By Tara Hurlin
Anticipation for a favorite event can leave any car nut squirming in their seat, and there is one event that makes thousands of collector car owners feel the excitement — even several months in advance. It’s the annual Hot Rod Power Tour, and the event kicked off its 22nd year on June 11, beginning in Gonzales, Louisiana and ending in Kansas City, Kansas on June 17. The Hot Rod Power Tour has accomplished over two-decades of tours and thousands of miles driven, and without the countless dedicated car nuts in attendance the tour wouldn’t have lasted this long. Here, we pay tribute to those dedicated to the event by sharing just a few of the hundreds of stories about the builds that were assembled with the event in mind, and completed just in the nick of time for the long haul.
Richard Johnson from Dallas Texas wrote:
In 2001, a week before the Hot Rod Power Tour, I swapped the axle’s 4.10 gears for 3.50s to make the tour in my 1978 Chevrolet Malibu. I had just started dating a girl who was cool with my car addiction, and she was almost excited as I was to go. After I made the gear swap, the hand-me-down 406-cid engine started making some ugly noises, and there was no way to make the full 1800-mile trip safely. I had been collecting parts to build a 383-cid engine, but I still needed a block, machine work and some odds and ends.
At first I was just going to give up and go next year. But something in the back of my mind said, “You still have 4 1/2 days — you can do it.”
I found a Chevy 010 350-cid block, and as luck had it, I also found a machine shop that said they could turn it around in two days. We had to leave Dallas, Texas early Saturday morning. I didn’t get the block back until 5 p.m. on Thursday. I had built a few motors by then, but this was my first real performance build. I was trying to go as fast as I could without making a mistake. I made a few, but they were caught before it got bad. Somehow I was breaking in the cam by 7 p.m. on Friday and I made a quick 40-mile shakedown trip that night.
We left the next morning for the Long Haul and had a blast with no surprises or breakdowns. I am sad to say I no longer have the Malibu, but that girl has now been my bride for the last 13 years, and she never says a word when a stray follows me home on a trailer —and that happens a lot!
Kirstin Stone and Ryan Daniels from Riverside, Cali., wrote:
Project OldsmoPILE started as a cheap buy; it is a 1982 Cutlass Supreme that was supposed to be for drag racing, but it never got that far. She usually just sat, but made the occasional trip to the Irwindale Dragstrip where she cut decent times. The car isn’t much of a looker, but when we needed to choose a car to take on Power Tour, there was no doubt that this was the car we would take.
Currently the car is powered by a 6.0L LS3, a Ford Mustang 8.8 rear-end and a TH35 transmission — all from the junkyard. She’s like the junkyard bride of Frankenstein! We installed Gibson GP135S headers, and while I’m thrilled with that open header sound, I’m was told it’s not feasible for a 5,000-mile trip. We were headed over to the neighborhood muffler shop when a wiring issue reared its ugly head, so we pulled off into a random parking lot to troubleshoot. It wound up being a crank sensor wiring issue, so thankfully it was totally unrelated to the header install, but we didn’t make it to the shop. We also found an issue with the old steering box — tons of play and really tough turning —so later we found yet another junkyard replacement.
With two weeks left to go, we got cracking on the bodywork —sand, apply Bondo and repeat. Every morning’s breakfast was coffee with a side of Bondo dust. Aside from the body work, a new intake was installed. We went with the Texas Speed and Performance LS3 intake; it fit easily with no issues, and it looks awesome. Cleaning up the car’s wiring was a different story; tons of crimped connections and loose wires hanging everywhere made it a major project — Solder, heat-shrink and repeat. At the same time, the valve cover gaskets were replaced, and the valves were torqued to spec. We quickly became experts at multitasking through this build.
There was a point where the momentum stopped completely; while the intake fit perfectly, the fuel rails did not. The fitting on the front of the driver-side rail was hitting the alternator bracket, and with it being 4 p.m. on a Saturday with us needing a special fitting, we had a bit of a mission on our hands. We tried Ace hardware as a last resort, but all we got was blank stares. Then we remembered J&M Speed Center was here in town, and after a phone call, we had about 10 minutes to get there before closing time. Walking into J&M was a great reminder on why hobbyists should support their good old-fashioned local speed shops; it’s so convenient and there is so much knowledge behind the counter.
After that, with Red Bulls in hand, we got back to work. The rest of the intake install was perfect, and then it was back to sanding and Bondo. There were a couple days where we were sanding until about 10:30 p.m. with music bumping out of the garage. It’s a strange realization when it dawns on you that you’ve become “those” neighbors. Even I would have peered through the blinds and muttered something about the weird neighbors with the rough-looking Cutlass.
Once the body prep work was complete, an Estopp emergency brake and a Delta Camshaft were installed, then the car headed over to Gibson for a muffler. Once we returned, we had to drop the transmission to replace busted converter bolts. After this, and the car got painted and its rear-end was rebuilt.
It has been tough to get this much work done this quickly, and unlike lots of other builders, both of us have full-time jobs that keep us busy all week. Now 10 days away from the tour, the Olds is running great now and we are buttoning up the last few things. We anticipate quarter mile passes in the mid elevens, and come hell or high water, we will finish the long haul!
Travis Kapparos from Dubuque, Iowa wrote:
For the 2015 Power Tour I committed to completing two vehicles: a 2013 F150 FX2 Super Truck and a 1993 Ford Mustang GT. The truck will be our shop truck while the Mustang belongs to a guy who is helping out around the shop in trade for a new paint job.
We bought the F150 FX2 as a wrecked truck from a sale in Houston, Texas a few months ago. We immediately took it all apart down to the frame and got rid of all the front struts and rear leaf springs. The front suspension was custom-made using Ridetech shock waves, and a custom-built triangulated four-link was installed in the rear with standard airbags and Ridetech shocks. We shaved all the factory emblems, the factory body lines in the tailgate and all of the door handles, then relocated the rear handle to the inside of tailgate. The driver and passenger doors are opened using an invisible switch system from UltraTouch, and the door opens automatically by touching the front mirror or rear window. The truck is getting a new hood, front fascia cover, and a lower-splitter and rocker extensions, all from Striker Trucks. The rims and tires are new from Black Rhino and measure 22 by 9 1/2 inches. Although the original design was to include a super charger to help it down the road, we couldn't make a final decision on which system to go with, so that modification is on hold. The color is being changed from the boring old grey to an older Ford color called Radiant Red with 10-inch white race stripes across the length of the truck and bed cover. Lastly, a bed rug is being installed to beautify the inside of the box.
As far as the 1993 Mustang GT, it was put in storage at the end of last year due to broken parts inside the transmission, so the owner, Ryan, had all winter to plan an attack. It came out of storage with a list of things to do about five weeks before the tour. The transmission immediately came out for repair. The motor also came out for some changes: GT40 heads, explorer intakes, power pipe, a new cam and lifters, fuel injectors, 373 gears in the rear, a new fuel pump and brand new paint. The interior needs a lot of work, but that will have to wait until after the tour.
As soon as we figure out why the Mustang won't start with the new injectors, we can continue the assembly, and as soon as the rest of my parts show up we can complete the F150, all within 10 days before the tour. I always say I love a challenge, so why not two?
Nathan Buck from Skillman, New Jersey wrote:
I have a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle two-door wagon that I built on a low budget back in 1989. It had a tired 350 engine, but was reliable. I took this car on the Hot Rod Power Tour in 1999 with my dad, who was 69 years young at the time.
In 2006, my son was turning 13 and we always did stuff together. That year, the Hot Rod Power Tour ended in central Jersey, so I decided to pull him out of school for the week and make it a father/son event. I involved him in some of the build decisions and he would go with me to get parts. We built a new 383-cid Stroker engine and put in a four-speed transmission. I installed a new stereo, amp and subwoofer. We changed the belts and hoses and I ordered a new aluminum radiator online.
The radiator came about two weeks before the tour started. I put it in as soon as I got it, but found a pinhole leak in one of the side tanks. I contacted the guy and explained the urgency and he said he could fix it in time. I sent it out and waited anxiously. The radiator came back two days before my departure for the tour. Because of the radiator delays, I had no miles on the new engine, which is not a real confidence builder — sometimes it takes a week or two to shake the bugs out of a new driveline install. I threw it in and drove the car back and forth to work twice before leaving for the tour.
On the day we left for Hot Rod Power Tour, I didn’t even make it out of Jersey before a problem occurred. I quickly found out that playing music at high volumes with a 1000-watt amplifier and 12-inch subwoofer — in an attempt to overcome the road noise of an old car driving at highway speeds — confuses the little regulator inside the alternator. The radio shut off from excessive voltage and the amp gauge was pegged at 60, concerningly high for a 35-amp alternator. I pulled over, unplugged the alternator, and continued to drive a few more hours to our lunch stop. From there I bought a replacement alternator and we were on our way with no additional issues. The tour was great, and at one point the tour’s camera crew pulled us and two other cars over for the five seconds of fame picture. We won a Flowmaster exhaust system and made a lot of great memories!
Today, my son is in 22 and now in the police academy. This time together and the whole experience was a momentous event in our lives, and that week of school he missed has not set him back at all.
Do you have a Hot Rod Power Tour story to share? Click here to share your road trip experience. Whether it is about your build, breakdowns and repairs during the tour, or just your overall personal experience, we want to hear it!