During next June’s running of the esteemed Great Race of vintage automobiles, competitors will make a stop at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI.
Over 120 pre-1972 autos will be traveling more than 2,200 miles from Jacksonville, FL to Traverse City, MI—much of it along the historic Dixie Highway—in a nine-day vintage car endurance rally competition.
Of the over 100 entrants, about six teams from high school and college programs will run in the X-Cup Division, while they won’t compete for cash, they will compete for possible student scholarship funds and “an experience of a life time,” according to Fred Colgren, Education Director of the Gilmore Car Museum.
Colgren recently announced that a team of high school students from the Museum’s Gilmore Garage Works, an after-school program that provides hands-on involvement with maintaining and restoring vintage cars, will run in the 2017 Great Race. Unlike the name implies, it’s not about high speed racing but an endurance rally where following precise instructions and arriving on time each day are key.
The Museum began Garage Works in 2008 to help fill the void left after several local schools eliminated shop classes. The Gilmore utilized its facility and staff members, along with volunteer mentors made up of area hobbyists. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings each semester about two dozen area students team up with a nearly equal number of mentors. Together they have completely restored the chassis of a 1931 Willys and 1909 Buick, a handful of vintage motorcycles, and are currently working on a Model A pickup, 1948 Lincoln V-12, and a 1935 Packard Sedan.
During the summer of 2017 three of the adult mentors (race rules require drivers be 21 or older) and six of the students will make the Garage Works team for the Great Race. The students become the navigators, guiding the driver’s way and making all the calculations during the trip. Mechanical repairs are also the sole duty of the team. Following only precise turn-by-turn written instructions that include such directions as how many seconds to sit at stop signs or the exact speed and distance to accelerate to, the navigators must assist the driver without using maps, GPS or calculators, though stop watches and pencils are allowed. Last year’s overall winner concluded the race in just 1 minute and 20.3 seconds off the perfect race time (a designated time they only learn of only after the race).
The Gilmore car selected to run the Great Race is a 1935 Packard that was donated to Garage Works by Bea Dinger as it was a restoration project left unfinished by her late husband Bud. While much had been done over the years by various groups of Garage Works students, the sedan still required more work than the program had hours available to complete. To meet the race and training deadlines a group of Museum staff and volunteers have taken it on as an added project in order to give the students a jump start on finishing it in time for the event.
Overall, Colgren believes it is the life lessons that students take away from Garage Works that are most valuable to them. “You never know the impact you’re going to have on a student,” he explained. “We are thrilled to give our students the remarkable opportunity to run in the Great Race— the world’s premiere vintage car endurance rally.”
The Gilmore Car Museum is a public, 501(c)3 non-profit institution, dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the American automobile. Education is at the core of our mission and we rely solely on the financial donations to maintain our on-going educational endeavors such as Garage Works, free K-12 school field trips, community outreach, as well as entering an X-Cup team into the Great Race. To learn how you can get involved and inspire the next generation please visit GilmoreCarMuseum.org.