Click above for a high-res gallery of images of the Tank Car and others

We are pretty lucky out here in Southern California, and, yes, we know we don't deserve it. Despite the ridiculously overzealous government, ever-present smog and overpopulation, we are blessed with a lot of very cool cars and very cool car people. And the weather usually allows for regular opportunities to drive and show these cars year-round. Besides the Crystal Cove and successor Cars & Coffee shows that we have covered in the past, there are numerous similar events all over the Southland. One of our favorites is another gathering a bit further north in Woodland Hills. 70 miles from the Irvine locale, it's worth the one-hour drive on the last Sunday of the month to see some of the most outrageous rides and meet some of the most generous people on the planet. "Off week" Sundays are usually pretty great, but the final Sunday is usually killer. This past Sunday was a great example.

It was cloudy but stayed dry most of the way up there. And then about ten miles from the Village Coffee Roaster the roads were suddenly wet. Not a good omen. Although the people that regularly gather for Supercar Sundays at VCR are a pretty hardy bunch, rain usually keeps the lot fairly empty. It came as quiet a thrill then to see a few Vipers, Ford GTs, and a whole fleet of SRT-8 Mopars and Jeeps already assembled. And it only got better from there. A Suzuki Cappuccino and Honda Beat rolled in for some comic relief and then an SLR, CLK DTM and yellow Enzo showed up. Still not a full house, but already worth the drive. It got even better. Follow the jump for the rest of the story.


Noted comedian and Tonight Show host Jay Leno has been a regular attendee lately and this past week he brought out one of his signature wacky wonders – the Tank Car. That's the huge bare-metal hot rod with the engine that's as big as a Smart car. To see this thing in person, and to hear it, makes it hard to believe it's streetable. First of all it's as big as a bus, which is appropriate considering all of the commercial-grade GM pieces underneath. Garbage truck and bus pieces comprise the wheels, tires, brakes, axles, and suspension bits that aren't unique fabrications. And that engine! Originally built by glass artist Randy Grubb of Grants Pass, Oregon, Jay bought it because he was tired of people asking why he didn't have a proper hot rod in his garage. That's one way to end those annoying questions.

The heart of the beast is a 2000-lb, aluminum, air-cooled, 1792-cubic-inch V-12 Continental AV-1790-5B. That is the engine used by the US military in their old Patton tanks. To put that size into perspective, know that it takes 80 quarts of Mobil 1 to fill it at the local Jiffy-Lube. With the Gale Banks turbo system in place, we presume output is a bit higher than the advertised 810 horsepower and 1590 pound-feet of torque. Although the car has a lot of power, it isn't built for racing. It likes the1500 RPM range best, but will wind all the way to 2800 before asking for an upshift. Here's a good place to point out that Jay has changed quite a few things on the Tank Car since picking it up. Like the shifter. He replaced the old 3-speed GM bus tranny with a newer Allison 6-speed unit that immediately saw his gas mileage double! He now gets about 5 mpg.

Jay delicately declined our invitation to run through the Mulholland canyons after the show. Steering that isn't exactly quick at 11 turns lock-to-lock for the steering, a 191-inch wheelbase and 10,000 pounds of road-hogging weight don't exactly add up to a canyon carver. Not a classic hot rod to some, but the idea of stuffing as many cubic inches into a customized frame is a fairly universal hot rodding notion. Not the fastest thing on the street, but definitely the most outrageous. When Car and Driver tested it a few years ago, the Tank Car managed a 0-60 of 6.2 seconds on it's way to a 1/4 in 14.7 @ 93 mph. We suspect those might be conservative numbers, but it's not really about the numbers, or is it?

Share This Photo X