This year's '52 Chevy two-door began its Road Tour life at Woody's Hot Rodz in Bright, Indiana. When we decided to attend the huge Syracuse Nationals in New York on the Merrill Lynch Jones Group Tour, Woody's was the perfect place to begin the weeklong journey across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. The Merrill Lynch Jones Group is a team of financial advisors based in Youngstown, Ohio.
Woody's Hot Rodz is located on the Ohio-Indiana border near Cincinnati. Sunday night, Chris Sondles, Ryan Faringher, and the crew at Woody's greeted the Road Tour group plus about 50 additional rodders from the area. The hot dogs and brats were right off the grill and the beverages were cold as the Road Tourians greeted old friends and got to know the new members of the Jones Group Tour. Everyone in attendance was excited to get a look at the Road Tour Chevy, which now has over 9,000 miles on the odometer and still looks as good as when it rolled out of Woody's shop 60 days ago. It has been turning heads for the last two months on the road and there are plenty of miles to go before we wrap up the season on the West Coast.
Woody's Hot Rodz in Bright,...
Woody's Hot Rodz in Bright, Indiana, handled the building of this year's '52 Chevy. We began the Merrill Lynch Jones Group Road Tour leg here and a number of local rodders turned out to say "hi" and wish us well on our cruise to the Syracuse Nats in New York.
Monday's driver's meeting took place at the entrance of the newly remodeled Hollywood Casino where we stayed Sunday night. It was then a short drive to the headquarters of SoffSeal where we were greeted again by Chris Sondles, who is also vice president of operations at SoffSeal. Founder Gary Anderson passed away in March after a long illness and Chris and Sandy Fox have taken over the management duties at the company that is the recognized leader in seals and weather stripping in our hobby. We started our tour with coffee and doughnuts among some of the toys and automobilia that Gary Anderson had collected over the years. Chris then gave us a look at the work that goes into the SoffSeal line of products.
Our next destination for day one of the Jones Group Tour was the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force located on the grounds of Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The Museum contains an incredible collection of planes from every era of the history of flight, from the Wright Brothers to an actual Stealth jet. The three hours we spent at the U.S. Air Force Museum gave us only an overview of the huge facility. By 2 p.m. it was time to roll down the road to Brookville, Ohio, the home of Brookville Roadsters.
The folks at Brookville Roadsters have been an important part of the Road Tour program in years past. In 2004 we drove a Brookville '32 roadster that was built by Hot Rods and Custom Stuff in Escondido, California. The yellow highboy was lots of fun to drive that entire summer. In 2007, to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the '32, Dominator Street Rods in Northern California built us a "McMullen coupe" that was powered by a blown Flathead motor put together by Shadow Rods in Michigan. That Brookville-bodied coupe was another great Road Tour ride.
Monday morning we stopped...
Monday morning we stopped at SoffSeal headquarters in Harrison, Ohio, where they supplied our hobby with weather stripping and related products for over 40 years.
We were greeted at Brookville by Ray, Chuck, and Kenny Gollahon and given a tour of the facility where the Brookville Roadster parts are manufactured and assembled. The stamping equipment that is used to produce the body panels is amazing. The craftsmanship that goes into the assembly of these panels into complete bodies is even more amazing. We were also treated to a look at some of the collection of vehicles that the Brookville folks have accumulated over the years. Our visit at Brookville Roadster ended with some very good pizza in their cool showroom.
While those were the scheduled events for Monday of the Jones Group Road Tour, we did have a surprise in the evening. While cruising through the small town of Brookville, I noticed a group of rods, customs, and classics assembled in a plaza parking lot. When I pulled in I saw old friend Jerry Van Brederode directing the parking of the vehicles. Jerry and I had become friends some years back when he worked with Donny Pelkington at Don's Hot Rods. Van Brederode now organizes a Monday night cruise at his son Jeff's restaurant, the Brookville Grille. The Road Tourians had a great time as we joined the group of locals for a nice visit at the Brookville Grille Cruise. It was a great way to end a fun-filled day.
The Merrill Lynch Jones Group Tour continued on Tuesday morning with a visit to the Mid-Ohio Race Course in Lexington, Ohio, north of Columbus. The drive across the rural areas of Ohio's farm country was beautiful with corn "as high as an elephant's eye." It is a beautiful time of year in the Buckeye State. We arrived at Mid-Ohio about 10:30 a.m. as planned and were greeted by Kendall Reed from the public relations department at the track. She gave us a brief tour of the facilities and we then enjoyed a box lunch under sunny skies as a high-performance driving school was being conducted on the track.
With much anticipation it was soon time for the Road Tourians to take a few laps on the road course. With Reed leading the way in the Road Tour Chevy everyone had fun negotiating the twists and turns of the beautiful facility. Thanks to everyone for the hospitality extended to us at Mid-Ohio Race Course. It was a great way to start our Tuesday.
From Mid-Ohio it was a two-hour drive to the Youngstown area of Northeastern Ohio. Next on our agenda on a very busy day was the incredible auto collection of Don Snyder Jr. Snyder and I had become friends many years ago when his father, my father, and several others started the Model T Club of Mahoning County in 1958. We spent many summer weekends years ago attending antique car functions. Synder went on to take over the reigns at Synder's Antique Auto Parts, which is now run by his son. Snyder specializes in Model T and Model A parts. He also became a successful farmer and operates a trucking company. Synder's passion was always high-performance cars and his collection was started many years ago. To say he has amassed an incredible group of vehicles would be an understatement. Synder owns the first and last Ford Thunderbolts and three more in between. His collection includes some of the most significant race cars of the '60s and '70s. It was great to have him welcome us and give us the details on many of the cars in his fantastic collection.
We were greeted by SoffSeal...
We were greeted by SoffSeal Vice President Chris Sondles who started our Tour with a look at the collection of automobilia that had been put together SoffSeal founder the late-Gary Anderson.
On Tuesday evening of the Merrill Lynch Jones Group Road Tour there was a huge gathering at the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant in Austintown, Ohio, near Youngstown. Kurt Allen, Sid Jones, and the Jones Group invited many of their clients to the Lube for the evening to see the Road Tour cars and meet the Road Tourians. Many of the local rodders also brought their vehicles and everyone in attendance enjoyed the cars and the beautiful weather. The Quaker Steak and Lube in Austintown is right off Interstate 80 and every Sunday evening during the summer over 500 cars come for their weekly cruise. It was another fun evening with cars and car folks on the Jones Group Tour.
Wednesday got started early with a driver's meeting at 7:30 a.m. Our first stop of the day was the diner-themed offices of Classic Automobilia in Youngstown. It was fun for me to show all of the Road Tour folks what keeps me busy during the winter months. The Classic Automobilia line of pedal cars has been very popular as Christmas gifts for the young rodders. The Classic '34 Hot Rod pedal car on display was introduced to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of that iconic year in hot rod styling.
From the Classic showroom it was a short drive to Champion, Ohio, and Patti and Fred Warren's collection of some of the finest street rods in the world. In one building we were able to see the famous Smoothster, winner of the '95 America's Most Beautiful Roadster award, Shockwave, the '33 Ford that won the 50th Anniversary AMBR award, the Ridler award-winning Aero Coupe, and other rods in Patti and Fred's amazing collection. Fred spent time describing each of the cars since we were all interested in the history and background of the vehicles.
From Patti and Fred Warren's collection we headed east into Pennsylvania. Leaving the interstate we traveled into the hills of western Pennsylvania and visited the Drake Well and Museum in Titusville. The Drake Well was the first commercial oil well in the United States. The original site has been recreated and we all enjoyed the museum display and the grounds that showed the history of the early days of the oil industry. We gained a new appreciation for the hard work that was involved in the birth of the oil industry in America. It was a beautiful afternoon drive from Titusville, through parts of the Allegany Forest, past the Kinzua Dam, and on to our evening destination of Painted Post, New York, in the Finger Lakes region.
Our Monday stop was at the...
Our Monday stop was at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. This enormous complex has every type of aircraft imaginable, displayed in educational and informative settings.
It was a short drive Thursday morning to the world-famous Watkins Glen International Race Course. The setting for the track is beautiful with the rolling tree covered hills of the Finger Lakes Region all around the facility. We were able to get a look at a high-performance driving school that was held during our morning visit at the track. The course is over 3 miles long with many elevation changes and tight corners. While most of us began the short drive to Syracuse before noon, Road Tourian Ron Hickman stayed behind to take a turn out on the track during the performance school's lunch break. According to Ron it was the experience of a lifetime as he put his '32 Ford coupe through its paces at the Glen.
By Thursday afternoon we had arrived at our destination for the weekend, the huge Syracuse Nationals. There were over 7,000 participating vehicles this year and the New York State Fairgrounds were again covered with '80 and earlier special interest vehicle of all types. The AMSOIL/Street Rodder Road Tour hospitality tent was the center of activity for all the Merrill Lynch Jones Group Road Tourians. There were also many folks who stopped by to get a close-up look at the '52 Road Tour Chevy that was on display at the tent.
It was a great week on the Jones Group Road Tour and a great weekend at the Syracuse Nationals. We have completed four of the eight Road Tours for 2009. Even though we are only half way through this year's schedule, the '10 Road Tours will be announced very soon. Watch the pages of Street Rodder, check the Road Tour section at www.streetrodderweb.com, or call the Road Tour hotline at (800) 664-1362 for all the latest updates.
We hope you join us on a Road Tour in 2010.