Words by Matthew Scott
Photography by Charles Nordstrom and Matthew Scott
As much as I love off-highway travel, it's not exactly a necessity for vehicle-based adventure. There's plenty of beautiful and scenic roads all over the world that require nothing more than a small economy car to enjoy. Once you leave behind your stigma that a 4wd is required in every situation and get the idea into your head that you can actually have a bit of adventure and fun in almost any vehicle, you're on the path to enlightenment. When the idea for Overland Journal and Expedition Portal to take place in the 14th annual British, European Auto Tour (BEAT) came about, the initial thought was clear, let's take my vintage Land Rover; However, when we started looking at the rest of the participants vehicles, we quickly realized we'd need something that could do the speed limit.
After weeks of back and forth discussion, contemplation, and arguments over which vehicle we should actually use for the rally, Charles (from Expedition Apparel) and I finally came up with a plan: Beg Fiat to loan us one of their new 500's. Luckily, they responded favorably to our request, and a week or so before the Rally we had a little Fiat sitting at our offices. Even better, it was a totally decked-out and loaded 500C (convertible) Compared to the usual array of lifted vehicles that usually call our parking lot home, the Fiat 500C received some interesting looks to say the least. It's 'bianco perla' (pearl white) paint job and the 'bordeaux' (maroon) convertible top when paired with the matching white and red leather interior weren't exactly the most conservative colors you could choose. It all added to the vehicles strongest strength: It's non-serious quirkiness.
But let's get back to the pint-sized adventure in the pint-sized car, being that we had this awesome retro Fiat 500C and a day or two to kill before we started the rally early Saturday morning in Phoenix, we decided to stay at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale - it was only 25 minutes from the starting point of the rally, and most importantly it's one of the best preserved examples of mid-century architecture in the country. Everything from the rooms, to the ambiance of the hotel reflected the history of the hotel, and that's why it was perfect for a trip in the Fiat 500, it was a modern take on classic design.
If you're familiar with Dwell Magazine (which they keep in the rooms) you'll be a huge fan of the decorations throughout the entire hotel.
There's a fantastic pool located on the premises that whip up some great food and drinks alike.
Unfortunately, I couldn't stay at the Hotel Valley Ho forever, it did leave a long lasting memory, and killer sunburn. I'm sure I'll be back - and I'd highly recommend the place as your base camp for 'Urban Adventure.'
The B.E.A.T. Rally started promptly at 6:30, and due to some excellent planning arrived with plenty of time to spare and check out the vehicles that would be doing the rally, I was seriously impressed with the variety and amount of vehicles that showed up at the Phoenix start, but this wasn't even the half of it, even more vehicles would be arriving in Wickenburg, AZ our first stop.
Where's the Fiat? Can you spot it in the sea of E-Type Jaguar's, Lotus's, and Mercedes-Benz?
I'll say that even though we had the newest vehicle at the event, we had a lions-share of interest in our vehicle.
Energy drink in hand, Charles gets ready for the Rally to start, he took the majority of the photos for the first half of the event.
The drivers meeting was brief but covered some basics: No hooning, no shenanigans, and no horseplay. A group of enthusiasts driving across the state in modified european cars would never do that anyway, would they?
The Jaguar's were out in full-force.
Charles and the Shaguar.
An Alfa Romeo GTV gets ready to pull out and start the race rally.
A lovely couple in a Triumph TR6 shortly after the start.
In a past life I was once a BMW enthusiast, this E30 M3 was nothing less than beautiful.
An exception was made for this Ford GT40, as it isn't British, or European, and hot air balloons even came out to see it.
Our first turn towards Wickenburg meant we were on the two-lane from here on out.
We didn't get passed by this supercharged V8 Mercedes, the Fiat is a champ!
We didn't get passed by this Lotus Elise either.
This is deffinetly not the Lotus and Mercedes speeding away from us.
This beautiful Alfa Romeo GTV didn't pass us either - we passed him!
Arriving at Wickenburg meant even more vehicles! Including some more exotic, newer imports.
There was even a McLaren MP4-12C, which does not have "12" "C"ylinders, rather it has 8, and two turbo's.
Can you name the white car above?
An Audi R8 V10 Spyder.
The Morgan Aero was out and about for the event, it features a 4.4 litre BMW V8, and cross-eyed headlights from a VW Beetle. It even has a wood frame.
A Lotus Espirit V8
What is better? The Ford GT40 above or the Fiat 500C below? Clearly the answer is...
Here's another gorgeous Alfa Romeo GTV.
A well-used (sexy) Jaguar E-Type.
There's something beautiful about a vintage Rolls-Royce, doesn't it just say decadence?
We're told this E-Type above takes some 'overlanding' adventures of it's own.
Note: We had to ask people to get away from the Fiat so we could get a photo - it was very popular.
Even if this Lotus was dirty, it would still look hot.
This C55 AMG must be the fastest bicycle transport device I've seen in a while.
It's European roots are questionable, however it's coolness is not.
The new BMW Z4 roadster, very aggressive and good looking.
The Jensen Interceptor.
On a scale of seriously cool to seriously cool, how seriously cool is this seriously cool vintage luggage and rack? Answer: Seriously Cool.
Even a VW Routan showed up!
A beautiful vintage Jaguar.
After about an hour of cars, coffee, and donuts, the show went back on the road. Surely there was no speeding through the wide open roads of the desert on our way to Prescott's Whiskey Row.
Along the way, we were held up by a bicycle race, however, it provided a unique opportunity to get some good photographs of the group, here they are below.
A great looking MG.
Trust me, this isn't the last Alfa Romeo photo you'll see, I have a problem with the beautiful Italian sportscars.
Even a Jaguar S-Type showed up to represent the newer lineage of Jaguar's 4-door saloons.
The Jaguar XK also showed up to show the companies newer, more sporting roots.
This XFR is a rocketship with it's supercharged engine.
A clean BMW E30.
A lovely Triumph TR6.
Another lovely Triumph TR6.
New (above) Old (below) both are still great looking.
There's the red Lotus again - I'd love to have driven this road in that vehicle.
The Porsche 928 shown above was the first model from the company to have a V8 mounted ahead of the driver.
Lancia to the rescue!
We'll continue later this week with part two of the B.E.A.T. Rally: Prescott to Flagstaff! Also, we'll have a detailed feature on the Fiat 500C we took on the trip!
Don't forget to tell us what your favorite vehicle has been in the comments below!