Every now and again Lady Luck smiles on you, and shortly after leaving Chicago for St Louis on the start of our trip down Route 66, she smiled big time. Stopping at a roadside attraction named ‘The Gemini Giant’ in our rented Mustang, we got talking to a guy who was there in a near-new Camaro soft-top with his son. He asked if we were part of the ‘Power Tour’ too — boy, that got our attention! After a brief conversation we discovered that day two of the Power Tour was in the town of Champaign, only 100 miles or so away. Not sure how that would impact on the planned drive to St Louis, or if it was even in the right direction — it wasn’t — we reset the GPS and headed straight there.
After an hour and half of cruising the interstate with a variety of cool iron, we arrived on the outskirts of Champaign, smack into the middle of a hot rod and street machine traffic jam. With thousands of cars all arriving at once, the local cops were trying to sort the entrants from the wannabes, like us in our rented convertible. After being culled out, we found a parking spot about a mile away from the showgrounds, and began the walk back. Not that the walk was a hardship, with an amazing mix of big-dollar show cars, rat rods, and beaters still pouring into the event.
The Hot Rod 2015 Power Tour is one of the coolest events in the US. Billed as the longest road trip in the world, it is a rolling show that literally cruises its way through the States. A few hard-core owners do the entire trip, while others just join in wherever they can make it. This element makes the show numbers unpredictable, but the consensus from entrants that we spoke to was that there were around 5400 cars entered on the day we were there. That’s almost five times the number of cars that come to Beach Hop, in a town about the size of Palmerston North. Similar to Beach Hop, for every entrant there seemed to be another one or two cars that were not entered, just coming along for the ride.
The show itself was incredible with a huge variety of cars. Everything was there, from immaculately restored muscle cars, to derelict-looking junk that barely appeared drivable — some with massively detailed engine bays, or at least huge engines stuffed in there. Think about vehicles like the ‘Farm Truck’ project car from Roadkill — real sleepers.
What I found interesting was the lack of big blowers and tunnel rams out the various different bonnets — a typical expectation at events like these. Instead, Prochargers, EFI, Magnachargers, and turbos were the order of the day. There were, of course, the expected oddities that regularly turn up to events, like the silver Corvair with the lift-up body and blown V6 in the back. We also noted a few retro caravans we spotted, a four-wheel-drive Studebaker pickup, and a neat ’32 roadster with a big six-and-five carbs fitted — reminiscent of the ‘TRUBLE T’ back in New Zealand.
In amongst the sponsors and trade-display trailers, I found my stars of the show. Anyone who watches Roadkill on the web would have seen the epic trips that Freiburger and Finnegan take. In one episode they bought the ‘Draguar’ and showed its evolution — and we found it. Yes, it’s as rough as it looks on the web, but it has a certain coolness about it too.
Parked nearby was — for me — the star of the show; Finnegan’s ‘Blasphemi’ ’55 Chev Gasser. This car oozes cool, from its radiused rear guards barely clearing the cheater slicks, to that nose-in-the-air stance with the straight-axle front end — and, of course, a big-inch injected Hemi with stick-shift transmission. It doesn’t get any tougher than that!
Sadly we didn’t have all day to spend there, as we had places we needed to be and our own tour to take part in. From what we saw, though, this would be a great event to return to, or even better, take part in. Maybe that’s an idea: plan a trip to buy a car and join the tour, then drive back to LA, building it as we go before shipping it home. Now that would be a cool holiday!