Pics From The 2003 Hot Rod Power Tour
Friday, May 30
Nashville, Tennessee
Gaylord Opryland Resort
Saturday, May 31
Memphis, Tennessee
Desoto Civic Center
Sunday, June 1
Jackson, Mississippi
Fairgrounds & Coliseum
Monday, June 2
New Orleans, Louisiana
Fair Grounds Race Course
2003 Hot Rod Power Tour / Ford Centennial Celebration Road Trip

story and photos by Barry Margolis of the Sunshine State Cougar Club

When an adventure presents itself, I’m usually up for the challenge. But this adventure would take me out of South Florida for almost a month through sixteen states, and add about 6,000 miles to my 1970 Cougar convertible’s odometer.

First would be the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour. Beginning in Nashville, ending in Ft. Worth, and visiting Memphis, Jackson, New Orleans, Lake Charles and Shreveport along the way. From Ft. Worth I would drive to Dearborn, and participated in the Ford Centennial Celebration at Ford’s World Headquarters.

Sure, I said....I’m gonna go for it! After owning my Cougar for more than a dozen years, what could possibly happen that hasn’t already happened once or twice? I registered for BOTH events, and according to the diary I kept, here’s how it went:

May 28th: Met Rick Brown (1972 Camaro) at the West Palm Beach Service Plaza of the Turnpike, and headed north. It rained off and on until we got to Orlando. In Ocala I was finally able to put the top down. A few more cruisers had joined us, making a total of six. Arrived in Macon, Georgia and spent the night. Five hundred miles so far, and no problems. You’ve got to love the price of gas in Georgia....$1.41 for 93 octane premium!

May 29th: Left Macon. SSCC member Sonny Dolezel (1966 Comet Cyclone convertible) and a couple others joined our group, making it ten! The weather is the low 50’s and sunny. Hand-held radios kept us in communication.... MOST of the time! Seventy-five miles outside Nashville, my thermostat housing developed a pin-hole leak. Nothing around but farms. JB Weld to the does work! The Tennessee mountains are the textbook definition of where you want to cruise....the views are incredible! At about 5:30pm we arrived at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. 3,000 rooms, 7 restaurants, and at least 3 lounges....this was gonna be fun! Spent a couple hours exploring the hotel.

May 30th: The Cougar needs a thermostat housing and a bath. Took care of both. Our unofficial group parked together on the show field. At the end of the day there were 2,700 vehicles....from a 2002 Berger-built Camaro (window sticker read $95,000) to a helicopter-engine-powered pickup truck. Celebration cocktails in the evening, but I’ve got to get to bed early....we’re leaving for Memphis at first light.

May 31st: Attended the drivers’ meeting at a Wal-Mart 20 miles outside of Nashville. Got a little lost, and got there last. Doc Riley kept our attention with his quick wit. Last it, first out....we left right behind the Corvettes! Hundreds of people standing on the street corners waving at us and taking photos. The downside to highway’re going 70, but with the top down you wanna go 100! And a couple Camaro’s did....passed me going 135! The show in Memphis was almost as big as Nashville, with about 2,500 vehicles. The weather was still a picture-perfect sunny and 75. We skipped the BBQ dinner, and went to the hotel. Picked up another orphan....Bob Daniel and his Chevy-powered ‘39 Ford. He stuck with us the rest of the trip.

June 1st: Late for the drivers’ meeting again. Found out the Tour will start in Dallas next year. This time we were last in, last out. Got lost on a two-laner to Jackson, and had to jump back on I-55. A little 85 mph travel and we landed in Jackson right on schedule! Another HUGE show. Watched a big block Chevy dyno at 510 rear-wheel horsepower! Everyone doing burn outs....must be legal here! A couple more Cougars, too. At 8:00pm we found out it WAS legal to burn out! Police blocked off one lane of the road for a couple blocks, and the fire department provided the water for the wet pavement. Bystanders provided the bleach. Good ol’ Jackson!

June 2nd: Early for the drivers’ meeting, and almost last getting on the road. It’s cloudy, and will definitely rain before the day is over. Lots of casino’s in this part of the world. Arrive in New Orleans, and the rain showers start. Skip the show, and go directly to the hotel. We weren’t the only ones with that plan; there was a line in the parking garage! 1,200 Long Haulers, and 300 indoor parking spaces at the do the math! We got indoor parking, while others parked 8 blocks away. Bourbon Street is dead during the day....nothing but tourists. Pat O’Brien’s still makes a great Hurricane! After dinner the hotel bar was packed. They make a pretty good drink, too!

June 3rd: We decided to skip the drivers’ meeting in the morning, photograph our cars on Bourbon Street, and then head south in the light drizzle. Visited the No Problem Raceway along the way. That WAS a problem. 1,500 cars trying to enter the raceway at once; the line to sign our waivers was a mile long. Several cruisers overheated; not us! We got into the Raceway, spent an hour, and then left. Heavy rain for an hour. The ‘23 T-Bucket gives up, and stops. We continue at 35 mph. Arrive in Lake Charles. Best venue of all; right on the lake, or is it the river? Rain stops. We clean our cars for the 10th time! Patiently listened to one of the locals complain that this is the first time his car has ever been in the rain!

June 4th: No more drivers’ meetings for us. We head out at 7:00am. Got lost again. Finally arrive at the NHRA-sanctioned Red River Raceway. Watched the cruisers go at it on the quarter-mile. Checked out the vehicles (again). Visited the sponsors (again). Pickup up more much Black Magic can you use? Took another three-dozen photos. Found our hotel....30 miles from the Raceway! Gave the cars a bath, and took in some jazz and blues in the lounge.

Pics From Ford Centennial Celebration in Dearborn, Michigan