The Spring ’18 Car Show Calendar is Filling Up Quickly!

With spring just around the corner (the calendar says next Tuesday, even if I spent part of this morning clearing some residual snow from last week’s double-whammy storms), I realized that I had been remiss in updating my own “Calendar of Events”.

Covers coming off soon!

We car guys and gals patiently wait for those final traces of salt to be washed away so we can unhook the Battery Tenders, check fluid levels and tire pressures, and ease our old iron out into the early spring sunshine. It’s nice to be reminded that there will be plenty to do; here’s what’s on my calendar so far (and this is just the first two months of the season):

Be sure to check this page frequently. Once show season starts, I’ll do my best to maintain this page and let you know what’s happening in the area.

All photographs copyright © 2018 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 2007 New England 1000 Rally

When last seen, the 1968 Ford Mustang California Special, sans working headlights, was speedily headed toward the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock VT, the host hotel for the 2007 New England 1000 rally.

Rally brother Steve and I had earlier decided to make the trek on Saturday rather than Sunday, this to give us an extra day to relax, while being certain to join the informal concours on Sunday. We arrived on Saturday night just as any semblance of daylight was disappearing. If there was good news, it was that the car was running just fine, and, we anticipated no need for headlight usage during the upcoming week. Although I had not intended to work on the headlight issue during the rally, my trusty service manual was with me just in case.

Obligatory departure pic. My smile was my disguise to hide my nervousness.

 

Some light reading for Sunday morning.

The afternoon concours was a delight, helped in large part by stunning weather. The show was held in a park in town, and was therefore open to the public. The variety of cars was the best yet (and yes, I say that for every NE 1000). The photos in this case do provide evidence to support my claim.

 

Sunday concours: Porsche 356s

 

Sunday concours: German, British, and Italian

 

Sunday concours: Porsche 356 dashboard

 

Sunday concours: park visitor takes in the views, and snaps a few

Highlights of the week included two nights’ stay at the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield NH (a wonderful backdrop for photography), and a visit to Hemmings World HQ in Bennington VT. Aside from some fog and frost in the (very) high elevations, sunshine was the order of the week, right through our return drive on Friday.

My Mustang in front of the Mountain View Grand Resort

 

Benz stands proudly in front of Mountain View

 

Porsche 356 with Mountain View Grand Resort in back

 

Posing with the Hemmings Isetta

We didn’t know it at the time, but the 2007 rally would be the final time that my GT/CS would serve as a rally car. It would also be six long years before we returned as participants in the NE 1000. In the meantime, we were both glad that the wiring harness debacle of just one week ago did nothing to diminish our joy in participating once again in such a prestigious event with like-minded individuals.

 

Cars queue up for morning time out of lot

 

Rally brothers proudly pose with pony

 

Original Mini is truly mini

 

Jaguar XK-120

 

Ferrari Dino 246-GTS

 

Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster

 

Lotus Elite

 

Ferrari 250GT Pininfarina cabriolet

 

Ferrari 330 GT 2+2

 

Maserati 3500GT

 

Aston Martin DB-5

 

Maserati Ghibli

 

Lamborghini Islero

 

Mustang poses in the White Mountains of NH

 

Mist and fog add ethereal glow to rally car gathering

 

Steve feeds pony its high-test hay

 

Mustang on lawn with rally sub-group

 

Cal Special and Islero take deserved break

 

As always, wash stations were set up behind hotel parking lots

 

License plate frame honors original selling dealer

 

Moose collisions especially dangerous in 50-year-old European cabriolets

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 2005 New England 1000 Rally

After a 4-year hiatus, rally brother Steve and I decided to take my ’68 Mustang California Special on the 2005 New England 1000. We last drove the rally together in 2001; Steve and his wife drove a Sunbeam Alpine in the 2002 edition of the rally.

We’ll drive the older car, thanks

Steve again agreed to fly east from his California home to meet me at my New Jersey home, from where we headed to our host hotel, the Black Point Inn, just outside of Portland Maine. All systems were working well in the Mustang; the heater core replacement was holding up, and I had driven the car enough to give me faith in its ability to get us there, around, and back.

Steve was driving it for the first time, and the recirculating-ball power steering took some getting used to. The steering had about 30 degrees slop at the top of the wheel, and at first, the instinct is to ‘oversteer’ then correct – you feel like you’re on a sailboat when the car is driven that way. But it only takes 5-10 minutes to get accustomed to dialing in the correct amount of lock.

En route, we detoured to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline MA, as it was Italian Car Day, and yours truly needed to check out the fine Italian machinery.

A prescient picture

We arrived in ME with no issues, except that it was a cloudy and cool day. We paid no attention to the weather forecast. First, this was vacation; second, the rally is a rain-or-shine event; and third, in all our previous NE1000 outings, we had never had more than a day of wet weather, so why shouldn’t we expect the same this year?

The ceremonial mounting of the plate (#1 again!)

The selection of cars continued to amaze us. There were no fewer than 3 Ferrari 246 Dinos, 6 Porsche 911s, 2 Austin Mini Coopers, the usual assortment of Jag’s and Benz’s, and a one-off 1955 Chrysler Ghia show car. Our V8 Mustang was one of two cars grouped into the “Historic American V8” class, the other being a ’64 Sting Ray convertible driven by our friends Chuck and Beth.

It bears repeating: the folks who bring out their valuable classics for the New England 1000 do it to drive them. While all of the cars are road-worthy, many of them, especially cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s, are not what you’d call weather-proof compared to a modern car. The British vehicles, for some reason, seem especially suspect to the ingress of water onto their occupants.

And this is how the week went: every driving day, from Monday through Thursday, saw rain. It didn’t rain every minute of the day, but, the threat was always there. The photos bear proof that we did not see the sun for the duration of the driving. Our friend Carol caught a local weather report, and informed us that a large storm system had parked itself over the entirety of New England for the week.

Remember that heater core? Well, the two young men in the Mustang hardtop, with roll-up windows, good weatherstripping, and a functioning heater/defrost system, stayed warm and dry. Observing some miserable fellow rallyists, I started to feel just a little bit guilty. To the credit of every participant, no one dropped out (not even the guys running side curtains).

Friday morning, just in time to load up and begin the trek home, the rain stopped, the sun popped out, and we had a rather dry ride back to NJ. Wet weather or not, we again proclaimed the 2005 edition to be a rousing success. Given the rain, we were secretly glad to have turned in the ragtops for a hardtop!

Jag XK’s top stayed up all week

 

Jag may be headed for drier climes

 

A respite from rain. Chrysler Ghia is at far right

 

Mini Coopers, LHD & RHD

 

Our good friends Dave and Deb (Deb is NOT driving)

 

Our friend Ron, in his Austin Healey, theorizes that shorts prevent his pants from getting wet

 

From inside the Drystang

 

At a lunch stop, with the GT/CS parked among its brethren

 

An additional benefit to a dry car: dry rally instructions

 

The New England scenery is always beautiful

 

This sums it up: what we had to do to keep our taillights visible

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

The 2001 New England 1000 Rally

My excitement was barely containable. For the FOURTH consecutive year, I would be driving in Rich and Jean Taylor’s wonderful vintage car rally, along with about 50 like-minded car enthusiasts. My good friend and rally partner Steve would again be joining the troupe, with one significant difference: we would each be taking our own cars. Steve would be teamed up with his girlfriend (now wife) Carol in their Sunbeam Tiger, and I with my fiancé (now wife) Margaretanne would drive our recently-acquired ’72 MGB. Oh boy.

Packing the Tiger's trunk: spare parts, tools, and the all-important wash bucket
Packing the Tiger’s trunk: spare parts, tools, and the all-important wash bucket

 

Cover page of our route instructions; the rally at this time was still sponsored by M-B
Yogi provides all the driving philosophy you need

 

They can’t say they didn’t ask for it. As alluded to in an earlier post, after three straight years of hearing us rave about the rallies, the ladies wanted in. We departed from Steve’s home in Morristown NJ and caravanned to the rally starting point in Lake Placid NY. My B, purchased just a month prior, was relatively untested, and I’ll admit to some trepidation about its roadworthiness (Lucas electrics and all that). However, Steve’s British car (aside from its Yank lump) had been a bastion of reliability all these years, so I did my best to cast aside doubts.

 

En route, the two Brit roadsters sit at a NY Thruway rest area
En route, the two Brit roadsters sit at a NY Thruway rest area

Arriving at the Mirror Lake Inn on Sunday May 20, the field of rally vehicles did not disappoint; if anything, this year’s variety of cars got more interesting. The number of domestic vehicles was greater than previously seen, and included a ’64 Corvette Sting Ray, ’70 Ford Mustang, ’63 Dodge Dart, ’61 Chrysler 300G, and ’62 Ford Thunderbird (ALL convertibles).

Nice overview of the parking lot, prior to the rally's start
Nice overview of the parking lot, prior to the rally’s start

The European sports cars continued to dominate the field, and we became almost blasé at repeated sightings of Mercedes 300-SLs, Porsche 356s, Aston-Martins, Jaguar XKs, and Ferraris. The BMW 507 seen earlier returned; and of special note to me, our friend Dave Allison, who had previously entered an Alfa Giulietta spider, a Porsche 356, and a Lotus Elite, showed up with a 1971 Austin Mini. His conclusion? Of the four, the Mini was his favorite to drive!

 

Aston, Jag, BMW (would make a nice collection for my garage)
Aston, Jag, BMW (would make a nice collection for my garage)

And drive we did; as always, it’s almost exactly 1,000 miles over four days (that’s why it’s called the N.E. 1000), not including our mileage up and back. Fears about the MGB were totally unfounded; we suffered no ill effects from driving an almost-30-year-old car (not counting a very fiddly convertible top). For my wife, truth be told, getting up early and adhering to a rigidly-scheduled day was not her idea of a vacation, but she did admit that the concept and the camaraderie made it fun.

Typical queue waiting for our time out
Typical queue waiting for our time out

 

And this was the line behind us
And this was the line behind us

 

The future Mrs. Reina takes her tun behind the wheel of the B
The future Mrs. Reina takes her turn behind the wheel of the B

The return trip was uneventful. I kept the MG for the remainder of 2001, but with the BMW Isetta finally being show ready, I wanted to focus on only one collector car. Besides, the newish ’93 Mazda Miata in the garage offered plenty of sporty top-down driving whenever I wanted, so in the spring of 2002, I sold the B for exactly what I paid for it.

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2001 rally, Steve and Carol relocated to California. Due in large part to our geographical separation, it would be another four years before we again entered a vintage rally together, driving a yet-to-be-purchased vehicle. Stay tuned for that story.

Beautiful backdrop for classic car lineup
Beautiful backdrop for classic car lineup

 

Dave shows all of us what that Mini can do (he WON the competitive driving award this year)
Dave shows all of us what that Mini can do (he WON the competitive driving award this year)

 

Big Chrysler almost looks at home among the sports cars
Big Chrysler almost looks at home among the sports cars

 

Two M-B 300SL roadsters sit it out
Two M-B 300SL roadsters sit it out

 

The best of Britain: Jaguar E-Type and Aston Martin DB-6
The best of Britain: Jaguar E-Type and Aston Martin DB-6

 

Drizzle required top-up, no quick job in the MG
Drizzle required top-up, no quick job in the MG

 

Lotus Europa
Lotus Europa

 

Aston Martin DB-5
Aston Martin DB-5

 

Alfa Romeo GTV #1
Alfa Romeo GTV #09

 

Alfa Romeo GTV #2
Alfa Romeo GTV #39

 

BMW 507
BMW 507

 

Dave Allison's Austin Mini
Dave Allison’s Austin Mini

 

Jaguar XK-150
Jaguar XK-150

 

Ferrari 275GTB/4 NART spider
Ferrari 275GTB/4 NART spider

 

Porsche 356
Porsche 356

 

Hard to believe, but this Maserati Mistral just passed our MGB
Hard to believe, but this Maserati Mistral just passed our MGB

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The 1972 MGB roadster

By the year 2001, my rally brother Steve and I had participated in three New England 1000 rally events: 1998, 1999, and 2000. We had every intention of making it “four in a row”, except, we had a small problem. After each running, we had excitedly exclaimed to our girlfriends how thrilling it had been to drive the bucolic highways and byways of New England in a classic convertible with like-minded enthusiasts. After all these years of listening to our exploits while they sat at home, they wanted in.

Okay.

For Steve, that meant gearing up the Tiger for yet another run, and given its exemplary performance so far, there seemed to be nothing that would prevent the Tiger from achieving a Grand Slam.

For me, that meant obtaining a rally-eligible car.

To car collectors, this is what is known as a “good problem to have”. Many a hobbyist will tell you that the thrill is in the hunt. While I generally agree, my hunt was complicated by the facts that a) I had just gotten engaged, and there was a wedding to plan; and b) we had just purchased a house, and were planning to move into it in March.

Okay.

What do we do when faced with such challenges? Of course: we confine our search for a rally car to the local area! So it was with a great amount of fortuitousness that I happened to see an online listing for a 1972 MGB roadster, in western Hunterdon County (only 30 minutes away) for sale for $5,000. I drove out to see the car; it had some issues; I conveniently ignored them. I offered the owner payment with a personal check; he accepted. I drove the B home. Things were looking up!

To prepare the car for the upcoming rally, I installed a set of Vredestein tires (I must like that brand, as the Alfa has Vredesteins on it), and while the tires were off, resprayed the painted wheels with wire-wheel paint from Moss Motors. An oil change, a quick tune-up, and we were rally-ready.

This MGB was my first British car. Like all Bs before and after, it had a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine, in my case, producing about 95 horsepower. Carburetion was via two SUs, complete with manual choke. Transmission was a 4-speed manual, without the desirable overdrive. The color was a true ‘70s pumpkin orange, complemented by a beige and black interior. (I was later informed that the seats were out of a later-model MGB.) Braking was discs in front, drums in rear, and steering was rack & pinion. As a 1972 model, its chrome bumpers were much better-looking than the big rubber bumpers soon to come. It was an easy car to drive, and a very easy car to work on.

The complete story of our participation in the 2001 New England 1000 rally will be covered in the next blog post. Suffice to say that after three years of joyously sharing seat time in that Sunbeam Tiger, this MG proved its mettle as a formidable (albeit slower) competitor.

Spring of 2001: the MGB on the front lawn of our new home
Spring of 2001: the MGB on the front lawn of our new home; note triple wipers

 

For such a compact car (153" long), interior was roomy
For such a compact car (153″ long), interior was roomy

 

 

Interior shot shows wheel, seats, and 3rd version of B dash
Interior shot shows wheel, seats, and 3rd version of B dash

 

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

The 2000 New England 2000 Rally

The view from the road
The view from the road

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.

 

The Tiger looks at home in front of one of the resorts on this year's rally
The Tiger looks at home in front of one of the resorts on this year’s rally

 

Ferrari 275 GTS
Ferrari 330 GTS

 

Austin Mini Cooper (this is the original one, folks)
Austin Mini Cooper (this is the original one, folks)

 

Porsche 356
Porsche 356

 

The best "rear end" in all of automotivedom
The best “rear end” in all of automotivedom

 

MG-TD held its own against pricier competitors
MG-TD held its own against pricier competitors…

 

 

... as did this Jensen-Healey
… as did this Jensen-Healey (note plate #63)

 

Ferrari Daytona
Ferrari Daytona

 

Take away the guy on the phone, and this photo could have been taken in 1966
Take away the guy on the phone, and this photo could have been taken in 1966

 

Morgan Plus 4, which we presume was flat-towed to the rally
Morgan Plus 4, which we presume was flat-towed to the rally

 

One of many M-B 300SLs
One of many M-B 300SLs

 

 

Toyota 2000GT and Jaguar E-Type - which do you prefer?
Toyota 2000GT and Jaguar E-Type – which do you prefer?

 

The Toyota 2000GT at one of the timed trials
The Toyota 2000GT at one of the timed trials

 

 

You had your pick of 300SLs this year
You had your pick of 300SLs again this year

 

As in previous years, most hotels provided car wash stations
As in previous years, most hotels provided car wash stations

 

This owner is not afraid to get the car dirty
The owner is not afraid to get the car dirty!

 

Aston Martin DB-4
Aston Martin DB-4

 

Ferrari owner reads ahead
Ferrari owner reads ahead (what, no blanket on the trunk lid?)

 

Bread van attempts to join queue for morning check-out
Bread van gets behind Tiger, attempts to join queue for morning check-out

 

Jaguar C-Type replica
Jaguar C-Type replica

 

1968 Shelby Mustang
1968 Shelby Mustang

 

BMW 507, being used as Albrecht von Goertz intended
BMW 507, being used as Albrecht von Goertz intended

 

This gorgeous Ferrari was trailered to the rally but not driven
This gorgeous Ferrari was trailered to the rally but not driven, possibly due to mechanical issues

 

The Tiger poses in front of RPM in Vergennes VT
The Tiger poses in front of RPM in Vergennes VT

 

RPM was a convenient place for the Goolsbee E-Type to need some mechanical attention
RPM was a convenient place for the Goolsbee family E-Type to need some mechanical attention

 

The week's driving on one page
The week’s driving on one page

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

 

The 1999 New England 1000 Rally

It bears repeating: the 1998 New England 1000 event, my first participation in classic car rallying, forever changed the way I would look at the old car hobby. We were back for 1999. (I had mentioned that rally brother Steve handed over a deposit check for the following year’s rally during the final dinner of the 1998 event. This was done in exchange for the promise that we would be given Plate #01, and we were.)

A tradition begins: documenting the installation of the rally plate
A tradition begins: documenting the installation of the rally plate

Steve’s Tiger was in such great shape that there was little to do to it during the wait for the next rally to start. There was a distinct change in our automotive-themed discussions, though: any talk about purchasing collector-type cars was immediately challenged with the question: “can it be driven in the rally?” Talk about a paradigm shift.

The host hotel this year was the Sagamore Resort, located on Lake George NY. Now, before you Yankees get your windjammers in a knot, I know darn well that “New York” is not “New England”. Hey, it’s not my event to plan. But the Sagamore proved to be a wonderful starting and ending location, and, most of the driving was in fact done in various “authentic” New England States.

The 1999 rally was much like the 1998 rally, but on different roads. We saw several of the same couples, and our camaraderie grew, as we now had common experiences. One couple in particular, Dave and Deb Allison from North Carolina, became good friends. They had attended the ’98 rally driving a Lotus Elise. This year, they were back with a gorgeous Alfa Giulietta spider.

Deb Allison suns herself in the Allison Alfa
Deb Allison suns herself (and studies the nav book) in the Allison Alfa

Not only were the roads different, most of the participating cars were as well. Word must have gotten out to one of the Mercedes clubs (at this point, Mercedes Benz USA was the official sponsor of the rally), as there were no fewer than NINE 300SL Gullwing coupes and roadsters registered.

Several of the participating 300SLs are visible in the background
Several of the participating 300SLs are visible in the background

We were also getting used to the navigation directions. “Top of the notch”, “Axle breaker”, “Easy to miss” and “Moose alert” entered the vocabulary after the rally too.

 

A page from the rally book complete with navigator's notes
A page from the rally book complete with navigator’s notes

 

The year 1999 would mark the first time (and far from the last) that we would visit the RPM (Restoration & Performance Motorcars) shop in Vergennes VT. Ably run by Peter Markowski, his son Stephen, and a talented crew, RPM specializes in restoring high-end European sports cars, but will perform the most basic maintenance jobs also. The gearhead in me got a kick out of seeing Ferrari 12-cylinder engines in various states of disassembly.

A Ferrari V12 engine at the RPM shop
A Ferrari V12 engine at the RPM shop

 

This rare Alfa Romeo 1900 looked close to being completed
This rare Alfa Romeo 1900 looked close to being completed

 

All too soon, it was over. The Tiger again proved to be a dependable rally champ. A new addiction had taken hold. We learned that next year’s rally, in honor of Y2K, would be 2,000 kilometers. We and the Tiger would be back.

 

A Morgan Plus 4 followed by an MG-TD
A Morgan Plus 4 & MG-TD (followed by the soda truck, with driver asking for directions)

 

Jaguar XK-150 convertible
Jaguar XK-150 roadster

Alfa Giulietta Sprint Coupe
Alfa Giulietta Sprint Coupe

 

The Tiger at the end of the queue
The Tiger at the end of the queue

 

The Tiger looks at home in front of this New England lodge
The Tiger looks at home in front of this New England lodge

 

Lamborghini Miura
Lamborghini Miura

 

Ferrari 365 GTB/4, aka Daytona
Ferrari 365 GTB/4, aka Daytona

 

Lancia Fulvia Zagato rests between stages; drivers break too
Lancia Fulvia Zagato rests between stages; drivers break too

 

Jaguar E-Type Series 1 OTS
Jaguar E-Type Series 1 OTS

 

License plate reveals one way to get your Dino 246 GTS
License plate reveals one way to get your Dino 246 GTS

 

Stingray, MB 280SL, Volvo 142
Sting Ray, MB 280SL, Volvo 142

 

Morgan, Alfa, Volvo, Stingray, MG in front of us
Morgan, Alfa, Volvo, Sting Ray, MG in front of us

 

Parking lot valets debate which one to joy ride
Parking lot valets debate which one to joy ride

 

This photo sums up all that is joyous about classic car rallying
This photo sums up all that is wonderful about classic car rallying

 

All photographs copyright © 2017 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

The 1998 New England 1000 Rally

Early in 1998, a glossy brochure arrived in the mail. It almost immediately made its way into the recycling bin. “Rich and Jean Taylor present the 1998 New England 1000”. Recognizing the name ‘Rich Taylor’ from his stint on the staff of my favorite mag, Car & Driver, I decided to read on.

“Each of our events is a five-day rally over paved roads, plus flat-out Special Stages. Each day covers about 250 miles over some of the most beautiful and least-traveled roads in America. Events are restricted to 50 cars, driven by you and a small group of like-minded vintage sport car enthusiasts. The New England 1000 is held the week before Memorial Day, and is open to pre-1974 sports, racing, or GT cars.”

I was somewhat familiar with the Mille Miglia road rally in Italy, but the concept of an “antique car rally” held on U.S. soil was new to me. While I was intrigued, there was one small issue: I didn’t own a rally-eligible car (the BMW Isetta restoration was not quite finished in 1998). However, my good friend Steve had recently obtained a nice 1966 Sunbeam Tiger. I showed him the brochure. There was little need for discussion. “Let’s do it!”

Calling the 800-number in the pamphlet, a male voice answered the phone: “Vintage Rallies”. “Hi, is this Rich Taylor?” “Yes it is, what can I do for you?” Holy cow, Rich answers his own phone. A credit card deposit was made, and we were in.

The Tiger was in quite good condition; it had been given a rather thorough restoration by its previous owner, so it needed little prep for rallying. We noted the mention that helmets were required if one wanted to participate in the off-road timed events, so helmets were dutifully obtained.

The genesis of the Helmet Twins
The genesis of the Helmet Twins

 

Most of our time in the months leading up to our May push-off was spent mentally picturing the other participating vehicles. We imagined everything from hopped-up MoPars to modded Mustangs to big-block Chevys, with the occasional MG and Triumph thrown in. We could not have been more off-base.

Departure day arrived. The Tiger’s trunk proved plenty adequate to handle our suitcases and helmets. Our destination on this beautiful Sunday in May was the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport Maine. It was going to take us about seven hours, with stops, to get there.

We arrived in Freeport around 5pm, with no roadside dramas to report, and as we drove around to the rear of the building, the sight was unforgettable: the hotel’s entire lawn had been taken over by an impromptu car show, featuring the week’s rally cars. MoPars? No way, Mr. Iacocca. Instead, there were Jaguars, Alfas, Benzes, Aston Martins, more Jaguars; and in the center of it all, like a Queen Bee, a gleaming white 4-door Bugatti.  We were going to spend the week in exclusive company.

 

1965 Aston Martin DB-5
1965 Aston Martin DB-5 & 1963 Aston Martin DB-4GT Lightweight

 

Ferrari Daytona surrounded by 3 Mercedes-Benz 300SLs
Ferrari Daytona surrounded by 3 Mercedes-Benz 300SLs

 

 

Our Tiger flanked by an E-Type and another Tiger
Our Tiger flanked by an E-Type and another Tiger

 

1963 Lotus Elite & 1958 Fiat-Abarth
1963 Lotus Elite & 1958 Fiat-Abarth

 

We parked in a sectioned-off area of the hotel lot dedicated to the rally cars, had dinner with fellow rallyists, and learned that the Sunday Car Show was a planned part of the festivities. Now we knew better for next time. After dinner: Famous Navigator’s School, wherein we were taught all the intricacies regarding synchronization of stop watches, driving etiquette amongst ordinary civilians, and the importance of placing your car’s front bumper across the finish line at the exact required moment, lest you earn unwanted points, one point for each second early OR late. Oh, the pressure.

 

A page from the route book; a working, accurate odometer is presumed
A page from the route book; a working, accurate odometer is presumed

Monday morning, we got up, had breakfast, and headed out to the Tiger with our route book. The parking lot was already abuzz with activity. Rally cars were staging themselves up to be flagged off at one-minute intervals beginning at 8:15AM. There were SIX timed stages that first day, plus two so-called transit stages (untimed). Steve was driving, and I was navigating. For the next stage, Steve graciously allowed me to drive, with him navigating. From that point onward, we had established a pattern that driver and navigator would alternate stages. It’s an agreement we’ve kept to this day.

 

Staging for checkout
Staging for checkout

Here’s a rally secret to share with you: navigating is SO much more difficult than driving. The navigator must be constantly be mindful of the printed directions, public landmarks, vehicle speed, and miles traversed, AND he must communicate driving directions to the driver in a clear manner. The driver? He needs to drive while heeding the navigator’s calls. Oh, and if the rally car in front of him turns right when his navigator tells him to go straight, then of course, he should go straight. Unless, of course, that’s incorrect…. (There is tremendous pressure to follow the rally car in front of you rather than refer to your navigation sheet.)

Tiger in queue, following Ferrari NART spyder and Ferrari 308
Tiger in queue, following Ferrari NART spyder and Ferrari 308

The concept of a TSD (Time, Speed, Distance) rally like this is to “zero out” each stage. A zero score is a perfect score; you’ve hit each finish line at the exact time you were due. As mentioned earlier, being early OR late is penalized, one point for each second you are off your mark. (The New England 1000 caps the maximum points you can earn per stage at 500.) It’s all in good fun, as we were learning.

 

A 1936 Auburn Speedster following an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale
A 1936 Auburn Speedster following an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

 

The E-Type poses behind the Sprint Speciale
The E-Type poses behind the Sprint Speciale

 

A Ferrari 308 GT4 screams past while the Elite watches
A Ferrari 308 GT4 screams past while the Elite watches

 

 

But nothing was more amazing than the sight of other rally cars on the road with you. To be motoring with a Mercedes Benz 300 SL roadster in view out your windshield, and a Jaguar E-Type in your mirrors, is not something to be taken for granted. Vehicles you’ve drooled over for years, meticulously primped and pampered for show, were now screaming along at 6,000 rpm.

It is not an exaggeration to state that my participation in this rally forever changed the way I felt about the old car hobby. I would never feel the same passion again about static car displays. Once I was exposed to owners who were willing to take their prized machinery and drive them at speed, in rain or shine, then I knew I wanted to be part of that as frequently as possible.

 

An open Gullwing door frames the parking lot
An open Gullwing door frames the parking lot

 

A parking lot respite from driving
A respite from driving

 

"I think the oxygen sensor is telling the Hall switch to send the wrong signal to the ECU"
“I think the oxygen sensor is telling the ECU to send the wrong signal to the fuel injectors”

 

To me, there is no more beautiful automotive form than a Series I E-Type coupe
To me, there is no more beautiful automotive form than a Series I E-Type coupe

 

The yellow Dino glows in the sunset
The yellow Dino glows in the sunset

 

We had a chance to ride in a Stanley Steamer; this is part of the starting procedure
We had a chance to ride in a Stanley Steamer; this is part of the starting procedure

 

Monday flew by. So did the rest of the week. I saw that the days were quite full, what with early departures, driving, lunches, more driving, and dinners. There were few photographic opportunities during the rally stages, so I was glad to have taken the pictures I did on Sunday. Thursday’s banquet dinner was yet another highlight, with comical speeches, a charity auction, gag gifts, and a trophy for everyone, no matter what your score. You really felt like you were part of something.

If you want conclusive proof that we enjoyed ourselves, know that during Thursday’s festivities, my rally brother Steve wrote a deposit check for the 1999 New England 1000. We would be returning in the Tiger. That’s a story for another time.

We drove it tothe rally, ran the rally, and drove it home
We drove it to the rally, ran the rally, and drove it home, about 1,600 miles in 6 days

 

All photographs copyright © 2016 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.