Howard Sharp puts the Great Race in his own words

September 19, 2011


Here is the Great Race in my own words.

WOW! Great Race 2011 and we won it all in a 1911 Velie! The car is now called “The Famous Velie”. Out of 67 cars, our 100-year-old Velie car competed in the Great Race and successfully captured the checkered flag.

I bought this car in 1993 from Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, South Dakota. During the purchase I asked the museum to see if the motor would turn over on the hand crank, and they said “Yup!” Upon receiving the car and pulling the motor, WestFall Machine informed me that the only thing inside the motor was the crank. That was a shock. No wonder it turned over.

Egge Parts & Machine in California sponsored us on our first Great Race with the Velie. They provided pistons, connecting rods, valves and a cam. That was their sponsorship to us for the 1994 Great Race. Westfall Machine in Buffalo machined all the parts to fit and assembled the engine. Needless to say it would never make the 1994 race.

Our first Great Race with the Velie was from Ottawa, Canada to Mexico City, Mexico in 1995. We finished 3rd place and no problems. Since then we’ve completed 9 Great Races with this car with numerous problems.

This year was our 11th Great Race with the Velie. We’ve put approximately 70,000 miles since our first Great Race with it in 1995. The motor has never been rebuilt, not even the valves adjusted. Westfall Machine did a good job.

In 2011 we entered the Great Race from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Bennington, Vermont. We thought a lot about the Appalachian Trail that we were going to encounter all the way. But we took the challenge anyway with the Velie.

We did encounter problems such as not being able to pull hills at speed. We really got jammed up in Pennsylvania. We got the 100-year-old Velie so hot that we melted the soldered stem off the radiator, opened up the seam and melted partial areas around the top tank…not good. Needless to say we flooded our motor with Evans coolant. Evans coolant is a product that will run at 350 degrees without boiling. My theory is if you don’t boil it dry, it won’t overheat at 350 degrees, plus we were boiling water and that’s when the problems began. We packed the radiator with rags and towels, cooled it down, filled it with more Evans and proceeded to make up the time we lost. Good thing I have an L-head motor with no head gaskets.

We made it to Binghamton, New York and found a radiator shop, where we soldered it back together and later went to bed. The next morning “The Famous Velie” would not start! We now go into panic mode and tow it with the Suburban (our support vehicle) at about 40mph. It fires, it pops, it bangs on 1 and then 2 cylinders. The motor is literally drenched. We unhook and started our journey. When we have the opportunity to stop, we wipe and dry as much electric as we could on the car.

Around noon we notice our front tire sidewall is starting to crack, open up, separate and slap the road like a tractor-trailer tire. We make it to the finish gate that night and as we’re pulling in, the tube goes flat. My son said, “Dad, don’t move the car.” I said “Why?” He said, “We’re going to put a new tube in the tire and run it tomorrow. We’re 2-1/2 seconds out of first place. Tomorrow is the last day, we have 150 miles to go.” I said, “I don’t think we can run the tire.” He said, “Dad, that is our pattern tire that is calibrated to our car since the beginning when we left Chattanooga. If we change the tire, we will lose the race. If we get a flat we will lose the race. That’s the chance I’m going to take. Because we can win the race, but we need this tire.” Needless to say, we ran the tire and we did not have a flat.

We won the race with a 6-1/2 second margin over the 2nd place car. God bless the tire! The rest is history. THE FAMOUS 100-YEAR-OLD 1911 VELIE H1 RACYTYPE WON THE WHOLE RACE!

Thank you,
Howard Sharp

One comment about “Howard Sharp puts the Great Race in his own words”

  • Great to see the race back on again and better even to see it’s goping to be on TV. I remember a number of years ago when it ran a southern route across Louisiana and Texas with a visit to Galveston, well when I saw the route would be through Orange and Beaumont Texas I took off work for the day and drove the 200 miles trip to be at the rest stop in the Babe Dedrickson park in Beaumont to see the cars and talk to the drivers. Wonderful event!!!!

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