The gaudy, overwrought Wagon Queen Family Truckster is probably one of the best visual gags in National Lampoon's Vacation and says more about the excesses of the American auto industry than many books on the subject. But I don't think that's why LeMons legend Speedycop built one. He built it because he could.
Family Trucksters have been built before, but as far as I know, this is the most accurate one ever to be built and then raced. It started life as a boring old '79 Ford Country Squire, and Speedycop and his hard-working crew turned it into this movie legend in just two weeks. That's impressive.
The original was said to be built by George Barris, but, like so many Barris cars, that's up for debate. The design is wonderfully awful, with too much of everything: wood, crowns, headlights, you name it.
Here's what Speedycop says about the build:
Built in two weeks working long hours daily, primarily by John Cox, Don Trevett, and myself. Other Outlaws helped though on the weekends. I missed a week of work building it—-my last week of vacation time. Rear window trim was shortened and pieces swapped from side to side for the window alterations. Plywood was Gorilla glued to the glass, and then covered in Bondo, to make the windows smaller ... John Cox did the headlights and real wood trim, Don Trevett did the Bondo work and helped prep for paint, Jaime did much of the sanding. I did the cage, the roof treatment, the paint, the vinyl, etc.
I saw the result at the recent LeMons race at Carolina Motorsports Park, and it's fantastic. In fact, it took the coveted Index of Effluency prize, regarded by most people of breeding and decency as the ultimate LeMons prize.
All the details are there (well, except for the oddly placed fuel filler), right down to the movie-correct dealer plates and the luggage on the roof rack. And, even better, Speedycop gave me 30 min of track time during the race in the car.
I took it very, very easy on my run, since I couldn't bear the idea of damaging this thing that had taken so much effort and talent. Still, I did get to put it through its paces a bit on the track, and I was surprised to find it did way better than it had any right to.
Specifically, it corners surprisingly well. I mean, if you look at the pictures, with all that luggage on top and that huge wheelbase, you'd probably think it can do two things: go straight and roll over. Incredibly, it'll dig into a turn with surprising aplomb and grace.
It pushes and pushes up to a point, and then, all of a sudden, the character changes and it gets into it, working through the turn in a really satisfying way. On the straights, it actually has okay power from its old Windsor lump, but it's not exactly quick.
It was a really entertaining 30 minutes, even while taking it easy, and I got out of that car with more respect for those big-ass Fords than when I got in.
Speedycop is selling it for $5000, with all racing damage fixed, over on the LeMons forums. It'd be a fantastic LeMons team car or even something fun just to have for the right person. And, since any and all of Speedcop's money seems to go into crazy builds like these, it's almost like a charitable donation, so he can make something else nice and nuts for us to enjoy.
You can tell the IRS I said it was ok to write it off.
(race photo by Murilee Martin!)