The HOT ROD Power Tour has been an annual road trip ever since several members of the HOT ROD staff drove their project cars from the magazine’s Los Angeles headquarters to Norwalk, Ohio, in 1995. Only a handful of readers turned up to participate in that first drive, but in the following years it took off.
Power Tour is now the world’s largest road trip and draws several thousand cars to participate in a week-long tour that visits seven cities and includes six drives, one to a new venue each day. Many families make sure to hit one or two Power Tour stops each year on their family vacations, while as many as 2000 hardcore “Long Haulers” drive the entire route.
It’s tradition that Power Tour picks up in whichever city it finished the year before. For the 24th annual Power Tour, festivities began at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Participants could run their car on the autocross or dragstrip as many times as they liked. From there, the tour would visit Chattanooga, Tennessee; Hoover, Alabama; Atlanta Motor Speedway; Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway; Raleigh, North Carolina; and finish in zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, racking up more than 1000 miles in the process.
After the first day, which is basically a ginormous car show with food and auto parts vendors, each consecutive day begins with a drive of about 200 miles to the next venue. It’s not easy getting a few thousand cars from one destination to the next in a smooth manner, especially considering Power Tour routes try to avoid big, boring interstates. It leads to some interesting sights as a five-mile-long parade of classic cars process through small towns and create car shows at every gas station along the way.
What can you expect on Power Tour? There are lots of ’60s muscle cars, loads of classic trucks, Fox-bodies, G-bodies, Corvettes galore, and late-model Camaros, Mustangs, and Challengers. You’ll also spot some oddballs, rare cars, hot rods, and more than a few late-model sedans and crossovers with “Plan B” scribbled on the back window. It seems that plenty of participants have Power Tour on their shop calendar with a big circle around it, an impetus to get a long-stalled project roadworthy. Many make it, seemingly with little time to spare. Just ask GM’s Motor Medics, the team of mechanics that diagnose, wrench, and repair dozens of overheated or otherwise busted vehicles, pro bono. They see it all.
We stopped by for just one leg of Power Tour 2018 and were treated to a great drive through small towns and even the highway sections were through scenic wooded hills of Tennessee as we entered Chattanooga. Here are some of our favorite photos from our trip that give you a glimpse of what it’s all about.
If you time it just right, sometimes the only cars on the road are vintage and the scenes look like a step back in time.