Category archives: Eye Candy

Ephraim Hillclimb steps back in time, but does it have a future?

Ephraim Hillclimb wants to become a Goodwood-style automotive festival, but after three years, it’s future may be in doubt.

“Traditional” is an overused adjective, but in the case of the village of Ephraim, Wisconsin, it truly applies. The village was founded in 1852 by Norwegian Moravians and things have been slow to change. It wasn’t until last year that the village allowed alcohol sales, but on a trial basis. It’s to be expected that any motorsports activity in the village would follow traditional themes.

The third annual Ephraim Hillclimb oozed tradition when held one recent weekend. The three-day event offered classic and vintage sports car owners a tour, hillclimb and concours in the Great Lakes peninsula nicknamed “The Cape Cod of the Midwest.”

The driving tour on a Friday took in art galleries, boutiques and wineriesthe length and breadth of finger-shaped Door County. As with the famous Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, participants accrue points toward the concours.

The tour was incident-free except for some overheating issues on Robert Hawley’s 1960 Fiat Multipla, which introduced just enough adversity to rally the assistance of the other drivers and to make for animated conversation at the elegant Stone’s Throw Winery.

Hillclimb preparations Saturday morning closed Church Street, which led directly up the glaciated bluff from the waterfront Village Hall. Jersey barriers were erected on the ¾-mile course and were disguised with period-appropriate hay bales. SCCA corner workers in safety gear lined the hill.

The event began with six escorted parade laps of the run, which served as an opportunity for the estimated 4,000 spectators to view all the cars in motion while familiarizing the drivers with the winding, uphill course and forested return route. It also helped to burn off any excess adrenalin; the course was fast and curvy enough to be thrilling while being safe.

Runs were not timed, but relied on the good sportsmanship of the driver and the discretion of the course workers to maintain safety over speed. Fortunately, there were no incidents apart from a few small mechanical issues.

Following the hillclimb, David Cooper of Cooper Technica in Bristol, Wisconsin, spoke about the early days of Porsche sports cars, subject of his forthcoming book. After the lecture, the historic Village Hall was transformed into an evocative dinner and dance party, featuring a big band and wonderful period attire, circa 1946.

The goal of the event organziers is to become as historically immersive as the Goodwood festivals in England.

The concours Sunday morning straddled the green space around Eagle Harbor, just across from the Ephraim Village Hall. What the concours lacked in quantity, it made up for in variety, with not one but two Amphicars deciding to go in for a dip in Lake Michigan via the nearby marina. The skipper of one motored by a pier full of onlookers, deadpanning, “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?”

On land, Bob Lederer’s 1926 Sunbeam 3.0 Liter SuperSports took Best of Show Pre-War, having no doubt impressed the judges with the previous day’s climb. Best of Show Post-War went to a 1958 AC Bristol owned by Douglas Stuart, a much-admired car amongst all the participants.

Hillclimb stalwarts Tod and Wendy Willson won the Sportsmanship Award for driving their topless 1958 XK 120M Jaguar 260 miles from Evanston, Illinois, to the event in intermittent rain.

However, as successful as the three-year run of this event has been, its future is in doubt.

“Our contract with the village is up, so it’s wait-and-see,” said organizer John Baker Welch. Additional funding is being sought from local businesses and innkeepers or a larger corporate sponsorship to continue.

It is very telling of a locale – be it Key West or Carlsbad – when residents make it a point to set their watches for sunset, and gather outdoors as these participants did for a toast in the waning light of day over Eagle Harbor. Truly an elegant motorsports event, wrapped around an elegant vacation. We hope it continues.

Gallery photos by William Hall, unless noted

Porsche ‘Outlaws’ head for high country

Every year, the Porsche 356 Registry picks a Sunday to declare national Drive Your 356 Day, slotted at the end of summer  so that no matter what part of the country you find yourself – from the arid Southwest to the frigid Northeast — there’s a shot at decent weather for a spirited run in the more-than-half-century-old sports cars.

Central Arizona’s roasting hot summer started cooling off just a couple of days before last Sunday’s trek, when Arizona 356 Outlaws club members roared up Route 87 from the Phoenix area to Payson. The drive, which I led in my 1962 356 Super coupe, went up into Arizona’s mountainous Rim Country, where the Alpine weather is always a cool respite from the desert temps around Phoenix and Scottsdale.

It was a refreshing drive for about a dozen of the tough little air-cooled Porsches, plus a handful of 911s and a 912, through some of Arizona’s most-luscious scenery, where saguaro cactuses give way to tall pines.

The Porsches parked near the lodge at Natural Bridge State Park | Bob Golfen

AZ 87 is a fast four-lane highway well-suited to a Porsche 356’s sporting aspect, including come enjoyable twisties, although some of the steep grades along the way can be challenging for the four-cylinder tubs, and can make oil-temperature gauges climb.

After lunch in Payson, the group continued up 87 to visit one of the Rim Country’s most impressive attractions at Natural Bridge State Park, where we took group photos of some of the participating tubs.

There were no debilitating mechanical problems reported among our group, unless you count the failure of a valve-cover gasket on one lovely 1962 Cabriolet, which resulted in a haze of blue smoke trailing behind it, as well as a gooey engine compartment. But the driver and the silver convertible made the entire trip, although a couple quarts of oil were added on the way.

There were plenty of good action-shot photo ops along the way, and my ever-patient wife Marci took pictures by hanging out the window at 65-plus miles per hour. I think she eventually got the tangles out of her hair.

Feasting at the Pebble Beach Concours

Ferrari race cars on the grass at Pebble Beach | Bob Golfen photos

The day started gray and cloudy, as usual, a chilly coastal mist drifting in from the bay. Although I missed Dawn Patrol – the famous gathering of early birds who arrive before daybreak to watch the first of the cars roll onto the field – I did get to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance early enough to witness a bunch of the cars drive in and take their places on the grass.

Chugging antiques trailing smoke, gliding classics and snarling sports cars and race cars, each was greeted with applause from the crowd of people already assembled hours before the start of the public show at 10 a.m.

A veteran race car rolls in

The air was charged with anticipation – as well as a haze of exhaust smoke – with each participant hopeful that his or her vintage automobile could win a prize, maybe even a best of class, a special honor, or even the much-coveted Best of Show award.

I walked the 18th Fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links as the concours spaces filled in, taking as many pictures as I could before the swirling masses of spectators make getting a clear shot nearly impossible. Soon, the sun came out and gleaming show cars popped with color.

My anticipation was experiencing the lineup of significant Ferraris here to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the revered Italian marque, the magnificent Isotta Fraschini luxury cars, open-wheel racers from past decades, and the quirky group of custom 1960s show cars. These were among the special classes, with 27 classes in all occupied by 204 very special cars brought to Monterey from around the globe by private owners, museums and major collections.

The 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer basks in its Best of Show honors

The Ferraris were stunning, dozens of rare models lined up in several classes of incredible Italian magic. I love seeing the early cars, such as the 1951 Ferrari 212 Export Touring Barchetta, along with the sighting of an iconic 1963 250 GTO, this one a class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as other successful race finishes.

The antiques and classics are always impressive at Pebble, a gathering of great old cars unlike anywhere else. Especially interesting, at least to my eye, were the 1935 Duesenberg SJ, an extravagantly styled limo by Bowman and Schwartz coachbuilders; a striking Darrin-bodied 1939 Packard 1703 Super 8 convertible; and any of the fine Isotta Fraschini (pronounced eye-sota fras-keeny) classics with their Art Deco grille designs.

The American Dream Cars of the 1960s class was pretty wild, especially the sprawling 1960 DiDia 150 Bobby Darin Coupe, the famous 1963 Mantaray by Dean Jeffries, and the innovative 1967 Gyro-X prototype that balances on two wheels via an internal gyroscope. It was great to meet customizer Gene Winfield, who was showing his 1964 Reactor coupe, which was not only a show car but a TV star.

1960 DiDia 150 and Dean Jeffries’ 1963 Mantaray

The best of show winner was something unusual, a 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer, sparkling in blue with bright silver hood and trim, owned by Bruce McCaw of Belleview, Washington, who seemed kind of stunned by all the hoopla.

My only disappointment during the day was the lack of a motorcycle class this year, always a favorite. The triangular grassy space where the vintage bikes are usually parked was depressingly empty.

But as a Porsche 356 guy, I was psyched to see an early Porsche make good. The 1952 Porsche 356 Reutter Cabriolet was the only Porsche in the show, unlike the gang of them at most other events and driving on the streets during Monterey Car Week.

A beautiful car, the 356 won best of class of Postwar Open, beating out some excellent ragtops from Lancia, Cisitalia, Kurtis, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, as well as a pair of Shelby Cobras. Very nice.

This was yet another terrific Pebble Beach Concours, now in its 67th year, the granddaddy of them all that sets the standard for the rest.


Keeping the dream (cruise) alive

Ever since it originated in 1995 in the Detroit-adjacent suburb of Ferndale, the annual Woodward Dream Cruise has expanded in all directions.

Oldsmobile Cutlass
Oldsmobile Cutlass

Although nominally a one-day event, car-related activities along the boulevard now kick off a week earlier.

While it has been primarily a suburban phenomenon along the stretch between Detroit’s northern border at 8 Mile Road and the city of Pontiac, this year there was a concerted effort to keep it going with a series of “Car Week” celebrations in the days after the main event.

For us, cruise activities began on the Tuesday prior to the Saturday event at a “Car-B-Que” hosted by former GM designer Brian Baker (career highlight: the Chevy SSR), extended through a Friday confab coordinated by the Dream Cruise’s new title sponsor, a little outfit the locals call “Ford’s.” On the day proper, we ran the whole route northbound and then headed south until traffic became so absurd (two miles in 50 minutes… people in wheelchairs were passing us) that we bailed out. Stopping in parking lots along the way, we found ample photo-ops anywhere and everywhere.

The organizers say that the Cruise draws 1.3-million people to come out and play with cars in metro Detroit, and that fully a quarter of them come from out-of-state. They bring a lot of cars.

Here’s a collection of representative photos that barely scratches the surface of what we saw at Dream Cruise 2017.

Next year, thanks to a schedule change for the car-doings in Monterey, California, the two events won’t coincide… start planning early and you could take in both car-crazy summer celebrations in the same year.

Flavor of LA: TV Motion Picture Car Club show

Convertible Oldsmobile in show | Nicole James Photos
Convertible Oldsmobile in show | Nicole James Photos

At the intersection of Gunsmoke Avenue and Gilligan’s Island Road within the CBS Studios, the Television Motion Picture Car Club held its 8th annual car show. This year the show was staged with the Studio City Chamber of Commerce and became a joint event with Flavor of LA –- Food, Cars, Libations. Continue reading

Exploring Route 66 with my Dad

Dads Cadillac CTS by Route 66 Motel | Nicole James photos
Dads Cadillac CTS by Route 66 Motel | Nicole James photos

Many Americans in search of a better life have looked toward Los Angeles, where dreams could be achieved and stars were born. Route 66 was the primary road for those heading to the promise of Southern California and its lifestyle. The road served as a pathway of hope for much of the 20th century. Continue reading

Vintage Indy cars carry classic stories

Car No. 75 leads other vintage racers down the straight at PIR | Nicole James photos
Car No. 75 leads other vintage racers down the straight at PIR | Nicole James photos

Generally, “what goes around comes around” is considered a cliche, or even a joke when the subject is oval-track racing. But for former Indy 500 racer Dennis Firestone, that phrase became reality when he was re-united with a car he used to drive.

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The Mitty celebrates 40 years of vintage racing

Vintage racers race around Road Atlanta in the 40th Mitty Challenge | Patrick Tremblay photos
Vintage racers hurry around Road Atlanta in the 40th Mitty | Patrick Tremblay photos

The final day of the 40th running of the Classic Motorsports Mitty, sanctioned by HSR, was met with inclement weather, but the spirit of those racing at Road Atlanta was not dampened. The three-day racing event last month featured many races won by mere tenths of a second and by drivers showed mutual respect and clean racing with green flags throughout most sessions. Continue reading

Classics to Concepts: AutoCon Los Angeles 2017 has it all

Overview of show
Hundreds of spectators gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Center for AutoCon 2017 | Nicole James photos

What started as a parking lot car meet in Southern California to strengthen the automotive connection through the celebration of life, individuality and community has become a full show series with events held around the country where extraordinary vehicle builds are debuted, product launches happen, news is announced, and the future is introduced.

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Impressive Amelia Island Concours that became a moveable feast

Best of Show Elegance winner, a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Dual Cowl Torpedo Phaeton, rolls past the appreciative crowd | Bob Golfen photos
Best of Show Elegance winner, a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Dual Cowl Torpedo Phaeton, rolls past appreciative onlookers | Bob Golfen photos

(Editor’s note:  This is Part 1 of’s report and photo gallery from the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida.  See Part 2 on Sunday) 

The story of the 22nd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will always be how leader Bill Warner and his crew nimbly managed to move this monumental event ahead one day, from Sunday to Saturday, and at the last minute when it became obvious that Sunday would be a washout, weatherwise.

With more than 300 vintage and historic automobiles heading to northeastern Florida from all over, plus the host of associated stands, vendors and displays, it seemed like some kind of miracle when the renowned concours appeared fully formed early Saturday on the fairways of The Golf Course of the Ritz-Carlton Resort. Continue reading