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.

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