The Drive Home II, the second-annual promotional winter road trip cooked up by LeMay-America’s Car Museum and The North American International Auto Show, rolled into Detroit’s Cobo Hall Saturday evening after a 2,100-mile journey fraught with challenges.
Three classic cars – a 1957 Chevy Nomad, a 1961 Chrysler 300G and a 1966 Ford Mustang – began the trip from Boston on December 28. Trailered behind the support vehicle was a fourth car, a 1917 Crane-Simplex Model 5, formerly the property of J.D. Rockefeller.
The itinerary took the cars south from Boston to Jamestown, Rhode Island, where the big Chrysler’s front brakes started to howl. Suspecting the rear brakes were out of adjustment causing the front shoes to overheat, the team enlisted help from a local enthusiast and his garage lift to pull the drums and check out the system. Sufficiently adjusted, they pressed on to a late-night arrival in New York City.
The Drive Home II, the LeMay-America’s Car Museum mid-winter classic car trek, is on the one-yard line of its 2,100-mile journey to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The final play starts in Troy, Michigan, with a sweep down Woodward Avenue to the end zone at NAIAS’s Cobo Center.
The Chrysler, dramatically sidelined by a broken rear axle three days prior, is back in the game. Readers will forgive me for building suspense in my reporting, as I had no doubt that Paul Sabatini and his crew at Lincoln of Troy would move heaven and earth to repair the proud Mopar on time for its homecoming parade. After our roadside breakdown dramas, it was a great moment to reunite with our fully restored, gleaming 300 letter car.
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Today we drove the final 20 miles of our 2,150 mile journey into Detroit to complete the Drive Home II. I drove the 1917 Crane Simplex which drove in the cold 4 degree weather flawlessly into the City ‘escorted’ by a CBS News helicopter in air and Michigan State police on the ground. Rod Alberts took the wheel of the Mustang for the Auto Show, Rock Jenkins the Chrysler for State Farm. Josh McManus of Rockventures/Quicken Loans braved the cold to ride shotgun for me as I piloted the Simplex into Cadillac square.
The cars showcase the Museum well and the staff did a terrific job. Tomorrow they take center stage at the North American International Auto Show.
Until today, the antagonist in the narrative of The Drive Home II has been the mechanical difficulties with the three classics, and not the much-anticipated winter weather. That narrative changed when lake effect snow blew into Grand Rapids for our last push “home” to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The morning started by winching the 1917 Crane-Simplex out of its trailer in Grand Rapids for another quick pre-dawn television spot, just as snowflakes started to dance off its Rockefeller Blue hood. The young TV newswoman exclaimed, “Ooh, it’s like the car in the Titanic movie!” Little did she know, the whole tour up to this point had been like the Titanic movie.
A snowy Jan. 5 morning found the Drive Home II crew being hosted by Dawn and Mike Fisher at their impressive MFD Classic Motors in Traverse City.
After coffee and fare with a good number of local car buffs, we headed south with auto journalist Steve Purdy and another new driver, Josh McManus, COO of Rock Ventures, at the wheels of the classics. I followed the cars out of Traverse City in the SUV with Derek, Valerie and Ashley, and for several hours as we rolled south over fairly icy roads to a coffee and cars event in Lansing, MI, which is very near my wife’s alma mater. Continue reading “A Diary From The Road: A Smooth Landing After A Long Journey”→
The Drive Home II Gang started another early morning with a series of Fox 17 TV interviews at the station’s Grand Rapids studio.
After a couple of news interview segments, I took reporter Annie Szatkowski for a ride-along to our Cars and Coffee event at Lambert, Edwards & Associates, and she did an 11-minute Facebook Live segment during our trip.
When we arrived, Annie also wanted to do a segment with the 1917 Crane Simplex and our team went about unloading it to meet her live-shot deadline that was about 8 minutes away. Dale repositioned the truck and trailer for the unload; at that point we were down to about 4 minutes and the real fun began. The lock on the trailer was unexpectedly frozen so Dale grabbed a propane torch and heated it until it opened. Three minutes to go, and we discovered the back door of the trailer was frozen shut and two people had to put their shoulders to it from the inside with more pulling from the outside to pry it open. Two minutes to go and Dale is scrambling under the car to unhook the axle straps and then winch it off the trailer ramp for the shot. One minute to go and Annie tells me to get in place in front of the trailer as we’re going live. The live shot starts and the camera rolls just in time for the camera to roll – the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Continue reading “A Diary From The Road: Icy Road To Traverse City”→
Driving these three classic cars from the LeMay – America’s Car Museum across the eastern United States to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit has been like going on tour with The Rolling Stones. Early mornings, late nights and a dizzying series of media interviews are interrupted only by hours spent on the road. Each night we stand in a new hotel hallway, a pocketful of old room keys from the past week, trying to find our beds and remember what city we are in.
Morning is the most frantic time of the day. Everyone is fully caffeinated and eager to get out on the road and ahead of the curve. But fate seems to always throw interesting curveballs our way. Despite the daily obstacles, determination has set in among the crew to deliver these cars to Detroit intact, if for no other reason than to honor the folks that have taken the journey with us, both literally and figuratively.
The Drive Home II, the LeMay-America’s Car Museum’s classic car expedition to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, has stuck to a grueling schedule and Saturday’s early morning start upheld the pace. The team began a leg that would take them 250 miles from the Potomac to the Alleghenies and ring in the New Year in surreal elegance.
The crew left Arlington at 5:30 a.m. for the popular Katie’s Cars and Coffee event in Great Falls, Virginia. The event draws hundreds of sports, exotic, classic and antique cars each Saturday morning, with premium spots requiring pre-dawn claim staking. We unloaded the 1917 Crane-Simplex by winch, as we have been reluctant to start it since it overheated after the 15-mile jaunt from Newport to Jamestown.
Our crew began the day with a fantastic tour of the Indianapolis Speedway and its museum in Speedway, IN. Ellen and her museum team were terrific hosts as we explored the historic cars and got a bus tour around the “brickyard” track that included a chance for the ceremonial kissing of the bricks at the finish line.
After that, the trip north to Grand Rapids got very interesting very fast. I was driving the Mustang up Highway 31 near Peru, IN at 60 mph following Derek in the Chrysler 300 when his rear right wheel caved outward, the axle dropped to the pavement and sparks flew backward about 30 feet until he was able to guide it toward the side of the road to safety. Continue reading “A Diary From The Road: A Day Of Ups And Downs”→
New Year’s Eve morning of 2016 found the Drive Home II caravan on the road at 5:45 a.m. winding its way through northern Virginia toward a Katie’s Coffee and Cars event in Great Falls. Still dark when we arrived at 6:15, the parking lot was already filling up with classics, hot rods and exotics. The folks at Katie’s gave us prime parking spots for the 300G and Nomad, and Dale unloaded the Crane-Simplex as well. By 7 a.m. some 100 cars had shown up along with families and enthusiasts, many of whom said they were following our exploits on social media and the ACM Web site. Katie’s Coffees and Cars has been a weekly event for the past five years, and in the summer we’re told it’s not unusual for 400-500 cars to show up.
A few hours and some miles later we connected with a dozen or so motor aficionados who came out to meet us for lunch at the Prince Street Café in Lancaster, PA. The cars included a ‘62 Chrysler 300, a ‘60’s Rambler, and a ‘70’s Z-28; additionally, there was a mid-40s Pontiac gangster-style coupe with a violin case/fake tommy gun on the back seat and whose driver was decked out in mafia-wear that included a black overcoat and hat and white wing-tipped shoes. After a good lunch, the troupe traveled with us for a good ways toward our next stop in Allentown, PA. Charlie, the driver of the ’62 300 that he lovingly called Marilyn (named after Marilyn Monroe), followed us all the way to Allentown even though he lived about an hour in the opposition direction. Continue reading “A Diary From The Road: A New Year’s Like No Other”→