An elite engineering institution requires a unique mascot and a Ford Model A is the perfect fit for the job. 

Some call it the Wreck. Others say it’s the Reck. Regardless, Georgia Tech’s official mechanical mascot — a Ford Model A Sport Coupe — will be 94 years old in 2024.

The Ford Model A represents Tech’s reputation of superb engineering because the car was an engineering marvel itself. The vehicle that drives around campus and leads the football team onto the field before every home game initially rolled off Ford’s manufacturing line in 1930. It was one of a staggering 4.9 million Model A’s produced from 1927 to 1932 — one every two minutes. Unprecedented for its time, that volume was possible because the car was designed from the beginning with manufacturability in mind.

The Model A succeeded — and improved on — Ford’s Model T, the world’s first affordable automobile for middle-class America.

“It had new features, including an electric starter, a three-speed transmission, a standard set of driver controls, safety glass, and a more flexible suspension resulting in a smoother ride experience,” said Omar Kahn, the 2023 Wreck driver and a student in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

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2023 driver Omar Khan stands next to ramblin wreck

ISyE student Omar Khan has been responsible for maintaining the Wreck this year as the elected driver. 

Ramblin' Wreck leads Yellow Jackets onto Grant field in 1966.

The Ramblin' Wreck leads the Jackets onto Grant Field in 1966. (Photo Courtesy: Atlanta History Center)  

A Wreck Tradition is Born, Then Official

The Ramblin’ Wreck’s association with Georgia Tech started about 15 years before the actual car was produced.

Professor Floyd Field drove a 1914 Model T to campus from 1916 to 1928. Although the car deteriorated over a decade of heavy use, students became very fond of the vehicle and started calling it the Ramblin’ Wreck.

After Field traded his Model T for a new car, the Technique sponsored the Old Ford Race from Atlanta to Athens as a memorial to Field’s famous vehicle. The event was only held twice before administrators deemed it too dangerous. It transformed into the annual Ramblin’ Wreck Parade in 1932 and continues to this day on Homecoming weekend.

Throughout the next few decades, the old, beat-up cars used in the races and parades remained popular on campus. It became a rite of passage to own a Ramblin’ Wreck, and students enjoyed the challenge of keeping the shoddy cars alive using their engineering prowess.

Dean of Students Jim Dull saw the passion and thought an official Ramblin’ Wreck mascot would be a fitting representative of Georgia Tech’s students and its engineering heritage.

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In 1960, after years of searching, Dull found the current Wreck — an immaculately restored 1930 Ford Model A Sport Coupe. In the end, he didn’t even have to look far: The car was parked one day outside his apartment. It took a lot of effort, but Dull eventually convinced the owner to part with the car.

On September 30, 1961, the Ramblin’ Wreck rolled onto Grant Field for its first football game and has been on campus ever since.

This year, it moved to a new home in the center of campus: a fully functioning repair station next to the John Lewis Student Center. As the current driver, Khan had the honor of parking the Wreck in the garage for the first time at the dedication.

"In the Reck Club, we always say that the Wreck belongs to the student body; it's a representation of students," he said. "But there's always been some distance because we had to keep its location secret. This is a special moment to see it find a permanent home right here in the middle of campus."

Kahn is now at the end of his tenure. He’ll turn over his keys in January to newly elected driver, computer science student Matthew Kistner.

“The best part about driving the wreck is the reaction that students give," Khan said. "They’re smiling and waiving so much. Other cars honk at me, and it’s really cool to connect with them and see how much it impacts their day just as it does mine.”

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Omar Khan is on a Mission to Spread Smiles on Campus

Omar Khan takes his job seriously. During the driver elections last year, Khan prepared a two-and-a-half-page speech and eight pages of notes to present to fellow members of the Ramblin’ Reck Club, which is responsible for electing a driver every year.  

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