Combustion Chamber – Chucky’s Big Adventure


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“Chucky’s Big Adventure”

“The Day Chucky Crewed for T.V. Tommy Ivo and The Showboat”

Welcome to the February ’99 Issue of the “Combustion Chamber”. This month, a story has been submitted by NHRA Newsgroup regular, Charles (Chuck) Jolliff. Chuck is the “Starter” for George Ray’s Wildcat Hot Rod Dragstrip in Arkansas. Here, he will share his unexpected adventure with T.V. Tommy Ivo.

Back in late April of 1983, my friend Drew stopped by my house on a Friday morning, early…very early. He woke me up with the news that we were heading south to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the grand opening of Steve’s Speed Shop. Great, I thought. Broke, and were going someplace where I love spending money! Arriving in Little Rock a few hours later, we get off the bypass and find Steve’s shop. Sitting in the parking lot is T.V. Tommy Ivo’s glass hauler, complete with the four Buick engine, tire smoking wagon! (Well slap my momma!) image
image Ivo had been booked in, as it were, to “open” the speed shop. The car does so in fine fashion. I don’t remember a lot of paying customers coming into the shop that day, but there were a lot of people! There happened to be a school “bus stop” right next to Steve’s, and when the kids came home from school, they all made a run for the shop to see the four engine beast. My buddy Drew and I, spent the day with Ivo and learned a great deal about the car.
Ivo was turning the car over to Norm Day, a professional driver, who would tour the car for Tommy. At the end of the year, hopefully, the car would be placed in the Smithsonian-Transportation Museum. Ivo explained that the reason for his not driving the car, was attributed to the fact that he had hit a “bump” on a return road at some track previously, and did some serious damage to his back. If I recollect correctly, he said it had broken his back. Ivo filled us in on some details about running the car. My favorite detail he shared, was if he was at a very good hooking track, he would have two crewmen, with wet towels, and wipe the tires as he was staging. Making it look like they were cleaning the tires, when really, they were trying to set them on fire at the turn of the light! That, afterall, was the purpose of the car…boil the “hides”. Drew and I were about to find out how well this car could do that!
“Hey guys”, Ivo asked, “What are ya doing this weekend?” Looking at each other and at the same time replied with, “Nothing…why?” “Well, why don’t you follow us over to Prescott, and help us with the car.” WAY COOL! So, we jumped in Drew’s “Z”, and headed for the interstate following the trailer. image
image It was great fun following Ivo and Day, watching the traffic as cars would pull up beside his glass trailer and “freak” when they saw what was inside. This made the travel to Prescott go by very quickly. We get to the track, and help unload the Buick powered beast.
Inside, the car has only an oil pressure and water temp gauge.. times 4…eight gauges…geez! The drivetrain consisted of two Buick engines inline pulling one rear, while the other two inline pulled the front. The car ran on alcohol and was injected. Ivo said he changed the slicks (4) every seven or eight passes! Well, by this point, we were wondering what we were gonna help the guys with! image
image We spent some time talking with Norm’s regular crewguy, whose name escapes me, while Ivo talked the ride over with Norm Day.
We are finally told why we were brought along. Seems that said wagon has to be pushed down track and fired up. Wagon’s a “bitch” to turn around, so we were to jump out of the truck, and help push car around. image
image First pass: We hop in the truck, and push the racecar down the track. Engines aren’t running yet, as we coast to a stop, near the end of the track. We jumped out of the crewcab and pushed the wagon around, ’til it was pointed back at the starting line.
The car is pushed back up the track towards the starting line, and Day eases out the clutch on one set of engines, they fire, and our track falls back as he lets go of the second set of engines…man, what a noise! Four injected on alcohol burning Buick’s, sound like the biggest flock of bumble bees you ever heard! It’s been 16 years, and I still remember that sound! Day goes past the “tree” to the burnout area, and swings the car as far as he can. Car has no reverse, so out come Drew and Chuck. We hadn’t given any thought to what four alcohol burning engines can do to your eyes. One is bad, but FOUR…man, we were crying! We finally pushed on the slicks enough to get the car lined up, and headed back down the track. Camera in hand, I watch as tree goes down. Booom! Instant smoke, and car completely disappears from view. “What the hell?”…I mumbled to myself. In that moment, I forgot to take a picture…brain dead, again. Nothing new there. We almost get run over by the push truck, Norm’s guy is honking and hollers, “Get in you turkeys, we gotta pick him up!” So off we go. We pick up car, and tow back up to the pits. It was a good run, as tires smoked 900′ of 1000′ track. This was Norms’ first pass in the car, and he had a “gleam” in his eye, I just can’t describe! We sit around shooting the bull. The car is to make another pass this evening.
Drew and I wander around the pits, and run up onto a character by the name of Frank Cook. Cook ran the Drag-On Charger F/C. He is busy showing his buddies the latest Playboy.  I catch the conversation. He is showing them his girlfriend. “Right”, one of the guys say. Cook proceeds to pull out his wallet, and show a better picture of the same girl that Playboy was featuring in the magazine. I was impressed. image
image Later in the day, Cook runs his car against the Kool Klutch F/C. Frank breaks right where we were standing.
Turns out it’s a valve he has dropped, and he has no replacements. So into the night, the crew thrashes on the motor. Cook sends his kid off to Dallas, to pick up another valve at their shop. In the meantime, someone has gotten into a fight, and an old man is stabbed in the spectator area across from us. I was shocked! That put an end to our night as far as racing was concerned. Cook and crew kept on working, while we sat around and listened to Ivo and Day pass stories, and strange looking smokes. Eye opening. image
After hanging around this group for a while, we decided to call it a night and head to the motel and get some sleep before Sunday morning rolled around.  Arriving at the motel, we spot Cook’s kid with a few pals, and a party is definitely going on here. Cook makes it back to the motel way later, and finds out his kid never made it to Dallas. Old man is pissed and heads off for Texas. We get up the next morning to be greeted by rain. Cook has made the long run and returned for nothing. Race is rained out. We say our goodbyes, and head off for Missouri. Later in the year I saw the Showboat at Indy on Labor Day. It had gone through some tough times. Car barely hazed the tires a couple of hundred feet. Didn’t get a chance to talk to Ivo that day, matter of fact, that was the last time I saw him.
© M & H Photography -All text, photos, graphics, artwork and other contributed material within the Combustion Chamber  are copyrighted and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without express written consent. 

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