This article is reposted from an article I wrote for The Technique (official site, Wikipedia article), published on June 29, 2007. (html, pdf). You may also be interested in the car’s Wikipedia article (which I helped write), as it is more comprehensive than this article.
Tech’s mechanical mascot is no mere vehicle. The Ramblin’ Wreck, a 1930 Ford Model A, is a piece of history and an icon for the Yellow Jackets. That said, many Jacket fans don’t know much, if any, of the details or history behind the beloved vehicle, which leads the football team onto the field for every game and serves as a symbol of Tech’s industrial roots.
In 1916, Tech’s Dean of Men Floyd Field purchased his first car, a 1914 Ford Model T. Field drove the car extensively to and from class from 1916 to 1929; he even drove this first car as far as California to attend academic seminars. The vehicle was metallic black, and had a mysterious black box fastened to its rear. Initially dubbed “Floyd’s Flubber,” his car became known as the “Ramblin’ Reck.”
Eventually, Field felt limited by his Model T and discarded it (much to students’ disappointment) in favor of a newer model in 1928. To commemorate his former Model T, Field started an “Old Ford Race” from Atlanta to Athens in 1929 that was nicknamed the “Flying Fliver Race.” However, Tech administration deemed the race unsafe for students in 1932. A more peaceful parade of contraptions was organized by the relatively new Yellow Jacket Club in an event known as the Wreck Parade. Established in 1930, the Yellow Jacket Club would later change its name to the Ramblin’ Reck Club (RRC) in 1945.
In the 1950s, Dean of Student Affairs Jim Dull noticed Tech students’ fascination with classic cars. At that time, fraternities each had house Ramblin’ Wrecks to display their school spirit; in fact, it was a campus rite for a student to own a Wreck of some sort. Consequently, Dull decided the school needed an official Ramblin’ Wreck.
Dull searched across the country for the perfect Wreck, even using newspaper ads and radio commercials to find an appropriate vehicle.
In autumn of 1960, Jim Dull found the car he had been looking for right outside his apartment in Towers Hall. It was a Ford Model A owned by Ted Johnson, Atlanta’s chief Delta Airlines pilot. Johnson had purchased the scrapped car from a junkyard in 1956 and restored it with his son Craig in 1958. On May 26, 1961, the Athletic Association purchased the car for 1,000 dollars; the next day, students from the RRC picked it up.
On Sept. 30, 1961, the Ramblin’ Wreck was driven onto Grant Field for the first time before a game against Rice University, and the RRC president explained the car’s story in front of 43,501 fans. The Wreck saw its first away game on Nov. 18, 1961. In 1987, the Alumni Association gave the car to the Institute for free, and in 1992, Dean Dull retired, leaving the Wreck under the exclusive care of the Ramblin’ Reck Club.
Aside from the recent accident, the Wreck has had a few other incidents as well. In 1962, Tennessee Volunteer fans broke into the Wreck’s storage area in Neyland Stadium and painted it orange. In 1968, the Wreck swerved to avoid a drunken student after a pep rally and hit a telephone pole. That same year, an angry Auburn fan shot the Wreck’s radiator with a rifle after the Jackets won a game against Auburn.
The Wreck has been to 290 consecutive home football games and numerous cities in 12 states and Washington, D.C. Since the Wreck drove onto the field Sept. 30, 1961, Tech football has gone 184-102-4 at home. The car has also had a few facelifts since its acquisition from Ted Johnson. In 1982, Hapeville Ford Plant Manager and Tech alum Pete George completed notable restoration work on the Wreck, which was followed by more work in 2000 by the RRC.
The Wreck’s driver is elected by the RRC every November. There have been 42 Reck Drivers since 1961 out of over 100,000 Tech graduates.
To put Tech’s automotive mascot in perspective, remember that UGA is on its sixth (non-human) mascot. Tech is still on its first, or second if you count Floyd Field’s Model T. It will take far more than a fender bender to unmake the legacy that is our beloved Ramblin’ Wreck.