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Route 2003 Tour

By Mike "TXJEEPER" Cohn

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What do you get when you combine a car show with nearly 200 vehicles and a carnival atmosphere with hands-on participation? If you're DaimlerChrysler, you get the Route 2003 tour.

85 Route 2003 staff members began the twelve city tour in April of this year in Raleigh, NC. The Route 2003 tour brings the best that Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge have to offer to the public in a weekend-long marketing bonanza.

Route 2003
Route 2003

We visited the Atlanta, GA stop of the tour, where 30 freight trucks and more than 25 vehicle haulers had brought 175 vehicles for the locals to look at, touch, and even drive. Crews began setting up the fairgrounds a week before, erecting tents, road courses, and even off-road courses.

Route 2003
Rt. 2003 Websites
The day before the event, the Southeast was pelted with major storms, dumping several inches of rain and even hail over the Atlanta area. Upon our arrival, we discovered that the off-road courses were not just wet, but were flooded. For safety reasons, the off-road courses would not be available during this event, to the disappointment of many people, including ourselves. But remembering the first rule of four-wheeling, which is to be safe, we understood and had fun visiting anyway.

The Route 2003 tour site is sectioned into three areas - one for each marque. After registering, you pass through a technology tent where you can check out satellite radio, engines on stands, full Ram truck and Jeep Rubicon rolling chassis and even a cutaway Chrysler Pacifica. Leaving the tent you face the three areas and go on your merry way.

The Jeep area included the off-road course, a mini-museum where you could check out a Navy flatfender, Mark Smith's famous expedition CJ-5, the Dakar concept and a Liberty, a Wrangler balancing activity, a rock-climbing wall, EVO video games, electric Jeeps for the kids, and more.

Route 2003
Route 2003

In the Dodge area, there was also an off-road course, a mini-museum, and other activities. A Dakota was setup with reverse-steering for participants to attempt figure-eight driving patterns without hitting cones. Inside, you could also try your hands at the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge tire-changing competition. Of course, you could always go for a low-speed test-drive of your own in the Dodge of your choice (well, not the Viper) or, in this case, also the Jeep of your choice on a road course which was set up nearby. The mini-museum contained some very nice Dodges, including a cherry Power Wagon that was very droolworthy. Kids also had activities of their own to keep them busy and entertained.

Route 2003
Route 2003

The third area was Chrysler, where Celine Dion surrounded you as you walked through the entrance gate (we walked fast). The Pacifica is Chrysler's new baby this year so there was a lot centered around it. In addition, a pre-production Crossfire was on-hand for visitors to sit in and check out. Zoom!

Route 2003
Route 2003

Like the other areas, Chrysler also had a mini-museum and a driving course where you could drive anything from the current product line, including more Jeeps. Probably the most fun part of the Chrysler area was the PT Cruiser Dragstrip, where visitors could test their reflexes and driving skills full-bore in the new turbo PT Cruisers. Meanwhile, the kids also could play a few holes of mini golf and there was a "Fill the PT Cruiser" contest.

Plenty of friendly folks were on-hand in every area to co-pilot your test drives, answer questions about the cars and trucks and help in any way needed. One of the nicest touches of the event was that in each of the three areas, there were several coolers full of sodas and bottled water that were free for the taking. Nobody was to go thirsty while visiting Route 2003. In addition, not only were there plenty of port-a-lets around, there were also hand-washing stations, as well. These little amenities make for a better family day out and were not unnoticed.

Route 2003
Route 2003

Route 2003 continues throughout the summer and ends in Houston, TX in September. Check out the Route 2003 websites and register to visit a stop near you.

Route 2003 Schedule
May 10-11 Pittsburgh, PA
May 31-June 1 Buffalo, NY
June 7-8 Syracuse, NY
July 12-13 Cleveland, OH
August 2-3 Denver, CO
September 20-21 New Orleans, LA
September 27-28 Houston, TX


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