One after one, antique autos from around the country rumbled through the Water Street checkpoint in downtown Wilmington for one of the stops for the 2014 Hemmings Motor News Great Race on Thursday, June 26.
Started in 1983, the Great Race is an endurance car race that tests antique autos and their teams on cross-country routes throughout the United States.
This year’s route stretched nearly 2,500 miles from Ogunquit, Maine, to The Villages, Fla., and wound through cities along the Eastern Seaboard.
A large crowd lined the street in front of the Hilton Wilmington Riverside to welcome the antique autos ranging from 45 to nearly 100 years old.
Wilmington resident and Realtor Michelle Clark’s 1969 Dodge Charger General Lee led the parade into downtown with navigator Buddy Green and driver George Barbour behind the wheel.
Clark, who has owned the car for nearly one year, said her love for that specific model started when “The Dukes of Hazard” was on air from 1979-1985.
“I am a huge Bo Duke fan; I had a crush on him growing up and Buddy is into cars, and we were trying to find a car that I would be interested in,” Clark said. “I said, ‘The General Lee — that is easy.’”
This was the third year in a row Green served as navigator for a car in the Great Race, with his father, Bill Green, driving the first two years.
For the elder Green, competing in the Great Race was an item on his bucket list.
“I am enjoying every minute of it, but it is a little different being support and not being in the car this year,” Bill Green said.
Cars in the Great Race have to drive at or under the posted speed limits at all times and must adhere to a strict route and schedule to earn points. Directions for the routes are sent to the cars along the way to keep drivers and navigators on their feet.
As the navigator, Buddy Green said his job is to keep the car on the correct route and on the correct time.
“It is an eight- to nine-day math equation,” Green said. “It is like a treasure hunt, safari, old car challenge all at the same time. Going the speed limit or less still doesn’t give you enough time sometimes to do all the math work you have to do to stay on track.”
At every stop the teams have to survey their antique autos to check for any necessary repairs and, with the ages of some of the cars, Green said repairs are often needed.
“Our car is one of the newest out here and it is 45 years old,” he said. “You take a 45-year-old car and put 2,500 miles on it, there are going to be things that go wrong.”
The Great Race ended in Villages, Fla., on Sunday, June 29. For the third year in a row the winning team was Barry and Irene Jason from Keller, Texas, driving a 1969 Ford Mustang.