Motor Mouth Blog

Come explore the musings of your fellow car enthusiasts. Get excited about the movement we are all a part of!

Filter

Great Race Day 3: What Goes Up…

Snow capped peaks were just part of the views as we crossed Donner Pass.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

There are few ‘easy’ days on the Great Race, and there certainly are hard ones. Every so often you have a day that just defies description.
Our day began in Gardnerville, Nevada, from which we headed north to Reno, then we hung a left for California and famous Donner Pass. Our first ‘on the clock’ run was just west of Truckee, high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains: slow speeds, rough roads, and high altitudes were the challenges. Up over 7,000’ we still had snow on the ground alongside the cars, the cool air was refreshing compared to what was to come.

Winding down through the pass on secondary roads once again provided some spectacular scenery and a nice rally, until we saw that dreaded sign “flagman ahead- prepare to stop”. Dang! We saw a group of about 5 cars waiting for the flagman, right where we were supposed to be doing 40 mph.

“First Sweep” is a team from the rally staff that goes out on the course the day before to make sure the roads are still open and all the signs are still in place that the route instructions have us looking for. The “Fast Sweep” team leaves before the racers to make sure that everything is still in place.

Almost inevitably there will be a road crew that pops up after the sweep teams and before the rally gets there. Surprise! How well you deal with this is part of the game. Obviously you have to stop for the road crew, calculate how much time you have lost, and if it can’t be made up you fill out a time delay form. If you can’t go back to the assigned speed, you may have to go slower, say half speed, and factor that in to your time delay as well. If you get stopped again while at half speed, well, you have a couple of overlapping calculations happening at once. In short, a mess.

Everyone had time delays today. So much so that timing and scoring had over 200 time delay sheets to process. We turned ours in at the control point at the lunch stop in Grass Valley; she already had a stack of documents to call in.

Grass Valley is one of those quaint gold rush communities with the false front downtown shops. A fine and unique lunch of Cornish Pasties was provided, along with a lovely garden setting to enjoy them in. As we descended the Sierras for the rolling foothills south of Oroville the temperature went up- a lot. Narrow, twisty, and rough old roads gave the cars and crews a pounding. It was nearly impossible to hold speeds when the road constantly undulated and snaked its way along. If you own a collector car chances are these are roads you would avoid at any cost. In fact, ‘pathway’ might be a better description.

Some of the local hot rods that come out to greet us, this time at our lunch stop in Grass Valley.

Then, just as we were all tired and uncomfortably hot, we were brought to an oasis. A ‘Pit Stop’ is a Great Race feature that we haven’t seen much of for a while. It’s a brief stop to get gas, a snack, and a bit of a rest. It is about half an hour long, hosted by a town on the route. Oroville provided us with a place to park along their old downtown Main Street, volunteers provided cold drinks, snacks, and air conditioning in their restored silent era ‘State’ theater, where an organist played their Wurlitzer pipe organ! What a treat!

Back in the cars, we ran the last 2 legs of the day still descending, heading for flat ground in to the central valley of California. Still in the Sierra foothills, the roads got even narrower and rougher, as the weather grew hotter. Wrestling our cars down these roads at 20-25 mph is about as tough of a job as the drivers and cars can face. Everyone was glad to see the finish line except for the timing and scoring crews, who were still working on the hundreds of time delays. A nice supper in the town square gave us all a chance to rest and cool off.

Seldom traveled roads are a feature of the Great Race.

The LeMay – Americas Car Museum Studebaker sucked up everything the rally route could throw at it, and once again we had some very good leg scores with 2 more Aces! A couple of higher scores at the end kept us out of the win column, but considering the circumstances we did really well. We were especially proud of the :02 seconds we ended up with through that nasty construction zone! We are still 4th in the Expert division, 14th overall (we moved up a few spots there} and running strong.

We head for the Pacific Coast and the Redwoods tomorrow; that will be beautiful too.

Thanks for riding along!

Read More

Great Race Day 2

The desert can provide some stunning geologic sights; this was near Red Rock Canyon in California.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

A person could live in California their whole lives and never have a reason to go north from Lancaster on Highway 14 (Old Route 6) and all the way up through the Owens Valley, but that’s what we did today. The contrast could not have been sharper.

From the land of test pilots and “The Right Stuff”, we climbed out towards Bishop, Lone Pine, and Mammoth Lakes, gaining altitude and transitioning from desert to piney forests. (I am happy to report that the ecologically vital Mono Lake is once again filled to capacity after our long drought). It was cloudless blue skies, cool temperatures, unlimited visibility, and plenty of snow on the Sierras and majestic Mount Whitney.

Checkpoint! These crews are out here for hours clocking the cars as they pass by a precise predetermined point for them, but is a surprise for us. That’s why you have to be on time, all the time. They will yell out “MARK” when you hit the point, which ends that leg and immediately begins the next. The driver holds the speed, and the navigator writes down the time we cross the point, just as a backup. In reality you don’t do anything when encountering a checkpoint.

There are days on the Great Race when the goal is to cover lots of miles, and we had extensive running at 50 mph, the top speed that the Great Race will use in deference to the antique cars. Our best performance today was :02 late over 1.33:00 of rallying! Having your electronic speedometer accurately adjusted is critical, and everyone had to readjust theirs from yesterday. There were not a lot of ‘maneuvers’ because of the lack of alternative roads along this route.

We had 4 really good legs today, and one where we ran slow, despite the fact that we executed everything by the book. It might have been that we under compensated for slower acceleration times at altitude. Certainly the conditions were unique, and we always try to learn from our shortcomings should we run in to this again.

Currently the LeMay – America’s Car Museum entry is running around 21st overall and 4th in Expert, and while that’s not bad considering a field of over 110 cars, we expect to move up in the rankings as the race progresses.

Our 1964 Studebaker Daytona is always a big hit, and we had nice size crowds at our lunch stop in Bishop (excellent tri-tip!) and our overnight here in Gardnerville, Nevada. Both cities did a fine job of hosting our traveling circus. We did lose a few more cars due to attrition, and there are some undergoing repairs in the hotel parking lot tonight as I write this.

Quite the view as we waited for our start time after lunch in Bishop.

Stick with us: it’s an endurance event, and positions will change over the next several days. Two days with 8 excellent leg stores is very encouraging, now we just need to have to have a good day. Maybe tomorrow…

Read More

Official Start in Riverside

By Steve Hedke, who will be representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

Official start this morning on Mission Inn Ave in Riverside! The entire street was filled for blocks with Great Race cars and hundreds of spectators for a couple of hours, then the ceremony kicked off with a color guard, the National Anthem, and then the green flag dropped for each team. Thanks to friends from work and our Studebaker and Triumph car clubs who came to see us off. It means so much to us to see you there!

After an hour-long speedometer calibration on the freeway and before we were even officially on the clock we were treated to lunch at the Route 66 Museum in Victorville. Then for the next two and a half hours we rallied through a succession of mazes – multiple turns within a residential area at low speeds, often seeing other race cars in the vicinity going in other directions. Great fun but you have to stay focused as one wrong turn can ruin an otherwise great day.

A quick trip up into the hills above Lancaster for some mountain driving and it was into town for a great reception on The Boulevard. We were provided with “Boulevard Bucks” we could spend on dinner and treats at our choice of a couple dozen locations, then off to the hotels.

There were five legs today and we had excellent scores for four of them, including two ACEs. Then there was a mystery score of 16 seconds late on Leg 4. We thought we’d executed everything perfectly but sometimes there’s no logical explanation. Thankfully the way Great Race works is that there are a certain number of leg scores dropped from your total, based on your division. So we will be able to drop our four worst legs. Hopefully that will be the worst but you never know what’s coming the next day.

Tomorrow will be a long day, with an early morning start, all the way to Gardnerville, NV with a lunch stop in Bishop. Another adventure awaits!

Read More

Great Race Trophy Run

Navigator Janet Hedke with the tools of the trade.

By Steve Hedke, who will be representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

Each race officially begins with a general meeting for all participants: race teams, support crews, timing and scoring, and checkpoint crews. This year that consists of nearly 500 people working their way up to Tacoma, and we filled a large meeting room at the Marriott in Riverside this morning.

Cars were still being repaired, and at least one was abandoned: that team bought another car to race. Hey, it’s Southern California and we still have lots of old cars around. And it’s not the first time this has happened.

After the meeting we have the Great Race director of competition explain how the race is run, followed by the presentation on the techniques for rallying. Once those are over its time to leave for the Trophy Run. This year’s run was held southeast of Riverside in the shadows of the San Jacinto Mountains, which is ‘horse’ country with many large ranches nestled in to the rocky countryside.

The Trophy Run is a half day rally designed to get your skills up before the ‘big’ race. Scores don’t count for the main event, but trophies are awarded for the best in each division. We are proud to announce that the LeMay – Americas Car Museum entry finished 4th overall and first in Expert Division! On top of that we earned 3 ‘Aces’, which means we had perfect scores on 3 of the 5 legs. We also got ‘Ace’ stickers for the car, and watch for those as the cars come in to Tacoma: there is a prize for the most Aces, and you’ll see them all along our doors.

As you would expect we feel really good about going in to the official start tomorrow. Our Studebaker is performing nicely, clearly our speedometer is calibrated correctly (at least for now), and our team is healthy and ready for the adventure to come!

Read More

Great Race: Two Days To The Start

The LeMay – America’s Car Museum Studebaker Daytona receives its official race number.

By Steve Hedke, who will be representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

Pre-race activity has begun at the host hotel in Riverside, California. The ACM team left home early this morning and made it to the hotel just in time for our registration appointment. The Daytona is running well: all we needed to do was to collect our registration materials, pass through tech inspection (horn, lights, etc.) and have the remaining official stickers put on.

After that we ran the ‘Measured Mile’, a 9 mile test section that allows us to check the calibration of our electronic speedometer. We were running early, since the speedo was set for the previous rally in Joplin a few months ago. Others saw the same thing. We made the correction, ran the calibration in reverse, and we had made the correct change. We were now ready to rally.

The rest of the day was spent greeting our friends and catching up. There was drama already! Just getting the cars to the start can be a challenge. Yesterday we were coming out here to attend a reception and came across a team on the side of the road, with a flat tire on their trailer. Turns out this was the SECOND flat on the trailer, with the tires just shredded. We introduced ourselves, and took the spare to the closest tire store, about a half hour away, and got there just before they closed. They got the wheel on and we followed them in to Riverside, just in case. They replaced ALL the tires on the trailer this morning. Adventure before the race even starts!

We heard stories of other tow vehicles breaking down; the Maine Boys had to borrow a 5th wheel truck to get their cars in, as the rear axle of their truck was being repaired. Twice. Many folks from the east coast had their cars shipped out, but reported problems with making flight connections. There are cars that are here but not running well; a Corvette needed a new distributor right there in the parking lot, which of course became a spectator event. It can be stressful until you are finally ready to race.

Open a hood around car guys and a crowd gathers. This big block ’66 Corvette was running badly, needed a new distributor right there in the hotel parking lot.

For those not desperately getting their cars fixed, Great Race had arranged for a really good cover band to play 60’s and ‘70’s rock hits in an outdoor venue in front of the hotel, while providing burgers, dogs, and drinks. Great fun!

This colorful 1930 Riley 14/6 Speed Six had more trouble than just the water leak. The supercharger seems to be pumping oil in to the engine and it’s smoking badly. Preparation is crucial; if you can’t start, you lose your entry fee. It may not make it to the start. once again, a hood up means a crowd.

The weather is surprisingly cool, even chilly! Amazing since it’s not unusual to be in the 90’s this time of year. We’ll take it! Tomorrow we have the mandatory meeting, rally school, and the Trophy Run, a short local rally used both for practice and its own trophies, plus the better Trophy Run scores can be used to break a tie at the finish.

So far, so good!

Read More

Preparations for the Great Race

By Steve Hedke, who will be representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

As I write this it is 2 weeks before the race start, and almost everything is ready to go. Preparation is, of course, critical: It’s not the invasion of Normandy, but the philosophy is similar. With the time and investment the race requires, not to mention the prize money and trophies available, it’s smart to make sure you have what you need, or may need, well before the race starts.

Paperwork: There are forms to fill out, lots of them. Releases, declaration of insurance (a minimum amount of liability is required), entry forms, crew information, support crews, hotel reservations, etc. These, along with the fees, are required six months or more before the race starts. Some documents like your list of hotel reservations are vital to keep with you: the race does not make these arrangements, but give you a list of options. If you break down you are required to cancel your reservations or you will be billed for them. You go nowhere without the dotted I’s and crossed T’s taken care of.

Car: The cars are old and things break, and even new parts can be an issue. Getting the car prepped well before the race is not only prudent, it’s required if you want to get some test miles on it. Sure, like most car guys I am guilty of midnight thrashes and paint drying at the car show. But for the Great Race a thorough shake down is a really good idea, because not finishing is the worst thing possible. Plus you’ll need time to fill in your performance charts. Working all night in the parking lot during the race is dramatic and happens just about every night, but it is not fun, especially rallying the next day with little or no sleep.

I only bring the spare parts I can replace at roadside, such as a fan belt or a trigger for the Petronix ignition. Anything I can’t fix quickly puts me out of the competition for the day, and the sweep truck will be along soon. Once I get back in I have some time to make proper repairs. Same with tools: I bring just enough hand tools for minor repair jobs. The Great Race also has a list of required items, including a fire extinguisher within easy reach, tow ropes, water, flashlights, and other safety related items. These will all be checked for at tech inspection. Then I add in things that may be hard to find, like the Buss style glass fuses that used to be commonplace.

Personal: This list varies with age, if you get my drift. 40 year olds have different ‘requirements’ than those of us in our sixties. For example, carrying a second set of glasses or contacts, just in case you lose one. If you are on prescriptions or supplements, you don’t want to be experimenting with a new regimen on the race: medications can really affect your memory and concentration. And if you do find that you need something, the only time to find a pharmacy or urgent care facility is after the day’s racing is over. I once had a bee fly up the leg of my shorts and sting me while on a timed section. The navigator couldn’t help either, since she is busy keeping us on course and on time. The bee sting be damned, suck it up.

Another issue should be mentioned. While the Rallymaster provides for rest and gas stops, they might not be right where you need them. As we age some ‘things’ become harder to control than they used to be. Some racers have used ‘truck driver solutions’ which can be found at medical supply stores. If you require such equipment its best to have your preferred method of assistance ready to go before you get to the start. More racers are prepared in ‘that way’ than you might think.

Clothing: There was a time when trophies for ‘Best Costume’ were a regular part of the show, but over time the same people always won and it was dropped. The tradition continues however, with some folks dressing up in period clothing, and most wearing ‘Team Gear’ especially made for them. Most towns have local businesses that provide team embroidery, and almost all of the racers will have specialized shirts, jackets, and hats. The coordinated ‘team gear’ is also carried over to support crews. And since we rally in both hot weather as well as rain, it includes everything from t-shirts to jackets. If you have an official sponsor for your car, your clothing will be advertising, in much the same way as in any motorsport. It makes for a colorful crowd!

Laundry is an issue too. If you have a support team, they can get your dirty clothes in to the machines at the hotel before you even arrive. For us, we simply will have no time for laundry, and no support crew, so we need bags and suitcases that will fit in the trunk and carry all the clothes we will need for 10 days or so. Some of that can also go in the back seat, which makes driving a larger car a real help.

You also have to have room in the car for ‘gifts’. Most of the stops we make will have a reception committee from that town, presenting us with goodie bags full of local ‘swag’. We’ve received some pretty nice gifts over the years, including bottles of wine, embroidered jackets, even afghan blankets! You need to have a place reserved to put them all.

Division of Tasks: On our team, I take care of the car and equipment, which includes the navigator’s tools. My wife, as navigator, controls the clock: when we go to bed, when we get up, when we pick up instructions, what clothes we wear for that day. The driver is important but not in charge; someone has to control the whole operation, and in our case that’s the navigator. I do what I’m told: for us it works best that way.

No one is ever completely prepared, however. Unseen issues and innovation are part of the ‘game’, and each day brings unique stories for after dinner each night. It’s all part of the challenge!

Read More

The Great Race Finish Line Experience

By Steve Hedke, who will be representing LeMay – America’s Car Museum with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in the Great Race

In the summer of 1999 we saw that Great Race was going to finish in Anaheim, which was not far from us. We decided to go down to watch the cars come in, not knowing what to expect or exactly when to be there. We got there a bit early, and found a large crowd already gathering along the street near the official finish gate. I remember it as a warm day and the concessionaires were doing a brisk business in drinks and food.

The energy and excitement were building; event founder and host Tom McRae was entertaining the crowd, then the color guard came in and the National Anthem was sung. Suddenly the thunder of ancient engines could be heard from around the corner and the cars started crossing the finish line. It’s more than symbolic: you can’t win if you don’t finish, and the cars had to cross that line for their scores to count.

Each team was introduced, including their names, hometown, and the car they were driving. The teams looked exhausted but happy: the Great Race motto ‘To Finish Is To Win’ seemed perfectly appropriate judging by the weary grins on their faces. Car after car came in, an amazing and colorful variety of all makes and models, from all over the country and around the world. We had purchased a yearbook which also gave the info on the cars and owners, plus the info on how the race is run. A growing crowd of several hundred people stood curbside enthusiastically cheering each team in.

Suddenly, there was a gap; race cars were caught in city traffic trying to get to the finish, which can be a real challenge. Tom McRae was filling up the time, and mentioned that for 2000 they were considering opening up the field to pre ’61 sports cars. Janet and I looked at each other: up until then the race was restricted to pre ’49 cars and trucks. We were planning an old car to run the race in at some point, but we did have a 1957 Triumph TR3 at home! We let out a whoop, and Tom came over to us, microphone in hand: ‘What kind of car ya’ got?” ‘A 1957 Triumph, and we can beat these Fords with it!’ “OK, go over there and we’ll get you signed up”.

And that’s exactly what we did. Our first rally was a 3 day regional in Palm Springs that fall, and in 2000 we entered the Boston to Sacramento race, where we finished first in the Rookie class. Along with a trophy and prize money, an entry was included for the next year’s race. And we’ve been doing it ever since.

If you are any kind of car enthusiasts please don’t miss the excitement of the official Finish Line! The competition is very tight, with teams finishing within seconds of each other after 9 days and over a thousand miles of rallying. Sometimes the cars are just barely hanging in there, and the teams are tired but must still perform at their best. The top 3 teams are pulled out of line and must wait at the finish line together to find out who won the $50,000 check and the huge “Eagle” trophy we call the ‘big bird’. The victory celebration is amazing, complete with confetti cannons!

After that the cars will be on display on the Haub Family Field at the LeMay – America’s Car Museum, and you can meet the teams, photograph the cars, and even get autographs in your yearbook. The racers love to talk about their cars and explain how the event works. Who knows, you might even get hooked like we did!

Read More

Step into the Powering the Future Learning Lab

By Rebecca Bresler, Education Coordinator

Step into Powering the Future to consider what will fuel future vehicle needs! In this new, hands-on Learning Lab, inquiry-based exploration highlights innovative thinking and engages visitors and students around some of the most important questions of our time: What will power the future? How can we meet our current and future energy needs for transportation in a sustainable way? How do we make choices to meet our needs without compromising the needs of future generations?

Arriving at the beginning of the exhibition space, visitors will first enter into Powering the Past where large graphics of the first automotive advertisements and examples of early “horseless carriages” will remind visitors of the myriad ways inventors of the time chose to power vehicles. We hope this space will put our visitors in the shoes of people in the early 1900s as they find answers to the questions: Why were vehicles an important invention of the time? How were these vehicles powered? How were these vehicles different from the cars we drive today?

Following Powering the Past are three Fueling Stations: Fossil Fuels, Biofuels and Electricity/Hydrogen. Each of the three fueling stations offers guests the opportunity to engage with a hands-on lab table, exploring how each of the fuel sources are used to power vehicles; to understand the basics about each of the fuels; to play interactive trivia games; and to learn about the inventors and inventions that have been particularly important to the success of the fuels throughout history. Continue reading “Step into the Powering the Future Learning Lab”

Read More

ACM Visitors Voted, and We Listened

By Scot Keller, Curator of Exhibitry

When we launched the Through the Lens – Cars Defined by an American Century exhibit in December, we put forward ten automobiles, one from each decade 1910 – 2010, that we argue best represented the history and culture of the period.

The idea was to ”make the case” for the specific cars while leaving it up to visitors to decide on their own. To have some fun and encourage dialog in the exhibit, we created a feedback component where guests cast votes for one car per post-war decade, with a promise to change the exhibit based on their opinion.

And vote they have. Without influence from foreign powers, 45,000 votes have already been cast. The Vox Populi have spoken, and we are making changes, the first being for the 1970’s.

Of the five cars from that decade, the Trans-Am has handily beaten the others. Accordingly, we added an epic Screaming Chicken adorned 1976 example to pair next with the first generation Honda Civic. Suffice it to say; you’ll not likely see two cars contrasting each other as much as these.

In another part of the exhibit, visitors have a chance to record which car brand will define the decade ending in 2020. The hands-down choice is the Tesla, with over 75% of the comments. Voilà, we added a pristine first generation to the exhibit.

Another clear favorite has been the DeLorean for the 1980’s. We decided not to add that to the exhibit because we have two excellent examples, side by side, on the next floor down and are reluctant to separate them.

Photo by @Stanced_Photography.

The top vote gatherers aren’t the only things changing. A few on the list have been, well let’s just say, unenthusiastically received. Cars like the 60’s Corvair, the poor Pinto from the 70’s and 80’s Dodge Aries K-car aren’t generating a lot of love.

Therefore we decided to shake-up the voting and replace these too. What should we add to the list?

Read More

Car Stories: The Pierce-Arrow 38C

By Renèe Crist, ACM Collections Manager

The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company of Buffalo, New York, produced some of the finest automobiles made for thirty-eight years. For over 20 years, Pierce-Arrow was the car of choice by the White House for the use by the President. The Pierce-Arrow was considered the American equivalent of Rolls-Royce, making this example one of the finest cars available in 1916.

There were approximately 2,004 Model 38-C4’s produced in 1916, and this Brougham Limousine was just one of the seventeen body styles that were available. The car sits on its original chassis and body on a 134-inch wheelbase. It is powered by its original a 6-cylinder engine with 38 hp, 4-inch bore on a 5 ½ inch stroke. Some luxury features on the car include an electric clock, intercom to the driver from the rear seat, and crystal flower vases in the rear passenger compartment. The base price new was $5,350.

1913 Pierce Arrow Hood Ornament

This 38-C represents the Nickel Period, referring to the plating process used on automobile brightwork. The car is an especially important piece of automobile history since Nickel Period cars were often overlooked in favor of the earlier Brass Period and the later Chrome Period. Many Nickel Period automobiles have been lost or their original nickel mistakenly chromed in later restorations. This 38C-4 Brougham Limousine was restored to its current condition in 1964 by Lambert Lobberegt for his private collection of fine classic vehicles Issaquah, Washington. Harold LeMay acquired the car for his collection from the Lobberegt Estate in 1997. The car was donated to LeMay-America’s Car Museum in 2003.

A fine representation of automotive design and elegance, the car has been presented on the lawn at The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2005, Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance in 2006, Rocky Mountain Concours d’Elegance in 2007, and the Kirkland Concours d’Elegance in 2006 and 2011.

Recognized as a Full Classic by the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA), the car has been featured on exhibit in the Classics and Coachwork Exhibit at America’s Car Museum.

Read More