And Now For Something…….Completely Different: The Life and Times of the Chuck Tatum Car Trailer

thumb

Here's a Great Picture of Chuck Tatum and Bruce Glascock. We Met at Chuck's House at the Beginning of My Trip in 2008. Note: This is Bruce's Trailer Shown Here.

Hi Gang… 

I know the automotive world is not all fiberglass.  However, there are times when some of you…. or some of me…. will want to share something – not related to the fiberglass genre in any way.  

In this spirit, I’ve created a new category of stories in honor of Monte Python and their famous segway which went something like this: (Click on the Play button below – which looks like a small black triangle):  

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  

Anytime I run a story like this, I’ll warn you with the 6 words that appear in the first part of the story title.  This is also the category name for such stories.  

So….without adieu….  I present the next in what will be a series of articles (unstoppable) called…

“And Now For Something… Completely Different” 

I hope you enjoy the story… 

Guy Dirkin's Lost Motor Trend Victress

Geoff  

————————————-

Hi Gang…

I currently use a small car trailer built by Chuck Tatum of Stockton, California.  Over the past several years, this trailer has saved more vintage fiberglass sports cars from junkyards than any other trailer in the world.   If not “the most”…it is certainly up for the top award.  It also has retrieved many a special car from fine collectors out there across the country.

In recognition of the achievement and durability of this fine and special trailer, this post is dedicated to my good friend Chuck Tatum, and his wonderful little car hauler – forever known as “The Chuck Tatum Car Trailer.”

The Tribute 1946 Bill Burke Salt Flat Belly Tank

Chuck…. this story is for you :-)

The Story Begins…

Back in 2006, I was on the hunt for more information about the movie “Johnny Dark.”  Good friend and noted author Harold Pace heard about my interest and suggested that I get in touch with Chuck Tatum who had a car in the “Johnny Dark” movie and drove it during filming as well.  Sounded just like the person I needed to speak with.  However, things would never by the same for Chuck.    Since that day, he has had to put up with my friendship and camaraderie for years.   I’m glad he still answers the phone when I call, and am honored to call him a friend.

Chuck Tatum:  Car Builder, Hot Rod Racer, Sports Car Racer, and “Car Guy” Extraordinaire:

I’ve written about Chuck in several stories over the past few years.  Mostly when I’m discussing the Johnny Dark movies, but recently we created a post to honor Chuck and his accomplishments.  Here’s the link to the story:

Rick D'Louhy's 1955 California Special the Day Before the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in March 2010.

http://www.forgottenfiberglass.com/?p=6667

I keep pestering Chuck to hurry up with writing his autobiography so I can get a copy and pour over the history.  Chuck has built cars, designed cars, restored cars, raced cars, started companies, starred in movies, did movie stunt work, and ran EMPI for awhile too.  Maybe he was a singer too – I’ve never asked him.  Nonetheless, his resume is impressive!

The car he is best known for is the “Tatum Special” built around 1953, and this was the car he raced.  It was also the car he drove in the “Johnny Dark” movie when it was called “The Antelope Special” (its movie name).  I’ve included a story about this car in the gallery of pictures below.

Chuck found the car many years ago, and restored it back to its racing form, and it’s a beautiful car.  He kept the car again for many years, and during this time he designed and built a trailer for it.  A small, single-axle, no suspension trailer modeled after the ones he used and built back in the 1950’s.  It was small, lightweight, maneuverable, and easy to operate with just one person – just the way Chuck wanted it. 

The trailer also happens to fit the size of any 1950’s “Special” perfectly.  Later, when he sold the “Tatum Special”, he kept the trailer for personal use, but after some time, like most things, the trailer was pushed to the back of the lot and there it sat unused.  That’s about the time I met Chuck – in 2006.

The Dick Foster Victress Special at Merrill and Gerianne Powell's Home in Flagstaff Arizona.

Chasing a Victress

Around 2007 or so, I found a Victress out West and had it stored at my friend’s house in Sacramento, California (thanks Randy!).  It had been there for awhile, when we began working on and soon confirmed the plans for the Fiberglass Class at the 2008 Palo Alto Concours d’Elegance.  A fun time would be had by all.  If only I could get the Victress ready for the show. 

Little did I know that Chuck Tatum would be up to the challenge.

We had about 6 months to go, and Chuck set to work.  He and his friends went thru the car that had been in storage for so many years.  They checked out and repaired the brakes, wiring, floor, installed gauges, created a new dashboard, and much much more.  And….with weeks to spare, the car was ready to participate in the upcoming Palo Alto Concours.  Chuck had once again won another race – but this time it was the “race” to get the car ready for the show.

Advice For Prospective Belly Tank Purchasers Out There: Chevrolet Suburbans Make Great Haulers For Belly Tanks (but cause quite a commotion with the tank on the roof when driving...)

Chuck thought it was kind of funny working on the Victress.  After all, it was one of the cars he raced against.  And although it wasn’t the exact same Victress – here he was working on the same bodied car 50+ years later.  Interesting how life is sometimes…

Now… all we had to do was get the Victress to the show.  Isn’t there a movie somewhat similar to that theme?   That’s when I started planning my first two-month cross country tour to visit fiberglass luminaries in many states.  I started with a visit to Chuck and Evelyn Tatum and the Victress Chuck had just completed.

Starting the Tour:

I laid out the plans, scheduled visits, and showed the itinerary to my family – who thought I was crazy – I’d be gone for weeks.  It turned out to take about 2 months.  I visited fiberglass founders, designers, builders, owners, and writers across the country from the Vancouver Canada area, to Baja Mexico, and across the lower tier of the USA – back toward Florida.  But what did I drive?  I found a Suburban for sale near Chuck’s house, bought it, and with his help put it in storage.  It only had 194,000 miles on it, so I got a deal on it.  What could go wrong?  Now…all I needed was a car trailer.  Chuck had just the plan!

Out from storage came the soon to be famous, world renowned, vintage fiberglass sports car single-axle hauler, Chuck Tatum designed….ladies and gentleman let me introduce you to the ”Chuck Tatum Car Trailer.”  I saw it and it was as beautiful as a car trailer could be, and it would be perfect for my trip.

Travels Travels Travels:

Atlas / Allied Car Found in Northern Oregon. Merrill and Gerianne Powell Shown Next To Sports Car.

During that trip, I put over 8000 miles on the Suburban, and nearly 8 weeks on the road.  And those miles were just one way (kind of) across the USA – from California north to Vancouver, south to Baja Mexico and due east to Florida.  I should have brought a map. 

And the “Chuck Tatum Car Trailer” was with me all the way. 

Funny thing on that trip, I kept hooking up with Merrill and Gerianne Powell who were taking a cross-country trip too.  We first met in Portland Oregon, and then near the Oregon / California border.  Here Merrill and I added wood plankc to the top of the car trailer to spread the weight more evenly across the superstructure.  Then, we met again in Los Angeles where we spent time with Pat Boyce-Smith, and finally in Arizona at their home in Flagstaff.  It seemed they couldn’t get rid of me that year!

And the “Chuck Tatum Car Trailer” was with me all the way.

I stopped in San Francisco, was in Oregon and met with Don Edmunds who designed the Cheetah, spent time with Richard Russell in Bakersfield, California who worked for Victress.  Visited Arlen Kurtis (Frank’s son of Kurtis Kraft fame) and Gene Winfield out in the Mojave desert, and even participated in another car show with the Victress – at the Art Center of Design in Pasadena, California.

And the “Chuck Tatum Car Trailer” was with me all the way.

Chuck Tatum Shown Driving His "Tatum Special" in the "Johnny Dark" Movie.

I visited Yosemite with the Victress in tow and my friend and co-traveler during part of the trip, Susan Gunn.  She held the position as navigator.  Back in 2008 there were over 100 forest fires in the vicinity of Yosemite and we ducked and weaved thru smoky and forested roads with the shiny red Victress in tow.  Into the dark forests we drove not just to see the legendary Yosemite Valley, but to visit the Redwoods and spend time with the builder of my Victress – Dick Foster who lived in Mariposa, California.

And the “Chuck Tatum Car Trailer” was with me all the way.

I spent time in the mountains outside of Los Angeles with Dennis Gerdes – son of Warren Gerdes who was the Glasspar G2 Foreman who oversaw the production of Glasspar bodies in the 1950’s, and we visited both Bruce Meyers of Meyers Manx fame and David Deal – famed cartoonist and designer of the Cheetah Transporter / Moon Transporter.  Dennis even helped me pick up the remains of a long forgotten project of a rare salt flats belly tank racer.  We mounted that tank to the roof of my Suburban (who needs a car alarm!), and I drove the rest of the way to Florida with the belly tank mounted on top of the Suburban.  What a sight to behold!  (hard for me to see because I was stuck inside driving…)

And the “Chuck Tatum Car Trailer” was with me all the way.

Dave Perry's Woodill Wildfire Shown at His Location near Cullman Alabama.

Of course there’s much more I could recount on that trip back in 2008, but the good news was that I made it home safe and sound – and a bit weary after so much driving – but what a time that was.

And the “Chuck Tatum Car Trailer” made it home with me too – just a few new welds that Dennis Gerdes helped in repairs.

The Chuck Tatum Car Trailer Becomes Part of the “Fiberglass Family”

Since 2008 when I returned home, the car trailer has been busy out here in the Southeast USA.  It’s hauled a variety of cars which include:

  • Guy Dirkin’s Lost Motor Trend Victress Special
  • The Tribute to Bill Burke’s first Salt Flats Belly Tank (restored/built)
  • Rick D’Louhy’s unrestored California Special
  • And…Rick’s restored California Special
  • The Victress S1A brought back from California
  • Jim Fisher’s Victress S1A from Alabama
  • An Allied I found wandering around Washington State in 2008
  • Dave Perry’s Woodill Wildfire
  • Barry Hall’s Byers SR100
  • A CRV / Piranha / Seagull body now owned by Dennis Kazmerowski
  • One of the only known Plastic CRV dune buggies found
  • A LaDawri Conquest on a Corvette chassis
  • And.. an Eric Irwin Lancer retrieved from a South Carolina junkyard

Whew!  That’s a lot of work for a one-axle wonder, but the trailer keeps going strong and would make Chuck Tatum proud today.

Eric Irwin's Lancer Being Retrieved From South Carolina Junkyard in 2010. Susan Gunn Was On That Trip Too!

Summary:

Who knows what other treasures will find their way onto the back of this sturdy little beast.  You can bet, though, that I’ll capture the magnificence of future events with my camera each and every time.

Thanks again to Chuck Tatum for kicking off such a fun adventure with me back in 2008.

Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…

Glass on gang…

Geoff

——————————————————————–

Click on the following link to View or Post Your Comments: FIBERGLASS FORUMS

(remember you’ll have to register to post on the forums – but you register just once and can post after you sign on)

Click on the Images Below to View Larger Pictures

——————————————————————-


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge