Classic Car Invasion of Batavia
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Classic Car Invasion of Batavia

Jun 26, 2018

The classic cars would pull into Speedway gas station or Arby’s as the drivers fueled up or grabbed some food. They might check their engines or make sure their horns were working.

Inevitably, the sight of the colorful automobiles would attract curious onlookers, who would ask the drivers or passengers if they could take a picture of the cars. Drivers seemed to be more than happy to oblige them before getting back on the road to continue their journeys.

Saturday was the first day of the Hemmings Motor News Great Race from Buffalo to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with about 120 cars participating. The nine-day competition ends Sunday after the cars have travelled through New York, New England, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“The Great Race National Event and Great Race Regional rallies are automotive competitions based on precision driving and navigational skills in classic, antique, and vintage automobiles,” read the description on the event’s webpage, “The events are timed, controlled-speed, endurance rallies — not top-speed races. Each vehicle must follow a prescribed common route while attempting to maintain assigned average speeds.”

Among those refueling in Batavia Saturday afternoon were Bill Josler of White River Junction, Vt., and his son, Will Josler of St. Johnsbury, Vt., who were in Bill Josler’s 1929 Model A Ford. The elder Josler is in his 12th Great Race and his son is taking part in his first.

“Our route will be 2,300 miles. It’s all precision and timing,” Bill Josler said. “We’re on a course that’s set up by a rallymeister. We have a book that tells us what we’re supposed to be doing and if we do everything we’re supposed to be doing, we’ll be in the right place at the right time.”

Will Josler said he wanted to see what it was like to be in the Great Race after hearing everything his dad had to say about it.

“My dad was my motivation for doing this,” Will Josler said. “He’s enjoyed it for years, brought home a lot of stories.”

Will Josler said people love to see the car and ask if they take a picture of it. If you’re driving down the road, people may honk their horns at you.

Another classic car that pulled into Speedway Saturday was John Barrett’s 1953 Hudson Hornet, which Barrett said used to win most of the NASCAR races.

While the Athens, Ga., resident was in the Arby’s parking lot, Troy Diehl of Pavilion and his son, Miles, came up to him.

Miles, 6, asked if he could see the car and Barrett let him get behind the wheel and check it out.

“I really like the car!,” Miles ee

He said he liked the outside of it, too. The Diehls thanked Barrett for the chance to see his car.

“We were about to leave and we saw him,” said Troy Diehl.

Steve Hedke of Los Angeles, CalIf., and Peter Hersey were in the Great Race, with Hersey driving his 1934 Ford Indy Car replica.

“Peter’s done it nine times. I’ve done it 15 times in different cars,” Hedke said, explaining the duo’s history with the Great Race.

“It’s not a race, it’s a precision-driving event, where you’re given the time and the speed, but not the distance, so you have to stay on the time, at the speed they give you and make all the turns they tell you to do,” he said.

“If you do everything right, all the cars are one minute apart,” he said.

By Brian Quinn, Batavia Daily News

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