The Great Race Comes to Town -or- The Best Lunch Hour Ever.

Transportation is more than just a way to get from point A to B...its an adventure in the making.

I had the pleasure of covering the 2013 Hemmings Great Race today for my job as a radio operations dude. It had been a while since I actually produced a news story, (nearly 10 years to be exact), and I was grateful for the opportunity to head to the Peoria riverfront and get audio from a few passionate gearheads who were still covered in sweat and mud from their trip in 86 degree weather in an open car. Why would anyone in their right mind do that, you ask? To promote the love of the hobby.

Easily the Largest Hudson Built. A 1915 Hudson 6-40 Moving Through the Crowds.

If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with the Great Race. If not, I blogged about it back in December. Back in 1983 a pair of car guys named Tom McRae and Curtis Graf started a cross-country vintage road rally and over the next three decades the momentum has grown substantially. Today, thanks to groups such as Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty Insurance, and Coker Tires, publicity and participation in the premier road rally is up and the scenic routes change each year to provide fascinating new landscapes. This year's route from St. Paul, Minnesota to Mobile, Alabama included a stop in Peoria over the noon hour on Monday, June 24th. Several hundred spectators lined the riverfront's Gateway Building and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of vintage rally cars in action.

Today's stop gave visitors the chance to meet and interact with driver and navigators from around the country. There was a team from California in a 1960 Fiat Multipla with a surfboard on the roof. Then there were the local heros like Dr. Richard McKone, the Peoria dentist who hopped into his 1936 Ford just hours after major surgery to compete in his 20th race.

Then I ran into these guys:

Rookies James Goode and Brad Epple of Jefferson City, Missouri standing next to their 1966 Corvette.

James & Brad had always wanted to do the Great Race. Brad said it was on his "bucket list" and he finally decided to pull the trigger and do it. He roped his navigator friend James Goode into signing up with him and the two combed over a red 1966 Corvette before throwing caution to the wind and premium fuel into the tank. After a rough start, Goode and Epple are now ranked 31 out of 99 cars (7 cars dropped out between Saturday and Monday). Not too shabby for a couple of rookies from Missouri!

 Now, the convertible may be a popular choice for rally racers, but with a Corvette you at least have a top that can be put up. What about the earlier cars without such luxuries? You employ whatever you can find to keep the water out.

Grocery Bags Make Good Waterproofing For Speedometers.  

Kirk and Rita Hill from Mississippi are competing this year in a 1920 Ford Model T speedster, a car with mostly wood framing and panels...and no top. The torrential downpours the duo endured over the past two days have really made for some difficult motoring. But Kirk told me they were still having fun. The Hills car appeared dry as a bone by the time it hit the Peoria streets. Other cars showed a little more wear and tear, and I even saw one speedster using the space age invention of duct tape to keep water out of its crevices.

The crowd enjoyed mingling and seeing the spectacle of The Great Race. Kids of all ages gawked at the cars, chatted with the owners and crew, and even watched a few parking lot repair jobs while the drivers hastily grabbed a bite to eat. Hannibal, Missouri was the next stop on the course.

Team Stovebolt, With a 1940 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Coupe. Nice Choice!

While recording audio for the radio station, I got to thinking about why vintage rallying is so important to the car hobby as a whole: It preserves the functionality of these machines. Cars like the 1917 Peerless "Green Dragon" Speedster in this year's race are nearly a century old...and they're being flogged on country roads that are in much better condition than any road was in the year that car was produced. The valuable antique car is not in a museum, its not in a garage, and its certainly not on a trailer. That Peerless is on the road doing what its creators intended...driving.  Its also driving on better tire compounds, and better fuel than was available in 1917 and achieving its full potential. The same with the 1940 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Coupe pictured above. Its a clean, original car and its enjoying a nice 2,100 mile walk around the block. As long as the owners keep them limber and well-fed, why not exercise these old treasures in a manner than respects them such as this?

The Hemmings Great Race and ambassadors to the collector car hobby such as the great Corky Coker of Coker Tire, (whom I had the pleasure of meeting during today's stop), are the key to keeping the torch lit. When everyone, especially younger generations are able to hear and see these works of art in motion, the flame will burn hotter and longer in the decades to come. To everyone involved, I wish you the best on your journey. Maybe we'll meet up again sometime when a certain black four door Fleetline from Central Illinois is added to the roster.

Drive Safe and Have a Great Time, Everyone. It Was a Pleasure.

If you'd like to see all the high-resolution photos I took today at the Great Race lunch stop CLICK HERE. 


If you'd like to hear the story I did for Peoria Public Radio CLICK HERE.


 For an official writeup of today's events from The Great Race's website CLICK HERE.  



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