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Fredette brothers drive 1933 Ford to victory in the Great Race

The 1954 Chevrolet Belair Convertible, driven by John Beaulieu and navigating is his daughter Denise Beaulieu, arrive at the end of the Great Race finish line at the Waterfront Warehouse along the Halifax Waterfront on Sunday. ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
The 1954 Chevrolet Belair Convertible, driven by John Beaulieu and navigating is his daughter Denise Beaulieu, arrive at the end of the Great Race finish line at the Waterfront Warehouse along the Halifax Waterfront on Sunday. ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD - The Chronicle Herald

To complete the Great Race, you need a smooth engine and a smooth relationship.

Almost two dozen cars and an unknown number of partnerships broke down during the 10 days of rally driving that started in Buffalo, N.Y., and ended Sunday in Halifax.

“Our sons navigated for the first two days, then my wife and I — she started to navigate and, to save our marriage, I decided to navigate. It went better after that,” said Scott Fraser of Dartmouth. “It was quite a learning experience, very complicated, very technical, very precise with lots of math and figuring and calculating, all the things I’m bad at.”

The championship, and $50,000 in prize money, went to brothers Jeff and Eric Fredette of Illinois in a 1933 Ford pickup.

Each crew has a driver and a navigator and, at least from the outside, it seems like the navigator has the much tougher job.

“The way it works is we get an instructionpackage every morning, half an hour before westart the race,” said John Beaulieu of Halifax. “It consists of just directions, period. We don’t getstreets, anything. It might say ‘drive for 60seconds at 30 miles an hour, and at the end ofthe 60 seconds, go up to 40 miles an hour for 50 seconds.’ Or it might tell you ‘after the turn, take the second paved road on the left.’ And that’s all you get.”

Fraser and Beaulieu were both among about 50 rookies in the predominantly American field. Fraser drove a ’64 Chevelle Malibu SS convertible that he’s owned for about six years. He wasn’t necessarily prepared for a rally as difficult as the Great Race, but with the event ending in Halifax, this had to be the year.

“I wasn’t ready because I was out of town for almost 11 weeks before this event, unexpectedly,” said Fraser. “Anyway, with the help of some people we got the car put together and got it down to Buffalo. The course was 2,000 miles but I think we drove about 2,200-and-50. It’s easy to miss the turns because you don’t have a map, just a set of instructions.”

As for his placing in the race standings?

“We finished.”

There were numerous cars from the 1930s competing, including a Packard that looked almost new and a 1931 Buick Phaeton that had car lovers swooning when all the Great Race cars were on display at Alderney Landing.

And there was a handful of open cars with goggles-wearing crew members. Asked what they did when it rained (and they got asked that a lot), they said, “We get wet.” During a rainstorm in Bar Harbour, Maine, one crew had to literally bail out their car.

Beaulieu didn’t have the getting wet problem or the argument problem for his first rally.

“It’s been a great, great time. My daughter Denise was my navigator,” said Beaulieu, adding that the pair had no disagreements. “Although we have heard of married couples entering the race and after about three days the wife goes home. It can get pretty tense.”

Beaulieu’s 1954 Chev Bel Air convertible is painted a colour called 2007 Jaguar Red and is a thing of beauty. Considering the work that went into it, it should be.

“It’s referred to as a resto-mod, which means the body is original and all the components are modern. It has keyless entry, air conditioning and cruise control,” he said. “I bought it in 1985 and I drove it the way I found it, which was its original form, until 2000, and I dismantled it until there was nothing left on the car. Then I rebuilt and I finished in 2013, put it back on the road again.”

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