WE MADE IT ! ! !
1200 MILES IN 4 DAYS
Automobile's Perfect Ten CelebrationTour - Sept. 10-14,1996
By Virginia and David Caley
"You are invited on a four day, 1000 mile tour of Lake Michigan to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Automobile Magazine. The tour will take place Sept. 10 - 14 and will be open to interesting cars that were built before 1968"
Virginia says: "This sounds interesting "
David replies: "The Lotus Seven is an interesting car!"
And best of all - the Lotus Seven purred along every mile regardless of heavy winds, driving rain, cold and one nice day, and in spite of being the smallest car and lowest powered car on the tour. The only nervous time was when we discovered no brake lights the night before we trailered 2300 miles to Michigan. The send off in Ann Arbor was a gala dinner at the Yankee Air Museum sponsored by Michelin. All 38 cars including a 1930 Blower Bentley, a 1937 Cord (from Everett), a 1951 Allard (from Olympia), a 1953 Cunningham, 2 Chrysler 300s, and several Ferraris, Corvettes, Mercedes, Jaguars, Porsches, etc., and a 1962 MGA (the only car we ever passed), were massed under a B-17 on the apron in front of the WWII hangar. The Lotus was parked between a '37 PACKARD and the '30 BENTLEY for a group photo. Dinner was held in the hangar with a B-24 in the background and a Biplane overhead. A 17 piece band played music from the 40's- 60's.
The next morning the cars were displayed in front of the magazine offices and then we were flagged off at 30 second intervals. The Tour had begun! David declined to put the Lotus through its paces on the Gratton Raceway in Grand Rapids - nervous about the Lotus' ability to stand up to four days pressure. Then on to Ludington for the night prior to our four hour ferry ride across Lake Michigan. Following a police escort through Manitowoc, Wisconsin, we chose to stick to the freeway past Green Bay. Heavy cross winds make the Lotus act like a barn door driving down the road and make hard work for the driver. Marquette had another display, this time in the Superior Dome. The second night the cars drew crowds of more than 500 locals.
September 13th was the most interesting drive, but nearly the worst weather - cold, windy and rainy. From Marquette, Michigan to Whitefish Point on the extreme NE corner of the Upper Peninsula, was a push. David saw lots of "project cars" stashed just off the route; fortunately, nothing we had to stop to look at. At Whitefish Point during a coffee break, a call came out for super glue. Seems the points had lost their contacts on the '56 Chrysler 300 belonging to the Chief Design Engineer for Chrysler, Francois Castaing. Virginia had the glue in her purse and the Chrysler was fixed!
On leaving Whitefish Point we had a discussion about refueling. The Lotus had been humming along getting 35mpg, so with half a tank, David felt we were in good shape. He didn't count on the great road from the Mackinac Bridge. Many miles of narrow, winding, tree-shrouded road through lovely country. We were chasing a '62 Ferrari 250 GTE and a '65 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint and for once, keeping up. David was having the drive of his life until the Lotus coughed twice and rolled to a stop. David was sure the car had thrown a piston. On checking the gas tank, the stick came out with nary a wet spot on the bottom!! A young woman stopped, called her husband to bring gas, and assured us he was a car nut and would love to help. Our thanks to Jennifer and David Anderson of Harbor Springs, Michigan for Lotus' recovery. We stopped in Harbor Springs at the first station. Soon a Mustang came racing into the station - seems David Anderson had called his friend who has a Lotus Seven and the friend came right down to see a Seven actually running a rally. He had never seen one with a top up! Then a Cadillac pulled in with a couple who wanted to know why all the great cars were in town. Dinner that night was at David E. Davis' (Automobile's editor) Red's Bog Farm outside Charlevois - a superb BBQ at which we shared a table with Martin Swig of California and Denise and Bob Lutz, President of Chrysler. The cars were again on display at the hotel-condo complex where we stayed on the shores of Lake Charlevois.
The last day's drive was mostly freeway - a fast trip to the final gala at the Chrysler Technology and Design Center. The cars were artfully arranged in a large bricked and landscaped courtyard outside the Dome auditorium. The Lotus was placed in the very center. After four days climbing in and out of the Lotus with the top in place - a task for rubber people - we were exhausted. We had detoured on the way south to Ann Arbor to pick up the Yukon and trailer. Since it was raining, David followed Virginia in the Yukon through Detroit to the Tech Center. A truly harrowing drive (unexpressed comments here about Michigan drivers and road conditions). We arrived for dinner in the Dome irritable and tired. One step into the Dome meant total revival! Five new Chrysler cars (Prowler, Viper coupe, Viper roadster, Jazz and the one Virginia wants, the Atlantic, a retro Talbo) were brilliantly spotlighted at one side. The stage on the opposite side had a huge screen on which were showing slides of our group from the whole trip. The tables had beautiful multicolored cloths with matching flowers and were set for our delicious steak and lobster dinner. Such a setting made it even harder to say goodbye to all the fascinating friends we had made during the week. With: 38 interesting pre 1968 cars, 74 fascinating people (two had no co-drivers), 8 nights in first class accommodations, 12 extraordinary meals, and, 10 staff who know how to put on a "Perfect Ten", the whole week had been a celebration and we celebrated the Lotus for behaving like the champ it is!