Motorhead mania

Jan. 1, 2020
With all the economic turmoil we are experiencing and the various metrics we obsess over, there is a tendency to forget the engine that drives our great industry.

With all the economic turmoil we are experiencing and the various metrics we obsess over to asses how we are doing, like same store comps, this year over last and miles driven, there is a tendency to forget the engine that drives our great industry — our customers.

Longtime readers know when I say “customers” I’m talking about the person who throws away the box. And while my comments about customers in these pages typically revolve around professional technicians, I recently had an excellent opportunity to interact up close and personally with some box tossers of another sort.

The up-close and personal experience I’m referring to was the Hot Rod Power Tour. This tour is an annual gathering of the motorhead tribes organized by the consumer magazine of the same name. For those unfamiliar, the Power Tour starts in a city on a Saturday with a couple thousand enthusiasts whose vehicles are in various states of modification or restoration ranging from just getting started to (if I may employ the vernacular of my youth from the 60s) cherry.

The group sets up camp for a day at a local fairground or park and are joined by thousands of local, like-minded car people to check out each others’ rides, share stories and see what the displaying manufacturers have in the way of the latest performance equipment. That done, these thousands of motorheads then cruise to another pre-chosen venue a few hundred miles down the road where they stop and are joined by more local car owners for another day of motorhead brotherhood. This process repeats itself each day for a week until over a thousand miles are covered by thousands of tricked-out vehicles.

I’d like to tell you that I was one of those road rats out with my brothers for the full week, but I wasn’t that lucky. However, I was lucky enough to find myself at a business meeting in Orlando over the opening weekend of the Tour; and guess where it started this year — Cocoa Beach, just a short drive from Orlando. So I was able to join the Power Tour kickoff festivities on Saturday and drive back to Orlando for my business conference. The next few days served up an intense helping of business attire, meetings, new contacts and airplanes. The latter delivered me to Detroit in a Hawaiian shirt and jeans on Friday, the last day of the 2011 Hot Rod Power Tour. The location: Metro Beach Park on the shores of Lake St. Clair, a fitting and beautiful spot some 1,300 miles from the Tour’s start.

Too often our aftermarket business pundits have speculated about the demise of the do-it-yourselfer; about our decaying love affair with the automobile; about the exotic technology that is driving a wedge between us. Some say the relationship has moved from one of passion to one of convenience.

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Yet here were a hell of a lot of people profoundly contradicting the pundits. These folks love their vehicles. You can see it in the style and hear it in the sounds. Given the bad news du jour nature of our present human condition, it was downright heartwarming (and eye-opening) to walk through acres of art as machinery and talk with the artisans.

Walking around those events, I couldn’t help thinking about the immortal words of Yogi Bera, “It ain’t over till its over.” Our love affair with the car clearly is not over. The tens of thousands of spectators who joined the thousands of vehicle owner participants confirm that year after year. It may not be as pervasive as when Jan & Dean or the Beach Boys crackled through our AM radio speakers about Stingrays and Deuce Coupes. But just like rock ‘n’ roll, the heart of motor-mania is still beating. What’s changed is that the puppy-love infatuation of the 60s and 70s has evolved into a more mature relationship.

It would be good if we all could take time now and then to step away from the fray briefly. Step back from the important but consuming issues of our daily aftermarket business lives like data standards, parts proliferation, working capital or terms. Instead, think for a moment about keeping America’s love affair with the automobile alive. Think hard, because if this marriage ends in divorce, our future will take a decidedly different course from the one we’re currently on.

With all the economic turmoil we are experiencing and the various metrics we obsess over to asses how we are doing, like same store comps, this year over last and miles driven, there is a tendency to forget the engine that drives our great industry — our customers.

Longtime readers know when I say “customers” I’m talking about the person who throws away the box. And while my comments about customers in these pages typically revolve around professional technicians, I recently had an excellent opportunity to interact up close and personally with some box tossers of another sort.

The up-close and personal experience I’m referring to was the Hot Rod Power Tour. This tour is an annual gathering of the motorhead tribes organized by the consumer magazine of the same name. For those unfamiliar, the Power Tour starts in a city on a Saturday with a couple thousand enthusiasts whose vehicles are in various states of modification or restoration ranging from just getting started to (if I may employ the vernacular of my youth from the 60s) cherry.

The group sets up camp for a day at a local fairground or park and are joined by thousands of local, like-minded car people to check out each others’ rides, share stories and see what the displaying manufacturers have in the way of the latest performance equipment. That done, these thousands of motorheads then cruise to another pre-chosen venue a few hundred miles down the road where they stop and are joined by more local car owners for another day of motorhead brotherhood. This process repeats itself each day for a week until over a thousand miles are covered by thousands of tricked-out vehicles.

I’d like to tell you that I was one of those road rats out with my brothers for the full week, but I wasn’t that lucky. However, I was lucky enough to find myself at a business meeting in Orlando over the opening weekend of the Tour; and guess where it started this year — Cocoa Beach, just a short drive from Orlando. So I was able to join the Power Tour kickoff festivities on Saturday and drive back to Orlando for my business conference. The next few days served up an intense helping of business attire, meetings, new contacts and airplanes. The latter delivered me to Detroit in a Hawaiian shirt and jeans on Friday, the last day of the 2011 Hot Rod Power Tour. The location: Metro Beach Park on the shores of Lake St. Clair, a fitting and beautiful spot some 1,300 miles from the Tour’s start.

Too often our aftermarket business pundits have speculated about the demise of the do-it-yourselfer; about our decaying love affair with the automobile; about the exotic technology that is driving a wedge between us. Some say the relationship has moved from one of passion to one of convenience.

PAGE 2

Yet here were a hell of a lot of people profoundly contradicting the pundits. These folks love their vehicles. You can see it in the style and hear it in the sounds. Given the bad news du jour nature of our present human condition, it was downright heartwarming (and eye-opening) to walk through acres of art as machinery and talk with the artisans.

Walking around those events, I couldn’t help thinking about the immortal words of Yogi Bera, “It ain’t over till its over.” Our love affair with the car clearly is not over. The tens of thousands of spectators who joined the thousands of vehicle owner participants confirm that year after year. It may not be as pervasive as when Jan & Dean or the Beach Boys crackled through our AM radio speakers about Stingrays and Deuce Coupes. But just like rock ‘n’ roll, the heart of motor-mania is still beating. What’s changed is that the puppy-love infatuation of the 60s and 70s has evolved into a more mature relationship.

It would be good if we all could take time now and then to step away from the fray briefly. Step back from the important but consuming issues of our daily aftermarket business lives like data standards, parts proliferation, working capital or terms. Instead, think for a moment about keeping America’s love affair with the automobile alive. Think hard, because if this marriage ends in divorce, our future will take a decidedly different course from the one we’re currently on.