It's been a while since I last submitted. I apologize, which to me feels a little weird.. almost vain. I never thought, and still find it strange my stuff would get read. In the last couple weeks, something I never expect to happen, did. I received emails and messages asking when my next article was due out.
Wait a minute, they weren't joking. Crap. The responsibility just multiplied and the gratefulness of having readers, who inquire when I am ... Let's just say I am humbled and it has taken on a new importance.
A pretty special thing happened when Spencer and I went to deliver the Hippo to Corey at Crown Custom, in Wichita, Thanksgiving weekend. In my previous article, I described the drama of the trailer and 600 extra pounds of sand, to equalize the load, on our way to the Reunion. Once we returned home, the trailer naturally sat untouched until a few days before leaving for Wichita. I had my employee Travis gut the ramps and platform from the trailer. My intention, was to roll the dragster in rear first, button up the back and roll out Friday.
First, upon measuring the height from the ground to the top of the cage, I find I have a deficit of 3/4 inch. Damn. After a couple minutes, I spy the off-fall from a recent job, which was 1 inch thick, 8 foot long strips. So, grab my 6 foot long breaker bar, wedge it between the frame and body of the trailer. Putting some weight behind it, she lifts enough for Travis to slide the strips in. A quick measurement shows we have a scant 5/16 inch to spare. Cool. Getting everything buttoned up, screwed together to avoid the trailer body from flying off at speed, etc. I hook up to the trailer, pull it out into the street, set up the ramps and... dammit! The roll cage hits the roof, due to the trailer setting level. Of course, I am doing this in the afternoon, everyone seems to be outside witnessing this circus. My dumb ass, trying to lift the front of the dragster to match it to the level of the trailer floor. You also have to know, I am the only one at the shop too. Fortunately, Rick the roofing guy next door, sees me trying to drop a nut and offers much needed help. We lift the front end high enough to get it in the trailer. This is when I realize the dovetail starts before the front wheels end. Rick is offering up suggestions. All are great, for anything other than a 50 year old dragster with a hand formed body. Out comes the dragster, push it back in the shop and stand and stare at the trailer. I'm cussing and kicking myself in the proverbial ass for taking out the nifty ramp and platform that got it to Bakersfield. This was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. I had hoped to leave Friday morning... fat chance. I secured everything, went to the liquor store and bought a sixer of Coors and headed home, to ponder this predicament. To steal a line, the next day, we had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat and didn't get up until the next morning.
Friday came and I was in the shop early. I had this figured out. First, back the trailer up to the door. Take off the 8 inch drop hitch, swap it for the 2 inch drop, which I turned upside down and put the ball 10 inches higher than the 8 inch. Hooked back up to the truck, it was high enough to give enough angle to clear the cage. Hook up the winch, get Hippo in all the way, with an inch space for the push bar. Back at the rear of the trailer, I had this idea of a platform for the front wheels. Despite a couple small glitches, I engineer it so when we show up in Wichita, two guys can lift the front and Spence can pull the ramp out. We'd then wheel the car out and all would be cool. Just one thing, after a few bumpy miles, the setup was bound to fail due to the sparse framing. I had to beef up the cradle for the cross piece holding the platform in place. Then, after that... there was the roof to seal, in case of rain. Trim to screw on, where the walls met the roof ...the door... bolt E-track in, blah blah blah. After 16 hours, I had the dragster in the trailer, secured, sealed and ready. Shoved it in the shop, locked up and headed home.
Now, in my infinite optimism, I have these trips planned with me leaving before sunrise. So I can get a few hours under my belt and have an early start.
Yeah... didn't happen this time either
I get up at 5am, Spence shortly after. We need to go to the shop and get the trailer hooked up, fuel the truck, check air in the tires, etc. We get there and Spence goes and lays on the couch in my office and promptly goes back to sleep. Pull the trailer out, had to check every thing was tight, tires had air, lights... Dammit! Forgot about the thrill ride back from California when the left light was destroyed. Looked around the shop, nothing to fix or replace it . Okay,I can do that when the parts store opens... lets get the truck situated. Tires, oil, fuel were all good. Interior looked like a snack shop, toolbox and office supply store exploded. Got that cleaned out woke Spencer up, and now it was 8 am. The Auto Parts store was finally open. Brian Fox texted and asked if I had left yet, I told him no and volunteered to deliver something for him . He told me he was on his way. Spence and I made good use of the time and fixed the demolished light on the trailer and topped off the Blue DEF in the Ram. Our delivery for Brian, was going to The Bushmaster. I called George and told him we would be coming by and he agreed to meet us. After I hung up the phone, I got out and checked everything ...one more time . Brian shows up, we talk a few minutes and off I go. It's now 9 am, trailer is pulling fine, weighs about 800 pounds less than it did on our trip a month earlier. We arrive at Bushmasters place an hour earlier than we expected. We were both hungry, find a place with $12 hamburgers and as soon as we get our food, Bushmaster calls and tells us he's ready to meet. We finish and head back to his place. I had met George a couple times at different events, always promising to stop and see his place. I thought we would drop off Brian's delivery, take a quick look around then head out to Wichita. It was noon and by my estimation, if I could follow my plan and rely on the GPS info ( HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!) we could make Wichita before dark and home by 1 am.
Bushmaster greets us at the door. We shoot the breeze for a few minutes and then go in. The entry way itself was a sight to see with photos and such. We turn the corner and my jaw hit the floor. Being a lifelong fan of any and every project car ever built in any magazine I ever read. .. ahead of me was possibly the Holy Grail ..The Kookie II of the late great Norm Grabowski. So much for a quick visit, as every step led to a new discovery. Thousands of photos cover the walls, with dedicated "rooms" holding treasures of eras and periods in time. Each one is a magnet, attracting and consuming you. Everywhere you look, it is a labor of love. From a chapel, to Bushmaster's transporter and dragster, to Roth originals, Hell's Angel card, various cars and trucks, a diner and party area. The piece de resistance is a glass walled area where if the Bushmaster luvs ya... he fires up a couple nitro guzzler's . In the interest of space, I'm going to dedicate a full piece on Bushmaster's Rockin' Race Place shortly.
Two and a half hours later, we are headed out. We stop and fuel up and grab some snacks and drinks at the Pilot nearby. Back on I-44, we hit the GPS up for directions and it tells us 4 hours to Wichita. Now, I never pay attention to their estimates... I should. We were taken over every narrow county road, a few weren't marked and we missed them, but it would reroute us . One road had us squeezed into what was barely two lanes. If a truck came in the other direction, we were off the non-existent shoulder and clinging to whatever we could cling to. 17 miles of hell in the form of a county road. About halfway through, two trucks with race cars on trailers passed in the opposite direction. 5 miles later,we come to a highway we turn onto and within about a thousand feet, we discover we are passing Mo-Kan dragway. Things were looking up. The road wound it's way for miles, through a number of small towns where the speed would go from 60 to 25, with many stops, The next three hours were what seemed like a punishment of some sort, our GPS estimate was generous. it took almost 5 hours to reach Wichita. But, we made it in one piece. The trailer setup worked, car intact and extracted without incident. After a short visit with Corey and friends, and the ever friendly Orville the beagle, we put the chassis of one of the Kansas John Wiebe dragsters in the trailer and dropped it down the street at a paint shop. Goodbyes were said and we fueled up and grabbed more grub at the Qt next door and set out for home. The weather forecast was calling for some serious snow action, we missed it by a few hours. A relative who was up in the area around KC didn't fare so well and told us we were lucky we left when we did. I've made this trip a few times now and we always seem to be headed back home at night. After the challenge of getting through Kansas City, ( Kansas and Missouri) we hit the outskirts of the Missouri side and stop at the truck parking area to get a nap. For some reason, I'm only good for an hour of sleep at a time. With my co-pilot asleep, I press on. We need a fuel stop every time, in Columbia, Mo. then a late night or early morning breakfast. College towns offer up some unique experiences and characters at that hour... nuff said.
We finally arrived back at the shop about 5 am, dropped the trailer and went home. I can't seem to get away from these banzai trips. But, it's what it's all about...right? The road, the kid, the characters and the experiences. The Hippo ended up staying with Corey for a couple months. He made a new fuel tank for it, showed it at a charity car show in Wichita in January. In a future article, I'll document THAT marathon, which includes a trip to pick up the Hippo in Wichita, by way of Oklahoma with two Ed's (myself and a Mr. and I'm not referring to a horse) and a Spencer.
Always an adventure... carry on young Americans!
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD - By Eddie Buck - Photos courtesy of Eddie Buck