All the King's Horses
By Eddie Buck
This is part one of a new series I have been trying to get rolling. Like anything else, it seems to languish and be perpetually delayed. Now that the stark reality of the death of a few notables in our realm has subsided and the maddening crush of ol' Mom Nature seems to have run its course, it's time to get back to business.
I wanted to highlight some of the talent that is carrying the torch into this next generation of builders, shapers and jacks of all trades. As the iconic forefathers are closing the books on their storied careers and heading off into the twilight of their lives the torches are being carried forward by a new crop of craftsmen. I want to chronicle this new breed and introduce them, in case you weren't aware of whom they are; some are known in their respective circles on the internet and through their accomplishments on a broader scale. Others have toiled in solitude, forging their craft, simply for the love of what once was and is being kept alive by die-hards who want to keep the art alive.
Craftsman noun crafts·man \ˈkraf(t)s-mən\ : a person (especially a man) who makes beautiful objects by hand
One such craftsman, Brian Fox of King Chassis. He's been a fixture at various events and has a growing following among devotees of everything digger. I first met this cat a couple years ago and knew about him a couple years longer than that. He's gaining a name for himself through quality work careful design and a strong work ethic. He was right there with me several weeks ago helping me sort through and clean up from the flood. He's helped me on a couple of my projects as well. I handed him some crudely fashioned pieces of dowel rod and pvc mock-ups of the front suspension of my M/T Maverick. He faithfully replicated all the pieces and did John Buttera proud. His work speaks for itself. With a roster of rails nearing the two dozen mark he must be doing something right!
When I was preparing to do this article, I sent him a few questions, trying to get a feel for how I wanted to proceed with this. Happily, I opened the email and found he did the work for me. I'll let him tell you in his own words.
“I have, for some reason, had a love for dragsters. I have a drawing I did at my Grandma’s when I was about 5 or 6 of a dragster (rear engine) that I wrote the words HOT ROD above. I had never even seen a drag race till my dad took me to a mud truck pull deal at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Missouri, when I was about 10 years old. They had a drag race going on behind us and I remember being turned around in the stands watching the drag races instead. No one in my family was into drag racing or any other motor sports at all. I came from a poor share cropper family in Arkansas so I’m sure even if they had had an interest they had no way of pursuing it. It’s a mystery to me where the interest came from. As I grew older, throughout my school years, I realized there were other kids that were interested in them too.”
“I always loved to learn, but mainly hands on stuff and history. . . always liked history. When it was time to pick classes I always chose stuff like drafting, art, auto maintenance, photography, metal and wood shop. The front engine dragster always grabbed my attention. I like art, I like function. If it has to be there, make it appealing. They just have something that I feel is beautiful. When I was messing with cars in my youth, I loved the look of dragsters. “
“There was a van in my subdivision that had a plate on it that said ”Runs 7s" or something close to that. Once when I was 16 while working on my Camaro, that guy stopped by and talked to me. He was looking at my car and talking when I asked him about the plate. He told me they had a 7 second dragster and the van was the tow car. He stressed to me the power to weight deal. That has to be what lit the fuse. Looking back, I would like to know who that guy was.”
“When I was 17 I got a job at a driveshaft shop. The man that owned it, Randy Dunn, was a great dude. He taught me to stick and mig weld. I built two of my street race cars out of his driveshaft shop and he let me keep them there. From the time that guy with the dragster talked to me (I never actually saw the car) a dragster was always in the back of my mind. I changed jobs and went to work at an architectural sign shop where I learned to tig weld. Within a year or two I started building my first dragster. That car," Zorbas Ghost" gained a lot of attention and my phone started to ring. I found out that some other people shared my love of these cars.”
“I am building my twentieth, twenty-first and my twenty-second dragsters right now. The cars I have done were mainly NHRA legal cars, about half early Chryslers and the other half Chevys. My true love is a three point roll-bar dragster. I have a handful of NHRA stickered dragsters with over-the-head chute tail bodies that hide the five point cage, with a handful of five point exposed cages. I try my best to make them look as close to the Golden Age of Drag Racing front motor cars we all love but with the ability to wear an SFI sticker.”
“I still have my day job as a sign maker, doing the dragsters mostly just because I love them. I hope in the future to either restore an existing car or recreate an historic one, haven’t done either (yet. . . Ed).”
King Chassis is located in an outlying suburb of St. Louis known as High Ridge. His central location in the Midwest makes getting to Brian's shop a manageable task. His customers come from all corners of the country and he even tosses a couple non-dragster projects in the mix.
Check him out on the web at KingChassis.net and King Chassis on Facebook. I may be a bit biased, but I was an admirer of his work before I was a friend. In the truest sense of the word, he is carrying on the tradition of names like Woody Gilmore, Roy Fjastad, Frank Huzar and more.
(L) Richard Egge King Chassis number 3. Former Randy Richey car. ( Randy Richey body)
(R) King Chassis number 13 Bill Bierman. The Leprechaun
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