John Wiebe

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History

 

What turned out to be John Wiebe's last front engine dragster began its life under the Creitz & Donovan banner. In 1971 Ed Donovan had Don Long build this unusual car to try a theory. Soon dubbed the "Violin Car" - another of Donovan's appellations, the name came about as an off-shoot of the unusual layout of the car. It was short, wide, had smaller pipe (albeit more of it), and the engine was out some 40"... unheard of at the time. Donovan subscribed to the theory of sympathetic resonance. Simply put, if two violin strings are "tuned" to the same tension or resonance, and the bow is drawn across one, the other would vibrate "in sympathy". Tune them differently, only the excited string will vibrate.

Early on it had a shorty body as seen in its first outing at Lions with Benny Osborn in the seat (above) and another in Tulsa with Butch Maas driving. After initial testing it was fitted with a full Tom Jobe mag body.

 

 

 

During its stint under Creitz's care, the "Violin Car" proved to be a good idea , but a failure as a race car... she was a tire shaker deluxe. Jobe had done the body and fashioned a Cheetah head on the front of the nose. In late 1971 the car was handed off to Wiebe to try and he promptly cut the Cheetah nose off (out of fear it would be damaged) and replaced it with the nose it has now.

 

Part of the deal that came with the car was it would be the test bed for the brand new Donovan 417 aluminum hemi. Based on the tried and true Chrysler 392 the new engine had its initial problems but nothing that couldn't be cured. The block used in Wiebe's car was serial # 002 - the second block ever cast. This fact becomes very important later in this story (see below) and needless to say, makes this a very historical car.

An Email from John Wiebe to Don Love on 02-07-06: "I did run the 002 block in my car but unless I have really lost it this is the way it was.. The 001 block was not finally machined until I think the Wed before the race at Ontario. When I slipped a crank and etc in the block the rods hit the cylinder walls. Since they did not want to R&R the cylinders I ground notches in the cylinders to relieve this problem. This was an all night job and the next day we finished installing the block in the car and finished the plumbing etc. It was about 11:30 , Thursday night when I was ready to rattle the thing. I asked Ed to do the honors on the ignition toggle (only fitting) and we spun it gassed it and he did his thing and it sounded GOOD. A lot of smiles were exchanged. The next day we qualified low and then I really zoned out in the final and got too much heat, smoked the tires and lost Why I am telling you all this is this was the 001 motor. If I also recall correctly this is the same block I ran at Lions when we had the matching 6.17 race with the snake. Then Donovan kinda got sentimental and said he would trade me the 002 block for the 001 as he wanted it. This transpired and sometime later when I went to the 426 block and pissed Donovan off Garlits took advantage of the situation (imagine that) and talked Ed out of the block as part of some deal for his museum.

I am really pleased you found the 002. I don't remember who I sold it to. I don't think it had any "windows" it it but know it was soon superseded with different type cylinders and other minor girdle changes. This block should have some monetary value, not because I ran it but because of the number and I think it has found an appropriate home. Thanks for the great job you have done and for always keeping me posted on activities. I look forward to meeting you some time and tell Herm hello and that he owes me dinner at "Tony's" on the pier. What is that crazy Ruth doing?
John Wiebe

 

In 1972, when most everybody else was putting the engine behind them, Wiebe added the canard wings and tried to stay competitive. Although he ultimately had better luck with it than Creitz did, Wiebe gave in and in late 1972 ordered a rear engine car. The now infamous "Violin Car" was sold into bracket racing hell.

 

 

 

 

Orangeline

 

Restoration

 

Fast forward to 2003 when Washington resident Don Love found the car in Canada and made arrangements to buy it. At the time he did not know the cars history but just a little research gave him the answer... in the scope of drag racing history this was a huge find.

 

These first pictures were taken at Jim Wright's shop the day Don brought it back from Canada. Wright had no idea what it was going to end up becoming. Don had asked if Jim wanted to do the paint work. Wright wasn't thinking much more than just another restoration and paint work at that time.

 

All things considered, the car was not in horrible shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the first stage of fitting the pieces. The old paint, on the chassis and body, was really tough to sand and strip off. Don spent a lot of time on it before Wright got it and finished up removing all the left over primer. Seemed to be some kind of zinc primer that paint remover wouldn't touch. Wright ended up sanding most of it off. The body panels are made of Magnesium and prior to this he had never tried to move, bend or straighten this type of metal..

 

Wright was glad Love had taken the car apart. He brought it to the shop in pieces and Jim had no idea of how it went together. The plexiglass windshield was gone so Don made a polished wrap around aluminum windscreen. The first stage of the resto was to do the body panels. The frame was last.

 

This shows the fully sanded and chemical treated cowl ready for PPG's DP Epoxy primer. The next few photos are of the same progress, but different parts.

 

 

 

One of the things Wright always enjoyed is to figure out how to hang all the parts. When he paints a 40 Ford for instance, he hangs and paints the whole car, inside and out at the same time. No paint lines that way.

 

 

One of Wright's motorcycle club friends, Tom Hines, is also a custom painter. Jim had taken this close up of the seat pan. They wanted to have Tom copy the old Tony Nancy logo. Tom airbrushed the seat pan back to it's original look.

 

 

These next shots are of the painting process. Wright used the frame for a table to paint some of the panels. This showing the body wet sanded... ready for sealer and base coat.

 

Wright asked the local PPG shop to come up with a striking white pearl that also had a clean white crystal sparkle to it. They did an excellent job. These parts are done with the pearl white base coat.

 

 

After Don and Jim carefully put the panels together. Still just the white base coat. No clear yet as Wright had to mask it for the blue stripes. He used a lot of tape for sure.

 

They did a lot of looking and figuring out where to put the blue lines. Luckily they had some pictures of the car from 1971. This is the start of the masking for the stripes.

 

 

This shot is kind of cool. It shows the " Violin" frame sag, as it is suspended from both ends.

 

Wright had to "break" apart all the panels then tape where the overlap had hidden the base white. It makes a more complete job to not stop the lines at a seam joint. These are ready for the blue. Don had found the original blue color and Jim had the PPG rep convert it to the new and current base coat system. Todays paints use a totally different system to obtain sparkle and the " Metallic" look.

 

After spraying the blue base coat Wright had to carefully peel all the masking tape from the white before clear coating it.

 

The finished body parts. They all went one by one, very carefully, to Don's shop by pickup. It was the frames turn next...........

 

The chassis is primed, sanded and ready for the matching blue paint.

 

 

These last two shots from Wright are the finished frame ready for assembly.

 

 

Orangeline

 

The car was finished in the summer of 2004.

 

 

Fitted with a cast iron 392 and Powerglide transmission, the car made its Cacklefest debut at CHRR XIII with Chris Davis was in the seat.

 

 

 

 

 

Love and gang passed on the 2005 CHRR to concentrate on making the car "right"... and they did it in spades. Remember the Donovan 417 Wiebe tested in 1972? Block #002? Well, incredibly the very block that survived months of R&D was found, like the car, in Canada. Needless to say this was an unbelievable score and would made the car as real a deal as you can get.

 

Lynn Burch and Don Love flank Donovan engine wizard Herm Peterson. When it was learned that the car would have the original block in it John Wiebe gave the car his blessings and agreed to be in the seat for Cacklefest VI.

 

As is customary, the 2006 Cacklefest officially kicks off amid the Honorees Ceremony at the Double Tree Hotel. This year there were four featured cars staged to do post award fire-ups in the parking lot. Getting the honors were the Chizler restored by Ron Johnson, John Wiebe's "Violin Car" restored by Don Love and Lynn Bruch, Roland Lelong's "Hawaiian" restored by Ted Guth and the Marv Eldridge L.A. Challenger.

 

"Kansas John" Wiebe

 

Wiebe sits in his old car for the first time in 34 years.

 

 

On Saturday Wiebe had to do a manditory pre Cacklefest test push start.

 

 

All went perfectly.

 

The Main Event - Cacklefest VI started with the parade of cars and drivers.

 

 

John begins his push start from the top end.

 

 

John Wiebe at his spot on the track with #002 hitting on all eight.

 

 

 

Look for this beauty at future cacklecar events including the 2007 CHRR.

 

 

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