The 2009 Amsoil / Street Rodder Road Tour Leg 6
The NSRA Nationals North in Kalamazoo, Michigan, proved to be the perfect kickoff to the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Classic Automobilia Tour. The September weather was great with clear blue skies and temperatures in the high 70s each day. The fairgrounds were covered with participants and spectators each of the three days of the event.
Sunday afternoon about 15 of the 20 street rods that were registered for the Classic Automobilia Tour gathered at the STREET RODDER hospitality tent and the trip to Burlington began. Our destination for Sunday evening was Milan, Ohio, near Lake Erie and the Cedar Point area. We arrived just before sunset, enjoyed some supper, and ht the hay in anticipation of a full day of fun on Monday.
Monday started with a 7:30 a.m. driver’s meeting where we went over the day’s activities. It was a short 5-mile drive to Thomas Edison’s birthplace, just off the square in Milan. From Milan we headed east on the Ohio Turnpike and Berea, Ohio, the home of the Flaming River Industries facilities. Flaming River has been the official steering component supplier to the Road Tour for many years. At Flaming River we were greeted by Sales Manager Brett Domin and the Flaming River staff. We were also greeted by a video crew who were filming footage to be used in a Flaming River promotional video. We were given a tour of the manufacturing facilities and then enjoyed some delicious cookies and coffee before setting out on our travels east.
The next stop was the Akron, Ohio, home of Gearstar Transmission. Gearstar has been the official automatic transmission supplier for the Road Tour cars for the last four years. We put about 20,000 miles on our Road Tour vehicles each season and the Gearstar transmissions have performed flawlessly every year. At Gearstar we were greeted by owner Zack Farah and his staff of technicians. After a question and answer session with the experts at Gearstar we all enjoyed a great lunch before traveling on to Youngstown, Ohio
The drive to Youngstown took about an hour and then we arrived at the Classic Automobilia showroom at 1 p.m. My wife Mary Ann and I started Classic Automobilia in 1989 and have been supplying automotive nostalgia items to folks for 20 years. The most recent addition to the Classic Automobilia line is the ’34 Hot Rod pedal car that celebrates the 75th anniversary of that iconic body style. It is always fun to show everyone the items that I have collected over the years.
After our visit at Classic Automobilia the Road Tourians headed for the hotel and I headed for my own house for a change. Mary Ann and I had invited everyone to stop by for some refreshments before we headed to TP Tools for a visit. Also at our house we handed out the Road Tour participant goodie bags and T-shirts. Mary Ann also put together a special goodie bag for the tour participants. It was great to show everyone our home and collection of vehicles.
At TP Tools in Canfield we were greeted by owners Fred and Bob Zwicker. The showroom at TP Tools is of course filled with every type of tool and sandblast equipment that anyone wood need for automotive work, but it is also filled with some great displays of items that Fred and Bob have collected over the years. The offices are lined with incredible antique wood cabinets, desks, and beautiful oak trim. We were shown the production facilities where TP Tools blasting cabinets and HVLP spray units are manufactured. The newest addition at TP is the building that houses their classic car collection. We enjoyed some refreshments and everyone had a great time at TP Tools. It was a full day of fun on the Classic Automobilia Tour.
The Tuesday morning driver’s meeting was exciting as we were joined by five very official and very serious Secret Service agents at the hotel where the Road Tourians were staying. They were the advance team for President Obama’s visit to the local General Motors plant that afternoon. They seemed to notice our cars but there was definitely not a lot of chit-chat from them.
Our first stop on Tuesday was Rocky Hinge in Girard, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown. Rocky Shamblin, his wife Carol, his son Brad, and the crew greeted us and we took a tour of their facility. Besides the hidden hinges they are famous for, they also produce some trick items, like bear claw assemblies, a billet cowl door lift, and a very cool electric ’55 Chevy taillight/gas door opener, to name a few. Rocky Hinges is yet another example of American craftsmen manufacturing quality products right here in the United States.
It was a two-hour drive east across I-80 to DuBois, Pennsylvania. We had an invitation to see the amazing muscle car collection of Don Frezell. Housed in two adjoining buildings, Frezell’s collection includes a cross section of some of the most rare and desirable high-performance vehicles of the last 50 years. Included are two early ’60 Z-11 Chevys, one of which is the famous Old Reliable IV, which was built by Frumpy Jenkins and driven by Dave Strickler. Mixed in the collection are rare factory Mopar race cars and some Mustangs and Fords to keep things even. Frezell provided some great sandwiches for the group and it was another fantastic AMSOIL/STREED RODDER Road Tour stop.
Our afternoon drive was long as we traveled four hours to the town of Port Jervis, New York, where we were going to be guests of honor at a special monthly cruise being held in our honor. What we found when we arrived was really amazing. The main drag in the town had been blocked off for cruising and the streets were lined with cars, trucks, and motorcycles of all different styles. The cruising went on from 6-8:30 p.m. when awards were given out to winners of different classes. Many thanks to Harold Butler who helped coordinate our visit. It was a fun evening indeed.
Wednesday was a day I had been looking forward to all summer. We visited the Woodstock Festival site and the new and very beautiful Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Forty years ago at the tender age of 18, I made the trip to the hillside in upstate New York and became part of what was the defining moment of the ‘60s. I had made one return trip to the site in 1996 with the original Road Tour coupe but it has really changed since then.
After a beautiful 45-minute drive from Port Jervis were met at the Bethel Woods by Jodi Kane who is in charge of group visits. Kane did a fantastic job of showing us the grounds and the incredible facility that has been built at the original festival site. There are summer concerts each year at Bethel Woods but for me the crown jewel was the museum. It is an amazing collection of artifacts and items that tell the story of not only the concert itself but what events in our nation’s history led up to that moment in August 1969. It really tells the story of the ‘60s. Our stop at Bethel Woods was a high point in our Classic Automobilia Road Tour week.
From Bethel we headed on to Sturbidge, Massachusetts. Wednesday evening we visited the home and shop of my good friends Sue and Dennis O’Brien of O’Brien Trucks fame in nearby Charlton, Massachusetts. O’Brien Trucks is famous for their cast aluminum car club plaques, license plate toppers, and vintage cast aluminum accessories for hot rods. Their home and facility are beautiful and we had a wonderful evening with many local rodders showing up to enjoy some pizza and beverages. We were also joined by automotive journalist Steve Magnante. Many of you may know Magnante from his in-depth work on the Speed Channel’s coverage of the Barrett Jackson Auctions. It was yet another great evening on the Classic Automobilia Tour.
After our fun evening at O’Brien Truckers in Charlton we were up and rolling, as Thursday was the day we were to arrive in Burlington. Our first stop in the morning was at Intercity Lines terminal in Brookfield, Massachusetts. Intercity Lines is the official auto transport company of the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour. Folks on the East Coast have expressed an interest in participating in our West Coast Tour and vica versa for our West Coast Tourians. Intercity provides a way to safely and conveniently get our vehicle across long distances worry free. At Intercity we were greeted by President Dave Wilson and the Intercity staff. While enjoying coffee and doughnuts we were given a demonstration of the care and preparation that goes into securing a vehicle for its trip on an Intercity carrier. Their services make it possible for more folks to enjoy Road Tours across the country.
Our morning drive took us across the beautiful hills of New Hampshire and onto our lunch stop at Queechee Gorge Village on the New Hampshire/Vermont border. After some lunch we posed for a group picture and we were on our way to Burlington and the NSRA Northeast Nationals. We arrived in time for registration and all settled into our hotels for three days of fun.
It was a great weekend at the Northeast Nationals. We all enjoyed the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour hospitality tent. The weather was dry but as is the case in Vermont in September the morning can be very chilly. There was ice on the roof of the Road Tour Chevy one morning and it was the first “snowball” of the ’09 Road Tour. We posed for a group picture on Saturday at the tent and I was surprised by everyone as they presented me with a Road Tour poster that they had all signed. They also gave me some money to take Mary Ann out to dinner when I got home. Thanks folks, that was very nice!
The Road Tourians again took some top awards at the Burlington event. Dennis Gibson and Jim and Cindy Getter were presented with Reps picks and Chuck and Ann Shepler won the long distance award. It is always nice to see Road Tourians in the winners circle. Our cars are top-notch drivers who look great too.
As I pulled out of the fairgrounds I set my sights to the west. In five days I was scheduled to start the Sherms Plating Tour 3,000 miles away in Escondido, California near San Diego. I had to get rolling. I am driving the Road Tour Chevy on a cross-country run that will be “old-school” Road Touring with three 800-mile days. California here I come.
The NSRA National North in Kalamazoo, MI, is always a big event. This year the weather was great and the crowds were huge. It was a good place to begin the Classic Automobilia Road Tour
Monday morning we made a brief stop in Milan, Oh. Birthplace of Thomas Edison, his home was a good place to pose for a group photo of the Classic Automobilia Tour participants.
Flaming River's headquarters in Berea, OH, was our next stop. The folks at Flaming River have been the official steering components supplier to the Road Tour for many years. We were greeted by a film crew that was producing a promotional video for Flaming River on the day of our visit.
Zack Farrah (third from left) is the president of Gearstar Transmissions in Akron, OH. Farrah and his entire staff greeted us on our arrival at their facilities. We were treated to a tour of the shop and then enjoyed a great lunch.
The folks at Gearstar take great pride in their work and each transmission comes with the name of the technician who did the buildup of that unit. The last three automatic transmissions that have been used on Road Tour vehicles have come from Gearstar and they have all performed flawlessly.
The Classic Automobilia showroom and office in Youngstown, OH, is filled with auto-related nostalgia items. The Classic Automobilia line of pedal cars includes a 75th anniversary '34 Hot Rod pedal roadster.
It is a short drive from Youngstown to the village of Canfield, OH. Fred and Bob Zwicker of TP Tools invited us all to an open house at their facility. The showroom at TP Tools is beautiful with fantastic woodwork and many collectibles mixed in with their huge selection of tools. We also got to see the new building that houses the Zwicker's collection of special interest vehicles.
Tuesday morning we visited Rocky Hinges in Girard, OH, near Youngstown. Besides their line of hidden hinges, the folks at Rock's have added many trick items to their line of products. Owner Rocky Shamblin's son Brad showed us what goes into the manufacturing of their hinges and related products.
DuBois, PA, is the home of enthusiast Don Fezell and his collection of vintage muscle cars. Old Reliable was built by Grumpy Jenkins, driven by Dave Strickler, and was restored to its original race trim by Fezell and his group. Grumpy himself gave the restoration of the car his approval.
On Wednesday evening the tour participants were special guests at a car cruise in Port Jervis, NY. Once a month the main street in Port Jervis is blocked off and hundreds of cruisers fill the town. At the end of the evening awards are given to vehicles in a number of different classes.
From Port Jervis it was a very pretty drive into the Catskill area of New York State. A number of the Minisink Valley cruisers joined us as we made the Thursday morning drive to Bethel, NY, the site of the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969.
It's hard to believe that we were standing on the actual hillside where the famous Woodstock Music and Arts Festival took place 40 years ago. The Road Tourians enjoyed the stories and the memories of my adventures at the festival in 1969.
On Thursday evening we visited Sue and Dennis O'Brien of O'Brien Truckers in Charlton, MA. Famous for their line of car club plaques and cast aluminum products, we were joined at O'Brien's by local rodders who stopped by to say "hello" to the tour participants.
Intercity Lines is the offical auto transportation company of the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour. We stopped by their terminal in Brookfield, MA, on Thursday morning. We were greeted by owner Dave Wilson and the Intercity staff. We were also shown how the folks at Intercity take care to ensure that every vehicle they transport is safe and secure.
The lineup of Road Tour cars at Intercity Lines looked like the starting grid for an early stock car race. The folks at Intercity gave each participant a diecast replica of one of their transport trucks. Bulington, VT, and the NSRA Northeast Nationals were just four hours up the road.
The NSRA Northeast Nationals is held at the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction near Burlington, VT. The weather was cool in the mornings but warmed up nicely during the day.
Stimulus Package for Hot Rods
Gearstar has dropped the price on the 700-R4 to $1,495, its top-selling performance transmission, added a three-year/36,000-mile warranty, and will now ship this package fro free anywhere in the continental United States. The Gearstar 700-R4 Street Performance transmission and torque converter package is designed to work behind a small-block engine producing up to 400 hp with 300 lb-ft of torque in a street-driven hot rod. This transmission will provide firm positive shifts that are not abusive. The 700-R4 package is not intended for racing applications. All Gearstar transmissions are custom manufactured one at a time by a single technician who will be specially assigned to your performance package.
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