2011 Marin Sonoma Concours d'Elegance "The Drive" May 14, 2011

 Kurt Fischer

  by Kurt Fischer, Redwood Region Past President
  Photos by John Jackson and Chris Harrell

Dateline - 4:00am Saturday, May 14th. I awake with thoughts of driving my brother-in-law Phil Stolp's absolutely gorgeous 1964 XKE Roadster as the leader for the Marin Sonoma Concours Drive leading 98 beautiful cars on a 90-mile run through the back roads of Marin and Sonoma Counties on our way to a gourmet catered lunch at the wonderful grounds at Cline Cellars in Sonoma. Gulp...am I ready for this day?

I arrive at Phil's home in Kenwood at 5:30am and as I drive in, there is Phil in his garage. The Jaguar is looking great...all polished up...almost a full tank of gas. I transfer all my gear to the Jag and plug in my GPS (side note: all early Jags were positive-ground, but Phil had switched over all the electrics to negative ground years ago and my GPS is working fine).

Off I go in darkness and notice that the instrument lights are not working! Phil neglected to tell me that Jags have a separate toggle switch for instrument lighting! There are 6 toggle switches on this Jag that control all kinds of things! Luckily, the skies lighten and I can see the important gauges: oil pressure and temperature are looking good!  

I head down to Tiburon where the Drive is starting; roads are very clear at this time in the morning and the Jag purrs along with 265 HP and plenty of torque. My shift point is a very low 3500 RPM. This Jaguar is a Series 1, with 3.8 liters and a Moss Racing 4-speed gearbox with non-synchro 1st gear; one must be at a dead stop before engaging 1st gear! Quickly out of 1st as it sounds like the transmission is going to fall out and into 2nd and let the torque work. Shifts into 3rd and 4th are short throws and I am down the road quickly! The sound of the XKE is pure magic: twin upswept pipes that burble completely different than any Porsche!

As I arrive in Tiburon, volunteers have arrived and registration tables are being set up. The cars start showing up just after 7:00am. The attendees are excited; the day is showing some sunshine and perfect weather for drives in cars that really don't like heat. Phil's Jag has an aftermarket electric pancake fan strapped to the radiator, so he tells me it will run cool all day! I sure hope the rest of the British cars also have this feature for peace of mind!

What an eclectic collection we have, from a '27 Rolls Royce 6.5L LeMans Tourer to a 2011 Rolls Royce Corniche convertible. You want multi million dollar cars? How about a 1937 Delahaye 145 coupe which is one of six made and the 1938 LeMans winner! We had a Ferrari Daytona Spider and a lot of classic Rolls Royces too. Of special note, 12 Porsches were also in attendance: Speedsters, 356 Cabs and Coupes, and early 911's including our own Chris Harrell in his '73 911 aka "The Beast", Bob Hall and his Weissach, and many others!

I hold the driver's meeting for this group of almost 200 people, with special emphasis on safety, including using the turnouts on Highway 1, no passing except in designated areas, and a special admonishment on a blind right turn onto Fallon-Two Rock Road (more on this later). Again, I reinforce do not follow the car in front of you; use the detailed route instructions as most people have a navigator on board!

So...I give the signal to fire up the engines and, typical of Type A drivers, they all start leaving...without me in the lead! These guys are not Porsche touring experts, so here I am stuck in the middle of the parking lot with at least 10-15 cars in front of me. I get the Jag into reverse and head out the wrong way in the parking lot to regain control of this unruly group! Luckily, Tiburon Blvd is two lanes and I blast up the left side trying to regain the lead at extra-legal speeds. By the time we get to 101, I'm still about 5 cars short of the lead!

Click here for a photo take on the start from Tiburon, from our resident Porsche photographer, John Jackson. I will let John show you the cars!

Finally, on Highway 1 there is a moving road block with a Caltrans truck getting us through a one lane section and I finally get into the lead...thanks to Steve Wanat (Alfa Steve) in his '65 Alfa Romeo Guilia Spyder, who lets me take the lead! Alfa Steve and I at the lead have a great run up to Tomales for our "pit stop"! The Jag is full of creaks and squeaks and, of course, the cyclists are out in full force so extra caution was needed. I'm double-clutching for each shift and the Jag with all its torque is working well!

We take up the majority of parking places in Tomales (all one block of it) and get to use the "facilities", stretch our legs, and tire kick the cars as car guys do. As I signal the start of the tour again, I take off and I am hoping the majority of cars will see the right turn onto Fallon-Two Rock Road, which is only 1.9 miles up the road! Well, as it turns out, I find out that at least 20-30 cars kept running on Highway 1, missing the turnoff! So much for reading route instructions!

I call our volunteers from a point about 5 miles from Cline to alert them that the British et al. are due soon! Our own Ron Breeze is a volunteer for The Drive, and the first person I see at Cline is Ron, with his cam set up to take video of our arrival. Facebook members can see the video here.  Great video and music. Thanks, Ron!

After a great lunch at Cline, off we go to the optional wine and cheese party held in front of Il Davide on A Street in San Rafael, where we had A Street blocked off! More tire kicking and toasts to the great Drive with about 50 cars participating!

Wow! I am sure glad that we did not lose any cars to mishaps. We lost only one car due to mechanical failure: an XKE driver lost his clutch in a gas station and NOT stuck on the side of the road! Will I do this again? You bet...if I get the call next year! What a great day: vintage car overload all for Hospice by the Bay!



The Drive Austin

Photo by Chris Harrell

The Drive Delahaye

Photo by Chris Harrell