A 2,200 mile drive from the Pacific Northwest to Chicago is quite a long road trip. You would pack your car with a suitcase or two, snacks, water bottles, some of your favorite sodas, and at least a few phone chargers. With the family or your favorite companion(s) on board you can be sure to have a few days of adventure ahead. Your biggest concerns along the way, might be where to take a restroom break, where to stop for a meal, and looking out for weather and/or construction that may slow your progress. In a few days time, you’ll have arrived home with hopefully a few stories to tell and a bunch of scenic photos. Now what if you made this same journey in something not so modern, something a bit more vintage? Well, that is exactly what a woman named Jody Reeme decided to do, driving her antique Dodge roadster from Oregon to Chicago over the course of about a month.
The Dodge Roadster was a car that was the answer to Ford’s wildly successful Model T, and in fact sought to up refinement and offer a better driving experience than the Model T. Jody’s 1924 Dodge roadster, hails from a time in automotive history where horsepower figures and 0-60mph times were non-existent. Instead, the specs you’d need to know, is that this old roadster was powered by a four cylinder engine and had a top speed just under 40mph. Only half of the wheels came equipped with brakes, with drum type brakes applying to the rear wheels to slow the car down, and wood spoke wheels shod in skinny rubber tires that rival some fat bicycle tires you might see today. If you ever wanted to marvel at how far the automobile has evolved in less than 100 years time, you need look no further than this car. Today, taking a drive across the country, really takes little consideration at all. Leaving Chicago, you simply punch in your favorite west coast destination into Google Maps and it spits back your route, predominantly along big and fast moving interstate highways. You could reach the coast in a matter of 3-5 days, maybe less if you opt for a more grueling marathon driving sessions (aka you’re a psychopath). In a car from 1924, things are incredibly different, and that journey is much more complicated. Remember that top speed of 35mph? That means very little power is on tap, which means chugging along on interstate highways where speeds are averaging double your cruising speed is probably not a wise choice. Alright, so back-roads it is, nice to see some scenery, no big deal. It doesn’t end there though, remember those brakes? A set of two drum brakes is not to be trusted to slow a car down very quickly from any speed, but what if you hit a stretch of road with big elevation changes and a steep grade? So, now you choose a route with easy elevation changes. Then there’s the weather, crossing the Rockies and the Plains states of this country, you will often encounter some pretty heavy storms that can slow you down in even the best cars made today. In a 1924 Dodge, wet roads mean zero traction and any storm will have you grounded, looking for the bar in whatever small town you stayed the previous night in, waiting out the weather until the next day. The result is a trip that goes from 3-5 days, to 3-5 weeks! Judy did all of that, and on the first Sunday of September, triumphantly arrived back in Chicago for Rise and Drive at Collector’s Car Garage.
So why did Judy decide to do this? Aside from just wanting an epic odyssey across the U.S., she wanted to bring attention to the joy of cars. She wanted to create awareness and excitement for the thing that has your reading this blog today, a love of cars as more than just a transportation appliance. With the advent of autonomous cars, and ever growing desires to lessen our environmental impact, a fear of losing enthusiasm for cars has grown along with it. You see the push back from car lovers all over, from Alex Roy’s manifesto, to brands like Manual Gearbox Preservation Society express similar sentiments, and many more. In this instance, Judy teamed up with the RPM Foundation, which actually puts it’s focus not just on love of cars, but nurturing future craftsmen and tradespeople to keep those cars going. While the previous examples mostly voice opinions and concerns, the RPM Foundation actually provides grants toward the cause of keeping people in the business of restoring old cars. I’d say Judy’s mission was a big success, and the final stop of Collector’s Car Garage was a perfect fit; a country club for car lovers, built by car lovers and that Sunday, surrounded by car lovers.
-photos and writing: Robert Sixto