Summer Getaways

We know, we know. It seems like only yesterday we were handing out trick-or-treat candy to countless ninjas, ghouls and ballerinas, but summertime really is just around the corner. You know what that means: Time to put down the remote, find the sunblock, and venture outdoors.

Sometimes the hardest part, however, is coming up with something to do. It’s almost as if the sheer variety of events on the schedule overwhelms us, effectively sending us back to our comfort zones—which unfortunately are usually our living room sofas.

The longest journey starts with the first step, so let us help with the brainstorming process. We have nine ideas for summer fun, and to help ease the planning process we’re presenting them in order of the required time commitment. After all, who says you need to block out a whole week just to have fun with your favorite four-wheeled companion?

Cars and Coffee

Time commitment: A few hours
Car preparation: Give it a bath
Associated costs: Gas, cup of joe, maybe a cruller

When most of us picture a gathering of interesting autos, we tend to go with the traditional, organized car show, complete with trophies, classes and entry fees. While there’s certainly a time and place for that, what’s wrong with enjoying a loosely organized gathering of like-minded gearheads?

The hotrod and muscle car crowd has organized informal cruise-ins for decades, and the usual modus operandi is pretty easy to grasp: Everyone gathers at a convenient spot on a weekend evening. For some extra ambiance, add in some music.

The sports and exotic car crowd has recently adopted a similar format, Cars and Coffee. These are generally early morning affairs, meaning cooler temperatures and lighter traffic for those in urban areas. Each location has its own schedule, but most of these events are finished by noon.

As these are informal gatherings, a bit of self-policing is sometimes required regarding appropriate and inappropriate machinery. Space is usually limited, and the point of these gatherings is to show off cool cars that aren’t seen every day. A good rule of thumb that we once heard: Daily drivers should yield to less common cars.

Tip: Most of these events take place in public areas, so be a good guest. In other words, don’t be a pig. Also, save the smoky burnouts for the drag strip.

Finding an event:We have seen organized events in most major cities, including Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, Denver and, of course, Los Angeles. Classic Motorsports will host several Cars and Coffee dates starting this summer at our home office near Daytona Beach, Florida.

Afternoon Drive

Time commitment: How much you got?
Car preparation: Check tire pressures, top off fluids and go
Associated costs: Some gas, food and a couple of cold drinks

The biggest threat to your car most likely isn’t rust, theft or civil unrest. It’s a lack of exercise. Getting your car out and on the road keeps the seals happy, chases away the mechanical demons, and removes carbon from the cylinder head.

There’s a side benefit, too: You might infect someone else with the classic car bug. Seeing an MG, Alfa or whatever tooling down a two-lane drive might get others thinking that maybe there’s an alternative to their overloaded land yacht. An extra minute or two spent answering some curious questions during a stop might help attract new blood to the hobby.

There are really two ways to attack this activity: solo or with a group. We’ll regularly head out alone with no set direction or route, while our local clubs do a nice job of organizing breakfast and lunch outings.

Tip: There’s not much worse than breaking down during a pleasure drive; to help avoid that, we have uploaded some practical technical advice from past issues to our Web site, classicmotorsports.net.

Finding an event: Club drives are probably as old as car clubs themselves. If your local club doesn’t do them, either organize one yourself or look toward other clubs. Even if you don’t drive their featured marque, there’s still a good chance you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

Auction

Time commitment: From a few hours to a few days
Car preparation: None
Associated costs: A one-day pass can start at $10, although some require the purchase of a hundred-dollar catalog

Here’s something you may not know: You’re allowed to go to an auction and just watch. There’s no rule saying that you have to actually buy a car.

Between the bright lights, televised action and milestone vehicles, today’s collector car auctions have grown into major productions—and they’re not limited to Scottsdale and Monterey. Many major markets now host these big auctions, meaning those in Florida, Southern California, Las Vegas and other parts of the country can participate. And by “participate,” we mean get there early and check out the cars before they cross the block. Sure, the real action takes place just before the hammer lands, but we love wandering the rows of cars that are available for sale.

Thinking about a new classic? Even if you’re not going to bid, an auction is generally a great way to do some research: You might not be allowed to take a car for a spin, but you can sometimes slip behind the wheel to at least make sure that you fit.

Tip: The six- and seven-figure cars usually get the most attention, but many automobile auctions also feature a healthy lineup of automobilia—and the prices can be very reasonable. Sure, it might be fun to return home with a million-dollar Bugatti, but there’s still a thrill in having the top bid for some attractive artwork.

Finding an event: All of the major auction companies post their schedules, and many of them have ads in this issue.

Museum Visit

Time commitment: Part of a day
Car preparation: None
Associated costs: Less than $15 per head

There seems to be a resurgence in automotive museums here in the U.S., and many are aimed right at our hearts. Five or 10 years ago, who thought that we’d have beautiful, top-notch automotive museums dedicated to microcars, famous endurance racers and even wacky machines rarely seen outside of Europe?

This new wave of auto museums has made some amazing collections open to the general public, with facilities scattered across the country. Obviously there are some big ones in California, but other parts of the U.S. have been equally blessed. No matter where you live, odds are strong that there’s a museum easily within a day’s drive.

The price of admission is quite fair, too, with few facilities charging more than $15 per adult. Kids and seniors generally get a break, and many facilities offer special rates for groups.

And there’s another bonus: Most museums feature air-conditioning, meaning you can spend a day wandering about the machines without worrying about the weather.

Tip: When determining how long you’ll spend at a museum, add an hour or two to your best guess.

Finding an event: Many museums offer special events, including kid activities and basement tours of the surplus collectibles. Check out each facility’s Web page for details.

Local Show

Time commitment: The better part of a day
Car preparation: Why not treat your baby to a nice detail?
Associated costs: Free to less than $30

In our world, it’s usually the big, national concours events that get the headlines: Pebble Beach, Amelia Island and Meadowbrook. What about doing a one-day show closer to home?

A local or regional car show can provide just as much fun, but odds are you won’t need to deal with a hotel and a long, expensive drive. Many of these regional shows also use a people’s choice judging format, so there’s no need to worry about exact originality—in other words, no one is going to count the number of spokes on your wire wheels or pop the distributor cap to make sure you’re still running points.

The locations can also be just as nice as those used by the landmark shows. True, they may not live up to the greens of Pebble Beach, but these local events have helped us discover parks and recreation areas that we never knew existed.

And if you want proof that a successful show can be held just about anywhere, check out the Euro Auto Festival. This successful gathering takes place on the grounds of BMW’s South Carolina plant—unlike traditional automotive factories, fortunately, this one sports a few acres of nicely manicured grass.

Tip: While local events may not equal the prestige of Pebble Beach, a clean car still turns heads. Check out last issue for detailing tips from concours master Tim McNair. His number one tip? Create definition between the different parts of the car, meaning gleaming chrome and jet-black rubber seals.

Finding an event: Our listings are a great place to start; they’re both in the magazine and on our Web site, classicmotorsports.net.

Autocross

Time commitment: Plan on being there all day
Car preparation: Properly secured battery, no major mechanical defects
Associated costs: $15 to $30 is the norm

The gymkhanas that defined the ’60s sports car scene have morphed into today’s autocross events. The goal is still quite similar—fastest car through a pylon-lined course wins—and such events can be found in just about every corners of the country.

While the basics of autocross are fairly easy to grasp, this is very much a precision sport. Missing an apex or braking point by just a foot or two can have disastrous consequences for your time, as even local-level events can be won or lost by tenths or even hundredths of a second.

Where the Walter Mittys out there may dream of recreating scenes from Le Mans and Daytona, autocross is a bit more accessible. Since the speeds are limited to second and maybe third gear, a car’s original safety equipment is generally accepted. You won’t need to install a roll cage or fire bottle since there’s no wheel-to-wheel action.

There’s also a much lower risk factor. If you get a little over-enthusiastic and hit some cones, the worst you’re usually looking at is a botched run and maybe a scuff, not crumpled sheet metal.

Tip: Autocross tends to favor newer cars, so don’t feel bad when a stock-appearing Honda Civic smokes nearly the entire field. Go, have fun, and enjoy pushing your car to the limit in a safe, controlled environment.

Finding an event: The Sports Car Club of America hosts the lion’s share of autocross events, but they’re not the only game in town. Local independent sports car clubs plus the Jaguar Club of North America, Porsche Club of America, National Auto Sport Association and many others also sanction autocross events.

Local Vintage Race

Time commitment: Usually one to three days
Car preparation: None if you’re just going to watch
Associated costs: Lunch and gate fee, easily less than $30 per day

Just like concours events, the major vintage races tend to get the most attention, making spectacles like Monterey, Lime Rock and The Mitty popular destinations. What about all of the other local vintage races? There’s no reason why a Corinthian Vintage Auto Racing event at Hallett or VARA’s Buttonwillow weekend can’t also provide some summer thrills.

You may not see a full field of historic Can-Am cars at these regional events, but the on-track action is still very good. You also won’t have to fight throngs of traffic and book a hotel room six months in advance. These local events are a photographer’s dream. There’s little competition for the best spots on track, and it’s easy to get up close to the cars and drivers.

Another bonus: If you’ve ever wondered about getting more involved in vintage racing as either a driver or crewmember, visiting a local event is a great first step. Is this the group right for you? Wandering the paddock, mingling with the drivers and talking to the officials will yield some answers. If you’re not careful, you may very well find a driver in need of a crew or a car seeking a new owner.

Tip: You’re going to be outside all day, so plan accordingly. A hat, sunblock and a cooler full of water will go a long way. Also, why go solo? Bring a friend or take the entire family. It’s a great summer outing that might make a few converts.

Finding an event: Start with the events listed in this issue and on our Web site. All of the sanctioning bodies make their schedules public.

Track Event

Time commitment: The entire weekend
Car preparation: Open cars will need a roll bar
Associated costs: A few hundred dollars

Vintage racers aren’t the only ones who get to experience the thrill of a hot lap, as many groups and organizations host track events. The basics are easy to understand: You and your car spend the better part of a weekend circling a race track at speed. That’s it.

While there’s no competition element, there’s still plenty to do: Develop driving skills, give your car the workout it deserves, and simply enjoy the high speeds. In an effort to minimize the speed differentials, most organizers break the weekend’s participants into three or four groups based on lap times. That means the rookies don’t have to fear being blown into the weeds by the veterans.

Never been on track before and have some apprehensions about hitting triple-digit speeds? Don’t worry. Most groups also offer both in-car instruction as well as classroom sessions. In fact, organizers often require beginner groups to attend classes.

Even though this isn’t racing, it’s still tough on equipment. Before heading out, have a trusted shop inspect your car from stem to stern—tires, wheel bearings, brakes and all other mechanical components must be in perfect condition. And if it’s an open car, you’ll probably have to add an approved roll bar, too.

Tip: If you have never been on track, you aren’t an expert—no matter how many F1 races you’ve watched. Be sure to approach these events with a willingness to learn. There always seems to be a know-it-all rookie who winds up driving too eagerly and making a mess. Don’t be that guy.

Finding an event: Many tracks and regional groups organize track events, but some of the big national players are the National Auto Sport Association, Sports Car Club of America, Porsche Club of America and BMW Car Club of America.

Organized Tour

Time commitment: Figure at least a few days
Car preparation: Is it ready to cover a thousand miles?
Associated costs: If rooms are provided, about $5000 per couple is the norm

This is a big country, and several organized classic car tours exist to help you see and experience all that it has to offer. We’re talking about racking up some scenic miles from inside your favorite classic.

Most of these tours are turnkey affairs, meaning you just need to show up with your car and a pleasant companion. The organizers often take care of the route, food, lodging and social activities. Some even bring along a sag wagon and back-up car in case a mechanical difficulty crops up.

A few tours throw in special features. Racing legend Brian Redman, for example, is the honored guest during each summer’s Barnstorming Maine Classic Car Road Tour.

Some of these events also add a competition element, operating as long-distance TSD rallies. Each tour has its own car requirements: Some have a cutoff year, while others allow late-model exotics and sports cars.

Tip: Whether or not meals and lodging are provided greatly impacts the pricing structure. If the food and rooms are included, expect to pay about $4000 to $5500 per couple. The cost generally falls to $500 or less if participants cover their own room and board.

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