Aug. 30, 2006
ATLANTA (AP) -KaMichael Hall doesn't know much about Georgia Tech's most famous tradition, other than those fumes he runs through before each football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
"Oh, you know there's a car out there," the senior linebacker said with a telling grin. "You can smell the exhaust."
This isn't just any car, of course. It's a restored 1930 Model A Ford Cabriolet Sport Coupe, better known in these parts as the "Rambling Wreck" - a gas-powered, four-wheeled mascot that fits quite nicely with the school's famous fight song.
So, while other schools have their lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), the gold-clad faithful are quite pleased with letting a vintage automobile lead their football team onto the field before each home game while they belt out, "I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer."
"Every time you see Georgia Tech, you see the team running out behind the Rambling Wreck," said coach Chan Gailey, whose team will kick off a new season against No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday night. "Of course, it started long before us. The kids today don't really understand exactly what is going on. But it's a part of the game at this school."
Indeed, Hall responded with a puzzled look when quizzed about his knowledge of the 76-year-old car.
"I don't pay much attention to it, personally," he said. "I have no idea where that car came from. I've heard this and heard that, but I can't tell you honestly what it's all about."
Well, here's a brief primer:
The current Rambling Wreck formally joined the mascot corps on Sept. 30, 1961, when it rumbled on the field before the Yellow Jackets defeated Rice 24-0 in Atlanta. The car is still humming along quite nicely - low mileage, only used on Saturdays - as it heads into its 46th season of service.
These days, with flags attached to each of the front fenders and "GT" painted on the doors, the gold-and-white car takes the lead for the Yellow Jackets with cheerleaders perched on the running boards and "Buzz" - the school's living, breathing mascot: a costumed bug - standing on the rumble seat.
But the actual tradition is much older.
According to the school's media guide, the term "Rambling Wreck" was first attached to a 1914 Ford owned by Floyd Field, the dean of men. In 1927, the Technique student newspaper railed against Field when he considered trading the car, but he ignored the outrage and did it anyway.
The Technique maintained the automotive tradition with a yearly collegiate race from Atlanta to Athens, about 75 miles away and home of the hated Georgia Bulldogs. Known as the "Old Ford" or "Flying Flivver" event, it began in 1929 but had to be dropped when it became too dangerous to compete on the increasingly crowded roads.
The race was succeeded by the Rambling Wreck parade, still held to this day during homecoming. The engineering students are given the task of producing outlandish "mechanical monstrosities" capable of traveling a short distance on the urban campus.
That's all well and fine, but the school decided in the late 1950s to seek out an official car that would forever be known as the Rambling Wreck. James Dull, the dean of students, began the search for a pre-1940 vintage model, and finally found one parked right in front of his apartment building.
The owner, a Delta pilot named Ted J. Johnson, had just finished restoring the car and planned to give it to his son as a gift. Instead, he sold the car to Georgia Tech in May 1961 for $1,000 - money that he eventually returned to the school's athletic scholarship fund so he could go on record as having donated the car.
Ever since then, the Rambling Wreck has been the most recognizable symbol of the school's football team.
And with another season about to begin, there's only one thing to say at Georgia Tech: Gentlemen, start your engine.