The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 1 – Off To A Slow Start


In the last installment of the Great Beater Challenge I had (hopefully) completed my preparation and we were ready to head out. I say we, as my twelve year son was now joining me on the rally. I had driven the Aries to work twice since, and while it was still slow on the hills, I felt ready to hit the road. As you can see, a highly varied selection of vehicles turned out.

From left to right here are the vehicles and teams.


First up is my 1983 Dodge Aries SE, team name ‘Special K’. I am attempting to channel Lee Iaccoca with my low rent costume. If I enter again next year I will make a better costume and car customization effort. Despite this I managed to score 160 points mostly on the strength of the Aries being a ‘Special Edition’.



1986 Volkswagen Cabriolet – “Team I think I Can”. The top was permanently removed for bonus points and the team dressed as Jeremy Clarkson and James May from Top Gear. They had a inanimate Stig along for the ride as well. I am not sure what kind of performance addition their grill mounted leaf blower gave them but they seemed to make great time despite constantly stopping for tea along the route.


1988 Toyota Van – DigIt. The Dig It van featured flamed bodywork and fantastic costumes. The sofa mounted inside the van was a nice touch. The hard rocking and loud stereo likely out-valued several other cars. If you look carefully you can see the van has three 17″rims and one 15″.


1959 Rambler Super – “Mad Mennos”. This classic Rambler was a late addition and had only been removed from a field two days earlier. It was equipped with a six cylinder engine and non-functional window wipers. Naturally the Rambler was a huge points winner.


Subaru – “Flaming Rooster Racing”. The Subaru team had planned on entering a Toyota Celica but when that ate its engine with no time to find a replacement this “hybrid” Subaru was pressed into service. I say hybrid as this car had hybrid badging since contained a variety of parts sourced from several different Subaru models. The engine block and heads came from two different models. Some of the body panels were adapted from a sedan. The two teammates traveled to get the challenge from Calgary and Edmonton area so they had a very long first day.


1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – “Pride Motorsports”. I did not get to see much of the Monte Carlo team as they were far too fast and reliable for me to keep up to. They dressed in orange mechanic overalls and I did very much dig their stock race car vibe. The white lettered “Lightyear” tires are a particularly nice touch.


1994 Honda Civic – “Team Tang”. This Civic with mismatched wheels (15″ Acura on the front, 14″ aftermarket Riken on the rear) was driven by my friend Rod who brought along his wife and son. They had initially planned on entering a very rusty two door Volvo affectionately known as “The Leg”, but a lack of reverse gear made them swap to the Civic hatchback. They were also good enough to caravan with me and the slow Aries the whole way. Like an old CRT computer monitor with burn-in, I suspect the rear image of a K-car is forever implanted into their brains after the weekend.


1989 Mazda B2200 – “OG Mini-Truckin”. The organizer drove this Mazda B2200 pickup truck which featured several new parts which only seemed to encourage it to leak more oil. The colored tape based stripe job added an extra bit of style.


To complete the convoy there was a sweeper truck to assist or haul away any ailing vehicles along the way.


As part of the challenge we had a scavenger hunt to complete. We had to find an item, view or complete a task along the route to earn points. Photographic evidence was required with either your car or team in it as proof. The day started out on the prairies, which are extremely flat and should have meant easy going driving. However it was extremely windy and the boxy K-car was limited to about 100km/h (61 mph). The first scavenger hunt item was a bear shaped garbage can in Fort McLeod which was only half an hour away.


The road soon began transitioning from flat prairie to more hilly terrain as we approached the mountains. This area is well known for its wind farms and did not disappoint with continued windy conditions.


This double-decker out house was not on the scavenger hunt list but I could not resist stopping to take a photo of it. Built in 1905, at the same time as the attached hotel, this multistory lavatory used offset chutes to allow both an upstairs and downstairs. It meant that hotel patrons could relieve themselves without having to go downstairs and through the tavern. Unfortunately the original was damaged in a 1963 fire that destroyed the hotel. This is a nicely built replica as the original has been relocated for future preservation.


We even managed to find a few old cars along the route like this 1949 Chrysler.


And just down the street an engine-less Opel GT.


The next stop was scenic Lundbreck Falls just off Highway 3. There are definitely bigger waterfalls but few are more picturesque than Lundbreck Falls with fall colors in effect. However we did not have time to hang around taking photos on this trip as we needed to press on.


The Burmis Tree announces that you have entered the Crowsnest Pass and the mountains. It is a Limber Pine named for near by town Burmis and is estimated to be 600-750 years old. Despite dying in the 1970s, falling over and later being vandalized, it remains a popular site for tourists.


Shelter provided by the mountains meant the wind finally dissipated to a reasonable level but progress remained slow as the Aries could not maintain the speed limit on even modest hills. My son took most of the in car photos.


One of the more famous landmarks in the Crownest Pass is Frank Slide. On April 29 1903 the eastern edge of mining Town Frank was covered by 90 million tons of rock sliding down from nearby Turtle mountain. The mountain was the site of an active coal mine which likely contributed the slide on an already unstable mountain. Ironically many of the men working in the mine were safe and returned to find their families and homes gone. Total loss of life is estimated to be between 70 and 90. The railway was covered but quickly repaired, the mine re-opened and the remains of the town re-located. With the exception of the highway and railway cutting through it the site of the slide remains as it was in 1903.


The Dodge climbed the hill to the Frank Slide Interpretive Center to get a view of Turtle mountain.


After crossing over into British Columbia we made a quick stop at the world’s biggest truck located in Sparwood. Note my new Great Beater Challenge sticker that has been added to the trunk. A previous write-up gives more detail on the fascinating 1973 Terex Titan 33-19 dump truck.


Due to the Dodge’s slow going we were already starting to fall behind as the Top Gear guys were finishing up their tea when we arrived.


Not long after it started to rain. The Top Gear team had no roof but I heard later that they kept reasonably dry provided they did not stop. Not all the scenery was natural as we passed a pair of classic Chevrolets on our way.


Cranbrook is one of the bigger centers along the route, so when the K-car had become even more sluggish we managed to find a parts store and squeak in 10 minutes before closing time. We tried a Seafoam treatment which produced an impressive amount of smoke but neither seemed to help or hinder the car’s performance.


The spark plugs had looked okay before I had set off but now looked a little dark so I figured a new set could not hurt. I dispensed with my Lee Iaccoca gear and dug in. The newly installed spark plugs might have made a minor difference or perhaps I was just holding out hope for a little more get up and go. The idle was a bit lumpy and somehow the brake rotors had already warped slightly as there was a bit of shudder when braking. Regardless, we pressed on. Check in next time to see how we survived the rest of the day and what other sights we encountered.

The whole series:
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 1 – Vehicle Selection
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 2 – 1983 Dodge Aries Purchased
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 3 – Vehicle Preparation
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 1 – Off To A Slow Start
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 2 – Rain, Rain, and a Hotel with Character
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 1 – The Big Climb
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 2– Finale