1959 Cheetah “Moon” Transporter – The Journey Begins

Hi Gang…

Many of you know that I own the 1959 Moon Transporter.  Actually, it goes by many names:

  • Norm Holtkamp called it the “Cheetah Transporter”
  • Others refer to it as the “Moon Transporter” because Dean Moon owned it and was updating its power and braking
  • Still others (mostly in Europe) call it the “Holtkamp Transporter” because it was designed and built by and for Norm Holtkamp by the legendary Troutman and Barnes metalshapers

I bought it in December, 2006 because it looked cool and I thought it would look great carrying my newly acquired 1961 Porsche Tiburon Coupe.  Rick D’Louhy and I had just reconnected that year and by December, 2006 on Christmas day – the transporter arrived at my house in Tampa, Florida.  But it wasn’t as simple as that to get it, and that’s the fun part of sharing today’s story.

Acquiring the Porsche Tiburon Coupe

After searching for nearly 25 years, I acquired our first Tiburon coupe shown below.  Click here to learn more about the Tiburon Coupe and its sister car the Shark Roadster.

The Tiburon Coupe Arrives – Springtime, 2006 in Tampa, Florida

And that single event changed my life from that point forward in terms of research and cars.  Click here to learn more of how Undiscovered Classics and Forgotten Fiberglass were founded.

I was a voracious reader and researcher and focused on learning more about lost cars of the 40s and 50s.  During this time I came across and bought Tom Cotter’s first book on “Barn Finds.”  In that book was a story the Moon Transporter.  Click here to read the story in the 2005 Tom Cotter book “Cobra in the Barn.”  What a cool transporter this was.  I had to learn more.

I contacted Tom Cotter and he was kind enough to help me learn more about the transporter and who owned it.  Then, he put me in contact with the owner – Jim Degnan.  Jim raced vintage racecars and had acquired the transporter years before and had started its restoration, and he shared with me he was working with someone who might buy it.  I let Jim know that I would be interested in it if the deal didn’t go through.  As I always warn all my friends… be careful what you wish for 🙂

Meanwhile we were learning more about cars of that era and we didn’t know it then but were laying down the groundwork for what would become Undiscovered Classics.  And during the months after I had talked to Jim, one of my friends, Marshall Foxworthy, used photoshop to show what my Tiburon Coupe might look like on the back of the Moon Transporter.  After I saw the image below, I was hooked and knew what I had to do.

Buying the Moon Transporter

It’s best I let Jim Degnan tell the story in his own words.  He posted this back on our website in 2014:

“I remember Tom Cotter doing the article and soon after it was published, I was hounded by this dude from Florida pestering me to buy the “Moon.”  Six months later, after many late night phone calls, etc., we struck a deal.  He would trade me one of the Renault Gordinis (I owned two Gordini sports cars at the time) and some cash to “boot”.  He would pay transportation costs both ways.  Karen, my wife, exasperated by many phone calls and discussions about the transporter said “just take the cash and let him keep the damn Renault.”  Needless to say, I now have the Renault, spent the cash and we are both happy.  (My wife…not so much).

Transporting the Transporter

The Moon Transporter ran, drove and steered so transport of it would be possible.  The transport company charged me to ship 1.5 cars – maybe two cars – since it was so long.  Good friend Richard Russell was on hand with Jim Degnan when they loaded the Cheetah Transporter for Tampa, Florida.

The Moon Transporter is being loaded at Jim Degnan’s house in Castaic, California.

The shipment arrived on Christmas Day, 2006 and Rick and I had fun unloading it and driving it around the block.  Being in a vehicle which is cantilevered over the front axle feels very different driving – especially going over speed bumps.  You get the visual sensation of being ready for the car to lurch upward – and it doesn’t until moments later.  Very disorienting.

Summary:

So this article here today in Undiscovered Classics launches a series of articles I’ll do on the Moon Transporter.  There’s history and more to share – lots more.  How much history you ask???  Check out a tiny amount of the historic photos of the Cheetah Transporter below.   Believe me….there’s a lot of information to share and I hope you’ll find it interesting.

Hope you enjoyed the story, and remember…

The adventure continues here at Undiscovered Classics.

Geoff


Comments

1959 Cheetah “Moon” Transporter – The Journey Begins — 15 Comments

  1. If my memory is correct, the transporter was the cover car for Sportscar Graphic Magazine. Think the year was 1962 or 1963.

  2. It was on the cover of the December 1961 issue of Car and Driver, one of my last issues as editor. Great issue by the way! We always tried to end the year with a special on and that vehicle did the job.

    • Karl Ludvigsen, I always enjoyed everything that you wrote along with pictures from Jessie Alexander. Thanks for great memories, Ralph

      • We’re honored to have Karl as one of our enthusiasts here at Undiscovered Classics. I think Karl likes us because I have to do all (or most) of the writing *wink* Glad to have you with us Karl. Geoff

        • Karl, I will be sure and look for anything that you write or publish as there is a hole in my life with the demise of a printed version of AutoWeek. I was racing with Cal Club and then SCCA back in the day (just quit 2 years ago) and I don’t have any recollection of Jack McAfee hauling his cars on something as unique as the Moon Transporter, back then most of us production racers towed with a tow bar or a flatbed trailer and this is something very special.

    • Your choice for a cover car was superb! Thanks for sharing your memories and hope you’re doing well over there in the UK. Not sure if they have Thanksgiving (I don’t think so) so happy holidays 🙂 Geoff

  3. I fully understand the ending comment “I spent the cash and still have the Renault – – – – .” Jim had an earlier transporter and at one time 8 of us Cars Collectors / some racers in 1988 went to Laguna Seca and it wasn’t enough to just “go” we all signed up for Jim Russell racing school. We even had T-shirts with each of our cars on it, 4 on the front and 4 on the back. What a blast from the past to read Jim Degnan’s story about this transporter.

  4. Geoff
    I forgot that you own the transporter, I saw it in 1960 at Riverside. I was with a Devin owner that unfortunately put in in the hay bales. I was a crew member with him and the engine owner at Bonneville, we pulled the blown Chrysler and put the SBC back in so he could road course race.

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1959 Cheetah “Moon” Transporter

1959 Cheetah “Moon” Transporter

 

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