In the eighth issue of Rod & Custom, December 1953, editor Spence Murray recounted the story of his road trip to the fifth celebration of SpeedWeek on the Bonneville salt flats. It wasn't a large convoy, just Lou Bingham in a '27 T roadster pickup with a '32 coupe on the towbar and Spence riding shotgun. It was an adventure to say the least.
We'd been eager to do a road trip of our own but, as you may know, we like to travel with an entourage, so editor Kevin Lee announced our plans and invited you to join us on the journey. Hollywood Hot Rods in Burbank was our rendezvous spot early Thursday morning. Troy opened up the shop to our curious eyes and provided coffee, OJ, and donuts. While we were in the area, we slipped next door to check out Bobby Green's and Lucky Burton's Old Crow Speed Shop. We could have spent a lot more time at these two shops, but we had some miles to cover so we hit the road.
One hundred miles later, we were in Bakersfield for a tour of the Kiwi Konnection shop. From there, it was a hot ride through in California's Central Valley to Fresno, but worth the trip if you're heading to John Lawson Motorsports. John and a few of his crew opened their doors and showed us around his incredible collection of early Fords. Each one is ready to go at a moment's notice depending on what mood John is in that day-and when you have one of every body-style '32 Ford there's sure to be one that suits his mood. Once we had our jaws back off the floor we headed on to Oakhurst for the evening and were greeted by the Coarsegold Cruisers club, which filled the motel lawn with some great-looking rods and customs.
Shoot-out at Mile Marker 100....
Shoot-out at Mile Marker 100. R&C Tech Editor Kev Elliott (seconds away from losing his cap) takes aim at yours truly (who'd already lost his), firing back from Alan Kahan's Model A.
Friday morning, we drove north into the heart of California gold country. We stopped in Columbia, which is a surviving 19th century gold rush town that is a landmark and historic park today. While part of our crowd explored this preserved old town, others used the break in travel to do some parking lot repairs on their cars.
One of the most enjoyable elements of these cruises is the hospitality we get from people we've never met before but who share our common interest in old cars. After Columbia we made our way to the Hogan Dam Lookout which overlooks New Hogan Lake. The Foothill Classics car club was waiting for us there with a bunch of their hot rods and a fantastic barbecue feast.
With our bellies full we headed to South Lake Tahoe for the night, hit the buffets, and tried to hold onto our money in the casinos. The next morning, we were greeted with fantastic weather and couldn't leave town without making a cruise around the lake, one of the most beautiful spots in California, and some good morning exercise for cooling systems and carburetors.
We could've spent a lot more...
We could've spent a lot more time at the Old Crow Speed Shop looking at Bobby Green's impressive collection, but we had other places to go and he had more work to do to get his belly tank ready for its record-breaking run at Bonneville. That's Bobby's Tub in the background and Lucky's pair of As in the foreground.
It was out of the mountains and into the heat as we hit Carson City, where we had a free lunch at Subway and then checked out the antique locomotives, both restored and unrestored, at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.
We had been running a little ahead of schedule so we made a last-minute stop in Fallon to visit one more extensive collection of American iron, hidden from the public. It was then a mad dash to Winnemucca to see our friends at the Flying A Garage who were waiting for us with barbecue tri-tip and a tour of the car collection.
As much as we hated to see our road trip come to an end, we arrived in Wendover, Utah, eager for the week ahead. The salt was 5 miles away.
1931 Ford Roadster Pickup
I'd never been to Bonneville and everything just seemed to work out this year. I was going to drive up by myself, when I heard about this trip. It turned out to be one of the best vacations I've ever had.
The distance and some traffic conditions made it difficult for everybody to remain in an intact group at times. That worked as a benefit, because people ended up pairing up with other cars to travel at comfortable speeds. To me, meeting other people is part of this whole thing, so I made a point of hanging out or having dinner with different people every day-and I made some lasting friendships.
I was also amazed at how many people I ran into who I already knew. I've known Jim Shelton for a long time. I had met Dennis with the '32 Tudor sedan at Del Mar, and talked to him again at the L.A. Roadster Show. Then he shows up on this trip. I was also surprised at how big some of the car clubs are up there in the Sierras.
I stayed on the salt until Wednesday, helping my friend Pete Aardema with his car until I had to get back. Even so, I came home a back way.
Santa Monica, California
1934 Plymouth Coupe
There are two great things about having a hot rod. One is the time in the garage working on it. The other is taking trips. I saw the magazine write-up, but didn't think I would get to go. Alan Kahan kept telling me about it, so I decided to do one or two nights. Once I got out there with this awesome group of people, there was no way I could turn around. I hadn't done any cruising through gold country and the mountain roads, so when we got to Tahoe, I said, "I can't go home now." I got to Winnemucca and couldn't turn around there. We visited places I never would've seen otherwise-like John Lawson's in Fresno and the Kiwi Konnection-and meeting the Foothill Classics club at Hogan Dam, and seeing that great collection in Fallon. Everybody greeted us with hospitality.
I ran into some nice people out on the salt flats, too. Chris King from Montana had a '34 Dodge pickup pushing a '31 Dodge roadster-so me having a Plymouth, it's like we were in the same club, and I had a great time in their pit area. I got to watch a few cars make a run, and headed home on Monday.
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
1932 Ford Tudor Sedan
I had heard from several people who had been on road trips that it was the most fun in the world, so I decided that when the opportunity came along I would jump at it. It's the farthest I've driven in the Tudor. I made a test run to the L.A. Roadster Show in June to see if there were any problems I needed to know about-all part of getting ready for the road trip to Bonneville.
We had a good size group, but it was not so big that we couldn't go into a restaurant together. You start to realize that it's more about the people than the cars sometimes. There are people I met during the week who I'll be friends with from now on.
It was refreshing that the activities weren't the same every day. We went to a train museum and a gold mining town, as well as the rod shops and car collections. Winnemucca was great. I even enjoyed the times we just stopped at the lookout points.
We stayed out on the salt for five days, all day every day, and left Friday morning. I thought it was a wonderful trip, and I'm proud of my car for not letting me down.