In an era defined by rapid technological advancement, pixel-perfect pictures and futuristic designs, there remains a steadfast and growing passion for vintage cars. These magnificent machines are a symbol of bygone elegance, luxurious quality, and adventure. And where better to showcase these motoring marvels than at a classic car rally.
While the glamour of contemporary supercars and cutting-edge technology is obvious, there’s an unmatched allure in the sheer artistry, engineering genius, and stories that you can find at a retro car rally.
To car enthusiasts, classic cars are akin to how music lovers view vinyl records. There’s something undeniably pure about the tactile connection, the raw authenticity, and the unfiltered experience they offer.
From Italy’s world-famous Mille Miglia to the historic London to Brighton Veteran Car Run—where vehicles from the very dawn of the motoring age grace the roads—vintage car rallies are more than just races; they’re a testament to the enduring love affair with the automobile.
Let’s take a look at some of the most famous classic car rallies around the world.
The ‘Thousand Mile’ round trip from Brescia to Rome has been dubbed ‘the most beautiful race in the world.’ It ran twenty-four times from its inception in 1927 to its final run in 1957 and was won by such luminaries as Tazio Nuvolari, Achille Varzi, Alberto Ascari and Stirling Moss. Twenty years after its final run the race was revived as the Mille Miglia Storica, a classic car rally for pre-1957 cars. Winners have included some of the world’s most beautiful cars including the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Ferrari 340 MM, BMW 507 and the Bugatti Type 37.
London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
The longest-running motoring event in the world, the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run was first staged in 1896. It was known as the Emancipation Run which marked the passing of the Locomotives on Highways Act. This legislation dramatically liberalised Britain’s motoring laws, including raising the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 mph to 14 mph and abolished the need for a man to walk ahead of these vehicles with a red flag. Usually taking place on the first Sunday in November, this retro car rally has been organised by the Royal Automobile Club since 1927 and is only open to cars built before 1905.
Historic Grand Prix of Monaco
Originally staged in 1997 around the world famous grand prix circuit as a one-off to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the principality’s House of Grimaldi, the Historic Grand Prix of Monaco has turned into one of the best classic car races in the world. The biennial event for vintage Formula 1 and sports cars is split into a series of races, including voiturettes and Grand-Prix cars up to 1939, sports cars from 1952 to 1957 and Grand Prix cars from 1966 to 1972. It’s been won by some of the greatest racing cars in history, including the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, Maserati 300S, Lotus 16 and the famously six-wheeled Tyrrell P34.
The Goodwood Revival at the Goodwood Circuit in West Sussex is believed to be the only classic car rally in the world staged in period theme. It’s described as ‘an immersive celebration of iconic cars and fashion.’ The three-day event was first staged in 1998 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the track by the 9th Duke of Richmond who drove round it in a Bristol 400. The Revival features a variety of races around a track which has remained largely untouched since its 1952 configuration, including GT cars that raced until 1963, 2.5-litre Grand Prix cars from 1954 to 1960 and prototype cars built before 1966. There’s even a pedal car race for children known as the Settrington Cup!
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Widely considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious classic car rallies, the Concours d’Elegance—literally, Competition of Elegance—is the grand finale of Monterey Car Week, a famous classic car show in California. It was first held in 1950 and ‘Best of Show’ winners have included some of the most famous cars in automotive history, such as the Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial-Roadster, Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B and the Duesenberg Model J. Monterey Car Week also features one of the world’s best vintage car races, known as the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, held at the nearby Laguna Seca Raceway. Races include categories for sports, racing and touring cars from 1900 to 1939, grand tourers from 1947 to 1969 and classic F1 cars from 1966 to 1984.
A Timeless Journey through Motoring History
The intoxicating blend of history, artistry, and engineering found in vintage car rallies continues to captivate, allowing enthusiasts to travel back in time and appreciate the seminal moments of automotive history.
The world of the classic car rally offers an enriching—and adrenaline-fuelled—journey through the rich and vibrant annals of motoring. As automotive tech continues to advance at pace, these vintage car races are a testament to the early pioneers of the motoring world.