Each year, as a new PPG/Street Rodder Road Tour begins we have come to expect that for the first Tour there will be a few minor problems. The car is a freshly finished vehicle and usually has very few or zero miles on it. The maiden voyage is a shake down cruise that normally has a few surprises that we work through. This year the crew at The Roadster Shop did an excellent job of assembling the Speed33 steel bodied, Ford Racing powered 1933 Roadster. When I arrived at The Roadster Shop for the open house and Lokar Tour kick-off party the new Tour car actually had over 200 test miles on the Auto Meter odometer. I felt confident and comfortable. The Roadster was gorgeous and it felt good to drive. What I hadn't anticipated was a twist that was a little beyond our control. You can't control the weather.
After the huge kick-off party at The Roadster Shop on Saturday and the NSRA Appreciation Day at Heidt's on Sunday, Monday found our wandering band in Sycamore, Illinois. We had a fun day ahead of us with a morning visit to Auto Meter and then a get together to see the latest incredible projects in the works at Troy Trepanier's shop in Manteno, Illinois. We made the very short trip from our hotel to the Auto Meter facilities in Sycamore. As we walked in the door we were greeted by Auto Meter CEO Jeff King. Auto Meter gauges have been helping me monitor the vital signs of the last two Road Tour cars. Over the last few years some major changes have occurred at Auto Meter that have streamlined production and helped them to continue the high quality standards of their products. These changes have also allowed them to keep their products "Made in America". It was a very interesting morning as we got a real behind the scenes look at what goes into the Auto Meter line of products. After the Tour we pulled our cars up in front of the facility and the employees at Auto Meter had fun seeing their products being used in many of the cars that we were driving.
As usual on the Tour, I had been watching the weather reports both nationally and locally. It was a cold morning with the temps in the mid 30's. There was a forcast for rain and the skies were overcast. The folks in roadsters were bundled up and I was smiling ear to ear since my American Speed Company Speed33 body had some very nice electric windows and the Vintage Air heater was cranked up. As were pulled away from Auto Meter it started to sprinkle. No problem. Then it started to flurry very lightly. OK, that's a Road Tour first but still no problem. By the time we made it five miles down the road we were in the middle of a full blown white out blizzard with snow flakes as big as silver dollars. BIG PROBLEM. The snow was coming down very fast and heavy. We pulled over at the freeway entrance. Most of the others sedans had windshield wipers. The Road Tour Roadster was not equipped with a wiper. I had always relied on Rain-X for windshield water management. Well not this time. This time I needed Snow-X, a product that I quickly developed in my mind as I tried to see through the inch of snow that covered the windshield of the Roadster. After a brief discussion, most of the folks in the sedans decided to soldier on in hopes of driving out of the spring snow blizzard. I could not see out the windshield and was going nowhere. As luck would have it, Super Chevy Magazine's Associate Publisher Joe Rode was following the group in a rental car. I safely parked the Roadster off to the side of the road at the freeway entrance. Joe, myself and Heidt's new owner Marc Prince, who had been traveling with me in the Roadster all loaded up in the rental and headed to the store for provisions. The snow was not letting up at all. We went to the local Target and bought towels and window squeegee. I looked for a hooded parka and found instead a nice selection of the latest swim wear. It was the end of April. Spring is supposed to have sprung. After a quick lunch we made it back to the Roadster. The snow had lightened up and the temps were rising a little. The crisis had passed and gone from major problem to "this is going to be a great story" We rolled on with our sights set on Rad Rides by Troy about two hour away in Manteno, Illinois.
We were greeted at Troy's shop by Troy and his family and crew who all have a major part in creating the rolling works of art that folks have been enjoying for almost twenty years. The projects in the works were incredible. Troy and the crew took time to talk to us about each car under construction. As I introduced had Troy to the crowd upon our arrival I realized that looming over us, up on a lift was the breathtaking 2007 Detroit AutoRama Ridler Winner that Rad Rides by Troy had created and set a new standard for show car quality. Standing in Troy's newly remolded showroom we all realized how lucky we were to be able to meet the folks who create these wonderful works of art. We stayed at the shop and enjoyed some fantastic Mexican food brought it by a local favorite restaurant.
It had been a good day on the Tour. Some excitement, some very educational tours and an evening of food and camaraderie shared with some of the best craftsmen in our hobby. Yeah, I know, I have the best job in the world.
Be sure to check back here. We are headed for the Indy Museum, A stop at the shop that has already started on the 2009 Road Tour car and then on to Knoxville, the huge Lokar Open House and the NSRA Nationals South. You can get the complete story on this and all the Tours in the pages of Street Rodder Magazine. Talk to you soon.