How I Spent My Summer Vacation
The New England 1000 - a Little Vacation at Speed
While cruising the paddock at the 1995 Lime Rock Fall Vintage Festival, it took nothing more than a comment to old college friend Clark Nicholls that I was considering running the New England 1000 Rally again but had no navigator, to get an enthusiastic "let's do it". So once again the planning began. Fall of 1995 was spent tending to Catiecat's (my 62 XKE roadster) needs. New front wheel bearings, motor mounts, brake pads and, a new set of minilite replica wheels and lots of "routine" maintenance and she was ready for a winter's rest in anticipation of the upcoming rigors of 1000 miles of New England roads scheduled to begin at the end of May 1996.
The adventure began on a rainy Saturday afternoon in late May with a ferry ride off Long Island to Connecticut enroute to Lee, Mass. to pick up Clark. After a good nights sleep in Lee we awoke to a beautiful sunny day for the second leg of our journey to the Basin Harbor Club on the shores of Lake Champlain in northern Vermont, the starting place as well as the finish of the upcoming rally. We arrived around noon and were greeted by an amazing collection of cars already in the parking lot: 1930 Bugatti type 44 (one of four Bugattis), 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 3000, 1934 Aston Martin Ulster, 1956 Austin Healey 100M, 1959 AC Bristol, 1950 Kurtis Sport, 1951 Allard Monte Carlo, along with a complement of various Mercedes, Astons, Ferraris, Porsches, Lotuses to name a few. Oldsmobile, a sponsor, brought along a virtually new 1966 Toronado and a 1979 442, the same car used in the movie Demolition Man, and not just for show. These cars ran the entire event, including the hillclimbs! Catiecat was kept company by fellow competitors and Jag enthusiasts in a 1967 XKE, 1973 XKE, 1959 XK-150 (a dedicated team that completed a head gasket replacement the night before and successfully ran the entire event!!) and a beautiful newly completed Heritage C-type driven up from Washington D.C., in the rain. Jaguar was well represented and we were in good company. Competing in our class, Early Historic under 4 liters, were two Astons and three Ferrari 330GTC's. After an impromptu Concours Diselegance at the lakes edge and a fine dinner we were ready for the Monday morning start.
The rally was run over four days and approximately 1100 miles. This included three hillclimbs, on closed courses during which we were encouraged to run as fast as we dared. The rally and hillclimbs were scored separately this year with trophies for each.
Day one started with a real surprise when no more than 20 minutes from the start we were forced to cross a badly flooded road. After watching a competitor ahead of us cross we boldly forged ahead (not much choice as we had no idea as to an alternate route). We found out later that a Lotus Europa actually started to float but made it safely across. After a checkpoint stop at Calvin Coolidges birthplace and lunch in scenic Woodstock, Vermont, we found our way to the White Mountain Inn, our stopping point for the evening, and the first hillclimb. After emptying the trunk of excess weight, donning our helmets and cinching the harnesses tight we were ready to start our timed run. Off we went, roaring around the course, tires screeching only to come across a set of cones we took to be the end. A quick u-turn and we were headed back to the finish. We had scored a great time....only we had not completed the course!! After a detailed explanation of where the course really went we were allowed a second run and later found we had scored the best time of day overall. A very successful first day with only two penalty points scored in the rally segments.
Day two began with a transit stage to the mount Washington hillclimb, 2.5 miles of twisting, uphill blacktop. This was to be the only time during the four days we were forced to put the top up as it began to rain just prior to our run. Despite the wet road we were able to get a very good run, completing the course in 3 minutes flat beating the next best time, by a Ferrari 246, by 14 seconds. The rest of the day was 250 miles of glorious top down touring, at speeds sometimes in excess of 100 mph, playing "tag" with other cars in the event. Our lunch stop was to be a very special treat however. Bob Bahre, owner of New Hampshire Raceway and car collector opened his "museum" to our group for a special showing (it is open to the public only one day a year) and provided us a place for lunch among some of the most magnificent cars in the country. Dining while surrounded by restored Dusenbergs, Packards and Miller race cars among others was an experience worth driving to New Hampshire in itself. There was even a Series One XKE in the shop area awaiting restoration.
The day ended at the beautiful Samoset Resort on the Atlantic coast in Maine. Another good day in the scoring with no rally penalties putting us a solid third overall in the rally, behind a Lotus Cortina with zero points and a Porsche 356 with one point, and first in the hillclimbs.
Wednesday, day three, turned out to be one of the most entertaining despite the fact that we covered only about 170 miles. The first event was the Mount Battie hillclimb. Approximately 1.7 miles long it proved to be the most interesting hillclimb. Wide, smooth roads with well banked turns and no nasty surprises allowed us to again run best time of day but with the Lotus Europa only one second behind and the Ferrari 246 only two seconds back!! Too close for comfort. We should never have told the Europa driver what a smooth run it was and not to lift the whole way up! We had however clinched the hillclimb event honors.
The next stop was at the home of Andy and Sarah Rheault, noted Bugatti collectors and restorers. It was fascinating to see a completely disassembled Bugatti under going restoration. The detail and craftsmanship that went into making these machines is amazing to witness and the rare opportunity to get into the innards of one was truly a highlight of the entire trip.
We then set out on a transit stage to the Owl Head Museum in Owl Head, Maine. This museum is dedicated to the early transportation era and includes displays of early flying machines and automobiles, a display of early engines, biplanes rides and numerous exhibits related to transportation. While visiting, we were treated to an old fashioned Maine clam and lobster bake--a fabulous lunch surrounded by marvelous artifacts. This museum is a "must see" stop if you are in the area.
It was then off to some serious rallying for the balance of the day on the way to our destination for the night, the Sugarloaf Mountain Resort. We were again able to stay on course and on time, avoiding any penalty points and maintaining our position in third place behind that tenacious Cortina and the Porsche. Who is that guy in the Cortina anyway??
Our last day on the course proved to be the most intense. Wednesday was a relaxed, fun day and we were going to pay for that on Thursday by covering three hundred miles in four timed segments. The route took us over a variety of roads and through many towns.
The rally master had set fairly high average speeds and the open road segments provided many opportunities to "make up time". As a result much of the day was spent at speeds considerably above the speed limits with a couple of dashes to 120+mph during some long passes.. We managed to zero the first three segments and picked up only one more penalty at the last checkpoint for a total of three points in 1097 miles. We would have to wait for the awards dinner that evening to find out if that was going to be good enough for a trophy.
After a hardy dinner at the Basin Harbor Club it was finally show time!! Rich Taylor our host and organizer announced that the event was able to donate at least $20,000 to the Vermont State Police Gary Gaboury fund this year, the most ever and moved on to the awards. As it turned out the Porsche 356 had picked up two penalty points the last day and we had tied for second with three points each. We were awarded the position because of our performance in scoring an overall win in the hillclimbs. We also took first in class for both events having bested the Aston Martins and Ferraris in our class. Our fellow XKEs placed a respectable tenth and fifteenth overall. We found out later "that guy" in the Lotus Cortina, the overall rally winner, was Tom Grimshaw, a professional rally navigator. With him navigating and Bobby Unser driving they were this years winner of the ALCAN (Alaska/Canada) 5000 mile pro rally!! A tough act to follow but it made us feel even better about our second place finish.
Rich and Jean Taylor, organizers of the NE 1000, put on a grand event once again.
Fine food, first class hotels, wonderful roads and a like minded group of enthusiasts make this event a very special way to use an old Jaguar or any classic car. You can do the event in a very competitive manner, as a pleasant drive through the New England countryside or anything in between, your choice. The organization is excellent and nothing is left to chance. Your luggage is even delivered to your room each evening! Our thanks to Jaguar Cars and Lee Maas for their assistance in making it possible for us to participate in this event and show what a classic Jaguar is capable of.