For the third consecutive year, my rally brother Steve and I entered the New England-based vintage car rally hosted by our friends Rich and Jean Taylor. While Steve’s Sunbeam Tiger was the steed of choice yet again, a few details were different. For one, Steve’s job had temporarily relocated him to Sweden, so participation required a flight across the big pond. (Care and feeding of the Tiger was left to me, which I recollect involved filling it with fuel.)
Second, in honor of Y2K, the rally was renamed The New England 2000, with a promise that the driving would encompass 2,000 kilometers (or about 1250 miles). Really not a large change from years past, until you factor in the drive we made from central Jersey to the rally and back. Our total round-trip mileage in the year 2000 was closer to 2,000.
Perhaps most interestingly to Steve and me, the breadth and variety of automotive entries exceeded what we had witnessed in ’98 and ’99. The official route book showed 65 vehicles registered! (Rich and Jean advertise that the field is capped at 50.) No doubt, not all them showed up, as the book must go to print several weeks before the event, and we’ve seen how peoples’ plans change. But the magnificence of the cars in attendance was akin to my favorite automotive picture book coming to life.
This volume allowed the Mercedes Benz 300SLs (10) to have their own class, as did the Porsche 356s (6). Cars that I saw in the metal for the first time included a Toyota 2000GT convertible and a BMW 507 (piloted by an all-female team). A pre-war supercharged Bentley, several Jaguar E-Types, a Shelby Mustang, and a to-die-for Ferrari 330 GTS were other favorites. Well-known drivers included Miles Collier of the Revs Institute and AutoWeek publisher Leon Mandel, who spoke at one of the week’s dinners. Sadly, he passed away just two years later.
The photos show more rainy days than we were forced to tolerate the previous two years, but hearing these classic cars run and watching them move in all kinds of conditions only served to reinforce why we were doing this. Speaking of photos, I’ll let them tell the rest of this story.
There are plenty more rally stories to come. Stay tuned.
Oh, for the love of querty! While creating the daily blog entries during the rally last week, I was forced to peck at a tablet “keyboard” which severely limited my prose. By the end of the week, I omitted all text and had resorted to posting only pictures. So now, with five days of reflection since the rally ended, allow me to sum up the experience.
My rally co-driver, co-navigator, and all-around great car guy Steve Hansen was with me all week, which is always a treat. Steve and I drove our first NE1000 together in his Sunbeam Tiger in 1998. Since then, we have co-driven this event SEVEN times. (We have also cheated on each other by twice driving the rally with others.) In addition to three times with Tiger, we’ve been twice in a ’68 Mustang, and now our second time in my ’67 Alfa. It is especially heart-warming to me that Steve, as a resident of the state of California, is willing to fly east to participate. He does admit to secretly harboring a desire to visit New England if only to see green foliage, a sight sorely lacking in his part of the country.
We meet up with many of the same faces each time, and it never feels like a year since we’ve last been with our fellow rallyists. They keep it interesting for us by bringing different vehicles. Among the cars, American iron counted for a slightly higher percentage of the vehicle count, and as had been the case in recent times, modern exotics also were aplenty (more about that shortly).
This year, “RPM”, a service and restoration shop in VT, provided mechanical assistance (as they have for the past 20 years), but also brought along several of their classics as back-up transportation should a rally car break and become unrepairable. Their Alfa spider was driven by at least three couples who needed something else while their cars underwent surgery. There was an ulterior motive: all the cars they brought are for sale, and I’m certain they had some interested parties by the end of the week.
Our organizers and hosts, Rich and Jean Taylor, pride themselves on planning a unique route each time out. This year was no different, with the Mohohk Mountain House in New Paltz NY serving as the host hotel for the start and finish, and the Cranwell Resort in Lenox MA also providing overnight accommodations. Our four days of driving took us through much of the eastern part of upstate NY, as well as portions of southern VT and NH. While we had more than our usual share of daytime traffic and road construction, we also had glorious sweepers through undulating hills, with little or no traffic to impede our forward progress. Most of the roads were actually paved.
Regular followers of this blog know that the Alfa got a completely rebuilt front suspension over this past winter, and with barely 100 shakedown miles on it before departure, I am pleased to report that the front end remained attached to the vehicle. Actually, the car drove quite well, with all previous front-end knocks and squeaks banished. Steering feel was excellent, especially through the twisties.
One issue which arose late on Sunday was an intermittent miss or hesitation, which at first only revealed itself on steep inclines. By Monday afternoon, it felt like it was getting worse. I had a concern regarding the percentage of ethanol used in the fuel in New York State, and had pre-emptively begun using Sta-Bil brand fuel additive for ethanol. After dosing (probably over-dosing) the tank 3 or 4 times, Steve and I decided to eliminate the Sta-Bil, as it was the only “new” variable that we had changed. By the second fill-up without the additive, it was as if someone had thrown a switch. The car ran better than ever, and we banished the additive to the trunk (my remaining supply is now on eBay). The car ran absolutely flawlessly the remainder of the week.
Eighteen years ago, while driving home after our first rally, we both marveled at the concept that “car people” would take their precious old Jaguars, Porsches, Ferraris, and the like, and actually drive these valuable old automobiles, rain or shine. We have never felt the same about a static car show since. Each year, there is something about driving your old car down the road, and having a Ferrari Daytona in front of you, and an AC Bristol behind you. While photo opportunities seem to become more infrequent as the week wears on, we did manage to squeeze off a few shots of cars on the road with us.
One morning at breakfast, a couple who were driving this rally for the first time (in their modern 911) asked us what has changed over the years. This started a lengthy and at times quite humorous recollection of “the way it was”. At one time, cars had to be 1973 or older, so no modern metal. A large part of your week was spent tending to matters underhood to ensure you’d make the full 1,000 miles. The TSD (Time/Speed/Distance) part of the week was fiercely competitive. One driver at our table freely admitted that back in the day, he would approach an intersection intending to turn right, but would signal left to purposely confuse the fellow rallyist behind him. We covered broader swaths of territory, because we changed hotels each and every night. Each week, there were optional off-road driving challenges including hill climbs, autocrosses, gymkhanas, and drag races. Drivers drove their cars in anger (helmets were required, and were always carried by us the first few years). Cars sometimes broke during these “races”.
Among the “new” cars this year were about a half dozen Porsche 911s and a Mercedes-McLaren SLR. We overheard one couple in a 911 complain that their biggest issue this week was lack of “sufficient USB ports” in the center console. Sorry, that’s not “rallying”, that’s “driving your new car on the same roads as rally cars”. End of rant.
Banquet night on Thursday is always a highlight, as scores are announced, awards are presented, and we all shake hands with the promise to see each other at the next rally. Steve and I have been teased for years about looking like brothers, so we played into their hands and dressed in matching outfits. For such creativity, we got an extra piece of glass crystal to cart home, providing me with one more object in my home office to dust. The drive home on Friday in the Alfa was super smooth, and was spent plotting our next rally adventure.
Wednesday’s driving took us from MA and into CT, where we visited Dragone Classic Motorcars and lunched at the home of Bill Scheffler. The Scheffler homestead was the day’s highlight, for the magnificent garage, the lawn’s car collection, and the lobster lunch. It was a long but lovely drive back into NY and a return to the Mohonk Mountain House.
Today, our first day of driving started by taking us from New Paltz NY to the Saratoga Auto Museum in Saratoga Springs NY. We toured the museum and ate lunch on the grounds.
From Saratoga we drove to Hemmings World Headquarters in Bennington VT. From there it was off to the Cranwell Resort, our host hotel in Lenox MA for the next two nights.
As we have discovered in the past, once the driving starts, the photo ops become less frequent. Nevertheless I was able to squeeze off a few shots including some cars in motion. Again I will let today’s pictures tell the story.
Each year, this classic car rally has a home base which serves as a starting and ending point. For 2015 that home base is the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz NY. Departing NJ at about 1pm, the Alfa easily handled the ride up the NY Thruway. Improvements to the cooling system kept the engine temperature under control at 85 degrees and 70mph.
The Alfa and I arrived in a little over two hours. It was a personal thrill to meet up with my rally brother Steve Hansen, who flew in from California (again) to drive the rally with me.
As always, there was the ceremonial installation of the front license plate. We then perused the parking lot to take in this year’s rally choices. The cars were more eclectic than ever, with a larger mix of domestic iron than we usually see.
Having completed our first rally together in 1998, the fun of meeting up with other rallyists whom we have gotten to know through the years sometimes outweighs the fun of seeing the spectacular cars.
From here I will let the photos speak for themselves. At 8am Monday morning the actual rallying begins.