Jean Shepherd Rides Again -- the 10th Voice Auto Rallye

Categories: Clip Job, Featured

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Original caption: "Jean Shepherd (on running board) describes entries as Voice columnist Dan List looks on."
Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

August 4, 1966, Vol. XI, No. 42

10th Annual Voice Automobile Rallye

By Daniel List

When Jean Shepherd innocently launched 40-odd motorists into the Tenth Annual Village Voice Rallye last Sunday he fully expected to see them arrive back in good order after the run.

The omens were good, the weather fair, and the field of entries, while smaller than last year's, was composed of many interesting cars jammed with gung-ho rallyists all set for a good run through New York according to a pre-set plan which turned out to be somewhat garbled.

Among the registrants arriving at the starting line were a 1966 Sunbeam Imp, a 1966 Lorus Elan, a Facel Vega Facellia, th usual Volkswagens, a fair sprinkling of domestic iron, and a remarkable 1954 Rolls Royce Mulliner Silver Wraith, most of which, although a joy to behold, finished out of the money.

Shepherd turned up in a new Ford Mustang this year, dismounted from this shining steed, installed himself onto the running board of a large 1932 International Harvester truck, and proceeded to harangue the large crowd that had gathered for the rallye.

The ice was broken when a passing cab driver innocently inquired whether the audience was part of an anti-Vietnam demonstration and the activities were off and running.

The cars were lined up in lots of 10 to reduce the congestion and then dispatched at one minute intervals sometime after the noon hour.

As each car departed to a round of applause Shepherd informed the crowd as to its origins, a few phrases on its history, and a wry comment on its eventual placement in the results. The rallye route would end a the Limelight Cafe to which the stewards repaired after all the cars had been dispatched.

With the improvement of the downtown area both in terms of paving and sign markings, the 1966 rallye rose to nearly 14 miles in length but its scheduled time shrank from 79 minutes to 69. Due to a clumsy error in the route sheet, confusion ensued at East 6th Street and Ale Place near McSorley's saloon where a scheduled right turn should have been a left and three lines of additional directions had been omitted.

Rallye steward Pete Keresztury was sent from the finish line to this location in a 1936 Hudson Super Six to iron out the error and put the rallyists back on the track. Contestants who had already negotiated this snafu were allowed points credit for time lost, and in the ultimate result, the spread between the winners and losers was so large that any minutes lost negotiating that goof-up really didn't matter.

Other bad new arrived. A 6th Precinct patrol car motored up to the finish line and the driver smilingly informed us that the traffic signal at 11th Street was stuck on red. We gave him a checkered flag for his trouble and slunk back into the Limelight for a stiff jolt of spine bracer. Next came a patrolman on a motorscooter who had a copy of the rallye route. He pointed out that East 11th Street didn't run across the Village to Waverly Place but West 11th Street would and could. We went back in for more spine bracer after gravely thanking him for the good news.

By this time most of the cars had checked in and a girl roared up in a taxi cab, excitedly informing us that Tim Clarke of Old Motor magazine who had entered the Old Motor Model A Ford truck in the rallye was in durance vile and the truck impounded for lack of proper papers at the 9th Precinct on East 5th Street.

Sure enough. The truck was in a long line of stolen and impounded cars but Tim was nowhere in sight. The desk sergeant informed us with a grin that Mr. Clarke had been released on his own recognizance and was just next door in some girl's apartment having a beer. Just over from London, Clarke knew nothing of the East Village and the cop merely surmised that he was a "fast worker." We had brought the necessary documents and both Tim and the van were sprung to return to the rallye. Too late to place.

By this time, protests galore had been filed but the stewards continued to grind out results with pencil, calculator, and persistence, ignoring all but the figures in front of them.

Allowances were made for the shortcomings of the rallye route and a winner obtained. It was a Jaguar belonging to Mike Glicksman and navigated by Jack Tinkel, both of East 3rd Street. The first five winners came in within eight minutes of the corrected time, sixth place was nine minutes late, seventh was 12 minutes slow, and the gap widened rapidly until it reached 144 minutes for the last car to finish, a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk which had committed a variety of unpunished errors.

At this time the last of the check point personnel returned, the extra checkered flags were dispensed, and all the crews drank up their sorrows in the Limelight, discussed their errors, our errors, and planned for next year's fiasco.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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