Where It All Began: HOT ROD Power Tour
We’ve covered HOT ROD Power Tour on this page before, but 2019 is a landmark year for the event: the 25th anniversary! So, this look back is at its origin, which happened during one of the most noteworthy staff meetings in HOT ROD history. In late 1994, Editor Drew Hardin and his editorial staff—which, at the time, consisted of Gray Baskerville, Will Handzel, Rob Kinnan, Cole Quinnell, and Jeff Smith—had been instructed to come up with a way to increase awareness of the brand-new HOT ROD Power Festival series. Several notions were thrown around, then massaged into a single idea: Rather than fly into Norwalk, Ohio, for the Power Festival, why not drive there from our home base in Los Angeles and invite our readers to do the same? To make it more enticing, we’d be in the project cars we’d been building in HOT ROD, including the Crusher Camaro, Cheap Thrills Dart, Budget Beater Model A, and Baskerville’s 1932 roadster. A plan was formally hatched and a name amalgamated—“Power” from the aforementioned Power Festival and “Tour” from the Victory Tour road trips covered by sister magazine Rod & Custom.
This was before the internet, so we couldn’t easily get the word out beyond an invitation to join us being published in the magazine. Therefore, we had no idea if anyone would even show up.
The kickoff party at the Petersen Automotive Museum on May 13, 1995, had 200 cars, and along the first leg of the route, supporters stood on the streets holding homemade Power Tour signs. We drove to Salina, Kansas, and Chicago, with cruise nights in Goodland, Kansas; Springfield, Illinois; Chicago; and Detroit, before reaching our final destination on May 20, the Power Festival at Norwalk Raceway. Seven non-staffers earned the title “Long Haul Gang” for completing the 2,800-mile inaugural Power Tour with us.
The departure for the first leg of the 1996 Power Tour was once again from the Petersen Automotive Museum, but this time it created a traffic jam so big, the radio covered it as news. Attendance had doubled.
The 2019 HOT ROD Power Tour, which will be covered in detail in the Nov. 2019 issue, saw an estimated 6,000-plus cars and more than 100,000 attendees. To mark the milestone, the final leg ended in Norwalk—where it all began.
Power Tour was more than a movement—it reignited interest in motoring cruises and reinvented the cruising culture. As Hardin recalled, “People realized, ‘My car doesn’t have to just sit in a car show. I can drive it.’”
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