Oldtimerrennen der Kilomètre lancé

Vintage car rallies: My six most favorite rallies in the world

From the Arlberg Classic to the Mille Miglia to Goodwood – here is an overview of my favorite vintage car rallies

There are so many vintage car rallies that you could spend all year going to them. As a fervent motorist, classic car fan, and photographer, I have been to many such events. Here are the six vintage car rallies that I have enjoyed the most, then and now.

Oldtimertreffen in Arlberg

Vintage car rally #1 – The Arlberg Classic

The Arlberg Classic has only been held for the last ten years. This is the most family-friendly vintage car rally. People love to go there because it’s a beautiful drive through the Alps, and the weather is usually lovely. The rally is held in late June, which is the best time: the snow and ice have melted away, everything is bright green, except for the mountain peaks, which remain white – it’s quite a view! 

The Alpenrally has a great social program, a great welcome reception on the first evening in one of the most beautiful chalets in the area, and a fantastic, super-elegant awards ceremony. You stay in any one of the great hotels there, depending on your budget (my favorite is the “Hotel Arlberg“) and you party in style for three or four days.

Oldtimertreffen Arlberg-Stadt
Oldtimertreffen Arlberg
Oldtimertreffen Arlberg Hotel

The Arlberg Classic is a fairly tricky race to boot. It’s hard to come in the first 120 places. Then again, there are only 120 cars racing, so there’s usually always a way … 😉

The slightest mistake sets you back light years. It’s pretty narrow and winding there. If there is a car that I would not want to drive there, it would be a nice, old Rolls Royce or a heavy pre-war car. My favorite car for this rally is a Porsche, the red 911 Targa from 1974  – as fast, sporty, and nimble as possible.  

I’ve been ten times and I’m going next year too. The Arlberg Classic is a rally among friends and a drive through a dream landscape. You can see a lot of the Arlberg Classic Cars in my book „Classic Cars“.

Vintage Car Rally #2 – Goodwood

Goodwood is the get-together for ardent collectors – and not just for motorists and cars, but anything that rumbles and ticks.  You arrive in the latest outfit… landing in a JU52 aircraft. And the program is all about SPEED and FUN. 

I have not yet made it to Goodwood. I’ve been invited several times, but it’s never worked out. My chances for this legendary vintage car rally look better this year. I was recently in Saint Moritz with the son-in-law of the Earl of March at the “Kilomètre Lancé,” and we talked about going together. 

Goodwood is “the place to be,” and people who drive there are more than a little determined. 

You can see a few beauties here in my Aston Martin-Buch, and you can click here for a virtual tour through Goodwood

If I do go, I have to decide which car I’ll take, because it has to be something out of the ordinary.  

I do have an old Austin Healey 3000 MKIII from 1965. That should fit the bill! 

This Austin Healey would be my preferred choice, if I were to drive at Goodwood

Vintage car rally #3 – London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

London-Brighton is something to see. I had the good fortune to go on this tour in 2017 with a charming woman who drove a 1903 Oldsmobile. 

Being allowed on the tour at all is 80% of the challenge at this classic car meeting. The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run only allows cars built on or before 1905, which means that the youngest car there is 117 years old. Most enthusiasts don’t have the right vehicle for it… 

London-Brighton is the oldest motor sports event in the world.

Engines fire up at 7 in the morning, amidst the icy cold of the first Sunday in November. The race starts at sunrise in Hyde Park in London and runs for 54 miles (or 86 kilometers) down to the English Channel in Brighton.

The vehicles – and their drivers – can hardly be expected to do more. Filling up the oil every five miles constitutes a mandatory pit stop. We stopped twelve times along the way, plus the two official stops on the route. 

Anyone who makes it before 4:30 PM gets a medal. 

The other class in the London-Brighton rally is for the “Electrocars,” which were already around back then. They can hold out a little longer than five miles… but not quite ten. 

 

Oldtimerrtreffen in London
Oldtimertreffen London

The steam vehicles are under even greater pressure. They start warming up their cars with coal and briquettes already on Thursday. Crazy when you think how simple it is to drive a car now…

The history of the London-Brighton rally is really interesting. This vintage car rally dates back to the passage of London’s Locomotive Act in the late 19th century.

This legislation mandated that motor vehicles could not drive faster than four miles per hour, or 6.4 km/h.

Furthermore, each motor vehicle had to be preceded by a pedestrian with a red flag to guide them – which is why this law is also known as the Red Flag Act.

When the Red Flag Act was repealed in 1896, the first automotive enthusiasts celebrated with a race, which ran at full throttle from London to Brighton. At that time, full throttle meant roughly thirty kilometers per hour.

Still today, vehicles running in the London-Brighton rally may therefore not exceed an average speed of 20 miles per hour, roughly 32 km/h.

And still today, a red flag is ritually torn up at the start of the rally.

Oldtimertreffen in Italien

Vintage car rally #4 – Mille Miglia

There are so many beautiful stories about the Mille Miglia, the famous thousand miles across Italy. They include how Porsche’s driver Hans Herrmann won in 1954 by ducking his head as he zoomed under the closed barriers at a railroad crossing, just barely avoiding the oncoming train. 

I last drove in this famous vintage car rally in 2015, exactly 60 years after Stirling Moss’ legendary win. In 1955, one year after Hans Herrmann won the race, this British racecar driver set what still today remains the fastest time for this race.  

What do you think about his record, racing 1,600 kilometers across Italy? 

Just to give you an idea, today we drive for about two and a half, often three days (which leaves you totally exhausted).

In 1955 Stirling Moss and his copilot drove it in ten hours.  

I published my book about the Mille Miglia in 2015, and Stirling Moss was still around then. 

On some small street, driving my red gull-wing 300 SL at 220 kilometers per hour, I thought, it’s so noisy, a plane must be about to land on top of me.

It was Stirling Moss behind me, driving the legendary Mercedes 300 SLR, with which he had won the race sixty years earlier. 

>> Stirling Moss’s championship car is the “sister” to the famous Uhlenhaut Coupé, which was auctioned off this year as the most expensive car in the world. I had it twice at my studio: in 1983, when we were still in Wendlingen, and in 1988 in Leonberg, for the 300 SL calendar. –>See more

I barely made it through that little lane with my gull-wing 300 SL, but that somehow didn’t stop Stirling Moss from squeezing by to pass me! 

How did he do that?!

Unfortunately, you’re in no position to take a picture of that.

Oldtimertreffen in Mille-Miglia
Oldtimertreffen-Mille Miglia abend

There was a bad accident at the 1957 Mille Miglia, after which the race was stopped. 

Since then, this vintage car rally has become an old-style get-together, in reminiscence of a time when gasoline-powered vehicles thrilled legions of spectators. 

The Mille Miglia is still very fast and very exacting, with a lot of special inspections, but now it’s driven in stages in groups of at most 50 vehicles each, and obviously with a whole other set of rules compared to before.  

What’s odd about the Mille Miglia is that you hardly see anything of Italy, because you’re either flooring it or standing around undergoing some inspection.

Or it’s raining, or you’re in the Appenines with up to three meters of snow, while in Rome it’s perhaps 25 degrees Celsius, this being early May. And there you are, in your gull-wing, in your racing suit, with no AC and hardly any fresh air. And in the evening, when you ask yourself where you were, you barely remember anything, because you were so stressed out.  

It takes time to drive the Mille Miglia. You can find a lot of great impressions of the Bella Macchina and the Dolce Vita in my book about the Mille Miglia. And Leica has a short film about it on Vimeo as well.

How is the vintage car market faring these days?

The vintage car market has been booming for years, among other reasons because a lot of people want to invest their money in “garage gold.” Some of them are big-time professional investors who are investing seven or eight-figure sums in classic cars. But most of them are vintage car fans like myself who have a passion for beautiful cars, and for whom the value, or the growth in value, is a nice afterthought.

For that matter, the most expensive car in the world is the Mercedes 300 SLR, which I had in my studio (see the section on the Mille Miglia; this is the coupé, that Stirling Moss drove to victory in 1955. A private collector won the car at auction this year by placing a bid of 135 million euros. Click here to see the picture.

Oldtimerrtreffen in Marokko

Rally #5 – Mille Maroc

The Mille Maroc is North Africa’s answer to the Mille Miglia, one thousand miles through Morocco during one whole week. 

A tourist excursion to another world, with chic classic cars from the 30s to the 80s. Marvelous landscapes, so many impressions, very friendly people – and super hotels that are just palatial. (We once had a bed that I think was three meters wide!) 

The contrasts at this vintage car rally are the thing that interest me the most. On the left side, you drive by a high-tech park with brand-new streets and buildings. And on your right, at the edge of the road, is a souk where people are trading in sheep, behind which you spot a tannery where people are working leather in the same way as they did in the sixteenth century. 

The Mille Maroc is organized by Jean-Jacques Radelet, an architect full of great stories from his career. He plans a surprise for each day of the rally. He’s really one of a kind. He does it simply because he has fun doing it. 

The tour always goes through a different landscape, and everything is very collegial. Only 25 cars, or teams, are allowed to drive. If anyone gets stuck, everybody stops. And if someone stops to look at something beautiful, everyone else stops too. 

The Mille Maroc is like a family outing, but without the spats!  

Cars have to be at least 20 years old to un in the Mille Maroc. Last year someone drove a 1930 Bugatti, but most people have “modern” vehicles. We’re pretty comfortable in our 1984 Porsche 911 Targa 3.2 by comparison. You could of course make it even more comfortable and drive a newer car, but that would be missing the point. 

Cool locations, cool people, and cool drinks at the evening welcome reception. Unfortunately, it’s way too small, and it’s booked out years in advance. I’ll drive it again next year during the fall rally. 

Oldtimertreffen in St. Moritz

Vintage car rally #6 – The Flying Kilometer of St. Moritz

Samedan is best known as Europe’s highest-altitude airport. 

Each year, towards the end of summer, the St. Moritz Airport shuts down for an entire weekend for a special vintage car rally. 

Several dozens of cars from the last century engage in a spectacular drag race called the “Kilomètre lance.” 

Ein Teilnehmer der Kilomètre lancé
Oldtimmertreffen in St. Moritz

From a pre-war American La France to a classic BMW race car to a rebuilt electric Porsche 911, cars drive the “flying kilometer” along the 1,800 meter-long runway at  Samedan in a race that remains beyond compare.  

It’s no wonder that the Engadin Airport Festival was named the best motor event of the year in 2022.

The fastest was a BMW motorcycle, a BMW S 1000 RR, which ran the kilometer at 18.06 seconds – even faster than the new Ferrari 296 GTB.

 

So, these are my favorite six vintage car rallies – and of course there are others I would still like to drive in places I’ve never been, like Scotland or the Loire Valley.

The special thing about these vintage car rallies is that you do something new, that you’re not familiar with, whether it’s the place or the people. 

And never, ever drive alone. You have to be at least two, if not three drivers, your very own clique. That makes it fun. And if your car holds together, then you’re really in luck!

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Ein Porträt von René Staud

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