I’ve always loved a good road trip. Even when I was a little squirt and my brother and I rode seatbeltless in the back seat of Mom’s Monte Carlo with nothing more to entertain us than the view out the window, some Donald Duck comics, and a few home-made books on tape (her reading books aloud into a microphone so we could play them back on our little mono-speaker cassette player), the allure of new horizons beckoned. Upstate New York, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Texas, Louisiana, and more all passed by our windows. Most of the time my little nose was pressed against the glass with my wide eyes taking in all the sights.
When I got older the road trip sights that piqued my interests switched from inflatable parking lot gorillas and McDonalds with playgrounds to abandoned muscle cars and ‘50s iron. I mostly blame my dad for regaling us with stories from his early mechanical wrenchings and wranglings. “The 426 Hemi came with twin Carter AFBs that I thought were a lot easier to tune than a Holley. My buddy, had one.” Or “I got my first Corvette from a guy who crashed his ’56 into a telephone pole. The 283 ran great but I never did get the front end fixed and I sold it to some guy.” Line item by line item, I relived the hot rod and muscle car glory days and drooled at the thought of having my own fire-breathing V-8 machine. But one story above all others completely changed my road trip DNA.
During a family vacation down to Florida, my dad started describing Reggie Jackson’s famous car collection. I loved hearing the nitty gritty details about stuff like Six-Pack Shaker Hoods and pistol-grip shifters, how the GTO could walk most anything but a 454 SS Chevelle, and on and on. But what really got me was one throwaway anecdote, true or not, about how Reggie had amassed the majority of his collection. “He drives around with a truck and trailer and finds cars hiding in barns and fields. He knocks on the door, offers a couple hundred bucks, then takes them home and restores them.” Bango – that’s what I wanted to do from that point on. For the remainder of that trip and the entirety of every road trip since then I’ve scoured back yards and open garages and fields and driveways with a fiery certainty of spying a dual-quad 409-powered ’55 210 or a Power Pack ’57 Bel Air with Rochester injection or a factory 440 Six-Pack GTX. And as my mechanical passions expanded to cover vintage 4x4s I still know with certainty there’s a slat-grille flattie or an inline-six-powered crew-cab International or a Marmon Herrington Studebaker just waiting for me to come find it. On my most recent trip (The Epic XC in this issue) I found one early Blazer, an ‘80s Dodge Crew Cab pickup, a ‘50s Willys Wagon, a half-dozen Darts, Dusters, and Novas, and even one flatfender. I just wish the Toyota had a decent tow hitch and an engine that could’ve dragged something back home with me.
So keep looking. They’re out there and if we don’t get ‘em, Mother Nature will. Every now and then, head off the beaten path and roll down some side roads in search of your own road trip gold. And if you find any, or better yet – have a success story to share, please do. Shoot me an email with some images of your find and we’ll share ‘em and send you some Four Wheeler swag as a thank you.