The Yellowstone Rod Run, which takes place in West Yellowstone, Montana, has been going on for 40 years. Now, 40 years is a long time for any show, let alone one that is as remotely located as this one. But without fail, year after year since 1970, folks have been making the pilgrimage to this little town located at the west gate of America’s oldest National Park.
I personally love Yellowstone and have been there at least ten times which is pretty good for a boy from the Midwest. So when this show finally lined up with an opening in my production schedule, I pounced on it!
We flew into Bozeman, MT which is a beautiful and surprisingly trendy town that’s also home to Montana State University, and then drove the 90 miles south to West Yellowstone paralleling the Gallatin River which must be loaded with trout because it was certainly loaded with fly fisherman (and women).
The car show was on a Saturday, but we came in early enough to take part in some of the pre-show festivities which included a cruise into the park to Old Faithful Lodge on Friday morning and run up to 320 Guest Ranch for a cookout that evening. The sight of over 100 rods, customs, and classics rollin’ thru the West Gate of Yellowstone National Park was something I think I’ll always remember.
The weather on Thursday had been rainy, but Friday and Saturday were picture perfect. Saturday’s show was held in West Yellowstone’s City Park and somehow they managed to shoehorn in over 500 cars and a few thousand people.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a marque-specific show (e.g. all Ford, all Chrysler); let alone a model-specific one like all Camaro or all T-bird. And although I’ve touched on Japanese cars a few times throughout the years, I’ve never done an all Japanese show. So when I was contacted by the Z-Con folks to cover the 23rd annual Datsun/Nissan Z-car convention at Nissan’s North American headquarters in Franklin, TN my first reaction was, “There’s an annual gathering of Z-cars that’s been going on for 23 years?!?”
My second thought/concern tho was whether there’d be enough diversity in the cars to make an interesting episode especially since they all share such similar lines. I decided to give it a go anyway and was pleasantly surprised that there was plenty to pick from.
The Datsun 240Z came to the US in 1970, and it was the beginning of putting Japanese performance on the map. They were slick, sleek, affordable, and lots of fun to drive. For most folks, this was the first Japanese sports car they’d ever seen. If you lived on the west coast, you may have been familiar with their predecessors the Datsun 1600 and 2000 roadsters, but not many of these made it very far east. The 240Z however was marketed coast-to-coast.
The Nissan headquarters made a great backdrop for the show and since Franklin is just outside Nashville, the club had also engaged one of the many great local bands to provide the music for the day rather than going the typical DJ route. The band was The Dirty Curties, an all-female group which struck me as appropriate since the Z-cars and the roadsters before them went by the model name, Fairlady, in Japan. The band was great and Datsun was wise to rename the cars for the US market.