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


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A DRIVE HOME – A road trip in the dead of winter, three old cars from LeMay Museum, Tacoma To 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Chapter Five- Grand Junction, CO to Golden, CO
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.


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Today’s drive promises to be the most scenic yet. We will cross the Rocky Mountains from Grand Junction to Lakewood, CO near Denver. The weather reports show bitter cold temps but mostly clear skies.

The cars have been running remarkably well, though the Mustang still balks at low speeds making city driving troublesome. Museum boss David Madeira has taken on that challenge and manages it tenaciously. He claims that the more and faster she runs the better she runs as if she’s getting limbered up after too many years of a sedentary life.

This morning the Chrysler refused to start. After an initial sputter she just ground and ground threatening to weaken the new battery. We even used starter fluid. Finally, our ace mechanic Dale Wickell diagnosed and repaired a piece of carb linkage that had become disassociated from itself. We’ll need a piece of wire or a little cotter pin for a permanent fix but Dale’s temporary repair will get us by for now.

I volunteered to wrangle the Chrysler for this day’s drive after having a bad experience with her on my first day’s drive in Idaho. When we hit icy roads there I found her road manners both disconcerting and a bit scary. We’re not expecting bad roads today so I thought I would give our relationship another chance. And, I’m glad I did.


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Fog persisted for the first 20 miles or so but suddenly the sun won out and we began our scenic drive east on I-70 with thousand-foot nearly vertical mesas on our left. The majestic geological formations we passed through on the first couple hours had us flatlanders awestruck but that was nothing compared with the actual Rockies we would enter at Glenwood Springs.


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We were invited for coffee and a break at the Ford dealership in Glenwood Springs where owner Jeff Carlson (incoming president of the National Auto Dealers Association) hosted us and talked about his own experiences with vintage Mustangs. He warned us of possible heavy traffic ahead because of the holiday weekend at our next stop in Silverthorne, a popular shopping destination, where he owns another dealership.

As some readers will know I-70 east out of Glenwood Springs snakes through some of the most dramatic rock mountains as it follows the Colorado River. Sections of road still in the shadow of the mountains were well glazed and mighty slick in places. The old Chrysler began to slew a bit but seemed more predictable than she was on those glazed Idaho roads. The real test came later.

Our lunch companion in Silverthorne -Jeff Thisted, a handsome and enthusiastic young man - insisted we should take the cars over Loveland Pass rather than sticking to the tame I-70. He said it would add not much more than 15 minutes to the drive. (Some of us were a bit dubious about that.) It did not take much to convince our leader, Mr. Madeira, who decided that to do this drive right we must embrace this kind of adventure.


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So up we went along US Highway 6. The road remained mostly clear and dry until about 4 miles before the 11,990-foot summit. When we reached the top we found dozens of hearty people climbing the snow banks, sledding and generally romping in the winter glory. The cars performed admirably in spite of the thin air that would logically cause the old carburetors to run rich.


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Sliding down the other side of the pass the twisty road was glazed and slippery the whole way, but those nice grippy Michelin snow tires kept us confidently on the right side of the road. I think I’ve finally gotten used to the old Chrysler’s handling idiosyncrasies. I’m certainly glad I decided to spend the day with the quirky old Chrysler 300G. After a rocky beginning to our relationship in Idaho we’ve now bonded.

The rest of the drive into Golden, CO was a breeze. Holiday traffic was lighter than we had expected. The enthusiasts at Club Auto Colorado (more on that extension of LeMay influence later) were waiting patiently for our arrival so we could position the dirty, dripping cars inside the collector car broker’s showroom where the evening’s New Year’s Eve party would celebrate The Drive Home.


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“Club Auto” is a premium membership level at the LeMay costing $1,200. That membership includes old car storage and other perks but the best thing about it is that the museum creates and organizes regular events, like tours, for these members. They are now reaching out around the country to establish more Club Auto sites, much like alumni associations, with the help of partners like Hagerty Insurance and this collector car brokerage house. This Colorado branch is one of the first outside the Seattle area but they are promising more next year.

The fabulous New Year’s Eve party included food, drink, dancing and the connection with many new friends. Thanks to them all for a wonderful time. I’m not sure how the rest of the crew will fare in the morning as they head out on one of the longer drives of the trip after only a few hours sleep, but I leave for home in the morning after three glorious days on the road with this intrepid crew of cross country drivers.

Follow the rest of the drive with our colleague Bill Hall’s reports at the Hemmings Motor News blog www.blog.hemmings.com or the Websites of the LeMay: America’s Car Museum at www.americascarmuseum.org and the North American International Auto Show site at www.naias.com

I’ll be back with a wrap-up story when I rejoin the group in Detroit.

ęSteve 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