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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

Published: June 4, 2018, 1:00 AM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:02 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).

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.

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).

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.

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