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UPDATE - A DRIVE HOME: LeMay Museum, Tacoma To Detroit Auto Show- Chapter Three - On The Road With Steve Purdy


 A DRIVE HOME: LeMay Museum, Tacoma To Detroit Auto Show (select to view enlarged photo)

A DRIVE HOME – Chapter Three
Three old cars go from Tacoma to Detroit in the dead of winter

By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau
Photos By Bob Giles

To recap: Three vintage cars – a ’57 Chevy Nomad, a ’61 Chrysler 300G and a ’66 Mustang left their safe haven in the LeMay, America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, WA for a 2400-mile cross-country drive to help open the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The project, called “A Drive Home,” will promote the museum and the auto show while showing these great examples of Detroit iron are still competent. A few journalists join the drive at different points along the route.


 A DRIVE HOME: LeMay Museum, Tacoma To Detroit Auto Show (select to view enlarged photo)

The three old cars with their intrepid crews have been on the road for two days from Tacoma to Bend, OR to Boise and already encountered serious snow. They are all performing well – both the mechanical and human participants – though not without a few quirks and struggles. The museum CEO David Madeira is driving the entire route exclusively in the Mustang because it is not idling well and tends to stall often in city traffic, then balks at restarting. It is fine on the open road but just does not like to go slowly.

We start out just about dawn with me at the wheel of the Nomad. I barely fit in behind the steering wheel with my unconscionable girth but manage to get positioned. She starts up enthusiastically in spite of the 15-dergree temperature and idles with a wonderful rumble. This is the only car that is not exactly stock. At some point her 283 V8 was replaced by a 327 small block with four-barrel carb and a 4-speed with Hurst shifter. I wrestle her into gear and struggle against the non-power steering out onto the street to the Shell station a mile away. Shell, by the way is a sponsor of the event and is providing all the fuel.


 A DRIVE HOME: LeMay Museum, Tacoma To Detroit Auto Show (select to view enlarged photo)

After filling all the tanks we leave Boise on this cold, clear morning with the sun just rising over the snow-covered mountains. A light haze of frozen humidity barely softens the bright morning sun. My friend and colleague Bob Giles is in the passenger seat and museum staffer Val is crammed into the rear seat. Val spends a good deal of her time on the phone managing the logistics of the event. That is a mighty big job obviously as she tries to coordinate hotels, lodging, fuel stops and dozens of other tasks. We trundle along I-84 at about 60 mph as truckers whiz by and other motorists seem to appreciate the old cars. Traffic is light.

At our first break we decide I’ll switch to the Chrysler. After a coupe of tips about her eccentricities from Bill Hall, a Wisconsin journalist and sports car enthusiast who has driven her the whole way, I ease into the swiveling front seat and buckle into that amazingly stylish (for its day) cockpit. This was another of Vergil Exner’s exuberant designs with a plastic dome covering the instruments, push buttons for most functions including shifting, padded dash and all manner of odd features. She is powered by a 413 cubic-inch V8 with two four-barrel carbs and ram induction.


 A DRIVE HOME: LeMay Museum, Tacoma To Detroit Auto Show (select to view enlarged photo)

As we get back on the road I find the steering is both entertaining and disconcerting. The power assist, like most systems of that time, make steering virtually effortless – way over assisted by today’s standards. But because of the steering box adjustments we spoke of in an earlier report it has about 3 or 4 inches of play in the system meaning we were gingerly sawing at the wheel constantly. It took a few miles before I could keep her going straight.


 A DRIVE HOME: LeMay Museum, Tacoma To Detroit Auto Show (select to view enlarged photo)

It was not long before light snow began to fall and blow across the road. First it just made the roads a bit wet so passing trucks misted the windshield with salty spray that the meager wipers could barely handle. The old Chrysler had washers but they didn’t work. As the snow began to increase the road surface became a bit slippery with bridges icing quickly. Then the entire road surface got slick. With all that slack in the steering I could not easily tell when we were sliding but it became increasingly evident that we were skating down the road gently sliding side to side. This would not be “white-knuckle” driving because it took a light, careful fingertip touch to keep from oversteering. I was grateful for the lunch stop where I could switch back to the Nomad, but by then the roads had mostly melted and we ended up taking a two-lane detour around a reported accident effecting our I-74 route.

The rest of the drive was easy and mostly scenic as we passed through many hilly areas and lots of flat land, some of it along the famous Snake River. We tried to understand some of the geology and geography. Everything out here is covered with deep snow, a welcome feature in this dry land.

As we got out of the cars in the underground garage at our downtown Salt Lake City Hotel I realized how physically tired I was. Thanks to the local Porsche Club we had a wonderful dinner at the Red Iguana 2 restaurant and I was in bed early.

Tomorrow – Salt Lake City to Grand Junction, Colorado.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

On The Road With Steve Purdy - From Lemay Museum Tacoma To 2016 Detroit Auto Show
Chapter One - December 28, 2015
Chapter Two - December 29, 2015
Chapter Three - December 30, 2015
Chapter Four - December 31, 2015
Chapter Five - January 2, 2016
Chapter Six Final Chapter - January 10, 2016

SEE ALSO: Official NAIAS Drive Home Coverage +VIDEO