I played hooky from work last week and took our 1971 Jaguar E-type V12 coupe for a 150-mile drive.
Our lunch destination was Skamania Lodge, the home base of the 2022 SCM 1000. It’s about 50 miles away. There are a couple of ways to get there. My co-driver, Lou Tauber, was a friend from the Rover Club who has both a vintage Land Rover 109 and a Tesla Model 3. We decided to take the scenic way out.
That involved leaving my condo in downtown Portland, getting onto I-5 North, and crossing the Columbia River. It was a bright and sunny day.
The first 15 minutes were a nightmare. The traffic was dense, with giant pickup trucks tailgating us and weaving in and out of traffic.
Each time I drive an old car, I feel more vulnerable. I worry about cars with better brakes than mine (which is every car on the road today) stopping short and my rear-ending them. When I’m stopped in traffic, I worry about being rear-ended at speed by someone texting while driving.
At the same time, I’m watching the gauges. Is the temperature gauge slowly climbing or is that my imagination? Is the voltmeter slowly falling? Is the oil pressure as high as it should be at this engine speed?
Instead of enjoying the silky-smooth power delivery and wonderful sound of the 5.3-L V12, I was just stressed. I imagined having the SCM CH-47 Chinook twin-rotor helicopter come pluck me off the roadway.
This all changed the instant we left the freeway and headed west into the Columbia Gorge on Washington SR 14. At first it was a four-lane highway, which soon gives way to a two-lane scenic byway.
Freed from the aggressiveness and thoughtlessness of other drivers, the Jaguar came into its own. It loped along at 70 mph, a/c blowing ice cold. I still watched the gauges, but now I was reassuring myself things were good.
As we pulled into Skamania, I envisioned what the SCM 1000 parking area would be like this week, filled with 45 classic, pre-1975 sports cars. Walking through the lot, you will be able to visually survey a swath of automotive history.
Alfas, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lancias, Porsches and more will be there, each performing their daily 250 miles of exercise on back roads.
Leading the pack will be a sole Citroën, driven by Hagerty Grand Marshal Bill Warner and SCM contributor and noted journalist Ken Gross. Having an Italian-car themed tour led by a French car seems in keeping with the irreverent and all-embracing way SCM participates in the world of collector cars.
My steelhead omelet at lunch was tasty. The drive home, starting with crossing the Bridge of the Gods and then heading east on I-84, was delightful for 30 miles.
And then we were surrounded by the terror of modern traffic once again.
While we were cruising at 70 mph, cars would routinely pass us at 90 or better. It’s just the way things are today.
The Jag got us home safely, completing its pre-tour test. Lou noted that while his Tesla 3 was a much faster car, it was also a very different car. Not better or worse, just representative of a different time in automotive history.
My takeaway from the day was that part of collector car ownership in 2022 is to make sure you are not putting your old cars in situations their limited performance capabilities cannot handle.
Our old cars stopped being daily drivers decades ago. Now let’s reserve them for special occasions, on special roads, with enticing destinations and people who share our vision of what an automotive adventure can be.