[Gunner’s Classic Corner] – Thanks for the Memories

When the average person retires they say “Thanks for the memories,” take their gold watch, go home to nestle into the easy chair and turn on the TV. But Tom Ales didn’t do that. The retired Kimberly-Clark engineer said “Let the memories begin,” then picked up his wrenches and started building hot rods, crewing for a Bonneville race team and putting together a Fiat Topolino dragster.

The monster-motored Ales & Rymer “Italian Mouse” car was a hit at the Appleton Auto Show in Appleton, Wis., where it sat in a tent next to Lloyd Gauerke’s stock-looking Fiat Topolino. (Gauerke—a retired Miller welding engineer—actually has a motorcycle engine in his car, but don’t tell anybody.) Hundreds of spectators enjoyed comparing the two Fiats side-by-side.

Tracey Rymer is Tom Ales daughter and she pilots the replica-bodied fiberglass 1948 Topolino altered coupe down the quarter mile in bracket races at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, Wis. The crew consists of Tom, his wife Darlene and the Rymer family Tim, Morgan and Jensen.

Powering the dragster is a 421-cid Chevy small block V-8 that flows power through a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. Underneath the fiberglass Fiat body is a Spitzer chassis with a four link suspension and chrome moly tube construction. The car has run the quarter in 8.5 seconds at 153 mph.

In his spare time, when he is not wrenching on the dragster, Tom crewed for the Fox Valley Technical College Firebird that turned in a 193 mph performance at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the September 2012 Uthah Salt Flats Racing Assoc. “World of Speed” event. At home, he spends evenings working on other projects like a ’57 Chevy Bel Air with a late-model fuelie engine and a late-1920s Chrysler coupe fitted with a hopped up GMC six. Easy chairs and television will not be a big part of Tom’s retirement memories.


Tom’s daughter Tracey Rymer drives the car.


Tom’s Chevy powered Fiat altered coupe.


Tom says he built the car on a budget but it looks professional.


The body is a fiberglass replica of a ’48 Topolino.


Tom’s workmanship is reflected in the interior.


The small-block Chevy in the car is built for racing.


At Bonneville Tom worked with FVTC students.


“Ah! That engine noise is music to my ears!”


Tom stays active working on the FVTC Bonneville ‘Bird.


Tom really enjoyed it when Linda Vaughan autographed the FVTC car.


One of Tom’s other projects is the GMC-powered Chrysler coupe.


Lloyd Gauerke’s stock looking Fiat was next to Tom’s dragster.

About John Gunnell 104 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.
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