Family ties aplenty in 2015 Great Race

Since the first Great Race was held in 1983, the classic car road rally has always been a family affair. Families gather at each stop to get a look at the cars and meet the drivers, and families join forces to compete in it. This year is no different.

Brothers, fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, grandfathers and grandsons … it’s family first at the Great Race, which begins on Saturday, June 20, in Kirkwood, Mo., and travels west along old Route 66 for eight days before finishing on June 28 at the Santa Monica (Calif.) Pier.

McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Collector Car Insurance, presenting sponsor of the event, said the Great Race was one of the many car-related activities that he enjoyed with his father, Frank, who passed away in March 2014. It was also where he met longtime Great Race competitor John Hollansworth, who has become “like family.”

“My dad was a car guy from the generation that didn’t really distinguish between new cars and old cars. Cars were just cars to my dad,” Hagerty said. “He never looked at them as valuable or rare or collectible, just fun to drive and to work on.

“My sisters, my dad and I spent a lot of time together in the garage. Some of my earliest memories are of helping him – holding parts or passing tools. That was just the rhythm of our life. We were always sort of connected to automobiles in one way or another, so it was a natural platform for us to spend time together. It was a language we spoke and a way of life that were just used to.

“The Great Race is a lot like that; it’s just a natural partnership for us. It’s down-to-earth Americana.”

Hagerty said families that compete together in the Great Race have an opportunity to create lifelong memories.

“We live in a pretty fast-paced world, and the nice thing about old cars and events like the Great Race is the slower pace,” he said. “You don’t need electronic devices or the next-best thing; you just enjoy spending time together on the road. It’s one of those rare opportunities to do what we all say we should do more of but never seem to get around to doing.”

Hagerty has two entries in the 2015 Great Race. Jonathan Klinger and Davin Reckow are in a 1917 Peerless Green Dragon (which Hollansworth campaigned in the Great race 15 times or more), and the father-daughter team of Karl and Hannah Mikula will compete in a 1964½ Ford Mustang.

Look for more Great Race family profiles – beginning with the Mikulas’ story on Father’s Day – throughout the event.

For Stage 1 results, click here.

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T-Bird Family Ties

While initial raves suited the Early Bird’s creators to a T, market realities forced Ford’s hand to plan a radical change. The enlarged “Squarebird” of 1958 ensured Thunderbird drivers of a ride into a new decade as sales jumped a whopping 76 percent. The Thunderbird legacy rolled through 11 generations during its 50-year run. Introducing unitized body-frame construction into the mix, the Squarebird was followed by the restyled “Roundbird” from ’61 to ’63 with another unit-bodied Bird on the market from ’64 to ’66. Body-on-frame construction returned in ’67 for the fifth-generation Bird, a truly big machine offered with either two or four doors. The even-larger ’72 was basically a rebadged Lincoln. A unitized platform returned in ’77 beneath the downsized eighth-generation T-bird, based on Ford’s midsized LTD II. Award-winning aerodynamics adorned the ’83 model, and an even slicker shell debuted six years later. The story finally came full circle after J Mays’ nostalgic two-seater hit the streets in 2002.


To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Summer 2010 issue of Hagerty magazine.

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