Monday, March 2, 2015



Hey Kids! Remember this guy? Buddy "Rocketman" Michaelson was featured on this blog a few months ago. Buddy and his dad Ky have been involved in all things rocket-related since Ky strapped a jetpack to Buddy's back and sent him down Minnesota Dragway on rollerskates. There's only one man alive with more rocket cred than the Michaelsons, and they schemed up a fitting celebration for his last run, to be made on his 89th birthday. Bonus: We're all invited!

Captain Jack McClure has been at it for a while. He was torturing brand new Henry J's in 1953 at NASCAR tracks...

... which soon led to a re-evaluation of power-to-weight ratios, resulting in his first Go Kart. With four hot rodded McCullough engines, it still wasn't fast enough.

Then Captain Jack discovered hydrogen peroxide-fueled Turbinique pulse-jet engines. One was amazing. Two was even better.

By the Sixties, Jack was booked solid with match races from coast-to-coast. He's out on TV Tommy Ivo's AA/FD in the top photo. Jack never looked back. He's slowing a bit (above), but still at it today.

Buddy and dad Ky (AKA The Rocketboys) got Jack booked at International Raceway Park in Palo Marga, Aruba to make a few runs on his 89th birthday - February 28th of 2015. Aruba is a nice place to be in February. Especially if you're coming from Minnesota.

Buddy Michaelson (left) and Captain Jack (right) are both all grown up now. They go way back - Captain Jack is basically Buddy's godfather - otherwise, Jack wouldn't allow Buddy to fondle his laundry at trackside.

Mike Eman (center) came out to personally welcome Captain Jack and the rest of the Rocket Boys to the island. Mike is the Prime Minister of Aruba, and a lifelong gearhead, which explains a few things.

The days leading up to Jack's runs were spent promoting the event via various media outlets...

... and the old fashioned way: Face-to-face at local locations such as this Aruba elementary school, where Jack inspired a few future Rocketeers.

Women love a Rocket Man, and Jack recruited new fans wherever he went in Aruba. He can't help it if he happens to be a chick magnet.

Then the hydrogen peroxide arrived at IRP and it was time to focus on car preparation.

Jack and crew got a couple of test runs in to tighten up their act before the big day. Lots of thumbs-ups, following this second attempt.

The track's shutdown area empties into this open field populated with goats. Potential disaster or hilarity, depending on your perspective. Jack was confident of outrunning the fastest goat they had.

Mission accomplished. The Rocket Boys celebrate a 7.75 at 154.64, with no goats harmed. But the pertinent number on this night was 89. I've seen video footage of the run, and it was straight and true. Will this "Last Pass" stand as Captain Jack's retirement party, or is he just upshifting into the future? (Photos courtesy of Buddy Michaelson)

At presstime, it is unknown whether this full-scale rocket car under construction at Ky Michaelson's Minnesota shop is intended for Ky or Jack. The boys are currently en route home from Aruba, but Buddy Michaelson promises more details of the adventure will be revealed, once all parties have completed decompression and debriefing. Stay tuned. (Secret spy photo courtesy of Mr. X)



A week after the fact, it still seems a big deal that the SGE Model A drivetrain is supported by actual mounts, rather than stacks of wood and other found objects. We had to kick some of Doctor Lockjaw's mag wheel collection aside to get this photo of the chassis with suspension and drivetrain installed. A nice little milestone and morale booster.

The photo I forgot to take last week of the minimalist trans mount that completes the drivetrain infrastructure. The aluminum spool spacers were the only salvageable components of the OEM mount hanging from the tranny when I got it.

The Corvair box that I reversed and installed in my C/Gas Anglia, years ago. Thought to be long gone, the box recently surfaced in race buddy Rick Smith's Grass Valley, California barn. Cognizant that the survival of the human race was at stake, Smith immediately dropped everything else and chauffeured the box directly to the Custom Metal shop in Applegate, Oregon. Hero!

After an intense round of Where and How To Mount the Steering Box, we dived into action. The factory-bent pitman arm needed straightening to pinpoint the box's exact location... 

... so we switched into blacksmith mode.

Doc wields the fire, while I use a cartoon-sized Crescent wrench to rough shape the pitman arm...

... then Doc finesses the arm into its final shape while still red-hot malleable.

Ta da! Some finish grinding, and it'll look like it was made this way.

Surprise shop visit from Doc's daughter Shea, and her boyfriend Jackson - the littlest Lockjaw. Shea is just living for the day that she can train Jackson to wheel a hot rod F-1 truck around.

Back to the task at hand. Step 2 was to mount the cowl to double-check steering box placement. But first, our upper cowl mounts would need some love. Our original design was found to be overly simple (who knew that was even possible?)...

... so we changed from the welded mount to a bolt-on assembly. Much better. Then our time was up. My homework assignment this week was to swap a different sector gear/shaft assembly into the steering box (Rick cut mine off somewhere along the line) as part of a complete overhaul. I happily accepted the job, and was back in town before realizing I'd left the box at Dr. Lockjaw's shop. Sigh...

Drag racer pal Rick Smith (looking pensive, at left) supervised the festivities after delivering our Corvair steering box. He seemed especially amused by our headscratching session regarding mounting options for the steering box. Rick's exit line: "Hmmm... What I learned from watching you two is that for every opinion, there is an equal and opposite opinion. I believe that's Newton's Law." Doctor Lockjaw (AKA Jamie Ford, at right) never studied law, so finds Rick's perspective to be interesting, but ultimately misguided: Doc wins every argument, period. No degree necessary. (Scotty shots)



It's really cold out there. Please invite your neighborhood squirrel inside for a hot cup of cocoa or something. Some roasted nuts would be nice, too.

We recently featured Tom Van Nortwick's roadster pickup on the blog. And Tom's magic brush skills have recently been featured on buddy Kim Martin's latest toolbox. Cycle complete. (Photo courtesy of Tom Van Nortwick)


Why Aruba is a better choice than Minnesota for celebrating a February 89th Birthday...

(Images via Motormouth Ray)