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The coming Chinese invasion (continued) July 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Television, Vehicles.
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Noting demographic and economic trends, I predicted in 2011 that Route 66 would see a growing influx of Chinese tourists.

Here’s the latest sign. This week, the Shanghai General Motors Tour of Route 66 began in Amarillo and will continue to Santa Monica. The tour, organized by Open Road Productions of Brighton, Michigan, features Chinese Cadillac owners and dealers driving Cadillac SRXs or Escalades. Simultaneously, another group of Chinese tourists is traveling east from Santa Monica to Amarillo.

From the news release by Rick Thomas at Open Road:

“We provide participants a chance to see how Americans traveled during the heyday of Route 66, the 1950s, but from the perspective of today,” Thomas added.

The Chinese economy has been booming for many years, and there is a growing number of young, wealthy citizens with large amounts of discretionary income. “More than 30,000 Cadillacs were sold in China in 2013, and many of these new owners crave the chance to explore like we do in the US,” Thomas said. [...]

General Motors recently invested US$1.3 billion in a new manufacturing plant in China, and has committed considerable resources toward promoting the brand. Its current ad campaign centers on Route 66 and is called Operation Freedom. “This tour complements Cadillac’s campaign wonderfully. Being able to experience Route 66 in a Cadillac is the pinnacle of their car owning experience,” Thomas reported.

Thomas isn’t exaggerating about the Route 66 influence on Chinese Cadillac owners. A number of videos hawking Cadillacs to the Chinese market are floating around on YouTube, including this one.

Also, I’ve been told by several sources on the road that Chinese television channel ICN now is shooting a documentary or reality show on Route 66. The show was announced in February. Here’s a teaser video from the network, requesting “partners” for the production:

It’s predicted the number of Chinese tourists in the U.S. will reach 100 million a year by 2020. These campaigns probably make Route 66 a big beneficiary of those numbers.

UPDATE: The Amarillo Globe-News this week had a few more details about the ICN television project, including the fact a live episode will be filmed Thursday at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo.

(Hat tip: Nick Gerlich; image of Chinese tourists at Roy’s in Amboy, California, in 2011 by jstdadd via Flickr)

An idea for Route 66 events that needs to spread July 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Vehicles.
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A few days ago, the committee for the Route 66 Classic Car Cruise that will take place Aug. 9 in Crestwood, Missouri, announced the newest charity that will receive proceeds from the annual event.

According to a news release, the committee will give the event’s proceeds to Project Backpack – St. Louis, which serves the St. Louis metro region.

Project Backpack provides area police departments, social service agencies, domestic violence shelters and Department of Family Services workers with backpacks filled with necessities and comfort items. The backpacks make a huge difference for children who are removed from their homes, usually with nothing but the clothes on their backs. These filled backpacks are delivered to children on the scene and at the moment they are needed.

In earlier years, the car cruise committee has given proceeds to SAJE Senior Ministry, CHADS Coalition, USO Toys for Tots and the Lindbergh School District Foundation Teacher’s Grant program. The committee chooses a new charity each year.

This is a smart way to run an event. Because it’s done for charity, more people will be inclined to support it. People who have benefited from the chosen charity will be motivated to attend the cruise. Local businesses still will gain from the Route 66 event’s influx of visitors. And for goodwill, it’s hard to beat.

Those who run or who are considering a Route 66-themed festival ought to consider the format of the Route 66 Classic Car Cruise.

‘Top Gear’ begins Route 66 trip this week July 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Publications, Road trips, Television, Vehicles.
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“Top Gear,” the popular British television series about driving cars, began a 2,400-mile road trip this week on Route 66 in a Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse — a convertible version of what is considered the fastest sports car in history.

From the first day of the show’s Route 66 diary:

You want numbers? 1200bhp of quad-turbo, W16 engine, over 1100 torques, four-wheel drive and a top speed of 260mph. Enough, it’s safe to say, to keep up with American traffic. Oh, and an asking price somewhere north of two million quid, which makes dicing with traffic in Chicago’s rush hour something of a puckering experience.

No one has ever done anything like this with a Veyron before. And they won’t again. With Veyron production ending next year before Bugatti opens a new chapter in its Going Faster history, this is it: the last, the ultimate Veyron road trip.

Which is why it had to be Route 66, the Illinois-to-California highway John Steinbeck christened ‘The Mother Road’.

The crew apparently went from Chicago to St. Louis on the first day, although details about that leg are scant, save for a few photos.

During Day Two, the crew took the Bugatti from St. Louis to Oklahoma City.

I don’t care how fast the car is — 500 miles on an old road makes for a long day.

In the coming days, “Top Gear” says it will reveal the publication date of the sale of its “Adventures” issue of its magazine that will feature Route 66. In the meantime, it will post new roadtrip photos daily on its website.

UPDATE 7/16/2014: Top Gear magazine, featuring an article about the Route 66 trip, is on sale worldwide today. The promotional story about the issue notes the Bugatti required 840 gallons of fuel. That’s less than three miles per gallon. Oy.

(Screen shot of “Top Gear’s” Bugatti at the 66 Drive-In in Carthage, Missouri)

You’ll flip over this custom pickup truck July 11, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Vehicles.
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A few weeks ago, I noticed a very odd sight in a YouTube video shot during the recent Illinois Route 66 Motor Tour. Alas, the video contained no information, and I’ve been unable to track down that clip again.

However, this popped up on YouTube in recent days. You’ll just have to see it:

The truck has gained attention all over central Illinois and the Internet worldwide. This week, the Bloomington Pantagraph tracked down its owner — it’s Rick Sullivan, who owns Kathy’s Collision in Clinton, Illinois.

Sullivan told the newspaper he got the idea after receiving a call to transport a Ford Ranger pickup that had overturned.

In its simplest form, “this one” is a 1991 Ford Ranger pickup truck with a 1995 F-150 pickup truck body placed over the top — upside down — complete with spinning tires. At first glance, it looks like a red and white Ford pickup on its roof.

“I’ve seen it a couple of times now, and saw a picture of it online,” said Clinton resident Tim Hudson. “But I never get tired of staring at it. It feels like your brain is trying to play tricks on you.”

Sullivan said it took about six months and help from two employees to put it together. And, yes, it’s street-legal.

News of the truck went viral after its appearance at the Route 66 motor tour:

Three days later, someone called him.

“They said I needed to Google ‘upside down Ford F-150 pickup truck,’ ” he said. “I did and found that an Australian newspaper ran an article featuring a picture and information about the truck through some Australian tourists that had seen it.”

It didn’t take long for the truck to become a hit on social media; it’s received more than 111,000 “likes” on the Facebook page of Stacey David, the host of the TV series, GearZ on MavTV.

Naturally, the truck gets all sorts of attention wherever it goes, and wins trophies at car shows, to boot.

It’s not Sullivan’s first crazy custom job. He also built a large, driveable Radio Flyer wagon.

Sullivan says he has another project he’s working on, but is keeping it a secret for now.

Bob Waldmire art featured at Harley-Davidson Museum exhibit July 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Motorcycles, People, Photographs, Vehicles.
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The artwork of Bob Waldmire, the famed and beloved Route 66 artist who died of cancer in 2009, is featured in a current show at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

“The American Road,” which began June 14, “takes visitors on a journey highlighting the evolution of the quintessential American road trip from its early beginnings in 1930 to what it has come to represent in pop culture today,” according to a news release. It features photographs, film footage, slide shows and travel memorabilia.

Waldmire’s artwork is prominently featured Gallery 3 of the show, which displays a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu that was custom-painted by him. I’m pretty sure that’s vehicle is owned by Dave Jostes of Rochester, Illinois, who has showed up with the car to several Waldmire-related events.

Waldmire’s spiral notebooks and sketches — including some of the earliest of his career — also will be displayed.

Waldmire’s legendary 1972 Volkswagen minibus still can be seen at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, along with a schoolbus he converted into living quarters for a time. And his intricate artwork can be bought here and at souvenir shops on the Mother Road. Waldmire also served as the indirect inspiration to the Fillmore VW minibus character in the Disney-Pixar “Cars” films.

The photography of Jeff Kunkle, co-founder of Vintage Roadside, also is featured in the gallery.

“The American Road” will run at the museum until Sept. 1.

(Images courtesy of Harley-Davidson Museum; hat tip to Ace Jackalope)

A history of Cadillac Ranch July 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, History, People, Vehicles.
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On Sunday, the Amarillo Globe-News published a well-researched story about the history of the Cadillac Ranch art installation just off Route 66.

Cadillac Ranch marked its 40th anniversary June 21 — four days after owner Stanley Marsh 3 died at age 76.

The story provides behind-the-scenes details about how Cadillac Ranch came about. I urge you to read the story in its entirety. A few highlights:

— The Ant Farm art collective, which came up with the idea, didn’t strictly have Amarillo on its radar. It compiled a list of millionaires who might be receptive to having the art installation on their land, and Marsh was on the list.

— Ant Farm member Hudson Marquez drew up Cadillac Ranch after seeing the book “The Look of Cars” in a bar near San Francisco. One section of the book dealt with the rise and fall of tail fins as a part of car design.

— Marquez and fellow Ant Farm members Chip Lord and Doug Michaels were paid $2,000 for the artwork and given a $3,000 budget to procure materials, including Cadillacs bought mostly from junkyards in the Texas Panhandle.

— The hard earth allowed the cars to keep the correct angle once they were lowered into the ground. A British artist working for Marsh on another project, whose name apparently is lost to history, proved vital in installing Cadillac Ranch.

— The newspaper estimated if Cadillac Ranch was visited by only 70 people a day, it would have totaled more than 1 million visitors. It’s safe to say the number is probably two to three times that.

— The Globe News published a letter from Marsh to the Ant Farm that posed questions about the project. One excerpt:

If we put the Cadillac Ranch on Highway 66, near my airport, would the bodies of the Cadillacs lean toward the highway? (south) or would they lean toward the prairie? (north). That’s an important consideration. Also, I’m worried about putting it overlooking the highway because I’m afraid some Ladybird-Johnson kind of ecology freak would claim that it was junk and not art and make me fence it off, so perhaps we would have to read the regulations concerning junk car lots in Amarillo, in Potter County, in Texas and on U.S. Interstates, and place it far enough back so that it would conform. Of course, it might be better fenced off from view.

After Marsh’s death last month, it was learned Cadillac Ranch was placed in a trust and that the installation would remain unchanged. That was doubtlessly done to protect Cadillac Ranch from a slew of lawsuits that allege Marsh committed sex acts with teenage boys in his Amarillo office.

Ordinarily, Cadillac Ranch would become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by 2024 — its 50th anniversary. But in 1997 Marsh moved Cadillac Ranch one mile from its original spot to escape Amarillo’s sprawl. That move damages its chances for National Register status, and likely would delay it to 2047.

(Sunrise image of Cadillac Ranch by Lotus Carroll via Flickr)

The Griswolds will take a Route 66 trip next month June 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Road trips, Vehicles.
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No, we’re not talking about the fictional family as depicted in the 1983 road-trip comedy film “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

No, this is a real-life family in Georgia that has Griswold as its surname. Better yet, Steve and Lisa Griswold took a 1984 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon and modified it to look exactly like the ultra-ugly and fuel-inefficient Family Truckster as shown in the movie.

The Griswolds recently announced they’re taking the Truckster and their two daughters on a Route 66 road trip from July 20 to July 30, with the final destination of Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, to ride the Colossus, the wooden roller coaster depicted in the Wally World amusement park in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” The Griswolds hope to be at Six Flags Magic Mountain by July 31, which is the 31st anniversary of the movie. Alas, the Colossus is scheduled to be closed for good in August.

The Griswolds posted on their website:

The biggest concern is will we make it?  10 days on Route 66 is a long time in the heat of summer with such an old original car.  But we think the truckster is up for it and we are up for the adventure. [...]

We will then be heading on Route 66, which none of us have ever been on before, and we are very excited to see all the classic tourist attractions, diners, and hotels along the way.

We want to surprise you with the stops we will be making along the way, but  I can say we will be stopping at the Grand Canyon, and some historic spots, and some new more modern Route 66 attractions. [...]

We will be posting our road trip adventure LIVE as it happens on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Also at the conclusion of our road trip we will be putting together some fun Griswold webisodes that you can watch right here on our www.GriswoldFamilyVacations.com website.

The Griswolds ought to make sure Magic Mountain is open first:

“National Lampoon’s Vacation” was based on “Vacation ’58,” a short story by John Hughes.

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