Photos by Larry Printz
It takes a bit of bravery to climb into a car manufactured no later than 1972 and head out on a 2,300-mile rally on public roads over nine days. Sure, you could win the $50,000 grand prize, but your only guidance is a pencil, paper, a speedometer and instructions that are handed to you 30 minutes before your departure each morning.
Now, imagine doing this in a foreign country, in a car that you’ve owned for a week. Just ask Tom Nawojczyk and Wally Leach, both citizens of the United Kingdom. They entered The Great Race, now in its 31st year, which started in Ogunquit, Maine on July 21 and ran through Rochester, New Hampshire; Lowell, Massachusetts; Bennington, Vermont; Poughkeepsie, New York; ,, East Stroudsburg and Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Portsmouth, Virginia; Elizabeth City, New Bern, Clinton and Wilmington, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida before ending June 29 south of Ocala. For Nawojczyk and Leach, it was about the adventure, not the prize money. Certainly their 1966 Jaguar 3.8S isn’t as well prepared for the race as they thought. “We bought the car on the Internet from a company that had been featured on the TV show ‘Chasing Classic Cars’,” Nawojczyk said at a stop in Portsmouth, Virginia. “We thought, ‘well, if he bought cars from them, they must be OK’. ” Still, they took no chances, sending it to a highly recommended shop to prepare it for the rally. They expected to spend $5,000. “Fifteen-thousand dollars later, we got the car back and half of the things on it didn’t work,” Nawojczyk said. “We weren’t very pleased.” Problems persisted, including rear brakes that locked up, and soon they found themselves on the side of the road. A passing motorist, whose father happened to have owned the same model car, stopped and recommended a nearby repair shop. “We found that the transmission, which had been spraying fluid everywhere, had a big hole where we presumed a bolt should be and also the rear transmission support bolt just wasn’t there. Fortunately we found this bloke. He worked four-and-a-half hours on the car, charged us $100 and repaired about five or six different things on it.” Nawojczyk and Leach made it to that night’s stop, sweating profusely in the hot southern sun. As if in sympathy, their car’s radiator was sweating as well, emitting an impressive stream of steam and water. But this is a race that attracts a wide range of drivers and cars. Let’s take a look via the Eye Candy gallery.