Hot Rod’s Power Tour 2015 Sees Plenty of Pony Power
For 21 years, the Hot Rod Power Tour has been the largest cross-country cruise in the world. We followed along this year to show the huge amount of Mustangs that participated
It started way back in 1995 as a handful of gearheads joining the staff of Hot Rod magazine for a cross-country cruise from Los Angeles to Norwalk, Ohio, over seven days. Back then, the days were long, the crowds were small (but passionate), and the vibe was decidedly chill. Other than the magazine staff, there were seven cars that went the whole way and became the first group of Long Haulers.
It wasn’t long until the Power Tour changed from a staff-run event with a few hundred cars at any one stop, to a national event-level extravaganza with roughly 10,000 cars participating throughout the week, and over 1,500 cars joining the Long Hauler gang. Fast-forward to 2015 and the Power Tour has seen its largest amount of registrations, making this year’s Tour the biggest in history. We’ve been to many of the Tours before and witnessed the huge selection of Mustangs on the road, from survivors all the way to full-custom builds and everything in-between, so we figured we’d attend the 2015 Tour and show Mustang Monthly readers what it’s all about, and how Mustangs are right at home there.
The 2015 Power Tour started with the Tour kickoff on Saturday, June 6th in Madison, Wisconsin, which was the opening salvo of the week to come and featured registration of Tour participants and a huge car show that was estimated to be nearly 6,000 cars. After a Saturday afternoon drivers’ meeting, all the cars hit the road on Sunday morning on their way to the next day’s activities in Champaign, Illinois, most of them following the prescribed route that took them off the boring interstates as often as possible and through nice, winding country roads. Basically, you drive during the morning and arrive at that day’s destination around 1 or 2 in the afternoon for yet another massive car show. The stops after Madison were Champaign, Illinois; Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Gulfport, Mississippi; and the final stop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on June 12. Along the way, we met and photographed a handful of Mustang owners, and present them here.
If you’ve never done the Hot Rod Power Tour, it’s an event to consider. This isn’t a lawn chair and power-parker type of car show; it’s a road trip of epic proportions with an enormous crowd of likeminded gearheads (spectator count was estimated at over 100,000 this year), so if you like driving your Mustang and hanging out with fellow car folks, consider this a bucket list event.
1971 Mach 1
There are a lot of 1964-1970 Mustangs on the Tour, but only a few of the 1971-1973 models, so we tracked down Rob Lemerande to get photos and the scoop on his 1971 Mach 1. The car is all stock, with a four-barrel 351C, Top Loader four-speed, and Drag Pack rearend with 3.50:1 gears. Rob has had the car for 16 years and restored it about 10 years ago to stock trim and has driven it a bunch, but had the engine rebuilt and installed only a week before leaving on Power Tour, which is pretty brave, but he didn’t have any issues at all—not even overheating in the stifling Southern heat and humidity. We noticed that the car doesn’t have air conditioning, which must have been brutal in the heat, but Rob said he has no plans to add an aftermarket A/C kit to the car.
Prior to heading out for the Tour, Rob did some basic maintenance to the car, including repacking the wheel bearings, changing the axle seals and bearings, installing new U-joints in the driveshaft, updating the clutch, and changing all the fluids. He said, “Anything I could grease, clean, or fix I did, and I put in new belts and hoses.”
About the Power Tour, Rob said, “It’s my first time on the Tour and I’m doing it by myself, so it’s a little overwhelming. I’m used to going to smallish car shows of 100 or maybe 300 cars at the most, and when you pull into something with 3,000 to 5,000 cars, it’s a little different. And you do it six days in a row! But I’m figuring things out and everyone you talk to here is really helpful. If you need directions or help or a hand with something, it’s been good.”
While walking around the Parkland College campus in Champaign, Illinois, we ran across a group of car guys sitting between two Mustangs, and just had to stop and chat for a while. The main players were Timmy Stanley with his green 1968 hardtop, and Ricky Orr with his 1966 hardtop, both from Bloomberg, Texas, and the rest of the gang was made up of family members, old friends, and a few newly made friends. This group represents what Power Tour is all about; good times with family and friends, using Mustangs as a mechanical reason for adventure.
Stanley’s 1968 is the stock one of the pair, with a 200ci inline-six and a C4, but he’s done little upgrades to make it more roadworthy, like an 8-inch rearend, disc brakes in the front, and the much-needed Vintage Air A/C system. Stanley bought the car six months before the Power Tour and made those modifications, but he’s had several Mustangs in the past but had to get rid of him when his kids started going to college. He said this 1968 is the best one by far, and told us, “It kind of just fell in my lap, and I got it with the whole intent of doing the Power Tour. This is my first Tour and we’re having a great time. There are lots of really good people who, if you have any trouble at all, they’ll pull over and help. And we’ve helped a few people too. I can’t say enough about how good the people are.” This was Timmy’s first Power Tour, and he and his Mustang are now part of the Long Haul Gang.
Ricky Orr had a car just like this when he was in high school, and when he and Timmy Stanley hatched the idea to do the Power Tour, he knew what he wanted to build—a 1966 hardtop like his old high school car. Like Timmy, Ricky bought this car late in 2014, September to be exact, as an original two-barrel single-exhaust 289 car with a C4. He said, “I rebuilt the engine and transmission, did all the brakes—it was a California car with a smog pump so I took that off—and put Vintage Air on it. The 289 is on the stock side but bored 0.030-over, has bigger valves, and a Ford aluminum intake from a 302 with a Holley 650 carb.” Before the Tour, Ricky changed the parts that could leave him stranded, such as the fuel pump and all of the sensors, and replaced the slow-ratio stock steering box with a new close-ratio Borgeson box that he said, “Made all the difference in the world. It drives like a new car now.” Other than that, the car is pretty much as he bought it.
Ricky is planning on a few changes after the Tour, however, saying, “It’s been a fun car, but Power Tour taught me a few things. I’m going to put disc brakes on it, and it got a little hot sitting in the lines and stuff so I’ll put in an electric fan with a shroud. I also have to put some different shocks on it, adjustable shocks due to the load of stuff we carry on the Power Tour. But other than that, I wouldn’t change anything else.”
Keith and Angela Bailey
Powder Springs, Georgia
Keith and Angela’s fastback is an A-code GT that Keith built to be different than the other Mustangs he’d seen. The photo album backed up his claims of the car being a basket case when he bought it back in 2006, from “a guy that had it for 13 years and never finished it. I hounded him until he sold it to me,” Keith said. He spent the next six years restoring the car, doing everything himself except for the paint and bodywork, working out of his garage and basement.
The previous owner worked at a Ford dealer and spent years buying all N.O.S. front suspension parts, which Keith installed while also adding a Lincoln Versailles 9-inch rear with 4.11 gears and a Detroit Locker. “Hurricane Katrina paid for the motor,” Keith told us as we sat at Centennial Plaza in Gulfport, a former VA hospital across the road from the beach that was mostly leveled during Katrina. “I’m a lineman by trade, and I was down here for 29 days rebuilding Biloxi and Gulfport.” That engine is a GT40 crate engine with a Holley SysteMax EFI setup, and it’s backed with an AOD overdrive automatic that allows it to cruise “75-80 mph all day and gets 16-17 mpg even with 4.11 gears.” The combination dyno’d at 289 hp at the rear wheels. Keeping it cool in the southern heat is a Champion aluminum radiator and three electric fans. Adding to the unique look is the color—Keith said, “I painted it Chevy Arctic White because everyone does them Wimbledon White.” That’s one of the reasons he also removed the GT foglights and added a Maier Racing California Special rear decklid and corner caps.
Keith and Angela have done three Long Hauls on the Power Tour, but a lack of vacation time this year meant they could only participate in three stops, from Hoover, Alabama, to the finale in Baton Rouge. “Three legs are better than no legs,” they agreed.
East Point, Michigan
Dale Williams’ green hardtop is nowhere near a show car, but that’s not the point, especially when it comes to long road trips like the Power Tour. Dale’s car is all original except for the 302 V-8 (with GT40 heads and a 232-duration cam) replacing the original six-cylinder, it gets 19-20 mpg on the interstate, and this year was that car’s seventh Long Haul in a row. Dale said, “The only problem I’ve ever had in all those years was one time in Oklahoma it broke a shock mount, and then another time the water pump went out. But that was easy since every parts store has a small-block Ford water pump in stock.”
Jesse and Jena Brown
Taylors, South Carolina
Jesse Brown and his wife were wheeling their 1965 hardtop on their second Power Tour, and learned one big lesson from their first one: have an overdrive gear. Jesse said, “Last year the car had a C4 and it was awful. It was not fun going 75-80 mph at 3,500 rpm trying to keep up with these guys.” So he bought a T-5 from a 1997 V-6 Mustang, rebuilt it himself, and installed it with an unknown aftermarket crossmember. The overdriven Fifth gear and 2.80:1 rear gears mean, “Now I’m turning barely 2,000 at 80 mph.” The only issue on the Tour, this time as Long Haulers, was the points-based ignition dying on the side of the highway. Prior to leaving Jesse “did a lot of things, adjustments, replaced stuff, finished the interior, redid the intake, resealed a bunch of stuff, and added Vintage Air.” He deceptively painted the air compressor black and stuck a factory-style tag on it to make it look original, on the otherwise stock 289.
John and Julie Anschutz
Julie was driving the Anschutz’s hardtop because she fit behind the wheel better—John couldn’t get a tilt column in the car in time to make Power Tour and Julie felt more comfortable driving, so that’s the arrangement they decided on. Which worked out great; Julie rose to the task of following our instructions for car-to-car photography like a champ!
This car was actually Plan B for the Tour; John meant to bring his 1949 F-100 pickup but didn’t get it done in time, and the coupe had done a few Power Tours in previous years, so they knew it would be reliable and fun. The Anschutz’s car has a “slightly warmed up” 351W that makes 301 hp, according to John, and is backed by a C4, and the overall car has quite a few modifications that are mostly out of sight. John said, “I wanted it to look original so I hid most of the mods, like I took out the ashtray and molded in a light switch area for an integral wiper switch, things like that.” When we spotted them on a Mississippi back road, the coupe’s windows were up, a sure sign that the Classic Auto Air system was cranking out coolness without problem.
This is John’s fifth Mustang, all of them 1968 hardtops, and he’s had this one for 18 years. He crashed it about five years ago (by rear-ending a police officer!), and his son helped fix the bent sheetmetal. The car’s reliability was never in question, but prior to leaving on the Tour John gave the car a thorough going-over and also made sure the brakes were working. What would they do differently next year? John said, “We’ll leave early enough so that we can talk to more people on the side of the road. We made a few stops for photo ops, and the people are really nice, so we want to spend more time on the road and less at the venue.” It’s all about the drive, right?
“This car is my interpretation of what a Shelby coupe would have been if Carroll had built it in 1965,” Jeff Hernandez told us while we looked over his gorgeous Candyapple Red hardtop. A Major in the Army, Jeff came home from his first deployment in 2005 and went looking for a car to build. His dad had a Mustang in previous years and had worked at Ford during summers in college. He died in 1999, so Jeff decided to get a Mustang to pay tribute to his father. He initially wanted an early fastback and was on the hunt, but when he saw the Candyapple Red shine of this hardtop he changed his mind. April Turner, the car’s previous owner, had it for sale online as an unfinished project, and Jeff bought it in 2006.
“I did the mechanical stuff initially, like minor interior and trunk work,” Jeff said, “then got into more complicated things like a new front suspension and engine work.” The drivetrain is a 289 that is mostly stock except for the addition of an Edelbrock intake and carb and Hooker headers, and the trans is a stock C4. Inside, he changed the gauge cluster to the 1966-style five-dial setup with a matching glovebox door, built a center console for a convenient place to put his GPS system, and bought an air conditioning system for cool cruising but hasn’t installed it yet. That blinding paint is a Candyapple Red mixed with Brandywine metalflake from House of Kolors, and it was sprayed with a gold basecoat by C&G Customs in Jacksonville, Florida, before he owned the car. The wheels are 18x10 American Racing Torq Thrusts in the rear, 17x7s in front, with Bridgestone rubber.
Lastly, the Virginia license plate (Jeff is currently stationed at Fort Hood) says BOXER 13. He explained, “Boxer was my dad’s nickname, and 13 was the number he wore when he played high school football.”
1970 Mach 1
Though the main image of Gene Grgurich’s Mustang (yes, we spelled his last name right) was shot beachside in Gulfport, Mississippi, we initially met him on the side of the road somewhere in Wisconsin shortly after starting the Tour, when the brake self-adjusting spring in the right front drum brake broke. As we drove up Gene was just finishing up the repair, and that’s the only issue the car had the rest of the Tour.
Gene bought this Mach 1 new in 1970 and did some drag racing with the car in the mid ’80s, but then tore it apart and let it sit for 22 years. It took some time, but he finally got to work on the car and finished it in 2014, debuting the car at the Goodguys show in Des Moines, Iowa. The Marti Report that Gene had done shows this car as one of only two with the 428CJ engine and white stripes over Candyapple Red paint, and one of one with 3.50:1 rear gears, making this a rare animal. That rarity and originality has prevented Gene from modifying the car beyond the exhaust system, but the non-power all-drum brakes has him seriously contemplating a set of discs at least in the front. “I might do that, but I want to keep it as original as possible. But then I do have ceramic headers and Flowmasters so it’s not 100 percent stock, but I like it,” Gene told us.
How many miles are on the car, you may be wondering? It only had 37,000 miles on the clock when he started the Power Tour, but it rolled over 40,000 right about the time we got to Gulfport—Gene described that as a bittersweet moment. His co-pilot reading the directions and his loving wife made Gene a cheat sheet with all of the hotel information and a surprise birthday wish at the very end, which Gene didn’t discover until that day in Gulfport.
One of the nicest Mustangs on Tour was Barry Levey’s fastback that we found at a gas stop somewhere in Mississippi. The more we looked, the better the car got, starting at the engine. A set of Shafiroff valve covers gave away the fact that the engine made some steam; Barry said it makes 605 hp at 6,400 rpm and 571 lb-ft at 5,100, courtesy of a Shafiroff 427 short-block and RHS/Livernois prototype heads, of which there are only 10 pairs in existence.
Barry’s access to the rare parts came courtesy of his relationships built while working for Ford Motor Company for 28 years in parts and service—one of his pals is former Ford Racing head honcho Jamie Allison. At one point, Ford was cleaning out the parts vault in the world headquarters building and Barry ended up with a set of original Shelby 1965 Koni shocks, which he paired with heim-jointed lower control arms, stock uppers, and 650 lb/in lowering springs with one coil cut. The brakes and steering are non-power (but with a Total Control rack-and-pinion), and it has 1 1/8- and 3/4-inch antisway bars front and rear, respectively. A 9-inch rear with 3.70 gears is hung on five-leaf springs in the back, and the transmission is a modified C4 with a Gear Vendors overdrive for good highway manners. Barry did most of the work to the car himself, but had John Hughes at the BASF lab in Ohio spray the paint back in 1995—it does not look like 20-year-old paint.
This is the car’s second Power Tour, and regardless of how nice it looks, Barry maintains that it’s not a show car; rather a driver. “It’s a nice road car, and runs about 2,800 rpm at 70 mph and we haven’t seen 200 on the water or oil temp gauges yet. And I’ve tracked it at Waterford Hills and Gingerman [road courses near Detroit], but I haven’t drag raced it yet.”
Oak Park, Michigan
“This was my high school car,” Tim Young said. “I’ve had it 41 years, hung onto it all these years and it’s been in continuous service. I’ve done all those Power Tours [as evidenced by the multiple windshield stickers], the 40th and 50th Mustang anniversary shows, the Boston Shelby Reunion, the Street Machine Nationals, and more.” He describes his fastback’s current iteration as “absolutely a pure cross-country driver.”
Currently, the car has a pump gas 333ci small-block with AFR 185 heads, an Edelbrock Air Gap intake, and “an extremely custom 700-cfm Double Pumper Holley” that Tim built. The custom work on the carb was primarily in the name of mileage; without an overdrive in the C4 trans, a 10-inch converter, and 3.55 gears Tim said it still gets 17 mpg at 3,500 rpm. The engine is no weakling either—it makes 400 hp and 400 lb-ft. It doesn’t overheat thanks to a clutch fan surrounded by a close-fitting homemade fan shroud. Tim said, “I used polyurethane engine mounts so the engine doesn’t move, and that allowed me to build the shroud so it’s as close to the fan blades as possible.”
The wheels are the Mustang-requisite 17-inch Torq Thrusts with 4 3/4-inch backspacing, and controlling their motion are big antisway bars, the Shelby control arm drop, and Boss 302 springs, but it’s the rear brakes that Tim is especially proud of. They’re from a 1996 Crown Victoria; calipers and brackets on the 8-inch rearend, with 11 3/8-inch rotors that fit inside 14-inch Magnum 500 wheels.
Tim had his pal Phil Jenk along for the ride as navigator, as they added to the car’s 190,000 miles. Phil said, “We don’t have a GPS, we have GPP—Global Positioning Paper!”