Ya gotta drive ’em! Goodguys coined that phrase several years ago, and at each Goodguys event, there’s a special parking area if one drives their car over 300 miles to an event. However, to carry the “Ya Gotta Drive ‘Em” a bit farther, Goodguys is proving to the world that the most sophisticated, high-tech, pro-built (and/or home-built), big or small-engined vehicle can be driven on a long highway trip. Such trips are termed ‘Hall of Fame Road Tours’ and some of the biggest names in the hobby have joined these tours. Such was the case for the September, 2015, Hall of Fame Road Tour which began in Loveland, Colorado. A few “famous names” made the trip with us: George Poteet, Gil Losi, Charley Lillard, Jon Goolsby, Jesse and Jeff Greening and of course, Marc Meadors, president of Goodguys Rod & Custom Association.
Goodguys announced the Loveland to Bowling Green, Kentucky road tour in its March Gazette magazine, allowing plenty of time to sign up, however registration was capped at 50 cars. By signing up (and paying tour costs up front), lodging and most meals were included – simply pack your bags, fuel up the car and enjoy the five-day, 1,700-mile trip with others. My brother Dan, and I thought this would be a fun way to get to the Goodguys Nostalgia Drags and show in Bowling Green and then he and I would drive up to Fairmont, Indiana, for the James Dean event the next weekend. We decided to take one car –my 1955 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
At exactly 12 noon on Sunday, September 13, 2015, Ed Capen, in the Goodguys give-away ‘32 Ford roadster, led the Road Tour procession from its 18th Annual event at the Ranch Complex in Loveland, headed south for the first stop in Parker, Colorado. The Vehicle Vault opened its doors on that Sunday afternoon to show off their cars, which ranged from a 1906 Olds to a custom ’59 Cadillac.
The museum tour lasted an hour and our next stop, for the night, was Trinidad, Colorado, 200 miles farther south. After a three-hour trip on I-25, we pulled into the Holiday Inn parking lot situated halfway up Raton Pass. Dinner was ready shortly after we arrived and served in a convention room. After, most of the participants hung out in the motel parking lot until after dark. It’s been said that ‘getting there is half the fun,’ but hanging out in the parking lot of the motel is one-quarter of that fun. That includes cleaning the cars of bugs and road grime, washing windows and getting to know fellow travelers at the end of the day. The other quarter of the fun is the ultimate destination – the event itself.
Day 2, Trinidad, Colorado to Amarillo, Texas. 380 miles. Monday, September 14. The driver’s meeting was held at 7:30 a.m. and the day’s destination and stops identified. Today’s trip continued on I-25, down Raton Pass to Highway 84, a two-lane going south and crossing the last of the Sangre De Cristo mountains. Forty miles later, I-40 would take us east into Santa Rosa. The Route 66 Car Museum, and owner, ‘Bozo,’ greeted each of us as we pulled into his parking lot to view his collection. Later, the road tour continued east to Glen Rio, New Mexico and the Russell truck stop for lunch. A few classic cars were on display inside their showroom-eat lunch and look at cars, such a deal!
Our next stop was the Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo. Dan and I walked out to where the Cadillacs were buried nose first, but they are almost unrecognizable these days with so much of each car having been stolen. I can’t understand why so many people wantonly destroy a landmark, just to spray-paint their names, which will be sprayed over by the next visitor. There was so much paint on what’s left of those Cadillacs it was over an inch thick in some places, probably the only thing holding remaining body parts together!
Our overnight stop, the Holiday Inn, wasn’t far away from the next collection, Bill’s Backyard Classics in south Amarillo, and what a collection it is – ‘50s and ‘60s Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles and more ’61 Pontiacs than I’ve ever seen in one place.
Dinner was hosted at Mark Warrick’s private collection on the western edge of Amarillo. Mark’s got some great projects ranging from ’57 Chevys to chopped Mercs but he really likes ‘62 Chevys, 409’s and similar musclecars.
Day 3, Amarillo to Oklahoma City. 300 miles. Tuesday, September 15. The 7:30 a.m. driver’s meeting identified two stops before reaching our destination for the night. Most of us were looking forward to visiting Owen’s Salvage Yard in Wellington, Texas, 130 miles east and south of Amarillo. Problem was, every one of us in the road tour were blinded by the rising sun blazing up over the horizon as we drove east. Being it was mid-September, the sun rose later in the morning and hindered our ability to see for an hour or so but we managed and no accidents among the group were reported. At Wellington, Flat Top Bob allowed us to check out his yard or simply wander around it. Hall of Fame members were invited to take one of several vehicles to drive up and down the rows of derelict cars. Later that morning, Bob hosted lunch at his private “estate” just a few blocks from the yard.
After checking out Flat Top Bob’s personal collection of cars, old signs and a enjoying a delicious lunch, goodbyes were said and most of the tour were off to Clinton, Oklahoma, to visit the Route 66 Museum and Car Collection. I needed fuel in my Cadillac and I’d had enough Interstate driving so while filling the tank I asked my brother, Dan, to check his Oklahoma map and find me a two-lane highway. The thing that disappointed me after two days on the road was that few of the other drivers traveled together. It seemed no one wanted to stay in a group. Dan and I drove by ourselves 85 percent of the time. Dan agreed with me that it was time to make our own ‘fun,’ do some sightseeing off the Interstates.
From Wellington east, the rest of our 185-mile trip to Oklahoma City was spent on scenic two-lane highways and would you believe we could see ‘mountains’ in the distance? Yep, Oklahoma has mountains and our two-lane highway took us through them. The Wichita Mountains rise up 2,423 feet on the flat plains, sticking up like a sore thumb-wouldn’t see that on the Interstate. Something else not seen over the Interstate: a B-52 and two C-130 transports doing low-level passes just north of the mountains.
Late afternoon, we approached Oklahoma City from the south and found our final destination for the night-the Hilton Garden Inn. Shortly after arrival, we drove to the Ted Davis collection. Ted is into 1930’s Packards, has some wonderful Brass Era cars, a few restored race cars and a great shop. Dinner was served at 6 p.m. and since Dan and I were last in line after touring his facility (my brother has to read almost everything posted on the walls!). After being served, most of the tables were full, so a few of us were allowed to eat in Ted’s massive paneled office on his beautiful wooden conference table! We felt like VIP’s!
Day 4, Oklahoma City to Memphis, Tennessee. 550 Miles. Wednesday, September 16. There was no 7:30 a.m. driver’s meeting. Reason being this was the road tour’s longest drive, it was Interstate driving again but neither Dan and I drive 80 or 90 mph, so I knew, at 70 mph, we’d never make the 5:30 dinner at George Poteet’s place in Mississippi.
Thirty-seven miles past the Arkansas line, I got tired of the crowded Interstate, impatient drivers and eighteen-wheelers again. One more time, Dan and I were driving alone, the rest of the group was miles ahead. Near Ozark, we were 200 miles east of Oklahoma City and time to fuel up my Cadillac again, so I asked Dan, my excellent map-reading navigator, to find a two-lane highway. Just south of Ozark, Arkansas, we found Highway 64 – a nice curvy, hilly highway running through several small towns, great for a bit of sightseeing which an Interstate wouldn’t have.
Sixty-five miles later, just outside of Conway, I heard a growling noise coming from under the hood. I turned into a WalMart parking lot to check it out, and found the A/C compressor bearing smoking. The A/C compressor and the power steering pump run via one belt on my 500 cubic inch Cadillac engine and the alternator on another.
Scoping out the problem, the easiest fix was to eliminate the A/C compressor and find a shorter belt to run only the power steering pump. Two hours later we were back on the road. I’ve always said if you can’t fix your hot rod on the side of the road, you’d best stay home. I don’t like staying home! Besides, the Goodguy’s support truck/trailer was 100 or so miles ahead of Dan and I!
The worst part of the trip was near Memphis. We had to get back on the Interstate to get through Memphis and our overnight stay in Collierville, a suburb of Memphis. Around 8 p.m. in the dark, 40 miles west of Memphis, we sat in a traffic jam for the better part of half an hour-eighteen-wheelers in front of us, in back and alongside. We were boxed in and going nowhere fast. It wasn’t so much the jam that was bad, it was the highway – the Interstate had had the patches patched and those patches were patched again. There wasn’t a smooth spot in either lane. It’s a good thing we crawled through the 20 miles of construction at 25 mph, it would’ve shaken all the dead bugs out of my Cadillac’s grille. My brother and I finally rolled into the Hampton Inn east of Memphis at 9:30 p.m., hungry, tired and wanting nothing more than a bed.
Day 5, Collierville to Bowling Green, Kentucky. 300 miles. Thursday, September 17. At the final driver’s meeting that morning, Road Tour guide Ed Capen thanked everyone for going and discussed the possibility of next year’s tour. The group loaded up and drove back into Memphis to tour the Comp Cams facility. Dan and I decided to forego driving back into Memphis and went east on a two-lane highway instead. I simply wasn’t going to get on another Interstate. We took Tennessee Highway 57, which is just a few miles north of the Mississippi border. For 90 miles it was very scenic and small towns are a joy to drive through, especially in a 1955 Cadillac – people stop in their tracks and wave, jaws drop, thumbs-up are flashed. Turning north on Highway 128, we drove across the Pickwick Dam and Lake into Savannah, Tennessee. Just past Waynesboro we found the Natchez Trace Parkway – 70 miles of gold-leafed trees, ponds, hills, curves and zero traffic ending just 15 miles south of Nashville!
In Nashville, just as Dan and I were getting back on I-65 to find our lunch stop, several of the tour group passed us, we followed them into the Greening Auto Company. After touring Greening’s rod shop (their claim to fame is they built a Ridler winner a few years ago) and enjoying their feast, Dan and I took 31W north (another two-lane highway) headed for Bowling Green. Sixty miles later, just as we were getting onto I-65, again, several members of the road tour passed us. We followed them to the Holley Performance Manufacturing facility for a three-hour tour. After, we drove two miles to our ultimate destination – the Holiday Inn University Plaza Motel. The Hall of Fame group stayed there for the weekend, making the morning treks to Beech Bend Raceway for the Nostalgia Drags and Goodguys weekend show.
The Beech Bend complex has an amazing layout. Drive down a small hilly farm-type lane and bam! The dragstrip lies before you in a small valley, add a few roads, ideal for cruising, a decent-sized swap meet off to the left of the entrance, an amusement park off to the right and grass, grass and more grass for parking, even a special parking place for the Hall of Fame Road Tour cars. I’d estimate about 1,400 vehicles showed up for the 4th Goodguys Nationals. That title is kind of a misnomer simply because the 3rd event and 4th event was divided by several years when Goodguys got out of Nostalgia racing. While the car show was going on all weekend, the autocross was going full-tilt and the drag races went virtually nonstop. ‘Pure Hell’ and ‘Rat Trap’, both Double A Fuel Altereds, put on a great show and a couple of front-engined rails turned in some impressive times – one in particular ran a 5.94 at 280 mph through the quarter.
Monday morning, after the Hall of Fame Road Tour members bid their goodbyes, Dan and I drove to the nearby Corvette Museum and toured the Corvette factory and Mammoth Caves. Later that afternoon, we drove south to visit Alan Mayes, editor of Ol’ Skool Rodz and CK Deluxe Magazines, then on to Lynchburg, Tennessee, for the Jack Daniels Distillery tour. From there we turned north and toured the George Patton Museum within the Ft. Knox/U.S. gold bullion depository area. After sightseeing all week, we ended up in Fairmont, Indiana on Thursday afternoon for the James Dean event and the nearby Gas City Ducktail event-both shows within five miles of each other. On Monday, September 28, we headed home for Denver. When I pulled into my garage on Tuesday, the trip odometer read 13 miles short of 4,000.
Would I do a Goodguys Road Tour again? Doubt it. I thought it would be fun to travel with a bunch of rodders but it ended up being each man for himself.
Did I enjoy the private collections and company tours? Certainly, the collections are impressive, nice to look at, and you can never have enough information about what’s available from manufacturers for your vehicle.
Did I have fun? Of course! Our tour guide, Ed Capen, told all of us at the beginning of the tour to do our own thing, so Dan and I did. Both of us learned a long ago to make our own fun. We did a lot of sightseeing and whole lot more of staying off the boring Interstates.