Colorado Grand 2015.
A special encounter.
Northern Colorado, USA. On Colorado Highway 125, a farmer is driving his tractor through the expanse of wheat fields, their ochre tone standing out in stark contrast to the grey backdrop provided by the mountains of Wyoming. Suddenly a very modern-looking sports car overtakes him. A car the like of which he hasn’t seen before. The farmer raises his cowboy hat, scratches his head and shouts: “What the heck was that?”. “That” was the legendary Mercedes-Benz C 111-II with Michael Bock, Director Mercedes-Benz Classic and Customer Center, at the wheel.
1,000 miles of sheer driving pleasure.
The C 111-II is headed west towards the small town of Encampment in Wyoming. This Mercedes-Benz legend is one of the fascinating classic cars participating in this year’s Colorado Grand. Breathtaking gems sporting the Mercedes star enjoy something of a tradition here. This is already the 27th time that the Grand has been staged and it is therefore long established as one of the most renowned classic-car events in America.
It lasts four days, during which time the participants clock up 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) driving through Colorado and its neighbouring states.
A highlight is the “Concours d’Non-Elegance”.
The cars have to cover around 250 miles (400 kilometres) per day. Each day at noon, the 100 classic cars and their drivers (“Granders”) get to experience the region’s traditional hospitality and are welcomed with a home-made picnic in one of the towns along the route. The highlight of the Grand is the return to Vail and the “Concours d’Non-Elegance” at which the participating vehicles are exhibited complete with all the dirt and marks from their rally adventure. One rule of the Grand in particular is cast in stone: car washing is strictly forbidden!
Driving for the good cause.
Participants in the Colorado Grand must obey the traffic laws. The proceeds from entry fees and a gala auction – some five million US dollars since beginning of the event series – are donated to various charity organisations. Taking centre stage alongside the famous cars year after year are a number of famous racing drivers and celebrities such as Klaus Ludwig, Augie Pabst and Jerry Seinfeld.
Mercedes-Benz is the main sponsor.
In 2015 Mercedes-Benz will be acting as the main sponsor of the Colorado Grand for the 20th time already, while the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA will be taking part for the 13th time. For the seventh year in a row, the Classic Center is providing the fast and reliable 1962 300 SL Roadster, which has never failed to reach the Grand finish line.
In the event of any breakdowns, a mobile workshop housed inside a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van comes to the rescue.
Mercedes-Benz mobile mechanics.
The experts also provide assistance if other makes of car break down, of course – replacing an entire Maserati cable harness or pressure-testing a repaired Bugatti radiator in a hotel bath are two of the most popular Grand anecdotes. Mercedes-Benz also supports the event by providing AMG vehicles that Granders can use should they have problems with their own vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz classics taking part in the 2015 Grand include a 1928 Type S Touring, a “Ponton-Mercedes” Mercedes, several 300 SL “Gullwing” models and, of course, the previously mentioned C 111-II.
One beautiful photo opportunity after another.
The first day takes in the 284 miles (457 kilometres) from Vail to Steamboat Springs. In the morning there is a stop at the designated C-Lazy-U-Ranch for a light snack. The morning rain soon gives way to blazing sunshine, with the Mercedes-Benz classics parked by the wooden fence of the stunningly beautiful ranch providing wonderful photo opportunities. The C-Lazy-U-Ranch also includes the picturesque Dexter Meadows, the gate to which is the location for an improvised photo shoot with the C 111-II.
On the road to the high plains of Colorado.
Then the participants head north to the high plains of Colorado and the town of Walden. Waiting in front of the town’s court building as a special surprise is the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR “704”.
The cold, rainy weather does not come in again until after lunch as the Granders leave Walden and head out on the 120-mile (193 kilometres) journey to Steamboat Springs.
The C 111-II is the darling of the public.
The second day of the Grand, covering 250 miles (400 kilometres), likewise begins in the rain with the return trip to Walden. Next the route takes in the small fishing village of Encampment (population 450), where the Granders receive a warm welcome and schoolchildren can marvel at the C 111-II, before continuing on to Steamboat Springs. On the third day, also hit by rain, there is a 251-mile (404 kilometres) trip from Steamboat Springs to Grand Junction in Western Colorado.
At the morning stop-off point at the Carpenter Nature Conservancy Ranch, the Granders warm themselves with coffee. Ahead of them are the 90 miles (144 kilometres) to the town of Meeker. The rain finally subsides around midday, and the Granders traverse the landscape of Western Colorado in sunlight. From Rangly, the route takes them along hilly roads through the picturesque farmland at Loma and southwards into the town of Grand Junction – to celebrate the return of the sunny weather and to get ready for the return trip to Vail the following day.
Final stage of 234 miles.
The Mercedes-Benz classics taking part perform outstandingly well. On the fourth day, the final stage of this year’s Grand awaits – the 234-mile (376 kilometres) stretch from Grand Junction to Vail. The highlight is the finish in Lionshead Village.
Before this lie drives through wildly romantic sandstone canyons, across a 10,839 feet pass in Grand Mesa, a brief interlude at an Alpine Trails Ice Cream Shop (ice cream is a real favourite among the Granders) and a stop at the agricultural centre of Hotchkiss with the Delta County Fairgrounds.
Excitement at the finish.
From Hotchkiss, the Granders head east past typical farms and into the charming small town of Panonia. Then comes a 50-mile (80 kilometres) stage featuring the wonderful mountain panoramas for which Colorado is famous.
In the afternoon, an excited crowd has gathered to welcome the participants to the start/finish line. And once again, the orange-coloured C 111-II with Michael Bock at the wheel is one of the darlings of the public.
Famous: the Concours d’Non-Elegance.
In the evening there is the obligatory celebratory dinner and the auction to raise money for charity organisations in Colorado. Some of the Granders receive awards, including Michael Bock as “Rookie of the Year”.
The event draws to a close on the following morning with the famous “Concours d’Non-Elegance” at which selected cars driven by the Granders are put on show at the Lionshead Village Square, still bearing all the dirt and marks they have accumulated over the 1,000 miles and four days.
After the Grand is before the Grand.
The Colorado Grand lives up to its name – because the planning, organisation and routing are all grand to say the least. The mood among the organisers and participants is always friendly – Granders help each other in any situation.
Add to this the luxurious accommodation, the fantastic catering, the spectacular landscape and, of course, the remarkable vehicles, and it’s no wonder that the most heard phrase from the participants on the final day is “See you next year!”.