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Behind the Wheel with The Drive Home III


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SEE ALSO: The Auto Channel The Drive Home I, II and III Coverage

Behind the Wheel with The Drive Home III

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

It may be January and cold and snowy in many parts of the U.S. but it’s also as good a time as any for a long drive in some vintage cars.


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I was privileged to spend two days driving in “The Drive Home III: Driving The Future” – a 10-day road rally that began on January 3 in Boca Raton, FL and will conclude on January 12 at the opening of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

Now in its third year, America’s Automotive Trust, which oversees the LeMay-America’s Car Museum, and the NAIAS have presented The Drive Home cross-country odyssey in vintage automobiles designed to demonstrate that collector cars are meant to be driven, no matter what the season.

The first year’s road trip started in Tacoma, Washington and the second year it was in Boston. For both they used a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, a 1961 Chrysler 300G, and a 1966 Ford Mustang.

This year there are six cars and a motorcycle—a 2014 Triumph Thruxton Ace, a 1972 Chevrolet El Camino, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS, a 1962 International Travelette extended cab pickup, a 1959 Plymouth Fury, a 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and a 1955 Chrysler C-300. This link will provide you more specifics on each of these as well as the route that will be driven.


2014 Triumph Thruxton Ace
2014 Triumph Thruxton Ace

1972 Chevrolet El Camino
1972 Chevrolet El Camino

1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS
1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS

1962 International Travelette extended cab pickup
1962 International Travelette extended cab pickup

1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

1959 Plymouth Fury
1959 Plymouth Fury

1955 Chrysler C-300
1955 Chrysler C-300

I joined the rally in Greenville, South Carolina and would stay with them to Charlotte, North Carolina and then on to Nashville, Tennessee. I was saddened to learn that the resto-mod Chrysler C-300 had developed a noise in its 5.7-L Hemi and therefore had been pulled from driving. It was loaded inside our trouble-trailer for transport until later today when we got to Hendrick Motorsports.

The weather was on the cool side. The morning cold-start of each car was a bit of a balancing act that I remember all too well from the past. Set the choke in the carburetor; give it a little gas shot; and crank. Under your breath you say “please” and hope for a start-up and not a too-much fuel “flooded” situation.


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I was assigned to be in the ?72 El Camino first as a passenger and then I would take the wheel. We were in NASCAR country and our day started with a stop at Michelin North America headquarters. Our cars had been equipped with BF Goodrich Radial T/As from the start. Michelin was now installing their X-ice winter tires on the El Camino, Camaro and Plymouth in anticipation of winter- type roads heading north.


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Following Michelin we took off heading towards Charlotte with stops for refueling and a brief lunch. Nearby to BMW’s huge Greer, SC manufacturing complex that builds about 1400 X- series vehicles for the whole world is the BMW Car Club of America Foundation. Director Scott Dishman provided a brief overview of their mission which includes running the teen driver Tire Rack Street Survival program. The club’s museum currently features an exhibition of BMW competition cars. It houses the second largest collection of BMW materials and artifacts, exceeded only by BMW’s museum in Germany.


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Next up was a visit to Detroit Speed in Mooresville, SC. Owned and operated by Kyle Tucker, a former Detroiter and GM proving grounds ride and handling engineer, Detroit Speed designs, engineers and manufactures new sub-frames and suspension parts for cars like the Camaro, Firebird and GM’s midsize Malibu, GTO and so on. Kyle is a resto-rodder at heart and they also build custom one-off project cars.


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Not far from Detroit Speed up the road a piece in Charlotte is the Rick Hendrick’s Motor Sports racing operation. We would be seeing his personal collection of over 210 cars on display in a purpose-built museum that is not open to the public. I saw Corvettes from every vintage, in nearly every color, many of them rare-builds and low serial number cars.

We left the C-300 at Hendricks, who had built the car in the first place. A team of technicians was going to work into the night to try and diagnose and repair the engine noise issue so we could get it back on the road.

Although the Hendrick collection was awesome to see, I was most impressed by the success and operation of Kyle Tucker who is living his dream with Detroit Speed.


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On my second day with the Drive Home III I would be in the ’69 Camaro. Today would be a tedious one with a long 400-mile drive up and over the Smokey Mountains to Nashville. The drive would take us up to about a 2000 ft. elevation as we climbed the long grades with more semi-trucks that you can believe. Coming out of the mountains we drove through The Gorge, which has a reputation for being a high crash area. We needed to be extra cautious, especially since the temps were low and there were a few slick spots on the roads.

We learned that morning that the C-300 engine had a piston pin issue that was making the noise. Parts were not readily available so our trouble-trailer went and picked it up for the continued drive. At least it could be displayed at stops along the way.

I really enjoyed driving the Camaro and El Camino. In my mind I compared them to cars of today. How things have changed! We had no airbags or ABS or electronic stability control. The El Camino had drum brakes with no power assist. The auto industry has come a long way since the ?60s and ?70s, just like it came a long way from the ?20s and ?30s and ?40s. The technology we have today in our cars makes driving a lot easier and very much safer. Conversely, in driving these vintage cars you need to be continuously engaged in that task. There’s no time for any distractions.

At days end I departed from Nashville and headed home. I’ll be in Detroit for the auto show and I will catch up with the group there. Many thanks go to the event sponsors including State Farm, Michelin/BF Goodrich, Shell, Quicken Loans, Hagerty, and Montecristo.

© 2018 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy