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End of the Road : Vintage Cars Parade to Mark End of Great American Race

Times Staff Writer

Main Street U.S.A. became the main drag Friday.

More than 100 vintage cars paraded through Disneyland to mark the end of the seventh annual Great American Race, a 12-day, 3,660-mile transcontinental rally that tests precision driving and endurance--in cars often older than their crews.

Thousands of park visitors lined the turn-of-the-century street to watch the cars, some more than 80 years old, file past Goofy and Mickey Mouse after crossing 10 states in pursuit of $250,000 in prizes.

Despite the hoopla--a ticker tape welcome for race winners and a gaggle of television crews from as far away as Japan--racers said the rally from Norfolk, Va., to Anaheim was serious business.

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No ‘Cannonball Run’

“This isn’t ‘Cannonball Run,’ ” racer Justus Taylor of Bennington, Vt., said, referring to the Burt Reynolds movie about a free-for-all race across the country. “This is a classic .”

Despite arduous days of heat and rain and being cramped in automobiles that weren’t designed for comfort, 97 of 113 original entries completed the route.

“It’s a spectacle that celebrates our national love affair with cars,” said Tom McRae, the race’s executive director, flanked by Disney characters.

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For the first time, the rally took racers from east to west. And speed took a back seat to precision.

Race officials gave drivers and navigators several pages of specific instructions before the each leg of the race began at 6 each morning, starting June 26. Crews, using only stopwatches and odometers, then had to follow pre-established speeds and routes during which their times were recorded to determine how far they were from being on schedule. Wrong turns or going too slow or too fast were costly.

The winners, driver Dick Burdick of Rosanky, Tex., and navigator Wayne Bell of Lake Oswego, Ore., finished just 2 1/2 minutes behind schedule, a feat few computer-aided modern cars could probably match. They won the race--and $65,000 in prizes--in a red 1924 Bentley after having previously finished second two years in a row.

“You won’t find a better car on the road,” Burdick said in a Texas twang, wearing a red leather racing cap.

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Second place went to Wayne Stanfield of Tustin, who, with driver Alan Travis of Phoenix, missed winning for the second year in a row after beating the field in 1987.

“He just flat out beat us,” Stanfield said of Burdick while relaxing in the Emerald of Anaheim Hotel after the race. “I know what that’s like.”

Stanfield and Travis, riding in a blue 1916 Egge Mitchell Roadster, led until the last leg of the race, but Burdick finished strong after having four flat tires Wednesday.

Finished 3rd in Packard

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Ty Holmquist of San Clemente, another of several Orange County entrants, finished third in a 1934 Packard.

The race was divided into two classes: one for cars built between 1916 and 1936 and another for cars built before 1916. Driver David Kleptz and navigator Wayne Wiley of Terre Haute, Ind., won the pre-1916 category in their yellow 1912 Haynes Speedster.

Racers from more than 30 states riding in cars built in six countries took part in the rally. The route took them from Norfolk to Baltimore, back down to Richmond, Va., and later through North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The cavalcade traveled from Phoenix to San Diego on Thursday before heading to Anaheim Friday.

Antique-car enthusiasts gathered on the parking lot of the Emerald near Disneyland to watch racers park black sedans built in the 1930s and two-seaters used in the 1900s.

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“I remember my dad tinkering around with some of these things,” said Will Hassel of Marion, Ohio.

Racers said driving across country in such cars takes patience, quick thinking and a knack for improvising, because parts are rare.

“It also takes an understanding wife,” Bell said.

Stanfield, a plumber, said racers develop a camaraderie seen in few competitions.

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“The race itself is family,” said Stanfield, his white overalls smeared with grease after repairing a broken water pump during his seventh race across the country. If someone’s car breaks down, he said, an opponent often stops to help make repairs. “He’s helping you fix it so you can beat him tomorrow,” Stanfield said.


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