The nose of SCM’s 2006 Lotus Elise made a sharp cracking sound when it hit the parking lot divider. Suddenly everyone was looking my way.
There were 50 or so Porsches scattered around, with owners busily attaching their event stickers to the sides of their cars.
This was the 20th Annual Northwest Passage Tour, presented by the Oregon Region of the Porsche Club of America. SCM has been a sponsor for ten of the years, and I’ve driven on eight of them.
The 2018 Tour Leader was Greg Kirchem, and working with him was Jim North.
The tour typically covers 1,000 miles of backroads in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California.
I’m fond of this event, as the late-model Porsches run hard — but not stupidly fast.
We’ve driven a variety of cars on the Northwest Passage, including a Boxster S, Maserati QP, McLaren 650S, Viper GTS, 911 Turbo and this year our 2006 Lotus Elise.
We drove the Elise on this tour back in 2011. We had a memorable “cow-manure” moment when we crested a slight hill at over 100 mph and ploughed directly through a six-inch deep pile of fresh cow poop.
We sold that Elise to the CFO of Velocity in 2014 — much to the dismay of my daughter Alexandra. Two years ago, I bought the same car back, and it’s been in the SCM Garage since. We won’t sell it again.
The Elise offers the most pure driving experience you can get in a street-legal car. While entering and exiting it requires the flexibility of a contortionist, once you slide down into the form-fitting buckets you might as well be behind the wheel of a go-kart.
With 190 horsepower and a weight of 1,984 lbs, the Elise simply scoots. At one point, a string of six modern 911s was cruising long at triple digit speeds on a deserted road. I shifted into 6th and streaked by them.
Our car shows 21,000 miles, and it has never been abused. At least until last Thursday.
Luckily, the license plate bore the brunt of the damage of the impact with the divider, with just a couple of small 2-inch cracks in the fiberglass. Body specialist (and overall old-car guru) Tom Black will get the car tomorrow, and soon it will be better than new.
Sports car tours come in a variety of flavors, and the NW Passage is one of my favorites. You pay an organizational fee of under $600, make your own room reservations and have some meals on your own.
There are no timed sections, and you are free to leave and arrive when you want. Most days cover about 250 miles, starting around 9 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m.
We staged this year in Springfield, Oregon, about 100 miles south of Portland. All 50 cars were on the road by 9 a.m. the next morning.
For the next three days, we were treated to a cornucopia of two-lane, sports-car-friendly roads. There was very little traffic, and we were able to run in trains of four to six cars at interesting speeds.
We passed picturesque Diamond Lake, and through throwback-to-the-1950s towns with names like Glide, Drain and Malin.
We cruised along the Umpqua Scenic Highway, and then onto the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.
The SCM 30th Anniversary Tour (#SCM30) will be traveling along some of these same roads. I expect our cars from the ‘50s and ‘60s won’t keep the same pace that these modern Porsches did. By the way, the cars and drivers from #SCM30 will gather in the Portland Park Blocks near the Portland Art Museum on July 8 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Come and join us!
Now, back to the Northwest Passage.
Our destination for two nights was the delightful Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath Falls. In my 40 years in Oregon, I’d never stayed there. It was cozy and friendly, and #SCM30 will be there in two weeks.
SCM was well represented on this tour. In addition to many subscribers, Michael Pierce and Dean Koehler drove the former SCM 996 twin-turbo, and Carter Doolittle, an SCMer from Minneapolis, drove our 996 911 (compared to the Elise, it was a limo).
At the closing night dinner, SCM presented a variety of awards. “Sexiest Porsche” went to the gorgeous black 2015 911 Targa that Luke and Lynn Lucurell had entered on behalf of their daughter. (She’s a lucky woman. Alexandra, don’t get any ideas…).
“The Car We Would Like on the Cover of SCM” went to a 2006 Carrera GT brought by Eric Jensen and Luz Maria Treviso. I’d never had the pleasure of being passed by a Carrera GT moving at full throttle; it felt like a Saturn V rocket had been ignited next to me; with its distinctive high-mounted wing the GT quickly vanished into the distance.
By the end of the tour we’d covered over 1,000 miles. The nose of our yellow Lotus as splattered with bugs. As one wag said, “A dirty Lotus is a happy Lotus.”
It’s been more than five years since I’ve had extensive seat time in the Lotus. With each hour and passing mile, I revisited my love affair with this little supercar.
In our era of increasing highway congestion, semi-autonomous cars, and Uber and Lyft, taking a purely analog car out onto empty back roads and exercising it is good for the automotive soul within all of us gearheads.
I maintain that the Elise is the best modern vintage car ever made, and there will never be another car made like it.
If you missed the Northwest Passage, join SCM at the Domaine Serene Summer Car Classic in the beautiful Oregon Wine Country on June 30.
Bring your special car to the Annual Domaine Serene Summer Car Classic — and savor fine wines, great food, terrific cars and the company of other car collectors!
All participants get a free gift, and we will present special awards.
The festivities start at 4 p.m. at Domain Serene Winery, 6555 N.E. Hilltop Lane, Dayton, OR 97114. The show will run until 6 p.m., with trophies awarded at 5:30 p.m. Our own Michael Pierce will award SCM’s “Grand Cru” and “Premiere Cru” awards. Food and wine will be available until 8 p.m.
There is no admission charge, and any year or make of special-interest car is welcome.
For more information, call 1.503.864.4600 or visit www.domaineserene.com