Text & photos by Bill Griffith, Boston Globe; Steve Szydlowski, Providence Journal; Cliff Atiyeh, Car and Driver; Zane Merva, AutoInsane.com; George Kennedy, Autoblog.com; Silvio Calabi, GateHouse News Service
NEMPA’s 15th Ragtop Ramble & Crustacean Crawl set all-time records for participation, with 44 cars divided among 70 people for the drive to Maine on Friday, July 20. That’s not counting the two maxi-vans that tagged along bearing luggage and gift bags.
The RR/CC is a top-down (usually) ride & drive cruise that starts at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, in Brookline, Massachusetts, and wends its way north along the migratory route of the fried clam to Kennebunkport, Maine. There, everyone debarks to enjoy the Colony Hotel’s famous lobster luncheon, while guests gawk at the hot wheels overflowing the parking lots. It is the New England Motor Press Association’s annual thank-you to automakers and their PR people for what they do on our behalf all year long, and it has become a don’t-miss-it occasion.
Having shipped their convertibles and other specialty vehicles to the Automotion garage in advance, carmakers began to mingle with journalists at Bugsy’s garage on Thursday afternoon, July 19, for the open house and lunch, followed by the traditional Boston Harbor dinner cruise that evening. Hangovers notwithstanding, everyone showed up at LAAM the next morning to help the cars pull in. And pull in, and pull in, until the museum lawn was completely ringed by eye candy that ranged from Mini to Bentley to Rolls-Royce, Abarth Fiat to Lamborghini Gallardo, Corvette GS and Camaro SS to Chrysler 300 SRT8, M6 to R8, GT-R to 370Z, and many, many more–an alphanumeric soup of SL and C70, BR-Z, FR-S, 911, IPL and IS350C, MX-5, XJL and XKR-S.
Handlers and Automotion staff fussed over their charges with feather dusters and wipe rags until everything gleamed. And then two haulers rolled up the drive and disgorged a small fleet of Factory Five replicas–two Cobra-style Mk4 roadsters, a Type 65 Daytona-lookalike coupe and a GTM (GT40) supercar, all plated, snarling and ready to run. NEMPA members under the age of 35 began to go light-headed, while the veterans thought about pumping those heavy-duty clutches through coastal Maine’s summer traffic.
The rolling Concours, proceeding along Routes 128 and 95, had other drivers staring, pointing and unlimbering their smartphones. Public attention reached traffic-jam density at the midway point, the New Hampshire visitors’ center on I-95, where 44 notable cars lined up in formation to swap drivers and passengers.
Appreciation and great thanks go to the 27 makers–Audi, Bentley, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Factory Five, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Miata, Mini, Nissan, Porsche, Range Rover, Rolls-Royce, Scion, Subaru, Volvo, VW–who sent cars to New England for the event. Many thanks also to Sheldon Steele and his crew at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, one of NEMPA’s favorite meeting places, and to Cliff Holman, Mike Brooks, Edie Wilkinson and John “Bugsy” Lawlor at Automotion, who help make all this possible. Plus of course all the media, communications and fleet pros who keep NEMPA smiling all year long.