All posts by Larry Printz

Larry Printz is an automotive editor for WVEC-TV ABC 13 in Norfolk, Virginia. His work also is carried via the McClatchy-Tribune Syndicate and typically reaches a readership of nearly 8 million a month. He was automotive editor at Virginia's largest newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot and also worked at The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He has written for several national magazines, including Men's Health and Consumers Digest, and is a judge at several concours.

Eye Candy: The Great Race 2014

Photos by Larry Printz

It takes a bit of bravery to climb into a car manufactured no later than 1972 and head out on a 2,300-mile rally on public roads over nine days. Sure, you could win the $50,000 grand prize, but your only guidance is a pencil, paper, a speedometer and instructions that are handed to you 30 minutes before your departure each morning.

Now, imagine doing this in a foreign country, in a car that you’ve owned for a week. Just ask Tom Nawojczyk and Wally Leach, both citizens of the United Kingdom. They entered The Great Race, now in its 31st year, which started in Ogunquit, Maine on July 21 and ran through Rochester, New Hampshire; Lowell, Massachusetts; Bennington, Vermont; Poughkeepsie, New York; ,, East Stroudsburg and Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Portsmouth, Virginia; Elizabeth City, New Bern, Clinton and Wilmington, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida before ending June 29 south of Ocala. For Nawojczyk and Leach, it was about the adventure, not the prize money. Certainly their 1966 Jaguar 3.8S isn’t as well prepared for the race as they thought. “We bought the car on the Internet from a company that had been featured on the TV show ‘Chasing Classic Cars’,” Nawojczyk said at a stop in Portsmouth, Virginia. “We thought, ‘well, if he bought cars from them, they must be OK’. ” Still, they took no chances, sending it to a highly recommended shop to prepare it for the rally. They expected to spend $5,000. “Fifteen-thousand dollars later, we got the car back and half of the things on it didn’t work,” Nawojczyk said. “We weren’t very pleased.” Problems persisted, including rear brakes that locked up, and soon they found themselves on the side of the road. A passing motorist, whose father happened to have owned the same model car, stopped and recommended a nearby repair shop. “We found that the transmission, which had been spraying fluid everywhere, had a big hole where we presumed a bolt should be and also the rear transmission support bolt just wasn’t there. Fortunately we found this bloke. He worked four-and-a-half hours on the car, charged us $100 and repaired about five or six different things on it.” Nawojczyk and Leach made it to that night’s stop, sweating profusely in the hot southern sun. As if in sympathy, their car’s radiator was sweating as well, emitting an impressive stream of steam and water. But this is a race that attracts a wide range of drivers and cars. Let’s take a look via the Eye Candy gallery.

Still on The Run: It’s Smokey and the Bandits — a bunch of them

The Bandits arrive with a convoy of Trans Ams | Larry Printz photos

Imagine a day at the beach, followed by a night on the town. You’re tired and ready for a peaceful night’s sleep. You pull into the parking lot of your hotel only to find that most parking spaces have been taken by black 1977-78 Pontiac Trans Ams. Another handful are consumed by Snowman’s tractor-trailer. Have you stepped onto a movie set? Did you imbibe too much?

No. You’ve stumbled onto The Bandit Run.

“It’s fun because we take over hotels, restaurants, and gas stations,” said Dave Hall, creator of the event and owner of Restore A Muscle Car, a car restoration business in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Dave Hall organizes The Bandit Run
Dave Hall organizes The Bandit Run

Hall and shop customer David Hersey created The Bandit Run in 2006 as a way to commemorate the following year the 30th anniversary of the film “Smokey and the Bandit.”

Hall had the group traverse the same route as the movie, driving from Texarkana, Texas, to Atlanta. That that initial run attracted more than 100 car owners speaks to the film’s enduring appeal. A similar number joined the run this year.

And while the film’s stars Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason and Jerry Reed brought charisma to the big screen, there’s no denying that the picture’s greatest star didn’t receive any billing at all: the black 1977 Pontiac Trans Am accented in gold pinstripes with a screaming chicken decal on its hood and driven by Reynolds.

For a generation of adolescent boys with Farah Fawcett posters on their bedroom walls, the Pontiac’s brash nature was the height of high school cool. Every boy wanted one. Now, those who have them pay a $90 entry fee to run them in the annual event.

For that amount, the drivers get hotel discounts, vehicle decals, a grab bag of goodies and a support truck, not to mention a week of driving through the United States.

But you don’t have to be a disco-decade aficionado to participate; any make or model of car can partake in the event.

“We do not discriminate by any means,” said Hall. “Perhaps over 90 percent of the cars are going to be Trans Ams, but we have some Corvettes, some Camaros, we’ve had GTOS, Chargers, a little bit of everything. We even have a couple pickups.”

This year’s run started at the GM Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and finished in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We checked in with the group as it arrived in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Hall already is working on next year’s route.

Unlike the film that it commemorates, the Run’s speeds are mild not wild; it’s a cruise, not a race. Think of it as a vacation built around the love of a car and a film.

“I like the people. I like the camaraderie,” said Roy Smith of Williamsburg, Virginia. Smith drove his 1996 Pontiac Trans Am Comp T/A in the 2014 run.

“We all have this in common and it’s really interesting to get to know people from all over the country.”
No doubt. Let’s sample some of them:

“When I was younger I had GTOs. But the Trans Am was always that car I always wanted but for some reason or another never bought. It is a car I’ve always wanted that I just never got until seven years ago.”

Drew Demarco, Baltimore, Maryland, 1981 Pontiac Trans Am SE



“I’ve been a big Trans Am fan for 25 years.”

Sash Popovic, Kitchener, Ontario, 1976 and 2002 Pontiac Trans Ams

No kidding. Popovic owns a 2002 Collector’s Edition with 11,000 miles as well as a 1976 Trans Am he bought about 26 years ago. “I guess it’s a car thing,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Bandit3“We’ve had a couple of these cars in the family. It’s a car I always wanted, not so much because of the movie, but because I graduated in 1979.”

Joe Talotta, Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, 1979 Pontiac Trans Am (also a 1980 Firebird and 1981 Firebird Formula)
Bandit4“Car people are good people. Any car event that we’ve ever been involved in is just like this. It’s not different; it’s just unique because it’s one car. The first year you’re nervous because you don’t know anybody. We know people from all over the world now.”

Larry Smith, with his wife, Susan, Franklin, Illinois, 2002 Pontiac Trans Am


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Charming! That’s the Greenwich concours

1930 Minerva takes best in show honors at Greenwich | Larry Printz photos
1930 Minerva takes best in show honors at Greenwich | Larry Printz photos

The third time was a charm.

During an award ceremony at a car show last weekend, actor Ed Herman attempted to bestow a special award to a car that he had chosen. As the Maserati drove up, Herman started to read the notecard describing the car, only to realize that he was reading the wrong card. This happened two more times until he was given the proper card.

Such hiccups weren’t enough to diminish the quality of the 19th annual Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, which, since 1995, has been held in the leafy enclave of Greenwich Connecticut. Given its location at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, overlooking Greenwich Harbor, the two-day show feels more like a garden party than a car show.

Mark Massenlink showed his 1930 Mercedes 170 V Roadster
Mark Massenlink showed his 1930 Mercedes 170 V Roadster

That said, the concours has a bit of a split personality. Because the field is small, Saturday’s show highlights American cars, while Sunday is given over to foreign cars. Sunday is usually the more popular day, and this year was no exception. With clear blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70s, it’s little wonder that the field was packed.

Taking best in show honors on Saturday was a 1935 Duesenberg SJ Dual-Cowl Phaeton owned by Sonny and Joan Abagnale. One of 37 supercharged models built, Abagnale’s car was originally a La Grande and was later rebodied as a sedan. When the car was restored in 2009, it was returned to its original form.

The following day, a 1930 Minerva AL convertible, owned by Joseph Cassini III and Margie Cassini took best in show. Its stunning looks come courtesy of Belgium coachbuilder Van Den Plas. Tipping the scales at more than 6,000 pounds, it was no speed demon; its engine produces a mere 125 horsepower.

Beyond the award winners, the field was filled with interesting and rare cars; such as a 1907 Fiat Targo Floria racecar built by Fiat to compete in the 1907 Targo Floria and the only one known to exist.

There also was a 1913 Franklin Model M Dirt Track Racer powered by an air-cooled, six-cylinder engine rated at 32 horsepower. On the cuter side was the 1939 Mercedes Benz 170 V Roadster and a 1937 Ford Eifel Roadster that was as adorable as a basket of kittens. Built by Ford in Germany, it was hidden under haystack during World War II.

Aston Martin fender sparkles as cars wait to drive onto the field
Aston Martin fender sparkles as cars wait to drive onto the field

Of course, roaming the field and gazing on such rare and exotic motorcars is enough to give anyone car-buying fever and Bonhams auction house was on hand to scratch the itch. Bonhams’ seventh annual auction of cars, motorcycles and automobilia at Greenwich produced sales in excess of $8 million dollars – eclipsing last year’s sale by more than 40 percent, and boasting a sale rate of more than 93 percent.

The sale also established new records, including a 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP 400 ‘Periscopica’, which sold for more than $1.2 million, double its presale high estimate. On the other end of the spectrum was an all-original 1973 Volvo 1800ES Sport Wagon with 13,000 original miles. Originally expected to fetch between $30,000 and $40,000, it sold for $92,000 – a new world record for a Volvo.

Maserati was among the featured marques
Maserati was among the featured marques

But it’s little wonder that one of the nation’s most exclusive suburbs would host a show equally as exclusive and spendy. And this year, as in years past, it proved to be a great way to kick off the summer car show season.