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Custom Car Hall of Famer building new tour train for Volo Auto Museum

Cynthia Wolf Posted on 2018-07-06

train truck

Custom Car Hall of Famer building 

new tour train for Volo Auto Museum


VOLO — Guided passenger tours at Volo Auto Museum have been a popular summer tradition ever since they were introduced eight years ago. And with Custom Car Hall of Famer Keith Dean fabricating a new “locomotive” to pull the museum’s open-air cars, the cool factor is set for full steam ahead, Museum Director Brian Grams said.  


The museum offers 35-minute tours Wednesdays through Sundays throughout the summer, giving guests a chance to sit back and relax as they ride along learning more about the history of the property at 27582 Volo Village Road and some of the museum’s featured exhibits. 


It all started when Morton Arboretum donated a 1934 open-air bus to the museum in 2010, Grams said. The 1934 technology proved a bit problematic, however. “It had manual steering and manual brakes. It would get hot and start overheating,” Grams said.  


Eventually, Grams traded the 1934 bus for a ¾-scale trackless train originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair. While that vehicle had been upgraded with a Chevrolet 350-horsepower engine and an automatic transmission, it too proved unreliable. That’s when Grams found a historically valuable pull vehicle from the now-defunct Movie World Museum in Buena Park, California. It was put together by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Von Dutch, aka the godfathers of custom car art.


“We thought it was pretty neat,” Grams said. “But the train tours have become very popular, and we need something that can haul more people.”


That’s where Keith “Kid” Dean comes in. The son of famous fabricator Dick Dean is transforming a 1994 Ford F-350 Dually into something that looks like an 1800s locomotive.


“Keith is modeling it after the Disney Casey Jones train,” Grams said. “He stripped the pickup truck to its bones and is hand-fabricating out of steel and wood an old-fashioned steam locomotive and coal car. It’s really going to be something to see.”


Dean, who owns South End Kustom in Hemet, California, is striving to complete the work to enter it in the Kustom Kemps of America Show later this month in Salina, Kansas, after which the “train” chugs toward Volo. 


“What I try to put into anything I build is detail,” Dean said. “I want people to experience this as if it’s a train that’s driving on the street. We’ll have steam coming out the smoke stack and bells and whistles — just like a regular train.”


The modified Ford surely will turn some heads along highways later this month, as Dean plans to drive it through the Rockies to the Kansas show.


At Volo, the new train tour setup will have seating for more passengers — about 12 in the “coal car” portion and another 38 or so in the new open-air passenger car pulled behind. Additionally, the shorter distance from front to back (down to about 30 feet from 45) will enable passengers to better view points of interest, Grams said. The driver, too, will enjoy an improved experience.


“It will look like an old locomotive, but it will have air conditioning, cruise control, fuel injection, power steering, power brakes — all of the modern amenities,” Grams said. 


The Volo Auto Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It features roughly 400 classic, muscle and Hollywood cars and more. Regular admission is $15 for adults, $9 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for children 4 and younger. For other information, call 815-385-3644, find Volo Auto Museum on Facebook or visit




Photos provided

Hall of Fame car customizer Keith "Kid" Dean of California is transforming a 1994 Ford F-350 into an 1800s steam locomotive for hauling Volo Auto Museum guided tour passengers around the property at 27582 Volo Village Road. The new "train" is expected to arrive at the museum later this summer. 

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