The only thing better than showing off your car at a car show is extending that car show through seven stops and four states with a traveling carnival of horsepower, billet wheels, and highway hauling. This year's Tour may have begun in the heartland of country music, but this was much more of a heavy-metal journey with tons of horsepower and music supplied by a ton of Long Haulers making the move from Nashville to Fort Worth, Texas.
Chevrolet was again the title sponsor of the Hot Rod Power Tour and made the most of it by driving several cars ranging from one of the original Impala SS cars outfitted with a T56 manual six-speed, to a manual trans-equipped two-wheel-drive SS pickup with a 6.0L that is the way Chevy should have built the Silverado SS. We also cruised in a bright-red supercharged Monte SS that exhibited decent power for a front-wheel driver.
While those hot rods made a statement about how Chevy looks at the whole performance scene, the real stars were the Power Tour participants and Long Haulers who doubled-down on their summertime vacation to come cruise with several of the Primedia titles, including Car Craft. We spent much of our time hanging out with Kevin McClelland driving Flowmaster-owner Ray Flugger's '63 Comet convertible and enjoying all the advantages of drop-top cruising with Kevin's dad, the irrepressible Dave McClelland. If you don't recognize his name, you certainly would recognize his voice as the long-time NHRA drag racing announcer and current host of Hot Rod TV. Dave and his wife Louise did the entire tour in Dave's outstanding '70 455 Buick four-speed GS convertible. If that sounds like it might be rare enough to be one of only 35 built, you'd be right.
The event started in Nashville with the cruise night sponsored by INA specialty car insurance. The turnout was nothing short of phenomenal, which meant that by Saturday morning, the nearby Wal-Mart launch site was packed to the gills with a sea of color and chrome. The Tour has evolved now into shorter runs that encompass about 250 to 300 miles per day instead of the longer days of the earlier Tours. That may be a big reason for the huge increase in Long Haulers that signed up and actually completed the entire seven-stop journey.
Saturday night found us outside Memphis where Superchips played host as cruise-night sponsor with more burgers and fries. Our next stop was Jackson, Mississippi, after passing through many colorful Southern towns and sampling the noontime cuisine, including fried chicken in Yazoo City. We ended up at the state fairgrounds, where it was more than a little humid and warm. The next day saw us launch again in the purple Comet and head due south down I-55 through the bayous of Louisiana in search of crawfish, Lake Pontchartrain, and 35-mile-long bridges. The locals say "Narlins," but regardless of how you pronounce it, this is the land of seafood and laid-back livin' and it was fun to experience it, right down to the narrow streets of the French Quarter.
From New Orleans, we headed west into Louisiana to Lake Charles and No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, where for $10 participants could put their machines on a road course and learn to cut corners. This is where that swoopy yellow LS6-powered Ultima GT sports car owned by Jeff Schwartz ('02 Car Craft Real Street Eliminator winner) let loose with some low-flying laps that could probably have qualified him for the next Trans-Am race. This is not a kit car, but a purpose-built English sports car to which Schwartz added a streetable drivetrain that is powerful and durable. If it has a road-car downside, the GTR is a bit shy on luggage space.
Back in the saddle, the Tour headed for drag-racing action at Red River Raceway in Gilliam, Louisiana, near Shreveport by heading northwest, moving closer to the Texas border. The rain that dumped on the Tour toward the end did little to dampen spirits as a record number of Long Haulers made the entire trip from Nashville to the Painless Performance-sponsored party in Fort Worth. The proof of the success of the Power Tour is in the numbers. Over 1,300 participants signed up to do at least some portion of the Tour; a record 1,063 actually completed the entire Tour, which is almost exactly double the 534 that survived last year. At multiple days along the way, the one-night-stand Power Tour car shows numbered over 2,000 cars, which is incredible for a gypsy event like this. Successful? You better believe it. Will we go next year? Absolutely.
Power Tour Sponsors