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Amici americani della Mille Miglia
SENIOR MAGAZINE BY MARTIN SWIG

[Back to COLUMNS OVERVIEW page]

The California Mille 2012
Historic Race Cars, Little Roads, 1,000 Miles

Each year since 1991, the Marin-based Amici americani della Mille Miglia has organized a 1,000 mile, four-day back roads tour of Northern California.

Traditionally, we gather on the last Sunday of April on Nob Hill in San Francisco.  The Fairmont Hotel allows us to close Mason Street, directly in front of the hotel, for a special showing of the 65+ historic cars gathered for the tour.

The original Mille Miglia event, held in Italy between 1927 and 1957, was a wild open road race from Brescia, Rome and back, in those pre-autostrada days.  Cars that might have run in those original events are eligible for the California Mille, meaning that the newest cars this year are already 55 years old.

The cars are the “stars,” but the owners are special too.  They come from all over the U.S. and some even visit from overseas to enjoy the beauty of back roads motoring in Northern California.

This year the route will go from San Francisco, then Lodi, then Highway 88 toward Incline Village.  A second day will circle Lake Tahoe, lunch in Gardnerville and visit the National Museum in Reno before returning to Incline.  Day three will cross California through Marysville, Colusa, Williams and Middletown, to overnight at Solage in Calistoga.  The final day’s route will leave Calistoga, go out to Bodega Bay for lunch and return to Solage for a final dinner.  Although the primary focus of the event is motoring, the food and lodging are at a very high level.

Where to See the Cars

In addition to Nob Hill in San Francisco on Sunday, April 29th, the cars could be seen around lunchtime on Monday at the Wine & Roses Restaurant on Turner Road in Lodi, and at the Hyatt in Incline Village overnight on Monday and Tuesday.

A catered lunch will be served on Wednesday at the Sacramento River Park in Colusa.  That day’s destination is Solage on the Silverado Trail in Calistoga.  The last day has a lunch scheduled for The Tides in Bodega Bay, with a final dinner at Solage.  If you go to any of these places, you’ll find the car owners open to talk to you about their cars.

The field of pre-1958 cars includes a number of Alfa Romeos, Porsches, Jaguars, as well as more obscure makes like the French Talbot Lago T26 Gran Sport of 1954, of which only 23 were ever made.  Two of those will be seen on the Mille.

A car you would not expect is the 1940 Buick Roadmaster convertible, entered by John Horton of San Francisco.  John is a veteran of historic car tours.  He took his Buick on the thirty-day(!) Peking to Paris rally a few years ago.  The run was not without problems, but he did arrive in Paris after a memorable drive through Mongolia, Siberia, Russia, the Baltic States, Germany and finally France.  That tough old Buick was conceived to master old-time American roads, but it did okay coping with primitive Asian conditions.  So California will be a doddle.

These cars are old, so reliability is an issue.  Two skilled mechanics follow the cars, ready to diagnose and repair most malfunctions.  In the event of a fatal breakdown, a flatbed also accompanies us.

Longtime sponsors include The Fairmont Hotel of San Francisco, Chopard (the Swiss watch company that features motoring-themed watches), Bonhams (the auctioneers) and Chubb collector car insurance.

A big part of the attraction of driving these cars is how elemental they are.  No power steering, automatic transmission, air conditioning.  No power windows, generally no radio.  They are often noisy and hard riding.  Driving one all day on two-lane back roads like we use is a real workout.

We cordially invite readers of Senior Magazine to visit us in San Francisco, or along our route.

 
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