Thank you for showing an interest in our restoration of the "Underbird". Since we are unable to answer all of the Emails we receive personally...here are the answers to some
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the difference between the showcars on display for racefans at the local supermarket and the "Underbird"? Do you "show" the "Underbird"?
A. The showcars of today are a part of the "business" of racing, and the showcars seen at the local stores are not one of the team's back-up racecars as they were in the past, but cars specifically built for the fans to touch and to see up close. The "Underbird" is a real race car, with the original racing engine and real AK racing parts. While we have been asked by many individuals and organizations to display the car at their events, to "show" the car in that way would cause wear and tear and destroy it in a hurry. As time passes it would become almost impossible to even replace some of the decals as the car would need refurbishing after showing.
Q. Do you think that this car will ever race again?
A. No. Even though the "Underbird" is a NASCAR legal chassis and has the original race engine (capable of racing speeds), the original parts used to restore this car would be obsolete to NASCAR racing specifications of today. Any changes needed to meet those specifications would erode the "Underbird's " historic authenticity.
Q. Why is this car called the "Underbird"?
A. In Alan Kulwicki's own words after he won the Winston Cup Championship at the 1992 Atlanta 500,
"We knicknamed this car the 'Underbird' because we felt we were the underdogs in this race today..."
The AK team got special permission from Ford to drop the "T H" from the Thunderbird on the front spoiler at this race- and the car became the " underbird".
Q. How did you document the "Underbird's" racing history?
Q. How about the documentation of this car’s AUTHENTICITY?
A. This car is the number 008 chassis purchased from Geoff Bodine Racing, who bought the AK Racing team and equipment after Alan Kulwicki’s untimely death in a plane crash in 1993. Most of the original AK #7 race team were still on board at the time we bought the car and even helped in the restoration project, and have attested to the authenticity of the chassis and the original AK parts which were used to restore the "Underbird". We have the real "Underbird" and have documented the ole girl very thoroughly, and painstakingly detailed her for authenticity
A. Every time one of Alan's race cars was tested, practiced, or raced, a dated mechanical technician’s sheet was created with necessary reference information.. During the restoration project, Alan's crew chief, Paul Andrews, made this collection of files available to me. These files were correlated with official NASCAR race results to document the car's racing history. No hearsay, no fairy tales...just hard copy documentation.
…making this a "one of a kind" restoration. We don’t think that this project could have been done right unless it was begun just at the time it was undertaken (when most of Alan’s old crewmembers were all working together in the same shop) and the original AK parts were still available
… and also undertaken by someone like me, (yes, maybe a little nuts) who could devote all the time and energy needed to bring this car to life. We understand skepticism about authenticity since we learned ourselves that the majority of the descriptions accompanying rebuilt racecars are based on hearsay, such as
…"well, this guy (so & so) said it was true
…etc, etc, etc. This type of "once upon a time" story follows many cars that are supposed to be historically authenticated as depicted. For instance, the Hooter’s #7 race car on display at the Hall of Fame Museum in Talladega, Alabama
… while well intentioned as a tribute to Alan Kulwicki
… was replicated as one of Alan’s race cars, but, in fact, Alan Kulwicki never even sat in that car, or owned it, or raced it at any time in his career. Our restored "Underbird" is the REAL thing…
Q. How long did the restoration take? How much did it cost?
A. It took the best part of two years to restore the "Underbird", and it cost a lot more money than we had intended to spend! We started this project as a hobby, but, once we got into it and learned how meticulous Alan was with his equipment...we threw caution to the wind, and "did it right'...the way Alan would have.
Q. Did you get any sponsorship help from Ford or Hooters?
A. No, neither Ford nor Hooters contributed in any way to the financing of the restoration or to the documentation of the car. It was a labor of love, and, all of the costs of restoring this car remain all our own! Nor do we , now that the car is finished, get any money to display the "Underbird" while on loan at any museum.
Q. Are you currently restoring any other classic cars?
A. Not at this time. This undertaking took so much time and money, that we are still recuperating from the "Underbird" project. A project as detailed as the "Underbird" restoration was a once in a lifetime endeavor.
Q. What was the most memorable part of the restoration?
A. The most touching memory was finding Alan's St Christopher medal still in its place under his driver’s seat...it made the hair stand up on my arms when I found it there! And, once the car was finished, the most thrilling day for me was when I got to drive the "Underbird" in front of 35,000+ race fans before the Busch Grand National race at the Milwaukee Mile for a 'Polish Victory Lap' in Alan's honor. But, bringing the "Underbird" to Wisconsin to participate in the fundraising events for the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Park was really the highlight of the whole project. This was really our "15 minutes of fame" as the race fans showed their appreciation and treated us like celebrities!
Q. Why is the "Underbird" considered an historic NASCAR race car?
A. The 1992 season finale race at Altanta was itself an historic race…In Sports Illustrated’s Special Collectors Issue- 50 Years of NASCAR, this exciting finale was chosen as the "third greatest race" of more than 2,000 Winston Cup races. Fans still talk about it as a NASCAR classic! Also, noted artist Sam Bass immortalized Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 championship into racing history with his famous lithograph titled, UNDERBIRD. This print’s image has been reproduced on NASCAR memorabilia from collectors cards, to wall plaques, to clocks and table tops, and more! And, to date, since the restoration of the "Underbird" more than fifteen articles have been published in most of the major national and international racing magazines highlighting the significance of this racecar.
Q. What do you think makes this car so special to the race fans?
|Alan waves to the fans while|
taking his Famous
Polish Victory Lap at Atlanta
(Photo by Brad Fitzgerald of
A. While this car has impressive racing statistics, and is famous for being the one that Alan Kulwicki drove to win the 1992 Winston Cup Championship… And, this car still has Alan's St.Christopher medal glued in his seat....where Alan himself put it.That's what makes this car so special.
…we, ourselves, didn’t realize how special this car was to the race fans until we brought the "Underbird" to Wisconsin for the fundraising events associated with the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Park. The race fans were the ones who let us know that this was more than just another restored race car...it represents more to them than just its racing statistics and its fame. The "Underbird" was brought back to life, and with it, the determination, the tenacity, and the perseverance that Alan Kulwicki showed during his racing career was brought to light again. We found that it took that same type of determination, tenacity and perseverance to get this car restored to be as authentic as possible in every detail. Once he became the 1992 Winston Cup Champion Alan said he wanted to "give something back" to his fans.. He wanted to be a role model, especially for the youth of this country. Alan has left us all too soon...but his memory lives on... and the restored "Underbird" is a very real reminder of Alan's hard work and his realized dreams.
Q. Now that the Underbird Restoration is completed, what's next for Larry and Pam Bean?
Restoration of any classic car is a major project which takes a great deal of
time and money to accomplish
the right way. Funding sources, whether savings or a
TitleMax loan, can be used up quickly so setting
and sticking to a budget is key to a successful restoration project.