What car guy doesn’t know Tim Allen? The standup comedian and star of TV’s Home Improvement (and let’s not forget his best role, Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies) has built a reputation as a car guy. He has owned a lot of hot rods, and even built two of them on his TV show. He’s road raced competitively with Steve Saleen, and his show had as much to do with cars as it did, well, home improvement.
It seems Tim is also a frequent reader of HOT ROD, and his attention was piqued by a bit we did in the back of the book in the Aug. ’04 issue. We wrote that our demographics showed that HOT ROD was seen by more male readers than Popular Science, Road & Track, Men’s Fitness, GQ, Stuff, Vibe, FHM, and Sporting News. As someone whose paycheck depends on putting butts in theater seats, Tim took this information to his studio and basically sold a full-color ad page in HOT ROD promoting his new movie, Christmas With the Kranks. Tim also likes the magazine enough to want to be involved, so to coincide with the ad and the movie’s release, he talked us into featuring the latest toy added to his automotive stable, this fully custom ’56 Ford F-100 pickup.
The truck was actually purchased more or less as a goof, as it goes against some of Tim’s self-imposed restrictions on his hot rods, but he still loves it. Tim and a few of his buddies were checking out the cars at a Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, when Full Noise, this ’56 Ford truck, came across the block. It was a big-tire machine, and according to Tim, “I never liked tubbed stuff, but I’m starting to dig it now.” Nevertheless, he commented to his buddies that the asking price was so low, based on the incredible craftsmanship of the truck, that “For that price, I’d buy it.” Peer pressure got the better of him, and the gavel was dropped on Tim’s $78,300 knee-jerk bid.
Originally built and owned by Northern California fabricator Ron Ebert, there’s not much on this truck that is as-delivered in a ’56. Ebert fabricated the chassis from 2×4 tubing, Z’ing the front 8 inches and altering the wheelbase by moving both axles forward. Ebert also built the suspension, using a torsion-bar setup in the front and a four-link in back. The body has also been heavily modified. Ebert started with a smoking deal, buying an older restoration for $2,500. He says, “I sold all the unwanted parts for $3,200, made $700, and had a nice, straight body to start with.” It didn’t stay that way for long, as Ebert describes, “Every panel of the all-steel body has been handformed or modified in some way, giving it the illusion of a scaled-down F-100.” Again, there’s the craftsmanship. Everywhere you look on this truck, from the wheels to the engine, there are custom-machined fasteners, brackets, panels, and other stuff.
Certainly, the truck’s name came about the first time the blown Hemi was fired. Though it runs on pump gas, it barks loud through the 2 1/4-inch primary headers and twin 6-inch outlets exiting right in front of the rear tires. A Littlefield 14-71 with an old-school Enderle mechanical fuel-injection system gives it that blown Hemi surge, and while it might not be the most driveable truck on the planet, it’s not a trailer queen, either. Tim hasn’t had a chance to really get out and drive it, but he has played with it a little bit, saying, “I did holeshots in front of the shop for half a day and set off every car alarm on the block.” That limited amount of seat time is not Tim’s normal level of activity with a car, however. “If I can’t drive it, I don’t buy it, but I stepped over that rule this time.”
Allen’s fascination with hot rods centers mostly on street rods, but he’s also hot for ’60s customs and ’50s trucks, like Full Noise, and he has a bit of a weird streak as well. “I want to do a custom Peterbilt, but everyone told me I wouldn’t want to drive it. But I’ve driven everything and I think it would be cool. When everyone talked me out of it, I decided to re-body a ’44 military Jeep as a hot rod.” His favorite ride in the stable at the moment? The ’46 Ford that you may have seen built on Home Improvement. He’s also got a flat-black Hemi Road Runner with a stick that gets attention (more attention than he’d like, actually), and of course, the Nickel Rod, his nickel-plated ’32 Ford. “That car has a Gurney Weslake engine and a multidisc race clutch in it. We took it on a 12-hour rod run and it had never had any miles put on it before that.”
In addition to his movie and TV career, plus his near full-time car hobby, Tim also has a business arrangement with Wheel to Wheel in Detroit, creating ideas under the Tim Allen Design umbrella. Together, they have built a few project cars, most notably a hot rod, 400hp Cadillac that predates the CTS-V. They were looking at creating a package for GM, in the same vein that AMG is to Mercedes, but nothing’s really come of it yet. Tim Allen Design is still more of a conceptual undertaking than an actual car-building deal, but if demand is there, who knows? Tim says, “It’s not a moneymaker for me. I just love American cars.”
About that, we asked him the chances of making, finally, a good car movie. With his Hollywood star power, certainly this car guy can see to it that someone actually makes a great car movie, right? Tim said he tried for a long time to get a remake of Thunder Road financed, but the studios wouldn’t bite, thinking he was wrong for the part. “No one sees me as a Robert Mitchum kind of guy,” he explained.
Near as we can tell, Christmas With the Kranks has nothing at all to do with cars, and Tim griped that they didn’t even let him add wheels to his on-screen commuter, as he normally does. But it has a few things going for it. One, it’s from a John Grisham book that doesn’t involve lawyers. Two, it has Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Ackroyd, and Cheech Marin. And three, the star is a car guy who longed to have one of his hot rods featured in HOT ROD. As for Full Noise, we’re hoping Tim shakes up the neighbors every now and then. The truck is too nice to sit under a cover.