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.

John Garner, 5.0&SF's King-of-the-Street shootout winner, brought his Fox convertible to the Power Tour, sporting a freshened Vortech, a new custom cam, a Reichard intake, and more. I had briefly spoken with him Friday, but I could not locate him Saturday (at least before I left). Later that evening I received a call from John on my cell phone. It turned out his new combination had some problems, and while he did make it to Memphis, he had to return home due to the troubles. He had hoped to go all the way, but those new-car bugs can creep up when you're rushing. Sorry I couldn't get a ride, John. I would've loved to feel that new combination, which now puts out 716 hp at the rear wheels.

For the evening's entertainment, I went down to famous Beale Street for ribs at the Rendezvous, some liquid libations, and a quick stop at the Hard Rock Cafe to pick up an addition to Editor Turner's pin collection. If you're ever in the Memphis area, Beale Street is not to be missed-if you like to party, eat good food, and listen to great Blues music, that is.

Sunday, June 1Start: Memphis, TNEnd: Jackson, MSMileage: 244Sunday morning got off to a smooth start as the Hot Rod Power Tour took over another Wal-Mart parking lot in Memphis. It was time for the driver's meeting and once-over inspections for the cars. Walking through the parking lot, I noticed more Mustangs had joined the growing field of Power Tour participants, including a nice red notch with a 4-inch cowl hood, a Fox Saleen hatch, and a couple of Fox LX notches and convertibles. With Ron Mahoy heading back to Indiana and John Garner's Pony working its way back home for some repairs, it was nice to see some more Mustangs meet up in Memphis.

I also decided to get the whole "getting lost" thing out of the way on Sunday. Luckily, I had pulled ahead of a small group of cars, so I didn't have the embarrassing addition of leading an entire pack astray, but missing that one small sign for 49 South in Mississippi had me going 20 minutes in the wrong direction. Later, as I discussed my inept mapping skills, I heard a few stories of other groups doing much the same thing. So, listen folks-just because you're following someone, it doesn't mean they know where they're going.

Monday, June 2Start: Jackson, MSEnd: New Orleans, LAMileage: 218Monday morning kicked off with a fresh tank of gas and a full stomach courtesy of the nearby Burger King. I met up with fellow Florida-office Primedia staffers and we decided to boogie down to New Orleans ahead of the main pack to get more photography and to check into the hotel early since we'd heard the parking situation would be tight in downtown's French Quarter. Even though we left almost an hour early, I was surprised to see several Power Tour participants already on the road. The trip from Jackson to New Orleans was nice, with little construction and few problems. Once I came to the end of I-55 and started onto I-10, it was easy to see the low-lying marsh areas. Even the highway was elevated, like a long bridge. I later came to find out that New Orleans is actually below sea level. Yikes!

Walking the fairgrounds, I eyed a few Mustangs I'd missed before, but still sans owners to talk to. I'm sure I missed even more, as there were so many cars attending, they actually arrived over the course of several hours. I'm sorry if I didn't get to see you and your Mustang this time around, but suffice it to say there were some quality Mustangs on the tour this year and I was glad to see every one of them, whether I got to talk to the owners or not.

Well, it's now Monday evening. Tomorrow I head home to looming deadlines, unpaid bills, and a lawn that needs cutting. I'm going to sign off now so I can meet up with the crew and check out Bourbon Street and try some Bubba Gump Shrimp. Safe travels everyone, and congrats to all the Mustang owners who came out to spice things up a bit around all these vintage Camaros.

What's In Your CD Changer?When it comes to road trips, you can never have too much music. Since the SVT Focus came with an in-dash six-disc changer, I stocked it up with some of my favorite driving music. You may love these groups or you may hate them, but I just wanted to share.

Disc 1 Bon Jovi Crossroads
Disc 2 P.O.D. Satellite
Disc 3 Linkin Park Hybrid Theory
Disc 4 ZZ Top Greatest Hits
Disc 5 Saliva Every Six
    Seconds
Disc 6 .38 Special Greatest Hits

My Picture GalleryWhen you attend an event of this size, there's always so much to see and do. I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I saw, not necessarily related to this magazine, on the Power Tour. Take a look.

Gimmie Fuel, Gimmie Fire!The Focus did well on the trip, fuel-consumption-wise. The little screaming tomato (as I grew accustomed to calling it) was able to crank down 30 miles per gallon for most of the trip (unless I was really having fun), meaning I had to fill the tank only five times, easily going each full day's driving distance on just a hair more than half a tank. Consider your typical 5.0 getting half that mileage and having to put more fuel in the larger Mustang tank and you'd easily double your fuel costs.

Worse still, consider this scenario. I spoke with the staff driving 5.0&SF's sister magazine's Hemi Ram Dually, and they only managed to pull down 12 mpg with a 36-gallon tank. Oh, and that turbine-powered S-10 I mentioned-how about 7 mpg with an 80-gallon tank in the bed holding diesel fuel?