How To Crash A Vintage Car Rally And Get Away With It
One of the more inspiring sights at vintage car rallies is the row of period sports cars winding through beautiful country roads or along coastal highways, transforming the landscape into a vintage car fantasy. Unfortunately there are invariably one or two party crashers with new cars (usually journalists) who ruin an otherwise beautiful line-up with their bland new vehicles.
Last month, I mentally prepared myself to be that guy – the boor who disrupts the harmony of a stylish rally with an eyesore of a new car. ProFirst, who organizes the Journées d’Automne, generously invited Kika and me to attend this year’s rally, and knowing that we couldn’t bring a vintage car to the event, they were going to loan us a new car to get to the event in Reims from Paris. Exceptionally grateful for the invitation, my excitement was soon offset by concern about spoiling the mood for others by showing up with some generic new box.
Up until the eleventh hour on Friday afternoon before setting off for Reims, I did not know what car we would have at our disposal. Then the text message from the organizers arrived: “We have arranged a Ferrari FF for you.” I had a smile from ear to ear. I have always been partial to the 2+2 line of V12 Ferraris. This lineage, which includes classics such as the 250 GTE, 330 GT 2+2 and 365 GT 2+2, to me represents the ultimate in Italian elegance. They are understated, reserved, and powerful, ideal for the gentleman or lady who has nothing to prove. I felt a little easier about showing up with the FF to the rally, and I was eagerly looking forward to driving it in the French countryside.
The Journées d’Automne, as our friend Matthew Lange described, is a very intimate, casual affair; but this being France, even “casual” is done with a healthy touch of class. From Minis to Porsches to Bugattis, the drivers of the eclectic group of cars dress the part and are eager to give you a ride in their cars. And who else but the French could place good taste above concerns of legal liability by serving Champagne in abundance at their exquisite meals during a car rally? Veuve Clicquot actually supports the event, which makes perfect sense when you know the family history. You see, the Clicquot women were a progressive lot, and Madame Clicquot’s granddaughter in 1898 was the first woman in France to obtain a driver’s license (and shortly afterwards the first woman to get a speeding ticket).
With our borrowed Ferrari FF in the handsome and restrained Grigio Silverstone color, we not only fit in with the impressive line up of vintage cars, we commanded a presence of our own as well. The experience was not unlike showing up to, say, a ‘60s-themed party dressed in a new bespoke suit by Rubinacci. Sure, you may not have actually dressed period correct – but you still look damn good and everyone knows it.
Pretty as it is, the Ferrari FF turned out to be a very practical support vehicle, too. The addictive handling and endless V12 power combined with four luxurious, adult-sized seats brought out the volunteer in me. “Oh you need to go back to your hotel to pick something up? Your hotel’s 80km in the opposite direction? Yeah, I’ll be happy to take you!” I was looking for any excuse to drive the FF and make friends along the way.
Alas, the sun was rising on this party and it was time to go home. The jaunt back to Paris was quick and uneventful, but finding parking turned out to be an adventure in itself. It crossed my mind that I might convince ProFirst to let me drive the Ferrari back to Milan instead of flying back, but I thought better than to push my luck. After all, we had been lucky enough to live out a fantastic weekend of great cars, roads, food, drink and people. It was an experience few are lucky enough to have, and one that will not soon be forgotten.
Photography by David Marvier for Petrolicious