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Fri, 2 Dec 2005, 10:07 AM

Bruce Litton Shop Tour
By Jim Luikens
Photo copyright 2005 Jim Luikens

One of the most amazing "shops" in all of racing belongs to Top Fuel pilot Bruce Litton. Even more amazing is the fact that this is the second iteration of his shop after a fire totally destroyed the original on January 13, 2001. Four years of reconstruction and purchases have duplicated nearly everything he lost in the tragic fire. However, some things, like the original neon sign from Indianapolis Raceway Park, are irreplaceable. Come on along today as Bruce gives you the first virtual tour of his born-again shop.

The first thing you notice upon entering the building is the life-size Mobil gas station, complete with neon Flying Red Horse over the front door. Parked inside the station is a perfect condition Chevrolet Corvette while out front sits Bruce's tow vehicle for the 2006 season, a 1958 Chevrolet Suburban. Unlike its two vintage Suburban predecessors this one is a street rod under the skin. It features a 350 CID crate engine, air conditioning and disc brakes.

Closer examination of the station reveals everything needed to operate such an enterprise including period-correct tires and batteries as well as old-fashioned refillable quarts of motor oil. The reference over the front door to Oneida, Tennessee honors Bruce's hometown where he was born in 1955. Although he moved north to Indianapolis at age 10 Bruce maintains his ties with Oneida to this day.

By turning and facing south we see a recreation of Oneida's Main Street starting with Webb Brothers Hardware on the corner. Out front of Webbs sits a 1920 Day bicycle that features wood handle grips and wood wheels. Beyond the Hardware is the town's chapel, sheriff's office (with working jail) and the Scott Movie Theater. Once again everything is period correct, right down to the movie posters in the theater windows.

This is a photo of every key for every door on Main Street in the real Oneida. The logistics needed to collect all of these is mind-boggling in its own right.

Standing in front of the chapel is Bruce with his wife of 27 years, Carol. Interestingly, Bruce is well known as a devoted Christian but it was actually his wife that led him to the Lord. The chapel only seats 12 but recently hosted a marriage for Indy's Lyndhurst Baptist Church that drew 105 guests. Needless to say that a few of the guests sat outside the chapel (but still inside the building).

This is the other half of Oneida's Main Street with Phillips Drive-In, Clyde's Barber Shop and Troxel Motors. Once again the picture is complete, right down to the antique street lights, town clock, vintage Coke machine and a motor bike, pedal car and scooter. Behind the second story windows is a complete guest apartment.

This is the interior of the fully equipped Phillips Drive-In. Food orders are on the counter ready to be enjoyed while the tables await their next guests. As with Bruce's entire complex no detail is overlooked, right down to the plastic ice cubes that fill the drink glasses. In the background are two antique Standard Oil gas pumps. They stand ready to dispense regular and Gold Crown premium. Don't miss the fabulous tin ceiling that finishes off this one-of-a-kind room.

This is Clyde's Barber Shop. Not visible from this picture but reflected in the mirror is the wall-mounted magazine rack. It contains authentic 50s magazines including one that had a feature on Chris Karamesines. The fabled Greek himself was kind enough to autograph the front cover during a recent private tour. One of the highlights of this room is the authentic pony chair for youngsters receiving their first haircut.

Out front of Troxel Motors sits a line of unique bicycles including six Schwinn Sting Rays. They include one each of the six different colors that the bike was originally manufactured in: Yellow, Green, Black, Orange, Red and White. This collection mirrors the six sting Rays that were lost in the January 13, 2001 fire.

Arranged in front of Troxel Motors is part of Bruce's car collection. Although Troxel was a Ford dealer in real life their inventory now seems to match Bruce's taste, which favors Chevrolets. Included in the collection are vehicles that either belonged to, or mimic, ones owned by his father and brother. Bruce lost both of them in 1999, a tough year in his life.

This is the other half of his car collection. Remember that all of these had to be acquired after losing a similar set in his fire. Although the car directly in front is a loaded 1969 Chevrolet convertible Bruce tends to favor bare bones two door sedans with the biggest engine offered in that model year. Way in the back is Bruce's Black Suburban that was formerly used for a tow vehicle. The Red one that he used in 2005 will join the Black one on the sidelines when he puts his "new" Blue one in service for the 2006 season.

After seeing all that you've seen it must be hard to imagine that this is indeed a functioning race shop. Way in the back is the bay where his transporter parks when it is not on the road. In the bay this day was his new-for-2006 two-seat dragster along with a very nice 1967 Camaro. Unlike other two seat dragsters the rider gets the front seat in this one. As a ride-along junkie I'm already looking forward to my chance.

Here sits two dragster chassis, ready to be assembled. In the rear is his 2006 car, which is actually his repaired 2004 car, which went flying at San Antonio last year on only its 10th run. In the front is his 2002 car, which was in more final rounds than any Litton car to date.

In the cylinder head room we find long-time Litton associate Mike Wolfarth hard at work preparing a set of billet cylinder heads. Note the level of spare parts inventory located below his bench.

As we are leaving we encounter this hallway lined with plaques from one end to the other. Each signifies a special accomplishment in Bruce's career and taken as a total indicate a life well lived. Special thanks to Bruce for taking the time to show us around today. I hope you enjoyed your tour.

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