Hanna at work

"The 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



Shop 1

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 for.


Shop 2



chassis side

Once the chassis was completed, the first thing lined up was the rear end housing.


rearend bracket

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.


bracket outer


bracket inner




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 precision.


frontend 1

How's this for a trick front end?


frontend 2


frontend 2


front wheels





front engine mount

One of a kind, custom front plate that also serves as motor mounts.


engine mount




Just a small sample of the precision cut custom parts that were made for this project.



chassis seat

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
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.


tail side


tail rear



push bar

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 shoulders.


chute packs



engine plate

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.




cross members



fuel tank

Hanna's "cackle for days" fuel tank. 16 gallons is bigger than my Mazda!


tank mount

fuel tank mount



steering wheel

Steering wheel in progress.


steering wheel 2

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.



tow rig

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).




Hanna's Car at the CHRR


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