I have said it before and have to say it again, there is something about Route 66 that brings out the adventuresome spirit in most everyone who travels its worn and cracked asphalt. People who are by nature sedate, well grounded individuals that would never even consider skydiving or eating sushi will head into the most forbidding desert in the country on roller blades, a bicycle, or behind the wheel of an eighty year old vehicle with an ear to ear grin and eager anticipation of the adventure ahead.
As I drive Route 66 daily and my office, the last vestige of Hobbs Truck Stop, fronts the old highway with NAPA directly across the street, I have a front row seat for the resultant parade that never seems to end. Additionally, folks will often stop by the office to have me sign a book, a t-shirt, or to ask directions, something that is always greatly enjoyed.
|The sign say it all when the participants
of tour have 13 horsepower engines.
Simply put, my dearest friend and I get to have a Route 66 adventure most every day of the week without even leaving town! In the past weeks we have been privileged to share dinner with Dale Butel, a tour company operator from Australia, at the Hualapai Mountain Lodge, and Dries Bessels and his group from Holland as they traveled the iconic highway on representatives of the equally iconic manufacturer Harley Davidson.
The old road also provides me with a almost endless dose of vintage vehicle experiences. In the past month or so I briefly visited with a charming elderly couple recreating their honeymoon and celebrating their 50th anniversary at the wheel of a beautiful emerald green Chrysler Airflow with tear drop trailer in tow and another couple from France that was driving the route in a beautiful Pontiac LeMans convertible.
|Vintage Fiat on Route 66|
Yesterday was definitely a new chapter, albeit a miniature one, in my Route 66 experiences. A daring group of micro car enthusiasts traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago spent the day in Kingman for rest and repairs after crossing the desert from Barstow and climbing over Sitgreaves Pass on the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 east of Oatman.
Again, the Swanty family, owners of Martin Swanty Chrysler/Jeep/Kia proved themselves gracious hosts by providing the group with lunch and access to a bay in the shop for any needed repairs. The Route 66 Association of Kingman expanded on this hospitality by providing free passes to the area museums, arranging for a discount with Old Trails Tours, and assisting with anniversary celebrations for one touring couple.
|Uwe Staufenberg and his ultra rare 1962
In consideration of the rarity of some of these fascinating vehicles, it is a pretty safe bet that I will never see another example. As example Uwe Staufenberg of Germany was piloting his Goggomobil truck, one of four known existent models.
Powered by a 2 cylinder, 250 cc, 2 stroke, 13 horsepower motor, the little truck seems an unlikely road warrior for such a daunting task as Route 66 from Los Angeles to Chicago. Surprisingly, Uwe says the truck is a veteran having participated in a number of rallies in Europe.
Apparently the Goggomobile is a durable little vehicle. A sedan participating in the Route 66 tour, with Chicago or bust written on the rear window, had previously traveled the entire circumference of Australia, penetrated deep into the formidable interior to Alice Springs, and also through Europe on a tour from Rome to Berlin.
I am not sure if the descriptor “street rod” or “hot rod” can even be used to describe a customized Vespa sedan. The confusion stems from the size of the car and the adaption of a three cylinder Geo Metro drive train that more than triples the original horsepower.
|The custom interior in this vintage Vespa is
features the latest in gadgetry.
The custom changes did not end with the mechanical conversion that necessitated the removal of the back seat. This diminutive little speed demon (the owner claims speed in the 100 mile per hour range) also sported a custom dash, seats, and interior.
In addition to the vintage Fiat and Vespa models taking part in the rally there was a BMW Isetta piloted by an intrepid Pole with a sense of humor. He was quite insistent that his car be lifted into the back of a towering Dodge 4×4 pick up truck for a pne of a kind souvenir photo opportunity.
|Cody Swanty in a unique opportunity for Dodge
The sales team at Martin Swanty Chrysler were eager to oblige the request. Chances are this is a Dodge truck promotion you won’t see again.
|A comparison study, not an optical illusion.|
Perhaps they should have parked one of the Vespa or Fiat sedans next to a PT Cruiser to present the illusion of size. After all, even a vintage VW “bug” seems over sized when viewed against these Lilliputian automobiles.
Surprisingly, most of the issues encountered by the owners were minor. Only one Vespa encountered problems severe enough to necessitate the removal of the engine and these issues were resultant of a mistake made during assembly.
|Downtime for a vintage Vespa.|
Needless to say, the simplistic engine and ease of repair intrigued the highly trained Chrysler technicians. The complete tear down of the engine and piston repair was completed by 4:00 and the car was again on the road to Chicago.
Hats off to Larry Newberry, owner of a 1958 Vespa 400, and the intrepid travelers of the micro car tour. Lets hope the rest of your trip is an uneventful one.