Twenty-five years ago, America Online opened the doors of the World Wide Web to one and all, and O.J. Simpson invented the low-speed chase. Future NASCAR driver Chase Elliot was born, and so was an event that would become a bucket list item for the gearhead crowd.
Hot Rod magazine had undergone significant changes to the masthead the previous year and created events to celebrate all things cool about cars/trucks, with new editor Drew Hardin in charge of promoting them. One of these was a road trip from Petersen Publishing’s home office in Los Angeles, CA to Norwalk Raceway drag strip in Ohio, driving the magazine’s project cars. The staff invited the readership to come along, and a handful did, for a total of 16 cars making the first trip. That trek would be dubbed the Hot Rod Power Tour, and would quickly grow to include many different stops and hundreds upon hundreds of amazing rides.
For the 25th anniversary of the Power Tour, it travels from ZMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina to again end at Norwalk Raceway. For this journey, a few first-time stops were added, including Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, which luckily is close to contributor Cameron’s Old Dominion Home. She went and got us cool pictures and a first-hand account of the show/tour.
Getting There is Half the Fun
After an adventurous trek through the country back roads in a rental 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T, we landed in the grassy lot near Martinsville Speedway under gray skies. From there, we began our slow march toward “The Paperclip.” This may have been the most exciting traffic jam we’ve ever been stuck in, but it was nice to be in a modern muscle car that didn’t overheat.
One car which immediately drew our attention along the way to the track was this Panoz Esperante convertible with a pair of metal plates featuring engraved autographs of everyone involved with the car’s production. This version of the Esperante was built in Georgia between 2000 and 2007 and could be had with a 4.6-liter Ford Modular V8 either supercharged or naturally aspirated. Their custom chassis allowed them to run with Corvettes on the street or track, but with a more exotic (and some would say better looking) style.
Martinsville Speedway witnessed its first NASCAR race in 1948, the youngest winner in 1960 (Richard Petty, who was nearly 23 at the time), and the oldest winner in 1991 (Harry Gant, who was nearly 52 at the time). Banking at “Half Mile of Mayhem” is 12 degrees through the corners, 0 degrees through the 800-foot straights. It is the smallest track on the circuit, but the only track still in use from that first NASCAR season in 1948.
Upon setting foot on the storied track, cars and trucks of all sorts were already parked along the SAFER barriers near the start-finish line, including the above 2017 Richard Petty 80th Tribute Mustang GT. The special edition Mustang, built by Petty’s Garage in honor of Petty’s 80th birthday, packed 825 ponies in its supercharged 5.0-liter V8, all available on pump gas. Plus, it’s a rare breed of pony, as only 43 were ever made, the last of which was given to “The King” himself.
What follows is a gallery of the sensory overload that is the typical stop of the Hot Rod Power Tour. There were tons upon tons of LC- and LA-platform Dodge Challengers within the confines of Martinsville Speedway, classic muscle cars galore, plus a handful of Corvettes, and plenty of trucks. You can’t even imagine the kind of excitement this crowd brings to the small towns along the way just by stopping for gas.
One car that stood out, though, was the Buick Reatta we happened upon next to one of the vendor booths while walking through the infield area. One of the most unique Buicks ever made, the rare 2-seat coupe was based on the shortened version of the same platform underpinning the 1986-93 Riviera and powered by the familiar 3.8-liter V6.
We had a grand time at the 25th Hot Rod Power Tour in Martinsville. And who knows? We might appear again next year. Obviously from the pictures, no matter if you’re a fan of cars or trucks, front, rear, or all-wheel drive, imported or domestic, classic or late model vehicles, you’ll find something cool to love at the Power Tour.
Maybe next year we’ll even join in on the fun. Until then, should you need a bit of help while working on your Camaro, Charger (update coming next month to include Challenger, 2010-2018), F-150, Mustang, or El Camino, we have a manual for that.Tags: car shows, Hot Rod Power Tour, Martinsville, Martinsville Speedway, road trips, Virginia