Great Race crosses the border as it drives east

The Great Race comes to Canada

Bulky clothes can limit your movement
From Auburn to Volvo and everything in between, there are 120 entries in the 2018 Great Race
This 1931 Auburn boat tail speedster exemplifies the variety of vehicles among the 120 participants of the 2018 Great Race

Car enthusiasts in the eastern seaboard of the US or the Canadian Maritime provinces will have a rare opportunity at the end of June. They will be able to see some very rare and special vehicles – in action. More than 120 vintage and rare vehicles will be participating in the 2018 version of The Great Race, which begins in Buffalo, New York, June 22, and finishes in Halifax Nova Scotia, on Canada Day, July 1.

The 3,800-km trek includes 17 stops along the way in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The Great Race welcomes spectators

The Great Race has been held every summer since 1983. Designed to challenge the vehicles and crews, it also allows spectators and enthusiasts to see a fascinating array of special vehicles, up close.

The official name is “The 2018 Hemmings Motor News Great Race, presented by Hagerty and Coker Tire”, it is the premier time/distance vintage car rally in North America. The sponsors will be familiar to vintage car enthusiasts. Hemmings is the “bible” of the collector car industry. Hagerty is the premier insurance provider for vintage automobiles, and Coker manufactures vintage-style tires for collector automobiles.

A Great Race favourite, this 1931 Auburn boat tail speedster was captured by official Great Race photographer Tommy Lee Byrd on a Florida back road. Driver Chad Caldwell and navigator (wife) Jennie Caldwell reside in Newnan, Georgia and typically dress in period correct clothing. They compete in the Expert division

The entry list is restricted to 120 vehicles for logistical reasons, and it sells out every year. Entry fees range from $1,500 to $8,000. It is open to all 1972 and older collector cars and trucks. The field is divided into five classes: Grand Champion, Expert, Sportsman, Rookie and X-Cup, the latter for university and high school teams. It is obviously unfair to have a 1960’s muscle car and a 1920’s vintage vehicle competing against one another. But, over the years race organizers have perfected a handicap system that adjust scores based on the age of the vehicle.

No garage queens here

There are no garage queens here. All these vehicles, despite their rarity and value, are driven often, and hard. This year’s entry list includes a Peerless Green Dragon, an American LaFrance Speedster, a Rambler Ambassador, a DeSoto Fireflite and a Buick Roadmaster Hearse. Entrants come from a variety of countries – all share a love of old automobiles and the opportunity drive them alongside fellow enthusiasts.

Driver Hitoshi Uemura and navigator Jun Nishikawa, both from Tokyo, Japan in their 1929 Ford Model A roadster pickup. Tommy Lee Byrd photo

Each entry has a story, from century-old runabouts to 50 year-old restored tow trucks and family wagons driven by siblings. One such story is that of Alan Travis who won the race in 1987 at the wheel of a 1916 Mitchell and again in 1993 with a 1910 Knox Raceabout. His entry for the 2018 Great Race is a 1913 Bugatti. Not only is it the oldest vehicle in the event, it is thought to be the oldest Bugatti in use in the world!

Great Race official photographer Tommy Lee Byrd took this one In the hills of Kentucky. The 1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport, driven by Peter LaMountain of Oxford, Massachusetts and navigated by Bill Sacramone of Port Orange, Florida ran in the Sportsman division.

The competition is serious. The exact route is kept secret to prevent entrants from practicing. The instructions are passed out only one hour before the start each day. No GPS systems or maps are permitted. The teams must rely on the written course instructions and analog watches to follow the route and arrive at pre-determined checkpoints on time.

Long time Great Racers, Steve and Ed Tourje are a father and son team from Pennsylvania. Their 1939 Ford coupe is always a strong runner in the Expert division. This shot was taken by Great Race official photographer Tommy Le Byrd in French Lick, Indiana.

The 36th version of the Great Race, runs through 16 cities, crossing into Canada June 29 at St. Stephens, NB. Competitors are spaced at one-minute intervals, so there is a two-hour train of vintage vehicles along the route, usually on back roads and blocked-off streets . The best opportunities to see them up close and personal, and meet the drivers/navigators are at the day’s lunch and dinner stops.

Stops in New Brunswick, finishes in Nova Scotia

In Canada they are: June 29 – lunch in Rothesay Common, Saint John at 1 pm with the day finishing at Riverfront Park in Moncton. This ties in with the largest annual car show in the region, the Atlantic Nationals Automotive Experience, which draws more than 2,000 cars every year.

The Great Race crosses into Nova Scotia Saturday June 30, arriving in Truro for lunch. The route takes them down Robie and Prince Streets, stopping in front of the Library. From there it is off to Alderney Landing Ferry Terminal in Dartmouth where the vehicles will be on display late afternoon, evening and Sunday morning. Racers will take the ferry across the harbour to their accommodations in Halifax. The official finish is at 1 pm on Canada Day, at the Waterfront Warehouse on Lower Water in Halifax. But metro residents will have an opportunity to see the vehicles, as they will travel up to 200 km on the way to that finish line.

Tommy Lee Byrd took this shot at a stop in Franklin, Indiana last year. He says the layout for the stop was outstanding, and he was able to get some cool photos from the top of the courthouse stairs. A similar sight awaits finishers in Halifax on Canada Day

The winner receives a cheque for $50,000, part of $150,000 in prize money to be awarded at the awards banquet.

For more details, you can head to the race’s website,

About Richard 166 Articles
At the age of five I was already obsessed with all things automotive being able to identify the make and model of car by just the sound of its engine going down the street in front of our house in the small town on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Although I have been covering and writing about the automotive scene for more than 40 years and the light still grows brightly.