Report by John Waugh and pictures by the photographers of John Waugh, Photographic Images
The Colorado Grand 2012 was staged September 10-15 on the secondary roads of Colorado, starting and ending in Vail. The 24th annual Colorado Grand was as challenging as it was scenic, as the tour traversed the western slope of Colorado through 1098 miles of magnificent mountain highways in spectacular fall foliage.
The Colorado Grand serves as a charity fundraising tour for multiple organizations throughout the state. Foremost is the Colorado State Patrol Family Foundation, a support organization for the widows and children of officers lost in the line of duty.
The Grand has always prescribed the entrants cars to be pre 1960 with an authentic history and assurance of sound mechanical condition. The first day of the 2012 rally pushed the sound mechanical condition. With a collection of some 100 vintage automobiles from around the world the initial day crossed six mountain passes in 300 miles separating the prepared from the wishful. The day included two crossings of the Continental Divide, Berthoud Pass 11,307 feet above sea level and Loveland Pass 11,990 ft. If that wasn’t enough, thunderstorms accompanied the cars for most of the day.
Eighteen pre-war entries were in attendance that included a 1928 Bentley 4.5 Litre VDP, a 1929 Bentley Le Mans and a 1929 Duesenberg Dual Cowl Phaeton. A 1932 Alvis Speed 20 SA finished the day in a downpour outside of Vail that required extensive bailing to keep her afloat.
In the last two years special consideration has been granted to specific marques of racing distinction that fall slightly outside the parameters and this seasons candidate was the Shelby Cobra. Ten 289 and 427 models participated in the 2012 tour.
Twenty some Ferraris, sixteen Jaguars from 1939 to 1960, ten Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and a remarkable collection of rarities that included Kurtis, Lancia, Maserati, OSCA, Daimler, Alvis, Allard, Atalanta, Cunningham…you get the picture. The Colorado Grand is one of the best rolling car collections in the world for this week.
Day two of the 2012 Colorado Grand was a soggy ride over Tennessee Pass (10,424 ft) through a spectacular color display of aspen and scrub oak that continued over Monarch Pass (11,312 ft) to a lunch gathering in Gunnison. Small town scholarship giving by the Colorado Grand provides a $5,000 grant to the student of the town’s choice for a year at any Colorado Mountain College in exchange for providing a home grown picnic lunch for the eventeurs every day. This year’s stops included Walden, Gunnison, Durango and Hotchkiss. Day two concluded in Telluride as skies cleared and the promise of great fall weather cheered the Granders for the challenging day to come.
The Million Dollar Highway was constructed in the 1870s by Otto Mears as a toll road to transport ore out of these rugged mountains and remains largely unimproved by modern standards. Blasted through the Ouray Box Canyon, this narrow two-lane road is largely without guard rails and the white line at the edge is often the last surface before 100-foot cliffs to the Uncompagre River below. Beautiful as well as thrilling, the San Juan Skyway is a 227-mile sports car driver’s dream come true through the heart of the San Juan Mountains, the Switzerland of America.
Durango, Colorado hosted lunch at the historic depot of the Durango Silverton Railroad in downtown, refreshing the drivers before the tour turned towards Mancos on the edge of Mesa Verde National Park, Dolores and Lizard Head Pass (10,222 ft), before finally returning to Telluride once again. The evening festivities were highlighted by a cocktail reception at the Peaks Lodge complete with the award-winning 1937 MG TA (courtesy of Grand participants Bill and Greg Bollendonk) in the lobby followed by scotch and cigars after dinner on the patio under the stars.
Leaving Telluride on the final driving day of the the tour navigated the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. A winding, narrow two-lane that twists along the rim of 2,700 ft deep canyon offering a workout to even the most fit drivers. Lunch under the cottonwoods at the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss is a welcome respite for everyone. A group portrait of the twenty Ferrari entrants was a thrill to see. The final afternoon crossed McClure Pass (8763 ft) and on to Glenwood Springs, the gateway to Glenwood Canyon of the Colorado River on the return to Vail.
The Concours d’Non-Elegance in the Lionshead Plaza in Vail marked the traditional ending to the Colorado Grand 2012 with many of the participant’s automobiles being exhibited complete with grasshoppers, butterflies, mud and road grime that testify to the rigors of “The Grand”.