The Northwest Classic Rally is for Those Who Love to Drive

Lining up for the start

28 years ago, Sports Car Market (then the Alfa Romeo Market Letter) was a sponsor of the first Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally.

Along with magazine co-founder Cindy Banzer, I drove a 1965 Giulia Sprint Speciale. We completed the 600-plus mile route without breaking down — and didn’t finish last, which made the event a success for us.

Unusual among classic rallies, the NWC is a fairly rigorous TSD (time-speed-distance event), with multiple checkpoints and strict scoring. There are different classes depending on whether teams use calculators to compute their desired times. Modern rally devices are forbidden.

Over the years, the NWC has donated over $120,000 to the March of Dimes. This year, the key players in the organization were Bob Hui (rally master), Jim Gunter (chairman) and Mark Carpenter (competition chairman). Long-time SCMers Dick Larsen and Dave Beach were a part of the organizing committee as well. Monte Shelton Jaguar has been the presenting sponsor for every one of the 28 years, and SCM has been a supporting sponsor.

I stopped by on a Thursday night to enjoy the check-in, where all 90 or so cars make an appearance and the rally master gives last-minute instructions.

As I strolled up and down Couch Street in Northwest Portland, behind Shelton’s Jaguar dealership, I was reminded of why the check-in is in many ways my very favorite car event of the year.

First I get a chance to kick tires and visit with friends I have known for nearly three decades. Every year, in the tales we relate to each other, our cars seem to get faster, our restorations get done more quickly — and more under budget.

Age does this to your perception of things.

I especially enjoy the fact that the vintage cars here (mostly ’50s, ’60s and ’70s sports cars) are about to be driven well over 500 miles over three days. There’s just something different about drivers and navigators who know they are setting off on a journey, with a TSD challenge attached.

While I enjoy concours, they are static events, and generally cars are presented in a condition that is contrary to their automotive nature. As cars are used, they get dirty. Engines seep oil. Rear bumpers get discolored from exhaust. Windshields get filthy and bugs splatter on recently waxed front ends.

I also enjoyed the variety of cars on display. There were three lovely Saab 96 V4s and a Series II Sonnet, along with a Citroën DS21. Perhaps on close examination they would not be “perfect” or high-scoring concours examples, but in the late afternoon sun, they all gleamed and looked ready to head down the road.

There were Porsche 356s and 911s, Alfa Giuliettas, Austin-Healeys, a Gullwing, a Lancia Appia, Jaguar XKs and E-types and more — in short, all of the sports cars that we grew up dreaming we might someday own.

For me, I find value in my cars through use. I fell in love with sports cars because of the driving sensations they offered me; handling and responsiveness that simply weren’t part of the driving experience of American cars of the ’50s and ’60s.

I applaud these drivers and navigators as they set off in their decades-old machines that represent the technology and the driving standards of a different era. For one weekend in Oregon, while most people on the road were just driving, these participants were having an adventure. Regardless of the final scores, everyone on the Northwest Classic was a winner.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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3 comments

  1. Wow, thanks Keith! It was fun to catch up again. You have been a long time supporter of the evnet. I remember talking with you one evening, a long time ago at the start, when you were new with the idea of Alfa Romeo Market Letter and I was starting my roofing business. We have put a lot of miles on Alfas and have great businesses. Thanks so much for your comments and friendship over the years. I think we were 12 when we started this, RIGHT? Mark Carpenter

  2. We had only a few moments of route or time panic, and our times were right where we wanted them apart from one mysterious delay. Race and rally legend Denise McCluggage was the speaker at dinner tonight, and she said that the most fun part of rallying is getting behind early and then having to catch up. After being down the first day and coming back strong today, we d say that her words are an analogy for our entire event. @nimrod why not one of each? That s what I did. Love my spec Miata, but there s no replacing the classics.

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