I recently completed the 2022 SCM 1000 AMG Invitational.
There were 25 performance Mercedes of various vintages entered. The star car was the 2009 SLR McLaren Stirling Moss entered by Wynn McCaw.
The event was set up exactly the same as SCM 1000 Classic events we have put on in the same location. It was a hub-and-spoke tour, with the Hilton by Doubletree in Bend, OR, as our host hotel.
The tour featured the glorious landscape and cultural history of Oregon’s High Desert. Like all SCM 1000 Tours, it was all-inclusive, with all meals covered, cultural stops included and our nightly “Conversations with Collectors.”
My ride was my 2004 Mercedes SL55 AMG. I purchased it two years ago with just 48k miles. I’ve covered an additional 8,000-plus miles since then, including 1,000 on this tour.
I have driven most parts of this tour route before in a variety of vintage cars, ranging from a 1971 Jaguar E-type to a 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto.
Being in a modern car was different. Having air-con was nice, as was Apple Car Play. But the best part was not constantly worrying about a breakdown of one sort or another. Even the most sorted of 50-year-old cars will still surprise you with fits of recalcitrance.
The Mercedes Classic Center was along to support us, but only had to change one wheel that an entrant damaged on a curb.
As I sped through the Painted Hills, I asked myself if I was having any less fun because I was in a modern car.
I drove thoughtfully, and never exercised all of the 493 horsepower of the SL55. Instead, I got to enjoy the scenery and the winding curves of the road in comfort.
I never checked the fluids or the tire pressures (the car has built-in systems that take care of those things). Instead, I had a relaxed conversation with my co-driver about the history and geology of Oregon.
At the end of each day, I was refreshed rather than exhausted.
As the tour came to an end, I thought about my experiences on tours in old cars versus new ones.
When tours first started 30 years ago, they were the only chances we had to exercise our old cars. Few of them were maintained well then, and tools and spares were required.
Times are different now. Taking a quick glance at Facebook or Instagram will show posts from tours of varying lengths in all parts of the country.
Is part of the adventure of an old car tour the thrill of the unknown (“what might break next?”) or the camaraderie of owners of similar classic cars?
It’s probably a combination of both.
But it makes me wonder if there is a place for tours for modern sports touring cars that have the same all-inclusive nature of our classic tours.
These tours are not inexpensive. Entry fees range from $8,000–$10,000 for five-day events. Club-based tours, where you make your own room and meal arrangements are significantly less expensive.
I’m interested in your thoughts on the modern vs. classic approach to long-distance, all-inclusive tours.
What do you think? Is there a place for these events, staged for modern cars from the 2000-2022 era? Or are 1,000-mile events best suited to classic cars built pre-1974, where simply finishing the event is enough of a challenge to provide the event with an added attractiveness?
At the moment, I’m still trying to figure out why I am so rested and relaxed after a 1,000-mile tour, instead of feeling as if I have just spent five days in a dryer set on the spin cycle.
Click here to see images and video from the 2022 SCM 1000 AMG Invitational.
As I prepare my 2006 MB SLK Brabus edition, with a 6 spd gearbox, for the upcoming Lewis & Clark Rally, I have to admit after 45 years of TSD rallying, I miss the challenges of driving with an old Alfa or 356, wondering What will break next, around the next corner …the excitement isn’t the same as it used to be….we are all aging now and don’t want that “Pucker stress” anymore . “Been there , Done that”! , is now our new Mantra…my navigator wife is now older too, and declines reliving the stress of an old car in rallys of higher heat now ….sadly, our children will never have these great life experiences with old classics due their high cost now …we’ve had a Great ride …time to enjoy the scenery we all missed, with a modern car now !
In year 29 working in the car/ car event space, my observation is that first and foremost, car people want to network with like minded people…for business and for pleasure…and rallies and tours feed this interest.
Car clubs have been accomplishing successful tours with modern cars for years, especially BMW, Porsche, and Ferrari clubs. While people continue to collect classic cars, performance cars will only get hotter as boomers and Gen X-Z age.
Hmmm. Keith Martin’s Performance Car Market Magazine?
A telling commentary about a tour using Mercedes vehicles, when the only road mishap was to replace one wheel with curb rash!
Maybe I’m getting older but, the appeal of taking a tour to see the sights, and commiserate with the others, is stronger than the mechanical roll of the dice inherent with taking most pre-1974 cars on long multi-day rallies.
My preferred choice for vintage car tours is the sweet spot of 80’s – 90’s era cars (the “Radwood” era). I would choose among any number of Mercedes & Porsche moderns from that era, but not rule out Supra Turbo, NSX, M3, Miata, Viper, etc. They are just modern enough to be reliable and keep up with traffic, and yet just old enough where the interesting styles and engineering shine, and are relatively safe, without the electronic complexity. Most are still affordable, and not as fragile, as the older cars, in case of accidental damage.
See you on the road!
The thought of “taking a ride” is always exciting to us. As mentioned by others, the excitement of the unknown, especially when dealing with a classic car, is now a past dream. We have taken the tours and loved the adventure of being with like minded enthusiasts, but now, sanity has returned. We have sold off the older cars and now enjoy the spectacular performance of modern vehicles. The driving experience, and comments, by the way, I get from driving my Mclaren 650lm also is intoxicating without many of the “break down worries”. The same holds true for our 2020 C8 Corvette. It would seem to me that a summer tour on the East coast and a winter tour on the West coast would be almost ideal. Thanks for your excellent article. Always remember…”If not now, when??”
Nope, can’t agree, especially not for adventure touring where I don’t need a passport. I don’t like faux enthusiasts who talk about “their mechanic.” And I don’t like resentful Ram drivers in my mirrors.
Rural Americans (where roads worth driving are) are friendlier when you show up in an MGTC. And I feel safer with like minded eccentrics on tour. Magic happens more easily when your cute old car cries for help. Rich networkers showing off do not elicit smiles with good will, not even a scan tool.
Alas, my TC is now in NZ, a much safer venue. However, my Giuliettas still get a pass for being precious, rather than expensive. 356 drivers know that feeling too. Grain of salt – I’m an immigrant from Germany, where wealth is not flaunted thoughtlessly.
There is always the best of both worlds, a restomod, a classic car with a modern drivetrain and conveniences. I have two 1970’s euro classics that are restomodded and it’s a game changer. Sure, I get a little heat from the purists but the overwhelming response is very positive. Besides, I love it and that’s all that counts. And getting over 2x the original mpg has been sweet, too.
I would love to do one of these tours, but when the entry fee is more than I paid for the car I would drive I’m 100% priced out(although the idea of a BMW M tour in the E36 M3 is appealing). While they do sound fun if I had an extra 10k around my priorities would be different, with maybe doing an upgrade to one of the five cars and a another donation to my local no kill pet shelter where it would buy a lot of dog food and blankets.
Here’s a nod to the Mazda MX-5 Miata clubs spread throughout America. Mine is the DelVal club based in SE Pennsylvania. Lots of camaraderie and zero pretensions combine with the modern roadster that feels vintage in look and driving manners but never stops going. Joined the club in the 1990s with my NA 1990 and then rejoined last year with my ND 2021 GT. I totally get the appeal of classic driving but every auto enthusiast should be an MX-5 club member.