ClassicLine’s resident road tripper, Ben Combes picks his five standout motoring moments of 2022.
So, how’s your year been? Hopefully the long and balmy summer allowed for plenty of motoring memories to be made, which will sustain you through the coming winter.
As for me, well I certainly can’t complain. After several years of not-much-happening, it’s been a pretty good return to form, with four European road trips, a smattering of sun-dappled car shows and lots of progress in the workshop to boot. In short, the six-month blur that was my motoring summer isn’t an easy thing to distil down to five standout moments, but I’ll do my best. Here we go:
One – Finally driving the Stelvio Pass, in my TVR
Not that many roads achieve truly iconic status. Good? Sure. Great even. Plenty of stretches of tarmac hit those heights. But iconic? That’s rare. There’s Route 66, sure. The Nurburgring too, of course. And I’d say the Stelvio Pass also deserves to go on the list, as the most preposterous of all the alpine passes.
I set about this towering asphalt zigzag one morning on the Beer Italia tour, climbing it as part of a convoy which included everything from a Lamborghini Huracan to a Triumph TR5. And while on the most often-photographed side of the pass, the sheer steepness results in endless tight hairpins which don’t exactly allow you to build up a smooth driving flow, the sheer drama of the road’s situation still makes it a deeply impressive drive. And then, once you’re over the pass, the tarmac sweeps you down onto the road to Davos, which Top Gear once declared the best driving road on earth. Take the Stelvio and the road to Davos as a whole, and you have my best driving day of the year.
Two – slaloming along the Rosfeld Panoramastrasse, in a Volvo 240
The what, I hear you ask? The Panoramastrasse, says I – a sweeping ribbon of tarmac in deepest Bavaria which presents you with gloriously panoramic views as you climb your way over a minor alp. Now admittedly, the Volvo 240 in which I tackled the drive maybe wasn’t the best steed for the job, but it made for a fun and irreverent drive nevertheless, and marked the highpoint of the time I spent with it in Germany, supporting this year’s Eagle Rally. So, whatever you’re driving, if you find yourself in the Berchtesgaden area, in the far south east of Germany, check out the Rosfeld – you won’t regret it. Even if you are in a frumpy old Volvo.
Three – Finally painting the project car
This one had been eighteen months in the making – eighteen months of welding, cutting and grinding. Or, if you want to go back further, it was nearer thirteen years in the making, as that’s how long my 1974 Mini has been off the road. But finally, the corner is being turned and the milestones are being achieved, with paint being the first one ticked off the list. I covered the painting process in a blog post a few months ago, but suffice to say that as I’d never done anything like this before, it was rather a steep learning curve, though a deeply satisfying one at that.
And with paint representing the first big milestone to resurrecting the Mini, thoughts turn to the next big steps – getting the Daisy the Mini back on its wheels, the first engine start, the first drive, and then the first proper road trip…
2023 seems set for some big moments already.
Four – Touring Burgundy with the local car clubs
When you’re hanging out at a chateau in the Burgundy winelands with 15 TVRs and the local mayor offers to take you on a tour of the area in his classic Mustang, your answer is yes, right? That’s pretty much how we ended up spending a Wednesday in May in a mixed convoy of British sports cars and French-registered classics, touring private chateaus and seldom-seen vineyards beneath a perfect blue sky. A highlight of the Chimaera Jubillee trip? A highlight of the year, more like.
Five – Two weeks of classic-camping in France
For my fifth nomination of a 2022 high point, I’m dropping the tempo. For this one, you don’t need a soaring alpine pass, or a convoy of fancy metal, or even any progress in any way. All you need is a classic with a decent-sized boot (predictably in this case, the Classicline Volvo 240), a forest in France, and a bell tent with a woodburning stove. Throw in a crate of beer, a comfortable camp chair and a group of friends, and you have the makings of a perfect antidote to the modern world. These are the ingredients which went into my two-week holiday in Fontainebleau Forest last Easter, and I wouldn’t change them for the world. Well, except the Volvo 240, maybe – I’ve been getting cravings for gul yellow 850R recently. But that, as they say, is a whole different story.
So, that’s my five automotive highlights of 2022. It’s been quite the year, all in all, but there’s still space to take things up a level in 2023.
Bring it on…