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.
Throughout the weekend, the Rolex Moments in Time exhibit presented eight significant cars with legendary racing history, while BMW showcased the 3 Series, displaying a 2002tii, 320i, 325i, 325is, M3, and a 1970s BMW 320 Turbo racecar. New and vintage BMW motorcycles were also displayed by BMW Motorrad. A seldom mentioned part of the Rolex Vintage Festival Sponsored by BMW is that, for some reason, it attracts hordes of BMW motorcyclists, the author included.
If you live within driving distance-which to us means North America-then you really owe it to yourself to check out this event, which is held every Labor Day. This is because, unlike some events, the drive to Lime Rock is an integral part of the fun. The serpentine roads that criss-cross New York, Connecticut, and southern Massachusetts are part of the event's lure. After all, we build these cars to drive them, right?
Vintage cars merit the occasional look even if you're not necessarily into them. After all, all our rides will one day be vintage cars, so it's really just a matter of time before each of us becomes a vintage car enthusiast.
Organized by Lime Rock Vintage Events, the Rolex Vintage Festival Presented by BMW is an automotive museum brought to life every Labor Day weekend. Tickets range from $20.00 to $40.00 (children 12 and under, free). For more info, call 800.RACE.LRP or visit www.limerock.com.
Sidebar: The Rolls Royce EX100
Dubbed an experimental car by Rolls Royce, the EX100 has been on the show circuit since 2004, and is widely felt to be the convertible follow-up to the Phantom ber-sedan orchestrated by the company's BMW handlers. While not exactly our cup of tea here at ec, we can always appreciate Rolls Royce for its wonderful history of building super durable cars with nearly unmatched build quality. The EX100 follows that long tradition, but with styling that is completely different from the Phantom's.
A massive aluminum windshield frame extends down the hood in what has to be a styling first, and it really works well on this car. Substantial rear-hinged doors are unique in this rarified segment, and mahogany cabinetry throughout the car and the trunk lend a distinctly maritime feel to the EX100.
Also departing from the Phantom are the 21-inch wheels and 9.0-liter V16 engine - yes, V16. The suspension and steering comes right off the Phantom, though.
From a design perspective, everyone we spoke with agreed that the 800-pound gorilla in the room are the tiny little head lights-they just don't work with the rest of the design. The EX100, if mass produced, needs massive headlights to match its overall proportions.