10 tips for a better long-distance rally experience

Photography Credit: Chris Tropea

After doing our share of road tours and rallies—and driv­ing classic cars thousands of miles there and back—we have a few tips for getting the most out of a long-haul vintage rally.

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1. Get Warm: Make sure your heater and defroster work. There are few things more frustrating than not being able to see out of your windshield when navigating a curvy mountain road. We’ve experienced just about every kind of weather while on rallies, from hot and muggy to cold and rainy—and even snow. 

2. Get Comfortable: Simple moves to increase comfort, like adding a center console from, can make all the difference.

3. Get Dry: If you’re taking a convertible, make sure your top is watertight and fitted properly. The aftermarket can help with replacements. Don’t forget the window seals, either: Are they able to keep out the elements?

4. Get Packed: Luggage space is an important factor. Sure, most rally organizers will carry your luggage during the event, but if you’re driving there and back, you’re going to need to pack wisely. We’re fortunate that a Triumph TR6 has a decently sized trunk plus room behind the seats. If your ride is less spacious, here’s a tip: Several small, soft bags are easier to stuff into an old car’s trunk than a few large, stiff suitcases. The soft ones don’t scratch up the trunk nearly as much, either. 

5. Get Cruising: This may sound a little wimpy, but after driving an old car all day for seven or eight days straight, aftermarket cruise control starts to sound like a good idea. Another option is to make sure you have sufficient—but not too much—throttle return spring, as foot cramping is a painful reality on a rally.

6. Get the Right Spares: Since we sort our cars before heading off, we have had very little trouble on rallies. Still, problems do occur. Most breakdowns are just a minor problem if you have the right parts and a major problem if you don’t. Figure out what spares you need for your car and bring them.

7. Get Accurate: A legible, accurate odometer is a great asset in a rally car. Our TR6’s rebuilt odometer kept almost perfect pace with the route book we were following. This made for much less correction math on the fly and a way happier co-driver.

8. Get in Gear: Gearing is very important in a rally car, especially if you’re driving long distances to and from the event. Consider changing the final drive or converting to a five-speed transmission. These modifications lower revs, but they can also improve fuel mileage, too.

9. Get a Good Look Behind You: Driving around the neighborhood, you probably don’t rely on your rearview mirror too much. Go on a 1000-mile rally, however, and every near-miss caused by poor rearward visibility will make you wish you had taken the time to install mirrors on both sides of your car.

10. Get Loose: Most of all, enjoy the experience. As we have discovered, it doesn’t matter if you drive an MG or a Maserati. People are there to have fun, drive hard, and talk cars. As long as you behave with some class, it doesn’t matter if you’re a bank teller or a CEO—nobody cares.

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NOHOME UltraDork
3/11/15 12:05 p.m.

These runs sound like a lot of fun, but in my mind they are only affordable to the wealthy retired crowd.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
3/11/15 1:08 p.m.

They aren't all expensive. Check out the rally headed from Coker tire to the Mitty. You may not spend the night in a 5-star hotel, but you'll still get to drive great roads with a bunch of other cool cars, and like-minded enthusiasts:


Gary HalfDork
3/13/15 11:52 a.m.

In response to Joe Gearin:

The New England 1000 is on my bucket list as a "must do." That's also also a Rich and Jean Taylor event. My only issue at this point is having the right vehicle. My Spitfire is obviously out if the question. So my next vintage vehicle purchase will be based on qualification for this event. And it needs to be affordable. I know their rule now is that an entry must be a sports or GT car that is 25 or more years old. That's better than their previous rule, which limited entry to pre-1975 sports or GT vehicles. The new rule opens up the possibility of many affordable cars from the eighties, such as Corvettes, Mercedes SLs and front engined Porsches. My question is twofold. From your experience, is entry limited to a certain number of vehicles? And, if one were to pick up for instance a good eighties Corvette and entry was in fact limited, would that individual be denied entry with deference to somebody with a Mercedes Gullwing for instance, which would have much more appeal than an eighties era Corvette? Maybe that's not a fair question to you, and maybe I should contact Rich and Jean. But maybe you have some experience with that.

(Now, after having said that about affordable eighties cars, I am still at heart a Triumph guy, so a TR6 or GT6 isn't out of the question for this event. They both would qualify. And if I buy only one more vintage vehicle in my life, I wouldn't mind having one of those. So ... decisions, decisions).

Rupert Dork
3/13/15 2:50 p.m.

In reply to Gary:TR-3 or TR-6

Gary HalfDork
3/13/15 3:14 p.m.

I hear ya Man! I missed out on a well-maintained, garaged, "driven by a retired professor" TR3 in CT last November. Looked like your picture, except with Minilite clones. Great price. It even had the factory steel hard top. I procrastinated, didn't pull the trigger in time, and it went to a buyer in PA. Dayum. I'm also considering a couple of nice TR6s here in the Southern New England area. One has a factory hardtop. (I'm partial to the looks of a TR with a hardtop). But on the other hand, the prices of good eighties era Corvettes in the Northeast are phenomenal, and there's a lot if bang for the buck with a 'Vette. And they now qualify for the New England 1000 Vintage rally. So that's why I've said decisions, decisions.

I'm hoping Joe Gearin responds to my question.

Gary HalfDork
3/17/15 2:44 p.m.

I was saying, I hope Joe Gearin responds to my question.

Rupert Dork
3/17/15 3:11 p.m.

I agree, the TR-6 looks great with a hardtop. The 3 in the picture is Jonathon, my formerly owned small mouth '56 TR-3. Wonderful car, I much prefer the looks to the others. But when I drove it heavy, I missed the disc brakes in the front. Also I was stopped by Johnny law more than once for only having one brake light. I always carried the manual with me, so I should show them, the car only came with one brake light. Now it's ironic to me, everything comes with a center mounted brake light. On my '56 TR-3, that was the only brake light I had.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
3/17/15 3:30 p.m.

Gary--- sorry for the delayed response---- I'm just returning from the Amelia Island Concours weekend, and haven't been on the board for a few days.

I'd think if you pre-registered for the event in advance, and they accepted you, you'd be in. I think this goes even if they have a last-minute arrival with a very desirable car. (like the Gullwing 300sl)

I'd be very surprised if they refused entry for any sort of car that fit their rules. I've called Rich, and hopefully he'll chime in with a clarification.

I have to admit--- a 1000 mile tour through New England sounds like a ton of fun!

Gary HalfDork
3/17/15 4:29 p.m.

Thanks, Joe. I appreciate the info. The difficult part for me will be to decide what car to purchase now that the affordable choices (for me anyway) are more numerous.

I think Tim and Margie did the New England 1000 a few years ago with the Tiger. A friend of mine just sold his '64 Tiger but unfortunately it was a bit out of my budget, so it wasn't a consideration!

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
3/18/15 10:50 a.m.

Agreed Gary--- Tiger prices have jumped way up! Fortunately, there's plenty of choices out there that are still within reach for most of us. I have to admit....I've been eyeing TR-6s again!

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