During the early golden years of Big Daddy Roth and custom show cars, a Kansas City customizer, Ray Fahrner, created the ‘Boot Hill Express’. Based on the 1850s funeral coach that reportedly carried James Gang member Bob Younger to his grave, it has been the subject of numerous scale models and is certainly one of the wildest and most iconic custom creations to come from the show rod era of the 1960s. Mr. Fahrner passed away in 2005, but he and his creations are fondly remembered to this day.
Three “Boothill Express” cars were eventually built; the car in the Museum of American Speed is the first one – the original. According to internet accounts, when Farhner's crew first worked on the original wood hearse (the actual 1850's funeral coach), they had to do a lot of restoration on its wood body. Farhner, concerned they might destroy it, had his crew make a fiberglass mold of everything and make duplicate pieces. Thinking they might not get all perfect pieces, the crew went so far as to make an extra body - besides the spare that Ray wanted - and extra duplicates of all the other pieces.
Not long after the "Original" Boothill was shown, the catcalls started, with people saying the car was a fake and could never actually run.
Unfortunately, they were right; the old 392-c.i. hemi in this car did have some internal parts missing, as did the old Torqueflite, and Fahrner was quite irritated at being called a faker. The original Boothill had been voted the Nation's #1 showcar in 1967 and was very popular, until word began to spread that the gearheads called it a fake and that it could never run. Before things got out of hand and killed the instant success and popularity of the thing, Ray wanted that "rumor" put to rest, once and for all.
When Fahrner directed his team to make (the original car) run, they told him it would be easier to make another one with some performance planning, instead of butchering the first one. He said, "Do it!", and that's what they did.
The second Boothill car, designed from day one to go down the dragstrip - fast - was "B-2" (The original was called "BO" and that was good for a bunch of laughs!). B-2 had a 426 hemi and a real Torqueflite, and a conventional "pumpkin-style" rearend. Fahrner's crew added wheelie bars (to ALL of them) and a fitted water tank, under the seat riser, circulating water through the hemi with a Jabsco water pump. They jetted the Hilborn for methanol, which is all they ever ran in it. When B-2 ran over 130 mph at Beeline Drag Strip, the skeptics were flabbergasted and became fans.
That, added to the original overwhelming popularity of the concept itself, created a need for a third Boothill Express - "B-3".
Having made so many spare parts and pieces in the beginning, and also learning a lot along the way, B-3 was built with a 426 Hemi and 727 Torqueflite, but the old-style Ford 3-piece rear axle housing. There was no concern for rear end strength, as this car was never going to race, or lift the front wheels. It simply had to start, and run from the hauler in the parking lot to the arena door, to go inside the show.
News cameras covered that, certifying that the Boothill was, indeed, "real". It ran and drove, but was handled gently. The attention to detail, and using the right-looking parts, made it nearly indistinguishable from "BO", except to the most skilled observers. But it did run! And it looked right, too.
The Boothill was so popular that Farhner leased one to a West Coast show promoter, and another one to an exhibition team. The other one (“BO”) was proudly displayed at Ray's National Custom Auto Shows. Three "Boothill Express" showcars, at three different geographical locations, all at the same time. It was that much in demand.