By D.A. Sebasstian; Model: Barbarann
As Bob Crabtree’s immense 1957 Ford Gasser wagon pulled up to the line at the Evergreen Speedway, its shadow completely engulfed the mid-1990s Mustang in the far lane. Both cars staged and then the Christmas tree lights hit green. The wagon pulled its wheels a half-foot off the ground as the Mustang surged ahead, but only for a split second. The wagon’s slicks bit into the asphalt mid-track and the two cars were neck and neck. In the end, the big Ford beat the little Ford by nearly a half second. Who woulda thought that a big ol’ station wagon could be that fast?
Before Bob took the reins of the wagon, his good friend Curt owned it. Curt had salvaged it from another friend’s driveway, where it had been sitting up on blocks for over ten years. He got it running and drove it for a few years until he decided to turn it into a full-on Gasser. Curt had always loved the Altereds and Gassers of the Sixties and thought the wagon would make a good build candidate. This was many years before the current Gasser replica trend.
First, Curt disassembled the front end in his home garage, and then cut the front frame off at the firewall. He built the new front clip with 2×4 tubing and installed an axle and springs from a ’55 Ford F100, with the new axle set forward three inches from the original location. The tilt front end is a single piece made from welding the original fenders and hood together. He tubbed the rear and moved the rear-end forward a full six inches. At that point, Curt began to lose interest in the ‘57. He had another project, a 1937 Ford pickup, that was further along and the wagon needed a complete new motor (especially since the wagon’s engine was the ’37).
Bob had just destroyed his Camaro drag racer, running it into a jersey barrier at a local track. He was looking for a new ride to take drag racing and started talking to Curt about the engineless ’57. Though Bob initially thought it was “ugly as sin,” he knew it could be a cool drag car. They decided to partner up, with Bob putting down the money and extra elbow grease to build the new engine, add a full roll cage, wheels, tires, racing buckets and all the amenities to get the Ranch Wagon drag strip ready for the summer of 2007.
The original idea was to race the big Ford for a year, then sell it and split the proceeds. However, Bob soon fell in love with the ’57 Gasser and eventually bought out Curt to own the rig outright. He has been racing it ever since.
Drag Racing Is My Reason to Live
Bob has been into drag racing most all of his life. He is also currently the Executive Director of The Road Back To Life, a non-profit organization made up of kidney dialysis patients who support and educate stage 3 and 4 kidney patients and medical staff about surviving the disease and living a full life after a kidney transplant. Post diagnosis, many kidney patients have a grim view of their own future, imagining lying in a hospital bed, hooked to a dialysis machine for eternity. Being a kidney transplant survivor himself, Bob often brings pictures of his Gasser wagon wheel-standing at the race track to show these patients.
Says Bob, “I get to talk to people who have just been told by their doctors that their kidneys are failing. They are unsure and sometimes very afraid. When I tell them that years after my transplant I work full time as a dealership mechanic and drag race on the weekends, they see that there is hope, that you can actually live a full and productive life after kidney failure.”
Facts: This ’57 Wagon weighs in at only 2900 lbs. It’s current best quarter mile ET is 11:045 at 122 MPH.
Owner: Bob Crabtree
Vehicle: 1957 Ford Ranch Wagon
Mods: Steel one-piece tilt front-end
Engine: Ford 460
Intake & Carb: Edelbrock Victor manifold w/Holley 1050 Dominator carb
Exhaust: Custom fenderwell headers w/Moroso race mufflers
Trans: Race-prepped Ford C6 w/4200 rpm stall converter
Rear-End: Modified 1957 9” w/Dutchman 3rd member & 4.11 gears
Suspension: F- 1955 Ford F100 straight axle & leaf springs; R- Leaf springs w/adjustable center lift bars & racing shocks
Brakes: F- Speedway disc kit w/GM metric calipers; R- Stock 1957 drums
Wheels: F- 15×4 Rocket Launcher; R- 15×10 slotted mags
Tires: F- 26×7.5-15 Mickey Thompson Sportsman; R- 32×12-15 Radir cheater slicks
Steering: 525 steering box, custom linkage from Speedway parts
Seats: Lightweight racing buckets w/5-point harnesses