September may mark the end of summer and be the bane of schoolchildren across the country, but for those with a penchant for muscle cars in motion it's also when the annual Run Through The Hills event is held. For five years, this cornucopia of driving has pulled in gearheads from hundreds of miles away like some sort of speed junky magnet. Held in and around the picturesque town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the event has grown and evolved into one of our few "must do" events. Pretty cool since the inaugural event consisted of just 11 cars.
The deal is pretty simple. The organizers of this event got tired of static car shows where polishing took preference over performance. Maybe they just had an attention deficit disorder or maybe they just figured that the cars we love are much more fun when they are in motion. Whatever the case, the result is an event with something for everyone.
The three-day festival starts out with a cruise. In years past it was limited to a relaxing 60-mile cruise through the rolling hills around Pigeon Forge, but not this year. This time, event organizer, Bill Howell, wanted to step it up a notch. What he came up with was a 120-mile round-trip blitz into the Smoky Mountains. Best of all it would include testing our rides on the infamous "Tail of the Dragon." This 11-mile section of Highway 129 has well over 300 turns and is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Saturday was set for a day of autocrossing, while Sunday was reserved for a crack at the local eighth-mile dragstrip. Sprinkled amongst the driving events were picnics, a people's choice car show, and enough automotive fellowship to make even the most jaded car guy smile.
Since our '68 project car, Bad Penny, was still back east, we had the folks from Bowler Transmission bring it to the event so Steven Rupp and Nick Licata could share driving duties. After all, going stag to a race is even less fun than at prom.
When we started the 120-mile cruise, the weather was great. As we climbed the mountain, and entered the most treacherous part called "The Dragon," the rain started pouring. Still, the cars powered through the winding wet roads. Even our California-equipped '68 (no wipers or heater) made it through no problem.
The cruise on Friday was a blast, even with the occasional downpour, but we lucked out with good weather on Saturday for the autocross. Sunday was washed out, but that didn't dampen the spirits of the 80-plus car owners that reveled in the first two days of the event. After all, the only thing more fun than polishing a car at a show, is getting one dirty on the road.