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1962 Chevy II - Tomato Can

A Torrid 1962 Deuce With A Storied Racing History

By Doug Marion, Photography by Doug Marion

Jerry and Luke Shumard's 1962 Chevy II has been a stellar drag car since almost day one. This story began 25 years ago when Luke's dad, Jerry, bought the Chevy II racer with 396 rat power under the hood. Painted a heavily oxidized reddish-orange, Jerry decided he'd call the deuce "Tomato Can" because it looked like it'd been kicked around a lot. In short order, the bottom end was repaired, and the Tomato Can commenced to win many NHRA Division Seven e.t. bracket races, including the very first Division Seven S/ST race at Orange County International Raceway, plus the Division Seven e.t. Finals at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield. As a result, the Tomato Can was featured in Super Chevy magazine. Jerry, by the way, is also remembered for his Super Pro/Super Gas '62 Bel Air, which was a big winner going way back to the '68 AHRA World Finals at Lions Drag Strip. It too graced not only Super Chevy's pages, but its cover, too. Wishing to go modern in the sheetmetal department, Jerry sold the coveted Bel Air, then built a late-'80s Super Gas Camaro. Super Chevy followed that complete buildup, too. It also won big-including the NHRA World Finals at Pomona. This car was in the national top 10 rankings in NHRA S/G points, finishing 10th one season and second another! All during this time, sitting idle in his garage was the multi-winner Chevy II, the Tomato Can.

Enter Luke, the youngest son of three, who inherited his father's mechanical and driving skills and more. He began drag racing at age 15 in 1989. In '97 and '98, he was the NHRA Division Seven Super Comp champion. In '98 and '99, he was the Jeg's All Star Super Comp champion. In '98, he was the NHRA Division Seven "Driver of the Year." In the NHRA Super Comp points race, he finished third in '97 and eighth in '98.

Then, early in the new millennium, Luke met a nice gal named Nancy. They tied the knot in 2003. Like most of us, Luke graciously traded in his drag racing hobby/career for a home for his new family. By '04, his new job and home were all locked in. Luke was content. But Nancy and step-daughter Sarah weren't. You see, Nancy had been quietly mentioning to Luke that he ought to get back into drag racing. Young Sarah (age 8) kept asking, "Daddy, when are we going racing again?" Luke had already won everything he was capable of winning in sportsman drag racing. He also knew that he not only needed a tow truck, but a fifth-wheel trailer with living quarters, plus tools, a pit bike-you name it. Oh yeah, he also needed a race car! For months, the Shumards scoured the NHRA National Dragster classifieds and finally spotted a trailer in a North Central state that fit their bill and budget. Good deals on trucks capable of towing 15-19,000 pounds were everywhere-locally.

But what about a Chevy race car? Jerry had recently sold his business and semi-retired by accepting a position selling brand-new log cabin homes. Sitting forlorn in his garage was the Tomato Can Chevy II. Luke knew it well. He actually won the first Super Street race he ever entered in it. He went on to finish second in Super Street Division Seven points, then took runner-up at the Jeg's All Star race in Columbus, Ohio. With all this in mind, he knew it needed a complete checkup, checkout, and probable redo. Over the last 25 years, it had been front-halved, back-halved, and fitted with various big-block and small-block Chevy powerplants. To size things up, Luke turned to Mike Bolden at Helix Motorsports in La Mesa, California.

Bolden felt the car needed to be re-wired, re-plumbed, and re-braked. To be Super Street legal, 300 pounds also needed to be added. After Bolden performed his magic, the Tomato Can was trailered to Don and Todd Barton's shop in Norwalk, California, for some bodywork and new paint. Don has owned the most colorful '55 Chevy drag car on the planet, so much so that it won Best Appearing Car at the NHRA World Finals. Friend Eric Reyes came up with a new paint scheme, and the Bartons carried it out to perfection. After four previous decades of quarter-mile competition, the Tomato Can never looked so good.

By Doug Marion
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