Make the McKenzie Connection!

Touring time nears an end

Classics from the fifties purred into town

RAINBOW: With a top speed of 163 mph, the Mercedes 300 SL was the fastest production car in the world when it debuted in 1954. Many of the examples that pulled into Rainbow last week were still capable of hitting that mark.

All of the 37 cars on the 300 SL Foundation tour that swung through the McKenzie Valley last week were factory originals. Some had been fully restored, and frame-up rebuilds using original parts. A few others were “hot rods” that had their performance tweaked a bit.

That sort of attention to detail is at the heart of the tour’s sponsor, which provides technicians in a parts truck that follows the cars around as they venture out on day tours during the four-day annual event. This year they didn’t have to deal with much more than minor maintenance with their biggest repair being replacing a faulty alternator.

“The cars are extremely reliable,” according to tour spokesman Craig McLaughlin. “It’s getting harder and harder to find guys to work on these old cars,” he noted.

With that in mind, the foundation uses some of the money it raises from participants to donate to McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas. The four-year liberal arts school is the only one in the nation that offers a bachelor’s degree in automotive restoration.

Last week the touring cars headed out on day trips from their base at the Sunriver Resort south of Bend. On one of the days, the group decided to make a run to Albany because someone had heard about a “great restaurant you just have to try.” On Thursday they chanced their luck and drove over the Old McKenzie Pass after learning the road to Crater Lake had already been blocked by snow.

“The factory did a fantastic job of building these cars,” McLaughlin said. “they’re very fast, handle nicely, brake well, and can keep up with modern traffic. I’ve got a few other 50’s cars and this is by far the easiest to drive.”


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