Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
October 1, 2003

When people think of Hot Rod magazine, fire-breathing, big-block musclecars usually come to mind. Throughout the years, however, the magazine has rolled with the punches and has offered a little bit of everything in its pages. There's even a sport-compact section now-not to mention a few Hot Rod staff members who own and race 5.0 Mustangs! Who'da thunk it?

Now in its ninth year, the Hot Rod Power Tour is-naturally-covered by Hot Rod magazine, with the logistics handled by an outside company. This year, 5.0&SF-along with several of our sister titles-was invited to ride along and cover the Tour from our magazines' respective angles. This meant that even though there might be a wild twin-turbo '66 Mustang on the Tour that I would love to play with, or a Cleveland-powered Maverick on juice (one of Associate Editor Johnson's dream machines), I would focus my attention-and my camera-on the types of Mustangs you're familiar with seeing within these pages.

The Tour lasts for eight days, but I'm going to head home at the halfway point due to deadlines and family commitments. So read along, laugh a bit, and and enjoy the pics. Maybe I'll see you there next year.

Friday, May 30Nashville, TNFriday was the big kick-off party and registration day for the "Long Haulers," the group of drivers who do the complete tour. The staging area was the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, and every square foot of parking lot-and then some-was filled to the brim with serious Detroit iron. Camaros, Tri-five Chevys, Corvettes, Mustangs, trucks, and much more were everywhere you turned. As I tooled around in my new Competition Orange SVT Focus, I received a few disapproving stares from the elder-Camaro crowd, but the Ford people I talked to loved the car's looks and color. With the European appearance package added, the Focus also sported SVT wheels in gray and honest-to-goodness leather Recaro seats with seat heaters and lumbar!

Later Friday afternoon, the Hot Rod stage came alive with the sounds of the Kentucky Headhunters, followed by the Hot Rod TV crew and the inimitable Dave McClelland, giving the capacity crowd plenty of entertainment while everyone munched on free barbeque and relaxed in folding chairs.

In the parking lot full of cars, one of the most talked-about vehicles was an S-10 pickup truck powered by a helicopter turbine engine. It was something to see. I'm sure both Hot Rod magazine and Hot Rod TV will have info on it.

Saturday, May 31Start: Nashville, TN End: memphis, TN Mileage: 242Saturday morning began with a drivers' meeting at a nearby Wal-Mart, where directions and last-minute notes were given. Then we were off. The run from Nashville to Memphis was a nice route on a two-lane highway. With the sheer number of cars involved-some say double of what started the Tour last year, meaning possibly 1,000 cars or more-there was no way more than 15-20 cars could stay together at a time. Most of the Power Tour attendees ended up traveling with friends, or making new ones and caravanning together.

I gave up my Focus for most of the day so I could shoot some car-to-car photography in one of the Hot Rod chase vehicles, but once I arrived at the DeSoto Fairgrounds just outside Memphis, I was quickly reunited with my ride. The weather was a bit warmer but still far from unbearable (meanwhile, Editor Turner was wasting away in near-100-degree heat covering the Ennis, Texas, NMRA race). I cut out of the festivities early on Saturday so I could get back to the hotel for some quality time with my laptop computer.