Magicar AA/FD

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The History

 

The "Magicar" started its life in the mind of Kent Fuller... a place where many of drag racing's finest concepts were born. By the summer of 1964 Fuller, who many believed to be the best dragster chassis builder in the country, decided to bring to life a few ideas that had been floating in his head for a while. Ideas that would eventually be used successfully in other cars to come, but needed to be tried in his next creation.

Fuller was never one to sketch out (blueprint) his ideas. He simply built them. And his creative juices were in full swing at the back of his latest beast. Rear suspension in front motor dragsters seemed unnecessary to most back then. To that point 99 percent of the rear ends placed in dragster chassis were solidly mounted to the frame. Why bother when the track surface was, for the most part, flat? And more importantly -- why mess with success? But "success" for Fuller, had come from being creative, and he was known for throwing "something different" in each of his cars. So when he looked to find more traction, he came up with ladder bars! The drive train: motor, drive line, and rear end would be solidly mounted to the ladder bars, and would shift within the chassis! A pivot point would be towards the back of the motor, where, on either side, the ladder bars would be bolted to the frame. And then, just in behind the rear axle housing, springs would allow the back of the drive train to transfer dynamic loads to the slicks. So, (under acceleration) the motor would lift back, the slicks would "plant", but at the same time, the roll cage would lift, and the front end would plant. A type of "scissor effect" that would make the car transfer weight like it was doing a "wheelie", without ever leaving the ground! Brilliant! Then up front came the addition of rubber biscuits to take the place of the standard leaf spring or torsion bar. The almost singular pivot point, provided a cushioned suspension and great flexibility at the front end. Even the steering linkage for the car was a work of art. The steering box lay just ahead of the "butterfly" steering wheel with it's cross shaft to the right of the box. From there, the steering link moved forward underneath the right side body panels and surfaced just ahead of the motor. The tie rod, up front, crossed over the nose, with single radius rods holding the front axle in place. Now all that was needed was a "team" to field the car. And that team materialized in the form of Ron and Dennis Winkel and Kaye Trapp.

Ace motor man, Ron Winkel of "Winkel/Wenderski", was without a car and driver. The highly publicized "Black Beauty" fueler was running at San Diego Raceway, in Ramona, California when its pilot, John Wenderski lost control and was killed in the ensuing crash. So, after a while, Winkel joined forces with Kaye Trapp a professional drag racing photographer. Along with Ron's brother Dennis, the team of Winkel, Trapp, Fuller, was created. The driving chores were to be handled by Gary Casady, an experience dragster pilot. The combination sounded "unstoppable" on paper. A reliable motorman, a publicist, and a radical fuel dragster. The need for outstanding performance was great. But for reasons that can only be described as "fate", the car's performance was inconsistent. A real let down for the team, after so much media hype.

And now, in pictures and print, is the history of the "Magicar".

 

Fuller never sketched out his ideas, but his long time friend Don Tubbs, did a great job capturing what Fuller brought to the jig. This drawing created during the car's inception.

 

Kent Fuller demonstrates the flexibility of the unique front suspension to Harry Hibler. Ron Winkel (hand on roll bar) and driver Gary Casady (shades) join the crowd of interested spectators.
Photo by Kaye Trapp

Rarely has a dragster ever received such attention. Created by Drag Racing Hall of Fame member, Kent Fuller the "Magicar" rode high on Fuller's earned reputation when it debuted in October of 1964.

Drag racing reporters of the time spared no ink on the car upon it's racing debut.

"The area surrounding the starting line suddenly resembled the first annual convention of chassis builders. Woody Gilmore, of Race Car Engineering, Roy Steen of Race Car Specialties, and the Maestro behind those Fuller chassis' -- Kent Fuller himself. Why were they here? What was about to happen? Tonight was the unveiling of the long rumored Fuller-Trapp-Winkel "Magic Car".
"Drag News" 11-7-64.

 

Gary Casady gets ready to make one of the very first shakedown runs for the "Magicar".
Photo by Kaye Trapp

The magic in the "Magicar" came from its unique chassis design. Quoting the September 1965 issue of "Drag Racing Magazine": "It was a radical new chassis concept--a suspended engine and drive train". "Basically the whole power train is mounted in a separate sub-frame which is suspended on coil springs within the main chassis. The engine, then is an isolated, cushioned component. Its horrendous vibration isn't transferred directly to the car's main structure and its weight is allowed to shift rearward slightly for added bite coming off the line."

All the high expectations by everyone in the drag racing world put a lot of pressure on the team to perform in an outstanding (and almost impossible) fashion. However at the height of all the publicity, the car's performance was less than spectacular and ultimately contributed to a decline in orders for Fuller dragsters.

Never-the-less, during that first year of competition as the Winkel, Trapp, & Fuller "Magicar" appeared at 26 drag races, obtained a best e.t. of 7.62 seconds and a top speed of 204.08 miles per hour. It won 3 top eliminator trophies and took top speed honors at Fremont and Palmdale. Three driver changes made for mixed performance results. Cassidy struggled with the car in the first few months. Then came "Jumpin' Jeep" Hampshire who got the most from the car. Hampshire was so confident of the car's handling that he said he could drive it with "no hands".  Lastly came an unknown named Gerry Glenn. The "Magicar" was Glenn's first ride down the strip in anything!  So once again, the car's performance was hampered, for a short time, while Glenn came up to speed. Five years later, in another car Gerry "The Hunter" Glenn became the NHRA's Top Fuel Champion.

 

The "Magicar" finally found it's match when ace pilot "Jumpin' Jeep" Hampshire took the seat. Here, armed with the motor from the Stellings & Hampshire "Red Stamp Special", Jeep proved that the car lay down some numbers. This is when the "Magic" started to appear.

 

Orangeline

 

One time when the car was torn down in Ron Winkel's garage, Kaye Trapp decided to take some pictures of the car's inner working's. Here, Fuller himself demonstrates the adjustability of the front suspension (above) and the rear suspension below.

 

 

Orangeline

 

Kaye Trapp and a friend covered the car entirely in gold leaf, the "Magicar" was definitely a "Standout". You either loved the look or.... not.  Below, Staats adds the finishing touches to Jeep's helmet as the first "paint job" is applied -- layed over Dutchman's gold leaf..
Kaye Trapp Photos

 

 

Orangeline

 

The work is frenzied in Kenard Warren's garage the night before the 64 car field would do battle at the 1965 "March Meet" in Bakersfield, California. The "Magicar" receives a good going over on the hoist in the background.
Kaye Trapp photo

 

Bakersfield 1965
Charles Milikin Jr Photo

 

Bakersfield 1965
Charles Milikin Jr Photo

 

One of the greatest top fuel drivers of all time, Jeep Hampshire.
Kaye Trapp photo

 

Orangeline

 

Brothers Ron and Jeep Hampshire get ready for a much publicized two out of three match race at "Lion's" in 1965. Jeep in the Magicar (far lane) and Ronnie in Sid Waterman's fueler.
Kaye Trapp photo

 

Ron leaves on Jeep in the first round of their two out of three match race at "Lion's". But Ron has to "click it" just short of the light. "Magicar" traction at work here.
Kaye Trapp photo

 

Orangeline

 

Body and Paint Change are shown here on the big right hander after the straight away at Riverside Raceway. This was at the Second Annual "Hot Rod Magazine" Championships. The original open chute tail received a canopy for the enclosed tail look.
Kaye Trapp photo

 

Ernie Chavez, owner of "Astro Enterprises" poses with the "Magicar", now blanketed with its third candy apple red paint job. Paint and lettering by Cerny and Kelly.
Kaye Trapp photo

 

 

These are photos taken of the "Magicar" with still another paint job and the addition of the tail it currently has, built by Ron Covell. Soon the nose would be pulled and the car lengthened by two feet. And finally before it was put up in the rafters of Ray Monteago's shop, the tail was remove and the roll cage modified.

 

 

In September of 1965 the "Magicar" came back to Fuller who sold the car to Ray Monteago. The car was driven by Jimmy Lynn and after being lengthened by two feet was finally stripped of it's fire breathing Chrysler and put up in the rafters of Monteago's machine shop where it stayed for 15 years. Then in the late 1970's, nostalgia drag racing enthusiast Louie Poole, acquired the car and took it for Roy Brizio's shop in San Francisco where it was reassembled and brought to nostalgia event in the area. The car then changed hands several times and finally wound up being purchased in 1990 by Bill Pitts of Carlsbad California.

During its high performance years with Winkel, Trapp, Fuller and with Ray Monteago, the car went through three body changes and four paint jobs. All of those changes are currently reflected in the cars appearance today.

 

Orangeline

 

 

It was in 1978 or so that Louie Poole accidentally stumbled on to the remains of the "Magicar". It was hanging in the rafters of Ray Monteago's shop in Belmont, California and needed a lot of work to be brought back to its basic configuration. Louie purchased the remains without knowing, it's identity!

 

Assembly begins, but not before some major chassis work needs to occur. The roll bar had been raised to provide added protection for its driver. So, in order to install the tail, the cage needed to be shortened. The frame had been extended by two or three feet and needed to be shorted again. Also, the torsion bar suspension had to be removed and the rubber biscuit front suspension reassembled. Poole contacted Fuller who provided much needed information.

 

It was at Roy Brizio's shop in San Francisco, that the "Magicar" began to look like her old self.

 

And so, with a fresh red paint job and Louie Poole in the seat, the "Magicar" reappeared at Baylands Raceway in about 1980. This is the car's very first run. Louie would make exhibition passes in the car for a year or two more, then the car would change hands several times before finally winding up with John Barrett of Oklahoma.

 

Orangeline

 

All stories must have a beginning and for Bill Pitts, his time with the "Magicar" really began in Santee, California in 1989 where a friend of his got word of an old dragster trailer next to a house. In that trailer was a long forgotten fueler from the past which Pitts purchased for $2,400.00. That car was the Baney/Prudhomme SOHC Ford "Shelby Super Snake". Needless to say, it had a sterling pedigree including the first fuel dragster in the 6's at an NHRA national event. What were Bills reasons for buying an old forgotten fueler in the first place? Well that's a long story in itself, which he won't go into without a book deal. Just know that he felt that something "big" was missing from drag racing and he wanted to bring a piece of it back.

 

The Tony Nancy upholstery and Tom Hanna body covered the 178 inch wheel based Don Long chassis that at one time, held a big blown nitro burning Ed Pink SOHC Ford. Restoring this car would be cost prohibitive. Pitts knew that he wouldn't be financially up to the task. So, armed with pictures of this car he went to an NDRA event at Famoso Raceway in 1990 and was stunned to see the "Magicar" on display. Jon Barrett of Oklahoma, owned the car and was frustrated about his inability to make a pass in the car. The NDRA was requiring him to make the necessary changes to the roll cage to pass tech, but he didn't want to cut up the car. Pitts showed Barrett pictures of the Don Long car and it was determined that it would be easier to make the necessary modifications to it to allow Barrett to race, so he suggested to Pitts, "Why don't we trade?"  Pitts "lifted off" at that moment and hasn't been down since.

 

Three months later, Barrett pulled into Carlsbad with the car, minus the motor, clutch, and high gear shaft. The trade was made and Pitts began his incredible journey with the "Magicar".

 

First stop for the car was Pitts' Mom and Dad's garage. He lived with his wife in a condominium and the car needed to be someplace safe. His Dad had taken him to the drag races in the mid-60's and Bill thinks he enjoyed having the car at his house. His Mom was a good sport about it too.

But he needed to find a 392 Chrysler Hemi for the car and it looked like he should just start gathering pieces and slowly but surely assemble a fuel motor to put in the beast.

 

So Pitts purchased his first 392...one that was a little too far gone to be anything but a boat anchor.

 

When Pitts took the old iron "Marine" 92, to the late Bill Hooper for examination, he thought he was crazy. So this '92 wound up in the dump. Pitts went back to square one, determined to find a motor that was already built for this application. And that's when he got word of an engine in Gary Cochran's Fountain Valley garage. To the delight of Mrs. C, Mr. "C" sold Pitts his last assembled 392 and loaded the rest of his spare parts into his pickup truck. In one fell swoop, Pitts had a hemi with a history to boot!

 

It was the summer of 1990 and after Pitts acquired a set of zoomies and an Enderle "Bug Catcher" from Guy Cope that he assembled the car in "display form" only, minus a drive shaft, clutch, and fly wheel, and took it out to show at Carlsbad Raceway. It was at this event that Pitts met Rick MacDonald, who eventually became the car's crew chief, so-to-speak. Rick gained a lot of nitro motor experience as a crew member for the top fuel teams of Ruffalo & Ehlen and Mark Danekas thereafter. Though not directly involved in the car right away, his abilities would eventually move the "Magicar" team, deep into the "NItro Zone".

 

During the car's stay at Pitts' folks house a "biker" by the name of Tom Morris, who lived down the street, took an interest in the car and the end result was a dynamite paint job by Morris and lettering from another local with a history of lettering race cars--Roy Potter. Tom's early involvement was key to the cars success and assembling and running the beast.

Here, in 1992, looking like she's ready for "safe sex", the "Magicar" is packaged to make the journey to the inaugural California Hot Rod Reunion. Of course Pitts had made contact with the original partners, not only respectfully asking them if he could put their names back on the car, but also asking them to join him for any and all of the events they attended. All (Winkle, Trapp and Hampshire) were very cordial and happy to oblige.

 

At this first CHRR, the car was invited to be on display in Lee Schelin's "Standard 1320" booth. It was here that Pitts met a few of the original partners for the first time. Here's one of his true racing heroes, Jeep Hampshire. At that first CHRR he also met Kent and Evelyn Fuller, and Gerry Glenn (who also drove the car).

 

It's hard to see here, but this is Gerry "The Hunter" Glenn being pulled in one of the car parades that took place that first weekend. Moments like this were letting Pitts know that he was on the right path with the car.

 

After a year of totally disassembling the motor and buying what was necessary to actually start it, Pitts was shocked to see this promotional ad in "National Dragster" listing the "Magicar" as an actual "headliner" for CHRR II. Bill never thought that it would ever carry that much weight. During that time in 1993, Tom Morris helped Pitts out a great deal getting the motor ready to fire. Gene Adams was also a big help when it came to setting up the injection system to run straight alcohol. November of 1993 - the car was ready to fire-up on "Memory Lane", if it was allowed.

 

CHRR II, with the car set up on "Memory Lane", a rag tag bunch of firemen and a "biker" tried to figure out how to start a "Hemi". Tom Morris watches carefully as Pitts sticks the blower starter on the car. To Bills left, John Manard, his fire engineer at the time (Pitts is a Captain on the San Diego City Fire Department), and Art Robertson, his battalion chief, all have that same blank stare, and are all thinking, "Now what are we going to do?!" Also of note, in the background, with the cowboy hat on is the owner of a future Cacklefest car (Stellings & Hampshire), Dennis Prater.

 

After much head scratching, they started to draw some "knowledge on the subject". Off to the right is the "Magicar's" original owner and motorman, Ron Winkel. Mike Allison (son of the late Ed Allison), Pitts first "test pilot" is looking into the driver's compartment. Help was arriving so they just keep "circling the wagons", hoping for "experts".

 

Finally a true expert arrives. Bruce Walker, of "Childs and Albert" moved in to assist. The two guys on the right, will stick a $20.00 bill in Pitts' pocket to help cover nitro costs every year thereafter. Mike Allison perches himself on the slick.

To make a long story short, she fired...no driveshaft, no clutch, and no flywheel. They were just a bunch of guys who wanted that car the live again. And with the help of people that Pitts never expected would care about his little show, they were successful.

 

During the time between CHRR 2 and 3, saw the "Magicar" on display for a couple of weeks at the "San Diego Automotive Museum". It was good to see a digger in that show. And of course, one of the main functions of the "Magicar" was to reel back in wayward drag racers of the past. Chuck Bayuk (right) was a helpless victim of the cars allure. The end result was that Chuck, a handyman by trade, spent $50,000.00 or so on a nostalgia front motor car and is back in the thick of things at all the Goodguys events.

 

The learning curve was a long one with the "Magicar". Pitts and "crew" struggled along, running the car on just straight alcohol for quite a few years, and here's an example of why. Tommy Morris has just snapped the end of the ratchet off in the top pulley while trying to "back it down" after Pitts FILLED the blower with alcohol from a boost bottle he was using at the time. In the beginning, they weren't that good at making her run.

 

But usually, when she ran, she drew a good sized crowd. During the "straight alcohol period", as Pitts likes to remember it, they put the guys that came up with them in the car. They, of course, were hoping that those with history didn't mind them "doing their thing". And, as far as Bill knows, they didn't mind.

 

Here's a man that Bill is so happy to know -- Kent Fuller. Fuller has told Pitts that he feels good about what his old "Magicar" has been doing since he brought her back for all to see. Here is a shot with the CHRR program for one year where a picture taken by Robert Genat was used on the cover. It made "Fuller" smile! That's a good thing.

 

After all these years Jeep is still very comfortable in the car, as they tow it during the parade of cars that took place on late Saturday afternoon at the 1997 CHRR.

 

In 1998 Rick MacDonald (above), Tom Morris, John Weidler and Bill Pitts tear down the motor yet again. This time with the express purpose of moving the car back in to the "nitro zone". It had been a long time coming, but then it seemed the only logical and progressive step to take.

 

And with their arrival in Cackle Country (1998 CHRR), more "heroes" began to pay them a visit. Here Don Ewald tries the "Magicar" on for size.

 

The legendary Phil Hobbs joins in on the fun. Do you think Pitts is like happy about all this? You have no idea!

 

Tom Hanna, body man supreme, is enjoying his moment in the "Magicar". Rumor has it that it was this short stay in Pitts' car that prompted Hanna to build his own "ultimate" Cacklefest dragster.

 

One of the truly great benefits of caring for an old fueler with history is the people that just hang around from time to time. Here is the late Eric Fuller working with the late Pete Millar and Pete Starrett, to acquire and autographed poster for a friend who is under the weather. Two of these three guys are gone now, but they are certainly NOT forgotten. Tom West Photo

 

The 1999 CHRR was just full of incredible moments for the "Magicar" team. Here was the ultimate honor... This was the time that the "Memorial Ceremony" was to be held. It came at the end of the day on Saturday. And just before it was about to take place, Steve Gibbs asked Pitts if they would be able to fire up the "Magicar" after the reading of the names of those who passed away that year. Pitts couldn't believe it! What an opportunity! So with the help of Tom Morris and the rest of the "Magicar" crew, they rolled the car out in front of the grandstands for a VERY IMPORTANT fire up. It was do or die time for our little show! Tom West Photo

 

And so, with Tom Morris looking on and Lil' Tommy Larkin's son, Trevor, in the seat, they made "magic" for everyone. What a moment for the "Magicar" and everyone connected with her. The "Magicar", some 35 years after she debuted on a drag strip was finally living up to its true potential. But what was much more significant for histories sake -- Cacklefest was born.

 

 

Into the new millennium and the "Magicar" team is PUMPED after such a successful 1999 CHRR showing. They decided it was time to give the old "gold tooth" a more aggressive look. Tommy Morris and Roy Potter join forces, once again, to give the car some scallops, and what do they decide to fill the scallops with? Why more gold leaf, of course. You can never have too much gold leaf on the old "Magicar".

 

By 2000, Tommy and Bill had become "brothers". Here Morris is letting Pitts know how he feels about his suggestion to change the scallops a bit. Pitts decided to not bring up the subject again.

 

During the "off season", the word went out that the 2000 CHRR would be the first year of a new deal called Cacklefest, coined by Greg Sharp. That put Pitts in the position of coupling up the old "Magicar" and with the help of Tom Morris, Rick MacDonald, and John Weidler, the bent and twisted "Magicar" was MADE to line up. Note the rather large pry bar/screwdriver at the bottom of the picture.

 

Showtime - push start sucessful for Cacklefest One in 2000.

 

 

Here's a lot of history in one shot! Lou Senter and Jim Diest. For Pitts, the "Magicar's" greatest asset is its ability to attractive many of racing's finest personalities. It also has given him the courage to introduce himself to guys he read about in the magazines years ago, but never thought he'd meet.

 

 

Pre Cacklefest parade in 2002

 

Push start Cacklefest 2002

 

 

Cacklefest 2002

 

2002 Ring-Of-Fire

 

 

Push start at the 2003 NHRA Winternationals Cacklefest.

 

 

Magicar "pit"

 

Hampshire going to his spot and parked during the 2003 Cacklefest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the great memories aside, the Magicar has been a star at every Cacklefest since conception. It is this editors hope that Bill, Jeep, Rick and the whole Magicar crew will continue to be in the forefront of the legacy they were so instrumental in starting.

 

And then there's the other tradition they started - the annual participation in the "Mini Cacklefest" held after the CHRR on Sunday evening at the Bakersfield In N Out Burger where the manager welcomes the attention. It's the last nitro fix before everyone goes home. For the last five years Bill Pitts' "Magicar" and the Vagabond have fired up in the parking lot packed with racers, fans and locals who can't quite grasp what they are seeing - let alone hearing. What better way to end the best weekend of the year than a double-double animal style and 4 gallons of nitro!

 

 

The "MagiCar" AA/FD was originally built by chassis guru Kent Fuller in 1963 . This incredible replica by Roger "Riceman" Lee was built using information from Kent & Evelyn Fuller, Kaye Trapp Photos, Bill Pitts and WDIFL.com. It has over 400 scratch built parts. It features functional steering, trick "MagiCar" front axle and hand made front wheels. The scratch built, removable body is made of .016 brass and was hand formed over the detail 1/25 scale Fuller chassis that is complete with unique suspended inner frame (see below). For "power" Roger installed a super-detailed blown fuel 392 Chrysler hemi hooked to a completely scratch built drive line.

 

 

If you plan on attending the next California Hot Rod Reunion (as you should) be sure to drop by the Magicar pit on Memory Lane to check out this beauty up close and personal. Be sure to introduce yourself to the biggest fan drag racing has ever known... Bill Pitts and his crew of more fans.

 

 

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