CLASSIC ALPINE TOUR
The Classic Alpine Tour (CAT) was held the weekend before Easter, which worked in perfectly with Warbirds Over Wanaka, allowing participants to take in both great events while they were in the region.
Organizer Paul Halford said that the event was “a car tour and social get together for the owners of European cars that show merit of design and engineering”.
In total, 42 cars were accepted for entry, with the selection process taking several months and interested parties able to submit up to three entries for consideration.
The entries were indeed diverse and included marques such as Alfa Romeo through to Zagato plus a fabulous selection of open-top cars including a 1926 Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix and gran turismo cars such as a Ferrari 275 and a Mercedes 300SL.
Cars were driven from all parts of the country — from Auckland in the north to Invercargill in the south — with some clocking up in excess of 4000km over their round trip. The furthest entrant travelled all the way from the UK driving a Lancia Aurelia GT.
The event kicked off on the Friday night with a cocktail party at Thurlby Domain, the original site of a homestead built back in the 1880s. Mayor Jim Boult (a car enthusiast himself) welcomed and opened
the event assuring the participants that they would see some of the best vistas in the world and wonderful roads on which to stretch their cars legs. He wasn’t wrong. After snow had fallen on the Wednesday night, the sun came out to bathe the cars and entrants in the best possible driving and touring conditions.
Saturday morning saw the cars away after a briefing and a moving Scottish bagpipes welcome that drifted out of the early morning mist. The day consisted of touring the famous Coronet Peak Hill Climb course and to the Dart River in Paradise Valley before returning to Glenorchy for lunch. Then the cars toured back alongside Lake Whakatipu to the Queenstown foreshore where they went on display for the Elegance on the Lake show. Tourists from around the globe marvelled at the unexpected find on their trip.
A fine dinner for 80 people was held at the historic Gantleys Restaurant with the finest Central Otago wines provided by Rockburn.
Sunday saw the cars head over the Crown Range and tour through Wanaka and out alongside Lake Hawea to the neck where Lakes Wanaka and Hawea meet.
Lunch was a charity affair at Hawea Flat School that saw the participants present to the school a donation of $2K to assist in the school’s activities. The prize-giving was held in the school hall, with many prizes given for both welcome and not-so-welcome achievements by the entrants. The Spirit de la Tour trophy was awarded to the elegant 1924 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Red Label with coachwork by Park Ward. The car had been driven from Palmerston North by its owners, Lewis and Kerryn Townsend.
The Sunday and the completion of the CAT saw some of the cars circulate around Highlands — another unexpected surprise.
All in all, it was a very special event for very special cars and their caring custodians.
Watch out for the follow-up event in March 2020.