Run Against the Clock
By Drew Hardin
Photography Courtesy Eric Rickman, Petersen Publishing Company Archive
The ’49 Ford convertible ready to leave is typical of the mildly modified cars taking part—in this case, with a lowered suspension, shaved door handles and other body trim, and spinner hubcaps. Most of the cars were just a few years old. We spotted just two ’32 Ford coupes among the ’50s Chevys, Buicks, Fords, Oldsmobiles and even a pickup or two at the run.
Note the number written in poster paint on the Ford’s rear side window. Each entry got a number, and it was prominently displayed because the 10 checkpoints along this 150-mile Reliability Run were kept secret from the participants. Spotters at those hidden checks would record the car number and the time it passed, but the drivers and their navigators could only guess at how well they were doing until the end of the day, when the judging sheets were tallied. Making it even more challenging was the fact that the Road Knights didn’t set an average speed for the run.
“The speeds were left to the discretion of the state; highway road signs setting the pace,” wrote Rickman. “Starting the drive with 100 points each, individuals were docked points for each infraction of the highway code and for failing to be punctual at checkpoints. This interesting variation by the Road Knights called for an even more alert driver familiar with all speed zones and local restrictions.”
In addition to individual members earning points, clubs were also able to increase their scores by being chosen as the Best Appearing Club (one point per member) or Best Cooperating Club (10 points to the club), or by finishing among the top 10.
More than club bragging rights were on the line here. Several area merchants—gas stations, auto parts stores, repair shops, even a men’s store—donated prizes in the form of gift certificates for services and merchandise. The club with the highest score would take home an Olds V8 engine donated by a local wrecking yard, A Auto Salvage.
Of course, run participants proudly wore their club jackets. Rickman lined up a handful, backs to the camera, so readers could see the club names: Jacks, Lifters, Road Kings, Throttle Merchants, Syndicate, Chancellors, Stockers, and the host Road Knights.
The Stockers came away with both the Best Appearing and Best Cooperating club awards, “but they had no men in the first 10,” Rickman noted. Instead, the Jacks club scored enough points to win the Olds engine.
In December 1956, Hot Rod’s Eric Rickman joined more than 100 members of 15 Southern California car clubs as they took part in a Reliability Run put on by the Road Knights car club. This photo, which ran with Rickman’s story in the March 1957 issue, shows Road Knights vice president Jack Hendricks (in the white shirt and pants at lower right) checking the time as he prepares to send off a participant in the rally.