Dennis Fortino's first attempt at the Copperstate 1000 Road Rally was a journey he won't soon forget.
"It was a great experience and an outstanding 1,000-plus mile trip," he said, while gassing up his sports car Wednesday during a pit stop in Payson.
"(It was) one of those adventures you'll always remember," he added.
During the four-day rally, which began Sunday in Scottsdale, Fortino expertly steered his 1960 Jaguar XK 150 Drop Head Coupe over some of the most scenic highways in Arizona and Utah.
After leaving Scottsdale, he and the 75 other drivers who qualified for the charity event navigated their way over state routes through Wickenburg, Prescott, Sedona, Page and St. George, Utah. There, they visited Zion National Park a day after stopping at the Grand Canyon.
"Being (both places) was very special for all of us," he said.
After an overnight stay in Utah, the drivers returned through Flagstaff, Strawberry and Payson before finishing at the original starting line.
Since the founding of the rally in 1960, organizers have changed its course each year.
Fortino said this year's route contained some of the most "scenic roads in Arizona."
Rendering the adventure even more exciting for Fortino was that it was taken in a two-door, open-air convertible vintage sports car. In it, he said, the exhilaration of the open road could be enjoyed to the hilt.
An added bonus for Fortino and the other drivers was that all the proceeds benefited the Phoenix Arts Council.
"It's a great cause, very worthwhile," he said.
About 16 years ago, the Men's Art Council created the rally as a fund-raiser for the Phoenix Art Museum.
Fortino said the rally annually attracts the finest vintage automobiles in the world and is widely considered one of the premier vintage car rallies in North America.
The classics passing through Payson this week included sports, racing, vintage and grand touring cars, all manufactured before the 1973 model year.
Hot on Fortino's tail pipes for most of the drive from Pine to Payson was a well-tuned 1965 Mustang fastback that drew "oohs and ahhs" from spectators at the gas stop. Other high-dollar cars were Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Alfa Romeos.
Entrants in the rally pay a fee to enjoy the fully catered event, which drew drivers and cars from Canada, Mexico and Europe.
In addition to enjoying the thrill of the open road during the rally, Fortino was able to make many new friends who share his love of vintage automobiles.
"I met a lot of good people," he said.
Although Fortino was participating in his first rally and has only owned his Jaguar for six months, he's eagerly anticipating returning next year.
"I can't wait," he said.