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The Drive Home - Final Chapter: LeMay Museum, Tacoma To 2016 Detroit Auto Show - On The Road With Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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The Epic Drive Ends in Detroit; Three old cars driven from Tacoma to Detroit in the dead of winter

By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

To recap: Three vintage cars – a ’57 Chevy Nomad, a ’61 Chrysler 300G and a ’66 Mustang left their safe haven at the LeMay, America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, WA for a 2900-mile cross-country drive to help open the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The project, called “The Drive Home,” will promote the museum and the auto show while showing these great examples of Detroit iron are still competent. Journalists joined the drive at different points along the route.

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Still competent indeed!

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I left the drive after my three days on the road flying home on New Years Day. My segments of the drive were from Boise to Salt Lake City to Grand Junction to Denver – days three through five of the eleven-day odyssey. I hope you’ve followed the adventure by way of my earlier 5 stories here on The Auto Channel.

These three dirty old cars and their entourage arrived in Birmingham, MI (northern suburb of Detroit) right on time. Amazingly few problems confronted the intrepid team as they crossed the mountains and great prairies into the upper Midwest, plodding through heavy snow around Mt. Hood and intermittently slippery roads through the Rockies, sneaking by the Mississippi River’s historic flooding near St. Louis, stopping at Pontiac, IL (along with many other places) where supporters gathered to cheer them on. Then, through the greater Chicago area other stops allowed sponsors to be courted as well.

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When they arrived “home” (Detroit area, that is) I was amazed that the cars looked just a bit less dirty than when I left them 6 days earlier. There were no icicles hanging from the bumpers and I could actually read some of the sponsor stickers on the cars. Not sure how that happened. They promised not to wash the cars until absolutely necessary and some of us were advocating not to wash them at all – at least until they are back at the museum in Washington. The patina of winter road vividly attests to the adventurous nature of the drive.

Once in the Detroit area it seemed to be one reception and event after another. Sponsors, dignitaries and other supporters gathered at the elegant Townsend Hotel in Birmingham for a welcome celebration with the cars poised in the center of the ballroom. Eats, drinks and a few speeches proved a relaxing way to help the travelers wind down before continuing with the hoop-la.

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The next morning we all gathered at the new Lincoln dealership in nearby Troy joined by about 20 other special cars for a 15-mile drive down famous Woodward Avenue to downtown Detroit – sort of a mid-winter Woodward Dream Cruise, on a much smaller scale than the huge summer event. The dealership’s owner, Paul Sabatini, is the chairman of the Detroit auto show and he hosted the morning coffee-and-snacks sendoff and he joined the Woodward drive in his own pristine old T-Bird.

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Somehow our Michigan State Police escort kept the group of about 25 cars together the whole way down Woodward through some serious construction to Washington Square, which has become the hub of a downtown renaissance. Dan Gilbert of Compuware and his various business entities have bought up and refurbished dozens of buildings in the area and developed this park into a jewel of downtown. Still decorated for the holidays the park made a colorful background for the road warriors and for a triumphant press conference. The day culminated in a huge party with more food, drinks and music to celebrate A Drive Home.

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The cars went on display at the Auto Show where they will remain for a couple weeks before being trucked home. For the first few days they overlook the Detroit River in the expansive atrium just outside the Grand Ballroom which was converted for the press into the Michelin Media Center. After media days they will move to a prestigious space in the lobby of Cobo Center where everyone coming to the Auto Show will see them.

Even though they decided not to wash the cars they appeared a bit incongruous because another sponsor of the drive, Coker Tires, needed to have their original style bias ply tires with wide whitewalls mounted for this static leg of the journey. So here we have very dirty cars shod with sparkling clean and new white wall tires. But they look great anyway.

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Kudos to those who conceived and worked so diligently to put this amazing project together. It was truly a team effort and their work paid off with a driving event we’ll not soon forget. Nor will those who followed the event in spirit.

Thanks also to a cadre of enthusiastic sponsors who understood the concept and the value of driving these charming old cars across the country in the dead of winter. Michelin, particularly, for tires that kept us on the road when the road got ‘greazy.’

Though I spent just three days on the road with this ream of dedicated bunch of folks it feels like I’ve known them all for years.

As Willie says "I just can’t wait to get on the road again".

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