Twenty-five years ago the late Colorado old car enthusiast Bob Sutherland and Larry Tolar, a member of the Colorado State Patrol who carried out his police duties on a motorcycle, created the most famous of all the old car tours. Bob had enjoyed runnings of the Historic Mille Miglia in Italy and wanted to have a 1000 mile run for historic cars in his home state. Bob and his close friend and mechanic Mike Dopudja told Larry about the Mille Miglia and Larry was at first shocked at the idea of having something like that in Colorado. But by working together – convincing the higher ups of the Patrol was no small task – they were able to put together one of the most enjoyable driving experiences anywhere, one that has continued annually ever since.
The success of the Colorado Grand derives both from the excellence of its driving experience and also because all the money it raises goes to support a variety of Colorado charities. The Colorado Grand has only one employee. All others who assist in its management and who arrange to pull off a memorable event every year are volunteers. The Grand, as it has become known, primarily supports the Family Foundation of the Patrol which helps families of fallen troopers, but it now also supports a number of other charities around the state, many which provide needed medical and educational services. Through 2012 The Grand had raised over $4 million for its charities.
The Patrol is a very important part of The Grand with some eight motorcycle troopers, known affectionately as “The Motors,” accompanying the entrants on their run through Colorado. The only rules are called Common Sense: go slowly in towns, don’t cross a double yellow line, be polite to all road users and follow The Motors’ advice. On those lovely open Colorado country roads with no people and no traffic, go ahead and open it up a bit.
One of the unique aspects of The Grand are the lunch stops which are catered by small communities which welcome The Grand to their towns. It gives the townspeople a chance to see the cars, talk to the participants and enjoy the time together. All these communities have benefitted from contributions from The Grand to their local medical facilities and schools. Each of these towns is also eligible to receive a scholarship grant for a local high school student who will attend college as a freshman the next year.
The Grand, for cars built up through 1960, starts and finishes in Vail, about two hours from Denver. This year we had overnight stops in Grand Junction, Telluride Mountain Village and Crested Butte, covering very close to 1000 miles in four days. Because this was the 25th Anniversary Grand, the field was expanded somewhat to 119 entries. Weather was generally lovely, but there was a mountain cloudburst or two along the way. It was, as always, a wonderful experience.
Once again, the Colorado Grand lived up to its reputation as America’s finest historic car event.