Nowadays when you need to haul you race car(s) around, you have a wide range of very modern, practical and convenient trailers and trucks that will do the job beautifully. One annoying little thing though: they all look pretty much the same. Sure, you can customize them, throw some paint on, some graphics…but the basic shape doesn’t vary that much. Gone are the days when race car haulers were truly a part of the show, properly admired by the Team/Drivers fans and coveted by kids that would pick them up as scale models from companies like Matchbox and Corgi. Today on Automotive Views, we take a trip down memory lane, back to the good old days (done with cliches, I promise) of race car haulers. Here are a few of the very best ever made.
Citroen DS Tissier Car Transporter
If you don’t know about Tissier Citroens I’ve gotta say, you’re missing out on something amazing! Back in the day, Pierre Tissier had a problem. He was a Panhard agent in Paris, but frequently needed to transport cars to/from Spain as well. Tissier found that there really wasn’t anything available that he considered to be up to the job. So, following that “necessity being the mother of invention” rule, Tissier decided to come up with something appropriate himself. His amazing company was born from that decision, ending up becoming “the” expert at making the most of Citroen’s hydropneumatic suspension, building some of the most extraordinary vehicles you’ll ever see in your life. From ambulances to motor homes, carrying anything from stacks of newspapers across France to helicopters in Africa, the Tissier Citroens (DS, CX, XM…) are serious pieces of machinery in any form. You can take a look around this Otto6 page and be amazed at the sheer volume of variations, but today, we’re focusing solely on the car hauler. Now, you may be tempted to say: “but this post is specifically about race car haulers, you can load up any vehicle on one of these, not just racers”; well, you are of course completely right in that observation; but, since these did perform that task as well, I felt it was only fair to include them. Let’s face it, if you get to the track in one of these it really doesn’t matter how the weekend goes, you already won.
Ecurie Ecosse Transporter
“Team Scotland” was a heavyweight name in racing back in the 50’s. They won the legendary 24 hours of Le Mans in both 1956 and 1957 (with their D-Types taking first and second that year). However, Ecurie Ecosse failed to perform well at La Sarthe every single year after that till 1962, when the original team was no more. Accompanying the team through good and bad times was something even cooler than the metallic Scottish flag blue D-Types: the Ecurie Ecosse one of a kind, gorgeous Transporter. Imagined by chief designer Selby Howgate, the Transporter started life as a simple Commer truck chassis. Over time, it was shaped by Howgate (and built by Walter Alexander & Co. Coachworks – Scotland) to the immediately recognizable form we know and love today. Debuted in 1960 and immortalized by Corgi the following year, the Transporter has room for two cars on top and a third one down in the back. Inside, it has a shop area as well as crew sleeping quarters. Retired in 1971, the Ecurie Ecosse Transporter lived a rough life untill it was restored to its former glory in the 1980’s. It sold in late 2013 for a whopping £1,793,500 (that’s $2,931,411). You can see and hear a bit more of the Transporter in this Hemmings Blog post.
Fiat Series 306/2 Grand Prix Transporter
Talk about an illustrious career. This particular 306/2, a Fiat chassis with a Bartoletti body, started life as the transporter for the Maserati Formula 1 team during the 1957 and 1958 seasons. By 1960, the Grand Prix Transporter was in the hands of Lance Reventlow’s racing team, an American entrepreneur and car driver. For the 1960 and 1961 seasons, the Bartoletti Fiat served as Reventlow Automobiles Inc GP team hauler until being sold in 1961 to none other than American legend Carroll Shelby. Shelby added a second rear axle to the Grand Prix Transporter in order to make it more stable and to handle the weight of the Daytona Coupes better. After leaving Shelby’s employment, the Bartoletti Fiat was used by Lotus and by the racing teams of David Piper and Alan Mann before being cast in the Steve McQueen movie “Le Mans” in which it apparently needed to play several roles, being painted and repainted according to whichever team it needed to belong to on screen…so much work…After Le Mans, the Grand Prix Transporter had a couple of more owners, ending up for sale in 2011 at the RM Monterey Auction. At this point, the Bartoletti Fiat had already experienced a detailed process of restoration and that reflected on the price: almost one million US dollars. You can read more about the history and specs of the blue giant in a 2012 RM article here.
“Codfish” (Bacalao) is a weird name for…pretty much anything but the actual fish, really…however, it looks particularly out of place in a car hauler. Nonetheless, the strangeness of the name takes absolutely nothing away from how astonishing this Spanish creation is. Where did it come from? Well, bear with me: the Spanish part of Hispano-Suiza was bought by ENASA (Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones) which was in term owned by INI (Instituto Nacional de Industria), a state owned industrial holding company. ENASA built vehicles under two brand names, Sava and Pegaso. The latter made a little bit of everything really, from trucks, to buses to sports cars. Of those sports cars, I’d like to take a moment and single out the gorgeous Z102B Saoutchik Berlinetta; if you don’t know it, click here and enjoy, you can thank me later. So we already know Pegaso made a bunch of different commercial vehicles, but where does the Bacalao fit in? Well, apparently Pegaso needed something nice to haul their Z-102 race cars around, so they took one of their Z-401 truck chassis and made this one off, awesome transporter. According to Pasión Pegaso Forum member patanslot68 who did some more extensive research on the matter, the Bacalao saw the light of day in 1952, being presented to the public the following year. By 1954, the Pegaso had a slightly different front with a smaller grill and a different paint scheme; originally white, the Bacalao then wore a two tone blue paint job with a white roof. During the following decade, the Bacalao had a long career in several rallies and motoring/racing events. By 1968, it was a support vehicle for an F2 team, a job that it apparently maintained for a while until it got abandoned in Barcelona. In 1970, the Bacalao was retired in the worst way possible, being scrapped unceremoniously. A loss not only to car transporter enthusiasts, but to Spain as whole, since its now missing an extremely relevant piece of Pegaso history.
Rennstall Bunker’s VW T1
Not a lot to tell here, but what a way to make a T1 pickup really special…the American Rennstall Bunker (“Racing Bunker”) team found a way to haul its Porsches in style with this extended bed T1. I can’t find much on the success (or lack thereof) of Art Bunker and his team, but they sure hit a home run with the VW hauler because to this day, it stands tall as a favorite amongst car hauler enthusiasts. The original was unfortunately lost…however, a lovingly crafted replica made its debut at the 2007 Techno Classica in Essen, causing quite a stir. Welcome back, little big Volkswagen!
Fiat Tipo 682/RN-2 Transporter
Another Bartoletti Fiat you ask? Yes! Most definitely! Gotta love those things…This time, Ferrari’s 1959 682/RN-2. Used by the Scuderia alongside another Bartoletti, the 642 RN-2, Ferrari’s (at the time) new toy featured slightly different looks than its predecessor. However, in my humble opinion, a few small changes added up to a huge difference. That amazing round front grill alone (the 642 had a square one with no chrome strips in the middle) makes it twice as beautiful. For 11 years the 682 safely carried some of the best, most astonishing race cars ever made from one track to the next. By 1970 it was sold to – I kid you not – a circus promoter that toured it all over Italy. After being retired from his stretch as “circus folk”, it remained stored for about 20 years, being bought in 1995 by SoCal specialists that arranged for a full restoration according to the website boldride. The 682 sold at Pebble Beach in 2011 for just under one million US dollars.
Mercedes Benz 0317 Porsche Transporter
You take what’s already a cool looking Mercedes bus, throw everything away but the chassis and that pretty “face” (as you can see in this amazing picture), send it off to the Schenk Company for a functional body capable of hauling 4 of the most badass race cars that ever existed and, to top it all of, you give it the incomparable Gulf livery. Now you’ve got yourself a proper, astonishing hauler. According to ClassicDriver.com’s Alex Easthope, only three 0317 Porsche Transporters were built, of which 2 remain. This particular one, the 1968 Gulf-Wyer hauler remains absolutely immaculate in terms of conservation and those beasts – also known as 917s – look right at home in it…
Norman Holtkamp, a fabricator who was also a Porsche and Volkswagen dealer at Inglewood California, looked at Mercedes’ “Blue Wonder” (we’ll get to that beauty in a minute…) and thought “Hmm, that’s kind of amazing”. So, he decided it was worth giving a shot at building something as cool as the astonishing blue Mercedes. Staying true to his inspiration, the Cheetah is based on a Merc, a wrecked 300S to be exact. Holtkamp then raided a few parts bins looking for stuff to bolt on the salvaged 300’s chassis. The engine for the Cheetah is a small block Chevy V8 coupled to a 3 speed Vette transmission; the “cab” came out of a 59 or 1960 El Camino (depending on which source you consult; in an article for Barnfinds.com, Tom Cotter, author of the popular book “The Cobra in the Barn” states that Holtkamp bought the 1960 Camino cab straight off GM’s Truck Assembly Plant in Van Nuys); the headlights and front bumper belong to a 1960 Corvair and the rear bumper looks like it was taken off a 59 El Camino as well (correct me if I’m wrong, Chevy experts). The one of a kind hauler was then taken to LA’s Troutman-Barnes (popular race car body builders in the 50’s and 60’s) where it got its sleek aluminum shape. The Cheetah Transporter was ready to work by 1961 and according to this Hemmings Blog article, Holtkamp planned for a limited production run that would carry an asking price of 16 grand per transporter. However, that was a particularly high price at the time and as such, the Cheetah ended up being a one off. After 3 years in service, this second Hemmings article tells us that Holtkamp messed with the dimensions of the Cheetah, discarding parts of the stunning Troutman-Barnes body in the process. He ended up selling the Transporter to builder/racer Dean Moon who, while in the process of updating the brakes from drums to disks, saw the 1971 San Francisco earthquake destroy the building in which the Cheetah was being worked on. Despite not suffering major damage, the occurrence was enough to let the Transporter sitting on jack stands in Moon’s shop till his death in 1987. It’s unclear why he never completed the work prior to his passing. The Cheetah was then purchased by car collector Jim Degnan who in turn, sold it to Geoff Hacker in 2006. Who is Geoff Hacker you ask? Well, it’s complex to explain but he certainly looks like someone with a fun job…finding and bringing back to life the unique and the obscure. You can read more about Hacker here. As far as I can tell, Hacker still owns the Cheetah; at least he did 4/5 years ago, can’t really find any information or pictures after that. I hope one day the unique Holtkamp Transporter will be brought back to its former glory and, I don’t know if at any point this complete body shown in Cotter’s article was actually on the car or if it never left the concept/sketch stage, but if the Cheetah looked like that it would be about 10 times even more stylish/cool/pretty than it already is.
Mercedes Benz Rennstrasnporter (“Blue Wonder”)
As usual, I saved the best (what I personally feel qualifies as such anyway) for last. Mercedes already had pretty astonishing machinery for the track; the Silver Arrows (W196s) were a force to be reckoned with. However, they needed a hauler that could match their superb cars…it wasn’t an easy job, but I’d say they pulled it off beautifully. Brainchild of Alfred Neubauer – Mercedes Grand Prix Team racing manager at the time – the “Blue Wonder” Rennstransporter was based on a 300S, but it was powered by the same inline-six that was providing the SL Gullwing with the grounds for its claim as the world’s first supercar. As a result, the “Blue Wonder” was the world’s fastest race car hauler of its day, capable of doing 105 mph! The amazing Mercedes Transporter served the company for over 10 years until its life ended far too violently and abruptly. Born in 1954, by 1967 legendary Mercedes engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut had it scrapped for unknown reasons. What an absolute senseless tragedy! Luckily, Mercedes attempted to undo Uhlenhaut’s horrendous and incomprehensible mistake by building an as accurate as possible replica in 2001. The Blue Wonder is reborn, thank you Mercedes.
Ecurie Ecosse Transporter
Fiat Series 306/2 Grand Prix Transporter
VW T1 “Rennstall Bunker”
Fiat Tipo 682/RN-2 Transporter
Mercedes 0317 Porsche Transporter
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