Once again, we came, we saw, and we conquered ... the open road, that is. There's something about getting behind the wheel and winding off the miles. This year, six teams of automotive nomads again roamed into the big, vacant parking lot on Brice Road from the highways and byways of America.
To try and tell all the stories about what happened during that 48 hours or so of road time is never easy. The Caravans are a happening that you really have to participate in to understand. In some cases, we had problems, which is possible when a large contingent of vintage iron hits the interstate. We all survived, though, and arrived at the 2001 Mopar Nationals with energy to spare.
The tales you're about to read are true. The names of those involved have been left intact to protect the reputations of the guilty. That said, here's a multistate scrapbook on the run for fun in 2001.
Detroit, Michigan- Motor City Madmen
The Walter P. Chrysler Museum is a great place to start any tour, and after spending some time looking at all the cool eye candy, Publisher Jerry Pitt led the troops on a one-day jaunt south to Columbus, Ohio. This is the shortest of the half-dozen cruises, but had a plethora of vehicles that rolled out of Auburn Hills, through the outskirts of the Motor City, then down into the Buckeye State via Toledo. Rain played a role on Thursday this year, hitting hard as the destination got closer, but there was no stopping the Motown shakers from reaching the end of the road. Just north of Columbus, the sun was shining, and the Detroit tour was on Brice by late afternoon.
Hangin' Ten ... In Illinois?
How Rick Bottom Deals With His Misplaced YouthWhat's a guy to do? You live in Illinois and build cars for people, but your heart lives west of The Land of Lincoln, to hot waves, beach bunnies, and shiny woodies. Rick Bottom, proprietor of Rick Bottom Custom Motorsports in Mendota, Illinois, found a way to satisfy the curl urge when the PT Cruiser exploded onto the market a short time ago, despite the fact that the closest sand is in Dunes State Park in Indiana.
It's no secret that the PT's little Neon engine needs some help, so Rick added a Hahn Race Craft Turbo Kit and a turbo-compatible exhaust manifold to the car. An MBRP exhaust system was installed with a dual exit at the rear to let it breathe, while a strong Optima battery juices the ride.
Next, a combination of aftermarket body parts was added. A PTeazer grille and lower fascia went up front. PTeazer also supplied the rear roll pan and the '39 Ford-style taillight assemblies. The woodie panel kit is from www.ptcruisin.com and for rolling stock, Billet Specialties wheels with Pirelli tires are under the chassis.
Suspension was the final task; Rick installed a complete Air Ride Technologies suspension, with HAL's QA1 struts and shocks at the front and back, respectively, assisting the Firestone airbags. A set of Wilwood brakes readily visible behind the big rims slow the blown beachcomber down.
Just when we thought it couldn't get any cooler, Rick lent us the just-finished car to make the Caravan run from Minnesota to Ohio.
Nothing like cruisin' in style; Jerry and Janice Rouse's '70 GTX leaning on the loud pedal
Thanks to the museum's Barry Dressel and Brant Rosenbusch, the Detroit tour was able to di
Lunch was a quiet affair in Marion, Ohio, where we took advantage of the nice weather ...
You have to admit, ol' Bolig fit right in with Rick Bottom's PT cruiser. Like to see him r
Here's the Caravan getting ready to leave from MAS Racing on Wednesday morning.
By the time we reached Muscle Car Restorations, it was looking as though there was going t
I arrived at Rick's shop four days before the caravan began and my first thought upon leaving was, Wow, I can't believe the room in this thing! Leaving Mendota, Illinois, at 2:30 p.m. for a 711/42-hour ride to St. Paul, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the little PT handled the road surfaces and traffic. Sure, the low-profile tires made the ride a little bumpy in spots, but I would definitely do it again. This is truly the first new vehicle I've ever ridden in that didn't require me to stop every two hours to stretch my legs. The seats were roomy, and keeping an eye on the vital signs was aided by the full complement of factory-installed gauges. The only exception was a boost gauge for the turbo (it would have been nice to know how much boost was there when I blew past that tractor-trailer in Wisconsin at an average speed akin to that of a 13-second drag car). Speaking of passing, I didn't have to downshift to pass, so turbocharging is the way to go with these things.
At one point during the trip, I spiked the brakes so hard, the stuff in the backseat ended up being forward compartment luggage; the Wilwood disc brake outfit literally stopped the little PT instantaneously. Speaking of luggage, the fold-down rear seats gave ample room to carry all of my luggage and camera equipment and still have room for car parts. The only downfall was the surfboard on the roof hindered the gate from going all the way up; that difficulty was overshadowed by the coolness of the surfboard itself. Thanks, Rick, for a very cool ride.
Minneapolis, Minnesota-The Northwind Blows SouthAssociate Editor Randy Bolig and ad salesperson Susie Clark were in charge of this leg, with Bolig behind the wheel of Rick Bottom's surf-oriented PT Cruiser (see sidebar). The Great White North tour left MAS Racing at midmorning and made another stop at Muscle Car Restorations in Chippawa Falls, Wisconsin, before the run south through a heat wave in Wisconsin and on into the Windy City-Chicago. After overnighting in Napierville, Illinois, a launch from Koller Dodge in the morning unfortunately resulted in traffic problems to begin the day, so this took longer than expected (though Koller's Keith Johnson got them on the road as quickly as possible). Thus, the faithful rolled into the Paddock in Knightstown for a late, quick meal, then headed east with Columbus as the goal. They arrived on Brice just after 7 p.m.
Like some of the other cruises, time was inadvertently spent fixing busted stuff. One crui
So what's it like driving cross-country in the much heralded Stratus-Fear? Whether you love it or hate it, virtually everyone looks at this Hot Rod magazine project car, including your local constabulary. The fit and finish is the quality you expect from a Troy Trepanier creation, but there are many compromises in the name of style. Steve Dulcich and I drove the Dodge from Los Angeles to the Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, leading the Mopar Muscle caravan out of Memphis' Competition Cams plant. Along the way, we learned to both love and loathe the little red beastie. Let's examine it from the outside first.
This Stratus certainly looks fast. The wheel-and-tire package fooled many into believing the car is rear-wheel drive, which was Hot Rod magazine's intention, with its low-slung form practically scraping the pavement. The exhaust exits below the doorsill on each side. The wheels are 18 and 20 inches front and rear, respectively; low-profile tires stretched over them like rubber bands. The car is a virtual babe magnet-that is, until they got close enough to see Dulcich's and my mugs. All trim, badges, moulding, and handles have been removed and smoothed over and a custom shaker-type hood was built for the Stratus-Fear. A wing has also been added, the source of which will remain a secret (hint: Blue Oval).
Nothing like a '68 Charger to crank off the miles in, and ya gotta love those turbine-infl
However cool the lack of door handles look, they remain hopelessly impractical. On more than one occasion, we locked the keys in the car by simply closing the doors. The gas filler is relocated on the trunk and drew a lot of attention at every gas station when we proceeded to pump gas into the trunk. The paint is what you'd expect from a high-end shop of Trepanier's magnitude, the graphics mimicking those of a Super Bee. The diminutive shaker in the hood is, well, there.
How does it ride? The interior remains stock, comfortable, and ergonomically correct. All of the gauges are in the right place and effortlessly readable, and the controls are easy to reach while driving. Unfortunately, visibility toward the rear is practically nil as the wing does a good job of blocking the rear window and the dark tint aids in suppressing your view.
The suspension is a mixed bag. The car sits low and hunkered down over its giant tires, looking like it's moving at warp speed while standing still. The rear is equipped with airbags, allowing you to adjust the ride height and thereby changing the attitude exuded by the Stratus-Fear. Low is perfect for idling around the fairgrounds, but will bottom out at the slightest suggestion of a bump in the road. When negotiating the imperfections of America's byways, one encounters various road conditions necessitating the airbags to retain an optimum 40 psi. While this adequately stiffens the rear, it results in a severe rake reminiscent of the '70s, which renders the normal headlight setting useless at any speed over 45 mph at night. We were forced to use our high beams when we occasionally (once or twice) exceeded the posted speed limit. But despite the criticisms of the ride quality, the Stratus-Fear holds the road well through the twisty stuff, yet occasionally exhibits bump-steer. I fully expected the car to wander on less-than-perfect surfaces as I have experienced with other cars sporting wide, low-profile tires, but such was not the case as it remained surprisingly stable at speed. The steering, while firm, requires little input but is by no means overboosted. The brakes are confidence-inspiring and never exhibited any noticeable fade. The only real problem was the stereo, which wouldn't eject the only CD we attempted to play, thereby forcing us to listen to The Eagles' "The Long Run" on a continuous loop for 2,600 miles.
Gathered up for the trip north is the Memphis Blues caravan at the Comp Cams facility.
So, how does it run? Upon start-up, you're greeted with a fairly throaty exhaust note, which turns into a vacuum cleaner-like swoosh when accelerating hard. The normally aspirated 3.0L V6 does a good job of moving the Stratus-Fear, making passing maneuvers effortless. Although we didn't get the opportunity to drag-test this vehicle, it seemed to be a solid mid-15-second ride (Hey, Hot Rod, where's the nitrous unit?). The Stratus-Fear refused to budge beyond the 125-mph mark (er, or so we've heard), but this in itself is more than respectable.
Despite the fact that the Stratus-Fear ate my CD, I rated the car a B+ and enjoyed the experience immensely. Ma Mopar has built a solid little car and Hot Rod magazine has created a look which garners the attention of all generations. I would like to thank them for the use of the Stratus-Fear and Passport for the great radar detector. Looking forward to next year's road trip to the Nats!
Memphis, Tennessee-The Long Run
After a rapid trip from Los Angeles in the Hot Rod magazine-built Stratus-Fear Dodge (see sidebar), Steve Dulcich and Marko the Rooster landed on Beale Street for an evening at B.B. King's Tuesday night. Wednesday, they led the contingent out of the Comp Cams facility after a shop tour, heading north for a run through the Bluegrass State. The next morning, Holley Performance Products in Bowling Green, Kentucky, entertained the troops. Late that morning, they were off and rolling north toward the Queen City of Cincinnati. The Blues Dudes met up with the caravan out of Hot-lanta and made the roll onto Brice Road as the sun was going down in the late afternoon.
Here we are at the Holley Performance Products offices in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Once again, Year One served the Dixieland tour a big breakfast, then arranged a police esc
John Balow is getting ready to restore this Superbird, but decided the low-mileage machine
The stop near Sevierville, Tennessee, meant a morning trip through Floyd Garrett's Muscle
Like last year, Kyle Porter, Shane Scarbrough, and Tim Fletcher from Knoxville, Tennessee,
The Keystone Caravan capers began at Just Suspension located in central New Jersey.
Tom Titus and his family came out in their beefy '70 Road Runner. Ol' Tom later garnered n
Atlanta, Georgia-The South Rises Again
Year One's substantial planning and execution make the Dixieland tour one of the best. This year, Musclecar Review Editor Tom Shaw and ad salesman John Nichols were on deck, with John Balow of Muscle Car Restorations rolling off the miles in a soon-to-be-restored Superbird as the leader. The tour left Atlanta and cruised I-75 until ending up that afternoon in eastern Tennessee. The following morning, it was a walk-through at Floyd Garrett's Muscle car Museum, then the trip began in earnest, covering almost 380 miles to meet with the Memphis group as they tag-teamed into the Columbus region, arriving just after 6 p.m.
Fairfield, New Jersey-Running With The Big RigsThat leaves the New Jersey leg, which left the Just Suspension facility (where everyone enjoyed Bill's toy truck/electric train collection and latest Mopar parts) for a 400-mile run that covered the entire state of Pennsylvania in a day. Editor Geoff Stunkard and art director Bob Stuart got this leg, hammering west out of the Garden State in a brand-new Dodge Motorsports Dakota courtesy of DaimlerChrysler. Heavy traffic, especially trucks, was the norm, and some time was spent chasing lost sheep and fixing a breakdown. After overnighting in Kent, Ohio, the tour went to the cavernous Summit Parts facility nearby for a morning visit. Due to construction, the final day of the trip was made over backroads that eventually led right to National Trail Raceway. This tour was on Brice in the early afternoon, with everyone returning for the evening photo shoot.
Kansas City, Missouri-From The Heartland
The land made famous by Wilbur Harrison's tune from the '50s began at Weld Wheels' operation on Wednesday morning before starting east toward the big river and the Midwest heartland. Company photographer Chuck James led this leg, with the Paddock's Tom Eddy riding shotgun. A missed turn in St. Louis cost some time, but rewarded the boys with a view of the fabled arch. After an overnight stay in Effingham, Illinois, the crew reached the Hoosier State and headed for the Paddock's facilities in Knightstown, Indiana, ate lunch at noon, and rolled into Columbus, Ohio, at 5 p.m.
Summit Racing Equipment was the launch point on Thursday. Joel Fishel and the guys there h
Joe Luis took a piece of truck tire at speed, which destroyed his fuel pump and led to a r
Crossing through the Land of Lincoln.
Once again, with the tour starting at Weld Wheels in Kansas City, the caravaners had an op
The arch in St. Louis is a landmark. Due to a wrong turn, we were able to see it this year
A barbeque lunch was served at the Paddock on Thursday, then the cruisers headed out for t