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Escape from Harper's Ferry

The following article detailing the 2012 Orphan Car Tour is authored by Jon Battle

Photo Credits; B/W Rambler and Checker photo courtesy of, Vince Lupo/Direction One, Inc.
Salmon 1960 DeSoto by bridge photo courtesy of, Tom Kenney.
Airplane Museum photo, Orphan Staff photo.

Sixty-four vehicles made an "Escape from Harpers Ferry" on Saturday, June 2, 2012, as the 23rd annual Orphan Car Tour got underway near Knoxville, Maryland. The "Escape" -- the subtitle of this year's tour -- refers to the Sept. 14, 1862 escape of 1,400 Union cavalry from a Confederate siege of Harpers Ferry (then in Virginia) during the Civil War. The 61-mile car tour followed the route of that escape from a point just across the river from Harpers Ferry, to Greencastle, Pennsylvania, the destination of the original escape.

Escape from Harper's Ferry

The day was perfect for an antique automobile excursion: mostly-sunny skies, with temperatures in the low seventies.

The annual event is sponsored by six Northern Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania chapters of national "orphan car" clubs ("orphans" being defined as vehicles manufactured by a company -- or company division -- which no longer builds cars.) Each year the tour moves to a different geographical area in the greater Baltimore-Washington area. This year, cars and drivers arrived from as far away as Delaware, New Jersey and New York, and one car was shipped in from Reno, Nevada.

Participants gathered late on Saturday morning at a gravel parking lot about two miles from Harpers Ferry. At 11:30 the cars began to embark onto the tour, one by one, with about one minute's leeway between them. The route wound its way through quiet, tree-shaded country roads, up through Sharpsburg and through the Hagerstown area. There, tour participants paused to view 13 collector cars, owned by a local auto enthusiast, which ranged in age from a 1931 Essex to a 1995 Cobra and Dodge Viper. Other unusual cars displayed, included a 1939 Rolls Royce V-12, a 1975 Excalibur, a 1932 Essex coupe and a 1935 Chevy 3-window coupe with a 1630 horsepower engine!

Next along the route was the Hagerstown Aviation Museum with its collection of 15 vintage aircraft, most of which were manufactured in Hagerstown. Here, "orphan tourists" were able to sit in the pilot's seats of two "Flying Boxcars" built at the Fairchild plant in Hagerstown: a 1948 Fairchild C-82 A, and a 1953 C-119 G. Participants also received a free keepsake photo of their car taken in front of two vintage Fairchild planes. (The 1953 Boxcar has an "orphan" tie-in: a similar airplane was used by the Studebaker Corporation to fly two new Avanti cars to introductory showings around the country 50 years ago.)

The excursion continued to Martin's Mill covered bridge, built in 1849. After that, drivers and passengers traveled to Best of Show Restorations in Greencastle where they viewed several cars in different stages of completion. The day's last stop was at Mrs. Gibble's Restaurant a few miles north of Greencastle, where 117 hungry participants sat down to a home style meal in the banquet room. After dinner, C.W. Whitehair, Civil War historian and author, gave a talk about the original escape that inspired this year's tour. Then, the oldest-car, long-distance and hard-luck awards were presented, along with awards to those who had provided the most correct answers to a printed quiz testing participants' observational abilities about sights glimpsed along the tour route.

Escape from Harper's Ferry

First place in the contest was won by Joe, John and Judy Boksz, driving a '65 Rambler convertible; second place by Janet Schmid and John and Kevin Czajkowski, driving a '69 Morris Minor; third place by Ken and Peg Prentice driving a '65 Rambler Marlin. Honorable Mention was taken by Phyllis and Melissa Cherry in a 1960 AMC Metropolitan. The Long-Distance Award was shared by several people: Lee and Zachary Wilkes who trailered their '28 Hupmobile from Reno, Nevada), Tom and Maryellen Myers (who trailered their '52 Pontiac wagon part way from Granite Springs, New York, and Tom Mancino and Gary Masie of Clifton Park, N.J., who actually drove the longest distance, in a 1981DeLorean. Hard Luck Award was given to Kevin Carter, whose '47 Nash had a minor problem but was soon back on the road. Bob Wilson, of New Castle, Delaware, had a fuel problem and had to nurse his '52 Studebaker home to New Castle, Delaware before dinner.

Escape from Harper's Ferry

The oldest vehicle on the tour was the 1928 Hupmobile. Other orphan makes, listed in order of turnout, included: Studebaker including Avanti and truck (16), Packard (9), AMC including Rambler and Metropolitan (9), Oldsmobile (4), Pontiac (4), Triumph (3), Hudson (2), Mercury (2), Checker, Corvair, DeLorean, DeSoto, Frazer, Kaiser, Nash, Morris Minor, Plymouth, Sears Allstate, and Thunderbird (one each). Three cars bore non-orphan nameplates.

Escape from Harper's Ferry

Tour staff and helpers this year included Jon Battle, Jim and Kathy Jewell, Bill and Susan Johnson, Paul Johnson, Tom and Anne Kenney, Don Reedy, and Harley and Carol Smith.

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