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Rearview Mirror Exclusive: The Future of the Ramblin’ Reck

My off-and-on history of the Ramblin’ Reck continues because, well, ends more powerful than I justify my means of production.

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Renderings of the Ramblin’ Reck Garage, courtesy of the Office of Development
Georgia Tech Office of Development, 2019

Why am I featuring the Reck when we’re nowhere close to Reck Club Recruitment season? Don’t be so cynical! I can use what little bully pulpit I have to shill for the Ramblin’ Reck at all times of year! It’s funny you should be so curious — stay tuned to the end, as From the Rumble Seat is excited to exclusively announce the newest way you, dear reader, can get involved with the latest and greatest happenings of Tech’s Ford 1930 Model A Sport Coupe.

When we last left off with the Ramblin’ Reck, it was the turn of the 1970s and the custody and responsibility for day-to-day operations of the car had been turned over, appropriately, to the Ramblin’ Reck Club, who are the car’s caretakers to this day. In practice, at the time, it meant that they were responsible for protecting it from damage, scheduling its appearances, and general upkeep. However, by 1973, increased maintenance demands of the aging vehicle forced the organization to turn for other help. The club gained a useful ally in taking care of the car when they found Pete George, a 1947 graduate of the school of Industrial Engineering, a Ford employee who worked at the Atlanta Assembly in Hapeville. This plant, named the most efficient auto assembly plant in North America in 2006, was the home of production for several models, notably including the Ford Fairlane and Thunderbird from the company’s namesake mark, as well as the Mercury Marquis and Zephyr from other company marks. The final two lines at the plant, the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, were produced over roughly two decades when it closed in 2006. The site is now the location of the Porsche headquarters just north and east of Hartsfield-Jackson.

In George, the club and the car were in good hands. Though the assistance wasn’t officially corporate, it was a benefit to keep the car maintained at its facilities, especially paired with the extensive knowledge George had. Ultimately, it was he who did much of the work on the car, fitting his expertise with the eager work of the students.

The next year, Bobby Dodd, who was eight years retired from coaching football but still the athletic director, spearheaded an aesthetic re-envisioning of the Reck. While initially the car had been painted a cheddar cheese-like shade of yellowish gold, not unreminiscent of the garish “buzz gold” that split the branding of the athletic and academic bureaucracies of the Institute for many years. For all of the metaphorical ink spilled on this site recently on Dodd’s questionable foresight regarding things like conference affiliation, when it came to branding his programs and knowing his school’s identity, the man was ahead of the curve, in this case about 45 years in front of it. It is oft-recited that when Dodd solidified the modern white and old gold color scheme, he snagged the gold tone off of swatches in the Lincoln paint catalogue, courtesy of the Ford Company. It would be interesting to find these paint catalogues from the 1970s, though, since, be it via the words of Todd Stansbury during the Adidas rebrand or via past Reck drivers doing upkeep on the car, the precise color and tone of the paint is notoriously hard to identify.

George, understandably an integral part of this process as well, facilitated the repainting and was able to finish off an extensive structural overhaul that included the basis of today’s enhanced support system in the chassis and runningboards of the car to help hold the weight of Tech’s cheerleaders, Buzz, and Reck Club members as they ride the car around campus on, say, gameday, or most famously, the six cheerleaders that pile onto the four-seater car as it leads the football team into the stadium.

The next major restoration of the car came in the early 1980s, when George entirely “disassembled, rebuilt, and repainted”, the car. Much of its lasting changes were formalized and added, as a chrome guard to protect the grill appeared and the horn was chromed as well, the front tire wells saw the addition of the old school yellow jacket (“lanky Buzz”) decal, and the tire cover was changed. This would be the last overhaul before George’s retirement in 1987 as the manager of the plant he had worked at since more or less the plant had opened. The Hapeville plant would continue to provide assistsance on major projects until 1994, when essentially all repairs and maintenance of the car fell to the students and the club, with ad-hoc help from local establishments.

It’s worth noting in this structural and aesthetic look at the history of the Reck that the car may have always had a home on campus, but it’s been essentially transient for much of its history. According to the Technique, “in the 70s it occupied a shed near the power plant. It was later moved to its current location before again being moved to a garage under Bobby Dodd Stadium. Due to renovations of the stadium, the Wreck [sic] moved back to its current location in 2001,” (Technique, 2009).

The location stated in the quote hasn’t changed since the article was written. In fact, it was published in response to the Athletic Association announcement in the spring of 2009 that the Reck would imminently become transient once more due to future renovations, and they had two years to find a new space. That would not be the first time that has happened. In the nineties, the Reck, as is mentioned, rested in Bobby Dodd Stadium. The construction of the Upper North Stands changed all of that. In hindsight, the threat of “future renovations” seems more of a ploy than anything, seeing as how the Reck still occupies the same small, cramped, inadequate, and hidden space that it did in 2009. Former Reck Driver and co-founder of From the Rumble Seat Winfield Tufts was quoted extensively in the piece, noting that they were “currently in the process of finding a permanent space, but the process is very slow,” (Technique, 2009).

It’s now long beside the issue that the AA was unhelpful at best at helping them find another space. The article continues that, “In addition to losing its current parking garage, the Reck Club is also seeking solutions to the problem of the small space provided, in favor of a much larger space. The current space is only large enough to house Wreck and does not have enough space for students to walk around it,” and Tufts added that Reck Club desired, “a space that it deserves to take care of the car and not just a temporary shed for every five to ten years, or a storage space, or closet,” (Technique, 2009). It is worth noting that it has long been a goal of the club to publicly display the car, if possible and secure. The Reck, after all, is the property of the whole student body, not some shadowy cabal of fifty of them. To display it is to properly honor it and its owners, and a more visible mark of the excellent legacy and tradition the car both represents, both in its physical state and its deeper historical and emotional meaning.

Tufts continued, “we need the administration, we need someone from above to say the Ramblin’ Reck is a tradition of Georgia Tech [and] it needs a respectable space so that it can be taken care of properly and maintained so that it can continue to be an icon for Tech. We need to have space for it for another 50 years for this car. The Ramblin’ Reck is an icon of the school, and I think it should be high on the priority needs a proper and respectful permanent space for the rest of its time on campus,” (Technique, 2009).

Ten years later, the car still sits in that undisclosed location.

However, that time is finally now. Thanks to the attention of the Institute, many passionate students and alums, the Office of Development, and the timing of the Campus Center construction, the long-awaited plans for a public display of the Ramblin’ Reck are now in full swing. Any reader of this humble blog knows the value of this car. For too long, it has been hidden away, out of sight, and, consequentially, out of mind. No more. Few symbols carry the unique representation of the things they represent the way the Reck represents Georgia Tech; it is high time that symbol is on display for all to see.

Not only would this Reck Garage, built with glass garage doors located within view of the renovated Fred Wenn Student Center, Clough Commons, and Tech Green, be a fantastic display of our beloved icon, but a practical one, as well, dramatically increasing accessibility to the car for maintenance, storage, upkeep. A plaza outside allows intimate contact with the car for car washing and interacting with pedestrians. It is particularly interesting to note that, according to materials provided by the Office of Development, “The Reck will be visible from the new theater space, which will host admissions presentations for prospective students, in addition to other campus and community events.” Everyone who visits campus for the first time will see one of its most beloved symbols, guaranteed.

Of course, this is not a free project. They also note that, “The project is currently in the planning phase, and a minimum of $1.5 million in private philanthropic support is needed to make the Ramblin’ Reck Garage a reality.”

What is nice to have does not come easy.

But, I firmly believe in this project. I think it is one of those understated things - after all, it isnt a particularly large building - that can go a long way to having a huge impact on campus. One of the things I heard a lot as an undergrad was that it seemed like the Reck was inaccessible. As strange as it is for fans, alumni, and interested parties as closely associated with Tech as we are to hear, there are some kids that go their entire time at Tech without seeing the Reck in person. This would instantly change that. The exposure to the car, the connection with traditions, the representation of the uniqueness of Tech - all of that matters deeply, and all of that takes a huge step forward when the Reck is an open, easily accessible part of campus life. Leaving it in darkness and out of sight doesn’t add to the allure, it just bums people out. It decreases their feeling of ownership over not just the car, but their school and their community as well.

A public garage may be but a small project in the grand scheme of things, but one I truly feel could have colossal, lasting positive effects for not just the Reck and its caretakers, but the student body and the Institute as a whole. That’s why I already signed up to help, and why, as weird as it feels to be somewhat of a shill for contributions and awareness, I see it as my duty for to help the namesake of this site and icon of our shared Institute.

At long last, the Reck will have a permanent home, and truly become a part of our neighborhood.

To inquire about making a gift in support of the Ramblin’ Reck Garage, contact Director of Development for Student Life Emily Takieddine at emily.takieddine@ or 1-(404)-385-0527.

For more information on the Ramblin’ Reck Club: click here. Kudos to them for their well-versed history of the Reck page (@akeaswaran).

A special thanks to Dress Her in White and Gold, Engineering the New South, and the Georgia Tech Archives for the background information and images used in writing this column.

If you have any events or ideas you would like to see investigated, leave a comment below and I will be sure to look into adding it to the schedule.