Classic Car Capital

Thoughts on Mille Miglia North America Tribute 2011

By Martin Swig

Mille Miglia North American Tribute 2011On October 25-29, 2011 the Santa Barbara, California Stratus Media Group showed us their interpretation of a Mille Miglia. Originally scheduled for August, the Mille Miglia North America Tribute was postponed until October “to allow entrants time to prepare their cars.” I was interested to observe, because for twenty-one years I’ve been involved with the California Mille.

We’ve always thought of the Mille as being, first and foremost, about driving legendary cars on the best roads we could find. Publicity was always secondary. Before creating our own event, our late co-founder, Ken Shaff, had done the Italian event at least four times. I had done it eight times.

I don’t believe anyone from Stratus has driven the Italian Mille Miglia. Their route selection showed that, opting to pass through the congested San Francisco Peninsula twice in one day! In Italy, the cities are fun, with the motorcycle cops escorting the cars at high speed. In the U.S., not so much.

The publicity materials and car display sites were first class. Photographers and staff were everywhere, even if the entry was light, and spectators scarce. One of the event photographers assigned to Carmel Valley Road saw only fifteen cars. On the turnaround section in Stinson Beach, I waited for hours and only saw twelve. But at the Monterey overnight, it looked like around 30 cars, including some entries suggesting a serious “under-subscription.” In early publicity, Stratus announced a limit of 300 entries, to be selected from an expected 15,000 applications.

At a Santa Barbara press conference about a month prior to the event, in answer to a question, the Stratus representative claimed 48 entries. He wouldn’t state how many were paid, or how many of the cars were Mille Miglia correct. Note the ’41 Ford Tudor, or the ’53 Chevy Bel-Air 6 cylinder Powerglide with chromed, extra wide disc wheels and whitewall tires, and Tijuana tuck-and-roll-imitation interior! Wearing Mille Miglia numbers?? And reportedly trucked in from Arizona for the event! What was impressive was the number of sponsors – nearly as many sponsors as entrants.

Other overseas Mille Miglia events in Japan and Argentina, both of which I have driven in, the route selection and car entries (both number and quality) were much better.

We’ll see if Stratus is game to try again, after what must have been a big financial bust. In the meantime, our Amici americani della Mille Miglia has already staked out another fabulous, four-day California Mille 2012, using the best roads in the world here in Northern California from April 29th to May 3rd, 2012. Applications for entry can be found at

Mille Miglia North America Tribute 2011 – Photo Gallery

[envira-gallery id=”142114″]

(See Response from Sandro Binelli, MAC Group President and Secretary General of the Mille Miglia Organizing Committee)

[Source: Martin Swig]

Show Comments (16)

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  1. I understand that the event was postponed until October as it clashed from a publicity point of view with Monterey Week, and the main sponsors were the ones who made the decision, albeit on very short notice. Came back to bite them…

  2. Nicely put Martin, but the pictures tell the story just the same. Wow. Five or six impressive cars, but I suppose that was a lock given that organizers were offering five slots to the Italian MM to “random” entrants.

  3. The Tribute guys have a long road to travel before they can match what has gone before them. See you in April Martin.

  4. I cannot comment on the roads chosen, but the participant cars….fiasco !
    Apart from the Ferrari TR, the Lancia, and Alfa, an Austin Healey and a few more….It seem more a Hot Rod event than a Mille Miglia.
    Even he AH was not in Mille Miglia condition. The bumper on the Tr2 !
    The best was de Cadenet’s accident

  5. The MMNAT was a huge driving success with perfect weather, perfect roads (only congestion was at 7AM in Sant Cruz) and driving the Golden Gate in bright sunshine 2X with NO traffic still makes me smile.

    Yes the event had some edges but then that’s what events are all about, especially first ever for this group.
    5-Star hotels and 5-Star meals made for our female co-drivers and drivers asking to come back for 201 100%.

    The Italians attended and were clearly happy with the results. Our five invites to their 2012 event (pre-approved) have our drivers scrambling to make their cars 100%. The winner of the Italian 2011 MM was in attendence driiving a ’54 MGTF until an electrical malfunchion put him into a rental.

    We look forward to next year’s MMNAT with full Italian participation and enbracement.

    1. In the italian Mille Migla the protagonist, the main chracters, the vedettes, the stars …are the cars: their history, their condition, their performance.
      Not the weather, the codrivers, the meals or the hotels. Those are secondary. In the MMNAT it was the contrary…
      The MG TF, the Corvettes, the Ford, the Chevy, the TR6, the 1948 MG, the Allard ?, the prowler ?, are NOT elligible in the Italian race. Not to mention the wheels and the bumper of the TR2.
      Following this entries next year in the MMNAT I expect to see a few japaneese cars and why not a few Korean jewels.

  6. Comments are comments…the MMNAT was/is in it’s infant stage, not to be totally compared to the 1927-1957 version of Italian perfection. Give us 50 years and lets see your comments.

    Give us all a break, take a deep breath and remember, it’s all for driving fun, not total perfection.

    You are correct my friend in mentioning that the 4-5 Star hotels and meals are secondary….but just try telling the driver’s wifes that.


  7. I certainly agree with Mr. Swig. Not only did Stratus organize the MMT which appeared to be a flop, Stratus took a stab at organizing the Santa Barbara Concours. It was obvious they are not experienced organizers. Just getting into the venue was difficult as they had no one directing traffic on the road leading into the event, resulting in long lines blocking the road. The information on the event available on the internet indicated that the concours was both Saturday and Sunday which it was not. So we made a wasted trip for nothing on Saturday. Then on Sunday, buying tickets was an interesting experience as the staff selling tickets had just been “trained” that morning and were having difficulty processing credit cards. The cars were spread out all over the place in a seemingly disorganized fashion and many did not have vehicle descriptions visible. They couldn’t even get the names of the car owners in the program organized properly i.e. last name first, first names with a comma between first and last. Really! The low point of the event. They had about 20 Clenet’s on the field which are nothing short of one of the tackiest cars ever made. The owners of these duds are the same people who bought triple knit suits and thought they were cool. About the only saving grace was that there were some very nice cars on display and it was a beautiful sunny day.

  8. I think Martin gave a fair , unbiased opinion, and assessment of the event, spoken from the perspective of many years of success with his events. P.C. Hoffert should not be offended, but learn from one of the best, and illustrate some humility rather than be on the defensive.
    Much is to be learned here, and I think given the anemic attendance, and incorrect genre of cars, amongst other amatuer exemplifications, Stratus should abandon their efforts to mimic what Martin has suceeded in doing so well with the California Mille Miglia.
    Last, the sponsors, may want to rethink their efforts and direct their attentions to other venues which will ultimately prove to be more lucrative. I see no future in what Stratus has tried to achieve, and I have to believe, those who attended the event had to look around with the realization that “this dog doesn’t hunt”.

  9. As a participant in the inaugural North American Mille Miglia Tribute, I can only say “what an incredible event this turned out to be!” Tremendous organization with care and attention to all the details. In the 30 plus years that I have owned and driven my car, this event topped it all.
    The route was phenomenal (with ‘opt outs’ for the faint of heart matched with challenges to driver and vehicle that stayed on route). I left with a new appreciation of the beauty and size of our state and how well it accommodates the motor vehicle. Happily, I didn’t require the help of a completely professional sag crew but was relieved to know they were there.
    The joy of having the event so well covered by media services was that family and friends could keep up with the event on a moment by moment basis.
    A challenge to car and driver and a superb four days – count me in for next year!

    1. Martin,
      Thank you for your kind words. As one of the organizers, I can tell you that your sentiments are similar to those of ALL of the participants that experienced this inaugural Mille Miglia North America Tribute….the ONLY legally licensed Mille Miglia in the US.
      Sadly, Mr. Swig, who is illegally using the “Red Arrow,” feels as though dissing Stratus will somehow make his event legitimate.

  10. In spanish they say : ” en un pais de ciegos el tuerto es rey” more or less: in a country of blind people the one-eyed is the King. That is why some of the participants in the MMNAT think it was great… They have never been to the Italian Mille Miglia… They have not seen the cars in Italy, the spirit, the legends, etc….
    How to dare compare the cars present in Italy vs the cars present in the MMNAT ? How to dare compare 300+ cars vs the anemic attendance of 15 cars ? How to dare compare or try to explain the NON elligible cars in the MMNAT (kris kraft, Mg TF, lotus 61, fords, chevys, 1948 MG, TR6, Allard, Corvettes,etc…) vs the list of the elligible cars in the mille miglia in Italy.
    In response to Mr Hoffert do not mention the original MM. I am refering to the MM of 1982 to present. Do not try to confuse people. I am comparing the MM of 1992 onwards vs the MMNAT In attendance and criteria of selecting the cars. NEVER, NEVER the cars present in the MMNAT will be elligible to participate in the MM of Italy. Except 2 or 3….the rest were a fiasco!
    Here we are NOT discussing if Swigs Mille Miglia is legitimate, licensed or what ever. Do not try to move the discussion to those fields.
    Here we are discussing is anemic attendance and incorrect genre of cars.
    15 cars in attendance and non elligible cars. Those are the points.
    Do not divert the discussion to illegality, legitimacy, red arrows….
    The attendace and genre of cars was so poor that in the MMNAT website the pictures are scare and the halloween party seems to be more important that the Partenza of the corsa ! …..

    1. In many languages they say a variation of : ” size isn’t everything”. Lets endeavour to be Gentlemen, gentlemen!
      I will happily say it again—” As a participant this was a fantastic four days for myself and my navigator” . I certainly felt that this was a sentiment shared by all of those that participated, both in and out of our cars. Let’s not denigrate what was a magnificant experience for all involved and one that many of us intend repeating.

  11. Here in Santa Barbara the word about town is that of the less than 20 cars we saw depart on the MMT there were four classes of entrants: 1) those that paid about $8000 to participate; 2) those who paid the discounted rate of around $5000; those who were invited to go for free; and those who were paid to go. The story is that more that half of the participants were in the last two classes (went for free, or were paid to go). It would be interesting to know how those paying 8K felt about sitting at dinner with those who paid nothing, and to know what class Mr Allard was in.

  12. It’s obvious that most of these comments are by Mr. Swig and his (unbiased…)friends who are apparently afraid of what Stratus has achieved their 1st year. Their childish comments and attempted sabotage of the MMNAT are irrelevant. This was just the 1st MMNAT. It will get better in the years to come because only Stratus has the rights to do the Mille. Write all the articles and comments you want Ca. Mille followers. You will soon be forgotten. Enjoy watching the MMNAT on TV though. It will be aired 9 times into 40 million homes on the Discovery channel and has been written about in many auto magazines.

    Let the drivers and viewers judge for themselves.

    The more Mr. Swig writes, the more we see what little his event has accomplished in 20+ years…
    None of the Ca. Mille drivers will be able to participate in any future Italian Mille Miglias either for bashing the MMNAT. What a shame.

  13. There you go….
    When you start using fake names (Tyler Durden) and threatening peope ( not been able to participate in futures MM) it only shows you ave NO valid arguments