Starting at 7:30 a.m. on a steamy Friday morning, more than 3,000 hot rods rolled through this tiny Kansas Flint Hills town single file.
Cars range from late model, souped-up elite sports cars to rusty rat rods and everything in between. More than 2,000 cars made road the entire route, with thousands more joining in for part of the way.
The drivers were on the final Wichita-to-Kansas City, Kan., leg of the 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour, the largest annual hot rod rally in the U.S. The annual seven-day, 1,500-mile rally started in Baton Rouge, La., this year and ended June 17 at Kansas Speedway. The route changes every year.
Residents of the 52-inhabitant town watched from pickup beds, porches and folding chairs as the endless line of cars drove through over four hours. Some drivers slowed down, some honked, others burned off tires, and a good number pulled over to the gravel shoulder of the two-lane KS-177 to stretch their legs and chug water in the shade.
Some vintage cars had no air conditioning and drivers drove with a passenger holding one door open. Other pre-1990s cars had air conditioning but not enough to keep up with temperatures in the upper 90s.
Many of the drivers drove in groups with friends who can help with breakdowns. Overheating was a big problem this year as temperatures in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas soared near 100.
Larry and Kara Rose of Newburgh, Ind., said cruising through small towns and seeing locals and children waving or offering refreshments is their favorite part of the tour. “We feel like celebrities,” Larry Rose said.
Plus, Rose noted, the tour, sponsored by Hot Rod Network, pours a lot of money into rural economies because the drivers need food and the old cars burn through a lot of gas.
Donna Franks of Williamston, Mich., and her daughter Kara Ablett drove from Michigan to Louisiana with a group of friends. Franks started participating in the rally in 2007 with her husband. When he unexpectedly died in 2015, friends they had made on previous trips traveled from several states to Michigan to help fix up her car so she and her daughter could continue making the trip each year.
“I feel safe because no matter what happens, I’ve got my group of guys with me,” Franks said.
Organizers estimated that more than 6,000 cars rode in some part of the race.