The Age of Thunder dawned when The Beach Boys were still singing about the "Little Deuce Coupe" and a "Fine 409." The great unlimited era of the Canadian-American Challenge Cup introduced performance-crazed racers and fans alike to winged monsters of ungodly size and otherworldly power. The "everything goes" attitude of the Can-Am rulebook brought out the best in engineers and drivers from innovative independents like Chaparral and Shadow to the giants of the game, McLaren and Porsche. When Porsche's 917 Panzer --propelled by over 1000 horses--became the undisputed King in '72, the handwriting was on the wall. Another couple of short seasons, and the glory days of Can-Am were over, like an adrenaline-fueled dream. It sure was fun while it lasted . . .
While larger-than-life figures such as Jim Hall, McLaren, and Peter Bryant spent season after season in the spotlight, Can-Am also helped some little-known racing engineers and entrepreneurs to gain a measure of fame, if not fortune. One of them, a rather enthusiastic gentleman from Kansas, in 1967 hand-built the first car to bear his name: Gene Tice.
During the next few years, Tice built a total of six race cars. The very last one, shown on these pages and dubbed the "Tice Can Am Special," was a tube-framed, alumium-skinned road rocket in the best Can-Am tradition. The car vanished sometime during the 1970s. A quarter of a Century later it was discovered sitting in an abandoned garage in Wichita Falls, Texas.
The drivetrain was missing, as were parts of the front end, the wheels, and assorted tidbits; otherwise, the car was healthy and a perfect project for . . . none other than Gene Tice himself! That's right: the man who originally constructed the car, now an octogenarian living in Las Vegas, rescued it in 1997.
Gene had something special in mind: he wanted to turn the last surviving Tice into a wild but street-legal machine.
CAD Performance in Lakeland, Florida was contacted, and their Super/Street Rotating Package was utilized to turn a 1970 Cadillac 8.2-liter mill into a fire breathing, 512 cu.in. Cadzilla motor. An Eldorado supplied the transmission, a Corvette donated the driveshafts, a Pontiac the front end parts and disc brakes. CENTERLINE racing wheels were ordered to specs, as were the tires. Bit by bit, the resurrection took place. The result was nothing short of spectacular!
In December of 2002, we were able to purchase the Can Am Special and brought it to California.
The car was stripped down to its bare aluminum alloy skin and restored almost from the ground up. Old-world master craftsman Helmut Haupt in Canoga Park, Calif. spent over 200 hours on reconstructive cosmetic surgery alone. Expert labor doesn't come cheap; you do the math.
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
Helmut reworked the entire front section and the tubular frame for the drivetrain; he manufactured the air induction box and reconstructed the entire rear wing, guided by nothing but period black and white photographs.
After completion, the car was purchased by an enthusiast from Florida. He subsequently passed it on to another prominent collector who, a number of years later, commissioned us to rework the car, once again, to the configuration it presents itself in now.
A large file of documents accompanies the Tice Can-Am, detailing much mechanical and structural work. Noted land speed racer, 200mph Club member, and safety engineer Mark Vigeant of Orange County tended to the Tice; his in-depth report and invoices totalling $11,719.11 are included, as well as the spec sheets from CAD Performance.
Vigeant spent 162 hours on the car, relocated the gas tank and mounted it safely, re-mounted the battery box, replaced the old, unsafe seats with KIRKEY vintage racing seats, replaced old pop-rivets with DZUS fasteners throughout, installed a much-needed rear disc brake upgrade, and replace the engine wiring. He also removed a hornet's nest from the intake manifold!
Tice's body was stripped again of its paint, all dings and scrapes were removed from the aluminum skin, and finally, world-famous kustom painter Emil Anzalone applied the period-correct, multi-colored Emilio Pucci livery and Tice Can-Am logos. Emilio Pucci was the master of Op Art clothing in the Sixties and Seventies, and his designs rival the best psychedelic war paint found on the Can-Am Porsches of the era.
Truly breathtaking visuals, and the bill we received for creating 'em was nothing short of breath-taking as well!
Clean, utilitarian interior features a Lamborghini-style vertical door on the driver's side for ease of entry and exit. Optima battery is securely mounted behind the passenger seat. IMSA/SCCA-approved main safety switch is within easy reach of the driver. Fuel cell is protected by a steel tube cage.
Starkly functional, yet very spacious, cockpit brings back Can-Am memories. No-nonsense black wrinkle finish and polished aluminum abound. Row of toggle switches, neat wiring loom with all fuses in plain view, six round gauges with white-on-black dials, red pointers, and chrome bezels; small, leather-covered steering wheel: it's all Business, spelled with a capital B.
Black KIRKEY racing seats are comfortable enough for any road trip. Pilot and passenger are secured by NHRA-approved DEIST 5-point safety harnesses.
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
Detail shots of Le Mans-style fuel filler, aluminum fuel cell, and various gauges mounted on engine-turned alloy fascia.
The incredible Hulk!
Prominently displayed is the Special's strong heart, the 512 cubic inch (8,397cc) Cadillac luxo-engine. Invoices totalling $4,812.38 document the build-up of this blueprinted and balanced big block. From big valves to a high-lift cam and 10.0:1 compression pistons, every high-performance part available for the big Cad was utilized.
Even the rocker shafts are anodized! And, yes, the Tice runs fine on premium unleaded fuel.
Truly ingenious is the induction system, utilizing good American Holley throats and a Ram-Air system that is vacuum-operated, yet bulletproof in its construction.
Ready for a test drive?
So are we . . . let's go!
Tuesday, January 24, turned out to be a very nice day here in our olde mission town of San Buenaventura. We headed out to our favorite neighborhood rather early, to make some noise and scare a few old Ladies.
Funny thing is, the torque monster drives almost like a . . . Cadillac. The car starts on the first push of the starter button and idles at 800rpm, accompanied by a deep rumble. At speed, the bellowing sound escaping those two 3-inch pipes is heart-pounding, to say the least. Steering is wonderfully light and precise, brakes are power-operated. Clutchless trans, Chaparral-style, allows for manual selection of the three forward speeds or full auto mode. Tall-geared, the Tice accelerates faster than a speeding bullet, faster than you might want to find out on public roads.
Twin electric fans keep mechanical things at sane operating temperatures. Except for the fuel gauge, replaced by a handy, calibrated stick, everything works, down to the last little bulb. Driving the Tice Can-Am Special, you are in the spotlight, make no mistake. Cruising on a Southern California freeway at 65mph may cause sizable traffic jams. Everybody wants to have a look, yet nobody dares to challenge you to "race." The Tice demands a huge measure of respect!
Returning home, we are fascinated by the fact that it is possible to actually drive a relic of the Can-Am days on the street. We applaud Gene Tice, a man with a vision. All this car needs now is a new cartaker, to cherish the car's, and the man's legacy.
Considering the sky-high values of race-only Can-Am cars, you might be able to acquire a slice of history for pennies on the Dollar here. The only one of Gene Tice's six Specials that's known to be restored and on the road, the alloy-bodied, tube-framed, big-block-powered Tice Can Am Special is a true survivor, worthy of museum display or inclusion in a prominent collection.
We sold this unique Tice in summer of 2012.