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Speedsters turn San Benito County into race course

Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club used Hollister as a home base for the Endurance Run. The roads in the San Jose area have become too populated.
Photo by Noe Magaña
Photo by Noe Magaña
Photo by Noe Magaña
Photo by Noe Magaña

Pre-1927 race cars and pre-1940 automobiles took over San Benito County backroads for the second time on Sunday, June 17 during the 49th annual Endurance Run and Lowland Tour. The event is put on by the Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club.

Steve Nelson and his mechanic Jeanne Nelson won first place in the non-competitive race, where the focus is on enjoying the scenic route. Ray Fontaine came in second with no mechanic, and Peder Jorgensen and mechanic Maria Jorgensen came in third.

“It’s kind of the luck of the draw, you know,” Steve Nelson said. “It was a very enjoyable trip.”

Nelson said he has participated in the Endurance Run about eight times throughout the years, coming in third last year with his mechanic Dani McEachern. He also plans to participate next year.

Three cars were towed to Tiffany Ford for mechanical problems during the race, something Fontaine is proud to not be part of that list. He said that in 18 races, his 1914 bearcat speedster has never broken down. He also said he hasn’t had the same mechanic on any of the races.

“It’s a bal!” Fontaine said. “It really is.”

Stephen Halverson didn’t have a smooth event like Fontaine. He said he bought and installed a used distributor on his car. The distributor gave him timing problems, but he managed to fix it that morning before the race. He also broke the spring purge. With all of the morning focused on fixing the car, Halverson missed the start of the race. He drove off before the second checkpoint and made it to the last three-quarters of the race, he said.

“But had fun,” Halverson said. “And it’s a great feeling of satisfaction.”

Despite all the troubles, Halverson didn’t leave empty handed. He received the “Hard Luck” trophy, his second in about 10 years participating in the event.

The speedsters began the race in downtown Hollister around 8:30 a.m. and made their way through Santa Ana Valley Road in Tres Pinos. The racers then took on Browns Valley Road, a six-mile dirt road that goes over the dry vegetation mountains. Leaving clouds of dirt behind, the racers made their way to the first checkpoint at the San Benito County Historical Park where they were treated to donuts, orange juice, and coffee during their break. Some racers took advantage of the downtime to assess and do maintenance on their cars by adding water or oil.

Bryan Sproule didn’t have the same experience other racers had, or the car. He rode on a single speedster he put together in a day just to participate.

“I followed people, I got lost several times, and I broke down once,” Sproule said. “But other than that I just waited around until the next speedster came around and I followed them.”

Sproule said he had some close calls with other cars because his speedster didn’t stop too well, but that didn’t take away from the overall experience.

“It was great, it was amazing,” Sproule said. “A lot of fun, good people.”

After the race, Nelson said his favorite part of the route was the backroads in the initial stage of the race.

“Going up the hill was great,” Nelson said. “That’s what these cars are made for. To have a good time.”

After the break at the historical park, participating racers drove all 18 miles of Cienega Road from Airline Highway to Union Road and took the backroads to San Juan Bautista for a self-checkpoint at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Some of the racers refueled in the Valero gas station in San Juan Bautista. From there, the racers drove through downtown and up the mountains on Salinas Road, passing into Monterey County to Prunedale. The racers made their way through Elkhorn Road to reach Las Lomas, which included a drive through wetlands and areas of enormous trees, and continued to the last checkpoint at the Grange Hall in Aromas.

The last leg of the race included Carr Road and Anzar Road to get to San Juan Bautista with a backtrack through the backroads to reach Highway 156. The drivers then used Wright Road to navigate to the finish line at Tiffany Ford in Hollister.

Despite most cars lack of a speedometer, a few drivers estimated they went about 50 miles per hour on a straight, smooth road.

“It’s too scary to find out how fast that thing will go,” Halverson said. “It’ll go 70, I think. That’s not bad in a 96 year-old car.”

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About:
Noe Magaña (Noe Magaña)

Noe Magaña is a freelance writer for BenitoLink. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School graduate with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.

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