Hello, fellow old car enthusiasts! My name is Steve Hedke, and along with my wife Janet and our special needs daughter Allison, you’re about to share in a once-in-a-lifetime driving adventure – The Great Race. You’ll “blog-ride” along with us as we rally from Jacksonville, Florida to Traverse City, Michigan, this summer, proudly representing America’s Car Museum. Oh, and we’ll also be gunning for the $50,000 grand prize!
If you have been an old car person for any amount of time, the chances are good that you’ve at least heard of The Great Race. It’s been crisscrossing the U.S., with occasional border crossings into Canada and Mexico, almost every summer since 1983. We were first exposed it by luck when we caught an ESPN special covering the race. After watching that I was convinced this had to be the coolest thing to do with an old car. Where else are you going to see and hear a Knox or a Mitchell running at speed? We videotaped every episode.
That was back before the internet, and as the years passed we could only catch the special by watching for it all summer long. One year a car buddy of mine called me to tell that The Great Race had stopped in Burbank, CA, just blocks from where we lived! I raced over and saw all the cool old rally cars in the Chadney’s parking lot across from NBC. One of the racers came out and was very generous with his time, explaining to me how the event worked. He went back inside and gave me my own copy of the route instructions! I still have that.
There were a lot of reasons we couldn’t join The Great Race just yet, the biggest being we didn’t have a car that qualified. At first it was pre-war cars only, then pre-1949. We owned old cars, but not that old. We’d just have to wait.
In 1999 The Great Race finished in Anaheim, close enough to us so that we could drive down and be at the finish line as the cars came through. As the cars and teams were being announced, a lull in the action let Great Race owner and promoter Tom McRae mention that they were thinking of opening up the field to 1950’s sports cars. Whoopee! We had one of those, a 1957 Triumph TR3! By the end of that year we had run our first “˜regional’ Great Race rally.
I had rebuilt the very tired TR3 mechanically, but the cosmetics had to wait and it looked sad. As we left for Palm Springs the starter packed up, and we had no time to change it if we wanted to get to tech on time. We ran the whole 4-day weekend push starting the car, which certainly made an impression as rookies. Nevertheless we were able to win the rookie division, and our Great Race adventures had begun!
Today’s The Great Race has grown to an entry field of 120 vehicles at least forty-five years old. The race route changes every year, sometimes running north to south, sometimes east to west. The race usually runs about 2400 miles in about nine days. Lunch, overnight and break stops are all pre-planned by The Great Race. They also provide sweep trucks to get you in should something break.
Stay tuned for more blog posts as we prepare for and take part in The Great Race this summer proudly representing America’s Car Museum! The race begins June 24 and goes through July 2.