August 15, 2022


The Joys of Motoring Through Pastoral America in a Vintage Car Rally

9 min read
For some people, rejuvenation comes in the form of a golf weekend with friends. For...

For some people, rejuvenation comes in the form of a golf weekend with friends. For others, it’s heading back to college campus for a football game. Still others seek out breweries looking for the perfect pint. Then there is that group of people, smaller in number but no less passionate, for whom the apex of experience is hopping behind the wheel of a vintage automobile and testing one’s car and capability against the rigors of the open road. I fall into the latter category, and I recently had the good fortune to participate in the Fuelfed Motorgearo 250, the Midwest’s premier classic European car enthusiast driving event. 

Let me tap the brakes a moment, because there’s a lot packed into that sentence. Fuelfed, for starters, is a private classic car club based on the North Shore of Chicago. (There are now branches in several states — see below for more info.) Classic, as the club defines it, means cars of a vintage 1995 or earlier. The Motorgearo is an annual driving event unique to the club — it’s not a race nor a competitive rally (like a time-speed-distance or game event), but a multi-stage drive in which participants cover 250 miles a day through a curated path of winding backroads, sweeping curves, and undulating elevations. It’s not about speed or winning. It’s about being out on the open road with your friends in cars that would have long since disappeared back to the elements were it not for the care, passion, and talent of their owners.

It’s worth spending a moment to explain how I got here — and how you might find yourself with your feet in the same exhilarating wheel well. I grew up around cars. Alfa Romeos, to be precise. My dad was an avid restorer of the marque and I was his garage assistant and co-pilot on trips to racing weekends as a kid. Fast forward 30 years and I’d pretty much buried the memories until I saw a poster for Fuelfed in my hometown of Glencoe, Illinois. The brightly colored vision of vintage steel reignited my interest and got the pistons moving in my mind.   

You can’t join a classic car club without a car, so I immediately started searching online for a good starter model. I didn’t have unlimited funds, so it needed to be affordable with easy-to-acquire parts, relative reliability, and a strong community of drivers to meet and learn from. When I’m inspired I move pretty fast, and within a month I found myself behind the wheel of a white-on-black 1976 Triumph TR6 from a vintage dealer near my home.

With my car acquired and club membership obtained, it was time to drive.

The founder of this orchestra of rolling steel is Brian Hughes. He started Fuelfed in 1998, and he runs it with his wife, Lorraine. To say they do it right is like saying Phil Hill was a pretty good driver. The club exists to foster bonds between drivers who share a love of vintage automobiles. There are frequent meet-ups for coffee, impromptu drives, swap meets for car parts and memorabilia, and other get-togethers designed to build community. Their events are meticulously planned, and this is certainly true for the MG250. Roads are scouted months in advance and then re-checked multiple times, lodging and restaurants carefully selected for their charm and quality, drive books and maps are impeccable, and the whole long weekend has the cadence of a perfectly executed ballet of iron and oil. On top of the flawless execution, they are extraordinary hosts, somehow making sure everything runs and still having time to chat and catch up with every driver. It feels like family.  

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“I wanted to create a Midwest rally that was on par with the big rallies, celebrated small towns, and was affordable to a wider variety of European classics and people, without the sales pitches,” says Hughes. “I wanted it to be grass roots and home grown, not overseen by a corporation. Quality local establishments and bespoke experiences are always important to the MotorGearo.”

Judging by the level of participation and enthusiasm displayed by the participants, it seems like he hit the mark.

“I’m in several car clubs, and what I love about Fuelfed is all the driving events,” says Alan Blum, who is running this year in his black 1991 Ferrari 348 ts. “A lot of clubs are about driving to lunch, or maybe a museum. In Fuelfed the point is to use the cars.”

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