Racing 66:

The History Channel's

Great Race

 
Over 100 classic and antique cars started from Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, June 17th, racing across the country toward Pasadena, California on a 4,000-mile road rally timed to one thousandth of a second. Waiting at the finish line was $275,000 - the richest prize in vintage racing.

Roaring out of the South, across the Midwest and the Great Plains, and over the Colorado Rockies, the race turned south at Durango and hit Route 66 westbound at Gallup, New Mexico.

In Arizona, the race ran over the longest remaining section of the genuine and original Route 66 - from Seligman on Interstate 40, to the Colorado River - 160 miles of True West, from far-reaching cattle ranches, to the Hualapai Indian Reservation, to the old hardrock gold mining relics of the Black Mountains.

The racers made three or four scheduled stops each day of the cross-country run: morning, evening, lunch, and overnight. Each town they stopped in outdid itself to welcome great cars and great people. Aside from the chance to see vintage cars alive and on the road, there were prizes to be awarded for the best turnout. Williams, Arizona won best Pit Stop; Montrose, Colorado won for best Lunch Stop; and Kirkwood, Missouri took best Overnight (must be quiet there!) The prizes? Each of these "Great American Cities" got a $5,000 donation to its library.

The big event hit Kingman, Arizona, for the lunch stop on Thursday, June 28th, after 11 days on the road. Here are some photos of classic cars at the check-in, and on Route 66 a few miles out of town. You can click on the highlighted photos to bring up a larger version.

On the left, #19, a 1911 Velie H1; on the right, #89, a '37 Buick Shafer 8 Special.

#18, a '31 Chrysler Roadster

#85, a'49 Cadillac Sedan from Bogota, Colombia -
winner of the "Where Am I, Anyway?" award.

Outracing the Santa Fe train into Kingman.

The Powerhouse Visitor Center on 66 in downtown Kingman became a carnival of old cars, as the racers checked in through the gate and were introduced to the crowd by an announcer. The cars growled and barked through the crowd, cruising for a parking spot. Everybody got to see and hear the grand old machines up as close as they wanted, and those big powerful engines of yesteryear make quite an impression.

When the prizes were awarded at the finish in Pasadena, #39, a 1929 Ford Model A Speedster, took 1st place in the Expert Division-Championship Run, and $16,700.

The 1911 Velie H1 took 4th, and $7,600.

#46, 1934 Indy 500 Racer, took 1st in the Pro Division, winning $35,000.

#17, this 1917 Hudson Speedster, took 2nd place, and $10,000.

3rd place went to #2, a '34 Ford Roadster.

1916 Hudson Speedster, #1, finished 4th in the Pro Division.

After 11 days of racing and thousands of miles on the road, all the cars deserved prizes just for great looks alone. The old-time craftsmanship that went into building these classics is outstanding, as are the care and respect that go into maintaining them and keeping them alive on the road. #14, a 1910 Selden Raceabout, is a prime example:

After stopping in Kingman, the race continued west on the old highway's original 1926 alignment - the ruggedest stretch of Route 66, with steep grades and hairpin turns winding up to Sitgreaves Pass over the Black Mountains, and down the other side past Gold Road's ruins and through the old mining boom town of Oatman. Ghost towns now, they were thriving when the highway was first laid out.

Back in the days when the Great Race cars were new, service stations on both sides of the range and at the summit made regular work of towing cars up these grades, and a sign posted at the Gold Road grade said, "Fords, do your damnedest!". These mountains were a tough obstacle for the early travelers on 66 - and then they faced crossing the Mojave Desert!

The racers made it over the range, visiting Bullhead City and stopping overnight in Lake Havasu City. The next day, the 29th, they crossed the desert, and arrived at the finish line in Pasadena on Saturday, June 30th.

It was a terrific treat for people of all ages across the country to see and hear these classic cars in action. Museums are great and wonderful places, but museum cars are like stuffed animals compared to these roaring, ripsnorting racing cars, alive in the heat and dust of competition on the open road. Museums are fascinating - but the Great Race was that, and thrilling.

For more about it:

On the web, visit http://www.greatrace.com

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joe@gazette9.com

 

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