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Great Race to bring lovers of classic cars

One of the premiere vintage car rallies will make a pit stop in Buffalo.

Organizers of "The Great Race" announced Friday that Buffalo will be an overnight stop at next year's annual antique automobile trek, as the route winds around the Great Lakes in June.

As many as 100 old automobiles are expected to participate, attracting hundreds -- if not thousands -- of antique car enthusiasts to Buffalo's Pierce-Arrow Museum on June 28.

"When the Great Race pulls into a city, it becomes an instant festival," said Jeff Stumb, the race director based in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Started in 1983, the Great Race takes its name from the 1965 Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon movie, but the event is more about staying on time than speed.

The driver and navigator in each vehicle are given precise instructions each day of the nine-day race. They are scored at check points along the way and penalized each second they are early or late.

The lowest score wins the race.

The cars -- built between 1911 and 1969 -- are staggered a minute apart, so the first car should roll into Buffalo at about 5 p.m. with the rest of the racers crossing the finish line over the next hour and a half.

"It's quite a show," said James T. Sandoro, owner of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum. "And if they get the number of cars they're predicting, there's going to be 100 automobiles in the race. We anticipate 4,000 to 5,000 people at the event that day."

Sandoro lured the race to Buffalo, which will tie in with next year's opening of his museum's 45,000-square-foot addition at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Seneca Street.

"He is the sole reason we're coming to Buffalo," Stumb said. "His museum is world-class and the expansion he's doing there is phenomenal. It's going to be a showpiece for Buffalo, and we wanted to be a part of that."