Two Birds for Burt
This is the first in a trilogy about the movie Stroker Ace
with Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson
These are articles, stories and accounts of my life, as I recall them, and are copywrited. Unauthorized use will be pursued at my determination, to the degree that I am inclined. Any hard feeling caused by memories that don't match yours are unfortunate and you'll just have to get over it! Feel free to contact me if you have a request for their use. I am not writing for prose or poetry, but just to tell a story. Neither do I try to be politically correct. I consider that an act of cowardice, trying to placate the uninformed, ignorant of history folks that are filled with ego and braggadocios, demanding that their perspective be the prevalent one.
It was early in ’83 and it had been almost a year since we had been involved in some film work on the Kenny Rogers Movie ‘Six Pack’, and I had just taken a call from a marketing agent at Universal Studios in California asking whether I might be interested in doing some more film work in an upcoming movie starring Burt Reynolds and Lonnie Anderson.
We were paid quite handsomely for our participation in the ‘Six Pack’ movie, but I was not at all impressed with my first excursion into film making. You would stand around for the longest time, do something for two minutes, then wait some more, twiddle your thumbs or take a nap.
The total involvement for us was minimal, since they only wanted an engine to blow while on the track, spew lots of smoke, and then hit the wall and have it towed into the pits. Our own intermediate track car had blown a right front tire at Atlanta and had indeed hit the wall damaging only the right side of the car, but it was still drivable, so we worked out a deal to take the car back to Atlanta, where they were doing the filming at the time. To give them the appearance of sudden smoke from a blown motor, we hooked up a tank with transmission fluid in it and controlled it with a hand controlled valve that opened the fluid line into the gas line and when the transmission fluid hit the combustion chamber it blew tons of smoke out the exhaust pipe and the stunt driver steered it up against the wall and made it look like it was crashing, then returned to the pits. Whoop-de-doo, and it was all over for us!
This took all of 2-3 hours to prepare for and execute, but it took us three days to get to it, mostly because of the stubbornness of one Kenny Rodgers, who impressed me as one of the most conceited, stubborn and obnoxious men I have ever been around. If anything interrupted his perception of how things should be going, he walked off the set and you never knew how long it was going to be until you saw him again, often the next day. The only relaxing moments were provide by Erin Grey, a pleasant lady that portrayed Lilah in the film, who was very pleasant, easy to look at and could display a very good sense of humor, which she often did.
On the phone, the gentleman from Universal Studios kept repeating the story line of the film to me and who the writers and producers were, and who they had hired as the actors, but kept side stepping the issue when the conversation turned to payment for the services that they were asking for. He finally started to layout the payment scenario. What they were offering was a signed contract that guaranteed a 30 second exposure in a Burt Reynolds film, and it would be up to the owner of the cars, or cars, to solicit payment from folks that desired to have said exposure in said movie, or word to that effect.
I said that didn’t sound like an easy process and how many contracts had they sent out? I asked. “None”, he replied and he was a little hesitant after that, but said that he already had two companies that were enthused about appearing in this movie, and that was the Seven Eleven convenience stores and the Permatex Corporation, each of which were expecting to fork over $15,000 for the exposure that Universal had already penned into the story line as the cars to be given primary exposure other than Burt’s car and the ‘Bad Guy’ car, and if we could get together on some ‘other things’, they would forward those contracts to me.
Thinking that I had 30 G’s in the works, I, of course extended the conversation to include the meaning of ‘other things’. He went on to explain that the method of filming was going to be a usual procedure for racing movies, in that they would shoot one sequence from a camera car, or truck in this case, another from the ‘Good Guy’ car, and still a third filming from the ‘Bad Guys’ car. Because of time delays caused by changing cameras and the camera mounts from car to car, they were trying to find a race team with two identical actual race cars that might want to get involved with this movie, and I was in a position to satisfy that requirement.
We had repaired the speedway car from the Kenny Rodgers movie several months ago, and our short track car had recently had a new front ‘clip’ installed, making both of our identical Buick cars presentable and they both had reasonably fresh motors in them as well. Universal was very happy to hear that piece of news, and the gentleman said there was one more piece of the puzzle to address before we might be able to close the deal.
The Universal rep said that they had been in contact with the Ford Motor Company and had made arrangements for delivery of two of the new downsized 1983 Thunderbirds, and guaranteed them that the movie would be released before the late summers unveiling of the new Thunderbird design at the dealers show rooms. It was a completely new design from the chassis and suspension up to and including the new, smaller body design, and they said that the Ford folks would want us to keep everything under wraps, so no one was able to take any pictures of the new car prior to the unveiling date. He continued by asking if I was in a condition to take these two new cars, and in secrecy, could I modify the stock Thunderbirds to look like race cars? I had no idea what the new cars were built like, but I immediately replied that I was sure that we could get it done, and in the time frame required, as well.
As we hung up the phone, my mind was in a whirlwind. I had just made an agreement with a company 3,500 miles away to do work for a major movie studio, that involved a major car manufacturer, to work in secret, supply two of our own race cars, build two new race cars, find at least two additional race cars for the two major national companies, and to have it all completed in (10) weeks. We had also made arrangements for us to do all the maintenances and repairs to all the racing ‘stock’ and to provide all the pit equipment for the pit road sequences, and was told that the paperwork would be sent to me overnight. What was I thinking?
I was expecting the written paperwork to arrive in the morning, and spent the rest of the day trying to outline the expectations and the probable completion times. I made up sets of clipboards and made a central mounting place just outside the office door to keep track of progress. I decide to divide the work load into (5) areas. ‘New Car Building’, ‘Race Car Preparation’ (our cars), ‘Contract Race Car Preparation’, ‘Pit Equipment’, and finally ‘Car Transportation and Maintenance’. Each of these divisions had three categories: ‘Must’, ‘Important’ and ‘Also’. What I ended up with was a row of clipboard 5-horizontal by 3-vertical, with all the ‘Must’ clipboards across the top row, all the ‘Important’ clipboards along the middle row with all 5 of the ‘Also’ clip boards taking the lower row. I had come to the understanding with my self that I did not have the mental capacity to keep large amounts of details in my head and keep them all in order, and I had been using this method for a number of years, but never on this scale. Obviously the three clipboard sequence was to be able to keep track of every detail for each of the five areas, and then to prioritize their importance within that grouping.
My White Crown Engineering race shop was pretty far out in the country and surrounded by a fence with the entrance gate almost 60 yards from the doors to the shop, and I had been made aware that I had already earned the reputation for being ‘stuck up’ or ‘ornery’, because if I could not tell who it was at the gate, just by looking, I would not go up and open it, car horns and yelling not withstanding. The only exception to this gate impediment was a pair of real, down home country neighbors named ‘Stump’ and his nephew ‘Willy’.
‘Ol ‘Stump’ and Willy lived in adjacent mobile homes just down the road and further off the road than our shop was. For some reason they had been able to get in good graces with our guard dogs and could make their way down to the shop on their own, and I would often look up and here’d come ‘ol Stump and Willy sauntering down the driveway and make their way to the shop. They would never come thru the gate if no one was home, but would sure invite themselves in at the drop of a hat if they saw a shop door open. I had met them both just days after moving to this location and they had always offered free help as I progressed with the additions to the shop and the installation of the body shop and the engine dynamometer. Stump and Willy REALLY liked the dyno, and I could not have the motor cranked and warmed up before both of them would appear at the shop door, as they loved to feel the ground shake when I pulled the lever and opened the valve. Hell, I loved it as much as they did.
Both of these country fella’s wore bib overalls and Willy’s looked too big for him and were always cut off just below the knees. ‘Stump’ was a large man and Willy was a diminutive guy at least a foot shorter than ol’ ‘Stump’ and I understood better what was happening with Willy’s clothes when they shared with me one evening that Willy got all Stump’s clothes, hand me down style. That also explained why Willy’s suspenders were tied together in the back. I will always remember that once the engine was warmed up on the dyno and before the first ‘pull’ on the throttle could be completed Willy had his shoes off so he could feel the floor shake with his bare feet. I found this quite interesting because both ‘Stump’ and Willy wore the tall, laced up style work shoes and Willy was out of them in an instant!
At any rate, as I was closing the door to the shop after that first day of trying to sort thu the afternoon’s telephone call, here come ‘ol ‘Stump’ and Willy down the driveway and as they got near me, they said that they both had a feeling that I was needing them for some reason. After I shook my head and thought about it for a few seconds, I replied that they had good senses and that I might need to count on them to cover some of the smaller tasks around the shop as I had just taken on quite a large job this afternoon. I told them I was getting ready to start on two new cars and also a movie project, but did not divulge that those two jobs were related, nor the scope of the project. After exchanging wide grins, the happy and enthusiastic duo began to meander up the driveway and down the road to their own place.
When the guys came in to work the next day, I tried to give them an idea of what the newest news was and had a sit down meeting with them and the 15 clipboards and solicited input from each of them regarding about how we should approach this project and how to divide the details and tasks listed on the clip boards. We discussed the situation at length until we felt we had a known starting point and then dispersed to finish up our current projects with an eye towards how we might best get started on the series of new projects.
I began, by taking inventory of the pit equipment that we already owned and determined that we would need some additional items if we were to be laying out a pit stall for as many as five cars at a time. I hate to borrow items and I am uncomfortable loaning any items that I might need to earn my income with, so I opted to gather both the working and non-working items that I already had as well as acquire enough additional items so that it might look like there were five complete pit stall set-ups while only two stalls were required to actually function. The addition of one additional air gun and a couple of hoses and regulators took care of all the expected needs with the exception of the most obvious item on pit road and that was tool boxes.
That very afternoon I began trying to contact the people at Sears, Snap On, Mac Tools, Proto and others as well. When it all shook down, with in three weeks and one more signed contract, we received a large shipment from the Proto Tool Company, and they were very good to us. They sent over (12) upper tool box sections, two complete upper and lower boxes complete with all the tools and a large assortment of hats, jackets, decals and all the minutia that they would like to see spread around. I was particularly pleased with this agreement as it allowed us to have two complete traveling tool boxes without having to take our own specialized tool boxes from the race shop.
During the next several days I was consumed trying to contact two car owners to see about leasing their cars to be used to cover the contracts that were expected from Seven Eleven and the Permatex folks. I was able to get a gentleman from Pennsylvania to let us use a new ‘82 Thunderbird that we had just built for him and had only been used in one race at that point in time. Not able to get a commitment in a short period of time, I made the decision to drag out an older Oldsmobile that I had set back as a non-competitive, but complete race car and looked it over and decide that with a good motor, I could resurrect it to be used for the Permatex car. With this decision having been dealt with, it was now on to the new Thunderbirds.
Work in the shop remained hectic as we had a ton of stuff to finish and a huge pile of notes to wade thru and parts and pieces to acquire, but about four or five days after the disappointing telephone conversation with Universal Studios, I got a strange sounding phone call late in the day, from a guy stating that he was with the Ford Motor Company and he had two cars to deliver and would I give him directions to our shop, further asking if a tractor trailer rig could be brought in off the street to be unloaded. I was getting excited now, and was happy to give him directions and assured him that he could get his big rig off the street, and we would help him unload if it was necessary, but he abruptly answered that it was not only unnecessary, but that he did not want anyone there but me and my shop foreman. I did not have a shop foreman but I said I would limit our involvement to just two guys. I thought that this was getting a little strange by now, but he further stated that he and his co driver would not be getting there until after dark and that we should have to be a large fire burning in a safe place when they arrived, which he expected to be about 10:00 PM.
Now, I’m thinking that this might be a prank and started giving the guy on the phone a ration of good old fashion southern possum grease, about it being past my bedtime and subsequent fire hazards, etc., etc. He was taken a little bit aback, but continued by saying that they have their orders, and that they are on their way with the cars and I had better be there and have that fire burning good and hot by the time they get there.
So we hang up and I’m thinking to my self: Yeah, right you som-bitch, you can kiss my ass as far as I’m concerned, I’m going out to eat and release the dogs on my way out the gate.
After eating dinner, I stopped at my house which was up by the road,
and after checking on the dogs, I went inside and turned on the stereo
expecting to spend a little time with Hall and Oates or Christopher Cross,
but the phone rang and it was Universal, and he said that the guys were
bringing the cars and to be expecting them and do what they ask! Holy
crap, I gotta go put up the dogs and start that damn fire! I hang up,
put the dogs in their pen and garb a bunch of shop rags, some cardboard
boxes, a few crates and a gallon of racing gas from the tank in the engine
That caused the driver of the huge tractor trailer rig to lock up his back tires and skid to a stop in the gravel at which time he used both air horns to indicate how pleased he was to meet his new friend ‘Stump’. Looking up at the dust and disarray in the driveway, all I can see is a cloud of dust drifting towards ol’ ‘Stump’, the flashing of safety lights on the 18 wheeler, and the sound of one of the infrequent drivers on Barberville Road screeching to an unexpected stop in the middle of the road. Now he is using his horn in appreciation of the three quarter corner view he has been given of a nicely decaled Ford Motor Company trailer, still partially parked out on, thus blocking, the road.
Shit, it’s another fine evening of social interaction in South Carolina. Barking dogs on my right, a scared shitless short guy behind me, a dust covered neighbor off to my left and bunch of yelling strangers in front of me out at the road, a pissed off truck driver in my driveway and I have just noticed that the fire I had set earlier had found it’s way thru the fence and was headed to the neighbors tool shed.
I told Willy to get a shovel, jump the fence and deal with the grass fire, while I tried to calm down ol’ ‘Stump’ and keep him away from the truck driver and to see if I could get the driver on the road to just back up for a minute or two until we can get the big rig moved on down the driveway.
It only took a minute or so to get the traffic issues straightened out and the truck circled in the driveway and backed up to the shop doors, but that truck driver took more than a few minutes to get his ass calmed down, and we might not have been able to carry it off at all if not for his co driver who tried his best to get him back down into low gear. The co-driver had taken one look at ol’ ‘Stump’ and Willy and had quickly assessed the situation, but was having a hard time keeping a smile off his face while trying to calm down his driving partner.
During the course of this visual sparing session, trying to develop the ‘pecking order’ of this new group, each of the delivery drivers were sure to show that they each were carrying handguns, and that they were correctly concerned about the valuable cargo they had on board, and was quick to point out that he did not want an audience when they unloaded these cars. I did my best to point out that these were my neighbors and they had came running when they had seen the flames, and they provided no concern regarding ‘spilling the beans’ about our little project as they had not been told what the cars were for and I had still not told them about the connection with the movie.
After the truck had been relocated to avoid the heat from our fire, but still be able to unload the cars by backing straight into the shop doors, the drivers opened the doors only to reveal two large gunny sacks. What the hell, I thought. It looked like two giant bags of Idaho potatoes and I said so, but they were not interested in my humor and said something to that effect, and said they were just taking all measures to not let anyone see these cars prior to their being unveiled at the dealerships and this was just one of Ford’s ideas to maintain secrecy, and it was nothing out of the ordinary, so, “let’s get to work!” Cars in burlap bags? Burning fire request? Night time delivery? Giant horns? Search lights on the trucks? What’s not ordinary about that????
They were not interested in me, “Stump’ or Willy helping them in any way, but only asked that we get that fire burning higher as they wanted to get rid of those old burlap bags and ‘that other stuff’, not bothering to give any hints as to why they needed such a large fire for some ol’ stinky burlap.
After both cars were unloaded and rolled down the slight incline to
the concrete pad outside the doors to the shop, the drivers asked us to
put the cars inside so that they could see better to finish their work.
I’m thinking – finish what work? The cars are already safe
inside the shop, behind closed doors and I am getting pretty anxious for
these shit-heads to hit the freakin’ road. They have been pretty
overbearing and obnoxious, even for ‘Yankees’! Actually, I
was born in Brighten, Michigan and lived in southern Ohio for awhile,
but after the accident I have been in the South now for about 12 years
now, own property in both the Carolinas, eats grits, fatback, fried chicken
and more than my share of Cheerwine. I feel that gives me enough of a
perspective to call it as I see it, and these guys were getting on my
Willy slipped in the side door to the shop and settled in behind me and ‘Stump’, sitting down on a couple of cases of Union 76 engine oil, remnants of what we had been given earlier in the year at the race in Rockingham, and got a jump start on the moon pies. ‘Stump’ reached around, and snatching the bag, offered one to me and clawed one out for himself, before getting up off the chair and asking the guys working on the nearer of the two cars if they wanted one. They asked what it was and when ‘ol ‘Stump’ told them they were fresh moon pies, they just looked at each other and shook their heads ‘no’. See what I mean about being ‘Yankees’? They don’t know shit from shine-ola, because fresh moon pies are a real luxury around here, and they just passed up on two of them! We didn’t bother to offer them any of our Cheerwine after that rude refusal of real Southern hospitality, and the three of us sat around and shot the shit for another hour until they finally gathered up the last load of interior pieces, and after putting them on the fire, they loaded the cardboard box of ‘goodies’ inside the rear door of the transport truck, closed the door, and without saying a word to any of us, cranked up their beast and circled out the driveway and down the highway they went.
The next morning, I had not been in the shop more that two minutes when the phone rang, and all I heard was that it was from the Ford Motor Company, but whoever was on the other end of the line was in one hell of a bad mood, and he was speaking so fast, at first I thought he might have been Chinese, but as he slowed down the lowered voice and the now recognizable cuss words made it clear that I should be able to understand him, but I still could not, so I just hung up the phone and muttered to my self…..what a dumb son of a bitch that was! Immediately the phone rang again, and this time it was a more friendly and pleasant female voice and she began by apologizing for the earlier conversation with Andrew Palmer and after a short pause, a calmer, but the still obviously pissed off Andrew began another tirade by asking if I was that stupid redneck that had stolen two of Fords only five prototype cars and that if I knew what was good for me, I had better not lay a finger on either one of them.
I hung the phone up again, and once more the phone rang, and as soon as I heard his voice again, I told him to kiss my ass and get some one else to call back if some one at Ford had a real question for me, I had work to do, goodbye! I actually got out into the shop before the phone rang again, and thinking that I was getting tired of this bullshit, I called for my German Sheppard dog, King to come over to me and gave him the command to ‘speak’ just as I picked up the phone witch triggered the usual three consecutive barks from my trusty canine companion of more than five years. At the conclusion of the third bark I hung up the phone again! It was more than an hour before the phone rang again, also from the Ford Motor Company, but this time it was a more pleasant gentleman that apologized for the previous encounters, and in a much more calm voice proceeded to explain the fella that I had spoken with earlier was named Robert, the Director of Research and Development and that he had not been made aware of the fact the he, Denny, who was in the Marketing Department, had made the arrangements with Universal Studios to get these new cars in a Burt Reynolds movie to increase the exposure of the totally new designed Thunderbirds prior to their actually being delivered to the dealerships.
As the conversation continued, Denny advised me that in addition to Roberts’s concern about the two missing T-Birds, he also had noted that the engines were of a new sequential fuel injection design that they considered being quite proprietary and that they wanted no one to catch even a glimpse of the motors. I then explained that Universal had told me that in order for us to meet the quick turn around time required to make the cars ready for filming, that we were going to have to use these stock four-cylinder motors and that with the new injection systems, the cars might be close enough to going fast enough that the filming of the new T-Birds could be done side by side with the existing race cars. The concern was that the difference in the speeds between the street stock T-Birds and the real race cars might make some of the on-track filming difficult to portray in a convincing manner.
Denny admitted that might be a real concern for Universal, but that Ford basically didn’t give a shit, but in the ensuing dialog Denny said that because he was going to have to come to South Carolina to retrieve the injection units, that he would bring down two sets of the old carburetor systems, including the carbs, intake manifolds, distributors and whatever he thought we would need to get the cars able to run at high speed, although he readily admitted that the injection system would have been faster. We concluded our conversation by making arrangements for Denny to fly to Charlotte in the morning, where I would pick him up and help him make the changeovers and he could re-program the ECM’s and make sure I understood the timing and tuning required on these small four cylinder motors.
I got a call at about 9:30 the next morning and it was from Denny, asking me to come to the airport and to bring a truck because he had some boxes that needed to be brought to the shop that had the items he needed to exchange the fuel delivery systems. I had given him a description of my old ’58 Chevy pickup over the phone and it was easy to notice him up at the passenger pickup area as he had jumped out into the road as soon as he saw my truck. I know that I described my truck clearly to him, but he still seemed taken aback by the ‘country’ appearance of the old ‘blue goose’, and being dressed in a coat and tie, I could see his concern about getting inside my trusty ride. It was old and some of the medium blue paint had begun to change its patina, bit I kept everything around me including my work area and vehicles clean and in good repair.
Finally accepting that this is what he was going to have to ride in, he got inside, we shook hands and he directed me to go to the cargo terminal where we loaded up two large boxes that took both of us to load into the bed of the truck, and headed out to I-77 and headed south to Fort Mill.
When we arrived at the shop, Denny took off his suit coat, loosed his tie and slipped on a work coat that was in his briefcase, while all the time giving us instructions as to how to get one of these heavy boxes open and lifted up and supported near the hood of the car to have the parts he needed close at hand. That way he would not have to keep crawling in and out of the engine area. We took the hood off both cars, and the radiators had already been removed, so Denny climbed up and sat on the nose of the car, and working alone for only four hours completed the task of switching the fuel injection systems to carburetors. When he was finished, he put his lab coat back in his briefcase, tightened his tie and helped us load his still heavy boxes into the pickup. I got him and his boxes back to the airport, and when I got back to the shop, we all looked at each other in relief that our environment was back to our normal ‘Yankee free’ status. Even though I was born in Michigan, I had been in the South long enough to become comfortable with the more pleasant nature of it’s inhabitants.
That additional work added some what to our workload, but we were all accustomed to working long hours under a time constraint, so it was all taken in stride. We spent the next several weeks in a mad rush, getting all the cars interiors gutted, new aluminum interior panels in place and installing enough of a roll bar cage to the interior to make the cars look more like actual race cars. We used actual race car tires and wheels for the visual aspect, but had to use wheel adaptor/spacers to avoid changing the hubs and brake drums, and that required an additional one inch of fender flare to be added to all the fender extensions. We did install actual fuel cells with the accompanying fender mounted fuel inlet valves and overflow hoses, and removed all the interior seats and replaced them with a single race car bucket seat complete with the five-point seat belt set up that attached to the interior roll bars.
It wasn’t exactly clear to me why we were building two identical Thunderbirds. We had also been asked to provide two additional identical race cars, and after the curiosity finally got the best of me, I asked the Universal Studio representative if he could make that more clear to me. His explanation was that what appeared to be a scene that switched view points from car to car would actually be a series of three identical filming sequences that would be edited to appear as one continuous scene in the movie. Cameras would be mounted on Bert’s Thunderbird for the first sequence, mounted on one of our race cars for the second sequence, and then cameras would be mounted on the camera truck for the third sequence, and then all of the filming would be edited and spliced to form what looked like one continual scene.
All the while that the guys in the shop were attending to the car building, I was on the phone trying to gather additional advertisers and rounding up more cars to put the advertisers name on, but the more looming issue was becoming how I was going to get all these cars to the tracks where the filming was to be done. Then it dawned on me that I should try to find a large tractor trailer manufacturer that might be interested in supplying me an actual 40 foot long trailer that I could modify for my own use for my own race team. Initially, I had little luck, but had enticed the A&W Trucking folks from North Carolina to supply not only a truck and a trailer in exchange for their 30-second exposure, but they were also willing to provide a driver for us as well for the duration of the filming. That was a huge score for us, but still left us with many cars to deliver. We had our own Winston Cup truck and a one car trailer, a pair of borrowed large crew cab dually pick ups and trailers that would carry two cars each, and a few of the sponsor folks had their own car trailer units that they were willing to provide for our use during the filming.
We had already been sent the pre-arraigned sponsorship money from Universal Studios for our two race cars from the ‘Four Star Whisky’ folks, as well as funding from 7-Eleven and an auto parts store, and we were able to keep both the local sign painter and the decal makers working overtime for a few weeks dealing with each sponsors quirks and idiosyncrasies and matching color schemes.
We had also been hired to provide all the pit equipment that would be used at trackside, and in addition to using all our own pit equipment, we had scored large with the Proto Tool Company and they agreed to provide us with an assortment of their offerings, again, in exchange for the movie exposure. We received 10 tool box top sections with the large Proto decal squarely affixed to each of the lids that were to be displayed in the open position, and when asking if we might get some tools to go along with the tool boxes for use while doing the filming that was away from our shop, they responded by sending us two complete top and bottom roll around tool box chests, both of which were loaded with complete tool sets, and it took the better part of two days for ‘ol Stump and Willy to get everything unboxed and sorted and put into the tool box drawers. Willy took all the cardboard home to use for starting the wood fires in his house on some of the colder days.
Time was drawing close to the time to show up for filming, and I was still short on delivery vehicles, when I got a call out of the blue from the Fruehoff trailer manufacturing plant in Houston, saying that they were not interested in supplying a free trailer in exchange for some exposure, but they had recently built a specialty race car trailer for an Indy Car team, had received one third of the payment, then been advised that the race team had folded, leaving them with an unusual trailer to try to sell to the general public. It was extra long at 45 feet, 18” taller than the normal height and 12” lower than normally found on these types of trailers. The trailer had a double side door on each side and a larger than normal rear door, all of which were covered with polished stainless steel exteriors. Additionally, they had it outfitted with polished aluminum wheels, and air ride suspension. All of this was sounding very expensive, and sensing my concern, the salesman quickly made his presentation as follows: The trailer was originally about $60,000, the owner had placed a $20,000 non refundable deposit, and that they would let me take delivery of the trailer if I could come up with an additional $18,000. Gulp! That was a ton of money for me at that time, but just days before I had received payment for two sponsorships for the movie and just happened to have a little more than that in the coffers. “I’ll do it!” I almost shouted into the phone. “When can I get it?” I continued. He stated that it was ready at this very moment, so we made the necessary arrangements to simultaneously send the money by bank transfer and to send a truck out right away to retrieve my greatest acquisition to date for my race team.
Finally, the day had arrived to leave for the start of filming in Talladega. We had spent two days loading up the two large tractor trailer rigs, the dually trucks and tandem trailers and three ½ ton pickups each carrying a single car and our shop truck, a small Datsun pickup that we had made into a ‘low-rider’, that rode rough as all hell. There had not been enough time to make any ramps or get any tie downs installed in our new race trailer, so it was used as our portable office, storage for tool and pit equipment, including the nitrogen tanks for changing tires and a dressing room. We had been provided several sets of uniforms for the different scenes from Universal, and a number of the independent car owners had given us their uniforms to carry along as well.
It looked all the world like a circus was heading out of the small town of Fort Mill, S.C.