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After the 2003 California Hot Rod Reunion, veteran drag racer Ron "Big Yohns" Johnson decided to jump into the Cacklecar mix. One of his favorite cars of all time was the 1965 Shubert & Herbert small block Chevy powered fuel dragster.

 

History

 

Zane Shubert launches the Shubert & Herbert fueler at Lions Drag Strip in 1965.

When this car was built in early 1965 Zane Shubert and Chet Herbert had raced together for a number of years, with Chevrolet and Olds F-85 powered dragsters. This was their last car together and it was one of the very first Chevy powered Fuel Dragsters to run over 200 mph.

It was probably the best performing Chevy fueler on the West Coast on a week in-week out basis because of the never ending supply of parts that Herbert made available. Shubert reported they bought new Chevrolet blocks and other vital parts 3 at a time and machined them all building the engines like money was no object. They started with a 283" Chevy block, installed a 1 inch Moldex stroker crank, ground out the pan rails for rod clearance and with a bore job, it netted out at 402 cu. in.

Most teams who were running the Hemi's actually had smaller engines, as a 392, even at .030 over is under 400 inches. Few Hemi powered cars had stroker cranks so often this "little" Chevy would be the biggest engine in the field. Shubert & Herbert ran 10% overdrive on the blower and a very moderate Nitro percentage at 15%, maybe creeping up to, but never over, 25%. At this size the small block engines were frail so engine failures were not uncommon and they expected to build a new one every couple of weeks, but when they ran, they ran!

 

Here is a great aerial shot of the starting line at Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, CA where Zane had so many good outings with the car

 

This car was also easy to spot because the engine was mounted way back near the rear end. Also because of the pinion location at axle center line the rear of the motor was higher than most cars and the motor slanted down toward the front of the car at an extreme angle. Shubert was very adept at managing the horsepower and was often able to beat all the Chryslers that frequently had more power than the track would hold and would spin the tires to extreme. The Chevy being very light and relatively easy to drive in a wheelstand could put 100% of the weight on the rear tires. Shubert used a single small wheel under the back of the car to control how high the front end could go up in the air and he knew how to drive this way. Herbert recalls that they won 12 weeks in a row at Long Beach with this car.

 

 

Shubert & Herbert at Lions Drag Strip in 1965.

The reason Johnson chose to recreate this Shubert & Herbert car was that he had actually run it in Minnesota in 1967 with a BBC on Nitro. Keith Peabody had bought the car from Herbert, less engine, at the end of 1966 and brought it to Minneapolis. Johnson had lost his RCS fueler when Vern Anderson crashed it at the end of the 1966 season. He might have been without a car but Johnson was able to put a BBC fuel engine together and team up with Peabody for what turned out to be Johnson's last year of racing.

 

Keith Peabody in the Peabody & Johnson fueler (ex-Shubert & Herbert car) in 1967.

Fast forward to 2004 when Johnson decided to hunt it down for Cacklefest and posterity. To Johnson's dismay he found that the car was sold by Peabody in 1971. The new owners took it to a chassis builder to be upgraded and discovered the tubing was too light to meet SEMA specs. And like so many memories, the car was cut up and scrapped. But there was some good news. By sheer luck Peabody had kept the Chevy pattern clutch can, so he was able to get that one original part to start the recreation with.

 

Orangeline

 

 

With the blessings of both Zane Shubert and Chet Herbert, Johnson started gathering parts and contracting Bob Meyer of El Cajon to build the car and Bob McKray of Mission Viejo to build the engine. Johnson was able to provide Meyer with an number of pictures he had taken of the car in 1967 with the body off and photos of the car that had been as the subject of a feature article in a 1965 magazine. Shubert had some additional photos, including the wheelie at Long Beach at the top of this page.

 

With the narrative from the magazine article and all the pictures Meyer was not only able to create a blueprint of the chassis with all the measurements and tubing bends figured, but also see what the various mechanical details were. Zane's recollections were very helpful as well.

 

After about two-three months of gathering parts Johnson was able to deliver the "race car kit" to Meyer. There were two components that formed the foundation for the car, the original clutch can which Peabody had saved, and the unique champ rear end from Chet Herbert. Because of the unusual way the car was originally built, these truly were the recreations foundation.

 

Meyer started by building the front axle and here he had it and the torsion tube on the jig.

 

Meyer setup the rear axle location using the correct center section but he did not have the actual rear axle yet, so he hacked the ends off a sprint car axle Johnson had and put it in the center section along with the incorrect side bells. The front and rear axles were the correct 142 inches apart and at the correct relative height.

A side note: As noted above, Johnson got the complete Halibrand champ rear axle assembly from hub to hub, from Chet Herbert. Herbert said he had Halibrand make it for him, way back then, for a Bonneville project which was never completed due to a rules change. The pinion and axle were frozen and Johnson thought perhaps there were problems inside. As it turned out, it was brand new, even down to the original assembly grease. The only problem was the pinion crush sleeve was just tight. However there was a problem with the axle itself that was one piece carved from an 8" diameter chromemoly billet. It was only about 26 inches long and Meyer needed 36 inches from hub face to hub face. No big deal, Jamie Frankland had Winters make a new axle.

 

Thinking ahead, in this photo there's a large tube resting on the driveline. This is the tube that would become the torque tube which goes between axle assembly and clutch can. It is larger in diameter than the original because with Shubert/Herbert's upcoming duties (Cacklefest), Johnson wanted to be able to disconnect the driveline quickly.

Gary Sumek at Lenco has agreed to make the uncoupler but hasn't made it yet. it will enable them to disengage when they want to start the car with the starter (static), for a show and tell. Then they can also engage it for when they want to push start the car. This project is slated for the Winter of 2005.

 

Here's a shot of the front axle assembly on the jig. The torsion tube came from Frank Fedak, along with a roll bar hoop, that he and Zane Shubert had made in quantity back in 1965 when they were building race cars pretty regularly. So now Johnson had two pieces of tubing that were from the same batch that were used in the original car. Between these, the original clutch can and the Halibrand axle that was made at the same time as the one in the original car, one could make a case that it was a restoration that's being front halved, rear halved and getting a new body all at the same time.

 

The engine, clutch can, torque tube, rear end are a unit, as they were originally. The "butt hoop" and the shoulder hoop are in place here.

 

The engine angle is as close as they could get it to the original car. Meyer said it may be 1/4 degree less "tilt". As it was, the shortest oil pans they could find were deep enough so the pan sat 1/2 inch below ground level on the jig. They had to trim the pan even more and shorten the sump.

 

Tim Ezerts beat out the aluminum panel for the seat bottom. Large hammers, a bag of sand a a 16# bowling ball. Tools of the trade.

 

 

This picture graphically captures the economy of weight, however the reconstruction of some of this stuff had Meyer tugging at his follicles! Here is the steering sector and arm, plus the clutch linkage. The steering shaft to the wheel contains 2 u-joints. The clutch linkage is complete.

 

With the 2004 CHRR rapidly approaching, Meyer worked Sundays and everyday to get this bad boy rolling. The seat was done and the car was secure in the jig, and Johnson's curiosity was killing him about the extra size Meyer built into the roll cage so someone bigger than a Hamster (Jeep Hampshire) could sit in it. Well, "Big Yohns" is certainly lager than a Hampser and was able to climb in.  Considering Shubert is not a svelte as he was in 1965 the extra room was appreciated!

 

With the bearing and flange clamped into perfect alignment with the axle Meyer fitted the vertical plate that is welded to the axle upright and the upper and lower frame rails. It was tricky because the top rails are wider than the bottom, so the vertical plate starts at the outside of the bottom frame rail and ends up on the inside of the top frame rail.

 

Finished, it looked like this. The extra two holes are for another bracket that will hold the brake caliper, a Halibrand Indy car 2 pot. It was about this time that Johnson remembered something a pal of his back in Minnesota told him once, years ago, about restorations and recreations. "There's nothing to it, if you have plenty of time and money. If time is short, no problem here, just bring more money". Never truer than today.

 

Meyer worked hard on steering and searched many u-joints to get the same style. The steering sector is 1959 Fiat 600 that Shubert gave Johnson which was the same as original. Bob was able to cut the original steering arm down to a real thick washer with the spine inside and fabricated an arm to be as much like the original as possible. He had to make the nut that holds the steering arm on! Childs play for him. For many this would have stopped the project dead.

 

The one-of-a-kind steering wheel had to be recreated by Meyer started by having four pieces cut out on a water jet. Two Black rim halves, an aluminum rim core and an aluminum spoke/hub combo. Here are the black halves and the spoke/hub with the Horn Button Howard Corwin sent Johnson.

 

The roll bar constituted the next to last piece of "Pipe" welded in place. The push bar was he last, unless you count the brake handle as "Pipe".

 

With the steering wheel done, here are a pair of shots approximately from the same angle, showing the cockpit then (below) and now. At this point everyone knew it was going to be "The Car" all over again! Who says you can't go back home?

 

The cockpit as it was in 1967.

 

By the end of August 2004 the car was on all fours. This is Tim Everts in the car, he's "The Tinman" at Meyer Racing as well as general fabricator. His next project would be the body that was fairly straightforward except for the large cowl curve for the windshield (below).

 

 

Meanwhile across town Bob McKray was putting the final touches on the engine. This is a really nice engine, probably capable of running as good as the car did in it's heyday, although not on 10% like Shubert ran. It has all good stuff, all new except the block and heads... no shortcuts anywhere.

 

The first fire up was at McKray's shop. Here, from left to right, one of Bob's neighbors, Mikey Kennedy, Kol Johnson, Don Enriquez and Bob McKray, crouched in front of the motor. They fired it first on plain old alcohol out of the yellow bottle. Fired right up, minor adjustments on barrel valve, idle speed etc. Sounded Great!

 

After firing a few times they were satisfied with the fundamentals. McKray looked at Johnson and said "Do you want to try it with a load?" Ron replied, "We didn't bring any Nitro!". McKray said, "We've got some left over from Cacklefest. Johnson said "Bring It On!". In their day, Zane and Chet ran 10%, maybe 15% to 20% if their backs were against the wall and the track was good. But, in order to make some noise, they figured they'd have to run at least 50% to be noticed in the "Thunder Parade", so they eyeballed a batch of 50% (Four Bits as Gabby Bleeker used to call it). Who needs a stinkin' hydrometer? They measured the amount of Nitro in the red jug, poured in the same amount of alky. Had about 3 1/2 gallons of blend and fired it up. Here McKray is working his magic on the barrel valve. Sounded stout... very sharp with the 1 3/4 inch zoomies off of Johnson's VRA Jr. Fuel car. It was time to take the mill to Meyer's for the final calculations to finish the drive line, clutch, input shaft and coupler deal. It was time to finally say, "Cacklefest, here we come!"

 

This is the painted chassis. Not much there. Meyer guessed its weight was between 68 and 75 pounds.

 

At this point they were only a couple of days away from completion, unless something really bad happened. The stuff that needed to be painted was painted. There were only two pieces on the car that were polished, and they were.

 

Except for the body in Shubert Red/Orange, everything else on the car is black or as close to metal/alloy natural color as they could get it. No Red and Blue Aeroquip, no nothing. That's the way it was then, that's the way it is now.

 

The body windshield fitted. This was just prior to the body coming off to go to the powder coating shop.

 

With the 2004 CHRR just two days out, the car is deemed almost done. All that's left to do is remove the protective coating from the windshield and install the blower scoop.

 

Orangeline

 

Owner:
Ron Johnson

 Crew:
Kol Johnson

 Driver:
Zane Shubert
142 inch Bob Myer chassis built in 2004
Reconstructed in 2004 by Ron Johnson
410 Chevrolet Small Block by Bob
McKray
Horsepower: 1500 on 40% Nitromethane

 

As the saying goes, it's great when a plan comes together. For Big Yohns Racing "the plan" came together at the 13th California Hot Rod Reunion held at Fomosa Raceway, October 1-3, 2004.

 

The car made its "official" debut Friday night as a featured "Cacklecar" at the Doubletree Hotel following the CHRR Honorees Award Ceremony.

 

The icing on the proverbial cake was the attendance of Zane Shubert and Chet Herbert with Shubert/Herbert. That's Zane in the cap and Chet sitting. Neither of them had been to any recent Nostalgia events and to say that they were "blown away" by the reception they got would be among the hugest understatements of all time!

 

Zane Shubert in the seat, motor running and getting his first sniff of Nitro in public for close to 40 years. He declined to use a breather mask and handled everything just fine.

 

Zane Shubert 1965

 

Running the tank dry of nitro, the huge crowd got a full dose of the good stuff.

 

Orangeline

 

Saturday was filled with anticipation for the signature event that evening - Cacklefest. During a break in the show Johnson and Shubert did the obligatory test push start which they did without incident.

 

On to Saturday night - "The Big Show" - Zane Shubert in the pre Cacklefest Parade.

 

"Shoobie" (as Johnson has nicknamed the car) fired right up on its inaugural Cacklefest push start.

 

The clutch was set up nice and soft and Shubert had no problem with it or the brakes and everything worked just fine. It ran and ran, at the slower idle. Shubert whacked it every once in a while and it was the "energizer bunny", it just kept on running!

 

This photo shows the track lighting on Ron Johnson. It was the eve of his 70th Birthday and this was very special for him.

 

Johnson and Son took Shoobie all the way to Bowling Green, KY for the 2005 NHRR - Kol Johnson in the seat for Cacklefest.

 

 

NHRR III

 

Shubert was back in the car for CHRR IV (2005) Cacklefest.

 

 

 

Orangeline

 

During the 2005 Big Rail Review in Escondido, CA

 

 

Orangeline

 

In April of 2005 Johnson went a step beyond "cackling" when he took the car to the First Annual Standard 1320 Invitational Drag Race at Inyokern, CA.

 

For Shubert & Herbert's "inaugural" burnout Johnson put veteran Top Fuel driver, Howard Haight in the seat. After a push start, this shot has Johnson doing a final check before Haight staged.

 

Haight dumped the clutch and Shoobie was off.

 

 

Straight and true for a good 400 feet. What a sight it was.

 

For the complete story visit:

 

Orangeline

 

Cacklefest 2005 - "Shoobie" was now a Cacklefest "vet" and Zane Shubert was back in the seat.

 

Since the 2004 event Johnson added a new fuel tank that is about 4 1/2 gallons. It ran clean on all 8 and just ran and ran. They finally shut it off because Johnson figured it was getting close to empty.

 

Orangeline

 

Drag Racer Magazine decided to do an article about Shoobie in 2005. In view of the fact that Chet Herbert's son Doug races contemporary NHRA Top Fuel it was decided that a photo shoot at the Winternationals would make for an interesting set of pictures. Photos and story by the old pro Bob McClurg, who actually still had some unpublished pictures he took of Shoobie at Long Beach in 1965. He included a couple in the article.

Here, Shoobie poses with Doug Herbert's Snap-on Top Fuel car. 40 years apart and the contrasts are stunning, 200 mph vs. 330 mph, 1100 pounds vs: 2200 and 140 inch wheelbase vs: 300 inches. The Snap-on car is moderately more expensive to run too!

 

Orangeline

 

In the spring of 2006 Bob Meyer started building Johnson a manual disconnecting coupler, or "in-and-out box" for Shoobie. Here it is, ready for assembly and then put back in the car. The clutch can is the aluminum colored drum and the torque tube between the clutch can and the Halibrand non-quick champ rear end is the black tube. 5 1.2 inches long and this is why it was problematic... just no room.A shift fork was installed in the torque tube and and in this shot it the lever has been moved to engagement position. Notice the coupler is up level with the flange.

 

Here the lever is in the disengage position and notice that the coupler has moved toward the clutch can far enough to disengage from the other coupler half.

 

Here is the male half of the coupler on the pinion shaft of the Halibrand center section. The tooth width has been trimmed to allow complete disengagement, because of the tight quarters.

 

Here is the female half, modified to accept the shift fork. The shifter fork rides in the groove created by welding big washers and spacers to the couple sleeve.

 

Here is the modified Lenco shift fork with bosses welded into the torque tube and a hex end cross shaft. Works just like a throw out fork. That's it. End of story until it's together and tested.

Note: This is a great innovation for the cacklecars as they are all mandated to be "uncoupled" when fired up anywhere other than a push start situation.

 

Orangeline

 

In September of 2004 Johnson commissioned Roger "Riceman" Lee to build a one-of-a-kind brass model of his Shubert/Herbert dragster .The project took months to complete and the results were stunning.

 

Project Step-by-step: Click Here

 

Orangeline

 

Mystery Solved


What happened to the components that were saved when the original Shubert/Herbert (S/H) chassis was discarded has been a mystery. The chassis builder couldn't remember who he built the car for, so it was dead end.

Recent communications with Rick Schnell of Anoka, MN., the previous owner and Al Burns from Maryland, the current owner of "The Slider" lead to the conclusion that The Slider was built using what was salvaged from Shubert & Herbert car. It has the Tony Nancy upholstery, the open tube Champ Halibrand rear end and brake set-up and the same configuration front axle and spindles. It is assuredly not the same chassis, as The Slider is not "legs under" as S/H was. The Slider has run 7:72 and 175 and is believed to be, currently, the quickest and fastest Flattie in the country.

The picture above was taken at Bowling Green last year. Ironically, the recreation Shoobie was there too! Had it been known then, pictures of both cars together could have been taken. Perhaps some time in the future.

In around 2010, Ron was contacted by the owner of the Slider and asked if he would like to buy the original Halibrand rear end as it was finally going to be retired in favor of a drop-out center section rear end to make gear changes practical. Ron did buy the rear end and installed it in his recreation. So now the recreated Shoobie has the original scatter shield, complete rear end and the very unique Fiat 500 steering gear is an exact mate to the original, modified at the same time and on Zane's shelf for 40 years. These are more original parts than many restorations can brag of. Another restoration was done recently in Texas that started with just the original roll cage. So maybe Shoobie has become a restoration instead of a recreation?

 

Orangeline

 

Shubert & Herbert sign. This sign was made in San Diego by the company that makes the signs like this for the NHRA Museum. There is only 13 left of this limited editon sign (50). They measure 11 1/2 x 15 1/2 and are nice heavy metal. $20.00 plus shipping. Contact Ron Johnson for details

 

Johnson recently observed, "At every event I have showed the car, even at NHRR at Bowling Green Kentucky, I have had one or more people come up to me and say they saw it run in 1965. Mostly at Long Beach, and they were nuts for the car! It was "The Chevy". And speaking of Bowling Green they went REALLY nuts! The home of the Corvette Factory and the Corvette Museum! And this was the only Chev powered car! You figure it out! The crowd's reaction to Shoobie surpassed anything I have ever been a part of. It made chills run down my spine!"

The original driver of another Cackle Car recently commented to Johnson, "There were hundreds of the Hemi powered cars in 1965, but this was "The Chevy", this was it! Thanks so much for bringing it back".

Johnson reflected on the project, "It has been an unbelievably "right" decision for me to do this, more rewarding than anything else I have done in racing and I'll probably die with Shoobie in the garage! Not right away, though, I hope!"

 

   Big Yohns History - Photographer/Writer 
The Early Years - Racing

Sonoma Win || Pomona Win

2004 CHRR  ||  40th NHRA World Finals  ||  Inyokern 2005
2005 NHRR  ||  2005 CHRR  ||  2005 Fuel & Gas Finals
Shubert & Herbert Riceman Replica


"TV" Tommy Ivo Barnstormer
Shubert & Herbert Recreation  ||  Shubert & Herbert CHRR
ChiZler 204 Restoration ||  ChiZler V Recreaton

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