Sunday, June 17, 2018

2018 Hot Rod Power Tour begins at Bowling Green

They say the Hot Rod Power Tour is the largest traveling car show in the world. It draws in more than 6,000 cars as the gigantic caravan hits seven cities. At every stop, there are giant manufacturer displays, drag racing, autocross, and more. For 2018, the first stop was in Bowling Green, Ky., at the Beech Bend Raceway Park. Naturally, it rained while I was there, but there were still thousands of cars on display waiting for breaks in the weather. With so many to choose from, there were bound to be some interesting things to check out. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

One of my favorite cars was this 1961 Chrysler 300G two-door hardtop. The color is Mardi Gras Red, which is perfect, because this thing is a party on wheels. It’s a gorgeous car, with cream-colored bucket seats, sweeping fins, and just the right amount of chrome. These were factory hot rods, built with 413-c.i. Chrysler wedge engines that could produce up-to 400-hp depending on how they were optioned. This particular example was outstanding, with a pristine restoration. You’ve got to give the owner credit—he was out here driving it, in the rain, no-less. It’s no garage queen.

Check out this Pontiac Sunbird Safari wagon. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know they made these, but I think I can make some inferences about what it is. In 1976, a company called Motortown did a conversion on Vega wagons called the Nomad. Those had the same little side window covers and tailgate strips as this. So it seems pretty obvious that the Safari is the Pontiac version of the Nomad, clearly an homage to the Nomad-like Safari of the late-‘50s. There’s no doubt that this is rare. It might be the nicest one left in the world for all I know. It wouldn’t be something I’d choose to take on a long trip, but sometimes driving a car like this makes the adventure more fun and memorable.

Here’s a different type of car that was upgraded by an aftermarket company. With their 260-hp LT1 V8, a regular Impala SS was considered quite the performance package in 1996. But Connecticut-based Callaway Cars, known for their beefed-up Corvettes, thought the Impala had even more potential. And here it is, the Callaway SuperNatural SS. For more than double the price of a stock SS, Callaway punched the stock 350 out to 383-c.i., jacking that horsepower rating up to 404. They also upgraded the brakes, and suspension, and added wide Forgeline wheels, making this into one of the hottest sedans you could buy in the world at the time.

This car received quite a bit of notoriety when it was built for the 2000 Sema Show. Known as the Hurst Hauler, this WS6 Trans-Am was converted to a Kammback wagon, and traveled the show circuit back in the day. Year One actually drove this in the 2001 Hot Rod Power Tour, but here it is again, virtually unchanged, making the trip again. Because it debuted at the Sema Show, it was packed full of aftermarket performance products. With engine work and exhaust, it was good for a healthy 375-hp. In the world of F-Bodies, the “F” stands for “Famous” when it comes to this car.

This 1978 Silverado 4X4 is more than meets the eye. It was in the Chevrolet Performance Parts display, and it was not your ordinary used pickup. It was actually a General Motors project vehicle, and in addition to a spectacular restoration, it had an LC9 5.3-liter V8 crate engine with 336-hp. It even had its own special emblems. This is the kind of stuff that normal people have a hard time getting right, but when you put the people that create new cars on a project like this and give them an unlimited budget, the sky’s the limit. Known as the EROD, this cool truck was originally built for the SEMA show.

These two Corvettes really encompassed the spirit of the Hot Rod Power Tour. The Snowcrest White car in the near lane is a ’58, and the Roman Red example in the far lane is a ’60. These were very nice cars, but not so nice that you wouldn’t want to drive them. They both had some matching vinyl graphics to make them look like a racing team (they also had a ’73 Nova that was part of the “team”). You can tell that they went into this expecting to have a good time, and their cars are noticeable and memorable. It would be hard to jump in a straight-axle Corvette and get your kicks on Route 66 these days, but driving this pair on the Power Tour is the next best thing.

So here’s the thing on my pictures for this story. I did not attempt to take a shot of every late-model Camaro, Corvette, Mustang, and Challenger hanging around Beech Bend. I like those cars fine, but I was tired, hot, and wet, and they made up a majority of what was there. I also couldn’t get a lot of interior and under-hood shots, because it was raining and everything was closed up. Even with all that, I still took 864 pictures. Check them all out by clicking this link.

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