Hot Rod Heaven

See thousands of hot rods, street racers, muscle cars and custom trucks from all over the country as they make a pit stop in Raleigh.
See thousands of hot rods, street racers, muscle cars and custom trucks from all over the country as they make a pit stop in Raleigh.

This month, thousands of hot rods, street racers, muscle cars and custom trucks from all over the country will make a pit stop in Raleigh. The PNC arena is the penultimate destination for the HOT ROD Power Tour’s traveling car show, the world’s largest, and it marks the first time in the tour’s 24-year history that it, and its competitive events, will grace Raleigh with an appearance.

“We always try to figure out where we can hit these cool race tracks for everybody to be doing the autocross and drag racing and burnout competitions,” says HOT ROD general manager Jonathan Mill. “It’s also to bring the experience to new places. Raleigh is the second-largest city in North Carolina, so it was a natural choice to pick it out as one the new places we wanted to stop.”

The tour, which starts June 9 at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky and culminates at zMax Dragway in Concord on June 15, is expected to draw around 50,000 people at each of its stops in seven cities during its weeklong tour. Crowds comprise curious spectators of all ages as well as car enthusiasts looking to get up close and personal with vehicles that turn back the clock. Vintage car fans register their vehicles and take part in a drag racing competition, or check out the “long haulers,” cars and their owners who are making the entire 1,300-mile trek, from start to finish.

But you don’t have to own a 1955 Ford Thunderbird to enjoy the event.

“In a place like Raleigh, [the tour] reminds people of their heritage,” says Mill. “In North Carolina, racing is still very strong and very alive. They can even join us on the next stop and see the drag races at the drag way, zMax. It brings a sense of nostalgia to the area, like they can roll into a gas station and feel like they’re stuck in the 50s.”

The main stage at the event will feature celebrity signings, games, local bands and dozens of giveaways for all ages.

“We encourage bringing the family out, even if you can only make two stops,” Mill says. “Hop on the road with us and see what it’s like to go through these small towns with these kinds of cars. It will make you want to own one; I can tell you that.”

The HOT ROD Power Tour comes to Raleigh June 14; participants can register vehicles for a single day for $45, or come out to see the show at no cost.