The Backup Pickup was one of the craziest exhibition wheelstander trucks ever created. From the fertile mind of George Tuers, who built it and drove it, the BUPU toured mostly western US dragstrips for years in the 1960s and 1970s before being stripped and scrapped.
Backup Pickup Was Destroyed
So, if it was destroyed how come it exists? That’s because Galpin Ford, the largest Ford dealership in the US, originally sponsored the BUPU in the 1960s. In 2013 Galpin decided to do an accurate recreation in its custom shop overseen by Dave Shutten.
So what’s going on with this backwards truck? In 1964 Dodge began experimenting with its forward control A-100 pickup as a Factory Experimental drag truck. It had the nasty habit of lifting straight into the air instead of launching down the strip. Making lemonade from lemons, Chrysler used the pickup, now christened “Little Red Wagon” as the first wheelstander to entertain the fans between rounds or while crews cleaned up an oil down of the track.
The Little Red Wagon was so popular strip owners couldn’t book it and began looking for something like it. Soon there were a number of imitators. George Tuers wanted in on the exhibition action, but with something even more memorable.
Many found the forward control pickups by Chevy, Dodge and Ford to be odd looking as they lacked a hood and front end. Some joked that you couldn’t tell whether it was coming or going.
George Tuers Starts The Backup Pickup
Tuers seized on that and began creating his Backup Pickup from Ford’s Econoline forward control pickup. These were built from 1961-67 and featured a unibody construction so there was no frame.
Tuers fashioned a 2” x 4” steel frame that he could place the body onto. In some ways it is like a conventional dragster chassis from the 1950s with the engine in the middle and the driver in the rear. With the body mounted to the perimeter frame, he positioned a seat backwards in the cockpit. Now the driver faced the rear window.
A roll cage was added because the pickup had to meet sanctioning bodies’ safety specifications to run down a dragstrip. Steering and gauges were mounted below the rear window in the cab.
It’s Crazy, But It Runs The Quarter Mile
With the big slicks and rear end in the front, and skinny front runners on a tube axle in the rear, he was ready to entertain the audience with his backwards antics. With a couple of sanctioning bodies holding meets every weekend, and five or six strips just in the Los Angeles basin alone, the Backup Pickup was busy. And it was popular, and memorable. It was so wacky everyone who ever attended a west coast meet between 1965 and 1980 saw the BUPU perform.
The first version was red, and was the more recognizable version because it was new and fresh and in demand. The second version was done after Galpin sponsored the wheelstander. Since Galpin was doing the recreating, it chose that version. We’re good with either one!
When Galpin decided to recreate it the crew started with the best truck they could find, then tore into it. George Tuers came by to provide oversight. When it came time for the crazy paint job, Bill Carter, who originally painted it back in the day, was commissioned to create what he first painted in the 1960s.
With advice from the original builder and driver, and the intricate paint handled by the painter who did it originally, this is as accurate a recreation as one can get. And, it will be a lasting tribute to both as Tuers died in 2016, and Carter in 2019.
Today the BUPU can be seen at Galpin Motors in Panorama City, California. Galpin also attends a limited amount of shows each year and usually brings along the BUPU. So, you might get to see it in and around the Los Angeles area.
Whether you see it in person or not you’ll never forget it.