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History #990 "Golden Rod" Streamliner ... PICS!!!

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by HEMI32, Sep 11, 2008.

  1. Since the thread has just gone over 4,000 hits, I thought I would add this photos which has been hanging on my wall in the office for 20 years.

    From left to right: Bill "Pop" Thomssen, Don Walling, Tim Thomssen, Tommy Thompsom, Dave Thomssen, Rich Venza, and Krazy Ken.
    Our Hero driver Don Kehr takes a knee in front of the crew.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 26, 2008
  2. Malcolm
    Joined: Feb 9, 2006
    Posts: 7,638

    from Nebraska

    What a great History Lesson - thanks so much, guys!!

    I contacted John MacKichan, wondering if he had any involvement with this car, since he's from Lincoln, NE, and Rich Venza mentioned his time in Lincoln, and at Speedway Motors.

    Here's a little added info for this thread, that John sent me:
    John and his partner Tim Schulz have campaigned this car at Bonneville for quite a few years: (top speed of 346 mph, I believe)

  3. As @Rich Venza eluded to before, Tommy's 1950's "pancake-style" (flat & short) streamliner eventually gave way to the "needle-style" (long & narrow) streamliners of the 80's.

    Rich has explained that the Tommy Thompson #990 "Golden Rod" streamliner was used as a sort of a "test bed" for the Lincoln, Nebraska (SPEEDWAY Motors) team in the 1980's ... but by 1986-87, it was obvious a different approach would be necessary to get their driver into the "Two Club" ... the result was the #322 car (ex FED turned streamliner), followed by the Swamp Rat #33 and the MacKichan/Schulz #136 cars.

    Rich has posted several pics of the #322 streamliner ... and Nick (@Malcolm) posted a pic of the MacKichan/Schulz #136 streamliner ... so I thought it only appropriate to post some pics of the Golden Rod's other "child" ... the Swamp Rat #33 'liner:

    Here it is at the 40th Bonneville Nationals in 1988:

    Swamp Rat 33 - 40th B'ville Nats - 1988 001 (by Todd Olson).jpg
    Ace HRM photog Eric Rickman passes some words of wisdom onto Rich Venza (black Isky hat) while Garlits
    waits patiently in the drivers seat. Rod Kempkis holds the canopy open and listens in on the conversation.

    Swamp Rat 33 - 40th B'ville Nats - 1988 002 (by Todd Olson).jpg
    Last minute instructions before pushing off.

    NOTE: Garlits got into the prestigious Bonneville 200 MPH Club with a two-way average speed of 217.947 MPH (in XF/GS trim) ... as did Don Kehr with a 213.438 MPH average (in XF/FS trim).
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  4. ... at the 41st B'ville Nats in 1989:

    Swamp Rat 33 - 41st B'ville Nats - 1989 - Thomssen Bros (by Todd Olson).jpg
    The Thomssen brothers (Tim & Tom) wipe down the car.

    Swamp Rat 33 - 41st B'ville Nats - 1989 002 (by Todd Olson).jpg
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  5. ... and in 1990 @ the 42nd Annual Bonneville Nationals:

    Swamp Rat 33 - 42nd B'ville Nats - 1990 001 (by Todd Olson).jpg

    Swamp Rat 33 - 42nd B'ville Nats - 1990 002 (by Todd Olson).jpg

    Swamp Rat 33 - 42nd B'ville Nats - 1990 003 (by Todd Olson).jpg

    Swamp Rat 33 - 42nd B'ville Nats - 1990 004 (by Todd Olson).jpg

    NOTE: Tim Thomssen drove this XX/S version of the car to a 231.380 MPH average ... making him the third driver to gain 200 MPH Club membership in the 'liner.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  6. autobilly
    Joined: May 23, 2007
    Posts: 3,094


    This is kool stuff!
  7. Goldy
    Joined: Feb 10, 2007
    Posts: 474


    All I can say is WOW! what a story with all those pictures. I have never gotten to bonneville and it is one thing I just have to do. The closest I ever got was in my imagination when I got to sit in the Garlits #33 liner when it was at Kowalski's garage in Pennsylvania about 15 or 20 years ago. I sat in it and dreamed!!! I'm still dreaming! Goldy
  8. Here's a little more on the Swamp Rat #33 'liner ... it currently resides in the DON GARLITS MUSEUM OF DRAG RACING:

    Swamp Rat 33 in museum.jpg

    Swamp Rat 33 museum placard.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
  9. These photos will be a little out of sequence, but the series of shots I wanted to post here are color slides that I have to get converted.

    In an attempt to put Dave Thomssen in the 2 club, the 'liner suffered a major crash at aprox. 200mph. Spinning several times while doing 7 pencil rolls, the car suffered total body damage, a couple bent coilovers & wheels. Dave came out of the crash with damage to his hands and a body with lots of bruising.

    We loaded all the bits and pieces up and headed back to Lincoln. It became clear that we didn't have the skills or money to repair the car ourselves. I contacted my old buddies Ed & EJ Kowalski in Reading, PA and worked out a plan for them to rebuild the bodywork and in exchange EJ would be the next driver to have a shot at the 2 Club.

    What you see is the result of their fantastic rebuild. I was then working for The Eastwood Company and over the winter I had occasion to go to an EAA air show in Lakeland, FL. In the fly-market I found the remains of a vertical tail. Bingo, a tail fin for the Swamp Rat to add to it's high speed stability.

    Our first trip out with the new and improved car was the first SCTA reunion at Edwards Air Force Base at Muroc. The first 2 photos are from that event. Between the wind and limited time on the lake bed, we didn't set any records. During the winters, we booked the 'liner into car shows to generate some travel cash. Over the next several years we tried to get EJ a 200+ record, but between wind, rain and some engine issues that never came to pass.

    The 'liner was eventually taken to Ocala where it has been on display in Don's Museum Of Drag Racing.

    Dave Thomssen, Ed & EJ Kowalski have continued to race at Bonneville. Dave in his '27 Ford Street Roadster and Ed & EJ in a series of '23 Street Roadsters, '29 Roadster, and 2008 a '27 Modified Roadster. EJ also has a Streamliner on the chassis jig which has been designed with 300+mph in mind.
    Watch for the Grand Son of the Original Golden Rod to hit the Salt in the future.
    If anyone is interested in Kowalski Customs for a hot rod or race car project, PM me and I'll get you hooked up with EJ. You will not be disappointed.

    Attached Files:

  10. GassersGarage
    Joined: Jul 1, 2007
    Posts: 4,729


    Brings back memories. Thanks for posting.
  11. Yet another vintage photo with old 990c has come to my attention. While surfing through a Hot Rod article on legendary photographer, Eric Rickman. low and behold there's the young sort of buff Rickman posing on the salt and right there in the background is our favorite yellow streamliner.

    This photo is very typical of the Golden Rod history, never the star, but always a classy background player.

    Attached Files:

  12. I was looking through some of my old B'ville Programs last night ... and found this info ...

    990 Golden Rod 1971 entry.jpg

    990 Original Golden Rod 1979 entry.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  13. I thought I had dug up everything I had in my files pertaining to the Original Golden Rod. NOT SO..while going through some SCTA Straightaway News I found a typed history of the car done by Tommy's wife Dorothy in 1985. It brought out a few facts that I didn't's hell getting old. Since it doesn't work well to scan it, I'll just type it in just as she created it.


    The "ORIGINAL" Golden Rod

    1952 - Designed and built by A.R. "Tommy" Thompson in his basement
    garage in Wheat Ridge, Colorado (Denver suburb). Tommy, a CMfgE
    and designer, amateur racing enthusiast, charter member of Denver
    Timing Association, NHRA, BNI and USFRA.

    - Named car the "Golden Rod" from Jefferson County, Colorado county
    seat of "Golden"' it is a "hot rod" and the color Goldenrod yellow,
    chosen for its unique visibility on the Salt Flats.

    - First entered Bonneville Nationals - August, 1952 after spectating
    for 2 years, 1950 and 1951. Golden Rod then powered by borrowed
    Ford Flathead engine.

    1953 - Power was a sleeved 365 cu. in. Oldsmobile engine which had been
    used in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb racing events

    - Olds powered - 1953 - 1977. Fastest recorded time was 205.01
    MPH in 1959.

    1976 - Golden Rod was loaned to friend, Don Walling of Lincoln,

    1977 - Thanks to Don Walling and his friend in Lincoln, Dave Thomssen and
    Dave's father Bill (Grand Island, Nebraska),
    the car then became a testing vehicle for ARDUN power in 1978 and a new
    land speed record was set in XX/Gas streamliner class of 186.299.

    1979 - The ARDUN power has been successfully used since '78 and in '79,
    '80 and '81. Golden Rod was officially entered in '82, '83 (we all
    know what happened thise two years, and in 1984 when the course
    was only 5 miles long, too short for the Golden Rod

    1985 - The car has been gently and beautifully restored (to correct salt
    damage) and painted by Rich Venza, another friend in

    In the meantime, back home in Colorado, Tommy was busy changing
    the contour of the driver and engine canopies, which he fitted on
    the car in Lincoln (no surprise that the fit was perfect).

    1985 - Dave Thomssen has spent all of his so-called spare (?) time and then
    some in adapting a supercharged to the flathead. The SC loaned and
    shipped to Dave from upper New York State by Adam Weisman.
    the interim, Don Walling, who is an accomplished machinist, restored
    the "Thompson Built" trailer, which has transported the Golden Rod
    over thousands of miles over the years.
    Tm and Tom Thomssen, Dave's sons, have worked tirelessly both in
    Lincoln and as Crewman on the Salt this year.
    Frank Morawski, a friend of Rich Venza, flew to Lincoln from his home
    in Baltimore, Maryland, to accompany the Golden Rod to Utah. He,
    too, along with the others was a "round the clock" crewman.
    Hans Iwand, a friend from Sioux City, Iowa, came in Salt Lake City to
    engineer the calculations and help the crew. He too hails originally
    from Lincoln.

    George Cody, Los Angeles, came to watch the Golden Rod run since he
    had been along on her maiden voyage in '52 and '53. He's an old time
    D.T.A. buddy of Tommy's.

    Last but by no means least Dave's former neighbor "boy" from Lincoln
    flew into Salt Lake Airport to onve again pilot the Golden Rod as he has
    done so well since 1977. His name is Don Kehr and he came all the way
    from St. Louis this year.

    The Thompsons od Colorado are mighty proud of our "National" crew AND the Thompssons of Nebraska, and Don Walling, who have made 1985 a super special year.

    You are A Great Bunch of Guys and WE LOVE YOU ALL

    Even though the record eluded us, WE know the car's capability one more time.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2008
    HEMI32 likes this.
  14. eye bone
    Joined: Jul 13, 2005
    Posts: 655

    eye bone

  15. Rich ... great stuff ... thanks for sharing!

    Also ... have you (or Tom McIntyre) had any luck contacting Tommy's daughter's? ... it would sure be great to figure out where my father took the three 1958 photographs of the #990C streamliner on a trailer:

    990c circa1957 pic 1.jpg 990c circa1957 pic 2.jpg 990c circa1957 pic 3.jpg

    ... and whether or not my father's buddy, Mike Thompson (of Glendive, Montana) was actually related to Tommy.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
  16. No, as of today I haven't heard anything from Tom. I'll drop him a note and see if we can figure that piece of the puzzle out.
  17. UPDATE:

    I recently found Mike Thompson's (circa 1958) Glendive, Montana address ... and performed both a Google Earth (3D) and a Google Maps search on it ... Unfortunately, there's no "Street View" imagery available of the house ... and the satellite imagery doesn't really confirm (nor deny) that the 3 pics my father shot in 1958 were taken at Mike Thompson's house in Glendive, Montana ... so it's still a possibility that they were taken at Tommy Thompson's house in the Denver area.

    The mystery continues ...
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2014
  18. While going through some other threads about photos from LIFE magazine, low and behold here's another photo of the 990 Original Goldenrod which I have never seen. It looks to be from the early 50's as the car still does not have its canopy. It looks like Tommy and his buddies have matching uniforms complete with the car image on the back of Tommys.
    I'll bet Dorothy did that by hand! Look to the right for another crew member with his team shirt.

    The oval artwork was produced as a sticker in 2002 by the fellows who did the first restoration on the car in 2001-2002.

    Stay tuned, we are still waiting to receive additional photos from Tommys daughter.

    Attached Files:

  19. derelict
    Joined: Nov 28, 2001
    Posts: 490


    There was a fairly comprehensive article about the car in Rodders Journal, with pics of the car in a garage in Colorado, not long ago. A short time ago I visited a collection with the car in it in Burbank...
  20. derelict
    Joined: Nov 28, 2001
    Posts: 490


    The article concerning the Tommy Thomspson Streamliner is in issue number 23 of Rodders Journal complete with a cutaway drawing, photos of the 1964 accident in Denver and photos of Tommy Thompsen...
  21. Good find Rich!

    I too was checking out the LIFE photo archive hosted on Google Images ... spent hours looking through old "Hot Rod" stuff ... but hadn't looked at any Bonneville images ... finally got around to it ... and found the image Rich posted ... as well as a few others of Tommy Thompson's #990 liner.

    All four photographs were taken in 1954 by J. R. Eyerman for LIFE Magazine ... I brightened them up a bit and resized them for posting here:

    in line behind a roadster ... and the famous (Colorado based) Kenz & Leslie #777 liner

    there's that trailer again!
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  22. Thank You @derelict!!!

    I don't know how I ever forgot about the "Recapturing the Passion - The Tommy Thompson Streamliner" article that appeared on pages 10-23 of that issue [with Clapton's (Brizio built) Deuce Roadster on the cover] ... guess I'm losing it.

    From page 21 of The Rodder's Journal - Number Twenty Three:

    TRJ23page 21.jpg

    This image provides a clue to the answer to my original question: Where were the three 1958 photos my father took of #990 taken? ... if you look closely, you'll see the same brick driveway in my father's 3 pics!

    So now the only question left to answer is why the heck would a 21-22 year old from Beach, North Dakota travel ~1500 miles to/from Denver, Colorado to take three pictures of a streamliner? ... I'm still sticking to my theory that my dad's buddy (Mike Thompson of Glendive, Montana) was somehow related to Tommy Thompson ... who knows, maybe they took the "long route" to the '58 OK City NHRA Nats ... and stopped off in the Denver area to visit Tommy?

    Here's a few more images from the "Recapturing the Passion - The Tommy Thompson Streamliner" article ...

    ... from @TRJ #23, page 12:


    ... from @TRJ #23, page 18:


    ... and from @TRJ #23, page 19:

    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  23. mrdodge
    Joined: Sep 9, 2008
    Posts: 335


    Hey Rich, thanks for so much info. Great thread. The photo of the Golden Rod next to the steam car in the Salt Lake airport triggered a memory for me. I was at Bonneville this year (along with half of NZ) and remember seeing the steam car at Reno a few days earlier. Its in the Harrahs Car Museum with a number of other salt cars. Have got photos but having trouble getting them up. Also agree with your comment re the museum at the Wendover Airport. Well worth a visit.
  24. MrDodge...Thanks for your kind comments. I also have trouble getting things up from time to time....O, you're talking about photos!!!!
    67th anniversary of Dec 7, 1941 will be here very soon.
  25. HRS
    Joined: Nov 7, 2008
    Posts: 361


    very cool... thanks
  26. I was browsing through new HAMBer @Ron Kellogg's very cool "Kellogg Auto Archives" website tonight and came across this color photo of the #990 'liner on the second page of his "Bonneville" gallery:

    Ron Kellogg Auto Archive #105.jpg

    NOTE: Color prints (in various sizes) of this photo of Tommy's streamliner can be purchased via Ron's website ... just click HERE (it's image #105).
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  27. jackandeuces
    Joined: Feb 20, 2006
    Posts: 977


    Rich, You or on the money about Tom McIntyre caretaker of Goldenrod and many other historical cars..I had the pleasure of having dinner with Tom last wednesday night, This man has a lot of passion...
  28. Slim Pickens
    Joined: Dec 15, 2008
    Posts: 3,342

    Slim Pickens

    WOW, Can the HAMB get any better? Thanks. Slim
  29. On display in the HISTORIC RACE CAR building at the 2010 Grand National Roadster Show:

    #990 @ GNRS - January 28, 2010 (by Al Liebmann).jpg
    image by Al Liebmann (@NITROFC)

    #990 @ GNRS - January 29, 2010 (by Ken Leonard).jpg
    image by Ken Leonard (@xl1ken)

    #990 @ GNRS - January 29, 2010 (by Don Dillard).jpg
    image by Don Dillard (@DRD57)

    #990 (in foreground) @ GNRS - January 30, 2010 (by Chris Cooper).jpg
    image by Chris Cooper (@COOP666)

    #990 @ GNRS - January 2010 (by Jarzenhotrods).jpg
    image by Johnny Jarzen (@Jarzenhotrods)

    #990 @ GNRS - January 2010 (by Ryan Cochrane).jpg
    iPhone image by Ryan Cochran (@Ryan)

    #990 @ GNRS 2010 (from
    image from

    #990 @ GNRS 2010 (from June 2010 STREET RODDER).jpg
    image from STREET RODDER magazine

    #990 3-4 front @ GNRS - January 28, 2010 (by Dave Lindsay).jpg
    #990 3-4 rear @ GNRS - January 28, 2010 (by Dave Lindsay).jpg
    images by Dave Lindsay (@SoCalCarCulture) ... click HERE to order

    #990 @ GNRS - January 29, 2010 - pic 4 (by MR38).jpg
    #990 @ GNRS - January 29, 2010 - pic 3 (by MR38).jpg
    #990 @ GNRS - January 29, 2010 - pic 2 (by MR38).jpg
    #990 @ GNRS - January 29, 2010 - pic 1 (by MR38).jpg
    images by flickr member MR38
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2020
  30. I realize this thread has been around for over a year, but when new information or especially video pops up, I feel compelled to add it.
    This video look to have been shot in 1986 or '87 which was the last year the Lincoln Nebraska group ran the car. The gentleman describing the car is Bill Thomssen, father of engine guru Dave Thomssen. The driver was Don Kehr who would the following year teach Garlits how to go fast on the salt. I'm the much thinner guy in the straw hat and plaid shirt locking the canopy down before the run.

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