Driving Your Classic – Our Thoughts on Great Driving Roads in Europe…
For many of our customers here at Fiennes Classics, nothing beats starting out in a classic car on a route that seems made for the driver. Elsewhere on the website we have looked at some of the best routes on offer in the UK, but for the adventurous classic motorist who wants to go a little further, here are four ideas for great drives in Europe. All, by coincidence, are around the Alps, which let’s face it are not noted for their boring scenery.
Stelvio Pass – Italian Alps, Italy. The Stelvio is justifiably known as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, driving roads in the world. With its 60 hairpins, it looks like someone draped a piece of ribbon along the side of a mountain. Because of its elevation – 2,757 metres above sea level – it is only open during the summer months. Drive from north to south or start at Bormio – either way it’s a spectacular experience, and you can even take a turn off it onto the Umbrail Pass into Switzerland: the road equivalent of a buy one, get one free offer. The Stelvio comes with a warning, however. It is steep, and the hairpins are tight. This is not a place for vague steering or unreliable brakes. At Fiennes Classics we would be very happy to discuss sensible steering and brake overhauls or upgrades with you before you try it. Have fun, but be safe.
Gorges du Verdon – Provence, France. This beautiful drive through the heart of Europe’s Grand Canyon offers breathtaking views and a choice of routes on opposite sides of the gorge. The D952 is wider but busier, whereas the D71 from Aiguines to Comps-sur-Artuby is quieter because it is narrower but just as beautiful. There are viewpoints all along either, so take a camera. If you’re considering this in the summer months remember that the daytime temperatures can be very high. At the very least we would suggest that you consider having your engine’s cooling system serviced or upgraded in advance of the trip. It’s preferable to enjoying one view for a very long time through a cloud of steam.
Bernina Pass – Switzerland. Switzerland is not the friendliest country towards the motorist, and most of its mountain passes are only open for part of the year and even then have rules as to who can drive them and in what. The Bernina is an exception being open all year round, but our recommendation would be a summer trip that takes in this and any other intersecting pass of your choosing – they’re all amazing. You’ll reach 2,328 metres, so if you’re driving with the roof down you might want to consider some warm clothes even in the hottest months. There are hairpins here to rival the Stelvio, so consider your steering and brakes, and if you prefer to go in April or May and plan to stay at altitude it might be worth talking to us about any cold-starting issues your classic might experience. You’ll be there at a time when most other passes are strictly off limits to sports cars, so it will be nice if you can make it out of the hotel car park in a morning.
Route de Thorenc – France. Open all year round, and bathed in the glorious weather of the Côte d’Azur. The D2 is a lovely mix of hairpins and long straights, but the best section is the 8 kilometres between Gréolières and the D802 intersection with its spectacular views and carved tunnels. For this one we would certainly recommend talking to us about your cooling system – the summer months get hot in that part of the world and lengthy sections of the road don’t have soft verges off to the side. You won’t be a popular addition to the scenery sitting blocking the lane with a boiling engine, so let us take a look and advise you.
So that’s our top four. Your top four might be totally different, but whatever they are we can help you to get there and enjoy a thrilling and trouble-free motoring experience of a lifetime. And we never even mentioned Austria’s Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Switzerland’s Susten Pass, Italy’s Great Dolomites Road, Romania’s Transfagarasan, France’s Col de la Bonette…