It’s a funny thing being a photographer, sort of a “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” thing. You grow up dreaming of lives, places, and cars then suddenly one day there they are, in front of your lens. You find yourself instantly time traveling, jumping between the 60’s and the new millennium. Imagine all of those model car kits you built as a kid, slot cars you raced, famous drag cars, Indy cars, and NASCAR championship cars you saw at the car shows and the races your Dad took you to and just how amazing it all seemed to a young American boy. A daydream-inspired life indeed!
Then one day, there they are in front of your lens, not behind some rope, or in the race track pits where you couldn’t touch them. In fact, you can sit in them, ride in them, and sometimes even DRIVE THEM! You can’t help but ask yourself, how did I get here?! Photographing the Invader was one of those Walter Mitty daydreams….…
60’s Show Rods were a trip. Many of them built to attract the show goer, not to actually be driven. But the formula worked and many of them toured for many, many years. The Invader, though, was more than just a pretty face. It was/is a functioning, drivable Show Rod of the period. In fact it was a two time winner of the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award, in 1967 and 1968. On top of that, it toured shows for over 20 years to 31 countries all over the world. An icon to be sure, and a testament to the imagination and engineering capabilities of its builder, Bob Reisner.
Fast forward to 1998, and after being heavily damaged during shipping (it came loose in its container in heavy seas!) on it’s way back from a show tour in Korea, Ron Martinez then purchased the car and had it beautifully restored by Scott Guildner. Invader made its return debut at the 50th anniversary edition of the Grand National Roadster Show in 1999.
Not just a trailer queen and fully operational, the Invader is a rolling piece of hot rodding history. But that doesn’t mean it’s exactly streetable either. With twin 400 c.i. Pontiac mills feeding twin B&M hydromatic transmissions and dual driveshafts into the two linked Jaguar rear differentials the car has a bit of a mind of its own. First, it’s deceptively wide - in fact, it’s wider than a Hummer. The tires hung over the rails of the flatbed transporter truck that delivered it. Add in two engines propelling two separate rear sets of gears and the least bit of output difference between the engines creates an instant desire for the car to dart in the direction of the lesser tuned engine! A little like pulling the brake on one set of the tracks on a tank.
Ron gave me the ride that I’d dreamed of in the Invader since I was that 11 year old seeing it at a show for the first time. During a ride opportunity I would have killed for (the Walter Mitty moment) Ron gave me an example of just that. Goosing the throttle and making my day, the Invader made an instant kick to the left, hard and quick! Ron gathered it up and we both laughed our asses off as he said, “See, told you so!” Making it even a little more of a handful, those two iron Pontiac V8s are both directed around the road by a Corvair steering box, which is definitely overworked with over a 1000 pounds of Pontiac on its back. With no power assist, Ron worked up a sweat just making 3 point turns, so kicking it sideways for me as he did showed what cojones that guys has! Not to mention allowing me to take it to a sulfur storage facility down near the docks for our “otherworldly” photo location. He just proved it. The smell alone would have caused most men to put it back on the truck and leave!
So in 2002, 35 years after first seeing the car at a show with my Dad and then building the model kit, my 11 year old boy day dream had come true. Walter Mitty never, ever, had it so good.
Words: Randy Lorentzen Photos: Randy Lorentzen