Aspen’s Independence Pass Foundation launches Class on the Pass |

Aspen’s Independence Pass Foundation launches Class on the Pass

Race cars gun it on South Mill Street in a 1952 road race in Aspen in a scene captured by Ferenc Berko. Spectators lined the roof of the Hotel Jerome and other buildings.
Berko Photo/courtesy photo |

Classic cars and Independence Pass are a match made in heaven in the eyes of some.

The Independence Pass Foundation is creating a new event to celebrate the environmental stewardship it’s accomplished over 27 years. “Class on the Pass” — dubbed “the first annual Motoring Tour” — will be held June 18. The tour will feature a “leisurely drive” from Aspen to the top of the pass, where pictures will be taken, and down to Twin Lakes for lunch, according to foundation Executive Director Karin Teague.

The event is open to all sports and special-interest cars manufactured before 1973 or any exotic car that’s approved by organizers.

The idea for the classic-car tour was launched when Dale Will of Carbondale posted a picture on Facebook of him and his 1959 Triumph on the top of Aspen’s defining pass. Teague saw it and commented, “class on the pass.”

From there, the idea of a tour just coalesced after Will and Teague talked. Highway 82 up the pass is one of the great high-altitude routes, Teague noted. The cars they anticipate attracting “match the glory of the pass,” she said.

Teague admires the classic cars. Will breathes them. He gets excited talking about the classic-car races in the Alps, starting in the 1920s, and how American GIs in World War II fell in love with MGs and other classic cars. They brought the racing tradition home with them, and Aspen played an important role.

Classic-car enthusiasts organized a race in downtown Aspen in September 1951 and built on the tradition for the next four years before races on public roads were banned by Colorado’s governor.

An article in the Denver Post’s now-defunct Empire magazine said a “conservative” contingent of Aspenites didn’t want to hold the inaugural race.

“It wasn’t till the night before the event that the anti-race opposition gave way resignedly under pressure from a pro-race Chamber of Commerce,” the article said.

Race day brought clouds of dust on downtown’s unpaved streets, cars bashing through protective hay bales and fender-benders in cutthroat competition.

“They’d had a lot of fun, and it looked like there was more where that came from,” the article concluded about “Colorado’s first round-the-town race.”

A classic picture of the 1952 race by Ferenc Berko shows spectators swarming the roofs of the Hotel Jerome and nearby dilapidated buildings as the racers gun it on South Mill Street.

Will said Class on the Pass “harkens back to an era when things were dangerous and fun.”

So far, about 10 classic-car owners have signed up for the car tour. There will be old Porches, Triumphs, MGs and Jaguars, Will said. He expects the event to build in popularity.

It can only grow so large. Teague said the Independence Pass Foundation’s special-event permit from the U.S. Forest Service allows for only 30 vehicles.

The entry fee is $275. Information and registration are at http://www.independence

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