This month I'd like to talk about the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour. I happened to see one of the national morning shows and there was a story about a guy re-creating the 1903 cross-country trip by Horatio Nelson Jackson in a 20hp, two-cylinder open-top Winton touring car. Yes, 100 years ago and it was a first for America. After hearing some local people talk bad about the new motor cars being hand-built, he laid down 50 bucks and bet he could drive a motor car across the country. Less than 5 days after the wager was made, he paid $3,000 (only $500 more than the original selling price) for a slightly used (1,000 original miles) Winton with nearly worn out rear tires. In 1903, the average yearly income was $700! In the entire United States in 1903 there were only 140 miles of "improved" roads. What was this guy thinking?
Only one 32-inch spare tire in all of San Francisco could be found for the trip, Horatios first flat on the trip occurred just 15 miles into his journey.
Jackson and his mechanic made the trip in 2 months, traveling 5,600 miles, often traveling down dead-end roads from directions given by locals who wanted to see a real motor car.
Most of the problems they encountered came from wagon-wheel ruts and mud holes. In one day they had to pull themselves out with a block and tackle winch 17 times. They bought their gasoline at hardware mercantile stores along the way. In Oregon they had to pay one merchant $3 for one gallon. For the most part, when the car broke down, they had to wait for a stagecoach to deliver parts and supplies or make their own repairs.
As I watched this story about Jackson's Winton breaking down, high fuel prices, bad directions and so on, the first thing I told my wife was that this sounds just like the Power Tour! For those of you who are not familiar with the Power Tour, it is sponsored by Primedia's Hot Rod magazine. This was my first year doing the complete tour and what an experience it was! Going to seven cities in 7 days offered a daily dose of a massive gearhead and car enthusiast gathering. I opted to be a long hauler. What is a long hauler you ask? You must travel to each and every meeting place, no exceptions. In each city you must have your long hauler paperwork signed stating you made it to that city and were present.
A typical day for the long haulers is to wake before 7 a.m., get free hotel ice for the cooler, check out of the room, find and fill up with fuel, find coffee, and head out for the specified Walmart, which we had to be there no later than 8:30 a.m. for the drivers' meeting. At these meetings, last minute driving directions were given and any questions answered by the Power Tour staff. Then we were off on our daily driving excursion, which averaged about 250 miles. Lots of the routes were on the back roads, which was nice. When we arrived at the daily meeting spot or town there were at least a 1,000 or more cars. After spending the afternoon and evening talking with all the other Nova owners it was off to find the hotel where we had reservations, which was sometimes an excursion in itself. When I made my hotel reservations (months ago) it was hard to picture where we would be in relation to the daily meeting place.
Prior to heading home, I heard that there were about 990 long haulers-about twice as many as last year. The staff had a traveling hydraulic unfolding stage that hosted the Belemy Brothers one night and the Kentucky Headhunters another. One of the gracious sponsors even fed us for free a few times, much thanks for the food. Other highlights from the event included a host of Chevrolet concept cars and SUPER CHEVY contributor Tony Kelly, who made it in the newly refurbished legendary Project X '57 Chevy, replete with 502 ram jet!
What did we drive on the tour? A 28,000 original mile '65 Nova four-door. You see, I wanted to be different by piloting a pure sleeper with "two doors too many." This little Deuce had a GM crate ZZ5 385 "fast-burn" 350, with a cam kit which boosted power to 450 hp. A 700R4 trans got the power to the pavement. One great statistic is that we averaged 16 mpg on the entire trip, which I thought was pretty darn good! Other goodies included four-wheel disc brakes, frame connectors, 3:73 12 bolt. My son asked me if I had A/C for the trip and I could not resist telling him I had the 2/70 version: 2 windows down at 70 mph!
Well I hope you weren't disappointed that I did not have an in-depth tech article for you this month, but what I experienced was a great climax to making all of those tech decisions work. The bottom line to this adventure was having fun driving your musclecar. You should experience this tour at least once in your lifetime! -Joe
To contact the author,please call or write him at Chevy 2 Only P.O. Box 985, Dept. SC Mt. Washington, KY 40047 (502) 239-8487