The Norman Timbs Special

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The wood model Norman used to form the body panels with.
Norman's own photo from the build process.
A construction photo of the Norman Timbs Special that Don Cox shot at a circle track in 1949. Photo from The Robert Genat Collection.
Another circle track photo that Don Cox took in 1949. In addition to the Norman Timbs Special in bare aluminum, this photo also shows the iconic Earl Bruce's 1940 Ford Coupe. An early custom restyled back in the early 1940s. Photo from The Robert Genat Collection.
Once completed, Norman's Buick Special was featured on the cover of Motor Trend October 1949, the second issue of Motor Trend magazine.
Photo of the car used in Motor Life February 1954. By then the car was owned by Jim Davis, and it had been repainted white
Norman's old creation as it sat before it was auctioned away in 2002
Gary Cerveny began the restoration of the car himself.
Before Gary handed the car over to the guys at Custom Auto he repaired the wheel wells, grille opening and drive train.
The Buick Special at Custom Auto in Loveland, Colorado
The restored chassis, August 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
Ready for paint, August 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
Photo by Rex Rogers
The Buick Special back from paint, September 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
The car is being assembled again after paint at Custom Auto in Loveland, September 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
The Timbs' Buick Special back from the upholstery shop, December 4, 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
Photo by Rex Rogers
December 5, 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
December 5, 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
December 5, 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
December 5, 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
December 5, 2009. Photo by Rex Rogers
The restored version of Norman's Buick Special, December 2009.[1]
Manuel Voss found a wooden model of the Norman Timbs Streamliner at a small antique store at the Orange Circle in the city of Orange, California around 2005. The model is about 24 inches long and 8 inches wide, and we believe it is the wooden model Norman built before he built the actual car. Photo courtesy of Manuel Voss.
Photo courtesy of Manuel Voss.
Photo courtesy of Manuel Voss.

The Norman Timbs Special is a homebuilt Sport Custom built by Norman Timbs over a span of three years. Norman's streamlined custom was supposed to be a prototype for a limited series of cars reflecting advanced concepts in performance and aesthetics. Being an automotive engineer working with Preston Tucker on his Tucker Automobiles and on several Indy cars, Norman made comprehensive chassis drawings that led to 1/4 scale clay models of several body ideas. The models led to a wooden model incorporating the favored elements.[2] Norman handmade an aluminum body for the car by forming panels on the wooden pattern. The panels were then welded together.[3] The chassis was made of welded aircraft tubing. The car was 17 1/2 feet long with a 117 inch wheelbase, 56-inch thread, and a weight of 2 500 pounds. It was powered by a 1948 Buick Straight 8 engine located just behind the driver's seat. Steering, brakes and other equipment were standard Mercury.[3] The rear body on the car was hinged to raise hydraulically for access to the engine compartment, fuel tank and spare tire. The fuel tank was placed between the wheels. The front hood covered a luggage compartment. In the rear, taillights from a 1939 Ford were installed.[4] Without the windshield the car stood 39 inches tall. Total height with the windshield was 47 inches[3] Total cost of the build was $10,000 according to Mechanix Illustrated September 1949.[5] Once completed, Norman's Buick Special was featured on the cover of Motor Trend October 1949, the second issue of Motor Trend.

In 1954 the Norman's Buick Special was featured in Motor Life February 1954. By then the car had been painted white. it was currently owned by Air Force Officer Jim Davis of Manhattan Beach, California. The article stated that the car was the brain-child of former aircraft manufacturer Larry Timm. According to the story Larry designed and built the car over a three year period ending in 1948. Davis bought the car in 1952 and was, according to the story, the first person to have the car registered for road use.[6] Norman's Buick Special was featured in an episode of Buck Rogers.[7]

For several years the car was parked away in the hot California desert. In 2000 it was featured briefly in the Nicholas Cage movie Gone in 60 Seconds.[7] 2 years later, In 2002 it was auctioned away by Barret Jackson at the Petersen Museum Classic Car Auction. The sales price was $17,600.00 USD.[8] Collector Gary Cerveny was the lucky bidder. Gary began to restore the car himself, before he decided to hand it over to Custom Auto of Loveland, Colorado, and let them complete it. Before Gary handed the car over to Custom Auto he repaired the wheel wells, grille opening and drive train.[9] The car was about 90% original when Gary acquired the car. The body halves had been bolted together, and access holes had been cut in for the rear wheels and the engine bay.[10] In March of 2012 the restored version of the car made its debut at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in Florida. At the show it won "The RM Auctions Trophy For the Best Open Car".[11] Later on in 2010 Norman Timbs' Buick Special was hand picked to be part of the prestigious Customs Then and Now exhibit at the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California, an elite gathering of the most historically significant customs in the world. In August of 2012 the car will also be competing in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the world's premier celebration of the automobile. In 1997 the Pebble Beach Hot Rod Class was started. The Hot Rod Class has been featuring roadsters, coupes and pre-war customs in the past. The 2012 Hot Rod Class will be dedicated to Sport Customs and one offs such as the Arthur Bentas' Raven, the 1950 Saturn, the 1947 Kurtis Omohundro, the Maverick sportster, the Coachcraft Special and Vince Gardner's 1947 Studebaker.

Lost to Malibu Wildfires

In November of 2018 the Norman Timbs Special, and 30 plus other cars, including Dave Cunningham's 1940 Ford, Lee Talbot and Sam Chakries' 1953 Studebaker Pick Up, and Ray Goulart's 1950 Oldsmobile were lost to the Malibu wildfires as Gary Cerveny's collection burned down to the ground.[12] A tragic day in custom car history.

Magazine Features

Custom Cars Trend Book No. 101
Mechanix Illustrated September 1949
Motor Trend October 1949
Popular Mechanics December 1949
Motor Life February 1954
Classic & Sports Car June 2002
Hop Up Volume 9



Rik Hoving Custom Car Photo Archive



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