June 7, 2009

Hot rods in every style and color transform Racine

The promenade down Pershing Drive...

At 8 a.m., the rain came down. "It was just pouring," said Eileen Arnold of the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau. It stopped for a while, only to resume at 9:30... more rain.

But at 11 a.m. or so, only puddles remained, as the first of thousands of hot rods made their way from Madison into Racine, the second stop on this year's week-long Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour. By later in the afternoon, the sun actually came out, lighting up the fantastic paint jobs in every bright color under the sun, as long as it came in pearl or metallic or turquoise, yellow, red, orange... or flame. Long after some of the owners parked their cars for the day, they could be seen lavishing still more hours of obsessive cleaning and polishing. "I want to see myself in those rims," one wife good-naturedly told her husband. No problem.

The cars stretched up and down Main Street, side streets from Third to Sixth and all along the west side of Pershing Drive; the east side was devoted to tents and trailers erected by the commercial groupies for this kind of car tour: the vendors who sell the treats that keep these hot rodders happy: performance products, engines, mufflers, transmissions, tires, air horns, you name it: Painless Performance Products, Speed by Spectre, Nitro Tires, Rocket Brand Racing Fuel ... even a t-shirt or two.

Impossible, of course, to pick a favorite; there were roadsters, coupes, a "Got Milk?" delivery van, a Woody station wagon, a few race cars; the '30s were well represented, but so were fairly new Corvettes. Inexplicably, there even was a Smart car parked at Monument Square...it's a long stretch of the imagination to call that a hot rod.

If you weren't Downtown, here's what you missed:

'33 Willys Sedan Delivery truck, owned by Dick Spencer of Bay City, MI

The exception that proves the rule: Not every car was brightly painted

'It doesn't feel right if it isn't clean everywhere,' said William Echols
of St. Charles, IL, as he polished -- again -- his 2000 Pontiac Firehawk

Bob D'Amore of Kenosha, using a red paint marker
to touch up the engine on his '92 Buick Roadmaster

This is Main Street from ground level...

But to get a real view, you needed to get onto a rooftop

...which Doug Nicholson kindly provided access to.

This is part of Festival Hall's parking lot...

So many cars had stories behind them...

Rudy's '34 Chevy truck, with trailer; owned by Dob and Micky Rudolf of Dow, IL

An Auburn kit car, built on an Olds chassis

Never did find out what this car's story is, but it attracted a lot of attention

Richard Betchkal's '39 Ford, built by a neighbor who knew
he'd buy it. Betchkal says he's "more into bikes" -- he owned
Racine's Harley dealership from 1975 to 1992 -- but he likes black cars.

Tim Etes of Racine's award-winning '55 Chevy truck,
with a Corvette engine, a 'a father and son project!'

Blair Pfeffer of Racine, interviewed about his '37 Ford by CAR 25

Don Pichelman's '32 Ford, with a Cadillac engine. Pichelman,
of Racine, died a year ago, just after the restoration was finished.

Patrick Connell's '55 Chevy with matching camper trailer that he
built 'from scratch.' Asked if he camps in it, the
Greenfield, WI,
resident -- who used to live in Racine -- said, 'Only if I have to.'

Our earlier story on the Hot Rod Power Tour is here.


  1. Nice pics Pete! This was a great event for Racine, we need more.

  2. Man, the weather won't give those folks a break! Looked like the same turn out as last year.

  3. it was cool and rainy in the morning but by noon it had cleared and by 3pm the sun was even out some. The weather was much better than 2007 and the Racine stop had a better turnout than 2007.

  4. Dave Blank should get the congrats for one successful Power Tour!!!!!!

  5. Thanks Pete for the great pics and nice story. You are very kind to downtown and we appreciate all the works of the Post.

    "Hats Off" to Dave Blank and his team for bringing another successful event to Racine with the following of crowds of good people. We appreciate your consistent amazing results.

  6. I'm on the power tour and Racine is the best venue so far. Lot's of good comments about Racine.

  7. Where are the whiners who only have bad things to say about the city. Another great venue and plenty more to come this summer. It's about time people talk up the city instead of dwelling on what is bad.