This year marked the 4th Annual Walleye 1000 Vintage Rally. More of a driving tour than a true rally, as there is no time, speed or distance to keep track of per se, unless your keeping track of the next meal time. You don’t need a fancy car to participate, you just need a good attitude and a car that’s at least 20 years old. Heck, on the 1st Walleye 1000 I drove an old Mercedes I bought for 3,000 bucks!
This year we had 60 people, 2 dogs, 31 cool old cars (20 years old and older), 2 days and 400+ miles over back roads along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin and Minnesota. We started in Prescott, WI and took a circuitous route covering about 200 miles over some pretty incredible back roads en route to a hotel in La Crosse, WI. all 60 participants had dinner at Piggy’s Restaurant in downtown La Crosse.
Sunday morning it was up for another day of driving, there were storms overnight Saturday, but we didn’t get rained on at all during the driving part of the event. Sunday was gorgeous and the event culminated in the finisher’s dinner at Axel’s Restaurant in Mendota.
The 2016 Walleye 1000 will be June 4 – 5 , 2016. If you’re looking for a lot of laid back fun with a group of people as eclectic as the cars they drive, check out the Walleye 1000 website to learn more. It’s about as much fun as you can have on 4 wheels.
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!
No time or money to go on high dollar vintage rallies like the Colorado Grand or California Mille? If so, the “Walleye 1000 Vintage Rally” just might be for you! It’s a two day vintage car tour on the back roads of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The 2nd annual Walleye 1000will be upon us before we know it. This year’s route will take us South-East from the Twin Cities along the Mississippi and into Wisconsin for the evening, then back into Minnesota for our return and finisher’s banquet on Sunday evening.
Open to interesting classic, sports and grand touring cars, foreign and domestic, model year 1993 and older.
Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9, 2013
From the patinated to the pristine, from works in progress to completed projects, blue chip collectibles to vintage fright pigs, all are welcome to participate in the old car hijinx and debauchery that will likely unfold during the 2nd Annual “Walleye 1000 Vintage Rally” on the scenic back roads of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Entry fee is $249 per vehicle (2 person team, driver + co-driver). Overnight accommodations, finisher’s dinner, event T-shirts for all participants and a bunch of other event swag is included, this is a laid back car event on a budget!
Contact Event Organizer: Dave Tobin | (651) 216-1265 | dave ( at ) daveknowscars.com
Visit the website for event info, sign up for email updates and download a Participant Application.
By all accounts the Inaugural Walleye 1000 Vintage Rally over the back roads of rural Minnesota and Wisconsin was resounding success! At about 9:00am Saturday morning, June 9th 15 cars, all built prior to 1991, lined up at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Shakopee, MN with drivers and co-drivers ready for a cruise. Some event photos below… a link to the entire Flickr feed photo album is at the bottom of this post, over 130 event photos.
After receiving their rally packs full of maps, route guides, event T shirts, rally decals and other assorted swag teams departed for the +/-250 mile trek East into Wisconsin, along the St. Criox and Missippi Rivers, North through some of the small towns in Wisconsin, lunch in Somerset and then back into Minnesota, around Lake Mille Lacs to a great group photo op and refreshment stop in front of the huge, fiberglass Walleye in Garrison, MN on the shores of Lake Mille Lacs. After this brief stop it was on to the Brainerd lakes area for the night.
The finisher’s dinner was held at the “Tavern on Grand” in St. Paul… a restaurant famous for, of course, Walleye! There was a brief awards ceremony after dinner. John Elliott and Beth Kraus received the ‘Journey is the Reward’ commemorative plate for their wonderful attitude and easy going manner… They were driving their 1968 Fiat 124SS with their big German Shepard, Bandi, sitting in the back.
There was a gift certificate to an online auto parts store that was going to be reserved for the participating car that left its team stranded by the side of the road… amazingly, there was not a single mechanical failure by any car on the rally. In the end, the gift certificate was awarded to the team driving the 1961 Jaguar MKII 3.8 , Terry and Bill Jacobs… Terry keeps his Jags in tip top condition, but I figure he’ll need the parts eventually, so he got the gift certificate! Dave Bortner and Michelle DeMist were recognized for selflessly following the group (in modern air conditioned comfort) in the Chevrolet Suburban “Safety Vehicle” towing a (fortunately) empty car trailer, just in case one of the rally participants needed a tow.
The “Spirit of the Walleye Award” was given to the charming team of Ron Engle and Ulrich Graefe driving a 1960 Borgward Isabella Coupe. Ulrich came all the way from Germany to run the rally with his brother in law, Ron. These guys brought one of the oldest cars on the rally, could be seen taking pictures at just about every scenic overlook point, they had a honk a wave and a smile every time you drove by them along the way… they really embodied the spirit of the event… fun, casual and laid back, ‘The Spirit of the Walleye’.
I started thinking about planning a rally like this almost two years ago, August of 2010. I see what vintage car enthusiasts do in other parts of the country, in California, rallies like this are all over the place, there are a couple here in the Midwest, when I couldn’t really find a two day, overnight event, something more than a drive to lunch then back home, the idea for the Walleye 1000 was hatched.
I’d like to thank the people who really helped make it happen… David Steingas (the driver of the beautiful dark blue 1951 Mercedes-Benz 220S cabriolet) was a huge help when it came to making the route and figuring out the stops along the way. We spent about 14 hours in the car on a single Saturday back in late March planning both day’s routes! He also suggested the dinner venue, Bar Harbor Supper Club in Niswa, MN. This is a restaurant not to be missed if you’re in the Brainerd Lakes area.
Dave Bortner went above and beyond to secure a car trailer and tow it behind his Suburban all weekend.. there in case we needed it, thankfully, it remained empty the whole time.
Experienced rally participant and planner, John Elliott, in his red Fiat, had lots of good tips and information for me during the months leading up to the rally regarding routes and attractions that might be of interest to the group.
Also, a big thanks to John Drewitz, who ran the rally with his son Ryan in their 1989 BMW 325i Convertible who had a lot of great information during the planning phases due to his experience running similar rallies in Northern California with his other son Anthony. John helped with all sorts of logistical and operation questions I had while planning the event.
Lastly, a big thank you to my wife Michele… without Michele I couldn’t have pulled any of this off, and without her I probably would have suffered a heat stroke, passed out in the car on Saturday somewhere in Wisconsin when it was 90+ degrees, driven off a cliff and died (yeah, no A/C in our 1973 Mercedes 280C). Thanks for your help, patience and support along the way… and for keeping me company on the road (the rally road and the road of life).