned that the hauler experienced a malfunction/breakdown just outside of Des Moines, Iowa and the anticipated delivery will be two days late. I found the car, hopped a jet to see the car and then crawled in, under and over...afterwards arranging the shipment; I have now passed the helm to Mario. Once the car is in Three Oaks, MI on Friday, it is he who will be working directly with the servicing dealer to bring it back to life. New tires are already on overnight order and other "tune-up" parts are ready and waiting the arrival. I see a great deal of magic wadding being consumed on all that bright-work!

We are hoping that we can use the car Saturday afternoon to attend the LCC/LMR's get-together about an hour from Harbor Country! Let's all keep our fingers crossed!

Next...she now has a new home, but still needs to be named!

So what is a Clenet?

My first introduction to the Clenet was from the car magazine that my brother Ron spoke of earlier and for me it was love at first sight. What I liked the most about the Clenet was the styling and the proportion of the body vs the chassis. What most people do not notice on the Neo-classics is that the radiator grille is supposed to be centered on the front axle, while the front fenders are supposed to extend quite far ahead of the front axle. The windshield attaches to the cowl via a frame which is usually not painted body color and the body/cockpit of the car must sit within the frame rails. Plant the occupants between the front and rear axles and with that you have the correct proportions of the Neo-classic car. At the time Excalibur and Clenet were doing this, there were many other Neo-classics that just got it all wrong and they looked awkward. The kit cars of that era had some proportions right but then lost it with the styling.

The Clenet is no kit-car. Not even close! The upscale car manufacturers of the 20's and 30's were essentially producing rolling chassis that came with a cowl, hood and grille; which was sent to a coach-builder who then built a custom body. Roadsters, sedans and coupe's were usually built on the same size frame; Clenet, copying this practice took a full size rolling frame purchased from Lincoln/Mercury and added a highly modified MG roadster body. He designed the rest of the car to blend these "store-bought" parts together with seamless grace. In doing so, he was able to conform to the State and Federal CAFE standards. The frame, wiring, engine/driveline were already engineered and thus were 50-state compliant, the bodies were already engineered with impact beams, hinged doors, handles, windows, etc., so there again he was able to save time and money too. With the Feds taken care of, he now had the artistic and creative freedom that he strove for.

Excaliburs have original frames and bodies and this is where some "purists" turn up their noses at the Clenet. I used purist in quotations because it is my firm belief that if they are going to snub the Clenet then they are simply the pot calling the kettle black. The Excalibur and the Clenet were both built with the exact same idea, build a unique car with graceful styling of the 30's but give it modern drivability. I like the fact that the side pipes on the Excalibur are fully functional and I wish they were functional on the Clenet; but I'll glady let that one go when the Clenet needs exhaust work! Another advantage of the MG body is that the parts are available and inexpensive, new body panels, new clips, gizmo's and do-dads are readily available from several sites. The chassis, engine, brakes, suspension, trans, wiring loom and more is all stock Ford, parts are available at any Ford dealer, discount auto store or wrecking yard. There are some very, very pricey unique parts on a Clenet. The crystal ashtray, hood ornament and assorted body emblems are impossible to find and have price tags to match when found. If we ever have the need for body work the fenders and faux exhaust pipes will cost as much as a brand new car!

Lincolns and MGs were what I drove most of my young adult years, now I have both makes in one car.


Seeing is believing...

I immediately phoned the Milwaukee, Wisconsin number found on the web-page where the car was being advertised. The lady who answered the phone told me the car was not located in Milwaukee, but rather just outside of Dallas, Texas. She explained that her company (Camelot) was consigning the car for an elderly gentleman who was liquidating his entire collection. Previously, she facilitated the transport of his other vehicles, including several Excaliburs, a Maserati and a stunning early 60's Caddy.

Their web-site displayed about twelve pics of the car and gave a brief history of the Clenet Coachworks company. What I didn't believe was that the car had a mere 1,427 miles on the odometer or never driven by the owner.

I gave her my contact info and asked for the owner to contact me. About two days later I received a call at my office from Texas, I immediately knew it was the owner of this Clenet. We had a 45-minute conversation and just as we were about to hang up, he wanted to fax the original title and bill of sale to me. Of course I said yes...and within minutes the pages appeared on my computer. Again, I couldn't forward those documents to my brother fast enough...who called me immediately and exclaimed that we needed to buy this car.

I phoned the seller and told him that I needed to see the car and how soon could I fly down to the Dallas area. I was on the Orbitz web-site making reservations while confirming the date we could meet at his estate. Nine days later on May 29th, my flight for Dallas departed Chicago. I would spend that evening at the Super 8 hotel near DFW on the outskirts of Dallas.

Early Friday morning I got into my rental PT Cruiser and drove 130+ miles eastward to finally see the car at his home. He met me at the front of his one-thousand acre estate and took me to a series of out-buildings where the family business had been run over forty years. What an interesting man. My mind kept saying "take me to the car," but my heart told me to be patient and let him show his life-long passion. After an hour passed, we finally drove up to the house where his stable of cars once resided.

There it was, Clenet number 229 of 250 seeming a bit lonely in a building that once housed at least five other cars. Memories hung on the walls where his other trophies of success were once proudly displayed. The car never moved from that spot after being transported from the selling dealer in Dallas since the Spring of 1989. He said they hadn't started it in over six years and it obviously needed some freshening and a battery. He put his best men to the task as I said, "hey, let's see if we can get her running." John with his son Paul and I jumped to action, somewhat like a pit-crew; Paul found fresh gasoline on the estate while John drove away to purchase a new battery.

I was now alone with the car. Seeing is believing and from what I observed, yes...this car traveled just 1,427 miles its whole life! What a shame that he never truly enjoyed this vehicle from behind the wheel.

I took in the immaculate red leather interior with grey lambswool carpets and burl wood accents. This car reminded me of how a Rolls Royce smells! I raised the trunk lid and found the same luxurious wool carpets. "Is this for real and what's the catch" kept running through my mind. I'm alone, my brother Mario could not join me on this expedition. We agreed that I had ultimate authority to back out of the purchase if the car didn't meet my expectations. I'm questioning I making the right decision? If I back out, will he be angry?

This car had not seen the light of day since 1989. The exterior wood accents are perfect. The paint has one minor stone chip. The exterior chrome and stainless trim are slightly discolored from the Texas humidity. I know it will come back to its full potential with chrome polish and lots of elbow grease. Then we raised the hood and there it engine that hadn't been run in years. Oh my...what now...

I pulled the dipstick and noted full oil, slightly discolored. The radiator was half-full so we chose to top it off with just water. John returned with the fresh battery and we installed it. The car came to life with the ignition buzzer sounding and all of the lights were functioning. We pulled the distributor wire and turned the key. Hail Mary...the car turned over and sounded like any other Ford V8 from the 70's! We chose to turn it over for a few seconds at a time. After several tries, we decided to prime the carb and give it a started and ran for all of 6 seconds. The small amount of gasoline quickly burned out and we added more. Again, Paul added a bit more gasoline and I turned the restarted. We repeated this process several times without any knocks, clangs, pings or chatter. Just a solid rumble and a gasping carburetor wanting more fuel.

It wants to live...

29 years in the making...

My twin brother Mario and I turned 16 in the Fall of 1979. About a year earlier as we had begun our Driver's Ed program at our Suburban Chicago High School, our Aunt Arlene purchased a magazine titled "Elite Cars" for us to read while visiting her. The magazine featured the likes of Rolls Royce, Aston Martins through Mercedes and Avanti. One car featured was the newly introduced Clenet Series I. We were both immediately drawn to that car! We would soon be driving and the cars we wanted spanned from Mustangs to the Mark V! The Clenet stuck with me ever since reading that magazine.

To this day, I have no idea why that Clenet has stuck with me. The other Neo-Classic vehicle of the era was the Excalibur, however for some reason, the Excalibur just didn't do it for us! There was something about the Clenet...that long hood, its low profile or perhaps the original prototype being built on a Lincoln chassis. We immediately recognized the Lincoln grill shell and the MG Midget cowl, however we saw the Clenet as a whole car...graceful in our eyes.

Fast forward to late May, 2008. I'm at home in Chicago catching up with some friends while on-line when my brother sends an e-mail to me. I open the message and I see a white Clenet (or what appeared to be a Clenet) for sale with just four words contained in his note: "Should we buy this?" I opened the ad and saw that the vehicle was a 1981. Knowing that the Series I production ended in 1979, I knew that the car depicted was not a Clenet...but perhaps a Corsair or other similar knock-off. It was listed in the upper $20's which kept my interest. For a week, I studied the ad, the pics and even called the seller to inquire, however it wasn't a Clenet and I wouldn't give up that easily.

While at his home is S.W. Michigan over a weekend, we discussed buying a Clenet and agreed that we'd somehow make it happen. Search after search on Google took us to a few later model Clenet's for sale, however we were adamant about finding a Series I. We found many that have sold over the past 24 months, however of the 249 Series I cars made, none were officially for sale. I started contacting the known dealers of Neo-Classic and Special Interest vehicles, all replied that none were available.

We agreed to give it a rest and would wait for one to come on the market. That next Monday as I returned to my home and job in Chicago, I sat at my laptop and put Google to task. I entered many combinations and phrases with the hopes of finding fresh pages and web-sites that might have a Clenet Series I for sale.

BINGO... Who knew that by entering the words "Consignment" and "Clenet" into the search engine would find the car of my dreams? There it was...waiting for someone to give it a new home! My heart was racing...I had to call my brother to tell him that I just found "the car" for us. I couldn't dial the phone fast enough...

More to come...
Ron Zarantenello