The California Mille returns for its 23rd year in 2013, to continue the celebrated tradition of spirited driving in vintage sports cars on scenic back roads. Some 70 teams are expected to participate, driving Alfa Romeos, Porsche 356s, Jaguar XK120s, Ferraris, Maseratis, and Talbot-Lagos over the thousand mile (mille miglia) route that starts in San Francisco and traverses some of the most interesting and little-known roads that Northern California has to offer.
Th 2013 California Mille will honor the legacy of the event’s late founder, Martin Swig, a lifelong car enthusiast who loved nothing more than exploring the back roads of Northern California in one of his beloved Alfa Romeos. His two sons, David and Howard Swig, both of whom are serious vintage car enthusiasts deeply bitten by the motoring bug, will continue the California Mille with the assistance of longtime Mille organizer Dan Radowicz.
The 2013 route features a selection of the Mille’s best drivers’ roads and a cross-section of Northern California’s stunning scenery complemented by stops at luxury hotels that will offer epicurean delights along the way. A traditional preview will also take in front of San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill on Sunday, April 28th, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. This day-long preview will invite the public to view the cars and meet the drivers from a dozen American states as well as Colombia, Britain, Canada and Japan.
Swig was often asked, “You have a bunch of old cars. Which one is your favorite?”
His answer would be that “If I could tell you, I wouldn’t have to have so many!”
Even so, the Swig family has selected four of Martin’s “favorites” that will be displayed atop Nob Hill on Sunday, April 28, during the Mille Preview. Out of a personal collection that included Fiats, Chryslers, a Czech Tatra and other auto esoterica, the following special cars will be on hand to help honor the life and contributions of Swig, who passed away in July of 2012:
1925 Lancia Lambda – This was one of Swig’s favorite pre-war cars. The Lancia boasted a V-4 engine, robust mechanicals and a monocoque construction. He originally acquired the car from an Australian collector and without any repairs or modifications used it enthusiastically. In a fast climb up to Mt. Hamilton Observatory a few years ago, Swig and the Lancia left a Cunningham C-3 in the dust.
1951 Lancia Ardea – Swig found this car in an Italian magazine that described it as conservator, meaning well-preserved and unrestored. Swig gambled on the integrity of the owner, bought it sight unseen and shipped it to his office/garage in San Rafael. David and Howard Swig will drive it in the 2013 California Mille.
1953 Alfa Romeo 1900 – Martin loved Alfa 1900s and entered one in his first Mille Miglia drive in 1982. He found this Pininfarina-bodied car in the Midwest in the 1980s, bought it, sold it a few years later, and after deciding the couldn’t live without it bought it back again.
1953/4 Hot Rod – Ak Miller and Doug Harrison, Southern California hot rodeos, built their original Oldsmobile-powered El Caballo de Hierro (Iron Horse) for the 1954 Carrera Panamericana. The team did very well, finishing 7th behind five Ferraris and two Porsches. The original Caballo is long gone, but Swig discovered a few surviving parts that could be used to help construct a 2010 tribute to the original. The car was finished shortly before Martin’s passing. According to David Swig, “It’s a hard drive: cramped, awkward to shift, bizarre pedal placements, and with no creature comforts. If the original hadn’t run for 2,000 miles at an average of 91 miles per hour, Martin might not have commissioned the project.”
On Monday morning, the 29th, the cars will depart at 8:30 am for a four-day, thousand mile adventure that will take them along hidden mountain passes, charming towns and scenery that Martin Swig once described as “More Italian than Italy”. The first day is to end with an overnight stop in Redding before day two’s challenging drive on the hallowed Highway 36. For its second night on the road, the Mille will return to Mendocino before continuing on a variety of coastal and inland routes during days three and four with two overnights at the Solage Calistoga resort. The event will conclude in Calistoga on May 2nd. With so much going on, the 2013 California Mille “Tribute to Martin Swig”, drawing on the influence and enthusiasm of the man who most exemplified the spirit of the “Mille Miglia” in the United States”, so far has the makings of the best Mille yet.