It only made sense that the northeastern leg of Mopar Muscle's Return to Brice Road II caravan would be the largest of the six-city caravans heading to the '99 Mopar Nationals. With the highest population densities in the country and Mopar enthusiasts heavily skewed towards this geographical region, we expected a bare-knuckled, all-for-fun ride across western New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and into central Ohio. Despite ravenous response and plenty of confirmed participants, as it turned out, the northeastern boys just didn't show up.
When we assembled Wednesday morning at Bill Kanouse's remarkable mail order/walk-in retail enterprise, Just Suspension, in Fairfield, New Jersey, it didn't take long to see that our hopes for a record-attendance caravan would pan out. We set a record, all right-for the smallest caravan ever. Out of all the rough-and-tumble Mopar heads in the northeast, only two brave souls showed up to carry the Mopar banner to Ohio-Warren Grossenbacher of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, and Tom Titus and family of Wayne, New Jersey. Oh well, who says bigger is better, anyway?
We spent a leisurely hour and a half hanging out with Bill, indulging in a generous supply of doughnuts, bagels, coffee, and juice before saddling up for the trip west. With our caravan comprised of the lead Prowler, Warren's unrestored '72 Charger SE (see our accompanying mini-feature), and Tom, his wife, and three kids packed into his '69 Road Runner, we hit I-80 with rain clouds to our backs and sunshine in our eyes.
With such a small group we had no difficulty hanging together as we worked our way out of Jersey's morning commuter traffic, but just as we approached the Delaware state line we noticed Tom and crew pulled off an exit ramp. Stopping one exit downstream, Warren took up sentry duty by the interstate while I went on what would come to be a one-hour search for the Titus family. We never did find the Road Runner, and reluctantly continued our way into Pennsylvania.
About 1:30 p.m., Warren and I landed at a Subway/service station near the junction of I-80 and 81. Here, we were hoping to meet some Mopar folks coming in from upstate New York. No dice. Not only did no one show up, we never saw a single Mopar anywhere along the way. Following a quick lunch we were back on the road for a non-stop jaunt to Kent, Ohio, for our overnight stay.
It was here that we learned the fate of Tom's Road Runner. Seems that Tom developed some trouble with his newly-installed 440, so turned back home to transfer the family and luggage into the van. Fortunately he made it back to Kent that evening, and the following morning our reunited pack headed for Summit Racing to tour their facility, and hopefully pick up a few more enthusiasts for our final leg of the journey.
We scored on both accounts.
We were greeted at Summit by Joel Fishel, who offered us a continental breakfast in the company's expansive and thoroughly stocked retail showroom. There, we took in the sights and were treated to a tour of the facility by retail salesman and resident Mopar buff Charles Bathrick. We even managed to order a few parts for our respective project cars, and in all enjoyed our time at Summit and the hospitality extended to us by Joel and Charles.
As for increasing the size of our caravan, we did. Here we picked up Brenda Golden and Arthur Lee Jones, a couple from Cleveland who were piloting a '69 Road Runner and '65 Sport Fury, respectively. Also coming on board were Ron and Jeanette Plaskin of Mineral Ridge, Ohio, with their '96 Ram 2500, and Erie, Pennsylvania, resident Aaron Frase and his brother who were driving a '69 Coronet R/T convertible.