As the final stretch of our journey with the Hot Rod Power Tour winds down, the SEMA YEN Team and rest of the involved parties made their way into the great state of Kansas. Our northern most venture of the tour bought with it a welcomed change of scenery with only just slightly more appealing landscape than that of Oklahoma, visible on the I-35 freeway. What made our trip thoroughly exciting however was the opportunity to take the tour route as opposed to the direct one. All week the Hot Rod Magazine bus and their traveling posse of hi-octane companions have taken a less than direct path between show venues. This scenic route included lovely roadside sites and glimpses of true americana along the way.
Photos & Words: Michael Phillips
Up until this point our super powered train of vehicles for the YEN team has taken the closest thing to a strait shot that we could between stops. Many of our days included not just full work days stopped with the Hot Rod bus and rest of the tour, but at various school and technical institutes to fulfill our goals of impassioning the next generation of enthusiasts. For day seven in Wichita however, the technical school was coming to meet us. This meant we had a bit of extra time to stop and enjoy the tour route, seeing a beautiful little Wichita old town area, enjoy some local favorite pizza, and the entertainment of a fantastic small town singing duo.
It’s easy to get lost in the droves of gearhead miracles associated with the tour. There’s a smilingly infinite number of cylinders present, all working hard to produce outlandish numbers combined horsepower. I personally got lost in a sea of candy paint every day, admiring the beautifully finished coats as well as several well earned patinas. The tour brought with it something for every one, whether you are a quarter mile kind of guy, rat-rodder, wheel head, even import fans, but especially those appreciative of a properly Slam’d ride. However, in the vast numbers of dreamy hot rods, its important to never lose sight of what brings some many amazing machines together, that is, the people. At the end of the day, our scene and every other car scene is about just that, people. Of course my preferred method of interaction with fellow human beings is spent in the context of fast cars, nevertheless, a simple shared meal and conversation full of deep laughter is just as enjoyable when automotive enthusiasm has laid such a rich foundation for the friendship in the first place.
After our scenic route, the YEN crew hit the road again, landing at the Kansas Pavillon in Wichita, to be soon greeted by the students of Wichita Area Technical College. The auto tech students joined us from various points in their education, some having just begun, some nearing completion. The present students specialized in various aspects from engine tech and general maintenance, to collision repair and body work, to fabrication and welding. The members of YEN (myself included) took our turns explaining quite briefly what it is we do in the industry and a little word of advice about following passions their potential careers with the aftermarket word. We then split into teams to visit a good number of vendor booths, whose operators were directly involved with the SEMA YEN Select Committee.
The group of students got to hear first hand about the various facets of the performance oriented aftermarket, speaking with team members from Gibson Exhaust, Comp Performance Group, and Painless Performance. In addition, the spoke directly with two representatives of SEMA SAN, a committee tasked with preserving our industry and entire world’s interest in regards to laws and regulations made involving cars in the aftermarket world. They are currently fighting some genuinely uphill battles in regards to the RPM act and the EPA’s quest to take away our race cars. More information about that bill and ways to fight against it can be found here.
The rest of the Wichita stop consisted of a good deal of sunshine and heat index of nearly 110F. The venue spread out the touring vehicles in a broad strip, curving around the main stage section. This made for an excellent strait shot where someone could walk in a single line from one end to the other and see nearly every car at the show. Its been a blast to see how many cars you begin to recognize a mile away, as well as the ones that had been with us since Baton Rouge, yet I had still not yet discovered.
With the conclusion of our second to last day, bittersweet realization that the hot-rodding heaven was not an eternal experience after all, began to set in. Eventually all of us here on the tour, including the eclectic bunch of my teammates in the YEN group, will have to return to our homes, to our 9-to-5s, to real life. But that time is not yet, so for now, hang on tight and enjoy the final stretch of the tour!