Belly Tanker Photos Surface After 60 Years!!!

After almost 60 years, amazing new photos of the Indian-powered "Belly Tanker" surface at Wheels Through Time. 

About two weeks ago, I got a call from a man named Robert Ruzella from Ventura, California.  Robert was the builder of the "Belly Tanker" and recently saw the episode of American Pickers where Mike and Frank sold the machine to Wheels Through Time, whereupon he decided to give us a ring and share a little bit of history.

Robert is now in his 80s, and had a wealth of information about the early days of Hot Rodding in Southern California.  He was able to share most of the machines story, including his memories of winning the first hot rod show it ever entered in 1953.  He even mentioned that he had the original trophy he won from that event.  In total, we must have spent 30 or 45 minutes chatting about not only the belly tanker, but cars and bikes general.  It was more than a pleasure to talk with him, and I learned quite a bit from our conversation.

About a week later, UPS walked in the front door with a surprise package from Ventura.  Upon tearing into the box, I found an envelope with several photos and a letter from Mr. Ruzella himself, expressing how surprised he was to learn the old "Belly Tanker" is still running and being well cared for. 

Mr. Ruzella had some interesting commentary about the car, including a sentiment assuredly felt by anyone who has driven it….. "By now you know that you don’t just get into the car and drive it….You wear it!"  This couldn’t be any closer to the truth.  The car is so perfectly shaped, it feels like you’re actually a part of it (or its a part of you!) when you drive it down the road.

Upon digging a little deeper into the package, I was astounded at what I found.  Not only did he share these amazing photos, he sent the very trophy he won in 1953 as a donation!

The trophy, which stands approximately 18-inches tall, reads: 1953 Hot Rod & Motorsports Show.  Special Class — 1st Place.  Motor World Magazine."  It sits in amazing condition…its only flaw are that the characters arms were broken during a Souther California earthquake in the 1980s. 

Thank you Mr. Ruzella. We are so much more than honored by your donation.  Now, The history of the Belly Tanker is  more complete than ever, and will be shared with our visitors for years to come!

Notice that the trophy can be seen in each of Mr. Ruzella’s photos.

We also did our best to recreate the photo sent to us by Mr. Ruzella. (except with Dale in the driver seat!)


Velocity Channel Shoots at Wheels Through Time!!!

This past Tuesday, July 31, Velocity Channel star Wayne Carini, from the hit television show "Chasing Classic Cars", and his production crew spent two full days filming for an upcoming segment at Wheels Through Time.  Now in its fifth season, the show gives the viewer instant membership to the exclusive club of elite car restorers and millionaire collectors, following Carini on his personal mission to uncover, restore, and sell some of the world’s rarest collector cars.

The recently filmed segment could be considered a "follow-up" to one of the largest and most significant automotive auctions to take place in the last few decades — the famed Lee Hartung Estate Auction — a November 2012 sale featuring nearly 100 rare collector cars and over two dozen extremely rare motorcycles dating back to even before the 1910s.  At the Auction, the Chasing Classic Cars crew was on hand catching many of the memorable moments and gathering commentary from countless collectors.  Both Carini and Wheels Through Time Museum Curator, Dale Walksler were on hand early to identify and  prepare several of the machines for the auction, gaining a rare insiders look at what made the Hartung Estate so special.   During the airing of the episode, we also learned that each of the two collectors managed to take home a few rare pieces — machines so rare, they warranted a special "follow-up" episode highlighting the unique history associated with each. 

Watch the Lee Hartung Estate Videos, here!!

Tuesday’s filming marked the first time Carini had visited the musuem, and after parusing the isles of history inside the 38,000 square foot facility, he remarked that he’d need much more than a few days to absorb a collection of such magnitude.  It was also the first time Wayne had seen his token purchase from the Hartung Estate Auction — a 1912 Thor motorcycle, equipped with a sidecar and resting in its original condition –, which Walksler offered to bring back to perfect running order.   During the filming, the two also highlight one of the newest additions to Wheels Through Time — a 1949 Veritas, powered by a BMW 328" Racing engine and bodied by the famous Spohn Body Company of Germany  .Both machines are currently on display at Wheels Through Time.

Keep an eye out for the episode on Velocity Channel in the coming months. It’ll be one that you don’t want to miss. For more information, visit or call the museum at (828) 926-6266.

See Chasing Classic Cars coverage at the Lee Hartung Estate here, and watch the 1949 Veritas move for the first time in over 50 years.