Road Tour: Leg 2
The e-mail from STREET RODDER Editor Brian Brennan was short and to the point: "The tub's done and on its way to Texas." He was speaking of the new '34 phaeton from Australia that has been the subject of our "Ultimate Underpinnings" stories and the car that I would be driving on the Vintage Air leg of the Road Tour from San Antonio, Texas, to the Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Of course, my fearless leader had to add a footnote: "And by the way, you'll be on a deadline while you're on the road, so take your laptop." I could almost see the big grin on his face on the computer screen.

The trip got off to an interesting start. If you want to see pandemonium at the airport, watch what happens when the guy in front of you tosses an overnight bag on the screening conveyor and an electric tooth brush is inadvertently turned on. You can get a pretty accurate head count of all the TSA employees on duty.

Like most street rodders, I'd rather drive to an event than fly, but since the '34 tub Tom Medley and I would be touring in was waiting in San Antonio, we both winged our way to Texas. After arriving at Vintage Air on Thursday, the first order of business was to check out what needed to be done to the phaeton, as it had accumulated very few miles before being hauled to San Antonio. It turned out that a couple of brake line fittings were seeping, both exhaust pipes needed to be wrapped-as they were close to the fuel lines and pump-the frontend needed more caster, and the headlights needed adjustment. For a new car, these were all minor glitches, all of which were easier to fix at Vintage Air than on the road, plus we had capable help.

Landis Chisenhall was drafted to lend a hand on the tub, and our hosts were making all preparations to get underway while we puttered with the phaeton. Jack Chisenhall was welding a cracked grille bar on his mega-mile '39 sedan, Rick Love was searching for the source of a new noise from his equally well-traveled '39 Ford coupe, and George Packard was trying to avoid eye contact because his pristine Deuce coupe needed nothing other than gas.

The tub was ready by Saturday, as was Jack's sedan. Rick discovered the water pump on his coupe was the culprit responsible for the racket from under the hood, but again it was something easier to fix in the shop rather than on the road so repairs on his ride continued.

After a short drivers' meeting Sunday morning, we were off to our first stop on the trip, Hatfield Restorations in Canton, Texas. Looking through the variety of buildings on the park-like grounds gave us some insight into Gary Hatfield's operation, which revolves around the fact that they do first-class work on classics, musclecars, and street rods, and almost anything with wheels. There's nothing these guys can't do, and that includes preparing great Mexican food. After saying so long to the gracious Hatfield crew, we were off to our first night stop at the Boomtown Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana.

The group's first destination on Monday was the Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum in nearby Gibsland. Boots Hinton, whose father was one of the lawmen involved in the ambush of the outlaw duo, was our host. Interestingly, the museum occupies the former location of Ma Canfield's Caf, where Bonnie and Clyde dined for the last time.

Next on the agenda was a visit to historic Vicksburg, Mississippi, and a tour of the National Military Park, which commemorates the campaign, siege, and defense of the area during the Civil War. The USS Cairo is on display, along with 1,330 monuments and markers, a 16-mile tour road, and a National Cemetery. Sunk during the battle, the Cairo sat on the bottom of the Yazoo River in Mississippi for 102 years; it was raised in 1964 and is now on display.

I was feeling rather smug on the way to dinner that night, as the tub was performing flawlessly, but then driver error came into play. Medley and I discovered that when the gas gauge says empty, it means it. With the engine dead, we coasted into a gas station only to find it was closed; fortunately, we had enough momentum and the terrain sloped downhill enough, which allowed us to roll into a neighboring station that was open.

Tuesday's lunch stop was at COMP Cams in Memphis, Tennessee. COMP's product line embraces just about everything from single-cylinder Briggs & Stratton junior dragster engines to the V-8s on NASCAR tracks, and of course lots and lots of street rods. We were given a tour of the facility where camshafts, pushrods, rocker arms, and all the other valvetrain parts the company offers are produced.

From COMP, it was a short trip to Holly Springs, Mississippi, where George Poteet was our host for dinner. A street rodder, Bonneville racer, and all-around good guy, he showed us his eclectic collection that contains some of the finest street rods in the country. George's generosity is legendary; he even offered a "loaner" street rod to one of the Road Tour participants having transmission trouble.

George treated the group to breakfast at Ellie Mae's Caf on Wednesday morning, and then we hit the road for our final destination of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Up to this point, our trip had been trouble free, but in Paris, Kentucky, the '34's exhaust note suddenly got much louder; the head pipes had come loose from the exhaust manifolds. Thanks to the friendly bunch at Mike's Mufflers, the missing fasteners were replaced and we were back on the road.

After running out of gas earlier, I decided to top off when the gas gauge dropped to a quarter of a tank-ironically, that led to the next problem. Shortly after we took off, the normally crisp small-block began to falter, so I turned around and went back a few miles to my last stop rather than risk having to make roadside repairs. That was a good choice, as it seems one of the locals was giving the management an ear full about contaminated fuel. And, although the telltale odor was missing, the suspicion was diesel fuel had been put in the wrong underground tank. We were on the road again after dumping what we had onboard and filling up with fresh gas from another pump, and the engine was its old self again after a few miles.

Thursday morning, we were given a tour of the Corvette plant, where we saw the assembly process from beginning to end. (As a side note, if you're planning on buying a new Vette, you can make arrangements to follow your car down the line and pick it up at the factory.) Then, we all met at nearby Holley, conveniently located in Bowling Green, for a tour. Matt Held took our group through the impressive facility that produces carburetors, blowers, heads, and all the other products in the company's lineup.

Our final destination was the Hot Rod Reunion at the impressive Beech Bend Raceway. A special area was set aside for those on the Road Tour, and the rest of the weekend was spent watching great nostalgia-style racing, touring the pits, walking through the swap meet, checking out all the other cars, and just hanging out with a bunch of good folks (see page 150 for the full story). It was a great way to wrap up a fun week. For more information about how to join in on the fun in 2009, call the Road Tour Hot Line at (800) 664-1362, or visit www.streetrodderweb.com.

Road Tourians
A term coined by our own Jerry Dixey, it's used to describe those who participate in the Road Tour and their vehicles. Here's a look at a few of them.

Curry and Rosa Cross joined the Road Tour to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, and it was her idea! Now that's true love.

Starting out as a two-door business coupe, the '50 Chevy has a long list of body modifications by Jesse and Jereme Miller. It has been nosed, decked, and chopped 4 inches; the driprails and vent windows have been removed; the headlights have been frenched; the bumpers have been smoothed; the doors and trunk are electric; and custom taillights have been installed. Inside is a custom dash and leather seats. A 400hp small-block Chevy topped with two four-barrel carburetors rests under the Autumn Gold Metallic sheetmetal; the transmission is a 700-R4. For suspension, a combination of a Heidts Mustang II frontend, four-bars in the rear, and Air Ride Technologies ShockWaves are used. Wheels are Billet Specialties Qualifiers, 18-inchers in front with 20s in back.

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