“You’re all the way from where? And you drove that thing?”

If you have ever participated in the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour then you’ve probably heard this line before. To some people, the idea of driving 1,500-plus miles in an old car is more like a prison sentence than anything else. But for a dedicated automotive enthusiast, 14,000 cars and 200,000 gearheads all taking part in a cross-country car show sounds like an excellent adventure. So, what’s the ideal type of car to take on a Power Tour? Because people take everything from low and slow cruisers to ridiculous Rats capable of rattling your guts, we decided to hitch a ride in a few cars on this year’s Tour to find out.

On the third day of the Tour, we hooked up with Jimmy and Claricia Spears and their Pro Touring twin-turbocharged ’69 Camaro. Claricia was so nice she let us ride shotgun while she navigated from the back seat. Cruising down the interstate in a bright red ’69 Camaro is what hot rodding is all about. The coolest feature about the Spears’ Camaro is the noise the turbos make. When Jimmy comes up on a car, he lightly accelerates to put the turbos under load. Then, as he passes, he lifts off the accelerator, causing the turbos to surge and make a noise that sounds like arrows whizzing by your ears. That distinctive sound lets you know that you have just been passed by a turbo.

Cruising through a residential part of the Tour, we spotted three kids holding up a sign that said “Rock On.” When Jimmy let loose with that distinctive turbo sound, at first the kids just dropped their sign and looked at each other in confusion. Then, without a word they started jumping up and down with excitement. They didn’t know what they had just heard, but they knew it was cool.

There are plenty of ways to have fun on the Tour besides a high-horsepower ride. Luckily, we came across a Tangerine Orange ’58 Nomad wagon and its owner Dave Koepke, along with his buddies Dave Hammack and Scott “Red” Van Vuren. These guys are from northern Indiana and had been flogging on the wagon all year to get it done in time for the Tour. Of course, the overdrive TH700-R4 made it fun, as did the custom interior, modern paint, and killer tunes.

Every time we came up on fellow Power Tour participants, they waved to us as we passed by. There were people half-hanging out of moving cars to get photos. Even the high school kid manning the fast food drive-through window went nuts over the big wagon when we stopped for lunch. He asked all kinds of questions including, “You guys are all the way from where?” It made the guys feel like rock stars.

A typical day on the Power Tour started with a meeting at the local Wal-Mart around 7 a.m. where the drivers were updated with information regarding the next leg of the tour. Approximately every hundred miles, there was an informal pit stop with hundreds of hot rods infesting every gas station in town. Each day, event officials tried to plan an interesting stop. For example, Summit Racing Equipment opened its Ohio warehouse and provided the Tour with lunch. After six days of road rash, the tour finally ended in Youngstown, Ohio, kicking off Hot Rod’s Super Nationals car show. This three-day show offered free concerts, BMX bicycle exhibitions, a burnout fest, a bikini contest, award ceremonies, and a whole lot more.

One of the highlights of the Power Tour was when Chevrolet gave away a 350 H.O. crate engine to a long-haul Power Tour participant. It only happens once a year, so start planning your next year’s adventure now. You’ll be glad you did.