5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
Hot Rod Power Tour Story
Putting the street back into Real Street on the annual Hot Rod Power Tour
I am a little jealous. While I am not complaining about my '05 Mustang,I get to drive it only on short trips. Other than a few squirts down thequarter-mile, I don't get a lot of seat time. Now that the cars in 5.0Mustang & Super Fords magazine are into the nine-second zone, the amountof equipment required--five-point harness, three-layer pants and jacket,helmet and neck brace, along with fireproof gloves--desensitizes thedriving experience. I remember how much fun it used to be to drive aMustang on the street. As we make performance improvements, we getfarther and farther away from the fun factor that made us fall in lovewith these cars. Every so often, I steal the keys to my son's '91hatchback. It reminds me of why I love these cars so much.
As I said in an earlier story, I always wanted to take a Mustang on theHot Rod Power Tour. Everyone loves a road trip. So many times while onthe road to or from a race, I wish we had a little extra time to enjoythe trip. We are in such a hurry to get to the race or get home, all wesee is interstate highway in the dark. I can remember when I was 8 yearsold going on a family vacation in a new '65 Mustang (Thankfully, I won'thave to ride in that back seat again). All this wanderlust gave me theidea to take my Real Street Mustang on the Hot Rod Power tour in August2004.
After talking to Editor Turner, I was convinced I needed to make thetrip. I was surprised when Steve asked me to write about what we had todo to the car and our experiences on the Power Tour. If you have neverheard about the Hot Rod Power tour, you certainly must not be readingHot Rod magazine or watching Speed Television. The Tour has been aroundsince 1995. Covering 1,200-plus miles over six days, the HRPT usuallykicks off where it ended the previous year. Because of the poorreception last year in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the '05 tour kicked offfrom Miller Field in Milwaukee. Sadly, we don't have room for the wholesordid story here, so please check out our Web site for all the dirtydetails.
Horse Sense: For more on the Power Tour,check out our big sister mag's Web site:
Saturday June 4th
Captains log....er well never mind. I get up at 6 a.m. I am trying tofinish up loose ends on the car. Mark Kirkman calls and offers totrailer the car to Milwaukee. I consider this for a few moments butdecline his offer. We need to drive this thing. Mark knows that I amstressing out. He drives over and starts to work on the brake lightswitch bracket. He then installs the harnesses for Ricky's seat. I havesolved the charging problem and finish wiring the Aermotive fuel pumpcontroller. About 9 a.m. Ricky wanders out with that Pacific Time zonelook in his eyes. It started raining we are working on the car in mydriveway in the rain. At this point in time I have not showered, shaved,or packed for the trip. Mark and Ricky continue to work on the car whileI pack spare parts, tools and clothes for the trip. My wife Kim knowswhen to stay out of the way, she offers to "get some cash" from the bankas I have none.
After packing the car Ricky and I climb in the car. Hmm, no tune-up, notest drive, and we need gas. This is going to be great. We backed thecar out of the driveway and headed east. We stopped at the local gasstation to top off the fuel cell. Our fueling procedure consisted ofremoving the luggage on to of the fuel cell then filling the tank. ThenI had to put the luggage back in the trunk when we were done. I got alot of funny looks along the way with this procedure.
We then headed for the interstate to meet up with fellow Real StreetRacer Craig Baldwin. We had an hour drive before hooking up with Craigand his wife Karen. Craig is a smart guy. He was driving his '03 CobraConvertible on the first half of the Power Tour. He and his wife Karenwould be our "buddies" till Nashville. The organizers encourage you tohook up with a buddy at the beginning of the tour. You exchange cellnumbers in the event that you should break down. There is a certainlevel of comfort having this type of support along the way.
After we got on the interstate I noticed a little popping in the intake,almost like a lean condition. I looked over at Ricky with that "I amgoing to cry" look. I made some tuning changes in the PMS hoping that itwas a lean condition. Since we had no time to drive the car I had noidea where the tune-up was.
We headed north on interstate 74 at what seemed to be a normal pace. Icommented to Ricky that it sure seemed odd that we were passing everyonein sight. Ricky commented that at 2,400 rpm we should be going about 75mph. Just for kick he timed us between mileposts. Well it worked out tobe 80-plus mph! Needless to say we slowed down a little bit.
We met up with Craig as planned and got the chance to walk around thecar for the first time. While at the gas station a FFW Bracket racerstopped to get gas. He had just left the race at Cordova. He wassurprised to see our Real Street car on the road. That would happen alot over the next six days.
We still had the popping in the upper intake. As qualified as both Rickyand I are we had way too much time to over analyze the situation. Wewould later find out that our first instincts were correct.Unfortunately it would be another 24 hours before we would solve theproblem.
At our first gas stop the car took about six gallons. That gave us arough indication of how far we could drive before needing to fill up.The decision was made to stop about every three hours.
Did I say that I was stressed? Well if I wasn't before I was now. Afterfilling the car up it refused to start. Our PMS didn't show any enginerotation while it was cranking. We started to question if the ignitionmodule was the reason for the popping we had experienced. Craig checkedout the cap and rotor after which the car started. I was seriouslystaring to wonder what I had gotten myself into.
We continued on toward Milwaukee with intermittent popping. As we turnedtowards Milwaukee on interstate 43 it got much worse. I tried to varythe rpm with little success. It seemed to improve under accelerationleading us to believe that it was related to the mass air meter.
We finally made it to Milwaukee about 4 p.m. We parked and picked up ourregistration packet. We then walked down to where the manufacturer'smidway to meet up with some friends.
It had rained pretty hard before we made it to Miller Park. A lot ofpeople had already left or packed up their displays. After hanging outfor a while we hooked up with Dan and Jen to go to dinner. Dan bought my'88 Coupe and lives just North of Milwaukee. He told us about the localstreet racing/cruise scene. After diner with Dan and his friends weheaded north to find our hotel. On the way we passed a huge cruise spot.People were lined up along the street and there were hot carseverywhere. We were in the middle lane with nowhere to go. There was aSRT Neon at my drivers door with a three-gauge pod on the A-pillar. Theguys were cool and gave us a thumbs-up.
We found our hotel and parked the car. We would find that every hotelheld a different set of surprises. The cars were awesome. I had worriedabout parking the '05 unattended but with all the other cool cars in theparking lot I felt much better.
Sunday June 5th
I don't know if I felt better or worse. I had trashed for the pastcouple of weeks and now we were here on the start of the Power Tour. Ifwe weren't ready now then we never would be.
We headed to Miller Park arriving just before the departure time. Wewere solidly at the tail end of the group. The good part was we wereable to see all the cars drive past our position as they headed out. Wemet a couple from Ohio that we traded cell phone numbers. They weredriving a mild, mid-'60s GTO on the Power Tour. Since they were PowerTour veterans they filled us in on some details of the tour.
As we rumbled out of Miller Park our exhaust echoed off the walls of theoverpasses. Driving the car with a helmet on and the windows up dampensthe sound of the supercharged small-block. I looked over at Ricky and Ithought I saw a tear in his eye. We knew this was going to be cool.
What Green Bay screwed up from the previous year's Power Tour the peopleof Milwaukee made up for it. As we left Milwaukee the bridges and roadswere lined with people waving to the power tour participants. It wassomething that you have to experience.
As we headed toward JC Whitney for a lunch stop we found out why wedidn't want to be at the rear of the pack. It seems that there are somany cars involved that it turns into a rolling traffic jam. If there isa tollbooth, construction zone with lane closures the mass of carsexaggerates the problem. Our first experience was at the tollbooth goinginto Illinois from Wisconsin. After noticing the backup we chose to duckinto a rest area rather than sit in the traffic that was not moving. Iwas worried that the car might overheat if we sat for long. Later Iwould find out how wrong I was.
We continued toward LaSalle, Illinois, for the scheduled lunch stop atJC Whitney. Unfortunately we were still learning about why not to be atthe end of the group. Once again we sat in stop and go traffic the 3miles from the interstate to JC Whitney. Once we arrived we met up withMark Wilkinson and is family. As you may remember Mark has his Racecraftchassis shop in LaSalle.
Our popping problem was still with us much to our dismay. The guys atMSD had loaned us a distributor from their display to swap out. Wechanged the distributor while on or lunch break. We had hoped that themodule was the problem.
We got back on the road as the lot began to thin out. We were pleased tosee that the two-mile backup to the bridge over the Illinois River haddissipated. Our elation was short lived as we encountered several moreconstruction zones on our way to Springfield. As we headed downinterstate 39 the popping in the intake grew worse. We were afraid thatit would tear up the clutch or trans as it unloaded the driveline everytime that it missed.
We noticed that as we drove into a head wind the problem got worse. In atail wind situation the problem was minimal. If we could not fix themiss this was going to be hell.
The elation that we felt as we entered the State Fairgrounds inSpringfield was huge. We were hot, tired and thirsty. We were greeted bya woman who handed us two ice-cold bottles of water. As she handed themthrough the window she said "welcome to Springfield" It was anindication of the warm welcome that we felt while there.
Once at the Bassani Exhaust, Detroit Locker, Denso, Tremec, and QA 1Displays we parked the car and stretched our legs. We met up with KyleFickler from Aeromotive, as well as Ron Piesecki and Rick Anderson fromAnderson Ford Motorsport. Earlier I had found that the left rear axleseal was leaking. My friend Bob Alexander had brought tools and gear oilfor me to fix the problem. While talking with Rick Anderson we explainedthe popping problem that we had for the past two days. Rick immediatelytold us that our problem was too much air passing through the mass airmeter. He said that at low rpm the amount of air entering the mass airwas low. He said that the air passing through the grill area was"pulling" the air from the mass air meter thus leaning out the mixture.He said that he had encountered the problem many times with customer'sstreet cars. In a race environment we are pulling more air into the massair. For that reason we have never encountered that problem. Ricky foundsomeone with so red tape that matched our red paint. He taped off theopen area in front of the mass air meter.
After leaving the fairgrounds we headed down route 55 to our hotel.Ricky and I were all grins as the car ran smooth as silk. No morepopping!! I called Rick and thanked him for the heads-up.
Monday June 6th
Ricky and I felt a huge relief with the first full day of the Power Tourunder our belt. At dinner we met up with the guys from MSD. We told themabout taping up the grill area. They we pleased for us and kidded usthat we had thought it might me ignition related. We were wrong. We wereare sorry. While at dinner we decided to leave toward the head of thepack. We were to meet up with Todd Ryden who would be driving the MSD'55 Chevy. We arrived early at the fairgrounds and took our place inline. It seemed that the '05 got more attention than it had inMilwaukee. As we departed Springfield the local sheriffs and localpolice had all the intersections blocked as the cars from the Power Tourleft town. Many thanks to the people in Springfield.
Everything seemed cool as we headed for Indianapolis. The planned routewould take us through Decatur and then on into Indiana on some two-laneroads. After sitting in traffic in Decatur for a half hour we decided tomake a change in our route. It seems that the city of Decatur didn'ttake seriously the planners' notification that so many cars would betraveling through their town. That would be the norm in a lot of townsalong the intended path of the tour.
Since I knew the area I took the lead to the interstate. Once we got toroute 72 we headed east to Champaign to pick up interstate 74. Fromthere it was a straight shot to Brownsburg, Indiana, and IndianapolisRaceway Park.
Once at IRP participants had the opportunity to make passes down thequarter mile. I had previously participated at a SVT track event at IRPand knew that the conditions for an event like this would not beoptimum. Since our priority was to make the entire tour I had decidednot to take a chance in making any passes. It was one of the hardestthings to resist. So close, but cooler heads had to prevail.
This was getting easy, two days under our belts.
Tuesday June 7th
Today we would head south to Nashville Tennessee. The tour wouldconverge on the Opryland Hotel. Our trip was uneventful save for somedelays in construction traffic and an accident along the way. The routewas pretty straight forward as we would jump ion interstate 65 and headsouth. Louisville was an easy trip since there wasn't any heavy trafficor road construction to slow us down.
After we got into Nashville we found an auto parts store and picked upsome gear oil for our still leaking rear axle. I pulled into aself-service car wash and watched as Ricky started to detail the car.Now we all have our talents, and just so you know one of my redeemingqualities isn't how I detail a car. While we were there a group fromFlowmaster arrived to wash their cars also. One of the cars was DaveMcClelland. Dave was driving his copper-hued C6 Corvette.
Did some one say it's hot? Our arrival at the Opryland complex was alittle tense (remember I said that I get "short"), as they had no signswhere the Power Tour cars were to enter. After waiting in long linesthen discovering that we were in the wrong entrance w eventually foundour way to the midway. For all the real estate that they have there thearea devoted to the Power Tour was pretty small. The people in Nashvillewere as cool as hell. After huge crowds in Milwaukee and Springfield Iwas disappointed in the turnout at Indy. It was great to see the highlevel of interest in the Power Tour.
Later that night we met up with the guys from Tremec, Bassani, DetroitLocker and QA1 for dinner. After dinner, Ricky and I made the walkacross the street to the Opryland Hotel. Did I say walk, it took usabout 45 minutes to walk what at first looked like a couple of blocks.Our intention was to kidnap former Race Pages and current Hot Rodmagazine editor Rob Kinnan. We had some good leads on his whereabouts inone of the many drinking establishments located in Opryland. We foundMr. Kinnan as expected holding court with some high-powered movers andshakers in the world of hot rods. We felt honored to have known himwhile be polished his resume at the ProMedia Company.
After the bar closed Rob invited Ricky and I back to his presidentialluxury suite for a few more refreshments. I will say one thing; theseguys at Hot Rod really know how to live. James Lawrence would have hadthe entire race event staff stay in this one room had this been an NMRArace. The room had its own workout room, full bar and kitchen, aconference table that would not fit in my 30-foot enclosed trailer afireplace, four bathrooms and only one bed. Even the guys at that Jerseymagazine don't live like this.
The good news was that Hot Rod/Car Craft Editor-In-Chief DavidFreiburger wanted us to join a group to lead the cars out of Nashvilleon the way to Birmingham. We were going to have a big day tomorrow. Thepossibility of getting some exposure in Hot Rod was weighing on ourminds as we went to sleep that night.