Vegas or Bust
By Lorne Willard
One might think that anyone who drives a 60’s vintage Mustang from Kansas City to Las Vegas for the Mustang Club of America’s National Show hosted by the Mustang Club of Las Vegas and back should have his or her head examined. Well, schedule some doctor’s appointments for Lorne and Jill Willard, Roger and Marti Dart and Dan Riden. However, this group has experience in long road trips and knows there are certain things you have to be prepared for. If you follow Dan’s simple road trip rules, you will get by.
Rule #1 starts way before any trip. “Plan on needing twice the time you think you need when rebuilding a car.” Dan started an engine rebuild on his 1966 Convertible several months prior, but life gets in the way and things always take longer than expected. Of course, this brings up another set of rules for restoration we won’t start on in this article. Needless to say, there was some last minute late night work on the car to get it ready for departure. To illustrate this, the hood wasn’t on the car two days before departure, when Dan drove his car to the Willard’s to put the hood and doors on their 1965 GT Coupe. So the rule applies not just to Dan’s This group was to be accompanied by Gary and Sue Allen in their 2005 convertible (always good to have a chase vehicle), and a meeting was set for a rest stop outside Topeka, KS on or about 9 AM on Sunday morning and this is where Rule #2 comes in. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” The Willards and Allens made it to the meeting site on time, but thanks to an overzealous mechanic adjusting the carb on Dan’s newly rebuilt engine, they had to return to Lawrence to correct the problem on the side of the road, where Rule #3 quickly kicks in, “Don’t offer to buy beer for 24 hours to someone who fixes your car.” So, the group left a few minutes late, but with no real deadlines, well within the group’s timeline for a destination somewhere west of Denver before dark. West of Denver may sound like a long way for one day’s travel, but there wasn’t really any danger of not making it except for one small scare when the newly rebuilt engine seemed to be smoking just a little more than necessary. Now, any newly rebuilt engine will burn some oil, but this was just a little over the top. So, here is Rule #4, “Don’t over fill a transmission with fluid.” This could lead to another rule, transmission fluid on a hot exhaust makes lots of smoke, but who needs that many rules? After a quick check at a very interesting roadside venue, we were back on the road in short order.Need some help?Who chose this place to stop? If you are familiar with the members of the Vintage Mustang Club of Kansas City, you probably know that they love to road trip, with some contingent of cars at almost every MCA event. And, if you are also acquainted with the CARS of the VMC of KC, you’ll also know that they have some well-deserved nicknames. You may have heard of Redo-Blue (owned by Gary and Sue Allen) and Redo-Blue Too (the Willard’s 1965 GT Coupe), both of which earned their titles having “roadside restorations” on long road trips. New alternators, motor mounts, tires and spark plug wires to name just a few components replaced on these two legends in various parking lots and roadside rest stops. So, with great pride, we welcome Dan’s “Old Smokey” to the group. Which leads to Rule #5, “If it breaks down often enough, it will get a nickname!” To be fair to the old cars, they made it through the mountain passes west of Denver with flying colors
and they brought us safely to our first overnight stay in Idaho Springs, Colorado where morning brought frost and our first repair to the Dart’s Springtime Yellow Convertible, which leads us to Rule #6, “Don’t forget the lock washers on your exhaust.”
Nice jack stand….All experienced road trippers bring plenty of tools, and are also adept at recognizing curbs as excellent jack stands, so the exhaust bolts were not really a big challenge. It is a longer drive from KC to Vegas via Denver, but the route was not without purpose. The group visited Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park during three days of travel through Utah. With excellent weather and beautiful scenery, there couldn’t have been a better time to make this scenic trip.
All four cars, 3 old, 1 new….It was in Moab, UT, where the Willard’s 1965 Coupe, Redo-Blue Too, lived up to its nickname by running down the battery due to a stretched fan belt not turning the alternator. This brings up Rule #7, “Never count on someone else to bring the jumper cables” and Rule #8, “When on a road trip, bring extra parts”. After a quick swap of belts with a spare from the Dart’s parts stash, Redo Too was back on the road in no time.
What makes these trips all worth while, is the thumbs up you get from passing motorists as you drive down the road, the conversations you have at each and every gas station, rest stop and restaurant, and the appreciation of your vehicle by everyone young and old. The first time you see someone photographing a natural wonder such as the rock formations in Arches National Park as you drive by, and then see that camera get turned onto a group of old Mustangs, it makes you smile. As does the impromptu photo shoot by a lady from Boston at a long road construction stop in Zion National Park, the late night photo shoot by two English ladies in the hotel parking lot, and giving restoration advice to the guy from Idaho at a gas station in the middle of nowhere in Utah. Old Mustangs are certainly truly America classics.
Roadside stop in ZionAfter almost 1,500 miles, the group arrived safely at the Stardust Hotel on the Vegas strip having only minor problems. At the Stardust, it is gone now…During the show, the Willards received a Gold in the Concours Driven class. The Darts received a 1st Place award in the Occasional Driven class with Dan Riden earning a 2nd Place award in the same class. Other members from the VMC of KC traveling in a separate group were Dick and Jeanne Berry with their 1967 Shelby GT500 receiving a Gold in the Concours Trailered class and Sorita Wussow and Harold Vebraska (who drove in from Florida) earning a 2nd Place award in the Late Model class with their 2005 Saleen convertible. The Allens did not receive an award with their 2005 convertible in the popular Late Model class, but their main purpose for the trip was the scenery on the way there and back.
After the show ended on Sunday, the whole group departed Vegas for a return trip on I-40 and parts of old Route 66 and a day at the Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, AZ. Which leads us to Rule #9, “When you have a group in a convoy, you’ll get separated at least once”. Which we did on our way out of Vegas, but, it turned out to be a good thing as the Dart’s radiator cap popped it’s top at the gas station during the wait and thanks to Rule #8 (about extra parts), we were ready to hit the road before our lost sheep caught up. For the most part, the return trip was largely touristy, with stops at the Grand Canyon via the train,
All aboard!standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona Standin on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and some Teepee Hotels in Holbrook, AZ.One of these cars is a little out of placeThe group slowly broke up on the way back with Dan and the Willard’s completing the drive home in 2 days and others completing their drive in 3 or 4 days via the Petrified Forest and other necessary stops for R & R. In the end, we all made it back with yet another road trip under our belts and lots of fun memories and tons of pictures. Which leads to the final rule, Rule #10, “Those that road trip together, really know what fun the Vintage Mustang Club of Kansas