Thursday, January 12, 2017

Legend of the Twisted Kitty

Legend of the Twisted Kitty

My son competes in LSGTPA tractor pulling, and recently made the pulling debut of a new tractor named 'Twisted Kitty'.  Several folks made mention of the name and inquired of the origin, and to save from a long story, I had advised that the name was originally used on one of our drag cars.  I have been asked to elaborate further, so thought I might do so here.

Way back in the 1990's, I was running the streets in my 1968 Chevelle.  The small block powered and nitrous assisted Chevy could hold its own pretty well on the street, and we eventually started running the car more at the dragstrip.  Since parts breakage was always a possibility, we would often haul the Chevelle around on an open trailer, especially if we were headed to the dragstrip. 

On one particular occasion, we had decided to make a Sunday race at the Paris Drag Strip, some twenty plus miles from the shop.  I believe it was the first appearance at the track for the Chevelle during this particular season, so we opted to tow the car with the trailer.  On Saturday, I had loaded up and washed everything, so that on Sunday morning we would be ready to step in the truck and roll. 

As usual, we get to the track that morning and unload the car.  We perform some routine maintenance, like checking the fuel cell for gas, checking the air in the tires, oil and transmission fluid.  Everything was prepped and cleaned and ready to roll, so we sat around and visited until time trials.  Once we were called to the staging lanes, I drove the car up as usual and awaited our turn.  Our first pass was routine, good burn out, staged the car and launched.  At the time, the Chevelle would run low seven second passes on the eighth mile, at about eighty miles per hour.  This was a pretty good time back then, for a street car running DOT tires and mufflers ! 

Once back at the trailer, I would retrieve the time slip and talk about the run.  This particular run was pretty uneventful.....until I opened the trunk to check the fuel in the fuel cell.  We would on occasion enter the car in car shows, and the trunk was pretty nice for an old drag car.  I had a polished aluminum fuel cell, carpeted floor, and crackle paint with metal flake finish on the trunk walls.  I tried to keep it pretty clean, so was shocked at my discovery upon lifting the trunk lid.  First of all, the odor was horrendous.  Inside, splattered on the fuel cell, was some kind of foreign material that looked like chili.  All over the carpet, was what appeared to be a huge pot of gumbo that someone had dumped out !  It looked like different levels of consistency, and was splattered everywhere.  I could not imagine what had happened.  I looked around to see if anyone was laughing, at what was obviously a prank.  No one seemed to look guilty, so I went about retrieving my cleaning products to clean up the mess.  We always had our blue towels and cleaning chemicals, so I went about my business as quickly as possible, and did a pretty good job.  I was extremely mad, though, and found no humor in the prank.

We prepped the car for the next round of time trials, and rolled up to the staging lanes as normal.  I was still mad, and trying to figure out what had happened.  My turn comes up, nice burnout and staged the car, make another good pass.  Returned to the trailer back in good spirits after another successful run down the track.....until I opened the trunk.  Again, I have what looks like gumbo gone bad splattered all in my trunk, all over the fuel cell and nitrous bottle, and the stench is just beyond description.  I had used most all of my cleaning products in the previous cleanup, and now resorted to cleaning and deodorizing the trunk with gas and carburetor cleaner.  I used every chemical I could find, to try and mask the odor.  At this point, a small crowd had gathered, as word got around of the strange situation in our pit.  Various theories were produced and discussed about the assault taking place on my car, and we began a closer examination of the vehicle.  After a few minutes, my sister reported hearing a sound, of a non mechanical nature, emanating from the trunk area.  Our first lead had been discovered.

I had been running some Hoosier DOT tires on the street, and loved these tires.  They were Hoosier Dirt Bozz, designed for dirt track racing, and would hook up anywhere.  To make them fit, however, I had to clearance the inner wheel tubs just a little, and ended up with a small opening through which a little smoke would make its way into the trunk area.  It was in this area, that we finally traced the sound to, and could observe a small ball of fur.  Upon further examination, I began to recognize the object. 

I had parked our open trailer with the car, next to our woodpile out in Gadston, Texas.  This would be the same woodpile, within which a momma cat had a litter of kittens hiding.  The little critter in my trunk, and no doubt the artist responsible for redecorating the trunk interior, had apparently boarded the Chevelle on Saturday night.  The little kitty had hitched a ride with us all the way to the track, chilled in the car in the staging lanes, and had been riding shotgun with me on our time trial passes.  I guess the only problem was, either the burnout or the pass downtrack, seemed to upset the little kittys stomach.  I don't know what all he had eaten, but he seemed to have been well fed. 

After a short trial, we convicted the little kitty and decided that he should be removed and confined.  My sister had retrieved a cardboard beverage carton, and we planned the extraction.  I would wear my welding gloves, to safely latch onto the little kitty, and my sister would hold the box while I relocated our friend.  We intended to duct tape the box shut, with air holes, and would then reassess the situation.  On my first attempt at retrieval by way of the trunk, the little kitty managed to crawl back through the wheel well opening, and perched upon top of the rear tire.  I then moved outside, and was able to latch onto the kitty, with both hands, reaching up into the area above the rear tire.  Once I had secured the little kitty, I discovered that the welding gloves were not as thick as I had initially thought.  As I began to retrieve the kitty, and he was approaching the open air, he switched into attack mode.  As I realized that the welding gloves were failing their intended purpose, I began just trying to get my hand out.  Both the little kitty and I, had become pretty animated, and apparently the sights and sounds of the situation had spooked my sister.  As I turned with the attacking kitty, hoping to quickly install the ball of fur into the box, I would find my sister making her way in the opposite direction, with the box bouncing along behind her in the dust. 

I couldn't hold onto the little kitty, and quickly realized that I couldn't let him go either.  He had latched onto and through the welding gloves and into my hands.  I didn't want this thing back in my car, so I took a few steps and threw the gloves, with the kitty still attached.  Little kitty bounced a time or two, and then on about the third bounce, was pointed towards some woods on the west side of the track.  The last time I saw the little kitty, he was entering the woods at a high rate of speed.

As time went by, the occasional sighting would be reported, and the tale would be told about the little kitty that hitched a ride down the track.   More than one witness had remarked about how the little kitty 'left out of there twisted'.   We eventually began construction of another Chevelle, and while working on the wheel tubs and trunk area, the story always comes up about the little 'twisted kitty'.  And so, in the little furballs honor, we decided to call this one 'Twisted Kitty'.  The name stuck and while building our second pulling tractor, we decided to further acknowledge the little critter by applying the name to our dirt version, which is also a 1968. 

So, as the saying goes, now you know the rest of story. 

1968 Chevelle and origin of the Twisted Kitty, from around 1993.

1968 Chevelle as current day, at the birth place of the 'Twisted Kitty' namesake.

Lane Duncan at the wheel of the 'Twisted Kitty' dirt version, LSGTPA Youth Class pulling tractor, 1968 Sears Suburban.

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