Photos: Page 1 | Page 2
The place to see most early automobiles these days is a museum. The antique "horseless carriages" were, and still are, finicky contraptions that often broke down. Rather than spend time repairing the machinery, owners of these pioneers of the auto industry usually restore them to better than new, then keep them in climate controlled buildings with "Do Not Touch" signs on the rope stanchions that surround the displays.
But there are plenty of auto fanatics who believe that these machines should be used as their makers intended, driven on the road, for all to see. For those people, there are events like the New London to New Brighton Antique Car Run. Not only do auto fans get to see the cars in action, but they get to touch, hear and smell them as well.
The New London to New Brighton Run began in 1987 as an adjunct to Stockyard Days, the annual city celebration in New Brighton, Minnesota. Someone got the idea to reinforce ties to Brighton, England, by mimicking the annual London to Brighton Commemorative Run held in England. While the British original covers 57 miles, the Minnesota version is double that in length at nearly 125 miles.
In keeping with the antique theme, the age of the cars is restricted, though this year the event opened its entry to any car built through 1912 (up from 1908 in past years), and any one or two-cylinder vehicles up to 1915. Electric and steam cars, and motorcycles of that era are also welcome.
The condition of the cars entered ranges from nearly original, including faded paint or rust, to highly restored and polished. Most sport some non-original additions like a windshield and top, considered necessary for the "high" speeds attainable on todayís paved roads, over 20 mph in some cases. There are cars whose names that are best known as answers in trivia games and crossword puzzles: REO, Maxwell, Stanley and Brush. And there are marques that have survived a century and are available today: Buick, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile.
Old car festivities in New London, a farming community located west of Minneapolis, begin early in the week. Daily auto tours are held beginning on Wednesday to allow participants a chance to work out the kinks for the big event on Saturday.
Beginning at 7:00 on Saturday morning, the cars are waved off from downtown New London. This year there were 54 cars and one motorcycle that made the start. Many teams keep in the spirit of the era by wearing clothing appropriate to the period -- dusters and skimmers for the men, long skirts and frilly blouses for the women. All along the course, people park lawn chairs in front yards and at intersections, waving and cheering at the site of the elderly machines as they sputter past. Many have cameras to record the moment.
Friendly Minnesotans at planned rest stops along the route tempt the tour participants with food all day long. For those that succumb, it can be a day of feasting and chugging, though the chugging is the sound the engines make as they labor to climb the rolling hills through the farmland, and not consuming large amounts of beverages. There is a pancake breakfast before the cars are waived off. Then there are mid-morning stops in Manannah and Litchfield for - depending on the weather - coffee and hot chocolate, or lemonade. Next stop is late morning in Kingston, where the Lions Club has a pig roast accompanied by fresh-picked corn on the cob. Lunch finds the tour at the high school in Buffalo, where the Wright County Car Club serves Buffalo burgers and root beer floats. The route makes its way to the Minneapolis suburbs, pausing in Crystal for cookies and lemonade. Then itís back on the road for a final half hour to New Brightonís Long Lake Park, where the mayor hands out keychains to the city, and there are dozens of booths serving a variety of tasty comestibles.
Since this all took place in Minnesota, it would not be a proper report without a summary of weather. August weather in Minnesota can vary greatly, but on this particular Saturday, conditions were pretty typical: warm with the threat of rain in the morning, warmer with a brief shower or two in the afternoon, warmer still with high humidity in the later afternoon. Those that had windshields and tops made use of them during the rainy run from Buffalo to Crystal, but most left the tops down the remainder of the day.
The New London to New Brighton Run is not a race but a tour, so early arrival at the finish line is discouraged. That way fans at the end may witness all the cars that make the full distance as they pass under the FINISH banner. Those cars that complete the run net their owners a commemorative medallion; those that fail along the way will get a little more attention and more determination from those owners to collect a medallion for the following year. This year there were 49 cars that earned a medallion, and another six that left the start line but were unable to complete the course.
by Tim Winker
Photos from the 2000 Antique Car Run: Page 1 | Page 2
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