GARDINER — If it weren’t for the car parts and harsh overhead lights, Peter Prescott could have been presiding over an executive meeting at the E.J. Prescott’s headquarters a few miles away.

But the business of the day was not waterworks or stormwater solutions. It was how to transport Prescott’s 1948 Ford sedan from Maine to San Rafael, California, and how to drive it 2,400 miles from there to Moline, Illinois, in the 2016 Hemmings Motor News Great Race.

The Great Race is a different kind of race. It’s an antique, vintage and collector car controlled-speed endurance rally that takes place on highways. That means competitors follow a specific course using only provided maps and materials, and they have to do it in a specified time. It’s nine days long, and this year the champion will win $50,000 from a prize purse that totals $150,000. More than 135 teams have signed up.

“It really should be on everybody’s bucket list,” Prescott said.

And if the chief executive officer of the Gardiner-based E.J. Prescott Inc. has his way, the annual race could kick off in Maine and travel through the state sometime in the future.

The 2014 race started in Ogunquit, he said, but the course took competitors directly south from there to The Villages, a retirement community west of Daytona Beach, Florida, where throngs of crowds greeted the exhausted driving teams.

START YOUR ENGINES

Prescott learned of the race about 20 years ago.

He was at an auto auction in Arizona and came across a booth promoting the event, and it lit his imagination.

Organizers launched the Great Race in 1983 with two competitors. In succeeding years, the event drew more and more drivers. But Prescott never followed up, and for a period of time the race halted operations. In 2011, new organizers revived the race. Three years later, it came knocking on Maine’s door and Prescott finally answered.

Long a fan of vintage cars and owner of PEP Classic Car Co., he put together the Maine Boyz and headed south. His was the only Maine car to take part, but it was a good run and a strong finish. The Maine Boyz car came in sixth in the rookie class that year and 47th overall.

Prescott was hooked.

This year’s Maine Boyz team has five members. Ed Chapman and Frank Crooker are drivers, Guy McDorr is the navigator, John Myrick will drive the transport truck, and the crew chief is Frank Landry. Prescott is also listed as a driver, but a bad back will keep him home this year. McDorr is a new and experienced addition to the team, with about 15 rallies behind him.

Race team members Frank Crooker, left, Peter Prescott and John Myrick, right, laugh with Gov. Paul LePage at the team's garage in Gardiner.

Race team members Frank Crooker, left, Peter Prescott and John Myrick, right, laugh with Gov. Paul LePage at the team’s garage in Gardiner. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The field consists of cars ranging from a 1916 Hudson Pikes Peak Hillclimber to a 1972 Jensen Healey. The field will be filled with Indy Racers, Mercedes, BMWs, Plymouths, Volkswagens, Jaguars and even a 1953 Chevrolet firetruck. Teams come from all over the country and even from Japan.

Prescott’s car, No. 78, will be distinguished by the red lobster that decorates the hood, roof, trunk and doors and contrasts nicely with the vehicle’s original dark green paint. It’s part of his plan to highlight Maine,.

HIT THE ROAD

Preparing for the rally is an event of its own.

The team members have mapped out a practice course, and they have been running it for two months.

On Thursday, conferring with Prescott, Thomas Pearl, who can fix just about anything, pointed out a small piece of metal missing from the front spring that he changed out. It probably would not have been a problem, but the route will not be forgiving of mechanical faults.

The slightly damaged spring will go on the rack that is carrying duplicates of every mechanical piece of No. 78 for the trip – engine, transmission, radiator, battery, hoses, clamps and fluids. Damaged though it is, it’s insurance. Under the rules, anything that is broken can be replaced, even if it takes all night for the crew to do. No one wants a “DNF” – a did not finish.

The rule booklet for the 2016 race is 31 pages long and covers every aspect of the race with great specificity, including what equipment is allowed.

The steering wheel and dashboard of Peter Prescott's 1948 Ford sedan.

The steering wheel and dashboard of Peter Prescott’s 1948 Ford sedan. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

NO MODERN TECH

Teams can’t use GPS or maps other than what’s provided, and there are limits to the equipment cars may carry.

The rules also outline the many infractions that can result in penalties assessed on times or, if serious enough, can disqualify competitors.

“You aren’t supposed to speed,” Prescott said. Because it’s a timed event, there’s no benefit for reaching a checkpoint early. But you don’t want to be late, either, because that affects your standings.

“They try to trick you on the instructions,” he said. In his first year, drivers were directed at one point to turn right at the first paved road. When they reached a decision point, it wasn’t clear whether that was the road intended or someone’s driveway. It ended up being a driveway that ended over the crest of hill.

“We get there and we turned. We almost rolled over,” he said. .

GO

The truck carrying No. 78 leaves Gardiner Saturday. The Ford and its transport bear the autographs of Gov. Paul LePage,.

The Maine Boyz anticipates reaching California in about four days, in time for registration and the pre-race inspections.

The rally kicks off June 13 on the streets where the movie “American Graffiti” was filmed.