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One of the things we like least about modern drag racing is the lack of diversity of machines. In the golden era, you never knew what combinations you would see on any given night. And what kind of gymnastic feats drivers would have to perform. To that end may we present the incredible and crazy Buick Wagon Master dragster.

The Wagon Master was once a four-engine dragster called Showboat

Tommy Ivo Wagon Master exhibition dragster
Tommy Ivo Wagon Master exhibition dragster | Mecum

This is the last incarnation of what was first the “Showboat” Top Fuel dragster built by TV Tommy Ivo. Ivo was really a showman and considered the first professional drag racer. It helped that he had lots of money stashed from his days as a child actor and on the weekly 1950s TV show “My Little Margie.”

Ivo initially was more comfortable with “nailhead” Buick engines. He built a succession of successful nailhead-powered dragsters. As each one improved his time slips he wondered if two engines would be better than one. After some success with his two-engine dragster, he got crazy.

The drag racer’s credo is that “too much is almost enough.” With that mantra, in 1962 Ivo and dragster builder Kent Fuller built a four-engine, four-wheel-drive Top Fuel dragster. Why not? Two engines worked well, maybe even six or eight might do the trick. 

The Wagon Master was an adventure to drive for Tommy Ivo

Tommy Ivo Wagon Master exhibition dragster
Tommy Ivo Wagon Master exhibition dragster | Mecum

But the combination of dealing with four-wheel-drive gymnastics and also trying to see anything in the thick fog of tire smoke made driving the Showboat an unholy adventure. Ivo persevered, without a lot of success. Tire technology and spooky handling never allowed it to stick to the track. Ivo was never shy of histrionics; trying everything he knew to get a dragster from start to finish in the quickest time. 

He once went through the eyes at Pomona at 240 mph upside down. And backward. On fire. He once told your author he knew he was in trouble when through the flames he could make out the starting line while at half-track. Not many can say they have gone through the traps at 240 mph upside down on fire and backward. That’s only a small part of what makes him a legend in drag racing.

With a new owner the Showboat got a wagon body

Tommy Ivo Wagon Master exhibition dragster side
Tommy Ivo Wagon Master exhibition dragster | Mecum

But we digress. Eventually, exhibition runs were the order of the day for the Showboat. Then Ivo sold it. The next owner was Tom McCourry. He thought that a chopped-up wagon body with a semblance of a Buick Riviera front end would be great. So the configuration you see here came into being while not in Ivo’s stable.

He eventually bought it back for exhibition purposes before retiring it in 1982. But on his 60th birthday in 1996, he brought the Wagon Master out for one final pass at a nostalgia drag race at Baylands. Seeing is believing, so we have included a video of that last run. 

Now, it’s being auctioned by Mecum Auctions early next year in Florida. It still looks like it is in amazing condition. Maybe you can start a whole new career as an exhibition dragster driver. Just sayin’.


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