It has been cars, cars, cars all weekend. We’ve been attending StarFest 2010 in Winchester VA, which is the annual national event of the Mercedes Benz Club of America.
It’s quite different from the Airstream events we normally attend. Obviously the attendees stay in a hotel rather than in their vehicles. But beyond that, the emphasis is different. Airstreamers tend to focus more on the community of people than the trailers. This crowd is interested in the cars more than anything else: driving them, maintaining them, showing them, and talking about them — especially the exotic, rare, or old models, like the award-winning red 300SL pictured at right.
There was some passing interest in the Airstream, but mostly it was regarded as an amusing curiosity, and again the attention was mostly paid to the GL320 that towed it. At the Concours Award Banquet on Saturday night, I was interrogated by my fellow table-mates about its performance. They appeared to be suitably impressed.
As with the Airstreamers, the crowd was mostly older, but there was a small contingent of young guys who all operated independent shops specializing in 1960-1993 (approx). Mercedes cars — the “affordable classics.” You can still easily find a lot of great old Mercedes cars in good operating condition (cosmetically imperfect) for very reasonable prices, and guys like these will help you keep them on the road forever. I went to a talk given by representatives of the MB Classic Center, and they emphasized that Mercedes intends to keep producing parts to keep old cars on the road, safe and reliable, for decades to come.
There were other interesting talks that I attended (and I got a few ideas for next year’s Alumapalooza, too!) But the big event of Saturday was the Concours show, where we had excellent examples of Mercedes vehicles from seven decades. On Sunday, we dropped in on the Autocross for the morning and watched some of the hotter cars zip around a complex and tight little course. We did the Defensive Driving course again, just for practice.
Wondering why there’s a Smart car in the picture at right? It’s a Daimler product and some Mercedes enthusiasts own them. It’s not for me, but they are awfully cute and I bet this one would have done well on the Autocross if the owner was willing to give it try.
I was pleasantly surprised by Winchester. The “historic downtown” (a phrase horribly abused by some local chambers of commerce) is truly historic. There’s a ton of great Colonial architecture remaining in town, centered on a handsome and vibrant brick pedestrian mall. The city reportedly changed hands 71 times during the Civil War, and the Court House held both northern and southern prisoners. You can still see their graffitti on the interior walls of the building, upstairs.
While a few buildings are in obvious distress, the majority of the downtown is well restored and housing robust businesses. Eleanor and Emma were intrigued by the bead shop, while I was astonished to find an independent old-fashioned third-generation clothing store, the kind you never see in downtowns anymore. The architecture is spectacular, with historic brick buildings, stone buildings, and even a log building. Winchester’s center has a lot going for it.
We have now relocated the Airstream to Falls Church VA, where E&E are courtesy parking with Bobby, Danine, and Elise. We first stayed with them in 2007, then they stayed with us in Tucson in February 2008, and now it’s our turn again in 2010. But I am up in northern New Jersey for an overnight, doing some business, so I’m once again in a hotel. I’ll rejoin the group on Tuesday night and we’ll get back to the serious business of Airstreaming.