Though altered significantly and hyped accordingly, favorable press seemed to elude the car upon its '67 debut. Still, the Tiger Shark found a few champions, among them Promotions Inc., employee Ray Velthuisen. "At that time airbrushing was real popular-the mountain scenes with the trains and that sort of thing," he remembered. So he and custom painter Jack Kampney, who painted the early Don Prudhomme Cuda funny cars, repainted the Tiger Shark and airbrushed its flanks in the very early '70s. "Although it was at my house, it was never mine," Velthuisen noted. Promotions Inc., sold the Tiger Shark at an auction in about 1972.
Legend has it that the Tiger Shark changed hands several times over the years and in several ways, the least dignified of them being at a garage sale. In 1995, however, Dennis Pallen found it in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Though a collector, the cars Pallen typically sought were a whole lot smaller. "I used to be a really big Hot Wheels collector," he said.
If you recall, Harry Bentley Bradley, the guy who transformed the Dream Rod to the Tiger Shark, designed 11 of Mattel's 16 first-release cars. Among them was a blown version of the Tiger Shark, although Mattel called it the Python. When I was a kid the Python was my favorite car," Pallen proclaimed. "To find out later in life that the real car existed was just a mind-boggler to me. By chance I'd sold my Hot Wheels collection to a local guy. I had the money in the bank when a guy in the Hot Wheels club called me to tell me that the Tiger Shark was for sale."
After months sparring over price, Pallen prevailed. While some might consider a 1:1 scale model the ultimate static display, he didn't. "If I was going to build it I'd have to be able to drive it down the road," he said.
Built from real car parts, the Dream Rod/Tiger Shark had the potential to move under its own power. Unfortunately potential was all it ever had. "There were at least 10 points to that car that proved that you couldn't drive it," he revealed. For example, the doors, hood, and decklid never had latches; they opened by electric screw jacks. "They were remote controlled so they (Promotions Inc., employees) could sit up in the stands and open and close them," Pallen said.
What's more, the Jowett chassis couldn't bear the weight of a lead-laden steel body and an engine with twice the cylinders. "It was sagging real bad in the middle," he said. "The four body mounts were actually cracked." His solution: he created an entirely new chassis with 2x3 steel tubing, tube axles, and four-link suspension front and rear.
Probably the most damning point was ergonomics: it was nigh impossible for an adult to sit in the car, let alone operate it. "I figured out a way to place the seat so I could put my head in it, but it would've made some alterations to the interior that would've changed the car."
Every cause has a patron saint, and the one for wayward show cars answers to Mark Moriarity. In Ed Roth cars alone, who restored the Road Agent and the Rotar and outright cloned the Outlaw-and that doesn't include the other stuff like the trikes. He's so taken with Big Daddy's Candy-painted bubble-topped vision that he built a fiberglass-bodied show rod of his own design: The Futurian.
Moriarity bought the Dream Rod/Tiger Shark in 2005. The fact that it was impossible to drive, modified almost irreversibly, and lacked every Dream Rod-specific part merely sweetened the forbidden fruit. "It was essentially the Tiger Shark," he noted. "There were very few original parts that came with that car but I was happy to get anything."
Like a kid with a new model car, Moriarity tore right into the project. "Bob made those Tiger Shark fenders and brazed those to the car," he began. "I just cut it right where they brazed them and peeled them off. Once I'd done that there were clues underneath where the Dream Rod wheelwells were." Thus began the canonization of St Mark, Martyr of Wayward Metal.
"I had to recreate the original grille opening and the wheel housings," he continued. "Fortunately (Bob Marianich) left a lot of jagged edges that I could work from." To bring the top back into shape he had to reopen the top's side scoops. He also reopened the hole for the backlight, a job made easier by remnants of the pinch weld. "That was a lucky thing for me." Unlucky was everything behind the rear window, however. It was modified beyond redemption. His remedy? "I cut it off and started over," he said.
Beyond finding and modifying TR-3 seats, he had to make the headrests and steering wheel from scratch using only photos for references. The early articles mention the '58 Mercury gauge cluster so a replacement came somewhat easy; however, he had to work to discover that the ashtray and switch panel in the center console came from a '58 Lincoln. "All the Dream Rod-specific stuff was just thrown out whenever it was changed into the Tiger Shark," Moriarity lamented.
Remember the reference to Cushenbery's painting skills? Check this out: Moriarity, a self-proclaimed amateur sprayer, copied Cushenbery's work in his home garage. Bob Holland replicated Bill Manger's Pearl White gut and Tom Rodwell at C&E Auto Upholstery installed it.
With that and a set of reproduction T-bird wires and BFGoodrich whitewalls, the Car Craft Dream Rod was once again a reality. It debuted at the '09 Detroit Autorama, appropriately enough amid other resurrected or cloned '60s show cars.
What these cars said wasn't, "This is the way things were," as much as, "This is the way things could have been." Looking around that show, it's obvious that the future according to Chuck Pelly and Bob Hubbach never panned out; nobody's building hot rods from new-car body panels. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you. Can you imagine a hot rod built from bits and pieces of vaguely shaped modern cars? They wouldn't reflect the untamed future; they'd represent the boring today.
Quite frankly we'd rather let cars like the Dream Rod do our bidding for the future. They give us hope that things really could turn out cool after all.
The Dream Rod originally sported a K-code 289, but Mark got only the bare block. So he tra
Mark recreated the entire rear clip from scratch using the same materials Bill used: a fir
Here's the man himself, Bill Cushenbery (or at least his likeness). This photo was taken a
Rod & Custom Feature Car
The Car Craft Dream Rod
The Dream Rod sits on a Jowett Jupiter chassis, one of the most obscure chassis under any rod as he found out when he tried to find one to replace the long-gone original. Jowett collector Ted Miller graciously helped Mark find one-a feat considering the company made only 700 Jupiters. Following Bill Cushenbery's lead, Mark Moriarity replaced the Jowett front suspension with a Volkswagen Beetle twin trailing arm unit. He similarly retained the rear suspension, including the Spicer Model 23 rear axle. To compensate for the body's considerable heft, Mark gave each corner a period-correct coilover shock.
It's cool enough that the 289 was a brand-spankin'-new displacement when Ford donated the engine to the project, but what's even cooler is that this one's a true 271-horse K-code variant. Mark inherited only the block since one of the Dream Rod's many owners stripped the engine to build a race car, however, a little detective work reunited that block with those parts. The Borg-Warner T-10 transmission is the same one that came with the engine. Behind that is probably the world's shortest driveshaft. The transmission features a Hurst Competition/Plus shifter.
Wheels & Tires
Bill originally used Kelsey Hayes-brand 14x5 wires made for the '62-63 Thunderbird Sports Roadster and Seiberling 8.00-14 tires. Mark used Wheel Vintiques wires and Coker reproduction BFGoodrich bias-ply tires, both of the same dimensions that Bill used. He said he knew that Bill used Cal Custom center caps that usually covered the lug nuts on OE-style wheels, but it took some experimenting to figure out that he trimmed them to fit the T-bird wheels' snouts.
Body & Paint
To build the body Bill and "Dutch" Waymire carved up a '60 Pontiac nose and doorskins, a '60 Corvair tail, a '53 Studebaker roof and windshield, and a Borg Ward Isabella sedan rear window, creating the rest from conduit, sheet stock, and lead. The conversion to Tiger Shark extensively modified the body, but Mark put it all back-no mean feat since he had to lop off the back of the car and start from scratch. Of all things, Mark measured the AMT scale model to reestablish the shape (let's hear it for Bud "The Kat" Anderson!). Mark's buddy Tom Rad, at Rad Paint, custom-mixed the Desert Sand Pearl from overspray Mark found on the center console and the gold from flakes left on a chunk of the old Jowett frame. Mark himself shot the color, including the intense gold fade highlights. Both AIH Custom Chrome in Dubuque, Iowa, and Bo Décor in Eagan, Minnesota, plated all the necessary parts.
The console withstanding, all the Dream Rod's interior parts went away during the transformation to Tiger Shark. So Mark recreated everything, including the steering column, headrest pods, and sectioned Triumph seats. Bob Holland in Woodbury, Minnesota, trimmed the cockpit in Naugahyde-brand Parchment Pearl. He had to find another '58 Mercury dash insert to fill the old upholstered-over cavity, however, before he could find a '58 Lincoln ashtray and switch panel he had to figure out what they were.
While Mark gets the props for restoring the Dream Rod to its original status, he said he couldn't get the job done without a few friends' help. He credits Brian Claire, John Schleicher, and Shawn Yost for being able to resurrect a plundered treasure to such a high degree of fit and finish within a scant three years.