Quintessential Top Fuel Dragster"
(1968 Meets 2002)
Master Craftsman, Tom Hanna
has never done anything half-assed. His nickname, "The Tinman"
was established over three decades ago because he fashioned some
of the most beautiful and stylish dragster bodies the sport has
ever seen. Now, in 2002, he's outdone even himself.... and for
a change, for himself.
In the mid 70s Tom Hanna left
drag racing and established an extremely successful animal accessory
business. Fast forward to 2000 when the "Cacklefest"
(part of the California Hot Rod Reunion) was born and race car
restoration/reconstruction took off. Tom, like many others, was
bitten anew by the drag racing bug and decided he wanted to come
out and play again. Unable to acquire the car he wanted (Surfers
II), Tom decided to build the car of his dreams from scratch.
Having the ways and means to do all the chassis, body, and machine
work in-house (at his shop in Wichita), Tom drew the plans and
started construction at the beginning of 2002. After a slow start
the project caught fire in the late Spring and Hanna set his
sights on the 11th California Hot Rod Reunion in October. For
the last several months "the most expensive dragster ever
built" has taken shape and consumed countless hours of Tom's
time. Here are some photos of this magnificent work in progress
-- soon to be on all fours and starring at the CHRR.
Photos by Bill Turney
Jumping ahead in the construction
phase, its best to establish the scope of Hanna's "shop"
so you can understand how he was able to accomplish this work
of art literally in his own backyard. As vast as these shots
are, they still don't illustrate the full scope of this facility.
Missing are the CNC machines, lathes, metal benders etc. Unquestionably
this is a set-up any chassis builder (or race team) would kill
Once the chassis was completed,
the first thing lined up was the rear end housing.
Once Tom decided where the reared
would sit in the chassis, he made these super trick mounting
plates to secure it. Those who have actually seen them think
they are so safe that they should be mandatory on the "Big
Show" cars of today.
Once the rear end was lined up
and mounted, the engine (Donovan 417) was placed. This doesn't
show it, but a lot of machining was done on the block to make
it sit correctly in the car. Needless to say, it was not done
with a die grinder. Every cut made on every part was done to
How's this for a trick
One of a kind, custom
front plate that also serves as motor mounts.
Just a small sample of the precision
cut custom parts that were made for this project.
When it came time for the body
(Hanna's true specialty) he started with the seat (see top shot
on page) making sure every mold and weld was perfect. For anybody
else this would have been just fine. Not Tom. He used this aluminum
"mockup" to form the final carbon fiber seat (below).
carbon fiber seat
Shots of the body in progress
speak for themselves. Absolutely magnificent! As each body part
was completed, it was polished to a brilliant finish.
A "close to the end"
addition was this unique push bar that comes out of the body
above the parachute. The fire bottle hangs in the front half
of it. The dual chutes have individual compartments but will
be activated the old fashioned way - ring hoops over the drivers
I can say without reservation
that this is the safest and nicest motor plate ever designed
and built. Machined from billet stock, its not only bulletproof
strong but also adds a new measure of safety with the bellhousing
inset. Since clutch explosions go up - the inset will (would)
help contain the parts much better than any current design. As
for the bellhousing itself - polished titanium.
The Bob Creitz built Donovan
sits snug in the frame. Check out the elliptical tubing used
on the up rites and cross members. Unfortunately these photos
don't show the incredible machine work on the block and heads.
As for polishing both - Hanna said, "I may have painted
myself into a corner on that one." He was referring to the
upkeep on polished aluminum.
for days" fuel tank. 16 gallons is bigger than my Mazda!
fuel tank mount
Steering wheel in progress.
The detail work is awesome!
I know the word "trick"
is drag-racing-sixtyish, but what else works for this incredible
engineering marvel? The pedals. Left - clutch. Right - go. Center
- foot break. No ordinary foot brake though. The car has a standard
hand brake for normal use but this is a "get out of jail
free" brake. It not only stops the car but pulls one of
the chutes. Very cool deal if you're in a situation where you
really don't want to take one hand off the wheel!
As is his style, Hanna brought
the legendary Tom Kelly to Kansas to do the lettering. Kelly,
the gold leaf master, plied his best work to put a huge period
on the metalflake blue paint.
You want a tow rig? How about
a blown and injected 500+ inch Bob Creitz Chevy? This sucker
has as many innovative parts as the digger (well, not quite).
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