Part of the allure of a European road trip is exploring the quaintness of The Continent. Lingering in a tiny mountain hamlet that knows how to whip up a spectacular schnitzel, or spending an evening in a seaside village that pours a bracing, homemade calvados. The entire allure of Classic Car Travel tours, a joint venture between Mercedes and Munich-based tour operator Nostalgic, is conducting those explorations behind the wheel of a vintage Mercedes SL roadster.
The tour programs will put guests in small, mixed convoys of convertibles and swap drivers throughout to ensure everyone gets driver’s seat time. A two-model fleet is composed of the classic icon 280 SL “Pagoda-roof” built from 1963-1971, and the 1971-1989 300 SL that ruled an era stretching from Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” to Michael Milken’s junk bonds. The first trips spend four days traveling through “carefully selected routes a little off the beaten track” in either the South of France or the Tuscan countryside. The price includes on-location airport transfers, hotel accommodations in places like Cannes’ Grand Carlton Hotel and the Borgo Scopeto hotel in Siena, breakfast, a detailed route book, an English-speaking guide and guided tours, a service team in a support vehicle, fuel and insurance. You’ll be on the hook for snacks and dinner, and the end-of-day Bordeaux or chianti.
The cost is €1,975 (roughly $2,260 US) per person, with double occupancy in the hotel rooms (a single room can be had for an extra charge). That price is quite fair, considering. Riviera Classic Car Hire on the French Riviera charges €720 to rent its 300 SL for five days, Classic Car Rental in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France charges €1,270 to rent its Pagoda SL for four days, both enforce a limit of 124 miles per day before extra charges pile on. By the time you add three nights in hotels, breakfast, gas, and your own tour guide and support staff, Classic Car Travel brings to mind a phrase we don’t usually associate with Mercedes: less is more. And if you happen to like the “old timers” you drove, then at the end of the trip you can swing by the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart and buy a classic Benz direct from the company.