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Vintage Rallying is Fun!!

Until a few years ago, there were only two choices for what to do with a vintage sports or racing car once the restoration was finished: you could exhibit it in concours d’elegance or take it vintage auto racing. But after a while, standing around Vintage Rallying is Fun, Scenery and thoroughbred cars are part of vintage auto rallieslooking at old cars parked in rows on a concours lawn can get a little dull, while vintage auto racing wheel-to-wheel can get a little too exciting when each car in the race is irreplaceable. Racing is also a lot more fun for the driver than for the family standing around yet another dusty, noisy track watching their hero act out his fantasies. Whats’ needed is a way for the whole family to drive and enjoy their beloved vintage car with minimal risk. Vintage rallies and tours are the perfect solution. They allow old car owners to gather with other enthusiasts as they do at concours, but also to driver their old cars without the risk inherent in wheel-to-wheel racing. Rallies and tours require not only a driver, but a navigator to handle the timing and route instructions. In other words, it’s a fun automotive activity that a couple can enjoy together. Most of these events are really multi-day tours. The organizers plot a scenic route on the map, and the participants follow the route off to lunch, dinner or the next hotel. It’s like taking the Ground Tour, except that the organizers have already figured out the best roads, booked the nicest hotels, culled the wine list and hired a mechanic to follow behind in case your car breaks down.

Vintage Rallies

A few vintage events are true rallies. What’s a rally? Enthusiasts refer to them as TSD, which stands for Time-Speed-Distance. Typically, the organizersVintage Rallies, racing stages are a part of some vintage rallies provide route instructions that get your two-person team of driver and navigator in a “stage” from one checkpoint to the next during a day. A rally is usually several of such days.

For simplicity sake, let’s say the stage distance is 50.0 miles. The rallymeister also says the allotted time to complete this portion of the route is one hour. In others words, you have to average precisely 50 miles-per-hour. Arrive too early and you lose points. Arrive too late and you lose points. Timing is done to the nearest second.

Some vintage rallies also add timed stages, usually at a race track but sometimes on a private road. Now the rallyists can race as fast as they want, one car at a time. There’s no worrying about average speeds; the fastest car wins. But there’s also no worrying about another racer running into you; cars are sent off one by one.

SELECTING A VINTAGE RALLY CAR

Each of the rally organizations has its own rules. Most take their cue from the Italian Mille Miglia Storica, Selecting a vintage rally car, many types of cars participate in vintage ralliesa 1000 mile rally held in May that follows the route of the Mille Miglia, an annual open-road race from Brescia to Rome and back for sports an sports racing cars that was begun in 1927 and outlawed after 1957. Participants in today’s Mille Miglia are restricted to cars that could have competed in the original race: sports cars or sports racing cars built between 1927 and 1957. Some other organizations allow cars as new as 1959, 1967 or 1974. Obviously, if you want to be able to enter the widest number of events, it makes sense to select a car built before 1957.
Which car?
Until a few years ago, there were only two choices for what to do with a vintage sports or racing car once the restoration was finished: you could exhibit it in concours d’elegance or take it vintage auto racing. But after a while, standing around looking at old cars parked in rows on a concours lawn can get a little dull, while vintage auto racing wheel-to-wheel can get a little too exciting when each car in the race is irreplaceable. Racing is also a lot more fun for the driver than for the family standing around yet another dusty, noisy track watching their hero act out his fantasies. Whats’ needed is a way for the whole family to drive and enjoy their beloved vintage car with minimal risk. Vintage rallies and tours are the perfect solution. They allow old car owners to gather with other enthusiasts as they do at concours, but also to driver their old cars without the risk inherent in wheel-to-wheel racing. Rallies and tours require not only a driver, but a navigator to handle the timing and route instructions. In other words, it’s a fun automotive activity that a couple can enjoy together. Most of these events are really multi-day tours. The organizers plot a scenic route on the map, and the participants follow the route off to lunch, dinner or the next hotel. It’s like taking the Ground Tour, except that the organizers have already figured out the best roads, booked the nicest hotels, culled the wine list and hired a mechanic to follow behind in case your car breaks down.

*Pre-war cars: The performance of most pre-war cars is pretty tame by modern standards, and they can be physically difficult to drive, unreliable and expensive to repair. On the other hand, the best pre-war sports cars really do “handle like they’re on rails” and provide a level of driving excitement that’s sublime. Among the best pre-war choices for vintage rallies are the BMW 328, Racing stages are part of some ralliesJaguar SS 100, Bugatti Type 7, Alfa Romeo 6C1750, Alvis Speed Twenty, Delahaye Type 135 or Bently 4 ¼. These models are all capable of scintillating performance with reasonable reliability. Prices are expensive, however, and repairs may require extraordinary expenditures, like machining new parts from scratch.

*Early Post-war cars: There are literally dozens of sports cars built between 1946 and 1957 that make terrific vintage rally cars. Prices are much lower than for pre-war cars with equivalent performance and repairs cost less, too.

For less than the price of a new “near luxury sedan” you can buy a car like a V-8 powered Allard that will literally leave you breathless. Other inexpensive but fun choices are the Jaguar XK-120/140/150/’56-’57 Chevrolet Corvette, Maserati 3500GT, AC Ace, Morgan +4, Aston Martin DB-2/4, Austin-Healey 100 and Porsche 356.

If you can afford it, a Mercedes-Bens 300SL, Lancia Aurelia or Ferrari 250GT will be welcome at any vintage rally, as will million-dollar sports racing cars like the Jaguar C-type and D-type or Ferrari Testa Rossa.

*Late Post-war Cars: Many vintage rallies allow cars built before 1974, which means you can bring such wonderful machinery as a Shelby Cobra, Aston Martin DB-4, Ferrari 275 GTB or 365GTB/ 4 Daytona. A 1963-;6 Corvette Stingray, 1965-’66 Shelby GT-350, Porsche911 or 1966-’68 Ferrari 330 GTC makes a perfect inexpensive vintage rally car…fast, fun and reliable.

Car Preparation

A vintage rally is not a race. It’s much more demaning but in a different way! There are stretches on the Colorado Grand, Copperstate 1000 or Texas 1000 where the fast cars cruise at 100 to 130 mph for hours at a time. Indeed, on the average vintage rally you’ll enjoy whole days of high-speed drving, far more Car preparation is a must for long lonely rally sectors“track time” than you’ll get in a dozen race weekends. This is definitely not the place to have an old dry-rotted tire collapse or an overstressed radiator lose its cool.

Smart rally drivers prep their cars thoroughly and bring a box of hard-to-find spares. Unlike fanatically-authentic vintage auto racing tech inspectors, most rally organizers won’t care if you’ve hidden disc brakes behind your Porsche 365’s steel wheels, bolted a 5-speed gearbox behind the V-8 in your Shelby or fitted the latest high-tech radial tires to your old Ferrari.

Your car should be prepared for reliability, safety and predictable handling. Forget the 600 hp smallblock with the 30 minute life expectancy. The old racing cliché, “To finish first you first must finish!” is equally true of rallying. And while the typical vintage race is 30 miles or so, the typical vintage rally is at least 1000 miles. Think about it. Every car has its weak spots. You should pay special attention to the weaknesses of your particular car, as well as to the obvious thins like the colling system, electrical system, brakes, tires, shocks, wheel bearings and U-joints.

Safety Equipment

Safety equipment requirements vary for vintage rally racing

Properly installed seat belts are the very minimum in safety equipment; many vintage rallyists install modern four-point racing harnesses. Racing belts are not only safer, they’re actually more comfortable, too. A pair of Recaro-style bucket seats will make a 1000-mile rally a lot less arduous and can always be swapped for the stock seats when the rally is over. A rollover bar is a good idea, too. At the least, you should carry a fire extinguisher; a racingg style in-car fire system is recommended. So is a fuel cell to replace that leaky old gas tank. Even the most cramped sports/racer has room for a spare tire, a small jack, a tool kit, a can of oil, a bottle of brake fluid, a gallon of collant, a set of sparkplugs, some wire ties and an emergency first aid kit. A cell phone can save your life, or someone else’s. If you’re driving an open car at reasonably high speeds, you’ll soon discover the reason old-time sports car drivers wore leather flying helmets and goggles. Many vintage rallyists even wear modern full-face helmets. When the first grasshopper or rain drop smashes into your forehead at 100 mph, you’ll understand why.

Rally Equipment

Rally equipment, checkpoints are a test of driver, navigator, car and equipment

More than one vintage rally team has successfully navigated the route with a broken odometer and the wife’s wristwatch which has no numerals. At the other extreme, we know of a Canadian vintage racer who hired 14-time Pro Rally National Champion Navigator Tom Grimshaw and his rally computer for a vintage rally. That’s overkill for what is still a just-for-fun sport. We recommend you bring a cheap clipboard to hold the rally route instructions, at least two inexpensive digital stopwatches (in case one breaks or you push Period dress often gains style points for vintage rally racersthe wrong button at the wrong time), at least two pens(ditto) and a set of high-liter markers in different colors. If you have a particularly noisy car, you may want to invest in a pair of those head-mount intercoms that touring motorcyclists use so the driver can hear the route instructions.

If you’re after style points, it’s considered Way Cool! To use vintage rally equipment like a Curta “coffee grinder” calculator or a Halda Speedpilot. Some rally teams go all out and equip their car like those that competed in the Monte Carlo Rallye in the old days, with auxiliary lights, a map light for the navigator, lots of extra switches on the dash, etc.

PERSONAL EQUIPMENT

Most rallies are held in the Spring and Fall, when the weather can be iffy. Old sports cars, even closed cars, can be surprisingly cold and drafty or alternately, surprisingly hot and stuffy. Bring lots of layers, from a Lacoste shirt and tennis shorts to a ski jacket and gloves. Navigator’s feet are especially vulnerable and there’s nothing unhappier than a woman with cold, wet feet. Invest in warm boots.

Riding all day in a sports car being driven rapidly over twisty roads while you’re trying to read a route book, run a stopwatch, calculate averages and shout instructions can give even the best tempered navigator a headache. Bring the Aleve bottle and the Dramamine. Driving or riding in a car for hours is dehydrating, particularly in an open car. Bring bottles of water to sip throughout the day. Also a snack can mean the difference winning and giving up at low blood sugar time around 4:00 pm.

TEAM SPORT

Vintage rallying is a team sport. The navigator is the captain, the driver is the helmsman. The driver’s job is to drive smoothly and quickly, follow instructions precisely and not make the navigator car sick. The navigator’s job is to interpret the route book as accurately as possible and convey that information clearly. There are a few tricks to vintage rally navigating. The chance of your 30-year-old Ferrari odometer agreeing exactly with the odometer of the rallymeister’s new Mercedes is virtually nil. Figure out the standard deviation as quickly as possible on the first leg, so you can make mileage corrections as you go along. Use your high-liter to mark important route instructions, and check them off with your pen as you perform them, saves losing your place. Verify all instructions. For example, if you’re supposed to cross a bridge half-a-mile after a turn, make sure you closs that bridge when you come to it. If there’s no bridge, stop and recheck before you get even further off route.

SOCIAL SIDE

On most rallies, you spend the morning and the afternoon driving in the car, then gather together for lunch and dinner. The dress code is usually “resort casual” during the day, though occasionally you’ll see a team in matching Nomex or coveralls.

Most of the rallies stay in the nicest hotels they can find, and at the least on the East Coast, men usually wear ties and sports jackets to dinner. This has the added benefit of getting the women to wear their prettiest clothes and heap on the jewelry.

Vintage rallyies are interesting people. The kind of folks who own these kinds of cars, who can afford to spend $3500 for a rally, who can afford to take a week off and most importantly, who find it fun to drive 1000 miles in aan old sports car are going to be more interesting than the person next dorr who thinks an afternoon watching beach volleyball on TV is high excitement.

CHARITY

All the mamor vintage rallies in America cover 1000 miles in a few days. Charge about $3500 per couple all inclusive, and contribute most of the proceeds to charities. All have a car company as a sponsor; the car company gains publicity with high-demographic car enthusiasts and in return contributes to the charity.

Some events have raised literally millions of dollars for causes as diverse as Main’es Camp Sunshine for Seriously Ill Children, the Phoenix Art Museum and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Fondation. The organizers of these rallies are all either independently wealthy or have other sources of income, so putting on rallies is a hobby, just as driving in rallies can be yours. Come on out for fun!

Need Information on Vintage Racing?

We're happy to help. If you've got questions about car selection, equipment and parts suppliers, clubs and organizations, or you-name-it, give us a call at Victory Lane Magazine (650) 321-1411 or visit our web site: http://www.victorylane.com/