Our very first first-class drive
It was a case of premiere “fever” for everyone involved in the first Emil Frey Classics Drive, which took a small group of happy motorists across Switzerland on 17-20 August 2019. We crossed from north to south, enjoying the promise of one exclusive setting after another.
The drive began not in Switzerland, but across the border at the Hofgut Albführen in Dettighofen, Germany. There, the illustrious participants met up – the oldest being a beautiful 1937 Delahaye 135 M Chapron Paris and the youngest, a noble 1986 Aston Martin V8. We also paid special attention to the perfectly preserved red 1954 Mercedes 300 S Cabriolet A. The highlight at the start, however, was the view of the horses and stables at the beautiful Albführen farm estate.
It proved to be the perfect place to get to know each other and get in the mood for the first 90 km stage. Over lunch, we carried out the driver briefing and distributed the road book, which included a total of six special tests, to be completed by the drivers daily. These included a questionnaire, time, temperature and weight measurements, and a slalom course.
Lake Constance and Rigoletto
The first stage began in the region around Jestetten, continued along a cozy country road in Thurgau and led to the Bad Horn Hotel on the shores of Lake Constance. On the first evening, we enjoyed a first-class cultural experience on the water. After a fine dinner on board the Emily, the hotel’s own ship, we went to the Bregenz Festival for a world-class performance of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” on the festival’s famous lake-stage – a spectacle to remember.
The mountains call
On the second day, the Classics Drive resumed with a breathtaking route up to Heiden, over the Felsenegg and back down into the Rhine Valley. In wonderful summer weather, we continued along the left side of the valley, via Balzers, and into the Bündner Herrschaft region to reach the traditional Donatsch winery in picturesque Maienfeld. After enjoying local specialties and fine wines, we set out on the third stage over the Flüela pass and into the Engadine – an alpine route that always inspires. The goal of this stage was nothing less than the hotel ranking as Europe’s most beautiful mountain hotel: the Giardino Mountain in Champfèr, in the area around St. Moritz. After relaxing, we had a fine Graubünden evening at the cozy Piccolo El Paradiso, located above the idyllic Lake of Staz.
A touch of the dolce vita
The next morning, the route took us alongside the Engadin lakes and over the Maloja pass to Menaggio on Lake Como. After a lovely lunch high above the shores, in Italy’s second oldest golf club, we began the last stage once again in dry weather. Via Lugano, Monte Ceneri and the Magadino plain, the group followed the detailed road book all the way to the casual luxury of Il Giardona in Ascona. All in all, it was a highly varied trip in terms of both the weather and the route, which included several lakes and passes large and small.
Attention to detail
The participants of the first Emil Frey Classics Drive covered around 450 kilometers and got to know the most beautiful side of Switzerland. The program was an exciting mix of culinary, cultural and gastronomic highlights dotted along a charming route from north to south. And the interesting and open conversations among the cheerful participants made the experience much more than just a drive. Mandy Petermann of Stuttgart, who drove that beautiful Mercedes 300 S Cabriolet A, remarked: “We regularly take part in excursions, but the first Emil Frey Classic Drive more than exceeded our expectations. Everything went perfectly and we are already looking forward to 2020!” On our side, we have taken on the challenge of making the next drive just as special.
Tracing the Klausenpass legend
The Klausenpass may link the cantons of Glarus and Uri, but it is far more than an east-west connection: it is a legend.
In the early days of the automobile, the Klausen race was the longest, toughest and most popular mountain race in the world. For the best motorbike and car racers, not to mention 30,000 spectators, no other race captured the imagination quite like this one – a 21.5km-stretch of unpaved road that starts in Linthal, winds its way up 136 curves and reaches an altitude of 1,237 metres at the top of the pass. Emil Frey himself took part in the race four times, between 1925 and 1929. In 1925, the 27-year-old mechanic bought a Sunbeam motorbike in England and boosted its performance by 20 percent in his own workshop. But what really made the motorbike a serious contender was his special petrol mix. Only decades later, in an interview with Memorial-Revue 1993, did Frey reveal the secret ingredients: benzene, picric acid, ether and castor oil. He also explained the motivation behind racing: “As I was always short of money in the beginning, and could not afford to advertise the English motorbikes I was selling, I had to find other ways of making a name for myself. That’s what I used these races for. My wins made me famous and gave customers more reason to believe in the quality of products in my shop.”
At 19:01:04 minutes, Emil Frey recorded the fastest time ever in the professional half-litre class on an English HRD. He received his trophy in front of the William Tell memorial in Altdorf.
Recently, we headed back up to the Klausenpass to take two of our classic cars out for a spin, though this time we had no intention of breaking any records! Behind the wheels of a stunning 1964 Jaguar E-Type 3.8L Series 1 roadster and a spirited 1972 Toyota Celica ST in bright green, we experienced the magic of the Klausenpass once again.
Come along for the ride…