Talking Tradition: Driving the Wreck at Georgia Tech

Each year, Georgia Tech’s Ramblin’ Wreck is driven by a single student to all its appearances. This year’s driver, Matthew Kistner, reflects on the Wreck and the Institute’s unique take on traditions.

Editor’s Note: The Ramblin’ Reck Club has used the spelling “Reck” to refer to the car since its inception. However, the Institute uses “Ramblin’ Wreck” and holds a trademark on this spelling. 

A beloved symbol of tradition since 1961, many Georgia Tech students are quick to smile when they hear the rumble of the Ramblin’ Wreck’s engine or the shrill beep of the horn on campus. While the 1930 Ford Model A Sport Coupe is best known for leading the football team onto the field, the car is often spotted around the college grounds, attending events or otherwise bringing cheer to the student body. 

Matthew Kistner stands with the Ramblin' Wreck, a gold and white 1930 Model A sport coupe

In the opinion of third-year computer science student Matthew Kistner, the Wreck is the perfect symbol of how tradition at Tech goes beyond what can be found anywhere else.  

“We have a lot of things that are really out there,” explained Kistner. “And that just means we’re fostering something really special for students to pass down.” 

Kistner himself gets to play a unique role when it comes to the Wreck – starting in January, he began his yearlong term as sole driver. As such, Kistner is the only person who can drive the Wreck from point A to point B: football games, campus events, weddings, and beyond. 

The Wreck has been driven by an elected member of the Ramblin’ Reck Club, a student organization devoted to spirit and tradition at Tech, each year since 1968. Along with driving, Kistner is also responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the vehicle. Though he’s early in his tenure, he’s already completed several grease changes and an oil change.  

Kistner stands underneath the Ramblin' Wreck, which is on a lift, to perform a grease change.
Kistner changing the grease on the Wreck. Image courtesy of Matthew Kistner.

For him, having such a role in one of Tech’s most recognized traditions is an honor. Kistner has long described himself as spirited, and knew that finding a university where he could express that spirit was a priority in his college search. After researching Georgia Tech and finding the Ramblin’ Reck Club, which also plans yearly traditions such as the Mini 500, the Freshman Cake Race, and the homecoming Ramblin’ Wreck Parade, Kistner knew Tech was the right place for him. 

“This club played a huge part in how I ended up here,” said Kistner. “The Reck Club gets a ton of opportunities when it comes to getting directly involved with Georgia Tech sports and student life. I got on campus my first year and immediately was looking for this club.” 

In 2022, Kistner’s first year in the organization, he told then Wreck driver Evalyn Edwards that driving the Wreck was eventually what he wanted to do. Now, two years later, it’s his reality. 

Though much of the car remains the same as when it came to Tech, a few pieces change with each driver. The flags on the front, which read “to Hell With Georgia” and “Give ‘em Hell Tech,” are given to the driver as keepsakes at the end of their year, as are the step plates and radiator cap. The radiator cap traditionally takes the mold of a quail, though drivers may choose whatever animal they like.  

“I thought about picking a frog actually,” Kistner said. “But the quail is traditional, and I wanted to stick with that.” 

Tradition plays an important role in life at Tech. From receiving and filling out RAT caps at new student Convocation, to leaving offerings at the grave of Sideways the dog for good luck, and the Whistle sounding off throughout each day to signify class ending, the day-to-day for Tech students often features some homage to the school’s deep history.  

For students coming to Tech in the future, Kistner’s advice is to embrace it. On top of that, finding ways to get involved is key. 

“There’s a common misconception that Tech isn’t a very social school,” said Kistner. “People that want to get involved in social clubs can and should. Sign up for as many things as you want – you can always drop things later.” 

The Ramblin’ Reck Club recruits each spring semester. View a full list of registered student organizations and learn more about tradition at Tech. 

Explore Living Learning Communities at Georgia Tech

Living Learning Communities (LLCs) are an opportunity to connect with campus in smaller groups of likeminded students. Each LLC lives together and has academic and experiential programming that coincides with the goals of that LLC.  

There are six available by application to incoming first-year students: Explore, Global Leadership, Grand Challenges, the Honors Program Living Learning Communities, First-Year Semester Abroad and the iGniTe Summer Launch Program. Each LLC has its own focus and goals, so research each one and find which fits your interests best. 

Explore: College of Sciences 

Explore is curated for students interested in research and pre-health pathways. Centered around exploration and experimentation, it encourages students to delve into various academic disciplines, research endeavors, and experiential learning.  

“I think the connections I’ve made here at Explore have changed my college life for the better,” said Explore student Michael Saenz. “I often find myself going to my peers for assistance in academic studies or simply just to have a friend to hang out with. Our experiences outside of the classroom have been enlightening and enjoyable, including weekly basketball games with our resident assistant and collaborative Jackbox games.” 

Global Leadership 

Students in Global Leadership learn how to approach global problems by engaging with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  Through a blend of cultural immersion, leadership development, and academic exploration, students engage in cross-cultural understanding and collaborative projects.  

“If you’re curious how to apply what you learn at Georgia Tech to world problems, you’ll feel at home in Global Leadership. Candidates that want to strive to better themselves and the world as a team will also find success,” said Brandon Moncada, Global Leadership student. “I made many friends that will last a lifetime, and I learned how to work in a diverse team and use our differences as strengths to develop meaningful and pragmatic global solutions” 

Grand Challenges 

Grand Challenges helps students build problem solving and leadership skills by immersing students in addressing global issues through innovation and collaboration. It combines interdisciplinary coursework, mentorship, and community engagement to tackle pressing societal problems.  

“In many ways, Grand Challenges completely changed my life. It shaped the way I viewed innovation and ideation, emphasizing the importance of iterative and evidence-based product development tailored to identifying and addressing true problems in society,” said Shivani Murugapiran, Grand Challenges participant. “Beyond the academic experience, I formed deep bonds with people I call my best friends! I am incredibly grateful to have GC in my life and all the incredible, talented people who are now stuck with me forever.” 

Honors Program 

The Honors Program integrates academics, mentorship, and collaborative living. Through seminars and shared spaces, students cultivate lifelong connections, aiming to excel academically and exemplify progress and service.  

“The Honors Program community is the perfect place for curious and creative students who want to live together with other like-minded individuals.  Our apartment-style residence halls, robust schedule of approximately 75 classes per academic year just for Honors Program students, and numerous events and programs tailored to students’ interests create a close-knit community,” said Amy D’Unger, interim director and associate director of the Honors Program. “Being in the Honors Program offers the feel of a small, interdisciplinary college, but with the resources of a large research university.” 

For more information on the student experience in the Honors Program, visit their student profile page

iGniTe 

The iGniTe program at Georgia Tech provides students with the opportunity to get a head start on their college experience by offering summer enrollment. It allows participants to dive into coursework by taking 6-7 credit hours, explore interests, and engage in a supportive community before the traditional fall term. 

“There are so many benefits. I think the biggest for me was having a friend group going into the fall semester,” said Luke Gerguis, recent iGniTe participant. “I was told just how crazy the fall semester is for first-year students and already having a group of friends from day one was so helpful. Plus, I knew all about campus as well, so the fall semester wasn’t nearly as intimidating.” 

First Year Semester Abroad (FYSA) 

The First Year Semester Abroad Program at Georgia Tech prioritizes a global learning experience from day one. Students begin their Tech journey overseas in France or England, familiarizing themselves with various cultures while completing coursework.  

“I benefitted from FYSA in so many ways and as time goes on, I’ll probably realize even more,” said FYSA student Lydia Love. “The biggest way was how much I learned about myself. I made great friends, memories, and connections with professors of course, but the greatest impact was on how I view myself and the world around me. I became more independent, confident, and resilient from facing small challenges and great adventures while abroad with FYSA.”  

Learn more about LLCs on the Housing and Residence Life website.