On the road again: Arizona rally reborn

Our 1970 Datsun 240Z turns in a great performance during the revival of the Arizona Governor's Cup road rally

The wind whipped through the cabin as we roared along in a 47-year-old Datsun 240Z across Arizona’s wild high country, following behind a 1962 Porsche 356 and a 1963 Jaguar E-type roadster, and ahead of a black 1960 Cadillac convertible.

The fast parade was among the contingent of vintage cars taking part in the Arizona Governor’s Cup Revival, organized by Gerri and Scott Dames of Scottsdale, to re-create a popular road rally that once ran from Prescott, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon. The revival also was staged to benefit Make-A-Wish Arizona.

The original Governor’s Cup was started in 1983 by Allen Naille, who was the head of Grand Canyon’s hotels. It continued annually through 1994 and was known for its laid-back atmosphere and camaraderie, as well as the diverse selection of vehicles, from European classics to street rods and pickup trucks.

The Datsun 240Z rally car parked at Natural Bridge with a Corvette roadster | Bob Golfen photos

I took part in the original Governor’s Cup, once traveling in the back seat of a 1930 Ford Model A sedan, and another time in a borrowed 1967 Jaguar Mark II sedan.

For the revived rally, it was in my friend Steve Evans’ 1970 Z-car, a pumpkin-orange sports coupe that ran flawlessly and was highly entertaining to drive or just to ride along. Not only was the Datsun drive a first for me, it was a double first for Evans and his car, which he’s owned for just a couple of years.

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“First time I’ve run it anywhere of any significance,” he said of the car’s maiden voyage. “It also was my first time of going on an event like that. I thought it was great fun.”

The ’60 Caddy eats up the road

The group of about 20 cars gathered in Scottsdale and then headed northwest from the cactus-spiked desert to the tall pines of Payson, which at nearby 5,000 feet elevation has a much cooler climate than the Phoenix area. We stopped for lunch at Natural Bridge State Park, a gorgeous setting.

From there, it was north to Winslow, famed location of the Eagle’s lyric “Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona…”  There’s even a monument dedicated to the town’s claim to fame. Winslow also is the site of the iconic La Posada, a restored railroad hotel where we had dinner and stayed the night. Highly recommended.

The next day, we all drove through more superb Arizona scenery, through the red-rock country of Sedona and on to Prescott, which was once Arizona’s capital. We stayed there at another historic hotel, the Hassayampa Inn. The next day, we headed back.

We stopped to help the disabled Bitter, to no avail

The revived Governor’s Cup succeeded in capturing the spirit of the original, steeped in historic locations and populated by a friendly band of travelers, once again in a highly diverse selection of vehicles. As in most old-car events, there were a few breakdowns – a rare Bitter sports coupe from Germany lost its fuel pump, a Corvette Sting Ray had engine trouble, and a Porsche 914 was briefly sidelined.

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But sadly, the originator of the Governor’s Cup, Allen Naille, and his wife, Carol, had a grievous mishap in their Porsche 356 cabriolet before the rally even started. On their way to the start, the car was damaged by a serious engine fire and had to be towed. But always the troopers, the Nailles made the rally just the same in a substitute car.

Our Datsun did notably well on the demanding tour, which went several hundred miles and included steep grades and winding roads.

“And it got us home, which was the important thing,” Evans noted.

Actually, there was another first for Evans and the Datsun:  our rally car won the Hagerty Award for best original car.

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  • p.cully@cox.net
    November 6, 2017, 7:59 PM

    Great article Bob. Nice pictures too. Thanks

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