The Nitro Joint w / "Chicago Jon" Hoffman

The Curious Case of the Fumble-Fingered ‘Feather’ Fan

If there is one thing that just drives me up the wall, it's the "fan boys", or whatever you call these geeks who nit-pick at everything out there. ESPECIALLY science fiction movies, but really, just any and everything. Fans of 'The Simpsons' are familiar with the character Jeff Albertson, better known as "Comic Book Guy", who, for the duration of this opus we will simply refer to as CBG. He and his ilk will pick and paw at every little detail, and you know, KNOW that you have people JUST LIKE THIS in your own personnel lives.


The CBGs, they drive you nuts, don't they? I know they drive ME nuts, and yet, here is where we have...a wee-bit of a problem. You see, I've been a gung-ho Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme fan since day one; my walls were always plastered with every clipping from every magazine, all the hero cards I could get my hands on, and every piece of merchandise that was made. And now, there is a long-awaited release of a 1/25th model of Prudhomme’s iconic "Yellow Feather", and guess what? I am now going to turn all 'CBG' on the deal....

Now, don't get me wrong, I am VERY happy that the time, energy and MONEY has been invested into the project. Far too often, a good and popular idea will die a tragic death on the Corporate America battlefield known simply as a desk. Too many companies are involved, not enough people want to sign off, bad contracts were signed in haste in years past, and so on and so forth. I know for a fact that, if there were a die-cast made of the 1974 Jade Grenade, the rear-engine one that Sarge Arciero set low E.T. with at Indy, it would FLY off the shelves. EVERYBODY loved that car, but why hasn't one been made? Because, in haste, a bad, one-sided contract was PROBABLY signed, and the rights to that car are held by REVELL, who made a worthless/pointless little fubar snap-fit-kit of it.


Guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore has publicly said he would love to do a one-off final Deep Purple concert, but THAT has been killed off by "too many managements, too many labels, wanting too much MONEY"! Hey, I'm getting WAY off track here (big shocker, right?) Let’s get back to the Yellow Feather model, and the first burning question is.


How, in the blue-HELL, did I ever build these things (models) in the first place? And, I mean I built a TON of racing models. It didn't matter if there even WAS a kit of a particular racer or not, if I liked a guy, I'd figure it out and make it happen. I must have bought the Dunn & Reath Barracuda at LEAST eight times. Two Snakes, three Schumachers, the Damn Yankee (of COURSE!) -- you get the idea. I know I faked together the Yellow Feather out of the leading rear engine kit of the moment, that being MPCs version of the first rear engine Garlits car. (I probably bought 20 of those as well.)


Those things, with my adolescent hands, went together like a breeze! NOW? Oh my LORD, it has taken me almost a week, between the fact that modern glue sucks (it leaves "strings" every time you touch something; I feel like I'm building the thing with a spider) and my once nimble and mobile fingers are now large, lumbering, inept "meat-fists". In order to not "go postal" and mangle the thing, the process has become 'do a couple parts, block it into position, park it for the night'.

Gotta love the quality of old photos.


I only actually saw Prudhomme’s 'Feather' once at my first Indy (1972) and I decided that I wanted the model to look as it did that day. So, I had my photos, some magazines, and, a "secret wealth" of pictures, brought to me by a nameless, "secret" source. Remember how Woodward & Bernstein had their informant, 'Deep Throat'? Well, my secret source, who we shall call the "Rampant Redskin" got me some shots that were gold, but the real CBG issue became the photos on the model box.


There are seven total pictures of the car on and in the box, and no two depict the car in the same configuration. Seriously. All are courtesy of the great photographer Steve Reyes and we see, in no particular order, the car’s debut at Ontario, racing at the Lions Grand Premiere (the event with the legendary side by side 6.17s with John Wiebe), a shot from Pomona '72, which the box excitedly trumpets as "Snake lites up the tires"!, but us 'CBG's know this is him losing to Gary Cochran, as seen in the ABC classic show "Dragging with Big Daddy & The Snake".(He LOST, pretty much something you do NOT "get all happy about", box-art dude.)


But, there's another shot on the box side, and this is where CBG flips the imaginary nitrous-bottle switch from Indy 1982, and blasts into "super-duper-wacko-theory-land". By late summer 1972, Snake had switched to a super-wide front axle wing. In this shot, we see the wing, but also that the car is un-painted from the fuel tank forward. Had the car lost its chute and gotten torn up at a short track? Or was the new wing so trick it involved a multiple wholesale front end change? One of the secret snapshots from Rampant Redskin has Prudhomme posing by the wing, and I DO mean posing, not just 'Don was by the front end, and someone JUST so happened to have a camera in hand', so it was news, of some form or another. (Said wing sits in front of Pruhomme’s 'wedge' at the Garlits museum.)


There are a few other little things that draw my attention, in keeping with the whole CBG-aspect, like that the decal sheets have Keith Black stickers for the engine maker. Two of the (again, excellent) Steve Reyes photos have Ed Pink stickers, as was the case from late summer on, because Snake switched camps. (This was no shocker, in 1972 EVERYBODY was jumping on the Ed Pink bandwagon!) But by this point, I was weary of needing tweezers and a magnifying glass for basically EVERY task, and just wanted to be done, so it had to be a REAL 'gold-plated-snafu' to get me rolling at this point.


It finally comes down to shooting a photo for the piece, that it hits me over the head, and I mean, like "Quick Draw McGraw" with his GUITAR, that the lawyers and that previously mentioned desktop had been involved with this as well. You get a little "Lions diorama" to put the model on, and as I fought to get the "Army Cobra" attached, it hit me. This doesn't exist until 1974!! And it's on the CAR as well!


Get me a bunch of CBGs, with rakes and torches (actually, I guess it'd be laptops and Red Bulls) to "attack the castle"! Was THIS the loophole, to by-pass the rights on this, that the kit is by design, incorrect? THAT is why, at the last second, I included a box of Anthony Rizzo’s cereal. Not in a Cub uniform, no MLB logos, but enough "Chicago-imagery" to get the point across.


We'll never know; even Snake himself has probably forgotten. Oh well, file it next to Jack the Ripper and Bigfoot -- this mystery will just have to live on. I AM Chicago Jon, C-YAA!  



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