The Mount Washington Auto Road, which climbs to the summit of its namesake peak in New Hampshire, offers breathtaking views to those willing to tackle its average 12-percent grade. When brake failure struck a 1955 Buick Estate station wagon competing in the 2018 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty while descending from the mountain’s summit, it was bravery of a fellow competitor, and his willingness to sacrifice a restored 64 1/2 Mustang, that averted potential disaster.
The aftermath. Both cars were damaged, but repairable.
Day four of the Great Race included a lunch stop at the base of Mount Washington, and though not a required stage, competitors were given the opportunity to take their cars to the summit. Doing so is no joke, since certain contemporary vehicles (those without a first or low gear on their automatic transmissions) are prohibited from making the trip. Even full-size cars, station wagons, minivans, pickups and SUVs without other restrictions are given weight limits, ensuring that the climb and descent remains as safe as possible.
The Hendersons arrive in Gardiner, Maine.
The Mt. Washington Auto Road has sheer drops and no guardrails, and it likely isn’t an enjoyable trip for those suffering from fear of heights. Still, in its 157-year history, there have been just three vehicle fatalities on the mountain, including an 1880 stagecoach accident, later attributed to drunk driving; a 1984 automobile accident, stemming from brake failure; and a 2009 motorcycle accident.
The aftermath – road rash on the Buick. Jim O’Clair photo.
Shortly after leaving the summit, Carl Schneider and Jack Juratovic lost the brakes on their 1955 Buick Estate station wagon, Great Race car number 11. The driver attempted to scrub off speed in the only way possible, by using the side of the mountain as a brake. Ahead was Great Race car number 25, the 1964 1/2 Mustang driven by Scott and Mallory Henderson. Using his own brakes, bumper and bodywork, Scott was able to stop the Buick, preventing what may well have been a tragedy.
At least we helped save some of the paint. Jim O’Clair photo.
Both cars were repaired in time to rejoin the Great Race on day five, June 27, which saw the teams begin in Gardiner, Maine, stop for lunch at the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Owls Head, Maine, and end the day on the waterfront in Bangor, Maine. Through Stage Five, Team Hemmings – consisting of driver Jim Menneto and rookie navigator Stephanie Sigot in our ’32 Ford Speedster – finds itself in 37th place overall (out of 109 teams) and 20th in the Sportsman class, aided by four aces earned on day five.
Team Hemmings competes on day five.
The 2018 Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty ends on Sunday, July 1, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. For current standings, visit GreatRace.com.