Santa's Rocket Ship was used for holiday season promotions at malls in the Southern half of America for several decades before ending up in a former junkyard that is now an amusement park in Alaska.
The book "Weird Cars" by John Gunnell of Old Cars Weekly had a big part in making me a lover of automotive oddities. I got "Weird Cars" when it first came out in 1993 and read it cover to cover more times than I can count. One of the many weird vehicles which I still sometimes wonder about is Santa's Rocket Ship. This year as the Holidays approached, I decided to find out what happened to the Rocket Ship.
Santa's Rocket Ship was built and owned by Lloyd Laster of Tyler, TX. It was one of a fleet of five vehicles (3 Santa's Rockets, a "Rocket Sleigh" and a "Space Sleigh") built from commercial bus chassis for promotional use during the holiday season. The vehicles traveled all over the southern and southwest parts of the country taking Holiday Shoppers on joy rides while making appearances at shopping centers and malls. Each of the Santa's Rocket Ships traveled with a crew of five; a driver, two attendants, a hostess, and of course Santa Claus. Laster started in the 1950s with one Santa's Rocket Ship and had gradually built up the fleet of five Christmas vehicles by the time he retired in 1974.
At that point in time Laster sold his business complete with all 5 Christmas vehicles to a man named Bill Griffith who lived in Wisconsin. Griffith operated the vehicles throughout the Midwest for several more years before the cost of maintaining and fueling 5 huge old vehicles caught up with Griffith. The Rocket Ships and Sleighs were parked. Two of the Christmas vehicles were sold to Bill Siros' Auto Thrill Show. A lot of internet research couldn't even come up with a mention of the vehicles and Bill Siros' together, let alone what role the old vehicles played in an auto thrill show. We sure would love to know.
One of the other Christmas vehicles ended up in a Southern Wisconsin junkyard. The Santa's Rocket Ship seen here and another of Santa's super rocket ships were photographed at a different salvage and surplus operation in Wisconsin and submitted to Old Car's Weekly who uncovered the mystery of what the vehicles were in the late 1980s. Weird Cars leaves the fate of the two rocket ships as being sold to an unknown buyer in Alaska, casting some doubt as to whether the two rocket ships would ever make it out of the lower 48. Although, we don't think they both made it, as you can tell by the pictures, one did.
A little internet research revealed that Santa's Rocket Ship now resides at Mukluk Land, a former junkyard that has been turned into a roadside attraction/arcade in Tok, Alaska. It is believed to be the only of the five vehicles that is still intact. Along with seeing The Santa's Rocket Ship for a small admission fee you can jump in an inflatable igloo, play skeeball or take in the other weird sights you might expect a place called Mukluk land to offer. Next time you are traveling the Alaskan Highway be sure to stop at mile marker 1317 and see Santa's Rocket Ship in what may be its final resting place.
(Photo Credits: Mukluk Land and kosmosflot)