More than 90 classic cars, some more than 100 years old, will stop in Warren Friday as part of a 2,300-mile race.
The National Packard Museum is an overnight stop for The Great Race, a nine-day event that will take drivers and their navigators to four states and two countries as they loop the five Great Lakes.
The event, which started in the 1980s, used to follow a cross-country path, traditionally a West Coast-to-East Coast journey, according to Director Jeff Stumb. But when a new ownership group took over the event two years ago, they decided to alter the formula.
''We really wanted to step outside of the box this year,'' Stumb said. ''We looked at several different things. We wanted something that involved Canada and the Great Lakes, and Hagerty Car Insurance, one of our major sponsors, is located in Traverse City, Mich. The pieces just came together.''
The race started Saturday in Traverse City and will conclude July 1 in Dearborn, Mich.
Once the general route was determined, the National Packard Museum was one of the first places considered for an overnight stop.
''The two easiest choices for us were the Pierce-Arrow Museum in Buffalo and the National Packard Museum in Warren,'' he said. ''We're car people, and we know other car people. They've been good friends for a long time, and they jumped right in.''
Mary Ann Porinchak, director of the National Packard Museum, said a team of 75 to 80 volunteers will be involved in Friday's event. The museum will feed 300 people with a meal prepared by the ''Valley Classics'' restaurants Sunrise Inn, Alberini's, Buena Vista Cafe, Leo's Ristorante, Salvatore's, Vernon's Cafe and Cafe Capri. ''Concierges'' will be assigned to each racing team to provide directions and offer any other assistance that might be needed to prepare for the next day of racing.
The museum also is planning a car show and other activities in the afternoon before the racers start arriving around 4:30 p.m.
''The publicity is huge,'' Porinchak said. ''Hemmings (Motor News) has been advertising this since before the first of the year ... We've been receiving calls for months about it. It's given the museum a great deal of exposure. The racers are from all over the place, and for most of them, this will be their first time in Trumbull County and we want to make sure we put our best foot forward.''
Those attending will be able to get an up-close look at the cars and talk with the teams after they arrive in Warren, Stumb said. And many of the drivers will allow visitors to get behind the wheel or allow children to try on their old-style helmets and goggles.
''It's really amazing what they do,'' Porinchak said. ''People don't see these cars running. I've seen thousands of classic cars, but you don't see them on the road very often. And the racing teams are wonderful. They really embrace the public.''
Precision rather than speed is most important in winning the Great Race. Each team is given specific instructions on the route it must follow and where it should be on that route at exact times. There are secret checkpoints along the way that determine whether the team is on time, down to the second. And, according to the rules, GPS, computers and cell phones are not permitted and odometers are taped over.
Every second off of the perfect time is a penalty point. There also is an age-factor adjustment, so the older the vehicle, the greater the advantage. However, the older the car means the greater the potential for mechanical failure on a 2,300-mile trek, Stumb said, so there is risk and reward that comes with that strategy.
''It would be hard enough to drive a modern car 2,300 miles and do what we have to do, to have to follow the instructions and stay on time,'' he said.
This year's race features 92 teams driving cars built from 1907 to 1969. Stumb said there are several Packard automobiles participating in this year's event.
Before he was director, Stumb competed in the event for more than 10 years.
''To be able to combine my love for travel, seeing new places, old cars and a little friendly competition it's the things I love most all in one,'' he said.
Stephanie Sferra, executive director of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau, said they are expecting many visitors, not only from the racing teams and the event support staff but also from the fans who follow the race from city to city.
''Anything that brings an economic impact to the area is great,'' she said. ''And this is something different.''