Neil Zurcher

Neil Zurcher has been a professional journalist working mostly in television, but also  in newspapers,  magazines, and radio for over a half-century and has logged more than a million miles on Ohio’s roads over 25 years as a TV travel reporter. He was the original host of the “One Tank Trips” travel report, which aired on Fox8 Television in Cleveland and has since been imitated in other television markets throughout the US. Called “One of the most respected and knowledgeable travel writers in the state” by former Ohio Governor George Voinovich, Zurcher received the Distinguished Service award from the Society of Professional Journalism and the Silver Circle award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  He also received a “Emmy” award.   He was given the coveted Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the Cleveland Association of Broadcasters.  He has been inducted into the Cleveland Press Club Hall of Fame.   He was also inducted into the Ohio Broadcasters Hall of Fame and received their “Living Legacy” award in 2007.   Zurcher for many years wrote a  column for the Auto Club’s Ohio Motorist Magazine and now writes regularly for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and has written five books about Ohio, including Ohio Oddities and Strange Tales from Ohio.

The Cars of a “One Tank Trip”

by Neil Zurcher

 When the “One Tank Trips” series started in the spring of 1980 we had a promise of the loan of a replica 1929 Model A Touring car from the Ford Motor Company to use in our opens and closes.  Shortly before the series was to be shot I was informed that Ford had decided on some cost-saving cuts in their promotion budget and my “loaner” car was one of the cuts.

 The very first year we shot I used my family car, a 1979 Ford Futura, two-door sedan.  We tied some boxes on the roof, stuck some water skis out of the window and tied a child’s plastic inflatable inner-tube to the rear of the car. To make it all look like a family car going on vacation.

The second season I happened to mention to good friends, Bonnie and Bill Cutcher of Vermilion that I would like to use an antique car in the opening of the series.  Bill, a car collector, offered to loan me his 1948 Lime Green Chevrolet Convertible.  For the next couple of years we used this car.  But it didn’t seem to resonate with the viewers.   Most were confused by its size and thought I was driving a Cadillac.  Bill then came up with a diminutive 1940 Bantam American Roadster, made in Butler, Pennsylvania and the forerunner of the World War II Jeep.

This proved to be very popular with our viewers and I started to get questions about “where’s your car?” when I would make any public appearance.  People wanted and expected to see me with the little Bantam.  Since I didn’t own it and the Cutcher’s had been nice enough to make it available for some of our personal appearances, I could see that eventually either I, or the station, had to buy a car for the series.

I settled on a 1959 Nash Metropolitan, a boxy little red and white convertible.  Problem was:  WJW-TV, also facing a budget crunch at the time, said no to my request to purchase the car.  So, after discussing it with my wife, I paid for the car myself.

The little Nash became as popular, if not more so than the Bantam.  It had the advantage of being newer and more powerful and the ability to keep up with modern day traffic on freeways.  Another plus was it was available for all kinds of appearances and parades at any time and, since I owned it, I no longer had to worry about fans scratching up someone else’s classic automobile.  This soon became a problem.  Because of the popularity of the “One Tank Trips” program the car was often recognized before I was.  Everywhere we took it we eventually had to bring along an extra person to watch the car so that some over zealous fan did not cut pieces of the upholstery for souvenirs or try to take home a hubcap as a keepsake.

As we approached the end of the 1990’s I decided it was time to replace the “Met” with a small car that we could carry to the assignments on a trailer.   Use the car at the scene then put it back on the trailer and haul it back home.  I purchased a tiny one-door, one-cylinder BMW 1957 Isetta.  After 15months of frustration of trying to make the cantankerous little car run, I gave up and we moved on to a 1978 version of the Ford Model “A” that I had originally wanted to use in the series.  I bought it from an estate in Ravenna and drove it for about a year and a half.   It just didn’t catch on.  People kept writing to me asking, “Where was the Nash Metropolitan”.  At that time I had loaned the Nash to the Western Reserve Historical Society and they had it on display at their museum at University Circle in Cleveland.

I went to the museum and asked for my car back.

The Nash was with me up until just before the year 2000.  By this time because of a leaky roof, motor problems and my own discomfort driving it I decided once more to find a replacement.

While on a One Tank Trip to Johnstown, Pennsylvania I spotted a tiny red convertible sitting in a used car lot.  It was about the same size as the Nash, but it was more modern.  It was a 1993 Geo Metro Convertible with air condition, automatic transmission and even had AM-FM Stereo radio (All things the Nash Metropolitan did not have).  It had very low mileage and seemed to be in great shape.  We dickered over the price and I drove the Geo home.

Now my garage was bulging.  Something had to give.  The folks at the Canton Classic Car Museum came to my rescue, offering to give the Nash a good home at their museum if I would make a long term loan to them of the car.  I agreed and for the remainder of my time in television I drove the 1993 Geo until my first

The “new” One Tank Trip car, a 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser heading down the roads of Ohio to new adventure.

retirement in 2004.

Today:  Bill and Bonnie Cutcher still own the 1948 Chevrolet.  They have sold the 1940 Bantam when they moved to a new home.  The1957 Isetta, I decided, was too cantankerous to ever be on the road again so my wife, Bonnie, and I donated the car to the Canton Classic Car Museum where today it shares space with my Metropolitan.  We decided to sell both the Shay Model A replica and eventually we also sold the 1993 Geo.

I frequently stop in at the Canton Classic Car Museum and sit in the Nash and for a moment recall all the miles we traveled across Ohio and all the friends that we made.

Much to my surprise in 2012 I was asked to return to Fox 8 to do a new series of One Tank Trips on a morning show, “New Day Cleveland.”  I am sponsored by the AAA auto club and it has been a fun time to make new discoveries.  But, everywhere we go people would ask: “Where’s your car.?”

Finally we decided it was time to get a new, modern One Tank Trip car and following our earlier criteria we wanted an “orphan”, a car no longer manufactured.   A 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible filled the bill.  And, most importantly, it has all the modern amenities like air-conditioning, a good heater and a power-raised top.  I hope it becomes as popular with my viewers as the cars of the last three decades were.

37 Responses to Neil Zurcher

  1. Jane says:

    Neil,

    Love your new blog. I look forward to checking it regularly to see what you’re up to.

  2. Hopefully I am now registered. Please keep in touch and don’t be dismayed if I send you suggestions.

    My best always to you and your family,

  3. JHALE says:

    Neil
    NICE work on the blog and organizing the many, many nice Ohio travel stories you developed and produced over the years. It was a pleasure to go back through them. In addition to being a good friend and newsroom colleage at the old WJW-TV in the ’70s, I remember you too, as a solid and effective general news reporter. My best to you, family and all our former colleages, on and off the air.

  4. Tom Miller says:

    Hi Heil,

    I was Director of Engineering at TV-8 from 1988-1996, you may remember me. Mark Thomas was my assistant, and Margaret Johnson was our secretary (actually ran the place). I remember going on the bus trip with you to see the “Phantom” in Toronto. I sent you down to see Connie Codarini of the “Four Lads” in Medina at Penny’s Poorhouse. He has since sold the place and retired in the Northwest, either Washington or Oregon.

    Great to see you are still active ! I retired from KPHO-TV here in Phoenix in early 2002, and have been busier then I was when I was working. Good to see the pictures of Kelly O’Donnell, and the gang.

    I remarried to Laura Darvas, daughter of Lou Darvas, many years sports cartoonist for the Press in Cleveland.

    Best wishes,

    Tom Miller

  5. John Herzig says:

    Hi Neil, I really enjoy your new website. Great resource for travelers and Ohio inquirers. The blog really ties in well with your books. Wishing you and your family the very best. Sincerely, John Herzig Dover, Ohio

  6. Neil says:

    Hi John, Thank you for the comments. FYI we are planning a story later this year on the various funeral home museums in the state. We will certainly be including your amazing collection.

  7. Sandy says:

    Mr. Zurcher, My sister works at a funeral home in Minerva. A couple weeks ago you surprised everyone by stopping in while doing research on the Lincoln Highway. She was thrilled to meet and talk with you. Since I live in Akron, I don’t have a chance to read your columns. Would it be possible to let me know when this article might appear in the Plain Dealer? Thank you so much.

  8. Neil says:

    Hopefully…it will be published on Saturday, March 7th.
    Thanks for asking.

  9. I love your site. Keep it up !

  10. mjgolch says:

    Neil,thanks for the new site! A question if I may.we meet years ago and we talked about Hammered Dulcimers.I wonder if you found time to play the one you own.
    I hope that you are having a great day!

  11. Neil says:

    I still have a mountain dulcimer that I bang around on once in a while but the hammered dulcimer started collecting too much dust and my wife said it had to go. I never really learned to do much on it other than pick out a few tunes. I envy people that can play them well.

    Thanks for your comments. Please let your friends and colleagues know about the One Tank Trip blog.

  12. Scott Robinson says:

    Neil,

    Wow. This site brings back many childhood memories of the old TV-8 days. As a matter of fact, TV-8 was the nickname we used for Melody when she first came to Ashland. I look forward to seeing future updates. Kim and I send our best to you and your family.

  13. Neil says:

    Scott,
    Wonderful to hear from you. I will make sure Melody sees your comments.
    Neil

  14. Rose Kidney says:

    Neil,
    You made my mom’s day when you stopped by to see your “kid sister”. My children and I came to see you a few years ago at a book fair in Wooster to let you know she was still around and still had fond memories of you. Many years have come and gone but, Neil, you will always be her “big brother”!

    Thanks again for making my momma so happy that day…she got her mail today and that put a big smile on her face too!

    Rose Kidney

  15. Neil says:

    Thank you for writing Rose. It was great to see your Mom again.

  16. JD Beltran says:

    Hi Neil,

    I’m an artist from San Francisco collaborating with another artist, Scott Minneman, on a project for this summer’s IngenuityFest in Cleveland in July. We would love to get in touch with you about the possibility of using some of your greater Cleveland stories on our Magic Story Table project. Please get in touch with me via my cell at 415.786.6906 or you can email me at jdbeltran@rcn.com. We are very much looking forward to being in touch with you soon!

    Best regards,

    JD Beltran and Scott Minneman

  17. Holly Rhyne says:

    I had seen a long time ago about a one tank trip that you had at a hotel that you could only get to by airplane. Can you please let me know if it still exists and where I can find some information ?

    Thank you

  18. Neil says:

    Holly,
    I don’t recall any place that you could only get to by flying. You might be thinking of a story I did several years ago about a bed and breakfast on Kelleys Island in Lake Erie that was located on the edge of the airport. The owner of the B and B was a pilot and had his own airplane and ask part of the deal when you booked a room, he would give you an flying tour of the Lake Erie Islands. That b and b has changed hands and I don’t believe they still offer the flight. Since we have not reviewed the place since it changed management I can’t tell you what they now offer.
    Having said all that I did look them up and it appears that they are open for business, you can visit their website at:

    http://www.kelleysislandchamber.com/members/fly_inn.htm

    Good luck,
    Neil

  19. Neil,

    The 2009 Leadership Ohio Class graduates November 14, 2009 in Cleveland (place to be determined), I have read all your books and talk about them in the class. I can’t think of anyone who knows Ohio more than yourself. Any chance you would consider coming and talking to this years class while in Cleveland preferably at graduation as our keynote but anytime would be awesome. Thanks for your consideration and I will continue to talk about your books in the future classes. I could not find any other way to contact you. Leadership Ohio number is 440-821-0530 Sincerely, Kathy Rednour, Executive Director, Leadership Ohio

  20. Neil says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    Thank you for your interest in having me as a speaker. However all such requests are handled by my publisher, Gray & Co., Cleveland. You should contact Chris Andrikanich, the marketing director at Chris@grayco.com
    Neil

  21. Jack Nakel says:

    Neil:
    I’m looking forward to reading your forthcoming story in the P.D., per our discussion at Ferrante’s last Saturday. Sorry I didn’t have any business cards with me; it had been a long and grueling week on the road. I’d appreciate any information about future WEOL reunions. I put in just over 17 years there (mostly part-time and over 30 election nights), so perhaps I qualify to re-hash some interesting times. Thanks.
    Best regards,
    JN

  22. wade Johnson says:

    Neil, I have to tell you that Carriage Trade has retired their business as of last year, 2008. We are not offering sleigh or carriage rides at the present time. If and when we do offer the service in the future, I will be sure to let you know.
    Sincerely, Wade Johnson

  23. Pat Frew says:

    Neal, I am leaving the NKY CVB in the next week. Long story but position being eliminated. Wanted to intro you to Ed McMasters of the Cin USA Reg Tourism Network. He’s a contact for future stories about SE OH, NKY. Please reach out to him, he’s a great resource, emcmasters@staycincinnatiusa.com.

  24. David Bonnett says:

    Hello Neil
    I’m not sure of how to get in touch with you so I’d figured I would try this.I am trying to get any information I can on my grandfather.I was told you may know him,he was in the Marine Reserves in Lorain and he was a Drill Instructor for a time during Korea .His name was John C Bonnett.I had a uncle tell me that grandpa said at one time you were in his reserve platoon.(He mentioned a story about a pillow)
    If any of this jogs your memory and you know any stories that would be great if you could email me and let me know.
    Love your one tank trips.Keep up the good work.
    Thanks
    David

  25. Neil says:

    Hi David,
    I do remember your grandfather. A wonderful man and a good Marine. Indeed we were fellow non-coms and I recall him as being a typical hard-nosed Sergeant but one with a wonderful sense of humor off-duty. The pillow story you refer to I do not recall but considering your grandfather’s sense of humor I am sure he was involved some how. You asked for stories: The one that stands out in my mind is while attending training at Camp Lejeune, N.C. A group of Sergeants, your grandfather and me included went on liberty to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Someone, probably John, suggested that even though we were in civilian clothes we should wear a uniform. So we marched into a clothing store and all bought matching wild Hawaiian shirts in red, white and blue then formed up on the board walk and marched from bar to bar telling everyone who asked that we were members of the Cleveland Gizeewhomper Marching Band in town for a performance that night. We were treated to drinks in almost every bar thanks to John’s ingenunity. I don’t think we spent even a dime.

  26. Hello Mr. Zurcher,

    I just wanted to say that it nice talking to you at the Romanian Festival last week and that I hope you got a chance to check out my festival website (I just recently went to another Romanian festival in Canton).

    My thanks to you for showing all the wonderful things one can find in Ohio. This summer definitely hasn’t been a boring one by any means.

    Best wishes,

    Kristian

  27. Neil says:

    Thanks for the note. It was nice meeting you too.

    I have checked out your blog and it is excellent. A much needed niche that you are filling. I hope you will add Onetanktrips.com to your list of favorites as I will do with your blogsite when I do my upgrade this coming weekend.

    I wish you much success.

    Neil

  28. Karen Biery says:

    Hi Neil,
    I am a local author from the Salem, Ohio area. I am about to launch my second work of fiction, pieces. The novel is centered in Minerva, Ohio and highlights The Great Trail, Indian burial mounds, and the Hart Mansion in Minerva. My goal is to bring people in from our surrounding areas to show all this rural area has to offer. Visit my website for more info at http://www.karenbiery.com. Thanks for reading!

  29. Vicki Botdorf says:

    A friend mind would love to go on those 1 tanks trips sometime next summer. I would love to get 1 of Neil Zurcher books. Please let me know if a 2010 books comes out soon. Thank you so much!

  30. Neil says:

    There is a book out now, “Ohio Road Trips” that is available in most major book stores or on Amazon.com that offers over five hundred trips we have taken around the Buckeye State.

  31. BerkshireBill says:

    A friend in Texas sent a few pix of a most unusual snowmobile for sale and it reminded me of your one tank trips. It started out as a 1957 Metropolitan convertible and actually looks really cool. I think you would get a kick out of it.

  32. Amy Seng says:

    Hello.
    My name is Amy Seng. I’m writing an article for “Cincinnati Parent” magazine on one tank trips from Cincinnati. I’d love to get a quote from Mr. Zurcher for the article. Is it possible for me to e-mail a few questions?

    Thanks!
    Amy

  33. Roy Larick says:

    Mr. Zurcher. I’m doing a guest post on the popular blog, Cleveland Area History. Perhaps you know it: http://www.clevelandareahistory.com
    The post will be about places of significant historical interest around Northeast Ohio

    I’d like to use a photo of the Mesopotamia public square that is on your photostream:

    May I have permission?

    Thank you, Roy Larick

  34. Neil says:

    I’m sorry, but I have been off sick and unable to answer some of the inquiries until now.
    Regarding your request, I am sorry but many of the photos we used are owned by other people and I would have to research the original photo to determine who owns the photo and whether it is copyrighted. In some cases there is a fee to use the photo. At the present time I am trying to catch up with paperwork from the time I was ill and do not have time to research the photo in question.
    Neil Zurcher

  35. Margaret Olszewski says:

    Neil,

    Are you releasing a new edition of “One Tank Trips for Ohio” or something similar by end of 2011? Thanks! Looking for the the latest available for a Christmas gift. Thanks!

    Margaret

  36. Neil says:

    Hi Margaret,
    Thanks for asking., My publisher, Gray & Co., says they are no longer interested in doing new versions of “One Trank Trips”. So, unless I find a new publsiher, the present edition may be the last. I might suggest to you my latest book, “Tales From the Road”, a memoir that gives many behind-the-scenes stories about One Tank Trips or, Ohio Oddities which is an updated version of the wierd things to see and do in Ohio.

  37. Brian Newbacher says:

    Hi, Neil. This is Brian Newbacher. I am trying to get a hold of you so we can follow up on our Fox 8 appearance recently.

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