Vintage Car Events Compared

Trevor asked:
I found your blog through your Colorado 1000 event. I really liked the photos. They did the job very well. I’d like to make the 2006 event and would like to make that the goal for my car. I’ve contacted them about regestering, so we’ll see as I think they only have space for 75 cars. Did you get in right away or did you have to wait for space? Are you going in 2006?

Look forward to any thoughts on it. Thanks, Trevor

So here I’ll take a moment to do a personal comparative of the various events I’ve been lucky enough to participate in, and share what I have heard about other events. This is just my opinion, and the opinion of others, expressed to me, so remember everyone will experience these things differently.

First of all though, I was invited to the Grand as a co-driver, so I have no real idea how easy or hard it is to get in (though I have some guesses…) My car is not old enough to go on that event, so I hadn’t thought about going. For me it was a “consolation prize” for missing another event due to the Jaguar’s engine troubles.

To my understanding vintage sports car events began here in the US about 20 years ago. The first two were the California Mille, and the Colorado Grand. Both did their best to emulate what the founders thought were the best qualities of the European events (such as the Mille Millia in Italy), such as the running of significant old cars, without the risks involved in racing them. Both the Grand and the Mille are therefore “tours”. They cover some distance every day, and stay in nice hotels with (usually) good food. The price tags for these events are steep.

The Grand and Mille also have become a magnet for the most exclusive of cars. First, the field is limited to pre-1960 machines. Then, like I said in my diary of the Colorado Grand, here was a place where stunning and rare machinery such as a 300sl, or a Ferrari 250 GT are “pedestrian”… where else will you see actual pre-war Alfas or Le Mans pedigreed sports cars out for a 1000 mile drive?? The event managers do their best to focus on the unique, and I suspect that only by having been a “regular” event attendee would you be able to bring something as “pedestrian” as a production Healey or Jaguar. I haven’t been on the California Mille yet. I found the Colorado Grand to be enjoyable, but being a first-timer myself I didn’t really get to know too many folks. Those that I did get to know were great, but I have to admit I felt a bit outside the “clique” of people who have been doing the Grand for 10 or 15 years. I’ve heard good things about the California Mille, and I have gone on three other Martin Swig organized events (The Cannonball Classic, the La Carrera Nevada, & the Mille Autunno… which I’ll cover later.) The only thing bad I’ve heard about the Mille is roads and weather. Otherwise an auto tour of Northern California sounds like fun.

The natural evolution of the vintage sports car event beyond the above, then went in two directions. One towards a more competitive event, the other towards a less expensive event.

Rich Taylor’s Vintage Rallies events are the former. Like the famous tours they are not cheap, but they add spice to the event by adding some mild competition. It is basic – very basic – Time/Speed/Distance rallying. Rich also frequently arranges speed events at racetracks… everything from cones, to road courses, to ovals, to dragstrips. He’s even thrown in some Karting on occasion! This, in my opinion makes it a LOT more enjoyable. The TSD is easy enough that you can take it easy, or make it a real competition. Everything that you find on a tour is there, but the competition angle adds a lot of fun to it. The people on Rich’s events are great folks as well. We’ve met some wonderful people there.

If you only could do ONE vintage sports car event, I’d suggest doing one of Rich Taylor’s. He does an amazing job, and I’ve never failed to have a blast doing one.

The other events I have heard of, but yet to participate in, are the so-called “rat rallies”. These are barely-organized, low-cost, no-frills, cheap-motel, tours. They seem most common in California, but I suspect they can be found anywhere there is a critical mass of old car owners. I’ve been invited to a couple, and will get down there for one some day… but so far I’ve either been too busy at work, or the car has been broken at the time. Maybe 2006?

speaking of broken cars…
There is another tour, close to home, that I signed up for last year, that I had to withdraw from. The Going To The Sun Rally in Montana. I was really jazzed about this one, and REALLY wanted to go when the whole engine fiasco happened with the E-type. I had exchanged a bunch of emails with the event organizers, and they sounded like great guys. The route looked wonderful. But fate intervened. I re-applied for next year and can’t wait to go. Trevor, if you can get in that one we could caravan over to Montana and back, adding some more adventure to it!

As I mentioned above, Martin Swig puts on several events a year, not all of them big production tours. They range from the low-key “anti-football run” (being held tomorrow morning), to the California Mille. I noticed that he’s listing two of the larger “rat rallies” on his site now too. I did the Mille Autunno in 2004 and had a great time. The roads and people were great. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, especially since it is a west coast event.

There are others out there. The Copperstate 1000 is in Arizona. I have heard it is a very social event, with a very friendly crowd attending. I’ve never been on it. I have heard of another one, in Utah(?), called the “Red Rocks Rally” (?) that is supposed to be nice too.

On the more competitive end of the scale there is the Targa Newfoundland, and Brock Yates “One Lap of America”… I wouldn’t mind having a go at either of those, but I doubt my car is up to them!

I imagine there are many more that I haven’t heard of.

Overall, you can’t go wrong with any of these. The roads and cars are amazing, and the people fun. The only limiters are time and budget. Like I said before, if you could only do ONE, I’d pick a Rich Taylor/Vintage Rallies event. That little bit of competition makes it so much more fun in my mind. Especially if your co-driver is another “car guy”… if you bring along the wife/gf/mistress/SO/whatever, you might want to pick a more social event… unless she’s REALLY cool about car stuff.

Hope that answers your question Trevor. Thanks for asking. Even if we don’t meet up at one of these events, we’ll have to get together for a drive sometime!

2 thoughts on “Vintage Car Events Compared”

  1. Hi Chuck,

    Thanks for your reply. I was hoping for this exact info. I’ll check out the various leads you’ve provided and try and set something up for the end of this summer so I’ll have time to finish my car. I’ll keep you posted.. it would be good to do a convoy to a rally. Either way I’ll fire you an email next time I’m headed to Seattle or perhaps you’ll make it to the British car show here in Vancouver?


  2. I suppose you mean the ABFM at Van Deusen Gardens in May?

    I’m not a “concours guy” (my car is NOT a concours car either!) and I’ve never been to the ABFM in Vancouver. I might go some year though. I DO get up there for rallies and Slaloms though. I love to run the cones in JCNA slaloms. There are several Jaguar club events around Vancouver I would like to get to this year. My mechanic/engine builder is also in Chiliwack, and as soon as I get another few hundred miles on the engine, I have to get it up to him for some TLC.


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