The 2018 Great Race of vintage cars makes a stop at Mt. Washington Auto RoadBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent June 26. 2018 9:33PM
GREEN’S GRANT — The Mount Washington Auto Road celebrated a bucket-list moment on Tuesday as the host of a stop in the 2018 Hemmings Motor News Great Race of vintage cars.
Inspired by the 1965 movie of the same name that starred Tony Curtis as “The Great Leslie” and Jack Lemmon as his nemesis, “Dr. Fate,” and which itself was based on the real 1908 New York to Paris Race, the modern-day Great Race was born in 1983.
This year’s field of more than 120 cars features five that are 100 years or older, including a 1916 Hudson Hillclimber, a 1916 Chevrolet Baby Grand, a 1916 Hudson Super Six, a 1917 Peerless and a 1918 American LaFrance Speedster piloted by the team known as the Wandering Troubadours of Finland.
A self-described “time/speed/distance rally,” the race began June 23 in Buffalo, N.Y., and ends July 1 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The winning driver and navigator will receive a top prize of $50,000, with the entire purse measuring three times that amount, said Jeff Stumb, the race director.
Cars that compete in the Great Race must be built in 1972 or earlier “and obviously, you have to have the wherewithal,” Stumb continued, to commit both time and money to the pursuit.
On Monday, the racers traveled the length of Vermont, overnighting in Burlington, “and when you’re that close to the Mt. Washington Auto Road, you have to make it part of your event,” said Stumb.
He added that the Great Race began talking with auto-road officials about two years ago and received total support for its inaugural stop at the oldest manmade attraction in America.
This is the Great Race’s second time in the Granite State; the first was in 2014 when racers, on their way from Ogunquit, Maine, to The Villages in Florida, stopped for lunch in Rochester.
Based in Chattanooga, TN, the Great Race, which has competitors from all over the U.S. and Canada as well as Europe and Asia, will return to the auto road in the future, Stumb said.
The announcement should make Howie Wemyss, who has been the auto road’s general manager for 32 summers, very happy.
Wemyss said the first automobile — a steam-powered Stanley Locomobile — went up the auto road on Aug. 31, 1899 in two hours and 10 minutes, which was exactly one-half the time it took a horse-drawn wagon to make the climb.
“And for a venue like ours, which is car-based, having the Great Race come here is like a bucket-list item,” Wemyss.
In its 157-year history, he said the auto road has “seen the evolution of transportation” from animal power, to steam to the internal-combustion engine and — more recently — electric vehicles.
For Ted and Mary Stahl, who are from Grosse Point, MI., and are participating in the race in a 1967 Pontiac GTO, the 2018 Great Race is a family affair that also sees their children and grandchildren competing in six separate vehicles.
The recipients of the 2017 Great Race Tom McRae Spirit of the Event Award, Ted and Mary Stahl are also the owners of both a Leslie Special, which was modeled on a Thomas Flyer, and Dr. Fate’s “Hannibal Twin-8,” which Ted Stahl said has some “amazing engineering.”
Now in his eighth Great Race, Stahl said he continues to enter because “you’re competing against yourself and, second, in addition to the challenge it’s exhausting and exhilarating.”
There’s camaraderie “because you’re not competing directly” against other drivers, he said, and that camaraderie is very much in evidence “when your hood is up and 60 people stop to help.”
The lone New Hampshire entrant was Team 103, a 1940 Ford convertible named Moose Milker Special entered by George Gordon of Newbury and Bob Nerad of New London.