Want to take a unique motoring vacation through the Northeast next month? There’s still a chance to register for the Rally Around The Ivy League tour. “The window of opportunity is still open a crack,” says organizer Timothy Cataldo. “Call immediately on 203.451.5127 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot now!” Below is Cataldo’s description of the event, which we first posted last December.
* * *
Everyone knows “The Official Preppy Handbook,” which first came out when I was in high school, and I still have my copy right here on the desk as I type this. The wisdom and cheek of this pink and green bible still makes me smile and shake my head, even after all these years, in wonder and admiration. So I’ll begin this quixotic adventure there:
Officially the Ivy League is nothing more than an athletic conference, comprising eight colleges….These schools are not entirely the oldest, the best – or even ivy-covered. But in the public imagination, they are something very special.
Before the term “Preppy” was popular, “Ivy League” was used to describe a certain kind of person…He was smart, rich, well-educated – or at least he presented himself that way. The Ivy League schools became the mythic focus of the American notion of the young elite.
[But] what’s the point of going to the Right Places if you don’t travel in the right style? Drive off the ferry on Nantucket in a Firebird Trans-Am and you’re really nowhere at all.
The car is as much a key part of Prep paraphernalia as a club tie or the ubiquitous duck. If, that is, it’s the Right Car – the Proper Make, in an Accepted Color, Appropriately Adorned.”
Recently I watched “Love Story” with my son, and even though it’s dated, it’s still pretty witty and charming. And talk about the right cars: Oliver’s 1945-sh MG TC Midget – I love the fact that he and Ali McGraw drive it without the top, summer or winter. His dad (played by Ray Milland) drives a 1969 Jaguar XK-E 4.2 Roadster, in “greensand” with a black convertible top. The license plate is “OB 3” for Oliver Barrett III – a very nice touch – some people can’t get enough of monogramming.
“The Great Gatsby” is and always will be my favorite book, and the thrill that Fitzgerald’s writing gave me when I first opened up my mind to his mellifluous prose, after thoroughly hating Hemingway, is always remembered fondly and with awe. Yes, we could go on and on about Gatsby’s shirts and shoes, and Daisy’s dreamy dresses, but I’m more interested in the car, as people have imagined it, since Fitzgerald was uncharacteristically vague on make and model.
“On weekends,” he writes, “his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight.” The RR was most probably a 1922 Silver Ghost.
It’s a bit curious, then, that Robert Redford drives a 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom for a story set in 1922; and Leonardo DiCaprio drives a 1929 Duesenberg Model J in the recent adaptation. Nitpicks aside, these are gorgeous monsters that represent and incarnate Fitzgerald’s muscular sense of privilege and masculine love/longing of the automobile in general, and Princeton in particular.
Chris Miller, one of the writers of “Animal House,” was a Dartmouth grad, so we’re going to include the 1964 Lincoln Continental that Flounder borrows from his brother and that eventually becomes the Death Mobile on our list of Ivy League rides. This one has personal meaning to me since we had the same car (in Ivory) when I was growing up, generously given to my mother by her parents – it was the most luxurious thing I had ever seen. In my mind’s eye it’s still the standard for exquisite. Otter’s 1959 two-tone Corvette Convertible C1 is exactly the kind of car a frat-boy lothario would drive. Greg Marmalade’s 1960 MGA 1600 Roadster was the best selling MG of all time – over 100,000 of this model were manufactured – and perfect for an unoriginal twerp like him.
You don’t get more Ivy League than Anton Myrer: Boston Latin; Philips Exeter Academy; Harvard, and then a U.S. Marine serving honorably in WWII. His wistful book “The Last Convertible” made a great impact on me in my younger and more vulnerable years. It’s a charming and nostalgic character-driven snapshot in time. The eponymous automobile was a green, 1939 Packard convertible, nicknamed The Empress, a metaphor for carefree youth, lost forever once war broke out. And man, the guy can write. The story kind of reminds me of a couplet from Dylan Thomas: “Time held me green and dying/though I sang in my chains like the sea.” Unfortunately, his is a world we are losing or have already lost.
Fast forward back to today: I’m not an Ivy Leaguer, or a preppy, and I definitely don’t have the right anything. I’m a college dropout, drive the wrong car in the wrong color, inappropriately adorned: a laughably underpowered and bashed-up 5-speed Fiat that dates back to a time when Brezhnev was still running the world scared. Sartorially, I dress kind of like an unshaven, tone-deaf Keith Richards, and that’s on a good day. But we all have dreams, don’t we?
I always wanted to experience the Mille Miglia in Italy at least once in my life, but it’s just not possible, logistically, financially, or emotionally at this stage in the game. I researched road tours in here in the States, and 1,000 miles in Texas just didn’t appeal to me. So I came up with my own preppy romantic adventure that I thought just might be authentic and original enough to fly: The Old’s Cool Tour – Rally Around The Ivy League.
The assignment is easy: have fun whacking your vintage automobile (at least as old as your graduation year, or 25 years minimum) 1,000 miles through scenic New England, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, visiting en route each of the eight most prestigious and gorgeous universities on the planet. Do so with friends, lovers, classmates, or fellow car aficionados.