The story of the Wolverine Chevrlolet LD65 according to one of it’s former owners, began at a race where Jerry Hansen was driving his successful McKee Chevette and was blown into the weeds by a front engined car. When Jerry approached the team in the pits after the race and asked who they were they responded “three engineers from Detroit”. One of the engineers was Lee Dykstra who would make a name for himself with the Jaguar XJR5 IMSA car and a number of Indy Cars.
When Jerry asked why the three engineers did not build a rear engined car they replied they did not have the money so Jerry wrote them a cheque and asked the three engineers from Detroit to build him one.
The Wolverine designed by Lee Dykstra and George Anderson first appeared in a national SCCA race at Greenwood which Jerry Hansen won, Jerry then recorded a did not finish at Mid-Ohio before appearing at the inaugural Can Am Challenge at St Jovite in September 1966. Jerry qualified 25th and finished 20th.
Jerry never raced the Wolverine again, it would appear that the week before St Jovite Jerry was due to share a McLaren Elva Mk II with Charlie Hays in the Road America 500. However, after his friend and fellow Minneapolis/St Paul, Minn., resident Don Skogmo was killed driving a Lola T70 Mk II, in an accident during practice for the same race, Jerry withdrew from the event handing his ride in the Hayes McLaren to Earl Jones.
It is thought Jerry raced the Wolverine at St Jovite before sitting out the remainder of the year due to pressure from his family to retire from driving. The following year Jerry returned to racing and did not retire permanently until 1986, by which time he had clocked up a record 27 National Sports Car Club of America titles. Today the Hansen name is still connected to racing through his daughter Courtney an actress, author and presenter of motoring related television shows including Powerblock.
Jerry sold the Wolverine to Owen Rutherford who bought the car for Frank Opalka. In 1968 Frank recorded a DNF in the Road America 500 miles with Bob Lyon, and by Franks account scored many more DNF’s before the bugs were sorted out in “SCCA and USRRC” events. Frank relates how once the car was reliable he would be congratulated for finishing.
Frank also tells a good tale about a sponsor “Miami Serpenterium” who required that the car be painted all over with snakes. At Road America Owen turned up with a “station wagon loaded with poisonous snakes” one of which, a cobra, escaped and bit sponsor Bud Severens who required Buds hospitalisation, a story which made the local news. Apparently Bud never did work out how the cobra came to be in Wisconsin.
Jim Place became the next owner of the car and it is in the colours that Jim painted the car that it appears today. Jim is known to have been on the entry list for at least two Can Am events he is recorded as not arriving at the race at Michigan International in September 1969. Jim qualified 24th at Road America in August 1970 but did not start the race which is the last of the Wolverines appearances known to me.
The car is now raced by Morgen Christensen who is seen at the wheel above at Goodwood a couple of years ago. The red car alongside Morgens is the Rolls Royce powered Marina driven by Mark Ashworth.
My thanks to all those including Frank Opalka who commented on the Wolverine thread at The Nostalgia Forum, and especially Tom “RA Hisotrian” Schultz who revealed why Jerry Hansen’s career with the Wolverine was so short lived.
Thanks for joining me on this “Three Engineers From Detroit” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be having a French sojourn. Don’t forget to come back now !