About Us

Our mission is to have fun, safely enjoying our automobiles on scenic highways and by-ways, while enjoying the friendship and camaraderie of others who appreciate the joys of driving, travel, and good people.

The OpenAir Classic is an annual four-day, fun focused, convertible tour open to any convertible of any make of vintage. Tour routes explore spectacular scenic byways and back roads that make open air, tops-down cruising such a pleasure. The tour is intentionally limited to 200 cars with a driver and navigator. No prior rally experience is required as routes are “at your own pace” with clear and easy to follow, turn-by-turn instructions. If you love open air driving, this tour was made for you!

OpenAir Tours was officially launched in January of 2006. After 13 successful years organizing tours for the Wisconsin Convertible Classic (WCC), organizers Gary and Mae Knowles of Madison, and fellow enthusiasts Mike and Donna Peroutka of Green Bay, joined forces to keep the spirit of topless touring alive.

Together, the team selects destinations and hotels, sets routes, directs the tours and oversees promotions and operations. We’ll all be working on the tour to ensure that you have a great time!

Meet the organizers

Gary and Mae Knowles

Gary is responsible for making the best weekend in August a Wisconsin tradition. He was the co-founder and co-director of the WCC and the Wisconsin Sports Car and GT Classic. A life-long auto enthusiast and former rally driver, he has traveled nearly every red and blue highway in the state and region.

He served as Director of Communication for the Wisconsin Tourism Division for fourteen years, during which he edited the award-winning Wisconsin Auto Tours Adventures Guide. Gary later authored The Great Wisconsin Touring Book – 30 Spectacular Auto Tours

Gary is a freelance travel writer and past president of the Midwest Travel Journalists Association. He regularly ‘tells people where to go’ as a radio show guest and through his ‘Gary Getaways’ column in the Journal and Topics newspapers.

Mae, who continues her role as an administrative director, began her discovery of the bounty and beauty of the state of Wisconsin as the director of Wisconsin’s agricultural ambassador program, Alice in Dairyland. Mae can tell you why there are tents over those fields in Marathon County, where to find the world’s largest grower of horseradish and how to shop for cheese curds. She will soon retire from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Talk to her about roundabouts.  

Their current topless ride is a 2004 Mercedes Benz CLK 320. Past convertibles include ‘93 and ’95 Oldsmobile Cutlasses and a ‘61 Buick Electra 225 rag-top.

Gary has many fond memories of the Buick. He and his long-time friend, and tour volunteer, Greg Nametz transported the Apollo 11 astronauts, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-in parade that honored the 15th anniversary of the spaceflight that first landed humans on the moon. The vehicle was later meticulously restored by long-time WCC and OAC member, Leon Thiel.

Gary and Mae are the parents of Alex and Carleigh, who often assist on the tour.

Mike and Donna Peroutka

Mike and Donna were members of the Wisconsin Convertible Classic beginning in 1997, setting a still to be topped milestone of having a baby on the tour. They were the first to come to mind when Gary and Mae were looking for new partners to start the OpenAir tour.

Mike grew up in a “convertible family.” His first car was a ’72 Cutlass convertible which he sold (regrettably) after high school to join the Navy. After completing boot camp, he sweet-talked his parents out of their 66 Olds 98 convertible, and spent many hours touring the eastern seaboard with his buddies. Making his way back to Wisconsin to attend college, he rewarded himself with a new ’95 Chrysler Lebaron GTC Convertible after finishing school. Check the OAC line-up for the current members of that sweet ride.

He met his wife Donna through their common interest in convertibles, and together with their sons Andrew and Matthew (born on tour!) they continue to explore their wanderlust as the next generation convertible family.

Their current fleet covers the full spectrum of topless vehicles, including a ’66 Olds 98 convertible added in 2003, a 1974 yellow Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia that once belonged to Donna’s aunt, and a 2009 Mercedes Benz CLK 350 AMG.

Today, Mike gets paid for his other addiction as a computer geek on the IT staff of a local Green Bay municipality. His expertise managing technology is helping us track the myriad of tour details. Donna is project manager for a major food manufacturer in Green Bay. She partners with Mae on the membership and administration of OpenAir Tours. When school and sports activities allow, Andrew and Matthew provide the brass rendition of the Star Spangled Banner for the Friday morning grid send off.

The Unsung Heroes (there are many!)

There have been many behind-the-scenes heroes over the years helping to keep us safely on the road. Volunteers, family friends, local officials, law enforcement officers, business owners, good Samaritans, and fellow enthusiasts have made success a key component of our tours.

With their help, continued encouragement, and support we strive to make your adventures memorable! Thank you to each and every volunteer, past, present and future! You help keep the wheels spinning!           

Tour Hotline: (262) 922-4062
OpenAir Tours – P.O. Box 5532 Madison, WI 53705-0532