"You've got to understand; I built the Ice Truck to drive the #@*$ out of--I wanted to go out and raise hell with it. I'd take it out to parking lots after a car show and smash my foot down and turn the steering wheel. It's like the world's biggest go-kart--you couldn't turn it over if you tried. It's less than 47 inches tall, 100 inches wide with a 106-inch wheelbase--you do the math."
Almost 40 years after Rod & Custom featured Dan Woods' Ice Truck in concept form on our August 1970 cover, we're pleased to feature it finished courtesy of Dan and friends from 1967-1970 and owner Dave Shuten and friends in 2007. It's not your typical hot rod, builder, or R&C feature to be sure.
There are many pioneers of hot rodding, but you don't usually find them much past the 1950s. Dan Woods redefined hot rodding in the 1970s with his application of then-current racing technology, unique design and fabrication, great attention to finish and detail, but also as one of the first to devote a business exclusively to building hot rods for customers and selling exclusive hot rod components for Model Ts through 1940s Fords.
His reputation as a great builder was defined by many things, but the Ice Truck established him as the leading builder of hot rods. No one was building cars like he was then or possibly ever. The Ice Truck was like something from outer space back in the 1960s when Dan, legendary designer Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, and cartoonist Ed "Newt" Newton first conceived it.
Dan wanted something wild to follow on the heels of his Milk Truck show rod, also featured on an August R&C cover--1965 for that one. He loved the components and also proportions of the race cars he saw at Dan Gurney's shop and that whole Indy car look--but he also liked the early Model T ice truck he saw as a kid coming back from a weekend in Sun City, California.
Dan's Milk Truck landed him a job at Ed Roth's Maywood digs, which introduced him to resident cartoonist and designer Newt. Soon Dan had conveyed his wacky ice truck/Indy car idea to Newt, who morphed the two opposing ideas on paper. Keep in mind the entire conception and build takes place between 1967 and 1970.
The frame and independent suspension were built by Dan in his parents' garage. The rear is based on a Jaguar third member, while the front features homemade A-arms originally sprung by a single leaf spring, before being changed in the early 1970s into Dan's signature opposed-coil spring setup. The brass radiator housing hides the military armored personnel carrier water pump and conventional radiator and was put together at Henry's Machine Works in Bellflower using thick brass plate painstakingly welded through trial and error so there is no heat discoloration or pitting. Dan also purchased the blown Buick from Mickey Thompson straight out of his twin-engine Monster dragster for $500--paid in installments--before Vietnam interrupted Dan's life in 1967.
By the time of the first moon walk in August 1969, Dan was back home with ice in his veins and that personnel carrier water pump and F-4 Phantom map light stuffed in his duffel bag--both of which would end up on the Ice Truck.
When R&C's editor Bud Bryan visited J&J Chassis in Cerritos in early 1970, he found Dan, Newt, and J&J owner Roger Jonguris mocking up the body--which was featured in that August 1970 issue. You could see it was a fantasy hot rod for sure--but it was for real!
"I would sit there and grind and Newt would tell me to move it this way or that--he and Roger were there for every inch of the body shape," says Dan. "Once we got the mahogany panels on, I took it back home and fiberglassed it. We used finger joints pinned with dowels and glue for the body framework--kind of Old World-like construction. I primed and painted it, then it was off to Joe Perez for upholstery. We thrashed to get it done for the 1971 Oakland Roadster Show."