2013 marked the second year for the Walleye 1000 Vintage Rally, open to interesting cars more than 20 years old, the event is a leisurely two day driving tour covering about 500 miles of scenic Minnesota and Wisconsin back roads. I needed an excuse to put a few hundred miles on my 1973 Mercedes 280C last year with other like minded car enthusiasts, so I came up with the inaugural event last year. This year turned out to be extra fun behind the wheel of a 1984 Porsche 911 Targa. The skies were threatening enough all weekend, I never took the top off, but the roads were twisty and smooth, I don’t know that I’ve ever had such fun on public roads.
(A Little Walleye 1000 video from behind the wheel of Tobin’s Porsche 911… narration begins at about 30 seconds… thanks to Kool and the Gang for the music playing on the CD player).
The weekend of June 8-9, 2013 marked the 2nd Annual Walleye 1000 Vintage Rally. The spirit of this event is one of laid back camaraderie among people who have a passion for vintage cars.
The idea is that the guy with the MG Midget with a rusty door and a fender in primer is as welcome as the guy who just wrote the last check for his 300SL Gullwing restoration and wants to put some miles on his new million dollar car. The motto of the event it ‘Check your tires, check your oil, check your ego at the starting line and let’s go!’ Everyone is equal, no matter the size of their engine or their pocketbook. No jerks allowed.
SL Market Letter editor and publisher, John Olson, came along with his very original 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL fintail. SL Market Letter subscribers on the event included David Steingas of Wayzata, MN who put his 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL through it’s paces with some very spirited driving. Frankly, I didn’t know a 280SL could do some of the things he was doing with his car as I tried to keep up in my 1984 Porsche 911… apparently I have a lot to learn about what Pagoda SLs can and can’t do. SLML subscribers Dick and Marty Olson were on the tour with their 1968 280SL, silver with dark green hard top. SLML subscribers Bruce Kelly of Lake Country Classics in Minneapolis was the navigator for Warren Rauch in their W126 chassis 500SEL, not what you normally think of as a rally car… but they were probably two of the most comfortable people on the event.
Other cars on the event included several 1980s vintage Porsche 911s, a 1965 Porsche 356 a 1970 Triumph GT6+, even a Citroen 2CV that made it just fine despite having far fewer cylinders than the rest of the field.
While not technically a true rally (there are no checkpoints or timed sections) the Walleye 1000 is simply a chance to get out and drive some great roads in our vintage cars, stop at some nice restaurants and visit some quirky roadside attractions with new and old friends. A car show is created each time we roll into a small town along the way.
Stops included Slippery’s Restaurant along the Mississippi River in Wabasha, MN, the site where several scenes of the movie ‘Grumpy Old Men’ were filmed as well as the National Eagle Center in downtown Wabasha. Saturday night accommodations were in La Crosse, WI, again, along the Mississippi River where we had dinner at Huck Finn’s Restaurant on the water. Special parking was secured for the group, it seemed wherever we pulled up there was an impromptu car show.
Sunday began early with more great, very twisty roads, up and down the bluffs along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. We traversed roads with names like ‘Pretzel Pass’ and ‘Alligator Back Rd.’ the roads were great fun, taking concentration and a good bit of caution as there were no guardrails to save you from a mistake. While not a speed contest by any measure, there were plenty of opportunities for spirited driving for those who were so inclined.
The most bizarre stop on the route had to be headquarters of F.A.S.T. Corporation in Sparta, WI. F.A.S.T. stands for “Fiberglass Animals Shapes and Trademarks.” In business for almost 40 years, this company is responsible for 75-80% of all fiberglass attractions in the United States. Everything from ice cream cones and elephants to gigantic Paul Bunyan figures and Coke bottles. There is a huge grass field behind their plant building that they call the ‘mold yard’. All of the molds for all of the projects they’ve completed are strewn about like an alien amusement park. Visitors are welcome to browse through this creepy landscape of lichen covered leprechauns and circus animals. There is a photo opportunity around every corner which some of us took full advantage of.
Elmer’s Car and Toy Museum (and Salvage Yard!) in Fountain City, WI was another stop that really defies description. There is a salvage yard full of cars from the 40s – 80s covering acres and acres, but it’s the eclectic car and toy collection that is housed in all of the barns on the property that is most amazing. Over 100 cars and between 600 and 700 pedal cars, toys, dolls, wagons, automobilia of all kinds. It simply can’t be described. Elmer himself literally invites you to go inside his house to see the Ford Model A sitting in his family room, just off the kitchen. It must have been taken apart to get it inside there where it was then reassembled.
Added safety and convenience is right behind the group the entire way, friend and past MBCA Twin Cities Section President Dave Bortner brings up the rear in his GMC Yukon with beautiful hydraulic car trailer in tow, just in case someone does break down and needs a lift to the next bit of civilization. Dave is a great sport for taking on this duty, especially considering he has about the nicest 1969 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 that he could bring along instead. For the second year in a row there were no mechanical failures to speak of. One of the 280SLs did have a fouled plug late Saturday afternoon, but it wasn’t anything removal and a little cleaning couldn’t take care of.
The 2014 event is already in the works and we’d love to have more participants next year. There were just 11 cars on this year’s event, the event could easily handle double that. We’d love to have participants from all over the Midwest come up to Minneapolis for the event, SLML subscribers are welcomed and encouraged to sign up. We depart from somewhere in the Minneapolis / Twin Cities metro area Saturday morning and return Sunday by about 6:00pm for the finisher’s dinner. Next year’s event will be held the second weekend in June – Saturday, June 14 – Sunday, June 15, 2014. Visit the Walleye 1000 for more information and pictures of the 2013 and 2012 event!