More vintage racecar transporters

Due to popular demand, Mac’s Motor City Garage returns to the race paddocks of yesteryear for more great old car haulers.  -photo by Neil Fraser for RM Auctions


So then. Judging from the huge response to our first story, it seems you folks find vintage race car transporters just as fascinating as we do. Without further ado, here’s another bunch of historic racing rigs we’ve always admired.


In the 1950s, van-bodied straight trucks were popular with race teams throughout Britain and Europe. This is Vanwall’s rig circa 1957, with a pair of classic front-engined GP machines in the foreground.


The scene is Gasoline Alley, the garage area at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and that’s the Dean Van Lines Kuzma-Offy, wrenched by Clint Brawner and wheeled by Jimmy Bryan, on the nifty single-axle trailer. How about those side boards on the Chevy/GMC pickup—or those neat or what? Simple to make, they’d be the perfect touch on any vintage tow vehicle today.


Here’s one of the most storied haulers in motorsport—in fact, it’s the same 1959 Fiat truck in the lead photo at the top of this story. Originally built for Lance Reventlow’s Scarab operation (as shown here), the Bartoletti-bodied rig was then sold to Lotus, and then to Carroll Shelby’s Cobra outfit in Europe, which added a third axle. The transporter went through several more racing teams, was used in the film LeMans, and spent a decade or two parked in the Arizona desert before it was restored to its current pristine condition by California collector Don Orosco.


Here’s the same Fiat-Bartoletti double decker rig when it was operated by the Ford-backed Alan Mann team based in Byfleet, Surrey, England. If those ramps could talk.


Dyno Don Nicholson probably wore out a fleet of Chevy and Ford medium-duty ramp trucks like this one as he barnstormed dragstrips from coast to coast throughout the ’60s. Note his ’64 Comet station wagon (usually piloted by Ed Schartman) on the ramp truck behind the red Chevy.


It seems nearly unfathomable now that back in 1969, one of the world’s most advanced sports car teams would be hauling its machinery on a simple tandem-axle open trailer, but here it is: Jim Hall’s amazing Chaparral 2H. Note the utility-bodied pickup as tow vehicle.


This Ford C-Series cabover in matching yellow paint totes Maynard Rupp’s Chevoom ’66 Chevelle funny car on its back. Powered by an early Chrysler Hemi mounted in the back seat, Chevoom did not make a big impression on the drag strip, but it did win the Ridler Award at the 1966 Detroit Autorama.


Young Linda Vaughn dresses up this rig from the Greensburg, Ohio-based Bridenthal Ford team, which at this moment was racing a rare (on drag strips, anyway) ’66 Falcon. Bridenthal campaigned a variety of Fords, including a Thunderbolt that is now in the collection of Fomoco guru Don Snyder.


As the operator of a successful Volkswagen dealership in Fife, Washington, Pete Lovely was famed for hauling his Lotus-Cosworth 49B F1 racer on the back of a VW Kombi pickup. Probably got excellent fuel economy, too.


Toward the end of his decades-long drag racing career, TV Tommy Ivo returned to his four-engine Buick dragster for the exhibition circuit. What else but one of his trademark glass-sided trailers to transport the legendary machine?


Roger Penske commissioned the late Larry Shinoda, the famed Detroit auto stylist, to design Penske Racing’s stainless-clad race transporters and matching motor coaches, setting the style standard for race haulers that holds to this day.

For more vintage race transporters click here.

5 thoughts on “More vintage racecar transporters

  1. Yep, the sideboards on the Cev tow truck are cool. Maybe a set on the Diamond T, “Fly’n Brian Motorsports”?

  2. Being the Director of the Northeastern Indiana Racing Museum in Auburn,IN. I’m always looking for vintage photo’s from tracks in the Tri-state area of Indiana,Michigan, and Ohio and finding some transporter photo’s would be awesome. I enjoyed the ones you have.

  3. I worked in motor racing in the US for a total of 13 years operating tractor trailers in various capacities beginning in 1988. I operated a display transporter for Buick Motorsports in ’88 & 89. I spent 6 years in Indycar racing and am somewhat familiar with the Penske rig(s) you have pictured. I find it interesting the history of those transporters, of which “The Captain” had no fewer than 3, one being used for the test program. They went through several iterations of the cab-extenders (that portion of the cab rear of the end of the rise of the roofline. It is a panel and does not enclose the sleeper) during the time they used those Freightliner Cabovers. I know for a fact the transporter drivers found them troublesome and difficult to deal with. One version, which attempted to completely close off the space between truck and trailer, had the extenders on piano hinges where they mounted to the cab and were fitted with nylon rollers so that when the vehicle articulated, the panel would hinge outward and roll along the side of the trailer. They even had stainless steel strips mounted on the trailers to facilitate this. If memory serves, this idea was used back in 87 – 1988, perhaps into 89. They tried various different designs, but one of the main problems was the hinged panels would tend to blow outward at highway speeds because of the high pressure system that would be created by air spilling over the top of the tractor and into the space between tractor and trailer. Various solutions were attempted – hydraulics, pneumatic dampers, etc. Eventually they just shortened them and hard mounted them which is the version the photo above appears to be. Penske kept the cabovers well into the 1990’s while every other team in the Indycar paddock had conventional tractors. I think they finally switched to Freightliner Columbia’s in 94 or so and when they did, they did away with any attempt at total streamlining.

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