Leggin’ It to Drag City: A Race Rig’s Journey Home
On May 10th, glass etcher Joe Benham and I were working at my renovation project next to the Standin’ on the Corner Park, blasting some old lettering off the windows, when around eight p.m. Joe called out:
“Hey Lori! You’ve gotta see this rig outside.”
The rig he was referring to was this: A 1965 Dodge C500 car hauler with a ’66 Plymouth Barracuda on back.
Joe knows I’m a car girl who likes to write “Corner Stories” about the interesting visitors who Stand on a Corner in Winslow Arizona, so he went on the hunt for the owner. He found the men enjoying tacos and beers at Bojos Grill and asked if he could send me in to chat. They agreed, and I did.
The New Owner of Leggin’ It
Ashley Gilbert of Drag City Auto in Sparta Missouri is a true car guy. He especially likes gassers.
Last year, Ashley bought a ’57 Chevy dubbed “Axle Twister” from a guy in Denver.
He traced the car back to Salinas racer “Rocket” Joe Hickenbottom, who describes himself on his Instagram bio this way:
Old hotrodder building mostly history cars, race gassers, member Estranged car club. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
When Ashley found out the legendary car guy had an authentic 60s race rig for sale, Ashley didn’t hesitate.
“I saw he was going to sell the Cuda and hauler and couldn’t pass it up. We were negotiating on the price and I told him that the shipping of that thing was going to kill me and he said, “You should just fly out here and drive it back to Missouri. It will make it.” Two weeks later Meze and I were on a one-way flight to California. “Ashley Gilbert
His Adventure Buddy
The “Meze” Ashley referred to is Jim Mezel.
Meze is otherwise known as the Mayor of Drag City–a nickname for Sparta Missouri where the men live, so named by Sheriff Buff Lamb because of the abundance of hot-rodders.
Meze and Ashley’s father–who died about ten years ago–were good friends. When Meze found out about the trip, he invited himself along for the ride. It was the first time Meze had been on a plane in forty-six years, but he couldn’t pass up an adventure like Leggin’ It back to Drag City in a 1965 car hauler.
On May 9th, 2019, they arrived at Rocket Joe’s place, got a tour of his facilities, and went to the Drag Racer’s Reunion–a dream for Ashley and Meze, to mix with the legends of the California hotrod scene.
And then they saw the race rig.
Ashley’s reaction when he walked into the shop:
“Just like what we dreamed about. Man. How cool!”
The 1966 Plymouth Barracuda “Leggin’ It”
Rocket Joe Hickenbottom found the 1966 ‘Cuda about fifteen years ago sitting in the weeds with no drive-train. He bought the car and all accompanying parts and then promptly lost interest in the project, until one day he decided to take it to the drags at Eagle Field. In two weeks time, he put the car back together and raced it because that’s what Joe does: Builds old school racers out of cars some may think should be relegated to a field.
I stuck it together thinking people would say: “What a piece of junk!” I’m telling you, it gets so much attention wherever I go. I think people like it because it’s the real deal and undisturbed.From a Street Machines Magazine Article
As for the Dodge C500, the ‘Cuda wasn’t the first Plymouth to ride its back. According to the lettering, the Dodge had hauled a ’65 Plymouth called Rebel. Joe knew the minute he laid eyes on the beast, it would pair perfectly with “Leggin’ It.”
He added stars to the ‘Cuda’s original paint to match the truck, and the rig has been a crowd pleaser ever since. Plus, the ‘Cuda is pretty darned fast.
And now new owner Ashley Gilbert will get to experience the spectacle for himself. But first: Getting the rig home.
“Leggin’ it” back to Drag City
Rocket Joe had total confidence they would make it back to Missouri–where the Rig had originally come from. Joe shot this video as Ashley and Jim drove away.
And so the journey began, two men Leggin’ It down highway 101 in a vintage race rig, recording videos along the way. In the first one Ashley says:
“This is an adventure! Whatever happens happens. We’ll pick up some duct tape, zip ties, bailing wire, and vice grips. Bring it on!
They put the duct tape to work pretty quickly. Around one a.m. on May 10th just outside of Boron California, they blew a hole in the power steering hose.
But the men didn’t let that phase them. As Ashley said:
“It’s part of the adventure. This is what we signed up for!”
Endeavor To Persevere
The men grabbed an Uber to a Napa store, found a hose, then got back on the road, “endeavoring to persevere“–an apt phrase from Meze.
They crossed into the beautiful blue skies of Arizona, a welcome sight after so much rain in California–although they did encounter some snow in Flagstaff, along with some rough roads.
Standin’ on a Corner
Seven-hundred and fifty miles from where they first started, the men rolled into Winslow Arizona. They parked across from the famous corner and did a little walk around before heading to Bojos.
“Pretty cool little place…”
Ashley said as they walked toward the park. Take a look at the video from their arrival.
Saturday morning, Ashley and Meze climbed into the rig to continue their journey, wanting to get home before Ashley’s daughter’s preschool graduation on Thursday. They wrapped up their visit to Winslow this way…
Somewhere in Oklahoma, the temptation to see what the Cuda could do grew too strong to resist, so they pulled it off the hauler and give it a little run.
“Closer we get, faster we go!”
Monday, May 13th, they arrived home–ahead of schedule. In the four day journey, they’d spend $1,036.42 in gas, covered 1850-some miles, and had only two issues–the power steering hose and transmission problem in Amarillo–all in 1965 Race Rig.
“Joe Hickenbottom said this truck would make it from California to Missouri and he did not lie. We made it with flying colors.”Ashley Gilbert
Both men say it was the trip of a lifetime, something they’ll never forget. Meze said it was the…
“Coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
For Ashley, having Meze along for the ride made the adventure even more special.
“His clever comments on the live videos were the best. Growing up with guys like him and my dad are the reason I love these old cars so much.”
To watch all of their videos from the journey home, click this link.
Many thanks to Ashley, Meze, and Leggin’ It for…
Standin’ on a Corner in Winslow Arizona!
Love the restoration that is going on there in Winslow. Can’t wait to come back through there.Ashley Gilbert
Well, next time you’re bringing some cool rig home, stop again and say hello!
Until next time…
Another very cool adventure, totally amazing and diverse visitors come to the corner thanks Lori for sharing all this with the rest of us.
Mights well, “nuttin else ta do after 65 y/o anyway” I say most daze, carz is fun ! Go fast? get there, go faster!