7 November 2013

'Rattle Trap': '87 Mustang GT shakes up road rally

It all started back in December with a phone call from my buddy Scott:  “Hey, man, do you want to go on a rally?” After learning that it would pass through our hometown − Greenville, S.C. − I was sold. Then the kicker: Scott informed me he wanted to do it in his 24-year-old daily beater of a 1987 Mustang GT affectionately dubbed “Rattle Trap.” The A/C was broken, but that was OK because The Trap is equipped with the hallmark of 80s muscle: T-Tops. Besides, I reasoned, the heat shouldn’t be too unbearable because a good portion of the rally would travel rural mountain roads. Even after pondering all of the ways we could break down and/or die, I was still sold.

Rally Appalachia is organized by Rally North America, which despite being a fairly young organization already has attracted a core group of diehard ralliers. Rallies are of the time-speed-distance variety, with an emphasis on fun instead of speed. Traffic citations earn instant disqualification, but trophies are given for best costume. This year’s rally benefitted Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which offers assistance to the families of fallen and wounded soldiers. We would start in Winchester, Va., and finish in Charleston, S.C., three days and 1,500 miles later.

As the date neared, Scott encountered all of the joys of preparing a 24-year-old car for a week of intensive duty.  We decided that, because of the proximity of Winchester to Washington, D.C., and because the rally was a benefit for our soldiers, it would only be appropriate to run up to D.C. and pay a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. And given the proximity of Charleston to Myrtle Beach, we decided to conclude our adventure with a ride up Highway 17 to enjoy the last days of Mustang Week. All in all, we would cover 2,300 miles in seven days. Along with trivial things like water pumps and transmissions, Scott had the A/C repaired, too. A heat wave was looming, so I enthusiastically applauded the decision. 

When the big day arrived, Scott picked me up and we headed north. We made it to D.C. without a hitch, checked into a random hotel, grabbed some dinner and went to bed.  After seeing the sights and paying our respects at Arlington, we returned to our car to head down to Winchester for the start.  No sooner had I given thanks for the cold air I was about to receive then the compressor clutch let go. We resigned ourselves to the fact that the next few days would be spent sweating like, well, a couple of guys in an ’87 Mustang. Off to rally!

There were a total of 80 entrants in the field, ranging from a Corvair to a Bentley. Day one included laps around Shenandoah Speedway and concluded at Natural Bridge. Day two started nearby with runs down Motor Mile Dragway, then on to our hometown of Greenville, S.C., via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Day three saw us in Charleston for the finish with a small 175-mile detour to Darlington Motor Speedway. The next morning many parted ways to return home, and a few caravanned up with us to Myrtle Beach in search of more car fun.

The Trap performed flawlessly over the trip, and aside from losing about nine pounds of water weight, it was a wonderful experience, and I’m happy to report that we’ve raised more than $11,000 for a wonderful cause. There are already plans in the works for the 2012 Rally, which I look forward to running again. To those of you looking for an automotive adventure next summer, I hope to see you there.

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