For the last few days I have been thinking about the Power Tour, trying to wrap my head around the whirlwind of cars, horsepower and crazy amount of miles. I didn’t set any records for the most miles driven by any means, but for this car it was quite the accomplishment.
If you had been following my Making The Drive articles, you would have seen the amount of work needed to complete the car. The car had been sitting for almost three years, and hadn’t seen more than a thousand miles in the few years before that. In short, I built a new motor, upgraded the trans, along with replacing the rearend, brakes, suspension, fuel system, tires, and interior before going on Power Tour. The body and frame were just about the only things left over from before. I had made the commitment to go after a few buddies called me out. Mind you, this was back in January – plenty of time to get the car done, right?
Naturally life and work happened and I didn’t really feel the pressure till a few months out. Then it turned into an all out thrash to get the car going in time. In fact by the time it was all said and done, I finished the car only a day before my departure. I took that time to run up to Big Bear, CA. That gave me a few hundred break in miles before going across the country. Even the day I left, I was still wrenching on the car and making final touches.
Making The Drive
As the days grew shorter, my list of things to do seemed to grow longer. As I was wrenching on the car, I’d notice something else that needed attention. Luckily I made some calls and was able to get all the parts here before setting off.
One thing I didn’t think about till a few weeks before leaving was tires. The tires that were on the car were in excellent shape, practically brand new. Upon further inspection, they were starting to lightly crack. That got me to check the DOM and the rears were over seven years old! Not good for driving thousands of miles across barren, hot desert asphalt. I gave the folks at Toyo Tires a call and hoped they had what I needed. Turns out it was a non-issue and they recommend their Proxes T1 Sport tires. These are a performance tire but will give me lots of miles on them. I grabbed them and threw them on the car like a school girl putting on a new pair of shoes. They looked great, but how would they perform? After 4,261 miles I can say they are amazing! They stuck to the ground, still look new and were quiet. The real test came when I was in Houston during a downpour and I had to get on the throttle to merge onto the freeway traffic. I thought for sure they would break loose, but they didn’t budge at all. That’s when I was really impressed with these tires.
When I was building this car the last few months, I was focused on all the big items. Making sure I ordered all the correct parts from Holley to get the engine assembled. But then I needed a new clutch, which I ordered up from American Powertrain, along with their cross member to get the engine sitting correctly. All easy stuff – until I realized now I’ll need a different driveshaft since the engine and trans sat in a different position from the old set up. Freaking out, I ran over to Inland Empire Driveline. In a bit of a panic I explained to Jeff Gilroy what I needed, which was basically a new driveshaft. Since I had upgraded to the new Currie 9″ rearend, the rear yolk was bigger so the old U-Joints won’t work. Then the driveshaft itself was too short and needed to be extended. Jeff explained that really meant that they could only reuse the front yolk and that was about it. Without fail though, a few days later they had a brand new driveshaft waiting for me that fit perfect.
Even little details were starting to slip or taken for granted. Something as simple as an air filter. I thought that would be the least of my worries – just grab a filter, slap it on, and go. Well after installing the Flex-A-Lite radiator and the Holley Mid-Rise intake, there was hardly any room left! Again I called in a panic over to Spectre Performance. Mike over there assured me it wasn’t an issue, and had an air filter that would fit the very next day for me. I breathed a sigh of relief seeing it slide on the throttle body and fit like it was supposed to.
I started to dread sitting in the car for over 4,000 miles at one point as well. A few years back I was working for TMI Products, and we installed a set of their Sport-R foam and upholstery on the stock GM Strato-bucket seats. This was a massive improvement over stock, offering more bolstering and a more comfy ride. At the end of the day though, they were still a 50 year old seat. I wanted something that slid back further, and reclined. I remember at SEMA they were releasing their own universal seats, so I gave them a call. Shortly after I had a set of their new Pro-Series seat, which is a completely new seat they make in-house. This version is a low-back – they offer a high-back version as well. The seats sit lower in the car, slide back way further, and recline! I was ecstatic. The best part was they used the same material I already had in the car so it matched the rest of the interior. I can say that after putting 4300 miles in the seats, they are still super comfortable and were one thing that made the drive enjoyable and comfortable. Going around corners I was still held in place nicely though.
The Actual Drive
I live in Southern California, nowhere near Baton Rouge. My buddy and mechanic Ryan had some business to finish up, so by time we left it was Thursday at 5:00PM. I was already exhausted from wrenching on the car non-stop. About 10 minutes from my house is the 10, or Interstate 10 for all you non-Californians. That means we were on I-10 for a little over 1700 miles, or roughly 25 hours. That first day we made it to Tuscon, AZ which is roughly six hours from my house. That means we had 1300 miles left to drive in one day. From that point on it was a cannonball style run and we put the pedal to the metal.
We made it across Texas in a hair over 12 hours, including stopping for gas. Driving through the night we kept pushing on, trying to take little naps between switching off driving. We finally arrived in Gonzales, LA at 6AM on Saturday the day of the show. We passed out for about six hours in the hotel then hit the show, just in time for the first torrential downpour that drove off a bunch of participants. The heat and humidity were probably normal for somebody from Louisiana, but for a Southern California boy they were something fierce.
Even blasting across the entire width of Texas, fully loaded, AC cranked and averaging about 80 MPH, the car averaged 17 MPG. Not bad for a 416 cubic-inch LS3 that should be in the 600 HP range. The only issues we encountered was a fender bolt that came loose, which mean the passenger front fender rattled a little bit on big bumps. The nut that holds one of the rear shocks to the rearend also came off so we drove through half of Texas with a little bit bouncy rear. Both things that were easily fixed the next morning.
The only other issue we had was a hood hinge bolt that popped out. We were able to get it put back in within a few minutes and were on our way. Overall, the entire trip was pretty much problem free. After hearing some stories from others of replacing alternators, clutches, radiators and other parts, I was pretty happy my freshly built car didn’t leave us stranded on the side of the road.
After leaving the Dallas stop, we started our journey home. I promised not to wear myself out with another cannonball blast. We cruise on down through Texas Hill Country, and even stopped by Canyon Lake to check things out. At this point, we also had run out of clean laundry – a stop at a laundry mat was made as well. We ended that first day back right off the 10 in Kerrville, TX. The next day we wanted to drive about 12 hours and make it back to Tuscon. What I didn’t take into account was that we gained two hours from traveling through time zones.
After making it to Tuscon, we pushed on another two hours and made it to Phoenix, home of Baer brakes and only four hours from home. Getting up on day eight, we toured Baer then blasted home and pulled in the driveway around 3PM on Friday.
Never having driven my Chevelle that far before or having done the Power Tour before, I can say it was an awesome experience. I had never seen that part of Texas and had never been to Louisiana before. The bad part was it was eight days of driving. This wasn’t like a vacation where you drive a day or two, relax a few days then drive back. Everyday the alarm went off, got up and hopped in the car. That aspect did get pretty old since it felt like it was such a rushed experience when I wanted to stop and smell the roses. But there’s always next year!
By far one of the best things about this trip was being able to do it with my buddy Ryan. We’ve been friends since we were born, and it was great having him to help drive, pass the time, and enjoy the memories with.