By Jerry Dixey
"Well, Chief how does it look?" "Chief" (on the other end of the line), was my Editor and fearless leader, Brian Brennan. I call him Chief because it reminds me of the Daily Planet scenes from the Superman TV series. He is Perry White (Editor's Note: I would like to think I am neither that old nor that, well ) and that would make me either Clark Kent or Jimmy Olsen-depending on how things were going. (Editor's Note: that's a no-brainer -Jimmy!) "Dixey, this is one of the best looking and well constructed cars of the entire Road Tour series," Brennan said. That review was good enough for me. It was time for the 2004 PPG / STREET RODDER Road Tour to roll.
I flew to Los Angles from my home in Youngstown, Ohio. The winter had flown by and it seemed as though I had just been standing in Tampa, Florida the final event of the 2003 season. As soon as I saw the roadster I knew what Brian meant. This is one gorgeous street rod. Constructed by the pros at Randy Clark's Hot Rods & Custom Stuff (HR&CS) in Escondido, California, the 32 highboy features a trick HR&CS Deuce Steel chassis, steel Brookville Roadster body and power from a very potent Gen III LS1 engine.
The look is very traditional with a Super Bell forged aluminum front axel assembly from Pete & Jake's, a Currie Enterprises 9-inch rear end, and the cool new Dakota Digital Retro-Tech gauges. Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation again provides our stopping power and Flaming River's steering column and Vega box make sure that it drives nicely. All the throttle and brake cables are Lokar, of course and Vintage Air will keep me warm or cool depending on the season.
To keep the engine cool we again turned to Walker Radiator and Cooling Components for a radiator and electric fan. Headman Hedders provided the exhaust system, which included the headers and mufflers, and TCI's 700-R4 trans gets the power to the rear end. My rear end sits comfortable in the seating provided by Wise Guys. Everything is tied together with Painless Wiring and the entire package rolls on Wheel Vintiques' new Lakester billet wheels. Wrapped in PPG's Lamborghini Giallo yellow (DBC 84902-SC), this is a stunning street rod.
We spent Sunday morning in the photo studio as the final shots for the feature article on the roadster were taken, and Sunday afternoon it was time to roll. The NSRA Southwest Nationals was to open the following Friday and there were a few stops to make on the way. Traveling with me on the first leg of the trip to Oklahoma City was Scott Turvey, owner of Gen III. Scott (with laptop computer in hand) wanted to do some real-world tuning on the engine from the passenger seat.
We spent Sunday evening in Palm Desert, California, and early Monday morning we met Michael Simpson from Primedia and Mike Slee, the Director of the 2004 Road Tour DVD, at the exotic Joshua Tree National Park north of Palm Springs. We spend the morning shooting video of the roadster in the beautiful setting of the park. By 1 p.m. Scott and I were heading for Phoenix. The weather was great and the roadster performed flawlessly. Scott made some minor computer adjustments to the Gen III engine and we arrived in Phoenix by dusk.
Tuesday morning Scott headed to the airport for a quick flight back to Gen III's facility in Escondido and I headed north in the roadster. The stretch of I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff is two hours of some of the most picturesque scenery in the country. As you approach Flagstaff and I-40 the snow-capped mountains north of the city greet you.
The time of the year the weather can be very treacherous along this section of I-40 because of its elevation. I was lucky, though, because Tuesday's temperatures were in the 60's and there were clear blue skies. Heading east on I-40 I spend Tuesday evening at the historic tourist stop at Tucumcari, New Mexico. It had been a great day with a beautiful scenery and a street rod that was running flawlessly.
I was up early on Wednesday and the sunrise over Texas was stunning. It was another great day for weather along I-40. I make my annual pilgrimage to Shamrock, Texas, near the Oklahoma border. Restoration is finally complete on the incredible 1936 Conoco gas station and diner that is now home to the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce. By 3 p.m. on Wednesday I pulled into the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, the site of the NSRA Southwest Nationals. It had been a perfect 1,600-mile trip from Los Angles with the roadster and the elements cooperating very well. I would find out later in the week that the weather on my trip back would not be as cooperative.
The weekend in Oklahoma City at the Southwest Nationals was great. The weather was in the 70's all weekend with clear blue skies. There were 1,880 registered street rods at this year's event and the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds was covered with rods all weekend. The 2004 PPG / STREET RODDER Road Tour roadster was a center of attention in the SRM display and got favorable comments from everyone who saw it.
By Saturday of every event, I begin to monitor the weather for the following few days. My plan was to drive the roadster back to Los Angles since the next event was two weeks away in Bakersfield. The problem was, a weather front had parked itself between me and Los Angles and was creating weather havoc in the entire Arizona and New Mexico region. It was snowing in Flagstaff on I-40. There was flooding in Albuquerque and severe thunderstorms and hail in West Texas. None of the choices sounded good for a roadster, even one equipped with a Sid Chavers Bop-Top.
By Sunday afternoon I had to make a decision. The front was not moving at all. At 3 p.m. after the awards I made my mind up. I would head south on I-20 and I-10 through West Texas, El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix, and then on to L.A. At least it would be warm and maybe dry. Of course, I was wrong on both counts. I made it to Abilene, Texas, by Sunday night in sunny warm weather. As I watched the Weather Channel Sunday night and checked my computer, I realized that Monday was going to be a day of reckoning with more severe storms forecast for the El Paso area. It is never good to be driving toward the red area of the weather map. Maybe they would be wrong. They weren't.
After driving in drizzle most of the morning, it actually cleared up a little. Then about 30 miles east of El Paso on I-10 I saw what all the fuss was about. Very big, very dark clouds loomed in the distance. A quick call to Mary Ann back home confirmed what I saw: on the Doppler radar map I was directly under not just the red, but the yellow severe storm area. The wind and rain hit very quickly. In that area there are no bridges for cover. I found a spot along the highway with a little rise on each side for protection. I pulled over and pointed the nose of the roadster into the wind to ride it out. The hail hit almost immediately. Fortunately, it was small and did not last long. I sat for about 30 minutes and then ventured back out in the rain. The weather cleared by El Paso and there was clear blue skies at sunset when I reached Tucson.
I arrived back at the STREET RODDER offices at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The roadster and I survived. The car is incredible. It runs great and handles perfectly. One event down and 10 to go. The West Coast Nationals in Bakersfield is next, and then I'll make a quick cross-country boogie to Knoxville and the Nationals South.
Follow our entire tour in the pages of STREET RODDER and get updates at www.streetrodderweb.com
See you on the Road Tour. SR