As another year comes to a close, it's time again to top off the coffee and recap the adventures, the opportunities, and the progress made in building up the Bearded Mug brand. It has been an incredible year, but none of these achievements would have come so easily had it not been for the relentless support from my fanbase, my family, and most importantly, my significant other. And for that, I am grateful.
Here's a quick look back at the highlights that made 2017 one for the books, shown in no particular order.
Lime Rock Park.
This is my happy place. Ever since venturing north to LRP in 2014 for the Historic Festival's Sunday in the Park Concours and Monday's vintage racing, I've been at the 1.5 mile track every year on numerous occasions. 2017 marked the first time I attended a events outside of the HF scope, including the Pirelli World Challenge and IMSA Northeast Grand Prix, the VSCCA Fall Finale, and a few Prestige customer track days. And that doesn't include the few Lime Rock Driver's Club dates which I'll touch upon below. For the Historic Festival this year, I also came up for the parade in Falls Village, which saw weekend participants (race and street cars alike) get a police escort on public roads to the Falls Village Inn. Just imagine the rolling thunder as 40+ cars idled into town. It's times like that that makes a small part of me wish I shot video instead.
It was over a year ago that my name was suggested for covering some events for the The Lime Rock Driver's Club, a racing club geared towards improving ones driving in a familial atmosphere. The LRDC's home base was located at my happiest place on Earth, Lime Rock Park, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity. Getting to know the folks who run the club (Jeanette and Simon are wonderful people; John Michael was beyond pleasant and integral to smooth operation), as well as the members who make it what it is, to the instructors whose main goals are to insure you're not driving into the dirt...the whole collective that is the LRDC...was a real treat for me. And then, to be able to take my own car out on the track - in both snow and the dry - was an experience I will not soon forget. I was able to attend a snow autocross, the opening and closing days, as well as the Pirelli World Challenge and IMSA Northeast Grand Prix because of the club. This connection is one that I am looking forward to keeping into 2018 and beyond.
Greenwich Concours d'Elegance.
For the second year in a row, I was privy to being amongst the ranks of official photographers for the Greenwich Concours. But it was more than that. It was being a part of the process from the start. I shot the picture used for the cover image, which allowed me a chilly Saturday morning spent with enjoyable people and wonderful machines. I followed along during Friday's Grand Tour, capturing the wonder from within. I attended the Cannonball Reunion, a memorable panel discussion with members from the original cross-country race. And then above all that, there were two days spent with amazing cars with a picturesque background. It doesn't get much better than that, until it was time to shoot 2018's cover car. A guided tour of The Simeone Museum by Dr. Simeone himself? Sure, why not?
Madison Avenue Sports Car Driving and Chowder Society Picnic.
The MASCDCS picnic is a place where Club members and their families can gather and talk about things that go beyond the usual garage and shop banter, although there was plenty of that as well. Held in lovely Bruce Park in Greenwich, CT, this was my second outing and a precursor to my joining the Chowder Society ranks officially. In addition to the park road being lined with sports cars, there was a food truck on hand serving delicious food and tasty coffee, and the best part is that I was accompanied by my better half. It was nice to be able to introduce her to the folks I was spending most of my free weekends away from home with. And it was a grand way to spend a day.
In 2017, I expanded my client list to include Ai Design, Lamborghini Paramus, and McLaren Bergen County, in addition to continued work for Trend Motors Volkswagen. The unique opportunities that each one of these provided are invaluable and I am thankful that they put their faith in my abilities to highlight the best of their products. Again, I look forward to a prosperous 2018 with them.
There were other shows, too, that I enjoyed providing coverage for. The inaugural Festival Italiano, held at The Hermitage in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ, was a huge success. Cult Classic 12, hosted by Nothing Leaves Stock, saw an entire park filled with VWs, Audis, and other modified marques, with my pictures and words being printed in Performance VW Magazine. And attending The Elegance at Hershey was a first for me, but made such an impression that I hope to return again and again.
And who can forget the New York International Auto Show during media days? Last year, like the year prior, it was impossible to take in the vast offerings the Javits Center has on display. Media access is a two-day affair, although I can usually only muster up enough time and energy for one day. Manufacturers cram a week's worth of unveilings, press conferences, demos, and other gimmicks intended to draw a positive response from the automotive journalists' pens. And while I generally shy away from the unveilings and take advantage of the show floor free of interfering people, I may just pop by the more interesting reveals this year.
Kanter Auto Restoration underwent a management change in the last year, and the new GM, Joe Della, is looking to drum up business by spotlighting the Kanter name. Besides having a booth at numerous shows including Lead East, Joe hosted an "Open Garage" at Kanter on a beautiful summer Saturday, inviting anyone and everyone to stop by the shop to see what they had going on. To supplement the cool cars on display, there was a DJ spinning tracks that spanned all music genres and complementary homemade ice cream was being served on-site by Curly's of Boonton. The open garage was a success, with many cars making the rounds throughout the day.
The Jalopnik Hurricane Relief Car Show show was previously postponed, ironically, due to terrible weather, but when it was rescheduled, more cars than they planned for convened on their selected parking lot in downtown Newark, NJ, overflowing into an adjacent lot only an hour or so after the official kickoff time. It was a great balance to the glitz and glamour of Concours and more prestigious C&Cs, with every corner of the automotive realm being represented in four-wheel form. Plus, the Monkeemobile was there. Also, an internet celebrity was amongst the ranks of Jalopnik editors and attendees. Mr. Regular of Regular Car Reviews was incognito enough that I parked next to him and didn't even realize it until a friend pointed it out the following day. Hopefully this middle-level meet becomes a thing, because I wouldn't mind visiting Newark once a year for car-related reasons.
Domenico Spadaro Memorial Drive Against Cancer.
I attended the Domenico Spadaro Memorial Drive for the second year in a row, this being its 8th annual run. The drive is a way to celebrate the life of its namesake, the original proprietor of Dominick European Car Repair in White Plains, NY. Domenico touched the lives of all who knew him, including European and classic car owners. Since inception, the drive's goal has always been to raise money for cancer research and this year was no different. With over 100 classic and modern cars going on a preplanned tour throughout scenic New York state, returning to a feast fit for a king complete with Mama Spadaro's famous meatballs, the drive celebrates the things hard-working Domenico enjoyed most about Sunday afternoons. There was a new addition this year, as Santo, Frank and Vera Spadaro, along with host Mike Bruno, presented the "Spirit of the Drive" award. During an emotional speech explaining the reason for the award, Jeffrey Prisco, a dear friend of nearly everyone in attendance, was named as the first recipient. Jeffrey was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer over 7 months prior, but was still fighting strong. If you want to help support Jeffrey's fight against the bastard that is cancer, please visit the GoFundMe page that's been set up HERE. The cars were great, but it is people like Santo and Frank and Mike that really made being there special. It felt more like a big family reunion than it did a casual gathering of automotive enthusiasts. It was wonderful and moving and I'm so glad I was present.
Although I attended very few local C&Cs, including a chilly Cars & Croissants in February and the inaugural Cars & Coffee Manhattan and Mountain Lakes Cars & Coffee in April, there were two standouts presented by Bergen County Cars & Caffe. The season opener at TopGear Porsche drew thousands of cars and overflowed the business park in Saddle Brook in which it was held. Local police from Saddle Brook and neighboring towns did their best to keep the excitement contained, and by early afternoon there was little trace that anything even took place that morning. To complement the season opener, the unofficial season ender was held at the Garden State Plaza and easily accommodated the 7K cars that attended. Let me write that out to reinforce how large it was: 7,000 cars filling the parking lots at the Garden State Plaza. Finally, Bergen County's antiquated blue laws served a modern day purpose. There was a velvet rope area cordoned off housing a few million dollars worth of metal, including Paganis, McLarens, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Porsches. The events that Tony Boniello orchestrates (including the aforementioned Festival Italiano) are well organized and worth attending.
I attended Greenwich's Cars & Coffee just once, their own season ender, and during so didn't manage to stray away from the main avenue it was held on. The quality of cars packed into a small area was notable, and the dismal weather did little to keep some real heavy hitters away. If the amount of cars that flooded the town center somehow managed to squash any future events, I'll be ok knowing that I was in attendance for the pinnacle.
At the end of 2016, it was announced that Caffeine and Carburetors would be taking a sabbatical for 2017. Their season finale held in Waveny Park had proverbially broken the matrix, causing back-ups on the main thoroughfare leading up to the entrance and thus delaying unassociated traffic for hours. If you were in the park, however, It was glorious.
So when it was announced that they would be holding just one event, on September 17, or more appropriately '917' and honoring all things Porsche, my excitement redlined faster than a 991 Turbo S. Returning to downtown New Canaan, with the main "parade" route being Pine Street, thousands of cars appeared on that gray Sunday morning to show their support for the staple northeast C&C. Arriving before dawn helped, but because of the large expanse of parking areas, it was impossible to capture it all. There was a speciality area located near Zumbach's Coffee, where one could find two Bugatti Veyrons, a few Paganis, a barn-find Miura, and other cars that would require a whole number with many zeroes to purchase. Elm Street was a Porschephile's paradise, with the original 911 R prototype discretely parked amongst more modern offerings.
It was an event worthy of its own blog post, so stay tuned for a more in-depth look in the near future.
As 2018 begins, I've got a few projects in the pipeline aimed at improving the content quality of Bearded Mug Media. I'm also excited to implement some new ideas and tactics as well, to increase visibility over the many different social media platforms. It's a New Year's Resolution of sorts. And one that I intend to keep.