The Colorado Grand ®

Notes from previous participants….the Candygram letter.

A Grand Time

by Martin W. Brauns

I participated in the Colorado Grand again this year. This was my third time in the event and the 31st anniversary for the event itself.

In my opinion, the Colorado Grand is the finest vintage rally/tour in our country and perhaps even the world. And no, I haven’t done them all. But I have done the Mille Miglia in Italy, the California Mille, and several other lesser events; I have a frame of reference. Plus, at these sorts of events, over cocktails and during other chats with fellow entrants, the conversation regularly turns to: “What other events have you done?” The consensus is clear: The Colorado Grand is the finest event of its kind.  No question.

The Grand takes place in early September each year. It usually starts and ends in Vail. The routes vary each year. But we’re generally always in western Colorado: Five nights, four days of driving, and roughly 1000 miles covered. And there are usually several 11, 000’ and 12,000’ mountain passes involved. Afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon. And I’ve even seen hail and snow. The cars are 1960 vintage or older.

This year our overnight stops were two nights in Telluride (always nice to be multiple nights in one hotel) and one night in Aspen/Snowmass. We went as far south as Durango and transited the 12,095’ Independence Pass (on the continental divide) three times. And yes, we did have a bit of rain. Just enough to reacquaint me with my Jaguar’s convertible top deployment contortions.

Two-and-a-half Candy Store members did the Grand this year. I ran it in my trusty 1955 Jaguar XK140MC-9S. My brother Gary was my co-driver. David Word brought his lovely Lancia Aurelia B24S convertible with Judi Beisler navigating. David has done the event a dozen times now. He loves it. And the “half member?” Who was that? That was David Seielstad in his 1949 Ferrari 166MM Touring-bodied barchetta. Though Mr. Seielstad isn’t a Candy Store member his barchetta is on display in the club by special arrangement. All three cars finished without incident. This year there were 95 cars entered. And despite the able crew of mechanics retained by the organizers to trail the group and make roadside and nightly repairs, 10 cars had mechanical issues that prevented them from finishing. Although I’d be upset if I were ever unable to finish, it isn’t the end of the world.  Mercedes-Benz (an event sponsor) provides a small fleet of their latest supercars to be used as loaners by anyone unlucky (lucky?) enough to have a mechanical failure.

You’d be right to point out that 1000 miles ÷ 4 days works out to 250 miles per day. One should be able to bang that out in 3 hours or so per day, right? Nope! Much of this is technical mountain road driving. And over the high mountain passes all of these older cars are down on power, running rich and poorly in the thin high-altitude air. Plus, the organizers plan morning and afternoon coffee stops in quaint towns to allow everyone to stretch their legs and tamp down their impulse to race to the finish.

I like the Grand because it means driving, pure and simple; no contrived “regularity test” segments where you’re expected to hold a certain average speed, or other such nonsense. Yes, other events take this same “just drive” approach. But here’s the difference: The Colorado Grand is an exceptional charity.  And I mean exceptional. They operate with only one paid full-time staff member. The Board and all other staff are volunteers. They’re a registered 501(c)(3) charity that primarily benefits the Colorado State Patrol Family Foundation. Over the years they’ve given away over $6M dollars to worthy causes including everything from rural medical clinics to arts organizations and local 4H clubs. The Board member who runs the Grand’s Charity Committee is extremely thoughtful. He personally reviews all grant requests and visits and interviews the charities in question. My favorite illustration of good work by the Colorado Grand Foundation: Years ago they learned that the Paradise Theatre in tiny Paonia, Colorado was about to close. It was the only movie theatre in a 100-mile radius, but outmoded and run-down, without the equipment needed to project the latest digital releases. It was dying, and the downtown was dying with it. The Colorado Grand made a grant to the theater that enabled it to upgrade its projection equipment. They saved the theater and in so doing saved five or six adjacent cafes and businesses; one strategic charitable investment by the Colorado Grand saved an entire downtown. That is impactful charity work!

And it happened to me again this year: There I was in line, plate in hand, waiting for one of the nice volunteer ladies to ladle me up some three-bean salad at the simple buffet lunch. She stopped. She grabbed me by the hand and looked me deep in the eyes: “Thank you!” She said. “Thank you for the scholarship that you and the Grand gave to my daughter. I want you to know she is doing really well. She is getting good grades. She’ll graduate next year! A nursing degree. My husband and I are extremely grateful for what you have done. Thank you.” “Err,… would you like some salad?” Now how cool is that? And this is not the first time that I’ve had this sort of touching experience with someone who has been helped by the Colorado Grand.

For more info on The Candy Store please visit http://www.candystoreclub.com