Austin C. Craig
April 8, 2013
Equipped with a Kicker sound system, my Mustang GT was displayed in the Kicker exhibit at each stop on the Hot Rod Power Tour.

I have wanted to participate in the Hot Rod Power Tour ever since the legendary magazine started long-haul cruising 18 years ago. In years past, I've attended the first event and the finale, but I always wanted to drive the complete tour to become a "Long Hauler,” the sobriquet given to those who run the Hot Rod Power Tour from start to finish.

I got my opportunity last summer when Kevin Campbell, marketing director for Kicker Performance Audio, asked if I could drive my Kicker-equipped '12 Mustang GT on the seven-day, seven-city tour, starting in Milford, Michigan, and concluding in Arlington, Texas. The cruise schedule included a stop in Stillwater, Oklahoma, for a cruise night and tour of the Kicker facilities as part of Kicker's sponsorship package.

Of course, the total trip entailed more than just the Hot Rod Power Tour. I live in South Florida, so the odyssey began there with my wife, Barbra, and I driving to East Grand Rapids, Michigan, to visit family before I picked up Kevin at the Detroit airport for the start of the Tour on June 2. Then, after the Texas finale on June 8, I drove Kevin back to his home in Stillwater and continued to Tulsa for the following week's Mid America Ford and Shelby Nationals. Barbra joined me there for the drive back to South Florida. Over three weeks, the Mustang traveled 5,434 miles. Thankfully, Ford has built a fast and comfortable car. With enhancements from MRT Performance, the GT is a true road car that I can drive for 12 hours and hate to stop for the day.

After picking up Kevin in Detroit, we headed to our hotel near the GM Proving Grounds in Milford to prepare for the first day of the Power Tour. I know what some of you are thinking: Why would any blue-blooded Mustang owner want to be near a GM facility? The good news is that there were hundreds of Mustangs at Milford as well as numerous other performance Fords. Yes, Chevrolet Performance is the Hot Rod Power Tour's presenting sponsor. However, the cruise attracts enthusiasts in all brands of musclecars, hot rods, custom trucks, street machines, and current performance vehicles.

At the conclusion of each day, thousands of enthusiasts gathered to win merchandise from the Hot Rod Power Tour sponsors.

Over 5,000 vehicles and 75,000 spectators participated in last year's tour. I quickly learned that everyone is friendly, with the love of performance vehicles transcending brand preference. Many of the great people I met save money all year and use their vacation time for the Power Tour.

Each day began with a three- to five-hour drive to the next stop. Arriving at our new location around noon, we would spend the afternoon hanging out in the manufacturer's midway and checking all the cool rides. The climax for each day was an awards ceremony and merchandise giveaway on the main stage by the sponsors, including Kicker, Tremec Transmissions, Mothers Polishes and Waxes, Comp Cams, Royal Purple, MSD Ignition, Eaton, and others. The stage shows were fun to watch as each company presented its message and prizes. New to the tour, the Kicker team put on a great show in addition to awarding a huge amount of sound system product.

After each daily event, the sponsors would tear down their displays and head to the next day's location. When the Kicker rig departed for the next stop, Kevin and I would relax with Kip Litsey, Kicker's electronics guru, and get ready for the next morning's drive. Kip possesses an amazing knowledge of performance audio products and has the ability to explain the most complex audio system in a way that even I was able to understand.

The Power Tour event sites were unique and interesting. In Muskegon, Michigan, we were located adjacent to Lake Michigan with nearby shops and eateries. At the next stop in Champaign, Illinois, we set up shop in a beautiful area near the University of Illinois campus. For drag racers on the tour, Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis was just the place to put the hammer down on the quarter-mile.

We traveled into Miami, Oklahoma, for our next stop at the Buffalo Run Casino, where we were treated to that famous Midwestern hospitality. While there, we learned that heavy rains had soaked the grounds around Kicker World Headquarters, making the area unsuitable for parking during the planned Tour stop. The Kicker and Power Tour teams sprang into action to relocate the Stillwater event at Oklahoma State University, located a mile or so from Kicker. OSU buses made round trips between the Tour site and Kicker headquarters so participants could attend the facility tours and seminars.

Finally, we arrived in Arlington, Texas for the conclusion of the 2012 Hot Rod Power Tour. Afterwards, I drove Kevin back to Stillwater. After 1,800 miles in seven days, Kevin told me he was impressed with the '12 Mustang GT, and especially the MRT exhaust that was not too loud to impede conversations.

He left saying, "I think I will miss the Mustang more than you!”

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