Peyote and Nero’s All Aluminum Tour
Like too many adventures, it starts with a stupid idea. Build the perfect trailer for my whacky vintage race car, and then use it as transport for an extended racing tour of all the famous tracks and events. Let me introduce you to my race car, and then the trailer and tour might make sense.
No, the lotus didn’t really hit the wall. That’s Phil Binks in the Dolphin chasing Peyote
I’m privileged to be the most recent caretaker of Peyote, a car that has been raced hard and continuously since 1959—as near as I can tell it’s only missed five racing seasons. It wasn’t preserved because of it’s beauty. When the late Bill Ames finished building Peyote using a Triumph TR3 donor car, an assortment of surplus road sign aluminum, zillions of pop rivets and ample rye whiskey a friend asked “were you on drugs when you built that”? Hence, Peyote.
Over the thousands of racing miles and more than 45 years a lot of good racers and backyard tinkerers have layered their mojo onto this little car. It performs way beyond it’s pedigree. I love it to an unhealthy degree.
So what’s the perfect trailer for a car built of raw aluminum and rivets? Obviously an Airstream. And a “toy hauler” with car space that converts to living space wouldn’t suit the extended tour plan. A separate garage is necessary because I want to live in the trailer on the road and have enough tools and parts storage to maintain Peyote at tracks thousands of miles from home. That means a long trailer. Very long. Besides, one oil leak on the kitchen floor and my wife will opt for the Four Seasons.
I bought a 34 foot 1989 Airstream Excella on eBay for $14,000. The previous owner maintained it meticulously. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it would be gutted to a bare shell three days after it reached my driveway. I sold the heavy wooden interior on eBay for $3800. I wanted a lightweight aluminum interior. I figured on three months to french a hatch into the back, build interior walls, benches, toolboxes and living space, and get it on the road. Two years later it’s nearly done. It will never be truly done.
Looks kind of unpromising, but this is what Nero looked like after I gutted it and added a rear hatch. the hatch components were cut from 1/4 inch alluminum with a circular saw and a carbide blade–honest. Then I welded it together with my MIG. I expected this to be the hardest part, but it was really quite easy.
The stupid part is that I did it all myself, and it shows. As my friends pointed out, if I worked as hard at the things I’m expert at, I could pay a small crew of people who really know what they were doing to build the trailer. But what’s the fun in that? I got better at everything as I progressed. You can tell my first aluminum weld from my last. The first drawer I built is downright lumpy, the last has a certain funky precision. There’s ten times the work in every part because I was constantly compensating for earlier screw ups.
Once the bones were well in place my wife looked it over and said “what shall we use for a decorating scheme”? I looked at her a little blankly and said “inside of a DC3?” She smiled indulgently and ignored me henceforth. She decided on the style of Nero Wolfe’s office from the TV series we both enjoyed. The cost of the living space rose exponentially, but the net result is pleasant and comfortable. And we named the trailer Nero’s Peyote Pad or Nero for short.
The maiden voyage, from Portland Oregon to Sonoma California for the CSRG Charity Challenge at Infineon Raceway went fairly smoothly. So I declare Nero ready. In my blog on the Race Schedule page you’ll find the tentative schedule for Nero and Peyote’s All Aluminum Tour launching in April 2007. It spans more than 14,000 miles, seventeen races, twelve tracks.
It’s bound to be fun.
There's a gallery of pictures of Nero on the blog. I hope to be meeting many of you fellow Airstreamers on the road. I hope you won't think that what i did to Nero is some kind of sacrilege. I purposely chose a contemporary trailer rather than something classic that would be better restored. It's a fun rig, and we love looking at other Airstreams.