Here's a compressed version of my experience that I shared on pro-touring.com.
20TH HOT ROD POWER TOUR
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA TO WISCONSIN DELLS, WISCONSIN
We were down to one week before our scheduled day of departure when we discovered the 700R4 wouldn’t shift out of 1st gear. A new Valve Body was installed and we finally were able to put some miles on, only to discover a leaking axle seal. Waiting on parts the day before a cross-country road trip was far from what we had in mind. At this point, we had all but given up on taking the freshly built C10, preparing our egos for settling with my wife’s Traverse as the mode of transportation. But alas, the differential cover gasket arrived so we could get the rear end sealed back up and topped off. We were back in the game with just a few hours to spare. Fresh fluids were put in the engine and trans, the bags were strategically packed into the cab of the truck, and we headed South through Indiana and into Kentucky to visit with family.
On Day 1, our drive took us east on I-40 through the Appalachian Mountains. Long winding curves and plenty of amazing views, what more could you ask for? More on that later... Passing by Asheville, North Carolina, the C10 encountered its first rain storm. Let’s face it, if you’re going drive them, it’s bound to happen sooner or later. Everything worked as it should and no leaks, onward to Concord! The anticipation was building, as this was our first Power Tour and didn’t know what to expect. The first venue was Z-Max Speedway, known for its four lanes of quarter mile action. After check-in, we headed to the manufacturers’ midway where Painless Wiring was hosting the Power Tour kick-off party. At the far end past the show area, Hotchkis Sport Suspension had their booth set up with an Auto-cross course laid out for those wanting to run the clock. I made my way over to check out the Roadkill ’55 Chevy, known as Blasphemi, and also had the opportunity to meet Mike Finnegan. We then headed over to the Holley Performance Products booth to meet up with Blane Burnnet, where we discussed our plans for the next day in Knoxville, Tennessee, as we would have our C10 on display at their booth.
Day 2 started off back at Z-Max Speedway with a drivers meeting hosted by the staff of Hot Rod Magazine. We headed out from Concord and proceeded through the Appalachian Mountains once again, taking 64 West, a small winding road that took us to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. This finally gave me a small chance to test out the Hotchkis Suspension components, Wilwood brakes and the custom coilover set-up I installed out back. The truck was solid all the way through. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how well it handled. Arriving at Chilhowee Park in Knoxville, we made our way down to the midway for our first real debut of the Gearbox Garage shop truck. It couldn’t have worked out better. We were there to represent Holley with our Terminator EFI equipped C10, yet less than 10 feet away on the other side of the walk-way, was the Hotchkis Sport Suspension booth. This also gave me the opportunity to finally meet Mr. John Hotchkis Jr., and I have to say, he is one the humblest people I have ever met.
Day 3 pointed us back to the east for Charleston, West Virginia where the city had blocked off an entire street along the Kanawha River. The lines coming into the event were now getting noticeably longer, and the participants must have stretched out for at least two miles along the Kanawha Boulevard. Here I was able to meet up with SEMA Board Member Luanne Browne, owner of E-tool developers, and she introduced me to one of the directors for the SEMA Young Executives Network, Bryan Harrison.
On Day 4, we headed north through the mountains into Ohio. Soon we arrived at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk where I met up with a few friends. The staging lanes were full all day as many participants took their turn at running the quarter mile. Some were out just for a fun run, and others putting the hammer down. I’m sure a few grudge matches were handled while we were here. Another highlight of our trip came here at the Edelbrock booth where I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Vic Edelbrock and his daughter Christie. As I stood in line to get an autograph, I noticed that not too many of the people were saying much other that the occasional “Hi” or “Thank you”. I thought to myself, “This is an icon, a pioneer in the performance world, and nobody is engaging in conversation with him.” When it was my turn to approach his table, I immediately spoke up and asked, “How are you Mr. Edelbrock?” He responded with, “It’s not Mr., it’s Vic.” He then paused for a second, set down his pen, and reached up to shake my hand. You can’t buy moments like that!
On to Day 5… This was one of the legs of the Tour that I was eager to get to, as it passed within an hour of my hometown on the way to the Lane Automotive lunch stop. Heading west down I-94, I saw a yellow dot quickly coming up behind me. It was none other than the Hotchkis E-Max Challenger. I let them pass by long enough to get a few photos, getting a thumbs-up from them, and then quickly fell in behind as we hauled it across southern Michigan until we reached Lane. I had to get a closer look at this car! While I was looking it over and talking with the driver, Mr. Hotchkis came right over and said, “Hey, there’s Mike.” Couldn’t believe it, it was like we were old friends. We headed out to Crown Pointe, Indiana for our 5th stop on the Tour. While I was doing a quick clean-up of the truck, I noticed a message from Rob Phillips about sharing my experience on the Power Tour for pro-touring.com. I more than gladly obliged and soon I already started thinking, “How am I going to put this week into words?” By now I’m wondering, could this road trip get any better? But wait, the best is yet to come…
Day 6 took us through Chicago’s morning rush hour for a lunch stop at Heidt’s Hot Rod and Muscle Car Parts in Lake Zurich, Illinois. We took a full tour of their facility and were able to get up close to their manufacturing processes and take a look into the R&D room where several projects were in the works. From there, we made the trek across northern Illinois and made another stop for a few photos before continuing on to Bettendorf, Iowa. The Isle Casino and Hotel proved to be another tight spot for entering. The lines were at least an hour long getting in, but it’s all part of the experience. We had no over-heating issues thanks to Be Cool keeping us right at 200º in the stand-still.
Day 7 came with almost a bitter-sweet feeling as I was about to head to our final destination for the Power Tour, but not before making a very personal detour from the planned route. As we headed out from the Quad Cities area, we made a turn and headed west for a few miles to visit the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa.
If I may, I would like to give a little history as to why this destination meant so much to visit, and how I came to be involved with the classic car lifestyle.
For me, the thought of driving across country came much earlier than the 20th Hot Rod Power Tour. I was raised on stories from my parents and the classics and muscle cars that they and their friends and family had in the days of their youth. Camaros, Chevelles, Corvettes, Firebirds, GTO’s, Mustangs, a few Mopars, you name it, somebody had one. Most were gone by the time I was old enough to remember, but the stories remained. One Mother’s Day weekend, we went to a local car show, and from then on, I was hooked. It was one thing hearing about the cars, but seeing them in person was a whole new experience. Growing up, Dad had always driven old Chevy Pick-ups, so naturally I was drawn to them.
In the summer of ’94, Mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and given a 0% chance of living two years. She fought with every ounce of determination, reaching out to any doctor that was willing to give a second opinion or try new treatments. She was finally introduced to the doctors at the University of Chicago Hospital, where she went through a successful bone marrow transplant. Her cancer went into remission, and when her strength returned, we vacationed in Southwest Wisconsin and Eastern Iowa. Most of Mom’s Aunts and Uncles lived in this area and we often visited the there. She wanted to visit them again, as well as see some of the local attractions. We toured the Quad Cities area, going on a river boat cruise on the Mississippi, and ventured to Dyersville to see the Field of Dreams. That fall, her cancer returned without warning. This time, she was given two weeks to one month, she made it just over one week.
Remembering the stories she had told me of driving around in her ’69 Camaro, it was decided that I would find a project of my own, to build in her memory as a personal therapy to cope with the loss. Eventually, I came across a deal on an early ‘70’s C10. Over the next several years, the project took on many different directions. First, it was just going to be a simple, budget-build restoration, to make a reliable driver that I could enjoy. About half way through, I said to myself, “It deserves more.” Coincidently, the aftermarket had just taken off like wildfire for the early C10’s, and everything started falling together. It became sort of a coping mechanism to keep all of the stories alive.
Moving on and heading east past Platteville, Wisconsin, there were many memories that came back to me from my youth. Even though we had yet to make the Dells, I felt I had completed the journey and everything had finally come full circle. From here on out, it was the trip of a lifetime.