A thunderstorm hit just as they drove their 1928 Boattail Speedster into town as part of the Hemmings Motor News Great Race — a 2,300-mile car rally circling the great lakes.
As the vehicle they're riding in has no roof, the couple felt the full force of mother nature.
“It's a little bit chilly at times,” Shirley said, speaking to Northern Life in the parking lot at the South End A&W Restaurant, where the Great Race participants gathered.
“There's a few of us that have to endure the open cars. Most of them have closed cars.”
The Lowes are from Clinton, Missouri, where David is the co-owner of a business called Champion Brands, which manufactures motor oils, automotive chemicals and lubricants.
“We're one of the sponsors of the Great Race,” he said. “We wanted to participate, and we thought it would be a great way to see Canada.”
The vehicle itself, owned by David's business partner, is a replica of an early racing car, he said.
“That car has an engine, transmission, rear end and a shifter and a seat and a steering wheel, and that's about it,” he said. “You don't have any of the amenities that go along with modern day cars. It's pretty reliable though.”
David said it's their first time in this part of Canada, and they've really enjoyed it so far.
“It's a beautiful country, and the Canadian people are very cordial,” he said.
The rally features 91 classic, vintage and collectible cars, according to Brian “Motor Mouth” Goudge, the Great Race's announcer. The oldest car entered in
this year's rally is a 1905 Renault, and the newest a 1969 Saab, he said.
The Great Race started in Travese City, Michigan June 23, crossing into Canada a day later.
There was supposed to be a Great Race event in Elliot Lake, Ont. June 24, but organizers held an abbreviated version due to the collapse of part of the roof at the local mall.
The rally will travel through much of Ontario before heading back into the United States later this week. Participants will then cross New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio before reaching their final destination — Dearborn, Michigan — on July 1.
Goudge explains that the rally isn't about speeding to destinations. If participants pass through checkpoints exactly when they're supposed to, they can achieve a perfect score.
“If they go through at the precise moment they should be, that's a zero, or an ace,” he said.
“If they're three seconds early, they'll be penalized three points. If they're five seconds late, they'll be penalized five points. At the end of the day, we accumulate all the errors, and they establish the score.”
There's about $120,000 in prize money on the line for the rally's winners.
Goudge, an Ottawa, Ont. resident, said he's been the Great Race's announcer since 1995. He said he's had many wonderful experiences during past rallies, including meeting Tony Curtis, one of the stars of the 1965 movie The Great Race.
“That year — I believe it was 2002 — we had the cars from the movie The Great Race competing,” Goudge said. “We put Mr. Curtis into his old car from the movie. He crossed the finish line with us.”
Unlike the Lowes, Annegret and Uni Reichmann didn't have to deal with being rained on as they drove into Greater Sudbury.
Their tricked-out 1957 Nash Rambler — an early station wagon — kept them nice and dry. Annegret said she feels sorry for those travelling in open vehicles.
“I see the rain coming and I kind of cringe for them,” she said.
“We are not made out of sugar. We don't melt. But when raindrops hit us at 20 or 30 or 50 miles an hour, it hurts. And you get wet, and at some point, you're just done with being wet.”
Annegret, who doesn't need much encouragement to talk about her car, said the backseat folds down into a bed — something which has prompted some interesting confessions from people she's talked to.
“We have met people on the way – even on this race, who could tell us stories,” she said. “I say 'No, no, too much information. I do not need to know how you were conceived in here.'”
The Reichmanns, who currently live in Portland, Oregon, said they used to reside in Chicago, Illinois, and are very familiar with the great lakes.
“When we heard the Great Race was going around the great lakes, we said we had to go, because it's seriously gorgeous,” Annegret said.
Denise Desrochers attended the event with her husband, Rob, children, Desiree and Bradley, and mother, Claudette.
“We've always loved old cars, and wanted to come and check it out,” she said. “For the kids, they like the vehicles that look like the characters from the Disney movie Cars.”
For Claudette, seeing the vintage cars brought back memories.
“I remember my uncle had a model A in the 1940s,” she said. “Then my husband was into older cars. He had a 1954 Buick at one point, and one that looked like the Batmobile.”
For more information about the Great Race, visit www.greatrace.com.
Posted by Arron Pickard