Text by Sue George; Photos by Sue George, Misty Mayfield, Jim Boyd, Curt and Jan Lawson, Wayne Perkins, Roger Newman

Our 31st annual National Meet, held in Kansas City, took place on June 22-26, 2005. Our hosts for this event were Dick and Bev Drake, Wayne Perkins, Randy Morrison, Stuart Sutton, Jerry Stricker and Jim Cordell. A very big Thank You to all of these members who made arrangements for several very interesting tours, a wonderful picnic and car show and the best maps and directions we've ever had at an event. Our headquarters hotel was the Holiday Inn in Olathe, KS. Our members had 25% off discount cards for the Culvers restaurant which was located just a few blocks from the hotel, so our members held cruise-ins there each night to eat and have ice cream. It was likely the most Mopar influence the Olathe Culvers will ever see! A big Thank You to Culvers manager Carrie Strum who provided us with the discount!

On Wednesday, June 22, members started arriving at headquarters and some ventured off to enjoy Worlds of Fun, Oceans of Fun and other local attractions during this free time. In the evening, everyone gathered in the hospitality room to meet and greet, share stories and photos.

Thursday morning, our group drove across Kansas City to the Harley Davidson assembly plant. This plant was built in 1998, is 358,000 square feet in size and employs over 900 people. The motorcycles that are built there include Sportsters, Dynas, and V-Rods, including the Screamin' Eagle. It is the only HD plant where the entire V-Rod motorcycle is built under one roof.

In front of the massive building are several very long concrete platforms where employees can park their HDs when they come to work. It looks like a huge motorcycle show, with several rows of bikes gleaming in the sun. Anyone who rides a brand X motorcycle to work has to park it in the general public parking lot where our cars were parked.

Inside the lobby, there are several special motorcycles on display that we were encouraged to sit on and take photos of. This was the only area that cameras were allowed. There was also a bike being auctioned off for charity on display here. After registering our group for a tour, we were split into two groups and first watched a short film about Harley Davidson history, past and present. Our two groups were them escorted through the entire assembly plant where we watched gas tanks being laser cut, welded and polished by robots and after painting they were buffed to perfection. We saw powder coated frames being mounted on suspensions, engines being built, wire wheels being constructed from a ring and a boxful of chrome spokes and centers, wiring harnesses and trim being installed, etc.

We were told that only a very select "hand-picked" crew gets to work inside the very sophisticated paint booth and those individuals have to observe a fat-restricted diet so their breath does not carry fat molecules into the air and contaminate the surfaces to be painted, they cannot wear certain cosmetics such as lipstick, face powders, no perfumes, and they can only use certain shampoos, soaps, etc. To say these employees are devoted to their job is an understatement! The plant is spacious, bright and extremely clean. We noted that no one seemed to be rushed, the work was being done at a leisurely pace and several times we saw employees leave their stations to help another worker with something. We were also told that all jobs (except the paint booth) are constantly rotating so no one gets bored doing repetition.

The tour ended with us exiting through the HD gift shop, of course, where several members had to purchase a souvenir. Everyone very much enjoyed the HD plant tour and a big Thanks goes to Stuart Sutton who set this up for us.

From the Harley Davidson plant, we convoyed to Ameristar Casino for lunch where they had a huge buffet set up with every kind of food imaginable. After lunch we drove to the Harry S Truman Library where they had a complete history of Truman's life from his childhood, military service years, marriage to Bess, White House years and retirement years. There were displays of old letters he and Bess wrote during their courtship, hundreds of letters from the general public, clothing from the period, tons of photos and even a couple of old films of his TV appearances on comedy shows. There was also quite a bit of history on Bess.

Left to right: first two show the Ameristar casino; last two are at Weld Wheel Factory

Inside the showroom, lot of beautiful finished wheels and gift items are available to buy

A very steep spiral staircase was one of the interesting features inside the Weld Wheel factory


After leaving the Truman Library, we drove to the Weld Wheel Factory. This is a non-descript building situated inside of a huge fenced-in, highly secured area. You can see it from quite a distance because of the enormous rotating aluminum spoked wheel that sits atop the building. Here we got a tour of the complete assembly process of forged aluminum wheels for trucks, SUVs, street and racing. After a log of aerospace-quality aluminum billet is cut into ingots, the ingots are heated to 750 degrees and the forging press puts eight million pounds of force on the ingot to shape it in the dies. The extreme force eliminates porosity in the metal and increases the density, giving it superior strength. The blank is further shaped into a wheel-shaped forging and then it is heat treated and CNC  lathed to within .012" perfection. Then robot CNCs  cut the various shaped hole patterns out of the wheel and it is finally polished to a high gloss. After it is polished, the wheel is chromed with a six-layer process that has a five-year guarantee. At the end of the line, each wheel is personally inspected and boxed by hand. Some of the special racing wheels went through a machine that forced a rod through the center to cut threads in the hub. It was a very interesting process to see how aluminum wheels are made.

In the warehouse, I noted several custom wheel designs with the signature "Sean Paul" engraved in script on them. I asked our tour guide about them and sure enough, the Weld plant has a deal with P. Diddy  (Sean Combs) to manufacture a signature series of Weld Wheels with his name on them. A couple of the plant designers were selected and sent to New York to huddle with P. Diddy  to pick several wheel designs that he authorized to carry his signature. I asked who got to pick the various designs that would be manufactured and was told that once the designers have narrowed it down to several of their favorites, they are shown to plant employees who then get to vote for the ones they most like and veto the ones they don't like. The designs that are liked most by plant employees are then sent to the SEMA show and the public reaction is monitored to make the final decision which ones will actually end up being made and marketed.

The Weld Wheel tour was the conclusion of a very busy day of driving around Kansas City and seeing things. After returning to Olathe, we had a cruise-in to Culvers and then finished off the evening visiting with everyone in the hospitality room at the hotel. Photos below left to right: the members congregate at Culvers; Roger Newman caught these scenes from our various highway excursions.

Friday morning, we drove to the Liberty Memorial and tower, the only museum devoted exclusively to World War I. We had all looked forward to viewing the city from the 217-foot tall tower, and we were greatly disappointed to be informed upon our arrival that the tower was closed that day for maintenance on the elevator! We spent some time photographing the cars near the monument and the surrounding city from this high vantage point, and then we left for the Arabia Steamship.


Photos above were taken at Liberty Memorial. There were gargoyles around the top of the tower; you could see far across Kansas City! Member Toni Svec takes a break before we climb back down to where our cars were parked.

At the Arabia, there were numerous display cases full of cargo that had been rescued from the Arabia (above); and pieces of the ship including the paddle wheel and part of the deck and boilers were on display.

The Arabia and it's contents are housed in a building surrounded by small souvenir shops and a genuine old-fashioned farmer's market where you can buy a whole hog (complete with an apple in it's mouth!), fresh fruits and grains in bulk containers, fresh baked goods, etc. Our Arabia tour guide was a young lady named Amy and she gave us a very entertaining history of the steamboat that perished in 1856 and was recovered by three men in 1988.

The ship was sunk by snagging on a tree but no passengers died. The only casualty was a donkey that was tied up and couldn't escape. Amy told us the donkey's owner claimed innocence by swearing that the animal was not tied up but simply would not budge when it came time to leave the Arabia. However, the truth was discovered when the donkey's skeleton was found still tied to the ship!

There was a huge display of the thousands of items that were recovered from the ship, most of which was cargo being delivered to retail stores and some personal items that belonged to the passengers aboard. It was amazing how well-preserved most of the items were. Knives and other metal items were rusty, of course, but clothing, leather boots and hats, dishes and fine china, pots and pans, door knobs, tiny beads that were used for trading with the Indians, hammers, axes, one and two-man saws, candles, perfume in exquisite little bottles, a barrel of ale, tons of padlocks and keys and guns were all in excellent condition after being cleaned in their in-house restoration lab. There had been barrels full of flour, sugar and gun powder but the contents had washed away and empty barrels are all that was left. A jar of pickles intrigued one of the rescue men enough that after he spent quite a while looking at it and thinking about it, he got the nerve up to actually eat one! He told us it wasn't very crisp but the flavor was unchanged.

The three men had one of the perfumes recovered from the steamboat sent to a lab where it was duplicated. In the restoration lab at the Arabia display, there was a bottle of it available for the ladies to try on, and of course the duplications were for sale in the gift shop, too. The clone perfume was appropriately named "1856".

Some of the personal items recovered from the passenger's rooms included a set of carpenter's tools, children's marbles, a set of fine china from one of the wealthy ladies on board and there was a grand total of 30 in change from one of the passengers.

There was a reproduction of the huge deck area with the steam engine mounted and an illustration showing showing how the steam engine worked. There was also a 6-ton section of the original stern section recovered from the ship which Amy told us the men preserved by constructing a "shower stall" with plastic curtains around it. Every evening after the museum closed, the shower curtains were closed around the wooden behemoth and a shower of wood preservatives chemicals was turned on overnight. In the front window of the museum, there is an original paddle from the ship operating in a pond. We spent several hours touring the Arabia and then convoyed over to Famous Dave's for some real Kansas City BBQ. A group of members then went next door to Cabela's Sporting Goods and taxidermy museum while some returned to the hotel. That evening we gathered at Culvers for supper and ice cream.

Saturday morning, we were off to the Kansas International Speedway to spend a few hours as special guests of the Viper Club who had rented the track for the morning. We were led to our special parking area on the infield and we had just enough time to rush into the air conditioned garage area and get our track credentials before the pace truck lined us up for some laps on the track.

This was a blast and anyone who didn't come to this meet really missed a great time! We were taken out onto the track and allowed to drive 75-80 mph laps for at least 15 minutes! It was 100 degrees that day with very high humidity, but I didn't hear anyone complaining; we were all having too much fun. I'd like to thank all of the WW/NBOA members who participated in this for behaving and representing our group so admirably to the Viper owners. In fact, we got to spend more time on the track than the Viper drivers did. After we did our laps, we headed back into our parking area and everyone headed out to check out the Vipers that were scattered all over the infield. The Viper owners lined up at the pit gate to take kids for rides around the track as a benefit to Big Brothers/Big Sisters charity.

Members in Victory Lane below first row from left to right are: Don Allis, 1969 Charger;  Dick, Bev and Leslie Drake, Superbird;  Stan McGuire and Lori Grimes, Hemi Ram truck; Wayne Perkins, Hemi Daytona;  Kyle, Cindy and Brent Drake, Superbird;  Stuart, Quintin and Ian Sutton, 1969 RoadRunner;  Second Row: James and Cyndi Keehler, Daytona clone;  Rick Edwards, Superbird;  Rudy and Jody Ramone, Superbird

Our members gathered in the garage area again for a lovely lunch provided by the Viper Club and T-shirts that were vacuum packed into the shape of a Viper! After lunch, several of our members moved their cars into Victory Lane for some photos. It was an incredibly fun time and on behalf of our members who went to the track, I'd like to extend a very big THANKS to Chris Marshall and the Viper Club of America for inviting us to attend this very special day with them.

Our members started leaving Kansas International Speedway around 2:00 pm and most headed back to the hotel to get freshened up. About 4:00 that afternoon, we all headed out to Jerry and Carol Sticker's house in Gardner, KS. Their place is beautiful and quite deceiving looking from the road out front. When you pull up to the house, it appears to be sandwiched in between two houses in a regular residential area. Beside the house, we drove through an open gate in the white fence, around to the back of the house where there are two large buildings where Jerry restores cars, and the yard just opens up into a huge grass field...what a perfect place to hold our car show! We arranged the winged cars into a semi-circle and Jerry's son brought out a forklift with a cage on it to lift us high above the cars for some unique aerial photos. Then we had the B-bodies line up for the aerial shots. Jerry even brought out three of his own beautiful GTXs to display, and a partially restored 1969 Charger that his brother is restoring. Then we all headed into one of the huge buildings where Carol had laid out a feast fit for royalty with baked ham, beef brisquet, baked beans, salads, deviled eggs, chips, cookies and coolers full of cold drinks. Everything was extremely delicious and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

After our wonderful meal, we raffled off a ton of really nice prizes. A very big Thank You to Stan McGuire, Steve and Teresa Netkow, Harry Rupe, Mike and Joyce Partridge and Randy Morrison who added prizes to our raffle. After the raffle, everyone took some last minute pictures of the cars, talked a bit more and then headed back to the hotel to pack up their cars in anticipation of the long ride home. Later that evening, we gathered at Culvers for the last time to use our discount coupons and show off our cars to the natives.

Sunday morning, a group of members gathered at the Golden Corral where we had a reserved room for our farewell breakfast buffet. Everyone sat around and talked for a couple of hours and then hit the road for home.