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Great Race to finish off in Nova Scotia on Canada Day

2018 vintage-car rally begins in Buffalo June 22 and finishes in Halifax

Richard Russell
Published: June 4, 2018, 6:00 AM
Updated: June 6, 2018, 8:25 PM

Great Race favourite - A Great Race favorite, this vibrant 1931 Auburn boattail speedster is entered by driver Chad Caldwell and navigator (wife) Jennie Caldwell, who reside in Newnan, Georgia and typically compete in period-correct clothing. They compete in the Expert division.

Car enthusiasts living in or planning to visit the eastern seaboard of the US or the Canadian Maritime provinces at the end of June, will have an opportunity to see some very rare and special vehicles – in action.

The 2018 “Great Race” begins in Buffalo, New York, June 22 and finishes in Halifax on July 1, with more than 110 vintage cars and trucks making the 3,800-km trek (with 17 stops along the way in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).

Worldwide participation - A 1929 Ford Model A roadster pickup, driven by Hitoshi Uemura with navigation handled by Jun Nishikawa, both from Tokyo, Japan.

The Great Race has been held every summer since 1983. While the event is designed to challenge the vehicles and crews, it is also arranged to allow spectators and enthusiasts to get up close to the fascinating array of special vehicles at rest, lunch and overnight stops.

Officially known as the 2018 Hemmings Motor News Great Race, presented by Hagerty and Coker Tire, it is the premier time/distance vintage car rally in North America.

Wandering Troubadours of Finland - Car 30 from the 2017 Great Race, a 1927 Diamond T hearse chassis with a 900 cubic inch 1928 Hall-Scott engine. The body is a blend of 1916 Franklin, 1918 Studebaker and a 1947 Hudson hood as the rear "boat tail." This one is driven by Jerome Reinan of Otter Tail County, Minnesota, and navigated by Chris Brungardt of Blanchard, North Dakota. The team is known as the Wandering Troubadours of Finland (WTF for short).

The title sponsors will be familiar to vintage-car enthusiasts; Hemmings is the “Bible” of the collector-car industry; Hagerty is the premier insurance provider for vintage automobiles; and Coker manufactures vintage-style tires for collector automobiles.

The entry list for the Great Race is restricted to 120 vehicles for logistical reasons, and it sells out every year. It is open to all 1972 and older collector cars and trucks, with entry fees ranging from $1,500 to $8,000. The field is divided into five classes: Grand Champion, Expert, Sportsman, Rookie and X-Cup (the latter for university and high school teams).

1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport - In the hills of Kentucky, a 1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport driven by Peter LaMountain of Oxford, Massachusetts and navigated by Bill Sacramone of Port Orange, Florida, running in the Sportsman division.

Since it is obviously unfair to have a 1960s’ muscle car and a 1920s’ vintage vehicle competing against one another, race organizers have perfected, over the years, a handicap system that adjusts scores based on the age of the vehicle.

There are no garage queens here, all these vehicles, despite their rarity and value are driven often, and often hard. This year’s entry list includes a Peerless Green Dragon, an American LaFrance Speedster, a Rambler Ambassador, a DeSoto Fireflite and a Buick Roadmaster Hearse.

Long time Great Racers - Long time Great Racers, Steve and Ed Tourje are a father and son team from Pennsylvania. Their 1939 Ford coupe is always a strong runner in the Expert division. Steve is the son, and drives, while father Ed navigates.

Each entry has a story, from century-old runabouts to 50-year-old restored tow trucks and family wagons driven by siblings. One such story is that of Alan Travis who won the race in 1987 at the wheel of a 1916 Mitchell and again in 1993 with a 1910 Knox Raceabout. His entry for the 2018 Great Race is a 1913 Bugatti — not only the oldest car in the event, but also thought to be the oldest Bugatti in use in the world!

The event, like the vehicles, is serious. The exact route is kept secret to prevent entrants from practicing. The instructions are passed out only one hour before the start each day. No GPS systems or maps are permitted. The teams must rely on the written course instructions and analog watches to follow the route and arrive at pre-determined checkpoints on time.

The 36th version of the Great Race runs through 16 cities, crossing into Canada June 29 at Saint Stephen, NB. Competitors are spaced at one-minute intervals, so there is a two-hour train of vintage vehicles along the route, usually on back roads and blocked-off streets. The best opportunities to see them up close and personal, and meet the drivers/navigators are at lunch and dinner stops.

The winner receives a cheque for $50,000, part of $150,000 in prize money to be handed out at the awards banquet.

You can get more details at the race website.

American stops

  • June 22 – Downtown Lockport, NY near the locks
  • June 23 – Pierce Arrow Museum, Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, NY
  • June 23/24, overnight – Fairport, NY, look for the “cool bridge” at the day’s finish line
  • June 24 – Troy, NY
  • June 25 – lunch, Hemmings Motoring News museum, Bennington, NY
  • June 25/26 overnight – Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, VT
  • June 26/27 overnight - Gardiner, ME
  • June 27 lunch – Owl’s Head Transportation Museum, Owl’s Head, ME
  • June 28 lunch – Seal Cove Automobile Museum, Seal Cove, ME

Canadian Stops

  • June 29 lunch - Rothesay Common, Saint John, NB
  • June 29/30 overnight - Riverfront Park, Moncton, NB. This stop ties in with the largest annual car show in eastern Canada, which draws more than 2,000 cars every year.
  • June 30 lunch, the Library in Truro, NS
  • June/July 1 overnight – Ferry Terminal, Alderney Landing
  • July 1 – Official Finish, 1 pm, Waterfront Warehouse, Lower Water Street, Halifax, NS

Spectator sport - At a stop in Franklin, Indiana last year, thousands of spectators showed up to get up close and personal with the 2017 Great Race vintage machines and the people who drive them.