28th Annual California Mille – Man, Machine and Mother Nature
Some 70 classic cars that could have qualified for Italy’s Mille Miglia, traveled to San Francisco’s Nob Hill on April 15 for a free car show and preview of the 28th annual California Mille. The California Mille was founded in 1991 as an annual event. Recognized by the Mille Miglia organization in Brescia, Italy, it is held each Spring like the original Mille Miglia.
The California Mille got its start when John Lamm of Road & Track and Martin Swig went to the 1982 Mille Miglia in Italy with Martin’s 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 Zagato. They were the only Americans there. John did an article about the event in Road & Track and Americans discovered the Mille Miglia.
During the 1980s, as Martin Swig ran in the Italian Mille, he couldn’t help but compare it with an imaginary event he would like to see in California. At first, he didn’t know exactly where to start his event.
After a few years, he discovered that the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Francisco would like to host it. They were willing to let him close the block in front of the hotel (and generously put up with extreme inconvenience to other Hotel guests). The first California Mille, which was actually recognized by the Brescia group and sponsored by Alfa Romeo, was run in October 1991. About 50 cars participated.
We attended Sunday’s free show, where we had great weather, fantastic cars, and a big crowd. Highlights included the arrival of two very famous Ferraris that raced at the 1958 24 Hours of LeMans, and a strolling commentary/description of all the cars by Donald Osborn and friends.
Then I took Monday off from work to follow the first leg of the tour to Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi, California. And that first leg turned out to be quite challenging for drivers, as Northern California was hit by a usual spring storm complete with howling winds, hail, and torrential downpours! But these Mille participants never waivered, driving their multi-million dollar machines right through the melee! Ya gotta drive ‘em right?
Thankfully, after lunch, the clouds parted and the tour continued in much calmer weather. The four-day tour ended with an awards banquet and overnight stay at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, overlooking San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay. Everyone instantly started planning for next year!
We’ve got to hand it to Martin Swig. He conceived and created one of the most spirited automotive events in the U.S. in the most picturesque city in America. This rolling exhibit was simply spectacular.