In 2014, for the first and (so far) only time, I traveled up to Lime Rock for their Labor Day Vintage Race Weekend and took advantage of the ‘Gathering of the Marques’, which allows owners of certain automobiles to put their cars on display. That year, I drove my Mazda Miata to the show, and although I still had to pay full price to enter, I was allowed to circle the track, find the Miata group, and park with them.
There were several special treats this year, including displays of Fiat 500s, Fiat Abarths, and a personal appearance from famed race car driver Sir Stirling Moss. As is typical for Lime Rock, some of the cars in the parking lot are just as interesting as the ones in the show, and the paddocks are open to allow spectators to roam freely (but no touching!).
Another unique element to my visit is that I stayed overnight locally, which enabled me to take in some racing action. Photographing speeding vehicles is an art unto itself, and one that I need to practice more. Nevertheless, I was able to fire off a few shots of cars at speed that I trust my readers will find of interest.
I’m almost certain that 1990 was my first visit to Lime Rock Park in Salisbury CT for its Labor Day Fall Festival weekend. The tip likely came from a fellow employee at Volvo Cars North America. The racing photos prove that this visit was either the Saturday or the Monday of that weekend, as by local ordinance, there is no racing allowed on Sunday. My recollection is that I “took a ride” just to see what I might see, and I did indeed stumble upon something wonderful.
Judging by information on the www.limerock.com website, the Vintage Racing weekend would have been in its eighth year in 1990, meaning we were there near the beginning of it all. Paying guests are allowed to wander throughout the paddocks, and my photos reflect an interesting variety of classic machinery, some of it quite valuable in 2022. For instance, the red Jaguar XK-120 would have been worth around $50,000 in #2 condition (according to my 1990 copy of Krause’s Standard Catalog of Imported Cars). My most recent copy of the CPI (Cars of Particular Interest) Value Guide shows that same car valued today at $165,000. That Maserati 3500 GT Coupe is pinned at $15,000 by Krause in 1990; CPI says today’s value is closer to $225,000. Want to take a guess on the BMW 507? According to the respective value books, in 1990: $105,000. In 2022: $2.3 million. Among these 3, the 507 wins the ‘percentage increase’ contest. If only we had a crystal ball….
This initial visit lit a flame in me that burns to this day. Especially in more recent years, I’ve almost never missed a visit to Lime Rock during Labor Day weekend, although, as I’m not a big racing fan, my visits are almost always to attend the “Sunday in the Park” static car show, about which I’ve posted numerous times (2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017). While Lime Rock is not on the beaten path, it’s worth going out of your way for it if you have not been there.
It’s three hours to the minute to drive door-to-door from my home in central New Jersey to the gates of Lime Rock Park, in the rolling hills of northwest CT. The long ride is worth it, as proven by my almost-annual pilgrimage to this, likely my favorite East Coast car show, which I’ve been attending since the 1990’s. What makes the Labor Day Weekend Sunday Concours so special? It’s the quality and variety of the vehicles on display. I’m a regular at Carlisle, Hershey, Macungie, Mecum Harrisburg, Greenwich, and various AACA events in my area. Yet Lime Rock always manages to create displays of automobiles I almost never see anywhere else, and, they do it without dragging out the same vehicles year after year.
I will let the photos act as my ‘evidence’, and I dare you to disagree!
The Lime Rock crew does a nice job segregating vehicles based on age and country of origin. In addition, there are always special classes each year.
This rarely-seen Alfa Romeo 2600, with an inline 6-cylinder engine, was resplendent in its burgundy paint with red interior.
The Trans Am pony cars were the featured vintage racecars of the weekend.
The GM Heritage Collection brought a number of rare and valuable Corvettes to the show. The star among them for me was the Mako Shark. The sign omits any mention of the fish being painted to match the car 😉 . (If you don’t know the story, you can read it here.)
Hudsons, stock and in race livery
THE WORLD’S ONLY VOLVO 142GT?
This fellow Dave talked my head off, but, he was passionate and knowledgeable beyond belief. The car’s trunk was full of authentic VOA (Volvo of America) catalogs of racing parts, many of which were installed on his car. He started with a rust-free 1971 142, which he completely restored to the way he wanted it. Along the way, he added a competition cylinder head, dual Solex carbs, a GT grille with fog lights, a GT dash cluster, accessory wheels, “142 GT” emblems, and much more. He estimated that the engine is putting out about 180HP. He name-dropped Mitch Duncan and Bob Austin along the way, so he seemed credible. In essence, he built a hot-rod 142E, using 100% factory parts.
A rare (and valuable) Ferrari 288GTO
More German cars
Jaguar E-Types (called XKE in America) were another featured model
JAGUAR E-TYPE SPOTTERS GUIDE
Series 1 cars were built from 1961-1967. They are distinguished by their glass-covered headlamps, with front signal lamps and rear lamps mounted above the bumpers. At first, there were two body styles: FHC (Fixed Head Coupe) and OTS (Open Two-Seater). In 1966 a lengthened model called the 2+2, with a tiny rear seat, was added. The Coupe can be distinguished from the 2+2 from the side. Make note of the length of the door glass and rear quarter glass. In the Coupe, the two are roughly equal. In the 2+2, the door glass is notably longer.
Series II cars were built from 1968 part-way through 1971. (Some 1968 cars have a combination of Series I and Series II features and are sometimes referred to as “Series 1.5”. We will not get into the distinction here.) Series II cars have exposed headlamps. The grille opening is slightly enlarged, but still only wears a single horizontal bar. Front signal and rear lights are mounted below the bumpers. Side marker lights were added to U.S. models. The 3 body styles, FHC, OTS, and 2+2, continued.
NOTE: All Series I and Series II cars had smooth (non-flared) wheel well openings, and all were powered by Jaguar’s inline 6-cylinder engine, although displacement increased from 3.8L to 4.2L.
Series III cars were built from mid-1971 through 1974, the final year for the E-Type. There were some major changes: the only available engine was now a V-12. The 2+2 continued, and the convertible was now built on the longer wheelbase of the 2+2, making an optional automatic transmission available in all body styles for the first time. The shorter Coupe body style was discontinued. The grille opening was made larger still, and received an eggcrate insert. Front and rear fender flares were added (the flares can be the easiest way to distinguish between Series II and Series III cars from a distance).
Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, will always signify the Lime Rock Park Fall Vintage weekend to me. Since first discovering the event in the early 1990’s, I’ve made it my mission to attend the “Sunday in the Park” portion, the static car show on the track itself, every year if possible.
Perusing my picture archives uncovered photos of breathtaking automobiles from the 2013 event which have not been posted by me yet. The sky is very overcast in all the pictures, and while I have no memory of the weather from that day nine years ago, the clouds created a wonderful umbrella of diffused light for my camera.
Italian vehicles comprise the majority of the shots, including two unusual trucks. I may have had Italian cars on my mind more than usual, having purchased my 1967 Alfa Romeo just six months prior. There are several British and Swedish marques represented as well. Lime Rock is not an easy ride for me: it’s close to three hours each way, yet it will always remain a must-see event, time and weather permitting.
Every Labor Day weekend, Lime Rock Park, a racetrack set in the western Berkshires of Connecticut, hosts The Vintage Fall Festival (the name has gone through some permutations over the decades). Classic race cars of old battle it out on the tarmac on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, while on Sunday (when racing is prohibited by local ordinance), the track is repurposed to feature some of the finest classics in the Northeast.
Perusing some old photos, I came across pictures that I snapped on my 2007 visit. That’s too long ago for me to have specific memories, however, the photos reveal that the day was bright and sunny, and when the weather cooperates, Lime Rock is one of the best vintage automotive events on the East Coast.
There is actually one memory worth noting: these snaps were taken with a film camera, likely my Nikon EM, and likely with Kodak Gold ISO 100 or 200 film. I tweaked the brightness and contrast on a few of them, but other than that, their rich color stands out to me. Enjoy the shots!
At 7:10 a.m. on Sunday, September 6, 2020, I was in the parking lot of local bagel shop, buttered bagel and hot coffee in hand. Sitting in my Volvo V60, I used the car’s navigation system to find “Lime Rock Park”, amazed that I located it so quickly within that sometimes-quirky system. Estimated drive time was 2 hours, 30 minutes. With that, I pulled out of the lot, and was on my way to attending my first car show since the global pandemic shutdown began.
There are no words I can use which would add in any meaningful way to what so many have already expressed about the year 2020. I had resigned myself months ago that the entire year would be one huge write-off for participating in the car hobby, yet when I discovered that Lime Rock was planning to move ahead with its 38th annual “Sunday in the Park” concours, I reconsidered my rather conservative position. I knew the show well, and knew that even at its most crowded, the size of the track and the spacing of the show cars would allow for plenty of social distancing. Reading Lime Rock’s website, I learned that they planned to limit attendance by restricting the number of ticket sales, and they would also be enforcing a mask mandate. The final vote-in-favor was the weather forecast, which promised sunny skies, low humidity, and temperatures no higher than the low 80s.
Volvo’s navigation didn’t let me down, and I arrived at the track at 9:40. As soon as I drove onto the bridge over the track, I saw that indeed, this would be an experience different than almost every previous visit. Usually, the parking lot would be more than half-full by this time, and there would be rows and rows of trailers and tents visible in the distance. Instead, parking appeared to be about 25% full, and there was no camping this year – it had been removed as an option.
I parked and headed down the paved ramp toward the track, fearful that maybe there would be an equivalent lack of show cars on display. That wasn’t the case at all, even if the number of vehicles was less than the usual turnout. By my most unofficial calculation, I would guesstimate that both counts (cars and spectators) were about 50% of a typical Lime Rock Fall Vintage show. Almost everyone was masked, and track workers on foot and in golf carts were actually on patrol. If they spotted someone sans mask, the Lime Rock rep stopped that person and told them that masks were required. Good for them! It greatly added to my own comfort level as I walked the show.
The display cars did not disappoint: as always at Lime Rock, there were the pre-arranged “classes”, different every year, which allow for great variety within each class (for example, “Untouched and Preserved Originals and Barn Finds”). The show organizers also managed to squeeze in some fun at the expense of the coronavirus by naming one class “Distancing at a Distance – Vintage Travel Trailers & Campers”. The other major group of show vehicles is collectively known as the “Gathering of the Marques” – for these cars, there is no pre-registration. As one drives up to the gate, the driver makes it known that they intend to park their car with others from the same marque, and there is no model year cutoff. It does make for an eclectic gathering, and show goers have the option to linger or march past.
The spectator parking area itself can provide plenty of automotive entertainment too. New Englanders seems especially fond of motoring to this show in their ‘60s four-wheeled icons and parking them among all the other daily drivers. I suggest that the Lime Rock Park officials consider trophies to vehicles at least 50 years old found in the parking lot!
Awards were handed out between 1 and 2 p.m., at which point, show participants began to leave. I had covered the entire track by about 2 o’clock, so my time was up too. The drive home was hampered by a little more traffic than I encountered in the a.m., but I still managed it door-to-door without stopping in just under 2 hours and 45 minutes. I was really glad I went. It felt great to be outside and back at a show again, my first since attending Atlantic City in February. The Lime Rock Fall Vintage weekend has been a favorite of mine for 30 years, and I can only hope that the 2021 visit will feel like normal again.
This restoration was over-the-top, yet the accompanying signage claimed that the owners regularly tour in it, and that’s believable too. I loved the “outside” speedometer, and the likely-original worn clutch and brake pedals.
1928 Packard with 5th wheel trailer
I’ve seen this rig before, I think at Hershey. Its originality is impressive. I also overheard the owner say that the car is driven regularly. Take note of the 5th wheel, back when they really were wheels!
1964 Chevrolet Corvair
This Monza coupe was found in the barn-find class; the accompanying signage indicated an original 30,000 miles. The condition and colors made this a standout among 1st gen Corvairs.
This 400 model coupe was from the last year of “true” Packards. The signage indicated it was equipped with the optional torsion-leveling suspension.
This was my first in-person sighting of the mid-engined marvel from GM. It looked a bit underwhelming to me, an opinion I chalk up to its plain off-white exterior and interior.
1938 Lancia Aprilla
New England Rally friend Chuck Schoendorf showed this immaculate Lancia in the pre-war class. The car’s engineering was ahead of its time, with 4-wheel independent suspension and a narrow-angle V4 engine.
Renzo Rivolta’s ISO firm sold manufacturing rights for its Isetta to BMW, and used those profits to design and build this Italian-American hybrid, with a Corvette V8 under the hood.
1971 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe
Owners Dave and Cathy returned to Lime Rock with this gorgeous 124. I met them both last year and the car looked better than ever. Dave said that the oversize air cleaner is hiding two 2-barrel Webers, and stated that this is a high-horsepower European setup which was a dealer option.
1973 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe
These 124 coupes are rare, and it was very unusual to find two of them at the same show, when there were none of the more-common 124 Spiders.
1982 Ferrari 308GTSi
This “common” Ferrari model stood out for its unusual and attractive shade of verde medio, or medium green.
Ferrari Dino GTB coupes
I was struck by all 3 cars being GTB models, B for berlinetta, or coupe, compared to the more common S or spider models with a removable top center section.
Alfa Romeo coupe, spider, and sedan
Alfa Romeo Junior Z Zagato
This rare Alfa looked great in blue and I overheard the owner talk about having driven the car in Europe; I was envious.
3 Very Different Alfas
The Spider has a longitudinally-mounted engine in the front, driving the rear wheels. The 164 has a transversely-mounted engine in the front, driving the front wheels. The 4C has a mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels.
1963 VW Karmann-Ghia convertible
1973 BMW 3.0CS
Porsche 911 Targa “long hood”
Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
This 300SL was in the barn-find class, and given the values of these icons, it’s incredible to see one which hasn’t been restored. Based on photos on display, the engine had been yanked for an overhaul. The car, as worn as it is, looked completely functional, and frankly, I really hope the owner does NOT restore it! They’re original only once.
1965 Volvo 544
This was also in the barn-find class, with signage claiming 34,000 original miles and all-original condition, including paint and upholstery. It could be the only such 544 out there.
1968 Volvo 1800S
Volvo station wagon display
Volvo, well-known globally for its 5-door estate cars, started to add performance to the mix. Here were a few examples.
Miatas are usually well-represented at Lime Rock. This year, the turnout was a bit smaller than usual.