Rolling History: Owensboro resident restoring car similar to ones in Great Race

·2 min read

Jun. 22—While roughly 120 antique and classic cars participating in the 2021 edition of the Hemmings Motor News Great Race are expected to make their way to Owensboro on Wednesday afternoon for an overnight stop, local resident and classic car enthusiast Tom Norvell opened his garage doors to give fellow residents an idea of what kind of cars to expect.

The proud owner of a 1924 Ford Model T boattail speedster, 1927 Whippet Collegiate Roadster and a 1956 Jaguar XK 140 open two seater, the 81-year-old said he has been interested in classic cars since he was a kid playing in the sand box.

"Automobiles are interesting; they have a personality of their own and the people who like them are the same way," he said Monday.

Not one to let mechanics and restoration professionals have all the fun, Norvell said he has put together every nut and bolt, as well as done the electrical wiring for all his classic cars.

It is his latest project, the 1924 Ford, that Novell said is similar to some of the cars that will be competing in the 2,300-mile endurance race that kicked off June 19 in San Antonio, Texas and concludes June 27 in Greenville, South Carolina.

Norvell said the only thing he has left to do on his Model T, which features a flathead four-cylinder engine, wood spoke wheels and an open-racing-style cockpit, is to get the magnetos working. Used in the days before car batteries, a magneto provides an electrical current to start a car's engine.

He also has to attach the boattail style rear portion of the car's body, and he will be ready to hit the road in his classic Ford.

"These racing machines, they stay with us," Norvell said. "They just do."

With a desire to design sports cars, Norvell attended college for engineering for two-years before feeling a call to the ministry.

"Had I followed through and developed sports cars, General Motors would have never gone broke," he joked.

Norvell said he drives his cars and enjoys them, and advises people just getting into the collector car hobby to enjoy their cars as well.

"There is no perfect car," he said. "You can't see both sides of a car at the same time and you ought not to take it so seriously."

Founded in 1983 and based on the original Great Race of 1908, drivers and their navigators are expected to be pulling into downtown Owensboro on Wednesday evening. Area residents are welcome to come downtown to Veterans Boulevard at 5 p.m. to watch the cars pull unto town and speak with the drivers and race teams.

Nathan Havenner, Messenger-Inquirer,, 270-228-2837

Nathan Havenner, Messenger-Inquirer,, 270-228-2837