Norm Grabowski's 1922 Ford

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An early photo of Norm racing his T.
A photo of Norm's T-Bucket from the Hot Rod Magazine photo shoot. The photo was taken June 21, 1955 by Bob D’Olivio. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
The Lightning Bug version of Norm’s T-Bucket gained national recognition when it was featured on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine October 1955.
Photo by Bob D'Olivio courtesy of Hot Rod DeLuxe.
Photo by Bob D'Olivio courtesy of Hot Rod DeLuxe.
Photo by Bob D'Olivio courtesy of Hot Rod DeLuxe.
Photo by Bob D'Olivio courtesy of Hot Rod DeLuxe.
Photo by Bob D'Olivio courtesy of Hot Rod DeLuxe.
Photo by Bob D'Olivio courtesy of Hot Rod DeLuxe.
Photo by Bob D'Olivio courtesy of Hot Rod DeLuxe.
A photo of Norm with the Kooki Kart iteration of the T-Bucket taken November 26, 1956. By then the car had received a 1956 Dodge Royal Blue paint job with flames by Dean Jeffries. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
The Kookie Kart iteration of Norm's T-Bucket as it appeared in 1957. Photo courtesy of Life Magazine.
The Kookie Kart iteration of Norm's T-Bucket at the National Hot Rod Association's Drag Racing Meet in Santa Ana, California. Photo courtesy of Life Magazine.
Norm racing TV Tommy Ivo in his 1925 Ford T-Bucket. Inspired by the Lightning Bug, Ivo asked Norm if he would let him take some measurements off his car. Norm told him to fuck off, so Ivo took action on his own, and snuck into Grabowski’s garage so he could take all the critical measurements necessary to build his own version. Photo courtesy of Life Magazine.
Photo courtesy of Street Rodder.
Photo courtesy of Street Rodder.
A picture of the Kookie T from the Kustomrama Archive.
The Lightning Bug April 02, 1957
Norm Grabowsky19572.jpg
Norm Grabowsky19573.jpg
Norm-grabowski-lightning-bug.jpg
Photo by Ralph Crane.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
The Kookie T was featured on the cover of Rods Illustrated August 1959.
The Kookie T at an indoor car show in Columbus, Ohio around 1960. In 1959 Jim Skonzakes bought the rod from Norm. After buying the car, Jim brought it to Larry Watson at Watson's House of Style for a cosmetic makeover. Larry gave the car a Rose Pearl paint job with Candy Red flames. The car is displayed next to Jim's radical Golden Sahara custom by Barris. Photo from The Dave Jenkins Photo Collection.
Dick Bailey test-sitting the kookie T at the Columbus, Ohio car show. Dave Jenkins believes he took the photo late 1960. The Kookie T made a huge impression on Dick, and less than a year after this photo was taken he built his own Model T hot rod from the ground up. Photo from The Dave Jenkins Photo Collection.
A photo of the Skonzakes version of the Kookie T at the 1960 National Champion Custom Car Show in Detroit, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Dick Page.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
An album containing a photo of the Skonzakes' pickup at the 1960 National Champion Custom Car Show in Detroit was listed for sale on eBay in October 2011.
Jim-skonzakes-1924-ford-kookie-t2.jpg
The Skonzakes version of the Kookie Kar was featured on the cover of How to Hop-Up Your Engine January 1962.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Ron Kregoski's Kookie T of Brighton, Michigan. Ron's recreation was built by Johnnie Overbay and his crew at Reno Rod & Custom Supply. The build was unveiled at the 2009 Detroit Autorama. Photo courtesy of Richard Noble.
The Kookie T as it sat in March of 2018. Photo courtesy of Ben Blevins.
The Kookie T as it appeared when Mecum Auctions advertised it for sale on their website. Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
In March of 2018 Mecum Auctions announced that the Kookie Kar would cross the block at Dana Mecum's 31st Original Spring Classic Auction in May. The auction was held May 19, 2018 at Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Kookie Kar was offered without a reserve. The car received several bids, and the auction ended at $440,000 USD.
The newly restored Kookie T was shown in the "Historic Hot Rod Cover Cars Class" at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, a class consisting of a handful of historic hot rods that made history being featured on the covers of well known hot rod and custom car magazines. Photo courtesy of Howard Miereanu.
Photo courtesy of Howard Miereanu.


1922 Ford Model T Roadster owned and built by Norm Grabowski of Sunland, California. Known as "The Kookie Kart," Norm’s T-Bucket hit the scene like an atom bomb in the mid-1950s, and it started a T-Bucket craze that spread across the nation like wildfire.


The Lightning Bug

In 1952 Norm bought a fenderless 1931 Ford Model A V-8 roadster for $100. The A body was swapped for the front half of a 1922 Ford Model T touring with a shortened Model A pickup bed. 20 some inches were removed of the rear framerails, starting six inches forward of the cross member. Up front, Norm installed a Ross steering box from a milk truck. A Bell three-spoke steeringwheel was then installed nearly in a vertical position. Once completed, it steered backwards, so Norm drove it over to Valley Custom Shop for a fix. Neil Emory did also make a special raked-back and shortened windshield for Norm's bucket. Valley Custom Shop did also give the car a black paint job before Norm had Tony Nancy stitch a red rolled and pleated interior.[1]


Because California law required the use of fenders on all vehicles weighing over 1500 pounds, there was some question as to whether Norm's rod would qualify as legally fit. Fortunately for Norm, the car tipped the scales a few pounds below the mark. The build was completed in 1955 amd it was in its first black version that the car caught the eyes of TV producers. This version of the car was featured in The Ford Television Theatre - Season 4, Episode 36, - Mr. Kagle and the Baby Sitter.


The Kookie T

By November of 1956, Norm had added a four deuce manifold and a wild flame job to the car. Valley Custom Shop gave the car its 1956 Dodge Royal Blue paint job, while Dean Jeffries applied the flames and pinstriping.[1] Later on, Norm told Richard Noble that he made the grill for this version of the car out of heavy gauge wire that was woven. He took it apart to polish before he had it chromed. Richard asked Norm where he found the wire, but he couldn't remember that at the time.[2]


77 Sunset Strip

This version of the car was the version that appeared as the car of Beatnik-lingo valet Edd "Kookie" Byrnes on the TV series 77 Sunset Strip. This is the car that launched the T-bucket craze, as well as Grabowski's long career as a character actor, usually playing good-natured oafs named "Moose" or "Bronko." In 1959 The Kookie T appeared on the cover of Life magazine, under the lights at Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake, with Norm wolfing down dinner.


The Skonzakes Iteration

In 1959 Norm sold the roadster to Jim Skonzakes of Dayton, Ohio. Jim purchased the car for $3,000. After buying it, he brought it to Larry Watson at Watson's House of Style for a cosmetic makeover. Larry gave the car a Rose Pearl paint job with Candy Red flames. The flames featured black tips and white pinstriping. Inside it received a white pearl-button tufted interior.[1]


Skonzakes iteration of the car was shown at the first annual National Champion Custom Car Show held in Detroit, Michigan in 1960. The car came 2nd in the Rod Pickup class at the show.


Dual Headlights and Superchargers

After touring the car for a while, Jim had it fitted with dual headlights, dual superchargers, dual slicks, and zoomie headers as tall as the windshield.[1] In 2017 Norm's bucket was still owned by Jim Skonzakes, kept in storage next to The Golden Sahara.[1]


Out of Storage

In November of 2017 Jim passed away. In March of 2018 the Kookie T was pulled from storage in order to be sold at an auction in May. Recent photos of the car surfaced on Instagram March 13, 2018.


Clones

Several clones of the car have been built over the years. Von Franco has built two perfect clones of both Grabowski versions of the car.

Ron Kregoski's Kookie T


The Car That Ate My Brain

In 2008 Piero DeLuca created a documentary movie about the famous Model T Roadster called The Car That Ate My Brain. In the movie Von Franco tells the history of Norm’s car along with never before seen home movies and pictures.


SOLD - $440,000 USD

In March of 2018 Mecum Auctions announced that the Kookie Kar would cross the block at Dana Mecum's 31st Original Spring Classic Auction in May. The auction was held May 19, 2018 at Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Kookie Kar was offered without a reserve. The car received several bids, and the auction ended at $440,000 USD.[3] Ross Myers of Pennsylvania was the lucky bidder, adding the car to his collection.[4]


Restoration

After buying the famous hot rod, Ross Myers commissioned Roy Brizio Street Rods to restore it back to its late 1950s Kookie T configuration.[5]

Movie and TV Appearances

77 Sunset Strip
The Ford Television Theatre - Season 4, Episode 36, - Mr. Kagle and the Baby Sitter


Magazine Features and Appearances

Car Craft July 1957
Trend Book 143 Restyle Your Car
Rods Illustrated August 1959
Rod & Custom September 1959
Rodding and Re-styling January 1961
How to Hop-Up Your Engine January 1962
Rodders Journal Number 36

References



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