When Ken began the restoration, he turned to Chuck Sago at Chuck's Body Ranch for much of the body and exterior work. The thick lacquer was stripped down to metal. The fiberglass had cracked in places and was stripped to the gel coat. Sago used a custom blend of Acme red for the body, accentuated by gold metalflake on the beltlines. Scottie's Designs in nearby Kintnersville did the lettering in real gold leaf. A lot of lightweight aluminum in the interior, including the original aluminum tubs, keeps the Red Baron under the one-ton mark (1,970 pounds). One flaw in the body that wasn't corrected was the lower driver-side door, which is kicked out about 11/44 inch. "I told [Sago] to leave it that way because that is how you see it in all the old pictures," Ken says. "It's kind of like its signature."
The Red Baron has acquired another signature in recent years, resulting from Ken's conversations with Don Garlits.
"Don and I were talking about the pros and cons of different cam profiles, and specifically flat-tappet-style cams," Ken says. "We discussed the cam that was in his 250-mph car, which he and Bruce Crower designed, and I was really happy to be able to buy not only the cam but also the dyno pulls and research that went into it. Talk about strange: I was trying to have this cam duplicated for the Red Baron II, but the cam grinders wouldn't accommodate. I called Don, and he was nice enough to sell me the exact same cam-chilled Erson lifters and all. It was his spare for the 250-mph car. I like these flat-tappet billet cams because there is no roller failure in addition to this particular one being a tried and true grind."
For Ken, the most rewarding part of restoring and racing the car has been the people he has met along the way, from the racers themselves to the fans whose memories the Red Baron recalls. "The people that make my day are the ones that remember these cars from way back when," he says. "How many people get to go 160 mph in a piece of history? It has been so cool to hang out with my heroes and have them treat me like one of their own." The best part, he adds, is sitting in on the story sessions. While they may sound like tall tales, Ken says the drivers rarely embellish. Ken tells one of his favorites:
"Pete was telling me how once at Niagara he spun the [Red Baron] around twice at the end of the 11/48 mile. The chute was wrapped around the top of the car, and when he came to a stop, he was facing the starting lights. Pete then drove back down the track to the starting line with the crowd going absolutely nuts. I took the story with a grain of salt, but at the Willys Homerun in Lancaster, I ran into [race photographer] Dick Collins. He told me, 'I was there-I took pictures.' "
Ken says he will park the car after this season. "It's still a good car, but it's a handful," he says. "It's temperamental. If I can get it through the 11/48 mile without lifting or steering too much, then she'll go through the quarter. I've done what I set out to do. There's no reason to keep beating up a piece of history."