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Hot Rod Power Tour 2003

The long haulers of this year’s Hot Rod Power Tour set out from Nashville and snaked through forgotten southern towns while on their way to the Big Easy before finally reaching the last stage of the weeklong tour in Texas. More than 1,500 cars could be spotted at any time either on the road or at one of the stops. Numerous manufacturers also made the trek, including Mothers, MSD Ignition, Comp Cams, Baer Brakes, Flowmaster, Edelbrock and many more. Chevrolet brought along a few prototypes as well. They had a rarely seen SS Blazer and a 6.0-liter SS regular cab pickup with a six-speed. There’s no word yet on the likelihood of production for either one, but it looks promising. If it gets the green light, the six-speed transmission probably will not make it into production.

With every Power Tour, you can always count on cool cars, hot cars and hot asphalt. The 9th version was no exception. There was a car to satisfy everybody’s addiction – new, old, stock, radical, future show winners and more than a few trucks.

Most of the participants anticipated the heat that the Deep South is known for during the early summer months, but the rain at the end of the tour came as somewhat of a surprise. A few showers could not bring these diehard car enthusiasts down. They came to cruise rain or shine, and Mother Nature managed to compliment the rain showers with otherwise beautiful weather. The Power Tour’s attraction is the relationship between the experience of a weeklong cruise and a large group of people who have widely varied personalities who all share one common bond.

The Hot Rod Power Tour kicked off early in the morning on May 30 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville with sponsors giving away door prizes. Everyone was itching to hit the road, though, and the mid-70 degree temperature was calling. The first stage of the tour ended a short drive away at the Desoto Civic Center just outside of Memphis. The 200-mile drive was scattered with traffic jams and construction, but it was an otherwise peaceful drive through luscious green scenery – just how the Power Tourers like it. A portable chassis dyno was on hand at the Civic Center to give the owners a chance to prove their bite was as bad as their bark.

The trip to the Mississippi State Fairgrounds and Coliseum in Jackson took the drivers off the beaten path and through town after town that were nowhere to be found on any map. As you travel through life, you can take a direct route and get where you’re going; or you can meander, taking a circuitous route that allows greater variety in what you see and do. The Hot Rod Power Tour is all about variety.

Along the road less traveled, small Ma and Pa stores stocked with MoonPies and RC Cola were the norm. Only in the South can you count on finding those nutritious snacks at every gas station. Kidding aside, one could not go wrong when it came to food on this trip. We had the city of Memphis and its barbeque – no explanation is needed for that combination. Louisiana had its Cajun food, and Texas offered its own version of barbeque. And Mississippi, well, there’s always grits.

Gasoline powered bar stool races greeted everyone at the Fair Grounds Equestrian Race Course in New Orleans after another relaxing drive through the country. The manufacturer, Bar Fly, had constructed a miniature tri-oval racetrack modeled after Charlotte’s Lowes Motor Speedway. A bar stool race is something to behold because you literally sit on a bar stool that is built into a small go-kart frame. Visions of Donkey Kong trying to ride in the original Mario Kart came to mind.

The tour took a short detour for a lunchtime pit stop at a little place called No Problem Raceway Park while on the way to the Lake Charles Civic Center on Tuesday. An eclectic group of vehicles attacked the park’s 1.8-mile road course. Spectators watched as a Pantera and an old Dodge pickup took their paces around the track. And nobody will forget the Ford SVT Lightning that ran away from the C5 Corvette. The No Problem drag strip offered plenty of excitement for the more straight-line inclined, especially when a late-model Trans Am lost a T-top at the 1,000-foot mark. Somehow, the T-top survived the 90 mph take-off intact, keeping the lucky driver from having to finish the tour with a garbage bag as a roof.

Wednesday’s stop was at Red River Raceway in Shreveport, Louisiana. Rain put a dampener on this stage, but a break in the clouds allowed time for more drag racing by the time the Power Tourers arrived. Tony Caprio’s wheel-standing PT Cruiser wowed the crowd with a 9-second pass down the quarter-mile while only on the back tires! A few of the sponsors also got into the action. Mothers’ red ’63 Nova convertible lit the tires up a few times, and Air Ride Technology’s late-model Mustang and Flowmaster’s ’60s Comet convertible were also up to the challenge.

The last day of the Hot Rod Power Tour ended at The Ball Park in Arlington, Texas with more rain. Eventually, the rain subsided, and a huge crowd gathered for the final party. Over 900 cars made the long haul from Nashville to Arlington relatively incident free. Sure, a few breakdowns occurred, but the sponsors were more than willing to help as much as they could, not to mention the fellow tourers.

The Tour is much different now than nine years ago, but one thing that hasn’t changed over the years has been the friendships. New friends are made each year on the Tour, and it gives people a chance to catch up with old friends too.

A special thanks goes out to Forrest Tosie for providing the material for this story. You can read his complete set of travel logs at www.mothers.com/powertour.

About Justin Downum

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