MG World

The 1999 Great Race
by Doug Pulver

  Photo by Douglas S. Pulver

This year the History Channel Great Race ran a southern route from Marietta, Georgia to Anaheim, California.  Each year since the inaugural race in 1983, the race has taken its participants with their vintage cars across the nation through �uniquely American places and experiences like Disneyland�s Main Street USA, the Grand Canyon, a parade down Broadway in the Big Apple, the Indy 500 . . .  Mt. Rushmore, [and] Niagara Falls�.  

Photo by Douglas S. PulverThis event is billed as a rally/race because it is a controlled race with multiple legs. The winner each day is not the car which finishes inPhoto by Douglas S. Pulver the shortest time but the one which most closely matches the �ideal� time given the intricate and very detailed driving instructions. To make it even more difficult, �no electronic devices are allowed and odometers are removed or sealed . . . . Racers may use only a wrist watch, an analog clock, speedometer and pencil and paper; that�s all.�  

Photo by Douglas S. PulverThe 1999 Great Race stormed La Mesa, California for the last overnight stop before the final leg through the mountains of San Diego and Riverside counties to the Center Street Promenade in downtown Anaheim.  The late afternoon event began with an honor guard presenting the colors, singing of the Star Spangled Banner, The Pledge of Allegiance, and Barbershop Quartet singing.  The locals were whipped to a fevered pitch by a high energy announcer as they anxiously awaited the 75 plus automobiles arriving as a �rolling museum of motor history�.  

Photo by Douglas S. PulverAs you walked down La Mesa Boulevard to look at the cars and speak with the drivers you found that each had a fascinating story about their car, how they got into the race and their experiences along the way. This year�s race included such cars as a 1910 Selden Raceabout, a 1911 Velie, a 1917 Simplex, a 1921 Paige Speedster, a 1927 Hispano Suiza Phaeton, a 1932 Riley-Ford G/P Racer, and a 1949 Packard 2 Door Deluxe.  

Photo by Douglas S. PulverClearly my favorite was entry 37 from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a 1948 MGTC owned and driven  by Dean Kjelden. Dean had purchased the partially disassembled former rally car for $2,400 in Canada where it laid in storage for 40 years! As the bonnet side panels were missing, I was able to take note of the chassis number plate and get Dean�s attention by saying �I notice by your car�s chassis number that it was manufactured in October of 1948�. (Did I mention that although I don�t carry any pictures of my family in my wallet, I do carry the build dates of all the MGTCs?) He was impressed enough that he spent some time telling me about his car. For example, the front wheels are center-laced but for added strength the rear wheels aren�t. He also speculated that the bonnet �bulge� might have at one time housed a supercharger - but not now.  This was Dean�s second year with the TC in the Great Race. Last year he finished 5th in the Rookie Class.  

Each year promises to be better than the last.  If the Great Race passes through your town in the future treat yourself to a very unique and fun afternoon of motorcar spectating in a uniquely American carnival-like atmosphere.

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