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Milestone for vintage autos; With lots of fanfare,
Great Race in town
1st time in 25 years

Since June 23, Paul Magoolaghan has been getting lists at the end of each day. He will get his last one Sunday – the day the Great Race ends in Dearborn, Mich.

Luckily, the list of repairs needed to the 1907 Renault Vanderbilt Racer was short Thursday, when the annual antique automobile competition came to Buffalo for the first time in 25 years, stopping at the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum.

The list Thursday said to tighten the steering and the wheels and to change the battery for the lights. Lastly, it noted that two deer ran out in front of the rare vehicle Thursday – one at 10:06 a.m. and the other at 3:13 p.m.

"It's a pretty small list today," said Magoolaghan, chief mechanic of the car that sold for $15,000 in 1907 and was one of 11 made for W.K. Vanderbilt. The 45-year-old California resident added that the list was two pages Wednesday and the car had a broken clutch a couple days earlier.

"If you have no clutch in this car, you can't stop it," he said.

The Great Race started with a little more than 90 cars June 16 in Traverse City, Mich., and 78 made it to the Buffalo overnight stop. The first car arrived shortly after 5 p.m., with one crossing Michigan Avenue onto Seneca Street about every minute until 6:15 p.m., which resulted in 66 vehicles parked on the street.

There was about a half-hour delay before the remaining 12 cars made it to the Buffalo stop because of an accident involving one of the cars earlier in the day east of Fairport, where the competition had stopped about noon Thursday.

The vehicle, carrying the driver, navigator and a young girl, was rear-ended by a van attempting to pass, causing the car to flip onto its side. None of the three was hurt, but their Great Race came to an end. Wednesday, that team was only 1.7 seconds off of a perfect time. Teams are penalized for arriving too early or too late at checkpoints in the nine-day endurance race around the Great Lakes that covers about 2,100 miles.

"It's a competitive rally," said Brian "Motormouth" Goudge, who brought each car in by announcing the driver, navigator and vehicle make and model. "They must follow instructions precisely."

The oldest car was the 1907 Renault and the newest a 1969 Pontiac GTO. Most of the vehicles were from the 1916 to mid-1920s era. Some grabbed the attention of the couple of thousand people gathered on Seneca Street more than others, prompting them to snap photos.

After all 78 cars were in and parked on Seneca shortly before 7 p.m., the event morphed into a full-blown car show as people looked inside the cars and under the hoods.

Mayor Byron W. Brown thanked Great Race officials for returning to Buffalo and the museum for their role in the event. He also wasn't upset about the race stopping overnight.

"Many of the hotels in downtown Buffalo are sold out," he said.

Corky Coker, Great Race owner, said 25,000 people came out to send the drivers off June 23 and about 15,000 attended when the cars motored into Fairport earlier in the day.

"New York's been kind to us," Coker said.

But for Rick McIntosh and Brent Powley, Thursday was a little rough on their 1930 Ford Speedster 33, sponsored by MAC's Antique Auto Parts in Lockport. McIntosh, co-owner of MAC's and the vehicle's navigator, said they cracked an engine block but were able to "limp it in."

"We're not sure we're going to be able to finish," McIntosh said, adding that the car won its division on the second day and is currently in fifth or sixth place.

"It's a great car to drive," McIntosh said. "But we drive it like we stole it."

In a race where seconds make all the difference, some teams were focused on the places along the way because they had already come to grips with not winning.

Gary Kuck, of Lincoln, Neb., owner and navigator of a 1917 Hudson dubbed "Silver Bullet," won the Great Race in 1998 and 1999. But after a couple of mistakes Thursday, Kuck said he knows he won't win his third.

"We're not going to win this year," said Kuck, of Lincoln, Neb. "I already know."

Alan and Mary Travis, owners of the 1907 Renault, won the Great Race in 1984, 1987 and 1993. They then took a long break and are participating this year because the cooler weather isn't as hard on their vintage car as their home state of Arizona.

"This is like January to us," Alan said, although temperatures in Buffalo on Thursday were above 80 degrees.

But the car presents more challenges than being particular to the weather, as it has wooden wheels, difficult steering, a hand brake for slowing down and requires three gallons of oil daily because of the total loss system.

Still, Alan wouldn't trade in his 105-year-old car for anything, especially more modern cars.
"All those cars have nuisances," he said. "They get in the way."

But at the end of each day, it comes down to chief mechanic Magoolaghan, who has 51 items on his checklist for the vehicle.

But by the next day, the vehicle is polished and cleaned after Magoolaghan gets up at 5 a.m. to attend to it.

"It's all ready to go in the morning," he said.


email: jharris@buffnews.com