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.
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,
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.
Peabody in the Peabody & Johnson fueler (ex-Shubert &
Herbert car) in 1967.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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!
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.
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!
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.
the tank dry of nitro, the huge crowd got a full dose of the
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
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.
Shubert was back in the
car for CHRR IV (2005) Cacklefest.
During the 2005 Big Rail
Review in Escondido, CA
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,
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.
dumped the clutch and Shoobie was off.
Straight and true for
a good 400 feet. What a sight it was.
complete story visit:
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.
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!
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
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.
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 justÂ
the original rollÂ cage. So maybe Shoobie has become a
restoration instead of a recreation?
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
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!"
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
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!"