The 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour was the hottest Power Tour ever.
Literally… It was the hottest Power Tour ever.
But no matter how hot it was – I had the best time ever.
And the heat, humidity and rain didn’t discourage thousands of other hard core hot rodders from coming out to play on the biggest road trip in the world: The Hot Rod Power Tour 2016.
I flew in with my buddy and co-host Clarence Barnes – “CB.”
As we changed planes at DFW CB and I ran into Lucky Costa, one of the hosts of Hot Rod Garage.
He’s the guy with the super tuff 66 Chevelle.
It’s red primer on the outside but underneath it’s built to the hilt with a boneyard LQ9 and Holley HP EFI hooked up to a T-56 out of a 2005 GTO with a Chris Alston Chassis Works coil-over suspension.
The rear end is a Fab-9 with an Eaton TrueTrac, 4.11 gears and 31-spline Strange axles.
He built it to run hard.
And it’s got AC.
Lucky’s part of the Long Haul Gang and drove it every inch of the way, and he’s smart enough to have Pilot Transport pick his car up and deliver it to him at the beginning of the tour.
We always start the Power Tour where it ended the year before.
This year we’d start in Louisiana and make our way up to Kansas City, Kansas.
When we arrived in Baton Rouge it was hot and humid.
On the way from Baton Rouge to our hotel in Gonzales it went from hot and humid to wet as we got a nice little 15 minute downpour to cool things off a bit.
But the rain didn’t cool things off… it just made everything wet.
I could tell we were getting close because all the other hotel parking lots were jam packed with Hot Rods.
And let me tell you, a hotel parking lot on the Hot Rod Power Tour is better than 90% of the car shows I’ve ever been to.
After we checked into the hotel CB and I ran into the gang from Gibson Performance Exhaust.
They were heading over to the Long Haulers VIP reception too.
Rory asked me if I wanted to ride with him.
He was driving a new supercharged Mustang with a little under 600hp and a sweet sounding Gibson Exhaust.
Needless to say Rory and I made it over to the reception before CB and the rest of the gang.
When we arrived there was Project X and the Super Chevy “Week to Wicked” Chevelle sitting there center stage.
Project X is a yellow 1957 Chevy 210 that Argus Publishing bought off of a used car lot in 1965 to use as a project car for Popular Hot Rodding.
It’s the longest running magazine car in history and has been modified more than any other car in history.
It’s been featured in over 100 magazines and on over 20 covers.
It was the star of the movie “Hollywood Knights” with Tony Danza and Michelle Pfiffer.
In 2006 it was completely redone at the GM Tech Center by Chevy mastermind Mike Copeland and his gang of engineers.
They dropped in an anniversary edition all-aluminum 427 ZL1 Chevy big-block and debuted it at SEMA.
It’s become a legend in the hot rod community and arguably the most significant car in the history of the hobby.
The guys at Hot Rod Garage: Lucky Costa & Tony Angelo – recently removed the ZL1 big-block and dropped in a 6-71 supercharged LSX 376 B-15 crate engine and they reintroduced it on the Hot Rod Power Tour.
The 67 “Week to Wicked” Chevelle that Super Chevy transformed into a pro-touring beast in a week was sitting right next to Project X.
They replaced the steering, suspension, powertrain, drivetrain and just about everything else you can imagine.
Their goal was to bring the Chevelles performance up to par with modern muscle cars.
And they did it in a week.
The first day in Gonzales, LA was beautiful.
We had Freiburger & Finnegan from Roadkill up on stage answering questions and telling stories.
A little after they left the stage they stopped the show by driving Stubby-Bob directly in front of the main stage.
If ya don’t know what Stubby-Bob is, check out this Roadkill episode.
It’s got a blown big block in the bed of the truck hooked up to a marine V-drive and zoomy headers.
The thing is a rolling circus.
Craig and his Bowtie Brigade from Chevrolet Performance didn’t come to play games, they came to celebrate 50 years of the Camaro with all six generations represented.
Beginning with the 1967 Hot Wheels Camaro with an emissions compliant 430hp LS3 Connect and Cruise crate powertrain, side exit zoomy headers and a custom white interior.
My favorite is the 2nd generation 1970 split bumper they brought.
With an LT4 and T56 Super Magnum, ZO6 front suspension and coil-overs and Brembo they built for SEMA last year.
It’s basically a 2015 ZO6 Corvette hiding under a 1970 Camaro body.
The 3rd generation was a 1992 25th Anniversary 1LE – an SCCA showroom stock racer right off of the showroom floor.
They had a 1998 Camaro SS with the all new at the time LS1 representing generation four.
A bright ticket-me-red 2015 Ultimate Track Camaro SS that uses parts from the 1LE, ZL1 and Z/28 all right out of the Chevrolet Performance Parts catalog to make it into a track star represented generation five.
And representing the sixth gen were a new 2016 Camaro Convertible and a 2017 50th Anniversary edition.
And just like every year, Chevy drives them all as part of the Long Haul gang.
These guys are awesome.
One of the things that I absolutely love about the Power Tour is not only do you get to see these show cars living and breathing and moving under their own power, but they park these cars out in the open in the Hotel parking lots at night.
So when I get up in the morning and open my hotel curtain I’ve got my own private car show.
The next day at Royal Purple Raceway CB came over and told me there’s a street legal COPO Camaro in the parking lot.
I said there’s no such thing because real COPO’s don’t have a VIN.
Then I went over and saw it in person.
It doesn’t have a COPO VIN, but it does have the Chevy CRC (Certified Race Chassis), a Louisiana VIN and a license plate.
It was even a part of the Long Haul Gang.
Later that night I run into Dennis and Charlie who’re out front of our hotel with Hellfire and a beautiful yellow pro-touring 70 Chevelle.
Dennis is the guy who last year scarred my fragile little mind with his Nickey Hot Rod edition Camaro.
This year he was driving an angry orange 2016 Nickey Camaro.
Over the past couple of days I’d heard whisperings about a grey 72 ‘Cuda with a diesel set up that I had to see.
Charlie said it was over at Pilot Transport so I stopped by to check it out.
The guys at Weaver Customs built a 6.6 liter turbo diesel with a shot of nitrous that puts out 1500hp and 2500 ft lbs of torque!
The ‘Cudas a beast!
And it’s all metal.
The exhaust exits thru the rear panel in between the tail lights.
Later that day Forrest from Mother’s Polish came over to the main stage to say hi and tells me: “I know you’re a Chevy guy, but you’ve gotta come over and check out this Ford in our display.
The Ford he speaks of is 1 of 3 Factory Weber carbureted 289 Comet Cyclones made in 1965 for BFX drag racing competition.
It has fiberglass doors, a ram-air fiberglass hood, fiberglass fenders, fiberglass front bumper, Plexiglas windshield, Plexiglas side and vent windows and special factory lightweight drag front seats.
It still wears its original front and rear tires and shocks from 1965.
Then he tells me to sit inside it and check out the odometer.
It’s got 106.9 miles on it!
Forrest smiles at me and says: “All a ¼ mile at a time.”
Then, as luck would have it, Charlie happened to wander by and said: “If ya wanna do it, now’s your chance.”
Forrest knew what was up.
I gave him a big hug and I left with Charlie.
I’ve been talking smack to Charlie for years about his cars.
But the one that is a Holy Grail to me is called Hellfire.
A 1969 Camaro built by Mark Stielow, a genius when it comes to 1st Gen Camaros.
It’s got a 7.0L LS9 with CNC ported heads, a new cam and a blueprinted blower that produces 953hp.
The full carbon fiber front end helps reduce weight and even out the balance of the car.
And a Race Technology DL1 data acquisition system keeps track of everything.
We walked back over to Pilot Transport where Hellfire was parked.
Charlie grabbed the keys and told me to hop in.
This was really happening.
After we strapped into the 5-point racing harnesses Charlie lit ‘er up.
I was expecting all hell to break loose, but the LS9 came to life with a nice low rumble.
As we maneuvered out of the parking lot I was amazed at how docile it was.
And he had the AC on full blast.
Out on the open road it looks like just another really well done First-Gen Camaro, but when he put the hammer down you know it’s something special.
The acceleration is linear and it doesn’t stop pulling until you chicken out.
And as amazing as the acceleration is, the brakes are what impress me the most.
When Charlie stood on the brakes it actually threw me forward in my seat enough that the 5-point harness kept me from going thru the windshield.
They’re GM OEM Brembo carbon ceramic rotors and they are fantastic.
Then Charlie pointed out the coolant temp to me on the DL1 dash.
The heat index that day was 114 and we’re riding around in a car with over 950hp with the AC blasting and the coolant temp was 176.
When Charlie pulled into a parking lot to turn around, he said the three magic words every car-guy wants to hear: “You wanna drive?”
Heck yeah I wanna drive!!!!
I slid behind the steering wheel and into the drivers seat and I strapped myself into Hellfire.
I was nervous.
This was the most powerful, most capable car I had ever had the honor of driving.
I put the 6-speed into first gear and slowly let out the clutch.
I was driving Hellfire.
Then he said: “Just don’t put it into a tree.”
Thanks for the vote of confidence Charlie.
The clutch is like butter and the 6-speed has been, as Charlie puts it: “Massaged.”
Together they are a thing of beauty.
I was ready to turn down the main road to go back to the venue but Charlie told me to go straight.
“I think the way back was back there.” I said.
“Well why didn’t you make the turn?” He asked.
“What’re you nuts?!? Now I get more seat time!”
And now to get back to the venue we had to get on the freeway.
Entering the freeway I rolled on the throttle and rowed thru the close-ratio gearbox until we caught up to traffic.
The car is amazing.
As we’re passing cars going into the venue Charlie said: “You know, this is probably the longest I’ve ever sat in the passenger seat with someone else driving.”
And I was that someone else driving!!
As we pulled back into the Pilot Transport display a crowd started to gather.
I had to back it in next to the 72 Diesel ‘Cuda…
And I couldn’t find reverse.
I asked Charlie where reverse was and he said he didn’t know because he wasn’t driving.
Eventually I found reverse and carefully backed it in.
Not only was Charlie kind enough to let me drive Hellfire, but he even took pictures of me driving it.
A super nice guy with a super amazing car.
After that I thought my day couldn’t get any better, but I was wrong.
Once the show was over I went over to the Hot Rod motor coach for dinner.
The Chevy Performance guys had just finished and were leaving.
Everyone but John had left.
John’s the guy who gave me a ride in Jimmy Johnson’s 1971 Corvette during last year’s Power Tour.
This year he was driving a new 2016 ZO6 Corvette.
John was still eating so I went over to ask Michelle how much time I had before we were gonna take off.
She said 15 minutes.
I said told her I only need 14
I went over with another plate of food for John and told him I’d be happy to warm the ZO6 up for him before he left.
“Just be careful.” He said as he handed me the key fob.
I know a little bit about the ZO6 Corvette because in addition to being an enthusiast, I’m also a Product Specialist for Chevrolet.
So I get trained on ’em and I get to spend a lot of days with ’em at auto shows across the country.
I know all about ’em, but I’d never driven one.
I only got to drive it around the closed course of the casino parking lot, but John was cool enough to give me that chance.
The Shark Grey Metallic ZO6 was an automatic with GM’s 8L90 transmission.
John already had the 16lb carbon fiber roof in the trunk and had the XM Satellite Radio set to Ozzy’s Boneyard so all I needed to do was fire this bad boy up.
When I hit the button it came to life with more authority than Hellfire.
This one had the NPP Dual Mode Exhaust and it sounded sweet.
The ZO6 was amazing.
With 650hp and 650lb. ft. of torque for roughly $80 grand it’s the best bang for the buck out there.
It goes like a scalded cat, stops like nobody’s business and corners like its on rails.
I finally got to drive a C7 ZO6 – thanks John!
It may have been hot and humid on the 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour, but I saw some amazing cars, I met some amazing people, I reconnected with old friends and I made a whole lot of new friends.
And I got to drive two iconic cars with over 1600 combined horsepower in one day.
So, to me it was the best Hot Rod Power Tour ever.