By: Jon Battle
Despite temperatures that topped 90 degrees, this year’s Orphan Car Tour attracted 53 cars and 97 participants to rural Maryland for an afternoon jaunt over the scenic roads of three states, on Saturday, June 5.
It was the 29th running of the Tour, the purpose of which is to promote the driving enjoyment of “orphan” (discontinued-make) vehicles that are at least 25 years old. This year’s mostly-rural, 67-mile route led from the hamlet of Burkittsville, Maryland to the outskirts of Bluemont, Virginia. It was nicknamed “A River Runs Through it” because the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers intersected the tour route at several places. Participants traveled from as far away as New Jersey to the event, assembling at the Burkittsville Ruritan Club at 10:30 A.M. From there, cars were released onto the tour route, one by one, between 11:00 and 11:30. Printed directions allowed each driver to drive at his or her own pace. Following a tradition of many years, the direction sheets also included quiz questions designed to test passengers’ powers of observation for objects glimpsed along the way.
This year’s route included several points of interest at which participants could pause. The first was the marvelous antique car and automobilia collection at Hattie’s Garage, just ten minutes into the tour. This was followed by the National War Correspondents Memorial at Crampton’s Gap in Maryland. Further along, drivers could pass through the historic town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, then visit the small but fascinating Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum and ride the miniature Joy Line Railroad.
The route then crossed the Potomac River into Virginia and ran past several commercial vineyards. Farther along, participants drove through Upperville, where they could visit C.S. Arms, a seller of antique firearms. The next point of interest was the impressive and historic Burwell-Morgan gristmill in the village of Millwood, built in 1785. (Seventeen-year cicadas, which provided the background music throughout the tour, were in full cry outside the mill, and in dive-bomb mode as well!) Then it was off to Berryville and Early American Auto Repair, with seven cars to view, vintage 1924 to 1970.
Seventy-three of the orphan tourists then made their way to the Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company, near Bluemont, for a tasty meal that included barbecued chicken, smoked beef brisket and fresh vegetables. After dinner, drivers picked up keepsake photos of their cars, taken earlier in the day. Awards were then presented to those who’d scored best on the printed quiz questions: John and Judy Boksz (1st place), Bob and Kathy Baer, John and Vivian Czajkowski, and Bob and Phyllis Godwin (all sharing 2nd place), and Melinda and Carl Utt (3rd place). The Oldest Car award went to John Black (1928 Studebaker). The Long Distance award went to Gary and Kathy Meyers (1950 Willys Jeepster, coming 180 miles to the tour). The Hard Luck Award went to Steve and Mary Walter (1956 Studebaker Power Hawk).
The 2021 tour had been laid out by Todd Harrington in early 2020, in anticipation that it would be run that June. A year’s delay, pandemic-induced depression, and exuberance at the pandemic’s impending end, all no doubt contributed to the large turnout at the event. Of all 29 tours thus far, 2021 had the fourth-best car turnout.
The Orphan Tour is indebted to Randy Huffer (Burkittsville Ruritan), Rob Burchill (Hattie’s Garage), Bill and Cindy Anderson (Early American Auto Repair) and Nathan Stalvey (Burwell-Morgan Mill) for their help.
Orphan Tour volunteers included Todd and Vivian Harrington, Bob and Kathy Baer, Bill and Susan Johnson, Mike and Cheryl Bianco, Bill Aske, Steve White, Brett Weare, Dan Rowzie and Jon Battle. The splendid meal was arranged by Carol Weare and her talented Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company kitchen staff. Harley Smith, who recently stepped down after many years as the Tour’s longtime treasurer, received special thanks for his service.
The Orphan Car Tour is sponsored by five “orphan” clubs: The Potomac Ramblers chapter of the AMCRC and AMO; The DeSoto Owners Club of Maryland chapter of the National DeSoto Club; Mid-Atlantic Packards (a region of The Packard Club); The Potomac Chapter of the Studebaker Driver’s Club (SDC); and the Keystone Region Chapter of the SDC. Orphan makes driven on this year’s tour included AMC (Hornet, Javelin, AMX, Gremlin), Corvair, Crosley, DeSoto, Kaiser, Mercury, MGB, Oldsmobile, Packard, Plymouth, Pontiac, Saab, Studebaker (Hawk, Lark), Thunderbird, and Willys (Jeepster).
To find out more visit: http://www.orphancartour.org/index.html
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