Four words that elicit a response from almost every gearhead are “Hot Rod Power Tour.”
Power Tour has been a pink unicorn to me for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted to participate, just never had the free time when the event happened or was close to me in the Nashville area. You’d think that after hosting automotive cable shows for more than 10 years, writing for many different publications, and being deeply immersed in the automotive aftermarket since 1999 that I would have found a way to at least ride along with somebody for a leg or two, if not go the long haul with a car I’d built. Nope. Wasn’t in the cards.
My buddy Steen Gilbertson is a Power Tour veteran—a long hauler who has been (not so) gently encouraging me (harassing me, really) to just commit to it; even ride with him in his car on the Tour. I just never made the time.
Now with ZedSled, my 1978 Camaro Z28, road ready I had no excuses, even though I tried to think of some. The car was finished … twice, had 210 miles of road time, and two dyno sessions at DBR in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Nothing has broken, so what was I waiting for? Steen had to threaten me with public harassment to nudge me over the edge just to meet up with them in Indy and travel down to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for the last leg. In reality, if something is gonna break, what better place or time? We’re talkin’ 4,000 cars, 10,000 gearheads, and the best manufacturers and support system in the industry. That alone practically guarantees that anything can be repaired or rescued along the way.
So I gassed up the Camaro, hit the road on a Thursday at 5:00 a.m. to beat Nashville traffic, and headed north with the hammer down. I stuck an old Garmin in the window as my speedometer since I had neglected to wire the Dakota Digital dash to the Dominator output (last on the list after SEMA) and hauled ass with 2-70 air conditioning since the Vintage Air A/C plumbing was still not connected (gonna get to that after SEMA). Needless to say, it was a glorious drive. That I could take a car that TC Penick and I (and lots of other friends) had built and just hit the road was exciting, exhilarating, and empowering!
We got to Indy, high-fived, had some great food, and shared time with the Mothers Polish folks and got ready for the last leg to Bowling Green. Big thanks to Jim Holloway and his crew for their amazing hospitality.
After gassing up in the morning, ZedSled started to stumble and sputter for no apparent reason, and then it just died. Tech support from DBR, Holley Performance (thanks Jon Coleman, Uncle Robin, and Blane), and a trip to AutoZone got us running again with a new TPS and zip ties. Holley’s Tom Kise and his laptop rescued me again with an ECU reset on the TPS and new O2 sensors, which gave a public display of the Dominator ECU capabilities for the crowd around the car.
I drove home with a “lobster tan” and a cheezer grin that you couldn’t have slapped off of my face if you tried. Power Tour is as fun as it sounds and as great as the magazine ads say it is! This trip affirmed that the best thing about our industry and hobby is the people in it. I’m humbled by the people who dug looking at my car, and I’m honored to have friends that are so gracious and willing to help. I was planning to check the Power Tour off my automotive bucket list, but I’ve decided to leave an open box for the future.
Brian Finch taught me several years ago that “it’s just metal,” and Steen Gilbertson convinced me to “just drive it!” I’ll never forget either moment and will keep these stories forever.
Thanks Hot Rod Power Tour!
I’ll be back.
About the Author: Kevin Tetz is an automotive restoration expert, TV personality, freelance automotive journalist, and owner of Paintucation Instructional DVDs.