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
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
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
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
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
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
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.