Motor Mouth Blog

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


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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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”

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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?

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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.

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This February, stay at a downtown Seattle Hotel and Experience Culture and Creativity with Half-Off Entry to 40 Regional Museums

Content courtesy of Visit Seattle

In need of a vacation or staycation? The fourth annual Seattle Museum Month, running February 1 – 28, 2018, offers downtown Seattle hotel guests 50 percent off the admission price to 40 participating museums and cultural institutions in the region. A Seattle winter getaway in February is the perfect opportunity to explore fun and diverse museums. The offers isn’t exclusive to Seattle museums either – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma is included in the offer!

New this year to Seattle Museum Month are the Tacoma Art Museum, the Seattle Children’s Museum and the W.W. Seymour Conservatory.

Returning museums include Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), The Museum of Flight, Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, LeMay – America’s Car Museum, Seattle Pinball Museum, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Seattle Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo,  Museum of Glass, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Suquamish Tribal Museum, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and Chihuly Garden and Glass.

The discount program is only valid for guests staying at one of the participating hotels, up to four people, during hotel stay dates. Visitors must present an official Seattle Museum Month guest pass at participating museums to redeem the discounts.

“The Alexis hotel along with the three other Kimpton hotels in the city excitedly welcome the return of Seattle Museum Month,” said Tom Waithe, Regional Vice President of Kimpton Hotels, Pacific Northwest and Mountain Regions. “We have seen a tremendous surge in winter weekend visitor interest to the city when there’s opportunity to explore and save at so many venues. Our hope is that this year Seattle Museum Month is the best ever, and the program continues to grow and develop in the years ahead.”

Since the launch of Seattle Museum Month in 2015, the program has established itself as the perfect winter retreat for anyone, of all ages, to experience Seattle and the region’s unique and engaging museum collection, spanning arts, history, heritage, pop culture, natural history, aviation, automotive, and more.

To see the full list of participating museums, visit the Seattle Museum Month website at

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Rocket Car: 1986 Owasso Pulse GCRV Autocycle

By Renee Crist, ACM Collections Manager

Higher fuel prices in the years following the 1970’s oil embargos opened the door for new manufacturers offering innovative options for those seeking fuel efficient transportation. The Pulse Autocycle, designed by aircraft designer Jim Bede and built by the Owosso Motor Company from 1984 to 1990, advertised its fuel consumption at 70+ miles per gallon outline for a term paper click.

The Pulse can be described as an enclosed motorcycle with outrigger wheels attached. It seats two, one in front and one in back. The car came equipped with a 400cc air-cooled Yamaha engine with 6 speeds and chain drive. It rides on a 120″ wheel base, has a total length of 192″ and weighs approximately 1000 pounds.  The car has automobile-like steering, with clutch, brakes, and gas pedal on the floor just like a car.  However, the gear shift, located on the right arm rest, shifts sequentially the same as a motorcycle.

The Pulse was also referred to as a “GCRV”, or Ground Cruising Recreational Vehicle.  The term describes a vehicle that has the performance and acceleration of a motorcycle engineered into a comfortable weatherproof vehicle with many of the attributes of an automobile. It rides on two automotive type wheels and tires with outriggers, each fitted with a small 8″ diameter wheel, and because only one wheel makes contact with the ground at a time, the design met United States federal regulations to be licensed and operated as a motorcycle. To operate the Pulse on the road, most states in the USA required the driver have a motorcycle endorsement on their regular driver’s license.

The first 21 manufactured by Owasso were called “Litestars”. Owosso Motor Car Company made 101 cars in 1986 and records obtained from the Lightstar/Owasso Registry indicate that #223 was manufactured in April of 1986 and titled to an owner in Pennsylvania in July of that year. Only 44 were ordered from the factory painted yellow.

There was a total of 325 Pulses built by the Owosso Motor Car Company.  America’s Car Museum’s Owasso Pulse is a complete unrestored original example that is frequently an object for study by engineering and design students.

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The Drive Home III: Homecoming

Photo by Derek Klein. Other photos by author, unless otherwise noted.

By William Hall, The Drive Home veteran

The Drive Home III -the little classic-car caravan that could – reached Detroit on Friday after more than 2,484 miles through unseasonably cold weather in the south. Beginning in Boca Raton, Florida, the annual mid-winter tour zig-zagged across the southeast before driving into the Cobo Center for the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

The trip was not without incident, or accident. Although a number of the mechanical maladies were typical of cars pulled from collection display and driven – with failures from voltage regulators, heater cores and batteries – by-and-large the cars all worked well, even outperforming some of the modern support vehicles on the tour. Continue reading “The Drive Home III: Homecoming”

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