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Some vehicles were built for beauty: the Jade Idol, for example.

Others were built for speed. The legendary and record-setting Bluebird was a byword for speed.

Yet others, like the Pierson Brothers’ iconic ’34 Ford dry-lakes racer, managed to marry both beauty and speed.

Then again, there are some that manage to bring you neither:

I’ve dubbed it the Kübelwagen, a lame joke that will make sense only to those who speak German or who know about obscure old Volkswagen crap. The original Kübelwagen was Germany’s WWII answer to the American Jeep, an all-terrain toughie that could withstand climate and geological extremes. The name translates to “bucket-car” and refers to the four-person bucket-seat passenger arrangement.

Although in the case of my own Kübel, the bucket seat really is a bucket.
Found in one of the many trashheaps I frequent, the seat on my mighty machine started out as a 3.5 gallon bucket of “Donut Glaze” Don’t those ingredients make you want a big, ol’ greasy, sticky Krispy Kreme? Mmmm-mmm, monoglycerides!

But back to the Kübel. I reckon years and years of Volkswagen ownership has primed me for piloting a vehicle such as I have constructed:

  • I’m used to going slowly.
  • I’m used, due to low-slung seating and rough suspension, to feel like I’m flying along at a low speed anyway.
  • Let’s face it, death-traps don’t scare me.
  • Comfort is somebody else’s problem.
  • People may point and laugh, and there’s nothing I will do to stop them.

The frame is composed entirely of scrap lumber. The rear end was one chunk unto itself. I screwed it to the center beam, then sat down on it and measured it to the length of my legs, minus a bit, so I could have my knees bent to control the front end steering with my feet. I laboriously sawed off the unnecessary length of the beam, then pried the surplus beam back into two individual pieces of 2X4, one of which was utilized for the front end, and the other of which was sawed into four smaller blocks to build up the rear-end of the Kübel and give me a better mounting platform for the bucket-seat, itself. Motivation comes from four cast-off rollerskate trucks, remnants of a pair of skates I received for Christmas when I was 12 and rather promptly outgrew.

Prudently, you might ask why in the hell I have wrought this monstrosity, and I’m more than happy to answer. This is my entry into the No Gas Nationals, a gravity racing expo taking place next weekend, thanks in no small part to Kansas City’s own Fast Eddie Villanueva.

This ain’t my first rodeo with gravity and unfeasible machinery. Those who shudder to remember, remember and shudder when they think of the Time Out Seat:

Here, in fact, is Joel about to take a pass on the Naughty Chair.


Prior to that, we took turns caroming down a hill on a children’s bike with an adult twist – 14 beers were zip-tied to the frame, fork, and bars for ballast and refreshment…and because the rules of the day stated that your vehicle must have brakes and a beer-holder.

The previous two gravity races I’ve attended were Frank Tuesday events.

I am very much looking forward to next weekend’s outing, to seeing how my abomination performs. I have a feeling that it will be not unlike a zombie invasion: a slow, inexorable, inevitable trundle to horror and disaster.

I’ll be back next week to tell you all about it, and share photos of what will undoubtedly be a great many better-executed, less unstable, and much-faster vehicles. And a LOT of grins, I’m sure.

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