The Journal joins a group of classic car lovers as they take to a famous Arizona highway for the first Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Classic Rally, a four-day trek through some of the most well-known sites in the state.
The US state of Arizona might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of vintage German sports cars, but in November a group of drivers decided to forget the Autobahn and meet in the “Copper State” for the first ever Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Classic Rally, which was co-sponsored by IWC. The field was limited to Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupes from 1954-1957 and Roadsters from 1957-1963, making it one of the more exclusive rallies in the world.
Owners gathered together in the beautiful desert town of Scottsdale, the home of an IWC boutique, to traverse the varied Arizona landscape for four days, each racking up 1,000 miles in the process, and ending their trip with the auction of an IWC Big Pilot’s Watch (IW501001) for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
The rally was a sight unlike any other in the automotive word, showing off the purity of the 300 SL’s design and the high-level engineering that keeps these cars performing at their peak more than half a century after they were made.
Get your kicks
After a restful night, drivers assembled early in the morning for what would be an exciting first day on the road. As the gleaming fleet of cars pulled out to begin the day’s 278-mile (447 km) route, the morning was still crisp and cool – perfect driving weather. Drivers were treated to sweeping vistas across Salt River Canyon, iconic desert landscapes in Navajo County, and a handful of classic small towns before pulling into Winslow, on the famous Route 66, for the night.
Change of scenery
In the spirit of classic motoring, drivers were encouraged to use paper maps instead of iPhones for navigating – and dressing the part didn’t hurt either. It’s important to remember that Arizona isn’t all desert, and day two of the Classic sent participants through the Apache National Forest, up into the Coconino National Forest, and finally down through Oak Canyon, where the state’s namesake red rocks and lush greenery come together to dramatic effect. Pulling into Sedona, drivers were able to relax at the Enchantment Resort and take in the magnificent scenery around them.
A landmark occasion
No trip to Arizona is complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon, and seeing a procession of 300 SLs approach the national landmark was quite the sight. Drivers were encouraged to take their time, enjoy the sights, and snap a few photos before getting back on the road and connecting with AZ-89A, a famously winding road that cuts through some of the state’s most beautiful regions, showing off many different climates and landscapes in a single route.
Rallying for a cause
For the final day on the road, drivers made their way back toward Scottsdale, but not without some fun detours along the way. First up was Prescott National Forest, an old hotspot for prospectors during the gold rush, followed by a trip through the ranching community of Skull Valley and the scenic mining town of Bagdad. With everyone back in Scottsdale, they settled in for a closing reception and charity auction, with an IWC Big Pilot’s Watch on the block to raise funds for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. It’s hard to think of a better way to cap off four days of incredible driving.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is arguably the world’s first supercar and an important part of automotive history. To have forty of them gathered together in the American West for four days of celebrating heritage, style, and unadulterated driving pleasure is something truly special, the likes of which have never been seen before.
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition “Le Petit Prince” (IW501002)
The 300 SL Roadster traversing the Arizona landscape
A scene change during the Mercedes 300 SL Classic Rally
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