Students in Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s automotive technology program will have a once in a lifetime experience when they compete in The Great Race; a rally-style race with vintage vehicles race that begins in Buffalo, N.Y., and ends in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The cross-country race will take place from June 23 to July 1 and will run approximately 2400 miles. Each day GNTC’s team will stop at different checkpoints in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

Two students, Adam Grogan and Nicholas Barber, will alternate as drivers and two students, Zayne Waits and John Valle, will alternate as navigators. All four students are residents of Cedartown.

The Great Race is an endurance race with classic cars and all participants drive vintage vehicles. Each vehicle must be model year 1972 or older. GNTC’s “Team DeSoto” will drive a 1955 DeSoto Fireflite that was restored by the Automotive Technology program.

“The 1955 DeSoto is the first generation HEMI engine,” said Grogan. “It’s a pretty rare vehicle.”

Teams are given instructions each day to get to the next check point and they are not allowed to use GPS, cellphones, or computers. The race is not a speed race and the routes between checkpoints are scenic back roads.

“It’s not a race where you are trying to get to the finish line first,” said Rodney Parris, director of GNTC’s Automotive Technology program and leader of Team DeSoto. “You are trying to get to the finish line at a prescribed time.”

The only devices that teams are allowed to have in the car is a calibrated speedometer and a calibrated clock. The navigators will have to use math skills to figure out how to get to the next checkpoint as close as possible to the prescribed time they are given.

“It really takes you back to the ages of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s when there wasn’t GPS,” said Barber. “You are following instructions based on latitude and longitude and reading a map.”

Team DeSoto will compete in the X-Cup division of the Great Race, a special class that was created to encourage younger generations to take an interest in vintage vehicles.

“When it comes to these new cars that don’t have anything on the old ones,” said Waits. “There are no computers, all manual, and it has been awesome because there is a lot of history you learn working on these cars. 

GNTC’s participation in The Great Race was made possible by Patricia and Wayne Vick, who donated the DeSoto to GNTC’s Foundation and also donated all the parts that were needed for the restoration. The Vicks also are covering all hotel expenses for GNTC students and personnel involved in the Race.

Additional sponsors of Team DeSoto include: BullSnot! Tire Mounting and Rubber Lubricant; Heritage First Bank; OTR Wheel Engineering, Inc.; and Snap-On Incorporated.

Ultimately, The Great Race will teach the students unity and teamwork, which is needed in the field of Automotive Technology.

“This school is really awesome and I love my teachers,” said Valle. “They are kind of like a family to me.”