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A 1966 Impala SS Makes its Great Race debut driving for The Longest Day

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photos courtesy Jon Seltenheim.

As part of our 2018 support for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day fundraising drive, we were pleased to make the acquaintance of one of the Hemmings Great Race’s newest participating race teams: Enter Jon Seltenheim, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Jon’s dad was a Chevy dealer in Englewood, New Jersey, and has, over the years, always nursed a fondness for and an ongoing tryst with classic cars. Especially the Bowties. “I grew up around a dealership and always been interested,” Jon said.

“I even won a Corvette through the Corvette Museum.” In Bowling Green? “Yeah—I was procrastinating on my taxes one day…in 2012 and decided to go see what was happening at the museum website and bought a raffle ticket. Three weeks later, they called and said I won a new Corvette,” he so casually explained. “It was a car Chevrolet had been using for promotional things and they shipped it right to me. That was Corvette Number Four, for me.”

Jon had seen The Great Race advertised and covered in Hemmings over the years and the bug to participate had been planted. “I’d seen it in Hemmings and had registered a year ago for it, but (wasn’t able to do it). So, Jeff extended it for a year and said, ‘Sure—come aboard!’” Jon had prepared a 1966 Chevrolet Impala SS convertible for the race, so he was ready.

“I had a neighbor who had built his house on a hill, so that he could actually have a basement entrance where he could store four or five cars. He restored cars for many years, but is (now) blind. I’d stop and talk to him and, over time, we developed a friendship. When I knew I needed to buy a car for this race, he told me to come by – he thought he had something I might be interested in,” Jon goes on. “It’s been beautifully restored – he had taken it in trade for one of his ‘57s. I don’t have a whole lot of background on the car, but I knew it came from a dealership in Winchester, Virginia.” Jon contacted the dealer, formerly B&M Chevrolet-Cadillac and now Jim Stutzman Chevrolet-Cadillac, who revealed to him that the original owner was still a customer, after all these years.

“The engine compartment still looks like it just came out of the showroom,” Jon explains. “The only thing I really need to do is deal with a small window gap…for when it rains.” Spoken like a seasoned Great Racer. The Great Race also demands a navigator/co-pilot, so Jon will start the race with two: an old grad school buddy and the president of a construction company, with whom Jon’s attended the Indy 500 for the past 18 years. So, they all seemed to have passed the most important rule of Great Race navigation: Be able to stand the company of your driver for extended periods of time. “I’m hoping that’ll be the case, after nine days on the road,” Jon admits.

Yes, this is Jon’s first Great Race, but he seems to have some well-founded goals for his team: “We’re committed to completing it, Number One,” Jon continues, “but we’re also committed to learning the intricacies of a timed rally. But we mostly just wanna have fun and participate in something that seems like a great time.”

Depending on the car that’s campaigned, The Great Race can be as much of an endurance run as a timed rally. But Jon seems to have the right idea in his spacious convertible, built for comfort, power, and arrivals steeped in style. “With this 327-cu.in. engine, we’ll take some spare parts with us, but the dealer I took it to said it’s in such great shape that we probably won’t have any trouble.” Famous last words, Jon.

But he has his priorities straight with this adventure. “The most important thing is to raise awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association,” Jon explains. “My mother had it, as did her sister. And, while it was way too long ago for them to know what Alzheimer’s was (at the time), there was a chance that my grandfather had it, as well.” Jon was pleased to hear that Hemmings was participating in the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day program – it was all so close to home for him and the Great Race alignment seemed like the perfect opportunity to actually do something in support of the charity.

As Seltenheim noticed the time and that parts store was about to close, he signed off with a final, poignant thought: “I really appreciate that The Longest Day is built on the concept of how long the actual days of Alzheimer’s patient caregivers are – that caregivers are thought to have the ‘longest day’ because they’re always on-call, so to speak.”

You can support the spirit of Jon’s rookie Great Race run by donating to his The Longest Day fundraising page at Jon and Team Supersport Longest Day Team.