Abarths, Alfas, Aston Martins, BMWs, Fiats, Lamborghinis, Lola, Loti, Maserati, MINIs, MGs, Triumphs, Ferraris, Porsches, Rolls-Royces, plus about two dozen marques I'm forgetting right now, all converged in one place at one time for a concours and a race, and it didn't even rain. Each year, Rolex teams with BMW sponsorship to present the East Coast's premier vintage race and car show at Lime Rock Park Raceway in the Berkshire Hills of rural Connecticut.
With more than 200 often-priceless vintage cars as well as spectacular displays from Rolex, BMW, BMW Motorcycles and Mini, it's easy for events like this to create sensory overload.
To distill the Rolex Vintage Festival Presented by BMW into a digestible, forward-thinking vision, I'd say that watching inordinately wealthy people racing 40-year-old open-cockpit racecars on the old 1.53-mile New England road course surrounded by mansions has a way of putting things into perspective. The value of money, one reflects afterwards, is essentially what it will buy for you. Maybe that is its entire value. Life is short; drive hard.
Perhaps my lifestyle is validated after all, no matter what my married friends think. At a minimum, it reinforces our appreciation for the guys who raced these cars for real, trading rubber and paint back in the day. No Nomex, no harness, no roll bar, a dinky helmet, and no sponsors. Their courage will never be in question.
Aston Martin was 2005's featured marque, and there were a number of extremely rare cars on display including a DB4 GT Zagato and a V12 Vanquish. These cars were not cordoned off behind velvet ropes; you could go right up to them and lust away under the watchful eyes of the car handlers.
Also present was Sandra McNeil with her amazingly original 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, bearing New York license plates. While it no longer prowls the streets, this priceless veteran racecar still tears up tracks, placing second among 1955 to 1962 GT cars over 2,200 cc, behind the 1959 Aston Martin DB4 GT of Murray Smith. This is one of the best aspects of the Rolex Vintage Festival: racecars actually race, and not all of them are restored to museum quality.
Carroll Shelby, who needs no introduction to the automotive enthusiast, won the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans in an Aston Martin DBR1, and he was at Lime Rock to tell that tale and many others from his long and storied life. The event paid special tribute to Shelby, now in his 80s, and the man himself was available to his many fans all weekend. You could bring him a model Cobra for an autograph-or a full-size one, as some did. It is not often you have the chance to meet a living legend. To honor him, the Show of Shelbys included nearly every model Shelby created.
The MINI crowd - both original and new - was present in force. The new MINI has completely revitalized interest in the marque, including the original MINI.