26 September 2011

Museum allows rally participants to drive cars from collection

Imagine driving a bright orange Citroën rally car under a blue sky along twisting country roads through the green forests of Tennessee. The annual Rally for The Lane in Nashville, presented by The Lane Motor Museum, provides this opportunity.

The Lane Motor Museum is not your typical car showcase. Its cars are intended to be driven on real roads by real people. So every year in late September, owner Jeff Lane and his staff select several dozen cars from the museum collection, gas them up, pump up the tires, charge the batteries, and rent them out to enthusiastic car lovers for a tour of the Tennessee countryside. The price for most cars is $500. That’s only $125 per person for the four-passenger models. And that includes lunch.

Back in May, a friend asked if I was interested in participating in this year’s Rally for The Lane. I checked out the museum’s website, and decided I wanted to drive the bright orange Citroën DS rally car. How many times in life do you get a chance to pilot a real rally car with a 5-speed column shift? Within a few days, five more of my friends signed on for the adventure, too.

Our day began Saturday, Sept. 24, at the museum. While the staff made sure we each had an actual driver’s license and taught us how to operate these venerable vehicles, we were free to roam around the museum’s collection, which is composed of the odd, the offbeat and the truly unique. There are propeller-driven cars, micro cars like the Peel 50, ex-race cars, early Japanese cars, a selection of historic motorcycles, and two rooms filled with period advertising material, such as a poster for the 1969 version of the film “The Italian Job.”

At 8:30 a.m., we were released into the wild at 1-minute intervals on a carefully scripted, 200-mile route that meandered through scenic countryside to Lynchburg and back. At first, we struggled to tame the weak synchros in our Citroen’s transmission. Learning how to stop smoothly using the hydraulic “button” mounted between the clutch and the gas pedal was an adventure in itself. 

Lunch was served at Miss Bobo’s family-style restaurant in Lynchburg, just a few blocks from the Jack Daniels museum. Then it was back in the cars for a leisurely jaunt back to the museum, where awards were presented. Afterward, we were admitted to the basement of the Lane, where future additions to the upstairs collection are stored.

Kudos to Jeff Lane and his staff for organizing a well-run and thoroughly enjoyable event. Next year, the course may follow the Natchez Trace, so break out your string backs, dust off your driving shoes and visit http://lanemotormuseum.org/rally-for-the-lane to sign up.

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