THE  VCRA

A Brief History

By Rex Gardner, Founder


It the fall of 2005 two of my old car rally buddies, Vic Thompson and Charlie McKinney,  and I started talking about putting on an old car rally. Question was, why on earth would we even think about doing something like this? Well, right about this time Greatrace was going through some tough times, and the future looked bleak for the future of the old car rally sport. And, indeed it did come to pass, that they soon went into bankruptcy. The question then became, “If we don’t do something about this, will the sport just die?” Well, since 1985 we had been competitors in every Great American Race, and numerous regional events, giving us a lot of experience from the racers point of view.  We had discussed the future of the sport with several of our fellow competitors, but had never really gotten down to the nuts and bolts of it. It finally came to the point of “Are we going to do this or not?” Well, after a lengthy discussion with many of our rally friends, it was agreed that the time was right, and in 2006 the Vintage Car Rally Association, Inc was formed with two very distinct purposes…


1. To provide a unique forum for antique, vintage, classic and sports car enthusiasts to compete in controlled speed/ timed / distance rally competition that would test the skills and endurance of both man and machine, classed by the experience levels of the competitors and the age of the vehicles, to assure a level playing field for all.

2. To be a not for profit 501 C 3 organization that will donate all proceeds to charity, namely Autism organizations, schools and chapters in need.

 Having established this as our priority, we began the task of identifying other goals, namely, to rekindle the old car aspect of the sport, utilize a cloverleaf format to reduce costs and strive to make it a more family oriented, friendly atmosphere. On the technical side we would devise a more equitable handicap scoring system, review and revise the previous rules to make it simpler to interpret while still keeping within the spirit of the event, and implement a more reasonable entry fee / class  structure, which in turn, would allow us to more fairly structure an equitable winners payout program.  Also, we would encourage a youth program to ensure the future of the sport…and finally, we would make the entire program simple to understand, both for the competitor as well as the spectators.


We are often asked “Why did you choose Autism as your charity?”. On a personal note, my grandson, Justyce Gardner, was diagnosed in 2000 with autism at the age of 29 months, therefore, I can speak with some authority of the challenges a family faces raising a child with autism. A life for Justyce, living with autism, means that he may never reach some milestones that a typical child would. He still attends a specialized school called Milestones Academy that provides a one-on-one environment for children with special needs. He has reached remarkable achievements since attending the academy.  He also serves as the poster boy for the VCRA and attends most of our rallies to meet the racers as well as direct the pledge of allegiance and the official start. Because of his schooling experiences and remarkable advances, we learned the value of education and skill building for these children. Meanwhile, we also learned that there are few program like this in the country, and those that do exist are burdened by under funding for the equipment and support they need. We determined that with the right support, we could make a real difference!


So, armed with nothing more than these ideas and the encouragement of other fellow racers, we launched our inaugural event. The Mid-America All Star Rally & Benefit for Autism was held in September, 2006 in Grove, Oklahoma. Twenty of the nation’s top rally teams, including four past world championship teams, entered in this inaugural event.


After three days of intense rally competition and fun-filled evening events, the rally was deemed a huge success! Through the generosity of the racers, sponsors and the volunteers, the event raised over $20,000 for the fight against autism, surpassing our wildest expectations.


Only days after the rally was completed, we began to receive calls about when the next rally would be….and several suggested that we consider a five day event the next summer as well as a three day event in the fall. A call to our friend Jim Cox, owner of the Branson Collector Car Auction in Branson, Missouri, was one of the wisest moves we made as Jim has a lot of insight into the logistics of large, car oriented events. Turns out he agreed to an advisory role, and still holds that position today, and continues to be the single largest contributor to our charity through his annual Branson Collector Car Benefit Auction held at each of his auction events.  So we took the advice of the racers, and with the guidance of Jim, we began laying out plans for future events, much as we had envisioned.


To make a long story short, early on we were very fortunate to gain the support of some key people that were instrumental in providing the sponsorship and support that would assure our success.  Jim Menneto, president of Hemmings Motor News, made a gigantic leap of faith when he agreed to the title sponsorship role of the “2007 Hemmings Branson Vintage Car Rally”, billed as a five day national event, held in Branson, Missouri in June.  Forty-two of the nation’s finest rally teams, along with the sponsorship of Stormy Point Village, Tommy’s Trailers, Coker Tire, Best Chairs, Champion Products, Hagerty and Branson Collector Car Auction, made this a tremendous success!! We had taken a giant step forward in gaining the trust, respect and support of rally enthusiasts from all across America….and since that time, Hemmings Motor News has continued their role as title sponsor for every VCRA event held, which, in turn, has added tremendously to the credibility of our organization. Since the inaugural event, VCRA held three more national events, all titled as the “Hemmings Challenge”  Those national events were held in  Rogers, AR,  Springfield, MO and Bowling Green, KY.    In 2008 we were selected by the Sugar Valley Rally in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to sanction that great event, and continue to do so today. We were also commissioned to sanction the Coker Challenge held annually in Chattanooga, TN, through 2010.  All in all, since our beginning, VCRA has held four national events and twenty two, three day, regional events in cities across the country.  Our VCRA rally team has also been a competitor in the Great Race each year which has allowed us an even greater audience for our charity fundraising efforts, with the resurrection of the Greatrace in 2011.


Our commitment to the success of the VCRA is fueled by our passion for the sport, and, for the friendships and relationships we have enjoyed over the past 30 plus years of involvement in this great old car sport and, because we believe so strongly in our commitment to help those children, and their families, affected by autism.  All of the nearly thirty VCRA principals and staff members are volunteer, meaning no one in the VCRA receives any compensation, assuring that the maximum amount of the proceeds go to the charity.  This is a testament to the character of the folks that help make VCRA events possible year after year.  The sponsors who support us have also been on board year after year, a display of their confidence that we are doing the right thing for the right reason!


2016 began our eleventh year, and we are proud and humbled that we, along with our rally friends, competitors, sponsors, supporters and contributors have been responsible for donations amounting to well  over $500,000.00 to selected Autism programs across the country. Not only have we made a significant positive impact on the lives of hundreds of children with autism, we have also given hope to those families that have a child affected with the autism syndrome…this fact alone, that today, according to the latest CDC statistics, one in every 66 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism, is reason enough for us to continue our fight against this dreaded disease. The other reason is, if we don’t, who will?? One thing is for certain…we could not do it alone… our thanks to all of you who help make this happen…. and we thank you for your continued support!!!


As we go forward, we encourage your input concerning any aspect of how to improve our rallies, locations, venues etc. We would also appreciate hearing from anyone that knows of an Autism Chapter, Educational Center or Program that may be in need. We feel a responsibility to fully vet all programs prior to making any donation commitments, assuring that the funds do, in fact, go to help the children directly, in a prudent and timely manner.


©Copyright 2016-2017 Vintage Car Rally Association

62001 E. 327 Rd Grove, Ok 74344

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VCRA

Rex Gardner   Founder / Director

62001 E 327 Road

Grove, Oklahoma 74344

Phone: 918-801-2406

E-mail - rgard918@gmail.com

V C R A is a 501  C 3 Corporation  Federal ID # 27-0722024