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Power Trip

Hot Rod Magazine’s Power Tour and Super Nationals Car Shows

Scott Crouse Oct 1, 2002

Step By Step

This is Detroit Speed’s latest ’69 Camaro. Built for a Northern California road racer, the long-haul combination includes an all- aluminum 406ci small-block, 15-degree GM cylinder heads, and an EFI system capable of supporting its 600-plus horsepower at 5,200 rpm. If the F-body looks familiar, it’s the first of the Mark Stielow breed of Pro Touring Camaros.

No road trip is complete without a greasy burger, fries, and a Coke.

A red ’69 Camaro, twin turbos, and endless miles of highway are just some of the reasons Jimmy Spears loves the long-haul adventure.

The fifth leg of the Hot Rod Power Tour stopped at the National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio. Hours before the cars arrived, the rain came down in sheets. But when the show started, the sun came out and dried the track so participants could run their vehicles down the strip.

When you’re riding shotgun and the driver yells out something about a blower car behind you hauling butt, it’s only natural to turn around. Luckily the camera was ready and we were able to snap a shot of Kris Shield’s ’65 El Camino.

Brian Bucalo of Detroit planned on completing the entire Power Tour, but the Nova’s crankshaft broke 20 miles outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. While making arrangements to rent a truck to tow his Nova the 780 miles back home, Frank Currie of Currie Enterprises offered to trailer the Nova enabling Brian to stay with the Tour.

This year Hot Rod magazine offered an all-expense paid trip to the 2002 Power Tour. Contestants from all over the country wrote essays explaining why they wanted to go on the tour and Ryan Ingalls of Evanston, Wyoming, won the trip. Since Ryan isn’t old enough to drive his Camaro, his dad offered to join the Tour and pilot the car. In addition to the trip, Ryan received numerous gift certificates and awards from companies like Year One.

Since Chevrolet sponsored this year’s Power Tour, the Bow Tie brigade decided to bring along some vehicles of its own.

This ’91 Camaro featured a GMPP 350ci RamJet small-block fueled and sparked by GM’s new MEFI-4 fuel injection controller and backed with a ZF six-speed trans.

GM has a hand in the front-wheel-drive market as well as traditional musclecars. This ’02 concept Cavalier features a line of experimental GMPP parts.

The all- aluminum engine features 16-valves, dual overhead cams, and a liquid-to-air intercooled supercharger that helps produce 262 hp at 6,500 rpm and 228 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.

When we pulled into Pontiac, Michigan, it seemed that everyone in town had a hot rod and wanted to be part of the fun. The line to get into the show backed up as far as the eye could see, making Pontiac one of the biggest events of the Tour.

GM’s LS1 performance package is sure to please serious Camaro and Corvette guys.

The package includes CNC-ported LS6 cylinder heads and an LS1 HOT camshaft.

Chevy High Editor Jeff Smith is always willing to take time out to sign an autograph or two.

The streets of downtown Pontiac were filled with every hot rod imaginable. Food, people, Camaros, and straight-axle Novas were just some of the happening things. We even heard rumors of a small-block Chevy-powered Mercedes running around.

It’s not uncommon to see a few burnouts after the show. Sometimes the local law enforcement officials will let the participants play a little, but the Pontiac police weren’t so kind. Just ask this El Camino owner.

Luckily, this year’s prices at the pump were a lot more forgiving than last year.

The Hot Rod Super Nationals lasted three full days, bringing the spectators plenty of show-’n’-shine action. Aside from all the cool cars, there was plenty of food and entertainment.

The Super Nationals car show brought out some pretty impressive rides featuring amenities like custom engine covers...

...and velocity stacks.

This started out as a Chevy Astro Van. A combination of air bags, a raised floorpan, and a chopped top make for a very low roller.

Even before the sun went down, everyone vacated the show and hit the main drag in Boardman for a giant cruise. The traffic was slow, but the cars were cool.

On the last day of the Hot Rod Super National car show, a bikini contest takes place and the show awards are presented. This year’s lovely Miss Hot Rod Mindy Dietz walked away with a $1,000 grand prize, and runners-up Catherine Roberson and Nicole Young took home some nice trophies and magazine coverage.

“You’re all the way from where? And you drove that thing?”

If you have ever participated in the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour then you’ve probably heard this line before. To some people, the idea of driving 1,500-plus miles in an old car is more like a prison sentence than anything else. But for a dedicated automotive enthusiast, 14,000 cars and 200,000 gearheads all taking part in a cross-country car show sounds like an excellent adventure. So, what’s the ideal type of car to take on a Power Tour? Because people take everything from low and slow cruisers to ridiculous Rats capable of rattling your guts, we decided to hitch a ride in a few cars on this year’s Tour to find out.

On the third day of the Tour, we hooked up with Jimmy and Claricia Spears and their Pro Touring twin-turbocharged ’69 Camaro. Claricia was so nice she let us ride shotgun while she navigated from the back seat. Cruising down the interstate in a bright red ’69 Camaro is what hot rodding is all about. The coolest feature about the Spears’ Camaro is the noise the turbos make. When Jimmy comes up on a car, he lightly accelerates to put the turbos under load. Then, as he passes, he lifts off the accelerator, causing the turbos to surge and make a noise that sounds like arrows whizzing by your ears. That distinctive sound lets you know that you have just been passed by a turbo.

Cruising through a residential part of the Tour, we spotted three kids holding up a sign that said “Rock On.” When Jimmy let loose with that distinctive turbo sound, at first the kids just dropped their sign and looked at each other in confusion. Then, without a word they started jumping up and down with excitement. They didn’t know what they had just heard, but they knew it was cool.

There are plenty of ways to have fun on the Tour besides a high-horsepower ride. Luckily, we came across a Tangerine Orange ’58 Nomad wagon and its owner Dave Koepke, along with his buddies Dave Hammack and Scott “Red” Van Vuren. These guys are from northern Indiana and had been flogging on the wagon all year to get it done in time for the Tour. Of course, the overdrive TH700-R4 made it fun, as did the custom interior, modern paint, and killer tunes.

Every time we came up on fellow Power Tour participants, they waved to us as we passed by. There were people half-hanging out of moving cars to get photos. Even the high school kid manning the fast food drive-through window went nuts over the big wagon when we stopped for lunch. He asked all kinds of questions including, “You guys are all the way from where?” It made the guys feel like rock stars.

A typical day on the Power Tour started with a meeting at the local Wal-Mart around 7 a.m. where the drivers were updated with information regarding the next leg of the tour. Approximately every hundred miles, there was an informal pit stop with hundreds of hot rods infesting every gas station in town. Each day, event officials tried to plan an interesting stop. For example, Summit Racing Equipment opened its Ohio warehouse and provided the Tour with lunch. After six days of road rash, the tour finally ended in Youngstown, Ohio, kicking off Hot Rod’s Super Nationals car show. This three-day show offered free concerts, BMX bicycle exhibitions, a burnout fest, a bikini contest, award ceremonies, and a whole lot more.

One of the highlights of the Power Tour was when Chevrolet gave away a 350 H.O. crate engine to a long-haul Power Tour participant. It only happens once a year, so start planning your next year’s adventure now. You’ll be glad you did.



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