Cruising Vermont in the New EngIand 1000

By: Bill Randol in GrassRoots Motorsports September/October 1997

During the second half of May, Vermont was the place to be: Whoopie Goldberg gave the commencement address at the University of Vermont, and on the following day, the New England 1000 rally for classic cars began just a few miles down the road.

Sunday, May 18, was registration day at the Basin Harbor Club. Drivers and navigators checked in, did the necessary paperwork, drove their cars to the shore of Lake Champlain for an informal Concours d'Elegance - a chance to schmooze and nosh. In the evening, there was dinner at the Lodge, a drivers' meeting and a navigators' meeting. Sunday was a warm spring day, but that was not to last.

Monday was departure day—Day 1— and winter had returned. In the steady downpour, the cars took off on the first stage of the rally. As they drove out of Basin Harbor on their way to Vergennes, some may have noticed the chubby pair of sheep standing on the front stoop of a house—obviously wanting to get in out of the rain!

Most of the cars had tops, so the weather was an inconvenience, but survivable. The exception was a 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster driven by Dean and Wendy Edmonds; they drove the entire rally without a top, and deserved a hero badge. At the victory banquet, they were presented with the Vintage Spirit Award.

Onward! Past the first checkpoint in Cambridge to lunch at Jay Peak, through the area known as the Northeast Kingdom and south to Stowe Mountain Resort via Smuggler's Notch. Stowe is a well-known ski area, and people must have had second thoughts considering the bleak weather conditions.

Day 2—the Gymkhana—took place a short distance from the lodge. The gymkhana was in two parts. The top finishers were: David and Robert Coffin, 1974 Ferrari Dino246 GTS; Henry Michie and Rich Chapel, 1972 Porsche Carrera RS; Gary and Linda Moreland, 1964 Corvette; Avery Hall and Andrea Rogers, 1972 BMW 3.0CS

The gymkhana completed, participants departed Stowe on their way to a checkpoint in Brandon, then onward to another checkpoint at the Wilburton Inn in Manchester. Located nearby is the outlet center of the universe; some may have been tempted to visit there. Most folks had lunch at the Wilburton Inn; some strolled through the sculpture garden and marveled at such creations as the "Temple of Fender Bender,« made of recycled auto parts. From the Wilburton Inn, it was a short drive to Mt. Equinox for a hill climb

By the afternoon, it had become a real spring day—the sort of thing that can just suddenly happen according to some of the local people. The Mt. Equinox Hill Climb was a 5.2-mile steep ascent up a mountain that belongs to a monastic order, the members of which have take a vow of silence. Their tranquillity must have been completely shattered. The top finishers: Henry Michie and Rich Chapel, 1972 Porsche Carrera RS David and Paula Fisher, 1973 Porsche Carrera RS; David and Robert Coffin, 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS.

From Mt. Equinox, everybody was off to Grafon, and overnight at the Old Tavern, a beautifully maintained Federal-style white clapboard and brick structure with green shutters. Ulysses S. Grant and Henry David Thoreau have been among the Old Tavern's distinguished guests. On Wednesday morning, the rallyists left Grafton behind, and drove a short distance to the MG Museum in Westminster. There under one roof, are collected 27 examples of MG automobiles, from the earliest to the latest, including a prototype of the MGB, the car that placed 17th overall at LeMans in 1955.

The spring weather began to disintegrate once again as participants drove across the state to Bennington for a visit to Hemmings Garage to check out the splendid collection of vehicles. It was a visual smorgasbord: Gullwing Mercedes Benz, E-type Jaguars, etc., parked among American-made Sedan Deliveries of the '30s and '40s. From Hemmings Garage we went to the new Hemmings publishing facility for a tour and lunch, then out of Bennington in a Northeasterly direction to Mt. Ascuteny for another hill climb. This was a shorter ascent than that at Mt. Equinox, and more gradual. Top finishers were: Henry Michie and Rich Chapel, 1972 Porsche Carrera RS, David and Paula Fisher, 1973 Porsche Carrera RS; Frank Filangeri and Clark Nicholls, 1962 Jaguar XKE.

From Mt. Ascuteny people headed off to the town of Woodstock for the night. Thursday morning, we went north out of Woodstock for a visit to Rock of Ages, a huge granite quarry and monument manufacturer. From there, we were off to Thunder Road, a high-banked oval that was turned into a road course for the day: The Drive to Glory. Even in the downpour, it was a sight to behold. Top finishers were: John Whitney Payson Mercedes Benz "Renntech" 600, Frank Filangeri and Clark Nicholls, 1962 Jaguar XKE, Henry Michie and Rich Chapel, 1972 Porsche Carrera RS.

Out of Thunder Road, a very welcome lunch stop at the Hilltop Cafe, then back on the road. There was one last scenic loop as far north as Craftsbury, then south to a checkpoint at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. The last leg took the entrants west toward Lake Champlain and a return to the Basin Harbor Club. The people who drove every stage of the rally actually completed 1051.65miles, saw 11 Moose Alert signs, one llama alert, several covered bridges, drove over numerous "frost heaves," and spent a few minutes in New York State. At the victory banquet at the Basin Harbor Club Thursday evening, aside from the Vintage Spirit Award already mentioned, it was announced that the rally had produced two teams that tied for first place overall: Peter and Karen Efros, 1953 MGTD; and Frank Filangeri and Clark Nicholls, 1962 Jaguar XKE.