Ed Walhof remembers the first antique car run from New London, Minn., to New Brighton more than two decades ago. He couldn't imagine why people would want to drive down the road going 20 miles per hour.
The following year, he tried it out for himself.
"I thought, 'This is pretty awesome,'" Walhof recalled last week.
The Antique Car Run will celebrate its 25th year this weekend, and Walhof, now the president, has been to nearly every one, first as an organizer and then as a driver in his 1907 Ford Model R. The annual event, a 120-mile trip, draws history buffs and car fanatics alike. Loyal attendees say it's a chance to enjoy some camaraderie on a relatively rare hobby.
Eighty people have registered for this Saturday's event, up from the usual 60. It's limited to brass-era vehicles, meaning any that were made through 1908 or one- or two-cylinder models made through 1915. It tends to draw Fords, Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles.
A brunch the day before this year's run will honor two men who have driven it every year: Edina resident John Elliott and Bob Long of Fargo. They've both crossed the finish line of each tour, which is a feat considering that some cars inevitably break down along the way. The organizers estimate there's an 87 percent completion rate.
Both Long and Elliott drive vintage Maxwells. Long has switched between a 1908 and a 1910 model, while Elliott has primarily stuck with his bright red 1912 Maxwell Messenger.
Elliott travels to five car tours each year, but he says the New Brighton run is the best in the country. No others have volunteers who move participants' regular vehicles and trailers from the beginning of the run to the finish line, he said. Because most people come from across the country and haul their cars in on trailers, it saves a hassle to have their gear waiting at the end. The more than 300 volunteers each year also prepare food, put up signs and direct traffic.
For Elliott, the event is all about education. Most people don't know much about early cars, and the run is a way to teach people about their beauty and endurance.
"It's like a rolling museum," Elliott said, adding that people always ask the inevitable question, "Did you buy this new?"
The run is designed to mimic the famous London to Brighton car run held annually in England. That event began after the repeal of the "red flag law," which required the first motorized vehicles on the road to have someone hold a red flag and walk in front of them.
Leading up to Saturday's run, the week is packed with a number of mini-tours and picnics, all designed to give outsiders a taste of scenic small-town Minnesota.
The antique car run isn't a race -- the goal is just to cross the finish line. Because some of the cars will break down, everyone in the event is either a mechanic or brings one.
Beyond flat tires and cars that barely squeaked by, Elliott said he's never had any serious car problems along the way.
"That doesn't mean I'll make it this year, of course," he said. "That's a 100-year-old car almost."
Tara Bannow is a Minneapolis freelance writer.