The Petersen has been in the news a lot lately, and while there’s many opinions about selling part of their collection, it’s a safe bet that everyone agrees that descriptions of the cars to be auctioned should be accurate. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be the case with the hot rod called the Boothill Express.

The Boothill Express hot rod from the Petersen collection is currently being offered for auction by Auctions America. Though it was not mentioned anywhere in the lot description until we called them on it, this Boothill Express is not the original one, nor is it the one shown in the pictures on the auction’s page. To explain what’s going on, let’s talk a bit about the car.

The Boothill Express is a product of a strange, wonderful time in American car culture when there was a thriving subset of hot rod culture known as “kinky” hot rods. The kinky hot rods were flamboyant, strange machines, part raw American muscle and part crazy art car. The more bonkers the better, and the Boothill Express, designed and built by Ray Fahner, is an ideal example.

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The Boothill Express is built from an actual 1850 wooden horse-drawn funeral coach, allegedly once used to transport Jesse James gang member Bob Younger to his grave at Boot Hill. Hence the name, you see. The main body of the funeral coach has been kept remarkably the same, though the wagon wheels have been replaced by fat racing slicks and the horses replaced with a mid-mounted 426 Hemi V8.

The reins have been replaced with a Model T steering wheel connected to a ’63 Beetle’s steering box, and there’s velocity stacks and eight massive headers and enough chrome to drown a Cylon. There’s even a pair of huge brass carriage lights from India. It’s a pretty striking looking rod, in a certain macabre, irreverent, Old West sort of way.

It’s a real one-of-a-kind sort of car. Except it’s not.

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The Boothill Express proved so popular that a fiberglass replica was built that was better able to be driven and drag raced; the original, being based on an 1850 wooden wagon, was unsurprisingly a bit fragile for a lot of that sort of abuse. The one from the Petersen collection that’s being auctioned is this car, the fiberglass replica.

There’s nothing wrong with auctioning the second car; it has a good deal of historic value itself. The issue is that if a car appears to be a one-of-a-kind creation, and a second variant exists, it’s the kind of thing the buyer has a right to know. Especially if the car being sold is the copy, not the original, and made from very different materials and methods than the original.

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Part of what made the Boothill Express so remarkable was that it was built of an actual, genuine 1850 funeral wagon that is believed to have taken a member of the James gang to his grave. That’s a historically significant artifact, and a fiberglass replica, while it retains much of the same look, is not.

The description of the car being auctioned is mostly accurate, and gives details particular to the replica, such as the 350 ci Chevy engine mocked up to look like a Hemi. The original auction posting, which has been up until today, did not state is that the car is fiberglass, and actually suggested that the car is built from the original funeral wagon, saying

By 1967, Fahrner completed his signature creation, the outrageous “Boothill Express,” based on an actual circa-1850 horse-drawn funeral coach by Cunningham of New York, which reportedly carried James Gang member Bob Younger to “Boot Hill.” Features include ornate carved moldings, brass lamps reportedly dating to late 18th-century India and proper funeral equipment, including tasseled velvet curtains and polished coffin rails.

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And also, in the bulleted list of features at the start of the description, it reads

• Based on an actual circa-1850 horse-drawn funeral coach by Cunningham of New York

• Reportedly carried James Gang member Bob Younger to “Boot Hill.”

I suppose it’s possible they meant “based on” to be taken in a much looser context than many people would read it. Perhaps they’re not explicitly stating that this car was built from the very same wood and iron nails as the original, but it sure as hell sounded like it.

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To be clear, the lot description up until just a few hours ago did not state that the car is a fiberglass replica of the original car. In direct response to my inquiries via the PR firm contracted to the Petersen, Auctions America, who was responsible for writing the copy, added this addendum:

Please note we understand that the Boothill Express offered here was built several months after the original and was constructed out of both wood and fiberglass utiizing the original molds. It is fitted with a 331 cubic inch Hemi engine and is repoted to previously run and drive as recently as the 1990's. This paticular example was used primarily as the "outdoor car" on the Drag and Wheelstander show circuit in the period and remains in very presentable overall condition. Additionally, the photos of the Boothill Express pictured in the auction catalogue are of the "indoor car" which currently resides in a private collection. Please speak with an Auctions America specialist prior to biding if there are any additional questions.

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The original sold at auction in 2009 for $126,500 and again in 2010 for $88,000, and the lot description on the Auctions America site give the estimate at $25,000 to $35,000, so it stands to reason the auction house knew what they have isn’t the original, which currently resides at the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The fact that the site did not mention that the car was a fiberglass replica until Jalopnik brought it to their attention can only mean one of two things, neither very flattering. First, it's possible the auction house was unaware of the original car or thought they had the original. That's highly doubtful, since there are obvious differences in the cars and that their estimated price was so much lower than what the original had sold for.

The other option is that they were aware that the car was the replica, and neglected to to mention that fact. Which seems like a pretty damn big omission. I can't speculate on the motives of the auction house, but hypothetically, leaving out that information could suggest (as the copy of the original lot description did) to an uninformed bidder that the car was in fact original, and that could have an effect on the final price of the car. As in more money.

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Also, if this thing really will sell for$25,000 - $35,000, what a great alternative this would be to some boring old Camry or Civic or something. Something like this could really make that daily commute exciting, even if no dead gunslingers were ever laying in there.

The full original copy of the ad is reproduced here; the pictures are still currently of the original:

• 350-cid OHV V-8 engine, three-speed Hydra-Matic transmission

• One of the most famous custom creations by Ray Fahner

  • Based on an actual circa-1850 horse-drawn funeral coach by Cunningham of New York
  • Reportedly carried James Gang member Bob Younger to “Boot Hill.”
  • Expertly detailed

Chassis no. S2362703

350-cid OHV V-8 engine, three-speed Hydra-Matic transmission, CAE tubular straight front axle with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and two-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 98-inches.

To thousands of custom car fans, Ray Fahrner was the genius behind some of the most memorable and radical show rods of all time. Fahrner, who passed away in 2005, rose to prominence in the late 1950s with his groundbreaking 1932 Ford Roadster Pickup dubbed the Eclipse. Once on the map, Fahrner’s Missouri-based shop pushed the limits of automotive design, echoing the unbridled creativity and experimental nature of America during the 1960s.

By 1967, Fahrner completed his signature creation, the outrageous “Boothill Express,” based on an actual circa-1850 horse-drawn funeral coach by Cunningham of New York, which reportedly carried James Gang member Bob Younger to “Boot Hill.” Features include ornate carved moldings, brass lamps reportedly dating to late 18th-century India and proper funeral equipment, including tasseled velvet curtains and polished coffin rails.

The chrome-plated suspension features a CAE tubular front axle and hairpins, along with 1963 VW steering gear, full-elliptic rear leaf springs, a 1948 Ford rear end and drum brakes. The totally outrageous Hemi V-8 is actually a small block Chevy, mocked up with velocity stacks jutting through the top of the hearse body, while eight individual pipes remove the exhaust gases. A TorqueFlite automatic transmission handles the power, while the car’s aggressive rake is provided by a pair of E-T spindle-mounted front wheels, with Cragar S/S wheels and Goodyear Blue Streak slicks at the rear. Other features include a Ford Model T steering wheel, a Moon hydraulic throttle and a canister-style fuel tank, as well as a Stewart Warner instrument cluster. The open bench-type front seat features black diamond-tufted upholstery.

The Boothill Express formed part of Fahrner’s “Boothill Caravan,” which toured drag-strips and auto shows during the late 1960s. In the best 1960s show-rod tradition, the vehicle was immortalized with the 1967 release of a 1:24-scale plastic model kit by Monogram, complete with a skeleton packing a six-shooter and wearing a 10-gallon hat. Due to continued strong public demand, the model kit was reissued in 1994.

Today, the Boothill Express benefits from a recent expert detailing and is offered in period correct and largely unrestored condition. It is ready to resume its show career, or to form the prized centerpiece of a collection of the most famous and iconic show rods ever created. The Boothill Express remains a lasting tribute to the wild genius of Ray Fahrner, a custom car legend with an unbridled imagination.

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(Information and image sources: Kustorama, RM Auctions, Auction America, Jalopy Journal)