Cannonball Fun

The History Channel's Great Race brings vintage jalopies rolling into Kirkwood

"Get Your Kicks in Kirkwood" party

Downtown Kirkwood, near the train station at Kirkwood Road and Argonne Drive

The cars of the Great Race come into Kirkwood at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 20. Featuring arts and crafts, kids' activities, dance and Muny Kids performances, a hot-air balloon, food booths, a Navy band show, a Harry Truman look-alike contest and Shriners in miniature cars takes place from noon-9 p.m. Admission to all events is free. Call 314-821-2882 for more info.

Every year, the History Channel sponsors a coast-to-coast race of some very special cars. The Great Race features more than 100 vintage autos that can still handle the highway, though many of them are true oddities.

A number of these unusual cars are restored former race cars. You can see a 1911 Velie H1 racytype speedster, a 1917 Hudson Indy racer, a 1921 Marmon speedster, a 1934 Ford Indy racer that was later a rocket-powered novelty and a 1938 Buick Shafer 8 racer. As carefully restored remnants of auto racing's past, they are fascinating to behold, and, like most cars from the good old days, they are also curvier.

Other vehicles include a 1916 American LaFrance fire chief's car, a 1925 Rickenbacker, a 1929 Ford Model A speedster, a 1929 Oldsmobile sports coupe, a 1930 Ford Model A pickup, a 1930 Pierce-Arrow, a 1934 Mercedes-Benz cabriolet, a 1943 World War II Jeep 4-by-4, a 1949 Volkswagen Hebmuller convertible, a 1951 MG, a 1957 Porsche 356 speedster and a 1957 Triumph TR3. These beauties will gradually make their way into downtown Kirkwood onWednesday, June 20, for an overnight stop.

The racers will stop in 44 cities over the course of the 14-day rally. They will cover 4,000 miles, from Atlanta to Pasadena, driving portions of the fabled Route 66.

Don't think the drivers of these dinosaur vehicles are only here to show off their prize specimens. Entry in the 19th running of the Great Race costs a whopping $5,500-$15,000, but the purse is the richest on the vintage-racing circuit. The winning teams divvy up $275,000.

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