I spent an enjoyable hour or so last evening in discussion with John and Judy Springs, the publisher for the new e-zine, 66 The Mother Road, that hit the ground running early this year. If I were a business owner on Route 66, or wanted to have my business associated with Route 66, this is one wagon my horse would surely be hitched to because all indications are that this publication will be hitting its stride in 2012.
Our conversation left me so enthused about the state of the road, and the exciting things on the horizon for 2012, I temporarily forgot that we were reliving the Great Depression. Still, I awoke this morning with the excitement still coursing through my veins and began drafting extensive plans for promoting the road, the businesses and people along legendary Route 66 that make it a true national treasure, my books, and our photography in 2012.
Then I created a series of photo files for Josh Noble, the area tourism director. The photos are the first stage in the forthcoming Route 66 in Mohave County exhibit at the Powerhouse Visitor Center.
The enthusiasm was dampened a bit as I walked to work on this brisk morning. It was not the invigorating cold air that took the edge off, but the ever increasing number of empty houses I passed. These are truly exciting times but they are also dark and seem to be getting darker.
With a well developed sense of very dark humor, I began to ruminate on the feasibility of a Great Depression theme park for those who want the true Route 66 experience, circa 1933. A Hooverville, or Obamaville if you would prefer a modern descriptor, could be set up out by the railroad trestle along a section of Route 66 that served as the original alignment as well the course for the National Old Trails Highway.
There is adequate evidence in the area to indicate that the small caves and rock shelters amongst the cliffs served a similar purpose during the 1930s. That might add a touch of authenticity.
Rather than rental cars, cut down and battered Hudsons and T model Fords could be used to shuttle visitors to their lodging for the evening. Then, around three in the morning, they could be rousted by “bulls” waving billy clubs and setting fire to the shanties.
In all seriousness, I don’t think even the most ardent Route 66 enthusiasts would care to experience the old highway from that realistic of a perspective. The true beauty in traveling the highway today is that we can have our cake and eat it to, we can immerse ourselves among the time capsules but with the comfort of air conditioning, Wifi, and, if there is a need for speed, the sterile interstate.
There is a way to greatly enhance the time capsule feel of the road without sacrificing all of the modern amenities – provided you plan ahead, are willing to learn a few lost art skills, and have an adventuresome spirit, and that is to make the drive in an antique vehicle. I am not talking street rod, a modern car hiding beneath the shell of something old, I am talking about something old hiding under vintage styling. With modern technology, and the current state of the economy, such an adventure is more feasible than ever.
The first step is to cast aside preconceived ideas about performance, reliability, and even fuel economy. Did you know that the Nash 600 derived its name because in consistent testing it was found that the car could be driven 600 miles on twenty gallons of gas? Of course this was with a standard transmission and overdrive.
Did you know that the 1951 Hudson with automatic transmission, a vehicle that weighed in the neighborhood of 3,700 pounds, could hit sixty miles per hour in 14 seconds and deliver 14 miles per gallon at 65 miles per hour? Did you know that with a stick shift and overdrive these cars would deliver around 20 miles per gallon at 65 miles per hour? Did you know the highly advanced brakes would bring this car to a dead stop from 6o miles per hour in 166 feet?
Did you know the Hudson Hornet that came out of retirement at Radiator Springs in the movie Cars was based on the astounding stock car records established by drivers at the wheel of Hudson built vehicles in the early 1950s? Did you know that a number of records set in those races did not fall until the 1980s?
Did you know that showroom fresh, fully restored models of these cars can be add for somewhere between $9,000 and $16,000? Did you know that if you don’t mind getting a bit dirty, don’t mind some faded paint, and are willing to learn some simple mechanical skills, you can buy good running, dependable models in the $5,000 range?
Did you know many components for these cars – water pumps, fuel pumps, etc. – can be purchased from NAPA, usually with a 24 hour turn around? Did you know these components often sell for one half or one third less than similar components for modern vehicles? Did you know that the replacement time for these components can be measured in mere hours or that these replacements can be made by you with the most basic of tools?
And if you just have have to have some of the more modern conveniences in your travels technology can provide the best of both worlds, just like traveling Route 66 itself. There are AC conversion kits, and state of the art stereos that mimic original equipment in appearance, as well as wide array of gadgets to enhance, or detract from, the driving experience.
All of this is a segway to the adventure being planned for October in 2012. One of my goals in making this trip, in a vintage Hudson, Nash, Studebaker, De Soto, or Packard, is to present Route 66 as the tailor made highway for vintage automotive enthusiasts and to present bone stock vintage automobiles as the perfect time capsule for enjoying Route 66.
Stay tuned for details –