A ginormous bargain.
For those of us who live in snowy Michigan, spring can’t come early enough. Our cars spend their winters under wraps in storage until a good string of 50-plus-degree days comes to pass. Last spring came with an invitation from my buddy Jim Krom and his wife, Joyce, to head down to Tennessee for the Nashville Boogie festival, a rockabilly and country music jamboree over Memorial Day weekend. My girlfriend, Elizabeth, desperate for a few days in the sun and a break from her energetic little ones, eagerly agreed to be my road-trip companion. Days off were scheduled and rooms were booked. The countdown was on until we hit the highway.
The Nashville Boogie is an eclectic mix of 70 or so live rockabilly and country music acts that for three days fill a half-dozen bars and honky-tonks just on the outskirts of the Opryland resort. But more than that, it’s a celebration of vintage culture, clothes, and style. Vendors with retro goodies set up every few feet, there’s a pinup competition, and, yes, there’s a car show.
My ’62 T-Bird still needed a host of spring tuneups that just didn’t get done in time, so a note to Hagerty HQ yielded the 1960 Plymouth Fury convertible from the Hagerty Garage. After a quick run-through and a handshake from Tony Pietrangelo, who manages our ever-expanding collection, I was off to pack my bags.
On the day of our departure, the rains came down with a fury of their own. I backed our Fury down my driveway and splashed the block east to Woodward Avenue, then onto I-75, which would take us south to Louisville, Kentucky, by nightfall. No top-down motoring for us this morning. Sigh. But we were finally on our way.
The new governor of Michigan was elected on the promise she would fix the state’s notoriously bad roads, and the pockmarked section of I-75 south of Detroit definitely tested the Plymouth’s suspension. Just before the Ohio border, our trip claimed its first casualty: An unavoidable pothole pried loose the right front hubcap. I could barely make it out as it bounced far down a ravine off our passenger side. It seemed too dangerous to stop on a wet freeway in pouring rain to go find it, so Elizabeth searched for a new one on eBay with her phone and ordered it right up. Crisis averted.
The clouds finally broke and I could not wait to activate the power top at one of our many gas stops. Quickly back on the highway, sunglasses on and the wind in our hair, we were now on the road trip we’d been waiting for. In our excitement to worship the sun we had missed all winter (and morning), we forgot maybe the most important lesson in open-air motoring: sunscreen, and lots of it. I learned that lesson the hard way; Elizabeth really learned that lesson the hard way.
Far removed from the shadow of the Motor City, the finned Fury was becoming a curiosity as it cruised down the freeway. Elizabeth and I started playing a game, counting the waves and thumbs up we got as we drove along. We quickly gave up—there were just too many. The Plymouth cut a dashing figure among the mass of awkward-looking Priuses and plain-Jane SUVs sharing our lanes. However, a semitruck’s horn from the next lane, bellowing its approval of our ride, was enough shock to stop a beating heart.
I never grew tired of watching the floating, side-to-side speedometer on the Fury as we accelerated down the road. There was something oddly calming about watching the little red squares fill as I gave the 318 Poly some gas. We wanted to leave plenty of time for side excursions the next day, so we pushed on to Louisville, arriving at the roadside hotel with our headlights on, the sun having set a full hour before.
Elizabeth had never been to a Waffle House, a wrong I had to make right, and right away. The next morning, we parked the Plymouth alongside the diner’s yellow wall and slid into a booth inside. She’s a vegetarian, but I think the experience was still memorable. Me, I’m a connoisseur of the Waffle House, stopping whenever my travels take me south. So my breakfast came smothered and covered, and with as much coffee and bacon as our waitress could deliver.
Lunch was to be a Bowling Green barbecue joint (again, probably not a vegetarian’s first choice) with Jim, Joyce, and some engineers they knew at the Corvette assembly plant. The Corvette friends didn’t let loose any juicy details about the C8 launch, which was still months away, so Elizabeth and I headed over to the National Corvette Museum. During a quick tour, I showed her displays I’d helped art-direct during my former ad-agency life. Then we rolled onward in a final push to Nashville.
After 500 miles on the highway, the country roads we took from Bowling Green down into Nashville were a welcome change. We rolled past farms and roadside diners, some sadly abandoned long ago. A flea market caught our eye, and we parked in the gravel lot. As we perused forgotten treasures strewn in the yard, the shiny Plymouth became a roadside attraction all its own. I lost track of how many people asked to sit in it.
Music City was just starting to fill with the evening’s crush of revelers on Broadway as we arrived at the city limits. We were getting hungry again and needed to stretch our legs, so we pulled in front of one of the many live-music joints lining the main drag to get our bearings. I had bought some new blue suede shoes just for the festival, and now seemed as good a time as any to break them in. I pulled them from a box in the backseat and did my best Mister Rogers. As we sat parked amid the hustle and bustle of the crowds, we instantly became the subject of countless tourists’ vacation photos—so many, in fact, it was actually difficult to leave and find a more long-term parking place for the Fury. Man, that car is a superstar! It certainly fit right in with the reminders of country music past surrounding us on every street corner.
We finally tucked her into a nearby parking garage for some well-deserved rest and made our way to dinner and some local music at Robert’s Western World.
As I’m sure so many classic owners do, I searched out the safest, most remote spot in the massive resort lot for overnight parking, wanting to protect our Fury loaner from door dings and luggage carts. As we were unloading our bags from the Plymouth’s spacious trunk, the Opryland security patrol car made its way over, headlights nearly blinding us. The officer got out and proceeded to ask us about the car. As it so happened, this gent was also a classic-car owner. At the end of our chat, he assured me he’d be patrolling all night and that he would pay special attention to our Fury, parked well at the back. Southern hospitality, and a bond over the love of an old car.
The next two days were filled with good times and good music with friends. No surprise, the Fury was the belle of the ball at the Nashville Boogie car show, too. It was featured in amateur photo shoots, YouTube videos, and podcasts throughout the weekend, alongside the Munster Koach and General Lee, on loan from Cooter’s Place, conveniently located right there on the grounds.
As Elizabeth and I listened to the last notes of the B-52s on Saturday night (I told you it was an eclectic mix), we knew we had a full day of driving back to Michigan the next morning. The plan was to be up bright and early to turn the key, release the stiff parking brake, and push those buttons on the dash that throw the Plymouth into drive, sending her down the open road for the journey home. As much fun as we had taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells—beer and whiskey, mostly—at Nashville Boogie, it’s the memories we made in the Fury along the way that made the weekend one we won’t soon forget, long after that sunburn faded.