Four vintage pickup trucks. Nine days. Ten states. 3,200 miles on winter roads. A police-escorted parade down Detroit’s famed Woodward Avenue to the North American International Auto Show in Cobo Center. All to celebrate the Drive Home IV, or, as America’s Automotive Trust puts it, “America’s love affair with the automobile.”
The promotion by the Tacoma, Washington based non-profit utilized vintage vehicles from the LeMay-America’s Car Museum, the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage and classic car insurer Hagerty to brave the potentially-snowy winter roads to Detroit.
Included in the convoy were a 1965 Ford F-100, a 1955 Chevy 3600 half-ton, a 1957 Ford Ranchero and a 1962 International-Harvester Travelette. Two 2019 Chevy Silverados acted as support vehicles, and “The World’s Fastest SUV,” a 1,200-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk HPE by Hennessey Engineering, served as the group’s advance vehicle.
After fording flooded roads outside Houston on the first leg of the trip, the Chevy 3600 developed an engine knock which would later be diagnosed as a spun rod bearing in a late-night shop visit with Aaron Kaufman from television’s Shifting Gears.
Attempts were made to fix the Chevy in Greenville, South Carolina to no avail, and the truck remained on a trailer the rest of the way to Detroit.
The incident had a silver lining, as the crew cannibalized the Delco generator from the old Chevy to replace a failing unit on the International Travelette.
Taking primarily back roads, the quartet of vintage vehicles wound through Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky before heading east to Charlotte, North Carolina for stop at the headquarters of Team Penske Racing at a meetup with current NASCAR champion Joey Logano.
Backtracking through the Smoky Mountains, the convoy then headed due north with stops at the National Auto and Truck Museum and the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana and the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan.
Only in Indiana did the expedition encounter light snow, dodging a blizzard that would move through the Midwest only a few days later. It was Old Man Winter’s last grab at the Drive Home project, as the cross-country road trip will move to summer in June 2020 in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show’s date change.
But fate would have a few more twists for the group as they entered Michigan and their goal of the Cobo Center in Detroit. Just outside Hell, Michigan the Ford-F-100’s starter quit and the truck had to ride a second trailer for a quick fix at event sponsor Lincoln of Troy. Similarly, the International Travelette lost reverse and first gear, causing some concern but not impeding its participation in the next day’s parade down Woodward Avenue.
Joined by about a dozen local collector cars, the procession left Lincoln of Troy that next morning for the 20-mile journey down the Woodward’s legendary cruising boulevard. Michigan state sroopers ran interference for the group, blocking intersections while the parade slowly rolled on.
Gathering in Spirit Plaza where Woodward meets the Detroit River, AAT’s Vice-Chairman David Madeira addressed gathered media and enthusiasts about the trip’s goals.
“We made a 3,200-mile journey here to come to Detroit to open the (auto) show and celebrate what’s going on here, and call attention to the automobile and its importance in America and its importance to this city,” he said.
Madeira then offered a glimpse of what next year’s event might look like when the NAIAS expands outdoors. “This town is really going to rock, and we’re going to bring some things to it from the road…Stay tuned because we’re going to make it a good time.”