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IVO PARADE 2015 MARCH MEET - a video by Jesus Ricardo Vasquez
When Tommy left on tour with the Barnstormer in 1963 he had the car on an open trailer that was rigged to handle a lengthy tour. In the box on the front of the trailer was a long block,(engine complete less manifold and blower) and he had 30 gallons of nitro in the 6 Jeep cans. Here Tommy and Tom McCoury pose behind the Cadillac tow/push car. It was low in the back, because the trunk was full of spare parts and tools. Given the size of the trunk on those cars, that was a LOT of staff. The poor Caddy's tongue was probably hanging out going over the Rockies.
Given the load and the combined weight of car and trailer it's a testament to those 60's Cadillacs that they held up for the extended tour.
Over the winter of 1964/5, Tommy made some changes to his "Tourmobile". He got a 64 Riviera for a tow car and had George Barris paint it and the Barnstormer matching Candy Apple Red. It is rumored that this was one of Barris' first candy paint jobs. To protect the race car, Tommy built his first enclosed trailer. He had seen the "form fitting" one Karamesines built in early 1963 to haul his new Stuckey car, and Tommy, of course, had to "one-up" the Greek. He did so by making a bunk area over the front of the race car to make the overnight hauls from one track to another, a little easier. Here the trailer is being loaded on the USS United States for the trip overseas with the U S Drag Team going to England.
While in England, Tommy visited London, and upon seeing and riding on the famed Double-Decker busses of London, he got an idea for a future trailer. More on that later.
The trailer was finished in time for the 1966 touring season and the new car that Tommy put into the trailer was this one, shown here with John"Tarzan" Austin in the seat.
Generally Tommy built a new combo every year, but the this trailer was a big hit with fans so Tommy kept it for an additional year, with the car called the "Giraffe" car or the "Amoeba" car.
At the end of 1967, Tommy sold the trailer to another top fuiel dragster owner who used it for a period of time after making substantial changes. Those changes included building a new box on the front that would allow a longer wheelbase car to extend into the box, and painting the glass sides. When that owner was done with it, the trailer ended up in a yard in Pismo Beach where it sat for 30 plus years.
The trailer suffered from its lengthy exile and many would have crossed it off. However, a body shop owner from Santa Maria acquired the trailer with the intent of restoring it. He contacted Tommy with questions about the trailer and fortunately, Tommy kept the contact information.
In May 2014, Tommy and Ron were talking about the possibilities of building a new glass sided trailer to haul the Barnstormer and Tommy recalled the earlier conversation with the fellow who had acquired it. He tracked down the contact information and managed to get ahold of the man. The upshot of a hurried sequence of phone conversations was that the man agreed to sell it and Ron agreed to buy it. Ron drove up to Santa Maria and this is what he found. A new box had been constructed, following the shape of the original. ll the plywood from both upper and lower areas had been stripped and discarded. The upper floor was built of new material. All the original siding except the roof had been removed and most of it discarded. The wheels and tires were aged out so new wheels and tires were installed and Ron took off for Escondido.
Upon reaching home, Ron parked the trailer in the driveway and told his wife, Linda to have a look at the newest "prize". She was less than impressed and asked Ron not to leave it where the neighbors could see it.
So, it went over to Rons shop where the restoration project began to be mapped out. This was only three days after hearing about the existence of the trailer, but on the drive up and back (400 plus miles round trip) Ron had thought out a basic course of action.
The man Ron bought the trailer from owned a body shop and had started the restoration process, by stripping the trailer below the glass sides and doing some rust remediation and painting the framework of the trailer White.
Most of the substance that had been used to cover the glass was gone, but the glass was etched by mineral deposits from the years of sitting near the coast. The structural support beams for the sides and roof had rusted off near the upper floor and the aluminum framework around the glass was practically all that was holding the roof on. Lucky to get it home in one piece. Ron thought it was a good thing he hadn't looked it over any closer before buying it, or he would have headed home without the trailer, but with an unspent sum of money to use toward the cost of a new trailer.
Just looking at the trailer from front to rear along the bottom of the window freames showed it had drooped a couple of inches at each end and was probably close to breaking the glass from the strain. Ron took the trailer to a welding and fabrication shop a mile or so from his shop and he and the owners devised a plan to support the corners and load the axle area with weight to try to get the sag out of it. Once it was reasonably level, triangulation bracing was added to hold the trailer frame squared and not allow the ends to droop. A platform support was added to make a place to have the dragsters engine rest on the floor, transferring the bulk of the cars weight down to the lower crossmembers right above the trailer axles.
This would vastly reduce the amount of weight on the tires, front and back and diminish the tendency of the trailer to bow downward from the center.
This shot shows the fender mounts, using the original holes in the trailer chassis and fenders that are identical to the originals. Ron had worked out a deal with his Grandson Ben Braun (Connies Son) to remove the paint that remained on the aluminum framework around the windows, and also to remove whatever paint remained on the window panes and then go inside and clean the windows as well as possible. Ben did a great job, given what he had to start with. It took a couple of weeks, various strippers, chemicals, scotchbrite flapper wheels and lots of elbow grease.
Ron found a RV repair shop in Hemet that could duplicate the corrugated siding that the trailer had originally and had sufficient amounts of materials prepared for installation. That required taking the trailer to Hemet and having the shop owner work out the materials list. Once the materials were brought home, Ron took the trailer to one of his neighbors in the office/warehouse condo development that Ron and his wife have for their business and his car shop. Jake Krotje (say Croya) is a metal fabrication specialist and his current projects include a complete replacement rear body for a hand built 50's sports car, scratch building front fenders for a 1914 Mercedes restoration and repairing heavy damage to the Aluminum front section of an E type Jag coupe. To say Jake was overqualified for installation of aluminum trailer siding is a vast understatement, but like others who have helped in the project, he appreciates the historic value of this project and was happy to lend a hand.
The box up front was the first part to get the siding, lower sides and rear doors next and roof last.
Nitro Night in Escondido was planned to be the "almost completed" trailer debut. It was on October 3rd this year. They didn't wait to the last minute to get this project ready, here we are on October 1st, loading the car in the trailer for the first time. The trailer tilts up in front with a hydraulic ram and has a winch so loading goes easier than anyone would have expected.
Kudos to Ivo for a good original design. Once they knew for sure the car fit in there okay and where it had to sit, they put it back on the open trailer so Kol could install the inside lighting. Four led floodlights in the upper 4 corners of the trailer were installed along with trailer wiring for lights and brakes. Got that stuff done by the end of the day before Nitro night, and loaded the car back in the trailer.
Ron had to narrow the front of the Barnstormer about 4 inches, 1/2 inch here, 1/2 inch there, to get it through the trailer door. But, with that done the car sits might fine. A surprise was in store, when the slope of the car was compared to the slope of the trailer and windows. They are very close to the same angle from back to front and the car looks great in there.
Shortly before the CHRR, Ron located a 1964 Cadillac Sedan de Ville for sale in Grants Pass Oregon. Grants Pass is where the webmaster Don Ewald lives and Ron asked him to look at the car and give an opinion. Don liked it and said to buy it, which Ron did. Ron then had another friend in Grants Pass, Bill Kuhn, take a good look from end to end to see what items needed to be repaired or replaced before attempting to drive it 800 plus miles to Escondido. Bill found little to do and the car was quickly made totally roadworthy, but the weather was so hot it was decided to transport the car.
Upon it getting to Rons home, he then followed up by getting an equalizer hitch and push board brackets installed. Then it was time to head out to Bakersfield. The first ever attempt at towing the trailer with the caddy was when Ron brought the rig from the track to town for the Friday night awards program at the Doubletree Hotel, the host hotel for the event. The car performed perfectly and was a gigantic hit with the fans in attendence.
Ivo arrived at the hotel shortly after Ron did and got his first look at the trailer, completed with lettering, carpet etc. and also his first glimpse of the Caddy tow car. To say Tommy was pleased would be a gigantic understatement. He was thrilled.
The awards program began while it was still light out, but when the darkness finally took over, Ron turned on the lights inside the trailer. Seen here from both sides, the lights turn what is a nice looking combo into an extremely dramatic display. The rig, trailer lit up, was right outside the front door of the hotel so everyone coming out after the ceremonies were faced with the lighted trailer and Caddy combo. It was a smash hit.
The trailer, race car and Caddy combination was located near Rons motorhome in the pits and was a crowd stopping display there was well.
Saturday evening the cacklefest takes over the track and the first part of this is the parade. It was decided that right after the honorees were driven down the track in roadsters, but before the parade started, the caddy and trailer combo would be driven down the track, with the trailer illuminated, to give the spectators in the grandstands an opportunity to see the rig at it's flashiest. Ivo rode shotgun with Ron in the Caddy.
Tommy likes to ham it up, so he was in his glory, waving to the filled grandstands as the car was driven down the track.
It was a banner event for Tom and Ron both. If there had been any question in either of their minds what the response to the complete traveling road show was going to be, those questions were laid to rest as the stands erupted in hoots, hand clapping and other signs of pure fan appreciation.
After the parade lap with the rig Ron hustled back into the pits where the Barnstormer was unloaded from the trailer, which was unhooked from the Caddy and with Ivo in the seat of the Barnstormer they hustled into the staging lanes where they were just in time to take their place in the Cacklefest parade. The trailer not only looks great, but Ivo's original build still worked perfect as the hydraulic hoist tilted the trailer, ramps were extended and the winch slowly rolled the dragster out of the trailer. An hour later, the Cacklefest was over for another year and the dragster was reloaded into the trailer. Mission accomplished. Everything worked as it was supposed to and Ron and Tom both heaved a sigh of relief. There's a lot of ground to cover for the rig and everyone is looking forward to the coming events.
The next stop for the rig was the NHRA Points Finals at Pomona. There was a Saturday fire-up in front of the grandstands for the 20 or so cars there. It was a big (say BIG) day for Ivo starting at 10:00 (this is A.M. mind you) when he was interviewed in a fan special in an NHRA hospitality tent right next to the displayed car.
Prudhomme, Garlits, Muldowny, McCullough were interviewed also, one at a time. Garlits closed the interview program about 12:30. Dave McClelland was the host and did a great job, as usual. Then there was an autograph session until about 2;00 P.M. After this we went out in front of the grandstands and fired up the whole bunch of cars.
Sunday afternoon, before final round, NHRA had us parade from the starting line to the finish line on the return road. It was awesome and Mr. TeeVee hisself and the Caddy, trailer, Barnstormer rig led the parade!! Ivo chose to sit on the trailer so everyone could see him as well as he could see them.
You got to think about this a little. Heres an 80 year old guy driving a 50 year old Cadillac, towing a 50 year old trailer with a 50 year old race car inside and another (almost) 80 year old guy sitting on top of the trailer waving to the crowd. What are the odds? And the best part is none of them were acting their age!!!
Anyway, the crowd reaction was similar to Bakersfield except more people. It was truly a moment for Ivo because the hooting and applause was louder than for any of the contemporary drivers. The people in the stands were shouting, waving or clapping, yelling, stamping their feet all the way down the track. Johnson drove slow so there was ample opportunity for everyone to see Ivo and him to see everyone!!! It was a special experience for both the old geezers and they knew it.
Afterwards Ron said I knew the trailer would be a nice addition to the car and of course, I had to get a period correct Caddy to tow with, but I was somewhat surprised by the response of the younger people who had never seen Ivo race. All ages love this deal and of course, having Ivo with it is the icing on the cake. Like the old Sara Lee cake commercial said, Nobody doesnt like Ivo and thats part of what makes it so special for both of us.