Doug Brown, the owner of Doug's Auto Service, couldn't stop waving. His friend, Thomas Stidd, couldn't stop drooling. They were standing outside Brown's business on West Hill Street on June 6 watching as participants in the 2006 Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour drove through Thomson.
"I think I should just get my lounge chair and sit out here all day long," Brown said.
When a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu convertible pulled into the parking lot of Michael's Restaurant, next door to Doug's, the two men took the opportunity to admire, appreciate and talk car talk.
"It's beautiful," Stidd said as he looked under the hood at the 350-cubic-inch V-8. "It's so clean you can eat off of it. We don't get to work on engines like that."
It was the third Power Tour for Chevelle owner Ricky Clemmons, who is from Murfreesboro, Tenn. Clemmons said he has never been able to drive a complete tour before, because he suffered from cancer in his neck. His wife, Debbie, said she promised him that when he was recovered from his treatments, she would accompany him on an entire tour.
They had driven from their home to the tour's kickoff in Kissimmee, Fla., on June 3. The Hot Rod Tour began in 1995 when the magazine staffers had the idea of sending the magazine's project cars on a road trip from Los Angeles to Norwalk, Ohio. Each year, it is tradition to have the Power Tour begin where the previous year's tour ended.
As the years progressed, more and more people joined the tour. According to the magazine's Web site, hundreds of street rods, cruisers, rat rods, late models and just about anything else on four wheels packed the Orange County (Fla.) Convention Center for the first day of the tour.
"It's just great fun. It's a great time. Everywhere we stop, we get to see all these car guys and everybody talks about their cars. Where we stay at night, where we stop to eat, it's just great fun," Mrs. Clemmons said.
The tour traveled on back roads from Kissimmee to Gainesville, Fla., the first day. The next day, their scheduled stop was Perry, Ga. The next stops along the route are Columbia; Roanoke, Va.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and Old Bridge Township Raceway in Englishtown, N.J.
Drivers who complete the tour from start to finish are given the "Long Haulers Award."
Mr. Clemmons said they are given a mapped route to follow, but that is the extent of their rules. They stop wherever they want to along the way. The Clemmonses stopped for lunch at Michael's Restaurant. They said they "love old country restaurants." As they stood in the parking lot and talked with local folks who admired their car, they waved to other Hot Rod Tourists who were driving down the road.
Tom Razzagone, the owner of a 1964 Pontiac GTO, pulled into the Sonic Restaurant across the street, where he joined many others from the tour filling the drive-in's parking lot with "metallic eye candy." Razzagone said he rebuilt his GTO several years ago, keeping everything original to the car, except for three gauges, a smaller steering wheel and the wheels. He said the smaller steering wheel was more comfortable for driving long distance, and its black-and-chrome style matched the interior of his car better.
"And the wheels, of course I had to change the wheels ... The mags are cool," he said.
When Razzagone reaches the end of the tour, he will have gone full circle. The Woodbridge, N.J., resident said this is his second tour as a long hauler. The extra-long cruise is what makes the tour special, according to Brown and Stidd.
"You can go to a car show anytime, and see cars that are backed off of trailers and never driven," Stidd said.
"With this tour, you see them on the road, see them travel the miles. They prove they can handle it. It's what cars are made for," Brown said.
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