Leave your phone be­hind, head out on the open road

Clas­sic car rally of­fers 1,000 kilo­me­tres of scenic driv­ing and great ca­ma­raderie

Ottawa Citizen - - DRIVING - CLAY­TON SEAMS Driv­ing.ca

It must have been around mile 160 on Day 2 when I re­ally no­ticed. Rocks pinged against the bare-metal floors of the stripped­out Dat­sun and the straight­through ex­haust re­ver­ber­ated through the whole car like a 12-inch sub­woofer. It was hot. Raw heat from the en­gine and trans­mis­sion broiled up from the many holes in the fire­wall and coated us in a fine mist of oil.

And in all this noise and vi­bra­tion, it was the com­plete si­lence and still­ness of my phone that I no­ticed. Seems we had been out of cell re­cep­tion for quite some time and the usual bar­rage of work emails and texts had been ex­punged from the world. Bliss­ful iso­la­tion at last.

Of course, most log­i­cal peo­ple would say all I needed to do was switch off my phone now and then. But like all ad­dicts, I’m con­stantly mak­ing ex­cuses for leav­ing it run­ning and let­ting it in­ter­rupt my life. Thus the 2017 Hagerty Maple Mille was a three-day, 1,000-kilo­me­tre detox pro­gram for me.

The Mille is not a race. It is not a com­pe­ti­tion, and there are no score­cards. It’s run by Clas­sic Car Ad­ven­tures and is open to all cars from 1979 or ear­lier. The event is run on the most scenic, me­an­der­ing roads that On­tario has to of­fer. The start and fin­ish lo­ca­tions change an­nu­ally but gen­er­ally start and stop within two hours of Toronto.

I en­tered this year’s event with my good friend, Alex, who has been my part­ner in crime for quite a few pre­vi­ous ad­ven­tures. We en­tered the park­ing lot on the first day, not quite sure how peo­ple would re­act to Alex’s bat­tered, bare-metal sling­shot of a Dat­sun.

He spent more than a year of late nights re­pair­ing rust dam­age on his 1968 Dat­sun Road­ster that ri­valled that of the Ti­tanic.

The body is a mix of red paint, primer, bare metal and rust. But the ratty red road­ster im­me­di­ately drew an ad­mir­ing crowd and be­came the dar­ling of the park­ing lot.

Over the course of three days the Mille runs 1,000 kilo­me­tres, and we spent most of those kilo­me­tres smil­ing. Our scrappy Dat­sun was run­ning well and we were whoop­ing like chil­dren as we threw it into the cor­ners with the tachome­ter swing­ing to­ward the red. There’s a joy in the pu­rity of a clas­sic sports car that not even a mod­ern Mi­ata can touch. The 1.6-litre en­gine isn’t mighty but sounds 40 feet tall when you stand on it.

As Hagerty In­sur­ance is the ti­tle spon­sor of the event, two rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the clas­sic car in­sur­ance com­pany were present with two do­mes­tics yanked from the Hagerty col­lec­tion: a very early 1964.5 Mus­tang with a 260-cu­bic inch (4.3-L) V-8 and a three-speed man­ual, and a sim­ply enor­mous 1960 Ply­mouth Fury con­vert­ible that they loaned to a fel­low en­trant af­ter his car failed to make it to the start­ing line. It’s worth not­ing that every en­trant is cov­ered by Hagerty road­side as­sis­tance dur­ing the event, re­gard­less of their in­sur­ance provider or plan.

As the sun was be­gin­ning to set on Day 2 we con­sid­ered call­ing Hagerty to bail us out. Our cranky starter mo­tor had grown in­creas­ingly an­gry at the world and it had fi­nally called it quits. Nat­u­rally, it did so on the side of a busy high­way just five kilo­me­tres from the ho­tel. Af­ter crank­ing the bat­tery nearly dead, there was noth­ing left to do but push-start it. Luck­ily the Dat­sun only weighs a hair over 2,000 pounds, and af­ter a good shove the car was back in ac­tion.

Many peo­ple were in tiny twoseat sports cars sim­i­lar to ours but nearly half the group was driv­ing hunky Amer­i­can beasts.

The lo­cal Mus­tang club is a firm be­liever in the event and there were sev­eral first-gen­er­a­tion Mus­tangs roar­ing through cot­tage coun­try with us. But one of my favourite cars on the trip was a prim­rose yel­low 1967 Ford Fair­lane.

It was an hon­est car with a 289 and an au­to­matic and it looked ma­jes­tic as it rolled (con­sid­er­ably) through the turns day af­ter day. There was also a pris­tine Jaguar XK120 FHC, a Dat­sun 240Z and a lovely pair of Porsche 356s.

Even though the Mille en­try list is pretty much a rolling car show, the best part of the event and the rea­son I’ll keep com­ing back is the fun I have with the other par­tic­i­pants. The din­ner on Day 2 later spilled out into the park­ing lot around the cars, where sto­ries were swapped and smiles were abun­dant up un­til around 1 a.m.

It was a swel­ter­ing 33 C when we coasted back into Toronto. My phone buzzed ur­gently as a week­end’s worth of mes­sages came flood­ing in. Back to re­al­ity.

The Hagerty Maple Mille should be mar­keted on the fact that it drops your blood pres­sure con­sid­er­ably over the three days.

Some­times it’s just good to get away and en­joy some un­fa­mil­iar roads in a clas­sic car with other peo­ple who share the same af­flic­tion.

CLAY­TON SEAMS/DRIV­ING

Com­plete bliss. The roads on the Hagerty Maple Mille are the best: empty, scenic and in­volv­ing.

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