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By Larry Edsall
Back to ClassicCars.com Community

The Great Racers chase $120,000 -- and a lot of fun
By Larry Edsall

Great Race With nearly $120,000 in prize money to be awarded at the end of the event, the competition among teams participating in The Great Race is serious, indeed. However, all you need do is to look at a list of those teams to realize that there's room for some fun, too.

The Great Race, which began June 23 in Traverse City, Michigan, is open to vehicles produced before the 1970 model year. This year's race -- the 30th such competition -- drew nearly 100 cars, each with a driver and at least one navigator. Those vehicles range from a 1907 Renault to a 1969 Saab, and with seemingly everything in between, including Fords, Chevys, Buicks, Hudsons, Packards, even a Studebaker, a Nash, a Peerless and a Hupmobile.

And one team is competing in true comfort -- a 1958 Rolls Royce.

Each team has selected a name, and this year's entries include the Professor & the Tooth Fairy, Old Age & Treachery, Two Old Men in a Studebaker, the Beerster Boys, the Dynamic Duo, Ragtop Rookies and Yooper Special.

And although one team has a much more formal name -- Historic Vehicle Association -- and a very serious mission -- helping to raise money to help families impacted by autism -- its driver and co-driver are wearing poodle skirts and period hairdos, and they've nicknamed their 1954 Oldsmobile Super 88 the "misadventure."

Or maybe I just misunderstood and it's really "Miss Adventure," though "misadventure" might be more accurate since the car already had suffered mechanical problems even before the competition began.

And that competition is serious. The Great Race -- officially Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty -- is not about all-out speed but the driver, navigator and vehicle's ability to reach checkpoints along the route at specified times and mileages. Make a wrong turn or check in a second late and it costs you points and places in the standings.

But while the competition is serious, the camaraderie becomes even more important.

Everyone loves the old cars, but it's the people who make this event, says Corky Coker, whose family not only owns the company that produces tires for vintage vehicles, but who liked the Great Race so much he became its owner, though you wouldn't know he was anything more than a typical volunteer if you'd seen him and heard his banter as he directed each vehicle to its parking place as they prepared for the start of the race in downtown Traverse City.

"The spectators who come and the people in the race are the best," he said. "They're passionate and everyone is having fun."

And while they are here to win, he added, once the driving is done every day, competitors will do whatever they can to help keep everyone on the road. Coker said he's even seen a team loan its spare engine just to keep a competitor from being sidelined.

From Traverse City, the competitors headed across the Mackinac Bridge into Michigan's Upper Peninsula and then crossed the international bridge at Sault Ste. Marie into Ontario. They re-enter the United States at the east end of Lake Ontario, and spend nights at Watertown and Buffalo, New York, as well as Warren and Findlay, Ohio, before crossing the finish line July 1 in Dearborn.

Dingman Dingman sale does $9.88 million

RM Auctions sale of Michael Dingman's car and automotive sign collection generated $9.88 million. The sale included nearly 50 vehicles and more than 1,000 signs, many of them neon.

"The Dingman Collection was without question one of the finest of its kind," said RM co-founder Mike Fairbairn, who added that "the results speak for themselves," both in terms of the quality of the collection and of RM's ability in "single-vendor" auctions.

Dingman was a Ford Motor Company board member for more than 20 years and is a well-known auto racer and New England businessman. His Pebble Beach class-winning 1936 ford Custom cabriolet by Glaser sold for $396,000 and his 1938 Lincoln Zephyr coupe brought $330,000.

Perhaps of even more interest was his collection of signs. A circa 1950 Ford "Jubilee" sign brought $39,100, a Lincoln Mercury sign went for $37,950 and a Ford Oval/Lincoln Mercury sign sold for $33,350. A collection of 21 Route 66 signs sold as a single lot for $29,900.

RM noted that 37 percent of bidders were first-time clientele.

Earlier in the year, RM staged a single-vendor sale of the Milhous Collection. In August, it handles the Aalholm Automobile Collection sale in Denmark, and in October the Charlie Thomas Collection in Texas.

Salmon Brothers Collection sells for $6.95 million

Also staging a successful single-vendor sale was Mecum Auctions, which disbursed the Salmon Brothers Collection in North Little Rock, Arkansas, where a 1934 Cadillac Fleetwood V12 all-weather phaeton, one of only three produced, went for $200,000, a 1936 Cord 810 Sportsman convertible coupe brought $135,000, and a 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible sold for $110,000.

Total sales for the nearly 140 vehicles totaled $6.95 million.

The collection had been accumulated for the last 50 years by twin brothers Tom and Don Salmon.

"I had no idea it was going to be this big of a deal," said Don Salmon, who praised the Mecum production. "We certainly hope all the new owners enjoy these cars as much as we did."

Lights, action, classic cars

Car collectors, and those who wish they could afford such a hobby, aren't the only people with a strong interest in our hobby.

Film-maker Michael Brown's The Quest made its West Coast debut earlier this year, showing the story of Chip Miller's quest to find and restore the first Corvette to win at Le Mans.

Now, car designer, historian and industrial design professor Del Coates and Oscar-nominated documentary maker Kirk Smallman have produced an 18-minute film about the Orphan Car Project by the League of Retired Auto Designers. The documentary was shot in a former Hudson dealership-turned-car museum in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and at that community's annual Orphan Car Show, which is held each September. (DVD copies of the film are available for $20 each from Coates at 7232 Via Vista, San Jose CA 95139.)

And Sam Smartt ad Chris Zaluski, graduate students in the documentary film program at Wake Forest University will debut their Wagonmasters film in conjunction wit the Concours d'Elegance of America in July at Plymouth, Michigan.

The movie runs 40 minutes and, according to its producers, remembers that "stations wagons were America's ‘workhorses on wheels.' Today, they conjure images of outdated family photos, over-sized hairdos and unfashionable wooden siding. There are some, however, who still cling to these vehicles and what they stand for in American culture. ‘Wagonmasters,' a full-length documentary film, offers glimpses into the lives of such wagon enthusiasts, and tells the story of the station wagon as it represents a changing America over the last one hundred years.

"At its heart, Wagonmasters is a film about reconnecting with America's past as one of its most memorable chapters comes to a close." (See the www.ConcoursUSA.org or www.wagonmastersthemovie.com websites for more details.)

Consider chronology when planning your next car show

Allow me to ask your consideration for an idea: At your club or community's next car show, how about parking the cars in chronological order?

Fins Late each spring, The Henry Ford Museum's Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, hosts its Motor Muster for vehicles from the 1933-76 model years (from the year after the introduction of Henry Ford's Flathead V8 through the American bicentennial).

One of the things I really like about the show, other than its amazing and historic backdrop, is its chronological format, which allows car owners and visitors alike to stroll first hand through a big part of American car history, seeing for themselves how design and architecture have evolved.

Click here for event calendar.

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