The Great Beater Challenge 2021 – Preparations and Competitors

Title image.

The Great Beater Challenge is back after a COVID related absence (mostly, there was a smaller junior version) in 2020 with a very different route than previous years. The event is titled as “Flatland Fails” so no mountains but open prairies instead as we head east to Saskatchewan. As a review of the basic premise: buy a vehicle and fix it up all for less than $700 Cdn, then drive on a defined road trip with a scavenger hunt along the way. In this installment I will introduce our ride and theme as well as an overview of some of the  other competitors.

This year my challenge preparations were a little rushed and not as fully formed as I had hoped. The pandemic has not impacted everyone in the same way. For me the biggest impact has been that work has never been busier. Certainly that is not a complaint as I am very happy that the family has stayed healthy and employed over the period. Being busy at work combined with both a project vehicle of my own and for my son meant that it was no wonder that our GBC car was a little basic this year. Half formed even. We were using my 1992 Ford Mustang LX and the concept was airplane inspired. The P51 Mustang + Ford Mustang would become B21 Mustang (B = Beater, 21 = 2021). The vision was wings, tail fin and a propeller with flight suits for each of us.

First up was the construction of the wings which I figured needed to be wide enough so they looked like wings when parked but  narrow enough to drive on the road. So this called for either foldable or removable sections. I had a spare garden gate hinge kit lying around that looked like it might work. Then some free construction cast off wood as my building material of choice for these events.

The wing was to be roof mounted and I planned for a fabric covering that would hopefully reduce weight as well as drag and lift.

The rear mounted tail fin was to be mounted in place of the stock hatch mounted wing. After removing an amazing number of bolts the wing was off. Interestingly, underneath it seemed to be unpainted but in primer. Electrical tape was then used to seal up the not required holes against the weather as well as the dust of the expected gravel roads.

Car with wing pre challenge.

Final mounting occurred early on the morning of the Challenge. Unfortunately, this left no time for the propeller. Here is a photo of it without the wing extensions in place. I hit my head on the wing pretty much every time I got in and out of the car. Luckily, I have a “Top Gun” Halloween costume from a couple of years ago that I wore with some Aviator style sunglasses. My three sons all got white t-shirts, leather inspired jackets and Aviator style sunglasses.

Ready to be judged

I had volunteered to a be judge for the Challenge this year so it was a bit busier than normal during the morning so I only managed a few poor shots of the car in the staging lot that did not really show the wings to their best effect. It looks a little less than complete without the planned propeller unfortunately. Luckily another competitor had a brief walk around video which shows it at here at the 10:52 time mark.

The original plan was for all of three of my sons to participate which was a tight but a do-able fit. Somehow the Mustang felt a little tighter on space than the two door Toyota Tercel we had used in 2019. The middle boy, who has participated every year with me, had a very unsettled stomach so felt he needed to drop out given the almost complete lack of bathroom facilities along the route. Even bushes or trees would be in short supply as the route followed the sparsely populated historical Red Coat trail. In fact each team was encouraged to carry extra gasoline so as not to run out. We waited until the last possible moment before taking him home just in case he suddenly felt better. The youngest son bailed as well as he spied a chance to play Minecraft all weekend instead. So it was down to two of us but on the bright side this gave us much more room in the car.

An old Ford ready to go.

Here is a selection of the other teams and vehicles. I do not access to the final numbers yet but I would ballpark it at thirty to forty in total.

1979 Pontiac Acadian

They ranged from stock looking rarities like this Canadian market 1979 Pontiac Acadian to …

GMC Safari minivan

… a painted and customized vehicles like this GMC Safari minivan sporting an ice-cream theme.


This Dodge RAM pickup had an agriculture pivot mounted on it. I suspect they got very poor gas mileage.

1983 Dodge 400 convertible ready to go.

This 1983 Dodge 400 convertible languished on Kijiji (like Craig’s list) for months before finally disappearing. I was glad to see it here but equally glad it was not me driving it. One carbureted K-car is plenty for a lifetime.

Volkswagen Golf

A Volkswagen Golf done up in the “harlequin” style.

Free Candy?

A “Free Candy” themed 1998 Plymouth Voyager. Yes, they had free candy to hand out on route. It appeared that at some point the minivan had collided with a deer with the impact spot marked out on the hood. They also had a note that said “Honk if you love Phyllis!” which was apparently the name of the van. This was family entry who also entered the Ford pickup seen next to it. They also have a YouTube video up on getting to the challenge.

1951 Hudson Hornet with surprise


This 1951 Hudson Hornet has a surprise under the hood.

1951 Hudson Hornet with AMC engine

This is no Twin-H power! Instead a 199cid AMC inline six power plant has been swapped in. This team has their own YouTube channel where they discuss the engine in depth. AMC 199 Engine Update: Great Beater Challenge – YouTube

1999 Volkswagen Jetta

Another Volkswagen, this time a 1999 Jetta with a cartoon theme?

1960 Valiant V200

This 1960 Valiant V200 was absolutely fantastic and was bought out of a junkyard near Turner Valley for the princely sum of $250 by a multi year competitor. Note the running boards for extra scoring points.

1960 Valiant V200 details

Fantastic details on this including a vintage trike he sold along the route.

Oldsmobile Cutlass

A really nice looking Oldsmobile Cutlass coupe.

Ford Crown Victoria PI.

GBC veterans brought this Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor with a tartan theme that unfortunately got a little ruined by the rain on their journey to the start line. They were all clothed in tartan as well to match their car.

Another long term team brought this Ford Aerostar minivan with roof mounted spares.

A clean looking Volkswagen Rabbit with mismatched wheels.


Roof mounted gas cans and running boards on this Mercedes.

It is always nice to see a Mazda MX-3 with the tiny 1.8L V6 engine. We had seen this back in early 2020 when we went ice racing.

A very solid looking Seventies Buick in an era appropriate brown.

Moving forward to the 80s but staying with Buick we come to this 1981 LeSabre which appears to be sitting a little low at the rear.

A Saturn with a pickup conversion. If you look carefully there is a motorbike in the back. Or most of one as it was without an engine.

Must be a contagious as this Ford Festiva was also converted to a mini-truck. Not sure I would want sit in that back seat with the roll-bar so close to one’s forehead!

This is just a selection of the teams and vehicles. In the next installment we take off on this year’s journey with grain elevators, ghost towns and maybe even a dinosaur to come.


The whole Great Beater Challenge 2021 series

Preparations and Competitors

The Red Coat Trail on Day 1 Part 1

Saskatchewan Exploration on Day 1 Part 2

Climax on Day 2 Part 1

Heading to the finish line on Day 2 Part 2