Bathed in the golden hues of California’s sunlight, a convoy of pristine pre-war Mercedes Kompressor cars embarked on an epic voyage. This journey, dubbed the Sonoma Tour, is etched as an opulent escapade in the calendars of classic car connoisseurs. The parade was led by the celebrated Mercedes 680 S Kompressor, a beacon of 1930s luxury on wheels, replete with the era’s famed engineering and distinguished craftsmanship from Sindelfingen.
From the rugged Pacific coastline of Monterey to the iconic Golden Gate of San Francisco, the tour concluded amidst the lush rows of vines in Napa Valley, staging a matchless exhibition of automotive nostalgia. The rarity of such events, where supercars of yesteryear roam freely outside the usual concours elite, is a precious occurrence. These vehicles bore the unmistakable Mercedes star, exhibiting prestigious grilles and a level of technology that set a benchmark in its time, now revived in the California tour.
Napa and Sonoma counties are not just celebrated for their sunny charm but are venerated as the source of some of America’s most excellent wines. Their climatic advantage provides a generous abundance of sunshine, starkly different from the cooling fog of the nearby Bay Area, facilitating a variegated cultivation of vineyards. It’s this climate that also furnishes an idyllic setting for motoring journeys such as the Sonoma Tour.
Michael Plag of Mercedes Classic shares an intimate history of the Mercedes 680 S Kompressor, detailing its transformation from its original black and crimson facade to its glorious restoration to former glory. Initiated in 1998, the restoration spanned over five years, honoring the craftsmanship embedded in the vehicle’s Black Forest beechwood frame—a homage to the legacy of Paul Daimler’s innovation and Ferdinand Porsche’s subsequent enhancements. Now valued at a whopping 15 million euros, the car’s worth is a stark contrast to its original price of 30,000 Reichsmark.
Grasping the steering wheel of the 680 S Kompressor, drivers are whisked away to the decadence of the 1920s—a time when mastering the unique arrangement of pedals and brakes was the art of driving. Engaging the compressor, with a firm pedal press, brings the car to life with a signature rumble, hurtling it forward in a nod to its past performance prowess.
Driving through Napa Valley in these venerable machines provides a sense of time travel. The opportunity to drive these valued Kompressor cars over vast stretches is rare and was a distinctive feature of this tour. Despite the heat of Sonoma, these Mercedes models exhibited remarkable resilience, their engines coolly running below the 70-degree Celsius threshold even on long stretches.
The tour, as it wound to a close each day, opened up to the epicurean joys that stand side by side with the cars’ grandeur. The local gastronomic and enological offerings momentarily steal the limelight, providing an experience where the luxurious world of vintage automobiles and viniculture intersect, crafting the Sonoma Tour into a multisensory banquet.
The 2023 Sonoma Tour was a privilege—a drive laced with exclusivity and wrapped in the luxury of vineyard aesthetics. With an array of international collectors and enthusiasts at the wheel, these classic Kompressor models turned into the protagonists of a rolling showcase.
It offered an irreplaceable tableau of car history, a moment where motoring’s golden age mingled with the quintessence of wine-making.
In looking forward, the anticipation of a similar gathering of such magnitude seems a tantalising mirage. As these Mercedes classics wended their way through the venerated wineries, they illustrated a confluence of history and modernity—a feast for the senses. The Sonoma Tour stands as a testament to the enduring allure of vintage Kompressor vehicles, casting a timeless allure on a journey steeped in passion for both participant and observer alike, culminating in a remarkable chapter of luxury motoring history.