5 Things You’ve Gotta Know About Classic Car Rallies

So, about that 1968 Pontiac GTO in your garage: Through luck or elbow grease, it runs, but outside of the occasional Sunday outing, it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s half-a-century old, after all. Where is it supposed to go?

One suggestion: on a glorious tour of the nation’s highways and byways via a classic-car rally.

The Colorado Grand and the American Gumball Rally are just a couple of the annual stateside road rallies for classic cars and their adventure-seeking humans. Members of GroupWorks’ own Sun City West Automotive/Restoration Club are partial to the Great Race. They’ve entered cars in the event in the past, and are working with high-school students on a 1959 Thunderbird that may hit the road in the 2019 edition. Says the club’s Herb Clark: “Our people get a huge thrill out of this.”

If you’re rallying to the idea of checking out a rally, here are some things you should know:

1. Rallies are not races.

Definitions and rules vary, but in general, in the United States, a car rally is considered a test of endurance, navigation and, perhaps above all, the ability to follow directions over courses that vary from hundreds of miles to thousands. Traffic laws and speed limits must be obeyed. In fact, at an event such as the Great Race, which in 2019 will run from Riverside, California, to Tacoma, Washington, going the proper speed is precisely the point: “The objective is to arrive at each checkpoint at the correct time, not the fastest,” the event’s FAQ states.

2. A classic car is in the eye of the event-holder.

If you want to start an epic debate, then ask somebody what a classic car is. According to the Classic Car Club of America, it’s a “fine” or “unusual” automobile built from 1915-1948. But at a car rally, a classic is whatever the event says it is. So, take heart, ’71 Chevy Chevelle owner, the Great Race is open to any 1972 car or older. The American Gumball Rally, which is actually a network of touring road rallies held throughout the United States, doesn’t even define what it considers a classic, literally “any vehicle” can be entered. In contrast, the 1,000-mile, Rocky Mountains-traversing Colorado Grand, called the “best vintage car rally in America,” by AutoWeek, is strictly for vintage, 1960 or older “sports cars and race cars of distinction.”

3. Two’s the magic number.

Most classic-car rallies are geared for teams of two: a driver and a navigator. (In the coast-to-coast goldRush Rally, which attracts supercars, but is open to any kind of car, it’s a driver and a “passenger/copilot.”) The roles can be played by a married couple, a couple of pals or any combo of two people, including grandparent and grandchild. The Great Race, for instance, has a student division, called the X-Cup, that pairs drivers, who must be at least 21 years or older, with navigators, who must be 22 or younger at the start of the event.

4. You can go in style. Or not.

There’s basically a classic-car rally for every budget. The 1st Annual South Carolina Gumball Rally, an event organized under the umbrella of the American Gumball Rally, and held over a weekend this past March, boasted a $550, two-person-team fee that included a one-night hotel stay. In September, the six-day, five-night Colorado Grand featured stops at the Vail, Colorado, luxury hotel, the Hotel Talisa, a finish-line dinner and benefit auction. The price tag, which covered the entry for one car and two participants: $7,500.

5. You can rally around a good cause.

Charity is a common component of the classic-car rally. The Great Race teams with the tax-exempt, non-profit, the Vintage Car Rally Association, to raise money to support autism programs. Since its inception in 1989, the Colorado Grand says it’s raised $6 million benefitting various Colorado-based charities, college scholarships and more.


Inspired to learn more about classic-car rallies, if not classic cars? Then live the GroupWorks ethos, and join a car club! The GroupWorks platform is used by many car clubs, including Robson Ranch Texas’ Rollin Ranchers Car Club, the Sun City Festival Car Club of Arizona, and the Sun City Car Club-Hilton Head of South Carolina. Find one that works for you and your location — and get motoring!