All rodders should have a "bucket list." Here are three things that should be added to this list: attending the NSRA Street Rod Nationals, going to Bonneville for Speed Week, and visiting the Smith Collection of American Speed at Speedway Motors. During our week on the Willy's Garage Road Tour we checked off all three of these activities over a seven-day period.
Starting with the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, stopping for a visit with Bill and Joyce Smith to see the incredible Smith Collection of American Speed at Speedway Motors in Lincoln, Nebraska, and ending up in Wendover, Nevada, for the final days of Bonneville Speed Week. Along the way we scheduled stops at Pete & Jakes in Peculiar, Missouri, an evening in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and a visit to the headquarters of our tour sponsor Willy's Garage in the Salt Lake City area. Willy's Garage has recently introduced a complete line of car care products. Owner Bill Williams and the Willy's Garage crew had a great evening planned, complete with a visit by well-known hot rod painter Charley Hutton. It was going to be a wild week on the Willy's Garage leg of the STREET RODDER/AMSOIL Road Tour.
Our week started at the 40th NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville and we were treated to great weather. As we have done for the last four years, the Road Tour participants gathered on Saturday at noon for a Road Tourian reunion and photo shoot. It was fun to see so many former Road Tour participants in attendance
The 40th NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, KY, was the starting point for the 40 ca
On Sunday afternoon it was time to head west and begin our journey to Bonneville Speed Week. By Sunday evening we had made the five-hour drive to St. Charles, Missouri, just west of St. Louis. Monday morning under cloudy skies we continued west on I-70. The rain hit hard around Columbia but we were soon through the downpour and arrived about 11 a.m. at our first stop of the day: the Pete & Jake facilities. We were greeted by owners Jerry and Peggy Slover and were given the full tour of both P&Js and Super Bell Axle Company. Jerry spent time showing us his incredible collection of Oil-Zum items. It is without a doubt the world's greatest display of collectibles from this famous oil brand.
From Pete & Jakes it was north past Kansas City, Missouri, and onto our afternoon stop at the Smith Collection of American Speed at Speedway Motors. Bill and Joyce Smith have amassed a collection of automotive items that defies description. From early Model T accessories and speed equipment to modern day race cars and everything in between; pedal cars, automotive toys, Flathead speed equipment, Soap Box Derby items, the list goes on. The museum consists of four floors of a collection that was put together over a lifetime of automotive passion by fantastic folks who are kind enough to share it with others who have the same passion. The looks on the faces of those on our tour who were experiencing it for the first was stunned ecstasy. A visit to the Smith Collection of American Speed is something that you never forget.
At the driver's meeting the morning after our visit to the Smith Collection of American Speed Museum, we all decided that we wanted to be adopted by Bill and Joyce Smith, as we were still talking about the incredible collection that we had the privilege of visiting the night before. From Lincoln we headed west on I-80 toward Cheyenne, Wyoming. The trip across Nebraska is a long flat straight journey through cornfields and grazing land. Some folks stopped in Kearney, Nebraska, and visited the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. The Monument stretches across I-80 and is a real history lesson about the early pioneers who made the trek west many years ago. It is worth a visit if you have the time.
After our first night's stay in St. Charles, MO, we traveled across Missouri to visit Pete
Tuesday was a day of car troubles for a few of us on the tour. Fortunately nothing really serious but bad gas caused some problems for some of the Road Tourians. I had to change the fuel filter on the Road Tour Chevy as it had become clogged, but better the filter than the carb. It is always a good idea to carry a spare filter when you travel because you never know the quality of gas you can come across on the road. The good folks at Aeromotive made sure that I had spares and sent backup via next day UPS.
After checking into the hotel in Cheyenne many folks went to the Old West Museum. After the visit there we were invited to a local cruise at a McDonalds. A few weeks before our tour, I had called NSRA Northwest Division Director Fred Williams who lives in Cheyenne. I know Williams from the many years I spent traveling to the NSRA events around the nation. He's a member of the Cheyenne Rods and Customs Club and said he'd try to get a cruise together for our visit. He contacted John Arciniega of the Cheyenne Classic Chevys Club and the word of our visit was quickly circulated. To say the word got around is an understatement. We were amazed as we were greeted by at least 100 local rods, customs, and classic Chevys. Arciniega had arranged to have door prizes and we were welcomed by the local car community with open arms. It was a fantastic turnout in Cheyenne. All of the Road Tourians appreciated the hospitality.
We left Cheyenne Wednesday morning and made a stop at the huge Lincoln Highway Monument. The statue commemorates the Lincoln Highway, which was the first road to go coast to coast across the United States. Completed in 1913, it's now designated Route 30 and I-80 in many western states. By Wednesday morning we had everyone on the tour together and posed for a group picture at the monument.
We crossed Wyoming and arrived in West Valley City, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City by 4 p.m. Wednesday. We were to be Guests of Honor at the headquarters of Willy's Garage that evening. Owner Bill Williams has introduced a line of high-end waxes, polishes, and car care products. Bill is also a major distributor of Iwata paint spray equipment and airbrushes. Our short trip from the hotel to the Willy's Garage offices was very exciting as we were escorted by about 10 motorcycle police from the West Valley Police Department (another Road Tour first). At Willy's Garage we were greeted by Bill, Charley Hutton from the American Hot Rod TV show, and many local rodders. We enjoyed a great barbecue dinner and a tour of the facilities, which included a fantastic collection of airbrush art from some of the best artists in the world. Local celebrity J.C. Hackett handled the music and announcements all evening. It was another incredible day on the Willy's Garage Tour.
After our Thursday morning driver's meeting it was time to get to Wendover and the Bonneville Salt Flats. It is just a two-hour drive from Salt Lake City and everyone was very excited. Interstate 80 is a long straight road between Salt Lake City and Wendover. There are salt flats along almost the entire route. About 3 miles east of Wendover the signs for the Bonneville Speedway start to appear. After exiting the freeway it is about 3 miles to what is known as "the end of the asphalt." There is a sign that tells the history of the course and is where the salt begins for the spectators.
It was a real treat to have my wife Mary Ann along, and not just to wash the car either. S
This year was an excellent year for the condition of the Salt Flats itself. It was dry and hard packed. If there had been any rain in the previous week the salt would have been sticky and we would have had to make a decision as to whether we would drive onto it. The race course is laid out each year by a crew from the Southern California Timing Association, which actually is in charge of the week's activities. We made our way out to the starting line and vehicles of all types were lined up waiting for their turn to run down the 5-mile course. As we pulled up I realized that George Poteet was next in line to go in the Speed Demon streamliner, which is owned by Poteet and Ron Main. When Poteet saw us he walked over to say "hello" and greet the group. Poteet has participated in a number of Road Tours in the past and has become a good friend. He then pulled on his helmet and was buckled into the car. He was pushed off and headed down the course. As we heard the speaker announce that Poteet went through the 5-mile mark at 400 mph we could not believe our ears. (Editor's Note: September 9, 2009 George Poteet was credited with reaching an average speed for the mile of 435.868 mph.) We witnessed the fastest run of the entire week and had been on the Salt for 10 minutes. It was truly a Road Tour moment. Thursday evening we checked into our hotels and then many of us got together for a final meal as a group.
Friday a number of hearty Road Tourians joined many others to see the sunrise at the course. It is quite an experience to stand on the famous course and watch the sun crest over the mountains.
By noon it was time for some group photos on the Salt Flats. While some of the Road Tourians had headed home earlier in the morning most were still present for the noon photos. It had been a great week on the Willy's Garage Tour.
It was fun to have my wife, Mary Ann, along for the trip. Her help and support during the week made my life much easier. She also helped with much of the photography. Thanks to everyone who greeted us along the way. It was a great group who traveled from Louisville to Bonneville and, as always, friendships were made that will last a lifetime. Stay tuned, there are many more miles to go on the '09 edition of the AMSOIL/Street Rodder Road Tour.
Speedway Motors and the Smith Collection of American Speed Museum are both in Lincoln, NE.
The Smith collection occupies a four-floor facility on the Speedway Motors corporate campu
The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument is located in Kearny, NE, just off Interstate
The evening in Cheyenne was due largely to the efforts of Fred Williams (at the microphone
About 40 miles west of Cheyenne we stopped for a group photo at the Lincoln Highway Memori
The weather was roadster perfect to see the Wyoming landscape. Pat and John Hervat made th
When we arrived at our hotel in West Valley, UT, we were met by 10 motorcycle policemen. I
Upon arrival at the Willy's Garage facility we were greeted by Bill "Willy" Williams. Thei
Part of the West Valley, UT, offices of Willy's Garage includes a gallery of incredible ex
After 1,800 miles and four days on the road, we were greeted by this sign just east of Wen
Waiting to make a pass in the Poteet and Main Speed Demon streamliner was good friend Geor
Thursday afternoon was spent on the Salt as the Road Tourians enjoyed the sights and sound
The group shot of most of the cars that took part in the Willy's Garage Tour is complete w
This trophy is one of the most sought after in all of Salt Flat racing. The Hot Rod Top Ti
There are few things in hot rodding that compare to sunrise on the Salt Flats at Bonnevill