When we were teenagers living in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, we had a 1972 Land Rover Series III. Our favorite activity was taking the Rover out, never going anywhere in particular, just going. We called it going on safari. The Rover broke down a lot. It was an adventure always.
We spent a lot of time sitting in the back of that Land Rover, talking about stupid stuff, talking about important stuff. I was going off to college, and we both knew we were being asked to grow up. We agreed that jobs weren’t for us. We wanted to do what we did best and loved most: drive around in our Land Rover, see new things, see old things in a new way, go places, get stuck, have adventures. We wanted to stay on safari.
So we came up with a plan to drive from Alaska to Patagonia, allotting two years for the expedition. Any quicker and it might seem like we had somewhere to get to. We applied for grants, announced our plans to friends and family, spent countless hours in our garage discussing modifications to the Rover, and made a packing list. Eventually we decided that, although we loved our little truck, a Land Defender 110 was more suited to our purposes. Of course, they aren’t for sale in the United States. We wondered what it would take to import one.
Two and a half years later we have a business sourcing and importing classic European vehicles of all kinds, with an emphasis on overlanders and 4x4s.
The Hunt Begins: One Month, 6,000 miles, and Ten Countries, in Search of One Alfa Romeo Montreal
Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, France, Poland. On the road, every day is the same: We eat three gas station sandwiches. We drink twelve or twenty cappuccinos. We look for a McDonalds so we can get free WiFi and bathrooms. We narrate the lives of the people we pass by, and listen to the stories of those we meet. We drive all night. We inspect cars all day. We camp for a few hours on the side of the road. We are always in a hurry, never on time.
On most buying trips, we are chasing lots of different types of cars. On this one, we are after one thing: an Alfa Romeo Montreal. We buy our cars almost exclusively from private sellers. It usually goes something like this:
We email them from the US.
We are interested in your car.
They don’t believe us.
We are in Poland, can we come see your car?
They laugh at us. Sure, sure you can come. I am waiting on you.
We drive four hours through the countryside.
We are in your town. Where do you live?
They laugh, again. You’re here? Sure, sure, come, I am waiting on you.
We arrive. More laughter, handshakes, coffee, car.
On this trip, we drive thousands of miles through a dozen countries, but drive the same routes over and over. We zip past big cities and stop in small towns. Perhaps we can’t tell you about the Reichstag building in Berlin, or about the fondue in Zurich, but after one month on the road we can tell you other things. We can tell you what a cup of coffee tastes like in ten different countries. We know which countries have the nicest rest stops. Give us a gas station sandwich and we can tell you exactly what country we’re in. We see everything and nothing. We are going everywhere and nowhere at once. There is only us and our car.