Motor Mouth Blog

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


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!

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The Great Race: Finish in Traverse City, MI

Rain on the course on the last day, creating slipping tires when scores are critical. Running alongside the Straights between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

Without getting too philosophical, we’ll cut right to the chase scene: we finished 21st this year, out of 121 starters. We completed 2300 plus mile adventure with a total accrued error of 2:16, and arrived healthy and happy. The car was spectacular: reliable as an anvil and just a blast to drive in competition. We enjoyed sharing experiences with our Great Race family and meeting new friends on the way. We talked to a lot of local folks at the stops, including the president of a local Studebaker club who had just lost his wife of 69 years a month ago: our traveling circus brightened his day, while reminding us of how fortunate we are to be able to share these adventures. Continue reading “The Great Race: Finish in Traverse City, MI”

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The Great Race: Championship Day

Imagine driving along 3,000 miles from home in a Studebaker when you come across ‘Studebaker’s Restaurant’! We didn’t have time to go in, but we were on a transit so we could stop for a quick snapshot. I felt sorry for the poor bullet-nose gutted and stuck up on a platform

Sometimes the obstacles move out of your way, sometimes they descend on you like the mosquitoes in Florida. Then there are times when you just plain screw up all on your own without any outside influence at all.

The last 2 days have been critical for our ranking in the finish. We had a lot of really good scores yesterday, with a bad one tossed out. The Grand Championship day does not allow you to toss a bad score, so you’re stuck with whatever you get. We’ve had some very good GC days, and a few really bad ones over the years: they can make or break your finish position. Today’s ranks as the Grand Championship Day From Hell, with Satan himself throwing pitchforks at us.

Continue reading “The Great Race: Championship Day”

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The Great Race: Day 6

Our Daytona at the famous Shell station recreation at the Gilmore Automotive Museum.

Greetings from from Ypsilanti, Michigan!

Rallying in Michigan today was mostly about dealing with other race cars not being where they should be. There is this massive ‘Franklin’, powered by a giant Hall-Scott truck engine, called ‘Zeus’, which is best described as a blunt instrument. Behind Zeus was the Japanese team in the Toyota 2000 GT. Both of them ‘backed into’ the car a minute in front of us, who had to drop back 20 seconds to avoid these two cars trying to be in the same spot at the same time. Eventually this whole furball backed into our minute, causing us to have to back up 20 seconds. Continue reading “The Great Race: Day 6”

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The Great Race: Day 5

Our lunch stop today was in Wapakoneta, Ohio, birthplace of astronaut Neil Armstrong. We just happened to be parked next to the Japanese team driving the Toyota 2000 GT. Along with their million dollar car, they have their own TV and media crew following their American adventure. It’s always quite a show when they come to town.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing ACM with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in The Great Race, going on now through July 2. Follow along on their adventure here

Today’s Route: Indianapolis > Wapakoneta, Ohio > Auburn, Indiana

‘Knee high by the Fourth of July’: if you’re familiar with that phrase then you must be from the midwest. Indeed, the corn was knee high, and ‘cornfield rallying’ is really a ‘thing’. The farm roads are grids, many times along county lines, and the rallying consists mostly of stop signs, speed changes, and right or left 90 degree turns. Continue reading “The Great Race: Day 5”

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The Great Race: Day 4

We literally don’t even know what state we’re in, but it sure is pretty. They don’t put up the state line signs on the backroads, so this is probably Kentucky.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing ACM with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in The Great Race, going on now through July 2. Follow along on their adventure here

Today’s Route: Bowling Green > French Lick > Franklin/Indianapolis

It’s a good day when the car doesn’t need repairs, the weather is cool and clear, the scenery is delightful, and you didn’t go off course. It’s a better day if it includes good scores. We had 3 of the 4 legs work out very well, and one not as much. Sometimes though, it’s the rally itself has to overcome the hardships. Continue reading “The Great Race: Day 4”

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The Great Race: Day 3

By Steve Hedke, who is representing ACM with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in The Great Race, going on now through July 2. Follow along on their adventure here

Greetings from Bowling Green, Kentucky!

Our journey today began in Chattanooga, and we wound our way north to cooler weather and hillier country. The rallying got a lot more fun as the back roads twisted and turned: it’s hard to control speeds when the road won’t stand still. We also had some traffic issues today: sometimes you hit those rural intersections with no cars at all in sight, and sometimes you’re stuck waiting for the traffic to clear as your penalty points rack up. Making up for lost time can be the most challenging part of a day, and we weren’t the only ones. Continue reading “The Great Race: Day 3”

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The Great Race: Day 2

Cars gather after lunch on a narrow country road waiting their turn to start abeam a Speed Limit 35 sign. Imagine living there and encountering such a sight!

By Steve Hedke, who is representing ACM with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in The Great Race, going on now through July 2. Follow along on their adventure here

After the stifling heat and humidity of Florida, Day 2 up through Georgia was 20 degrees cooler and a welcome relief to both cars and crews. The roads turned from flat to gentle rolling hills, then some actual mountains as we motored into Tennessee.

Once again the top 20 scores were truly awesome: no one has seen such tight competition this early in the rally. Once again the course was fairly easy, but this time the race encountered church traffic, trains, farm equipment and just plain old traffic to deal with. Continue reading “The Great Race: Day 2”

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The Great Race: Day 1

Approaching the official starting gate in Jacksonville, Florida.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing ACM with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in The Great Race, going on now through July 2. Follow along on their adventure here

Not only did we have a big crowd at the start, our overnight stop in Tifton, Georgia really filled the Parc Ferme for the entire 2 hours we were there: note the sign on the theater marquee.

The big day has finally arrived: time to be introduced to the crowd by Corky Coker and take the green flag waved by ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits. Jacksonville turned out a great crowd to see us off: we were on display in starting order for about 2 hours. The start includes a color guard, the Star Spangled Banner, a prayer for safety, then each car is flagged off individually. Continue reading “The Great Race: Day 1”

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The Great Race: Trophy Run

On the rally course in Florida. Flat, smooth and green, with temps in the 90’s and high humidity. The route can loop on itself so that you see cars coming from the other direction. The problem with the scene in the other lane is that the cars should be one minute apart! If you see 3 close together, at least 2 are likely to be out of position. We were doing just fine.

By Steve Hedke, who is representing ACM with his wife Janet and their daughter Allison in The Great Race, going on now through July 2. Follow along on their adventure here

First thing this morning was the mandatory meeting. Introductions, welcomes, thank-you’s and scheduling items were covered. After a short break, the rallymaster covered rules and regulations, followed by a ‘how to rally’ session for the rookies. The route instructions for today covered a half day run after lunch. Today the route instructions were carefully explained page by page: this will not happen again. Continue reading “The Great Race: Trophy Run”

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