I felt a little like I accomplished something, when I had all my ducks in a row for this years CHRR. I wasn't going to take the Hippo, because I hadn't finished the engine and didn't want to show it in the same configuration as last year. We were just going to drive out, stop in Santa Fe for a thing Spencer wanted to see and then head to Bakersfield. Just a quiet leisurely trip.
Sometime in September, I decided I would make the push, to at least get the dragster in a state of finish, to make it look like it could fire up. Armed with little time and enough parts to at least look better than last years version, I did what I could find the time to do. Another twist to this was to haul it out in the Mr. Ed trailer, bought back in January. I spent a weekend cleaning it up, making sure all the mechanicals were good and hung a license plate on it. A customer, Alan Westfall, owns a local business that has a fiberglass fabrication division. I consulted him about the condition of the trailer body and the fiberglass "blossoms" that were starting to show. He came by one afternoon, with his engineer and they set me up with a batch to coat the area in question. Ed, was ready to make the trip. My big worry, was getting the Hippo to fit.
I always seem to have the procrastination gene as a constant part of my DNA. I did the majority of the assembly of the dragster, Saturday, the day before we left. Although, with the exception of plug wires, everything but the injector was there. A quick wiping of fingerprints and dust, and I was done for the day.
Sunday was D-Day and I had a few loose ends to tie up. I also wanted to see just how much room I had for the dragster. As the only other time I hauled it in this trailer, was from Wichita back in January. We loaded it in the dark, took the nose and wrapped it in blankets and slid it inside a pair of coveralls, and taped it to the chassis. Now, if you have ever seen a Mr. Ed trailer, you are familiar with the shape. A high spacious (?) tail section, made to house the engine and cockpit. There is enough room for the pushbar to have about an inch of space when the door/ramp is closed. Ahead of the engine, the roof drops about 20 inches and tapers from 26 inches to 20 inches, over a 12 foot span. in the center it is a few inches lower. I crawled up into this space when it was empty and it seemed tolerable. I took measurements and slowly pushed the Hippo in, until the top of the cage cleared the opening, leaving the pushbar as the only thing out of the trailer. I was not optimistic this was going to work out, with the full body on. I measured the bar, then climbed the slick, crouched down and manueverd over he zoomies, got on my hands and knees, them ultimately on my stomach. Lo and behold! I was able to push it in with 6 inches to spare between the nose and the trailer wall!. The pushbar had about 2-3 inches. I made marks for hooks and chocks and pushed it out and within an hour, it was loaded... ready to go.
My plan was to leave sometime Sunday afternoon, making our first leg through the evening and stopping in Oklahoma. As luck would have it, about 4:30 Sunday afternoon, I get a text from a customer asking if I had left yet. Anyone else, I would have said I was long gone. This guy, had cash, I could get the signs done in a couple hours and it would pay for my hotel. We knocked them out and dropped the signs at his place. We were on schedule, stopped to eat and fuel the beast, finally on the road at 8 pm.
The trip was uneventful for the first few hours, a light rain was falling and the traffic was light. I was enjoying a lightning show off in the distance, It was far to the south and east and we were headed west. Within minutes, down came the rain, a cataclysmic deluge. At one point, we were traveling at 15 miles per hour, for about an hour. I didn't want to pull off the road, because I couldn't see where I was pulling off! I followed the truck ahead of me, out of sheer survival, until the storm finally passed. A rest stop for an hour or so, and back on the road. We should have made Oklahoma City by about 3 am, we rolled into their Cracker Barrel at about 7:30 am. I still wasn't real concerned about time, it was Monday, we had planned on Santa Fe sometime Tuesday. I checked the trailer, all was secure. I checked the toolbox, a previous owner had mounted to the front... it was like a live well from a bass boat. The storm and the water from the highway had deposited about 6 gallons of water in it. Nothing in there was ruined, just wet, so I poked a hole in the lowest corner. It drained, we had breakfast... the waitress must have thought it was a comedy club.
Tune in next week for Part 2 of the journey
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD - By Eddie Buck