The couple knew they were witnessing something special June 27 in Mount Pleasant.
"I don't think I've seen anything like this before," said Jackie Holst, who bought a covered lawn chair to watch dozens of classic models in the yearly Great Race motor onto the grounds at Patriots Point.
"They may not do this (again) on the East Coast for 10-15 years," husband Jerry Holst added.
Mount Pleasant was one of 10 stopover cities and towns on the Great Race route this year, which covered 2,100 miles from Ogunquit, Maine, to The Villages, Fla. Ending the seventh leg of the annual rally, the East Cooper town made the most of it with a star-spangled celebration full of wavable-sized American flags and a greeting party of 100 local classic cars.
The town's mayor, Linda Page, was named an honorary driver for a day.
"We're excited," said Chris Hauff, public information officer at Patriots Point. He numbered the late afternoon crowd on a sunny day in the "thousands. You couldn't ask for better weather," he said.
According to the event guide, 109 cars dating from 1916 through 1972 registered to compete in the rally. Rather than a speed race, the event showcases vehicles with a driver and navigator who combine to meet checkpoints at pre-determined times. The closer they get to matching the clock, the better their score.
Hemmings Motor News and Hagerty classic car insurer were chief sponsors of the 2014 Great Race. Each year, the event takes a different path, typically cross country, from south to north or like this year, north to south. The 2015 rally is expected to follow famed highway Route 66.
Race director Jeff Stumb said he was pleased with how this year's event was progressing. Along with generally good weather, "the attrition has been low." He said Mount Pleasant has been "awesome" as an overnight stop.
"We knew we wanted to stop in this area for a couple of reasons." At least a dozen Lowcountry car enthusiasts have taken part in the Great Race, and Charleston was the starting point for the 1992 rally.
Organizers met with Patriots Point officials, and "they got it," Stumb said. "They deal with a lot of old stuff," he said. Stumb rated Mount Pleasant with New Bern, N.C., Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Lowell, Mass., as top overnight stops.
The Great Race cars started arriving at Patriots Point from Myrtle Beach around 4:30 p.m. They droved past the local cars on display, stopping to wave or get their picture taken. Friendly crowds lined the roadway, viewing everything from a 1932 Ford coupe to a futuristic looking 1937 Bugatti Atlantic tribute car.
Some drivers and navigators wore googles and caps and a pre WWII police car blew its siren. California car buff Erin Kaplan was dressed in a period pink poodle skirt to match her 1957 Ford Thunderbird.
"We are rookies,' said the driver, who counts on her husband Brad Kaplan to navigate. "The first few days we got lost a few times."
Drivers and navigators drove under a big archway to be introduced by the Great Race announcer, Brian Goudge.
Among the supportive people in the audience was Fay Minshew of Johns Island. Her husband Joe Minshew participated in the Great Race numerous times. One of his entries ran on propane. His cars included a 1917 Hudson and 1929 Ford Model A, which were on display on the infield. So was a blue 1932 Ford Roadster, which he was fixing up when he died in 2005.
The Minshews got involved in 1992 when Charleston was the race's starting point. Watching the start from Marion Square, Joe Minshew pledged he was going to race the next year. The couple didn't own a classic car but bought one by 1993.
"I'm so excited about it," Fay Minshew said. "I was a little sad for awhile." But she's grateful to have gone. "I've seen so many people (from past races)."
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.
Jean Ann Martin, navigator in a 1938 Ford Coupe, gives a real “high five” to a program seller after entering Patriots Point. Gary and Jean Ann Martin of Louisville, Ky., partnered in the Great Race this year from Maine to Florida (Jim Parker/Staff 6-27-2014).×
The 1937 Bugatti Atlantic tribute car, one of three ever built, took part in the Great Race. Peter and Barbara Vicari of New Orleans were the driver and navigator. They pulled into Patriots Point June 27 (Jim Parker/Staff 6-27-2014).×