Who, in their right mind, would
name a AA/Fuel Coupe "The Gizzle Hopper"? Why that
would be Texan Travis Perrenot of the extensive Perrenot racing
family. Aside from being a drag racer, Travis was also a cartoonist
with a vivid imagination. When they built the coupe in 1961 (after
having dragsters) the cartoon came first then he had to name
it. Looks like a Gizzle Hopper to us.
The Perrenot racing family of
Corpus Christi, Texas, consisted of Fred (the old man, builder
and money bags), Peggy (the matriarch and iron fists controller
of the money), Travis (the oldest boy, chief mechanic and artists),
Brian (the youngest boy, driver of the car and also a mechanic),
Leanna (the daughter) and Miss Vicky Straight (Brian's girl friend
at the time and now his wife of 45 years). The Perrenot's began
their drag racing in early 1956 after Fred got into a verbal
contest of wills over a nailhead powered car at the drag races
in Rockport, Texas. Fred thought the car was gorgeous, but didn't
think much of those nailheads and said so. Basically he was told
by the owner to "shut up or put up". The Perrenot's
were off to the races. After several Caddy powered dragsters
and a few years, the Lincoln powered Gizzle Hopper was born.
The Lincoln powered car was run
between early 1961 and late 1962. In those days Texas was just
about all AHRA so that's what they mostly ran with some NHRA
dates on occasion. The car, at AHRA races of the day, was classified
as an AA/G or AA/F Competition Coupe & Sedan depending on
the fuel they ran. They ran gas the first year and fuel the second.
The car won the AHRA World Championships in its class (AA/G CC&S)
at Green Valley at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds in 1961 and
runner upped at the same race in AA/F CC&S in 1962. Unfortunately
Brian totaled the car in late 1962 and the family went back to
The Gizzle Hopper sans
body in 1961.
The chassis was first
on the laundry list of things to do.
The car on all fours
featuring the original front and rear wheels/tires.
Taking shape - the engine
aligned and mounted.
Driveline and pedals
The engine was then mocked
up in the chassis.
After the engine was
aligned the body was fitted and mounted.
With the chassis and
body basically done the next step was the tin.
The blower drive had
to be custom machined.
The original pump drive
Unique fuel pump drive
off the back of the blower.
The mag drive had to
be fabricated as well.
All the engine parts
were sent out for machining.
The Perrenot's declare
- she's nearly done.
Lastly the body was mounted.
First fire-up of the
Travis and Brian
had had several discussions as early as 2000 about attending
the CHHR and possibly recreating one of the old cars. Brian's
favorite was their last AAG dragster "The Red Witch",
but Travis' favorite was the AA Fuel Coupe "The Gizzle Hopper".
They made plans on going to Bakersfield in 2001, but Brian had
medical problems and couldn't make it so they planned again for
2002. Unfortunately Travis suddenly passed away before they could
make it happen. Travis' wife, Bobby, passed away a very short
time later. The artistic part of the family had come and gone.
Brian and Vicky (Brian's wife) decided to go to the CHHR in 2003.
Brian had been itching to see what all this nostalgia stuff Travis
had been yelling about was about. It had been 35 odd years since
either had been to a drag race. Let alone a nostalgia show like
Bakersfield. After looking at all the cars throughout the day
and then leaning against the fence near the starting line at
Bakersfield watching the old cars come by cackling, belching
fire and stinking the place up with nitro fumes it was all over.
When Vicky saw the tears in Brian's eyes and the huge smile on
his face, she knew it was a done deal. They were about to spend
some real money recreating one of the old cars. Since it was
Travis' favorite of all the cars they built and without doubt
it was their most successful car, the Gizzle Hopper was about
to be resurrected.
back to Texas, Brian got started right away searching for those
rare MEL (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln) parts. He needed a few simple
things like a Wieand Blower manifold, an Isky roller cam, lifters,
pushrods and rev kit. A rear blower driven Reath fuel pump drive,
a Schieffer double disc clutch and flywheel set up and a front
driven magneto set up to name just a few. He joined several internet
based organizations such as The MEL Forum, the H.A.M.B and the
Lincoln Forum in an attempt to locate parts. He started making
calls to Weiand, Isky, Moon, Howard's Cams, Reath's Automotive,
M/T, Scheiffer and others only to discover that many were no
longer in business, bought out by others or worse. He contacted
the likes of Don Garlits, Olin Davis, the NHRA museum and others
looking for contact information for those that used to run Lincolns
such as Leland Kolb, Marvin Swartz and Ted Cyr. He found out
that these old war horses had been long gone for a while or were
no longer available. Bottom line: with the exception of a few
contacts made on the H.A.M.B., Brian found himself the only information
memory bank left for the Lincoln engine.
that he knew there were five items he had to find to make this
thing work. He could make or have made everything else. He needed
a Weiand 671 blower manifold, an Isky cam (any good hot cam would
do. He would lie if need be and say it was an Isky), the Scheiffer
aluminum flywheel and clutch, the Reath fuel pump drive and a
good 430 CI Lincoln engine.
The Lincoln engine
was found in Michigan very quickly. It even ran. It took nearly
a year to find a blower manifold in Kansas City and two to locate
the Reath fuel pump drive out in California. But both were eventually
located thanks to the internet. A NOS Isky 5cyle roller cam was
found in California, an old, but usable set of Isky roller lifters
in Tulsa, OK, an old, but usable schieffer flywheel and floater
plate in Washington State, a set of NOS Isky 1.5:1 adjustable
rocker armswere also in Tulsa. The hard parts were found
big 5 located. The construction work got started in 2005.
Since there were
few pictures of the old car available (who could afford a camera
in those days),the car was built from two old shots and a lot
of memories from Brian's head. The chassis is 3" .080 wall
on top and 1" .080 wall on the bottom just like the original
car. The roll bar is 1 3/4 " .125 wall. The front end and
steering was taken off a purchased donor car from Arizona. The
car was from the early 60's and it was exactly the same parts
as the original car had. The rear end is from a 60 Oldsmobile
with 3:50 something gears. The body, a fiberglass replica of
sorts of a 1931 Vicky, was chopped, channeled, sectioned and
otherwise modified to resemble as closely as possible a 1931
Bantam Coupe which was on the original Gizzle hopper. Brian says
that this was his first time working fiberglass and hopefully
his last. Brian is still in search of an original metal '31 or
'32 Bantam Coupe body. He will replace the one on the coupe now
if he can find a good usable Bantam.
The Perrenot Family "The
Gizzle Hopper" Lincoln powered AA/FC.
Garlits was more than
a little interested in the Lincoln engine.
The Gizzle Hopper
made it public debut at the 2008 National Hot Rod Reunion in
Bowling Green, KY.
Brian Perrenot in his "The
Gizzle Hopper" Lincoln powered AA/FC during the Cacklefest
The maiden voyage went
THIS is a Gizzle Hopper
After a successful outing
at Bowling Green, Perrenot was ready for The Big Show - the 2008
California Hot Rod Reunion which is the signature Cacklefest
event of the year.
This year the CHRR Cacklefest
featured nearly 70 cars. The parade itself took 1/2 hour.
executed the push start down the fabled Famoso push road.
Every year the CHRR has several
first timers and "The Gizzle Hopper" Lincoln powered
AA/FC was by far the most interesting.
Parked in its spot, The Gizzle
Hopper belches flames making its statement as the only Lincoln
engine in the entire show.
The Gizzle Hopper Becomes Third
After the car was nearly complete,
Brian thought "why not make this a three generation deal".
Fred (Dad) built the original car and Brian (Freds youngest son)
drove it. Now Brian re-creates it and Gretchen (Freds grand daughter
does the driving). How cool. At the time of completion of the
GIzzle Hopper, Gretchen was still working in Kuwait for the Army,
but she was coming home in August. Brian e-mailed her and asked
if she would like to be the driver. She jumped on it and said
"oh hell yeah". Some alterations were in order such
as moving the seat and peddals somewhat.
Gretchen got home and she immediately
got involved. She missed the NHHR at Bowling Green (still in
Kuwait) and the CHHR (on her honeymoon), but has been to several
nostalgia events since. She loves the deal and is making plans
to be at BG and Bakersfield next year.