Motoring tradition in St. Moritz

St. Moritz
Automobile Weeks

In 1925, following a positive outcome of the 10th referendum, Grisons was the last Swiss canton to allow the use of cars. Just four years later, St. Moritz hosted the 1st International Automobile Week.

At the initiative of a group of local tourism pioneers, the first «International Automobile Week St. Moritz» took place in 1929. The centrepiece of the event is the 16.5 kilometres long «Bernina Mountain Race». Winners of this race are the legendary racing drivers Hans Stuck in an Austro-Daimler ADR 3.0 (in 1929) and Louis Chiron in a Bugatti T47 (in 1930). Famous names such as Rudolf Caracciola, Ernst-Günther Burggaller, the Prince of Leiningen, and Count Arco-Zinnberg feature on the roster of drivers.

Another crowd puller is the «kilomètre lancé», a race over a distance of 1 kilometre requiring a precise dead stop at the one-kilometre mark. To stage the event, Shell commissions to asphalt the road between Punt Muragl and Samedan, giving it a new name, Shell Road, still in use today. The Bernina Race, held on a conspicuously gravelled road, couldn't cut it on the international scene and was cancelled after the second event in 1930.

Today, the Alpine city's automotive tradition lives on in the form of high-profile annual meets like the British Classic Car Meeting St. MoritzPassione Engadina, and the WinterRaid. The Bernina Gran Turismo get-together, with a race over the Bernina Pass on a closed-off mountain road, is most reminiscent of the original car racing weeks of 1929 and 1930. Aside from that, renowned automotive manufacturers, such as BMW and Maserati, regularly give winter driving training in the Engadin. The St. Moritz Automobile Club organises guided excursions; all those who want to have their classic car serviced in the Engadin will see their automobile in good hands at Volante Classic Car.

Three classic car events in brief

British Classic Car Meeting St. Moritz

The British Classic Car Meeting St. Moritz is the sophisticated highlight to go to for classic British car enthusiasts – this St. Moritz rendezvous goes back to 1994. It is a blend of elegance and class, set in the Engadine Alps. Every July, around 200 old-timers and classic cars of the makes Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin & Lagonda, Jaguar & Daimler, Austin-Healey & Healey take part in outings, a regularity test (rally), and the «Concours d'élégance». A limited number of other pre-1967 British cars are invited to take part in the British Classic Car Meeting St. Moritz in the Open Class.

Passione Engadina

The Passione Engadina, taking place in August, is reserved for Italian classic cars that have been manufactured prior to 1981. All Italian makes can enter. Every year, another make takes on the role of host car make at an event that has been held since 2012. High points of the event are a rally with a regularity test on the Alpine roads of the Engadin and a Concorso d'Eleganza. Passione Engadina is nothing less than the best in tradition, taste and style of the Italian way of life.

Bernina Gran Turismo

September's Bernina Gran Turismo event picks up where the historic St. Moritz Automobile Weeks in 1929 and 1939 left off. Classic racing and sports cars, dating from pre- and post-World War times into the early 1980's, racing each other over the Bernina Pass, on the closed-off mountain road, take centre stage. That is not only pure adrenaline on 5.6 kilometres in an Alpine setting without equal; it also presents the unique occasion of having a road over a mountain pass all to oneself and to be able to test the technical limits of one's classic car.

Suggested trips

Alpine passes
to St. Moritz

Classic and vintage cars are more popular than ever. They are desirable collector’s items, good investments and above all incredibly fun to drive. Particularly when crossing an Alpine pass. Allow us to introduce six Alpine passes that lead to St. Moritz.

There are plenty of good reasons for getting yourself a vintage car. Firstly, classic cars are simply a pleasure to drive. Or you might want to stand out from the crowd of more uniform modern cars. Then there’s the charm factor – after all, vintage models almost always retain their own special charisma or vibe. Nowadays, classic cars are also seen increasingly as a safe investment. And last but not least, your decision to take a trip back in time is likely to be influenced by where you live. Generally speaking, the more rural the area, the closer your emotional connection to your car. And if you’re surrounded by pristine nature and winding roads, you’re in a prime location for vintage car trips.

Release the clutch, let it slide and gently put your foot down to produce a satisfying "brrrrmmm" followed by a "gurgle-gurgle" from beneath the hood. If you’ve ever driven a classic car over an Alpine pass, you’ll know just what we’re talking about. Many pass roads through the Alps are perfect for an enjoyable excursion to the clouds. In the Upper Engadin there are six, which are described briefly below. Toot toot!

The Maloja Pass: It takes just 45 minutes to travel from the high Alpine Engadin climate at 1,800 metres above sea level to the mediterranean Italian town of Chiavenna below.

Albula Pass, 2,312 m

The Albula Pass links Engadin at La Punt with the Hinterrhein valley at Thusis. From La Punt, the road winds its way towards the top of the pass. There’s nothing quite like cruising along this route behind the wheel of a high-powered classic car. The western part of the pass follows the famous Albula railway line, which includes numerous bends, spiral tunnels and bridges.

Bernina Pass, 2,328 m

The first "International St. Moritz Automobile Week" was held way back in 1929. The undisputed highlight of the event was the mountain race from Poschiavo over the Bernina Pass. And rightly so. The Bernina is one of the most spectacular Swiss mountain passes and joins the Upper Engadin with the Veltlin valley in Italy. While you’re high up in the mountains, we recommend stopping by Ristorante Cambrena for a big bowl of pizzoccheri.

Flüela Pass, 2,383 m

The Flüela Pass connects Davos with the Engadin region. It doesn’t have many tight winding roads, but instead lots of nice long straights. Before the Vereina tunnel was completed, the pass was kept clear all year round, but since 1999 it has been closed in winter. The upper sections are dominated by barren high mountain ranges, further below the route takes you through pine forests.

Julier Pass, 2,284 m

A wonderfully flowing Alpine pass that is incredibly enjoyable to drive along. If you cross the Julier Pass from the north towards the Upper Engadin, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking view of Lake Silvaplana. These days the Julier is the main northern access point to the Engadin region, so it is open all year round and the roads are well maintained. 

Maloja Pass, 1,815 m

The Maloja Pass provides an attractive contrast to the St. Moritz landscape. It takes just 45 minutes to travel from the high Alpine Engadin climate at 1,800 metres above sea level to the mediterranean Italian town of Chiavenna below. In between there are the Upper Engadin lakes, a decrease in altitude of 1,500 metres, plenty of gloriously serpentine roads and a good 10 degree incline. After you arrive, we recommend stopping by a traditional crotto for a bite to eat. 

Ofen Pass, 2,149 m

Starting in Zernez, this route crosses the well-built Ofen Pass road north of the Swiss National Park and reaches the top of the pass after 19 km, just outside the park. Vintage car enthusiasts can look forward to wonderful natural scenery, particularly in autumn. Perfect for a customs-free trip to Livigno in Italy, or to Vinschgau for the apple harvest.