When the "Great Race" concludes Sunday near the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, a collection of Velie automobiles will be at the finish line to greet the drivers of the nine-day, cross-country race of vintage automobiles.
The finish will mark the first time in the history of the race — formally known as the Hemmings Motor New Great Race presented by Hagerty — that it will end in the Quad-Cities. The 2,400-mile race begins in California and includes 120 teams, including at least two from the Quad-Cities.
The public is invited to mingle with drivers as they come in and also visit with the Velie owners. Craft beer will be sold on the street, and downtown restaurants will be open.
Pronounced VEE-lee, the cars that will be at the finish line were manufactured in Moline from 1908 to 1928. The line outlasted several other automobile marques that came out of Quad-City factories during the first half of the 20th century.
The Velies, including the first one ever built, will be on display from 2-5 p.m. on River Drive between 12th and 15th streets, between the John Deere Pavilion and the iWireless Center, downtown Moline. They will be joined by about 30 other antique vehicles furnished by the Antique Automobile Club of America and the Antique Ford Club.
The Velie gathering is part of the “Viva Moline 2016” celebration organized by the Velie Register, with support from the Moline Preservation Society. Viva stands for “Velie Invitational for Vintage Automobiles” and also translates to “Long life” in Italian, organizers said.
The Velie Register, established in 1993, is the basic source for all things Velie. It publishes a directory with photos of all known Velie cars and trucks as well as a newsletter, and it brings together Velie buffs from around the world. They share technical expertise, help each other find parts, delve into Velie history and share stories about their favorite vintage car.
Velie Motors Corp. was founded by Willard Lamb Velie, a maternal grandson of plow pioneer John Deere. Competing with mid-priced cars such as Buick, the Velie was known for its no-nonsense styling and durability.
John Nikodym of Red Cloud, Nebraska, editor of the Velie Register and newsletter publisher, said Viva Moline 2016 is timed to coincide with the finish of the Great Race in Moline, the birthplace of the Velie. The finish line display will bring together the largest number of the marque since the Velie centennial celebration was held in Moline in 2008.
Velie buffs also will enjoy events relating to Velie history, including a tour of historic homes associated with the Deere and Velie families.
“We will have tours of sights in and around Moline, visit private collections and have presentations of Velie history,” Nikodym, said.
The eight Velies registered for the Moline gathering include Nikodym's “Old Maude,” the first Velie ever made when it rolled out of a downtown Moline factory on Nov. 20, 1908. Nikodym is the fifth owner of the car, a Velie “30” Model A, whose original owner was a produce merchant from Peoria. Other than a new folding top and upholstery, the car is original, down to its red paint.
Also showing a car will be Neil West of Bettendorf. A retired Deere & Co. engineer, he will share his 1917 Velie Model 28 touring car. West is the fifth owner of the car, which originally belonged to a man from Deming, New Mexico.
West reassembled the car's engine, which was in pieces when he bought it in 2005. Another challenge was tracking down parts and getting the speedometer operating again.
West has driven his car on numerous outings. In 2011, he joined other Velie owners at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to commemorate the first Indianapolis 500, held in 1911. In that race, Howard Hall, driving a Velie, finished 17th.
Around town, West has offered his Velie driving services to weddings and church festivals.
“I enjoy sharing the car,” he said.