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.
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 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.
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.
There seems to be differing opinions as to which magazine cover the Transporter was featured on and I cannot tell you either because in those days I subscribed to most sports car magazines. However I recall getting that cover and being impressed by its design when just a few days later I see it actually drive down my street. So I jump in the car and follow it. Turns out the builder who’s name I cannot recall lived about three blocks away. He was kind enough to show me it and his next project which was a race car designed for Indy, it was made from a auxiliary wing fuel tank from some aircraft and was going to be powered by a Maseratti engine. That project did get completed and shipped to Indianapolis but caught on fire and was destroyed.
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.
it started as a 1959 elcamino
I’d like to know about the transporter’s drive line, as well as your driving impressions.
looks familiar, and i think jay leno has something similar, possible one of the mercedes
I don’t know what Jay has but the one at Mercedes is a replica because the original was long lost. Maybe they made two replicas, one for Leno!
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.
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
Thanks a lot, Ralph. Please don’t overlook the fact that I’m still writing and publishing! The latest my biography of Reid Railton and my complete Porsche history.
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
Mercedes has a very similar transport in their museum in Stuttgart
If my memory is correct, the transporter was the cover car for Sportscar Graphic Magazine. Think the year was 1962 or 1963.
Great story of an interesting vehicle Thanks Geoff.