MMR Blog

My Word: Tread Lightly

Posted on October 22, 2014 Comments (1)

The Great Divide Expedition

Recently I wrote in these environs about Range Rover’s Great Divide Expedition reenactment. The original was 25 years ago and involved a Bill Baker inspired event for motoring journalists taking part in a criss-crossing trip down the spine of the Continental Divide in Colorado.

There were several waves of us taking part in different sections of the route laid out by off-road expert Tom Collins, a.k.a. T.C. He’s still working for Land Rover and furthering that company’s programs of using their capable vehicles to open up back-country adventures for owners and prospective buyers.

Welcome to Tin Cup

On the original Great Divide trip in 1989 I was in the wave that crossed what is called variously St. Elmo or Tin Cup Pass depending on the direction you are headed. The story is just a click away here if you missed what I wrote about my family’s personal connection to the ghost town of Tin Cup (or Tincup) in Colorado. I had not known at the time I sent Peter the story whether or not the reenactment leg I was on in 2014 would include that Taylor Park town.

As it turned out it did not. Our group began in Denver, crawled over the rockiness of Red Cone Pass and the 13,188-foot Mosquito Pass and thence to Aspen with an intervening overnight in Breckenridge. (My story about the trip will be in AutoWeek soon. A link will be provided here.)

Red Cone Pass

Off Road Quad

Why no Tin Cup? The Land Rover instructors, one to each of the posh 2014 Range Rovers in which we drove the splendor of Colorado’s above-timber-line trails, told us that some of the old route for the Great Divide was now unusable. On one section a tunnel had collapsed, on others overuse by the new mosquitos of the off-road—the 4x4 ATVs variously called quads or side-by-sides—have altered some roads through overuse making them more trouble than they are worth.

These ATVs are small, capable and relatively inexpensive. They have made the back-country more accessible to more people, which cannot be bad unto itself. However a goodly number of the newcomers either never heard of “Tread Lightly” or have no respect for the program that Land Rover has championed with the Forest Service for a quarter century.

Tread Lightly

Tread Lightly is a general agreement that vehicles will stay on the existing roads and trails, not enlarging them or—heaven forfend—not ignoring them and striking off across virgin country. And that visitors will leave nothing behind and take only pictures with them. It’s a kindness attitude toward the environment that enough of the new folk either can’t do or won’t try. And, truth be told, the large-huge-wheeled, knobby tired, short-wheel-based, powerful machines just naturally have a different effect on the surface of the earth than an SUV.

In my AutoWeek story I likened the antagonistic mix of users of old roads and trails to that which arose some seasons ago on the ski slopes. Mogul fields were made unusable to the users of long skis when a new lot on short skis took to skiing them. It’s not the intent that changes the terrain, just the way the beast is built. Short-ski skiers recut the moguls and long-ski skiers were out of luck.

Anyway, Land Rover saw fit to eliminate the Tin Cup part of the route which came after the section I was scheduled for anyway. I was told that Tin Cup is as heavily trafficked as Times Square on summer weekends these days. ATVs are everywhere and there is even a traffic light.

Nonetheless my interest in seeing the spot again has been stirred. I want to go back and see for myself. That will not be possible this fall because snow—already fallen in some serious amounts—can make the interesting routes impassible. But there’s another reason: I go in this week for some more reworking of my aging suspension system. Winter looms too large and so I’m thinking early summer of 2015 when the old roads start browning and creeks a-gurgling and the sun climbs higher in the sky.

Log House Tin Cup

The thought struck me, maybe some of you guys with under-exercised SUVS or who haven’t seen Colorado at its height might like to join me/us. Say start here in Santa Fe or maybe Denver or the Springs and join up en route. I’ll get suggestions for likely passes from T.C. at Land Rover. He has at least a nodding acquaintance with every important rock in the Rockies. We’ll find some good passages and we’ll advance on Tin Cup. We’ll find Uncle Will’s log house and my Great Grandmother’s grave and see what ghost towns look like when engines have awakened them.

If you have any interest in such a plan, send me an email. Subject: Tin Cup Trek. We’ll keep you informed. Maybe something will come of it. Anyway we’ve got more ideas on trips—some more for sportive cars—you might like to try. We’ll keep you up on those as well. (One particularly will blow your mind.)

Cars are meant to be driven; hills are meant to be climbed; local cafes are meant to be tried. And I suspect there’s something special beyond that next bend.


Santa Fe Concorso 2014

Posted on October 8, 2014 Comments (1)

With a slight bump and a bound the midsize commuter jet lands in Santa Fe and disgorges twenty passengers. It is early evening Wednesday and 24 hours from now we begin our Santa Fe Concorso Adventure. My companion is a fellow Bostonian and motorsports friend who owns a place in the Southeast quadrant of the city and has generously offered me lodging and transportation. He is a former Brit and an admirer of all things BRG. It’s genetic. Concurrent with the Concorso, a local British Car Club is also having a conclave and he anticipates att­ending a few of their functions.

First, a Quick Overview of Santa Fe

Conde Nast calls it the Best Small City to Visit and the #2 Travel Destination in the Country. Travel & Leisure have named it the #1 Cultural Getaway. With a relatively small population of 70,000 people and with growth physically limited by the surrounding state and Indian lands, Santa Fe may become more dense, but not larger. That is part of its charm.

Tourism and state government are the major industries In Santa Fe. In the past two years we have attended the Concorso event, “automobiles” have shared the city’s facilities with other major events, often food conventions. We never noticed them. Santa Fe thrives on tourism and they are geared for it. Happily, unlike Fernandina Beach at Amelia and Monterey during Monterey week, accommodation prices don’t skyrocket when the car money comes to town. Quite refreshing really. One last Chamber of Commerce note. Check out the prices to get there from wherever you are. From Boston, which is a fair distance we found the pricing very reasonable, particularly when booked far enough in advance.

Thursday: A Fine Beginning

Thursday evening marked first night of official Concorso happenings with a showing of the Steve McQueen’s film Bullitt at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Downtown area. It was introduced by Santa Fe resident and Concorso advisor, Denise McCluggage, who was friends with McQueen when they both lived in NYC and he was a struggling actor. The small, newly restored theater is the property of George RR Martin, creator of the King of Thrones book and movie series and this was a test run to see if there would be interest in an Automobile Film Festival as part of the Concorso weekend. The cost of attendance was $10. (Find that elsewhere!) And it was good fun to watch the chase scene on the big screen and count the five hubcaps that came off the big black Dodge. Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and afterwards, as it was still relatively early, participants dispersed throughout the downtown area to sample various eateries and bars, many with live bands. The MMR Goods & Services Directory lists some of our favorite Santa Fe Restaurants under Haunts & Cafes in the Destinations and Events sections.

Friday: Indy Seminar and Gala at Santa Fe Airport

The Santa Fe airport facility is the nicest on the continent! Period. The administration building contains stunning artwork by local artisans. Art is, after all, Santa Fe’s major claim to fame. The airport terminal itself is small; it only has one gate. It also is decorated with local artwork, has a friendly staff, and boasts a very good reasonably priced family restaurant with a view of the tarmac from which one can watch the plane land and take off. It is serviced by United and American Airlines. No big planes land here and to give you a flavor of the place, our departure was delayed because the Flight Attendant called in sick and another had to be called in to replace him or her. Amazing. There is also an active private plane and glider population centered here. The afternoon event was a seminar of veteran IndyCar drivers moderated by writer/actor/photographer Tim Considine. The participating drivers were Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser Jr., Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, Lyn St. James, Eddie Cheever, and Indy Historian Donald Davidson. In the presence of some significant Indy racecars, all told interesting and/or amusing stories about racing in the day and at Indy in particular. They also expressed strong opinions about what is right and what is wrong with today’s racing. They then happily sat at a long table and signed autographs for their audience.

Santa Fe Concorso

That evening, in the same location, a fine buffet was presented and more cars were exhibited both in the hanger and outside on the tarmac. The juxtaposition of smaller high performance planes and small high performance cars is always an interesting one. Typical of the weekend, from the first event to the last, each is well attended yet participants are never crowded or herded.

private plane in Santa Fe airport

Saturday: Mountain Tour and Unser Museum Fundraiser

Unser Museum Fundraiser

The plan called for the Mountain Tour cars to gather on the Santa Fe Town Plaza between 8:00 AM and 10:00AM then drive through the scenic parts of town and along the local highways to the post card perfect vintage town of Cerrillos, NM—film locale for the movie Young Guns. There to enjoy an excellent lunch (“imported” because the town’s café was destroyed in an insurance scam fire decades ago) and then a spirited drive back to town.

In the past, we have shot pictures of cars on tours, primarily at Pebble Beach, by attending the early morning gatherings, then setting up somewhere along the route and again at the destination. This tour was different in one significant respect. Through the good graces of the organizers, we sat in the press car, a supercharged Range Rover with a sun roof. While official photographer Garret Vreeland stood up in the back and shot through the roof, we sat in the extremely comfortable and far less exposed front passenger seat and shot out the side window. Our driver was automotive writer and former racecar driver Denise McCluggage.

The plan was to shoot in the plaza, then set up along a scenic city street and shoot the cars in motion as they went by. Once we had shot them, Garret would give the command to Denise to pass them all and hurry to the next stop along the road he had previously scouted. That would provide a different backdrop for the images. Once completed there he would ask Denise to once again pass them all and we could catch them as they arrived in Cerrillos. The task seemed daunting in my mind but seemingly simple to Denise. Forgive the unflattering simile, but she seemed like a dog being thrown a stick to fetch, she saw her duty and attacked the task with relish.

Tours are not in any way meant to be races, but no matter the age of the driver or his ride, a powerful car on a smooth winding road is a form of narcotic for those of us weak of will. In the midst of this add a former racing driver convinced she is possessed of a relevant mission and driving a supercharged Range Rover which she doesn’t own. This might be a recipe designed to alarm an amateur passenger. I assure you it alarmed me at first. But once my life had flashed before my eyes a dozen times, I tired of it and simply focused on not wetting myself.

To fully credit her consistency, the driver of the supercharged Range Rover rarely strayed below double the posted speed limit. For my part, other than prayer I pinned my hopes on the fact that drivers who used their mirrors would see that white behemoth with half a body sticking out of the roof and bearing down on them and simply pucker up, back off, make room and wait for their stomachs to settle. Oncoming traffic? Perish the thought. “Perish” is the operative word.

Range Rover press car Santa Fe Concorso

Feeling somewhat older, I arrived in Cerrillos and we all took pictures of the cars parked where horses might once have been tied. Fitting, in a way, since they did replace them. After a delicious lunch we climbed back into the Range Rover and “headed for the barn”, as we cowpokers say out here. The pace back to town was noticeably more sedate and once back on the Town Plaza, colors, smells and life itself appeared more … important … for lack of a better term. Add the word “thankfully” is somewhere in there.

The Indy 500 Winners

The Saturday evening event took place at the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque, 45 miles to the south, and was a reprise of the previous day’s IndyCar Seminar, this time moderated by the aforementioned Donald Davidson. The event was a fundraiser for the Museum and like its Santa Fe counterpart, it was very well attended. Unlike the Concorso crowd, most of the attendees were supporters of the Unser Racing Museum and long-time friends of the Unser family. Seated at our table were several gentlemen who had crewed for Al Sr. and his brother Bobby when they ran Midgets in the early days. They had wonderful stories about dirt track racing in the area with the local greats of the day. Many of the cars they mentioned were in the museum along with other cars, images, engines, and memorabilia from the racing eras in which the Unser family competed.

Racing enthusiasts finding themselves in Albuquerque would really enjoy a visit to this first class facility. Find it and more similar locations in our Goods & Services Directory under Destination and Events – Museums.

Unser Museum Midget Racer

Sunday: The Concorso

It was cool in the morning and even rained at little at some point, but it warmed up in the afternoon and by prize-awarding time in the late afternoon, the weather was perfect. As mentioned, Santa Fe is a small city and in light of that the Santa Fe Concorso has always punched way above its weight in terms of quality of cars on the field. Of necessity, the mix on the field is eclectic. Despite that, each class has some exceptional cars and the difficulty in picking a winner is testament to this.

Early rain at the Santa Fe Concorso 2014

Santa Fe Concorso 2014 Show Winners

Organizers have worked hard to bring quality judging to the event and it appears owners have responded. The winning Packard, with body by Graber, is the epitome of the name of the class. It rightly won, Elegance. And a 1956 Maserati 300S, devoid of fancy winglets or added body parts that characterize sports cars today, is the essence of a racing “sports” car.

Other notable cars on the field included a huge white 1930 Isotta Frachini. What a presence the big car had all weekend. It dominated the smaller cars in town and on the Mountain Tour.

In keeping with the weekend theme of IndyCars, a separate display highlighted them at the entrance to the event and the 1938 Maserati 8CTF “Boyle Special” which won Indy in 1939 and 1940 driven by Wilbur Shaw was on the field. The car was driven to the Award area by Al Unser Sr. who was presented with the Lee Iacocca Award for “Dedication to Excellence in Perpetuating an American Automotive Tradition”.

A 1930 Packard Roadster, regularly driven by its owner, 104-year-old Margaret Dunning, also attended and both made a strong impression. Norman Dewis, of Jaguar fame, supported a brace of C-types and D-types on the field.

It was an excellent show and a wonderful weekend. The organizers and volunteers worked very hard and their results reflect their effort. Please go to our Photo Gallery for more images of the Concorso. And, incidentally, do make a note to join us next year. This is an event enthusiasts should not miss.

Santa Fe Concorso 2014


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 3, 2014 Comments (0)

Garret Vreeland’s shot of the winning classic Graber-bodied Packard and the Sports Maserati 350S

We write this on the Monday morning after enjoying an excellent motorsports weekend in Santa Fe. Our lead image is Garret Vreeland’s shot of the winning classic Graber-bodied Packard and the Sports Maserati 350S.

The Santa Fe Concorso is now five years old and we have watched it grow in quality and breadth for the three year we have attended. This is truly a wonderful Thursday evening through Sunday motorsports event. Look for more stories and images of the SF Concorso IndyCar Drivers Seminar, The Mountain Tour, and other events in coming issues.

F1

Alonso

The circus moves to Suzuka this weekend. Alonso obliquely supported our criticism of the Singapore-racing-through-dark-garages-in-the-heat-of- the-night GP by declaring that it will be nice to be at Suzuka, a “real race circuit”. In the wake of the eulogies for the departing Montezemolo, the Italian PR departments are cranking up the ‘Marchionne as Saviour” Machine. F1 is never boring.

Denise McCluggage Reigns over Barren Lands

Cadillac Escalade

Several readers commented how much they enjoyed Denise McCluggage’s recent story about her Range Rover off-road excursion to her family’s ancestral home in Tin Cup, Colorado. If you haven’t read it yet, do—it will prepare you for this week’s story about another large vehicle that dominates its native landscape, the Cadillac Escalade.


Michael Furman photo 1937 Peugeot Darlmat Roadster

Our featured image is by Michael Furman and the car is a 1937 Peugeot Darl’mat Roadster.


Have a great weekend!

Peter Bourassa


My Word: Slade

Posted on October 2, 2014 Comments (4)

by Denise McCluggage

Way 2 Cool

My friend Ribeye, whom I first encountered skiing at Taos where he was an instructor and then met again sometime later when he was making Way 2 Cool root beer in Santa Fe, was the one who told me this story. He had since returned to California where he was an electrician. Licensed yet. But then a grower of medical marijuana, as intricate and careful an enterprise as making perfect root beer, which Way 2 Cool was. (Ribeye said it was the Madagascar vanilla that mattered most. To Way 2 Cool, anyway.)

All of the above I present as background so you know that Ribeye had a background diverse enough to truly appreciate the scene he described to me. After I tell you about that I will meander off in the fashion writing for websites makes possible and I have come to enjoy. I’ve been at typewriters and keyboards for a long time so I can do precise-word-count and stick-to-the-point journalism. But it’s more fun to amble and ramble… So that’s the route I’ll take. Follow along if you like.

I don’t know what Ribeye was doing sitting on a bench at a bus stop in East Oakland, but he was. To fix the time I’ll say this was the year that Cadillac first built the Escalade. This in answer to dealers who kept whining for an SUV. General Motors didn’t want to build one insisting that the Grabowski branch of the family served that function nicely without involving Cadillac.

Here I am adding to your trivia closet so that you might at some point astound friends and colleagues or maybe even score yourself a beer. So maybe you thought GMC—that branch of the Detroit automaking group who claim to be professional grade and are producers of the Sierra pickup and a string of crossovers and SUVs—stood for General Motors Corporation or some such. Nope. The previous paragraph has the answer. GMC stands for Grabowski Motor Company. Isn’t that cool? Goes back 102 years so you’re forgiven if you didn’t remember.

Cadillac Escalade

Anyway the Escalade was on the market and not doing all that well. Until. Until the black community in Detroit and then elsewhere began picking up on it. And it became a most welcome financial success.

So Ribeye is on this bench in East Oakland, a neighborhood rather reminiscent of many Detroit neighborhoods. Seated next to him waiting for a bus was an East Oakland resident. And down the street approaching them came another resident. Rather more resplendent than the bench-sitter he wore a bright suit just a glimmer on the shiny side and what might have been a diamond chip gleamed from an incisor. He was clearly well-placed on the world’s surface. He greeted Ribeye’s bench companion. “Hey, man,” he said, “J’see my new Slade?” The man on the bench sat quietly, looking straight ahead. Two beats of silence then he said: “Ah seen it.”

Ribeye nearly choked trying not to laugh at the perfection of it. The shiny guy went on his Bo Diddley way and a bus came.

A few weeks ago I was delivered a press test car—the long, black enormousness of a new Escalade stood in my driveway. I walked around it, opened the door and watched as a full-size running board slide out. A Sir Walter Raleigh gesture that really meant something. A full-sized foot could actually stand on it. No slippy-slidey token little step for this appearing-disappearing act. Close the door, open the door. Come, go.

Cadillac Escalade interior

The black and brown leather interior was as rich as Belgian chocolate. The dash expansive and appealing. GM has so often mistaken glitz for elegance. Hey, they relaxed into it this time. Ah-h-h.

Oh, the space. Useful, accessible. A long slightly sloping but one plane storage area could sleep a small family. With maybe a pony. This is one commodious vehicle. And if that is what you need there is no reason it cannot also be elegant, LED-lighted, comfortable, eye-catching and thoughtful. It is.

adjustable pedals

Driving it I found to be pleasurable as well. I like big cars that drive small. The Slade steering is easy and precise. And guess what? There’s a button to adjust pedal altitude to fit the driver. Like a big rig has. (Though I’d like a little more height on the seat adjustment.)

There are detailed driving impressions on car test sites for you to pore over. Go pore. Or better yet go try on an Escalade. If your life has a lot of dogs and kids and stuff that requires lugging in it they’ve been thinking about you at Cadillac.

I spent some more time after a short drive just feeling and looking and admiring. As I took a last three-quarters stare at the Cadillac Escalade’s long, black presence in my dimming driveway a long-ago story popped to mind. I laughed. Said softly: “Ah seen it.” And went in the house.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on September 5, 2014 Comments (0)

Alfas

Jonathan Williams

Labor Day weekend produced a most successful Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park and yet was tinged with sadness as a long time participant was killed in a fatal accident, and Jonathan Williams, gracious and talented MMR contributor passed away in Spain.

We pay tribute to Jonathan and reprise one of our favorite JW pieces.

We thank his long time friend Michael Keyser for his help and additional images. 


In this issue’s The Weekly Leek – The Finest in Pale Yellow Journalism, European Correspondent Oofy Prosser reveals that Unilever, recently announced sponsor of the Ben & Jerry USA F1 Team, will fit right in to the F1 scene.


Michael Furman’s Image is entitled La Lance by Francois Bazin and is from his recently released book, Bespoke Mascots with Nicholas Dawes.

Michael Furman’s Image this week is entitled La Lance by Francois Bazin and is from his recently released book, Bespoke Mascots with Nicholas Dawes. It is Volume Two in the Automotive Jewelry series. We will have a review of it for you in the near future.


The Lime Rock Park images this week are by MMR Editor Dom Miliano and will be featured with many others in a forthcoming MMR gallery. As ever, your patience as we process all this wonderful material is greatly appreciated.

Denise McCluggage informs MMR readers about her family history and the perks automotive publication writers once enjoyed, in her story The Re-Discovery of Tin Cup.


Monza logo

This weekend the F1 saga continues at Monza. Always a temple of drama, the high speed track will bring us another chapter in the Lewis/Nico saga. The freshly reconciled duo have been instructed to race hard and play nice. There will be no team orders. Rosberg’s lead in the driver’s Championship points standing, while considerable, is not insurmountable and with seven races to go, there is much drama ahead.


The Boston Cup

A reminder to circle Sunday, September 21st on your calendar as The Boston Cup, New England’s premier concours event, will take place on the Boston Common. This event is free and a wonderful opportunity to introduce the whole family to a rare slice of automotive history.

Have a great weekend!

Peter Bourassa