What's that old quote about how clowns are fucking terrifying? Oh yeah, I remember: "Clowns are fucking terrifying." I think it was Winston Churchill. You know what's even more terrifying? A clown riding a car like a horse, controlling the poor vehicle with cruel ropes and the blackest clown magic.
This is Jo-Jo, and that's his Mystery Horse Car. Jo-Jo seems to have been spreading gut-wrenching horror to children (like all clowns) back in the late '30s, and a big part of his act involved this modified 1935 Plymouth, sponsored ("shod") by Goodrich. It was called a Horse Car because the filthy clown would ride on the car's hood, and control the car by means of 'reins.'
It looks like two of the control ropes are attached to the steering rack via that protruding arm in the center front. I imagine one of the other lines goes to the throttle linkage on the carb, and hopefully another links to the brake. It's possible there's a clutch line as well, though it's possible the car is just left in 1st or 2nd gear and creeps around that way. Or maybe there's some special one-speed transmission in there.
A perverse side of me would love to find out more, but so far all that's turned up is this article from Alberta, Canada's July 5, 1939 Lethbridge Herald:
The mystery "horse car" of Jo Jo the Clown caught the crowd's fancy. Seated in a saddle on the hood, Jo Jo controlled the machine perfectly to the apparent consternation of his baffled associate, Earl Shipley, attired as an Irish policeman. The crowd was still left mystified at the conclusion of the act, however, as to the method of the car's operation.
First, that Irish cop schtick never gets old. Why isn't anyone bringing that back? Louis CK, I'm looking at you. And second, why are these people so mystified, exactly? The car isn't floating, the clown didn't magically liquify it and chug it out of a beer stein, he's got some ropes tied to the controls. Were people that dumb, or just, understandably, terrified of the creepy clown trying to manslaughter a cop from the hood of his car?
I never got this bum-look thing clowns like Jo-Jo had going on, either. Why is it fun for kids to see a man who looks like he's destitute? Is it that sense that he's desperate and capable of committing any atrocity that gets the big laffs?