Thennagin Bomber at Handcar Regatta

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Thennagin Bomber at Handcar Regatta

This weekend, a crew of MAKE folks (myself included) will be at the Handcar Regatta, right here in Sonoma County. We’re excited because it’s not everyday that there’s a maker event in our own backyard. If you’re not familiar with it, the Great West End & Railroad Square Handcar Regatta & Exposition of Mechanical & Artistic Wonders is centered on hand-built railcar races, complete with awesome rules like “Racers and builders are one. Those who would ascend a contraption upon the rails to compete shall too be the builders of said vehicle.” The vehicles must be human-powered and teams are judged on more than just speed: “Ostentation, bewilderment, whimsy, beauty, ridiculousness, and capturing the fancy of a seven-year-old girl are all reasons to build calamitous contraptions upon the rails.”

Today, I visited one of the teams in their workshop behind a little white house in Santa Rosa, home of Whiskeydrunk Cycles. The Thennagin Bomber crew were up to their elbows in grease, parts, and whiskey, and the Bomber is looking mighty fine. Pictured above is the core team (from left to right): Klaus Rappensperger, Joshua Thwaites, Neil Espenship, and Joey “B.A.M.” Castor, in front of the Tandemonium, their build for last year’s Regatta. A little healthy rivalry is fueling the Thennagin Bomber build, as the gentlemen recalled their reaction to seeing the Hennepin Crawler’s transformation from railcar to street car last year. They were inspired by the Crawler and built the Bomber as the “upgraded, faster homage.” The Bomber is also a nod to bootleggers of old, running illegal whiskey. Incidentally, the Bomber boys mentioned that their nickname for the Crawler is “Crank, Rattle, and Hum.”

As for what’s “under the hood” of the Bomber, the crew took apart the motor from Klaus’ Honda XR100 and pulled the transmission only, so they could have four gears to play with. They also turned it backwards to keep the gearing sizes low:


They used the front axle from a 1917 Ford Model T, turned upside down to fit the camber of the wheels, which are 19″ spoke wheels from a 1929 Ford Model A, outer flanges cut off. The Bomber has a second set of rims with tires for street runs. Basically, they were going for a Model T that’s pedal-powered. Hot!!


The steering box is pulled from a Toyota Corolla and they employed a boat crossover steering system for the cables:


One of my favorite features is that they branded by incorporating metal whiskey bottle silhouettes throughout:


The Thennagin Bomber crew said they’d be sure to mount the gift that was dropped off for them from the Hennepin Crawler team:


When I asked them if they were going to win this year’s Regatta, Joey piped in: “We already won.” The joy is in the build, not the win. Well done, gentlemen!

The Thennagin Bomber crew thanks everyone who helped them along the way, in particular their Hype Man Buzz for providing liquid courage and mota-vation and of course the ridiculously adorable Whiskeydrunk Cycles shop dog Eleanor.


You can see more pics of the Bomber build in action on their Facebook page. See you at the Regatta!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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