Originally created 11/23/05

Georgia Tech's Wreck is senior's full-time job



ATLANTA - The Ride is something that's difficult to describe even after having taken part from the passenger seat of a vehicle that's been puttering around for 75 years.

Your mind drifts briefly through the car's history - where it's been, who's sat on this patch of glossy leather. But those thoughts are curtailed rather quickly.

That's because what makes it the Ride is everything and everyone around you, not necessarily what's going on inside the car. It's the reactions - the genuinely excited facial expressions, the digital cameras popping out of nowhere, the whole-arm-involved waving.

You're welcome because you're inside. Wait, no. This isn't about you; it's about this easily recognizable go kart-sized piece of metal with an engine that refuses to give.

Georgia Tech's Ramblin' Wreck rumbles more than rambles, especially on a chilly fall morning like this. The most famous car this side of movie-lore rides such as the Batmobile and General Lee, the 1930 Ford Model 'A' moves, with its 24 horses under the hood, at something in the neighborhood of 25 mph.

Hey, but it wasn't built for speed. It was built, as it turns out, to be something of an ambassador for the university - a spokesman that's never said a word, unless you count the deep "a-woo-ga" sound of the horn.

For Ryan McFerrin, every day is the Ride. Or, at least that's been the case since January, when the Woodstock, Ga., native assumed the role as the Wreck's wheelman, a student-held position that's elected through the school's 50-member pep 'Reck Club.

"It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said McFerrin, who could have already graduated with his degree in industrial design, but stuck around an extra semester to take a single computer science class and be the Wreck's caretaker.

The job's more involved than that, really. In addition to managing what's under the hood and leading the football team on the field at home games, McFerrin handles when and where the car goes. The Ramblin' Wreck has constant appearance requests at alumni gatherings, parades and weddings.

It wasn't always that way. When the car first came into public service, in 1961, the school's fraternities passed it from one to another. Eventually, the responsibility of the car was handed over to the 'Reck Club.

"It definitely furthers your passion for Georgia Tech," Dustin Bergman, last year's driver who is now the 'Reck Club's president said. "I really can't put a price on it still."

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.