Tommyy Ivo (top) and Norm Grabowski in his famous Kookie Kar square-off at the National Hot Rod Associations drag racing meet held at the old Santa Ana Drag Strip.
The T-Bucket Hot Rod craze started back in the 1950s, and is still alive and screamin’ today. Norm Grabowski is the undisputed Granddaddy of the 4-wheeled art form, with his original Kookie Kar being an inspiration to the legion of copycat and followers that became a national craze. It all started back in 1952, when Grabowski, newly discharged from the service and now a fledgling actor in California, got his hands on an old 1922 Model T Touring front half and dropped a shortened model A pickup bed on the rear. It wasn’t nearly as simple as it sounds– Grabowski painstakingly cut and recut the frame, laboring long and hard to get just the right aesthetic and stance he was looking for. The power was supplied by a ’52 Cadillac engine with a 3-71 GMC blower, and later evolved to a ’56 Dodge engine with a Horne intake sporting a quartet of Stromberg double-barrel carbs. The steering for the beast was supplied by a Ross box from an old milk truck. Grabowski installed it at home, then discovered that the T-Bucket steered backwards. He hopped in the dyslexic Hot Rod and nonchalantly drove her from Sunland, CA to Valley Custom in Burbank for a fix– having to steer in the opposite direction the entire way. Why not?
Norm Grabowski behind the “wheel” of his famous Kookie Kar– a signature feature being the Bell three-spoke steering wheel mounted on the column which was in near upright position.