"You get to see parts of the world you'd never get to see any other way," Schwager said.
He and a friend, Lloyd Dahmen of Chestnut Hill, will drive across 11 countries and 8,923 miles as part of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2010. The goal of the road rally is to reach the decided finish line for each day in the correct amount of time, receiving penalties for being early or late.
"Everybody supposedly winds up at the same place each day," Schwager said. "Notice I said supposedly, because this is pretty rough terrain."
Things will be tough from the beginning, Schwager said, saying he would be unable to read street signs in Chinese.
"That goes away when you get to Mongolia — because there are no street signs," he said.
The rally begins Friday in Beijing, known as Peking when the road rally was held in 1907 for the first time. It ends Oct. 16 in Paris, but not before drivers pass through the Great Wall of China, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, Istanbul, Greece and Italy.
Schwager, who wears a baseball cap that says "Old Guys Rule," is 67 and Dahmen is 69 — making them the rally team with the oldest average age, Schwager said.
"We're young at heart," he said.
The 1907 rally was sponsored by a French newspaper to show readers the automobile was a safe, reliable form of long-distance travel. To make sure Dahmen's 1949 Cadillac Series 62 coupe gets them both safely to Paris, Schwager and Dahmen have packed it full of supplies.
"The bad news is (car) parts would be hard to come by. Therefore, you have to choose what parts you think you might need," he said. "You take a guess and hope you picked the right stuff or you hope you don't break much."
The rally will include 100 cars, plus support vehicles, meaning about 250 people will be traveling across Asia and Europe. That means accommodations for nightly breaks won't always be cushy. Drivers will camp out in Mongolia and some other countries.
"You bring your Boy Scout stuff with you," Schwager said.
He said the key to driving won't be speed — it will be dealing with terrain that is tough on cars, especially older ones. He said their strategy will be to treat the car kindly, so it will treat them the same way.
"If you're broken down, it doesn't matter how fast you used to go," he said. "You're at zero now."
In addition to seeing the world, Schwager is using the rally to do a little good — he's raising money for scleroderma, a connective tissue disease his daughter, Elaine Schwager, has.
He's put his fondness for cars to use for charity in the past. Schwager, who works for Sungard in Salem, owns about 30 classic cars, mostly European sports cars from the 1950s to the 1970s. He also owns a farm up north, and occasionally auctions off rides in the cars and stays at the farm for local charities.
People can follow his progress online at www.pressonregardless.net
To donate money for scleroderma research, visit firstgiving.com/PekingtoParisDriveforScleroderma.
By Jillian Jorgensen