In addition to building the...
In addition to building the Kookie Car and essentially inventing the T-bucket, Grabowski is famous for his hand-carved wooden skull shift knobs. But the original Kookie Car didn't have one, and this one doesn't either. It's an old plaster cast version like the one he bought at Disneyland. Ron found his on eBay and applied the blood paint (Larry Watson did the original) himself.
In addition to keeping all the components and details true to the original, there was the challenge of keeping the quality true to the original. The original Kookie Car was remarkable and ahead of it's time-but it was also a street car built 50-plus years ago by a young guy with a budget, who "drove it like a Ferarri," as Grabowski recently told us. "I took it to the drags. I drove it over Angeles Crest Highway, taking it around corners sideways, and into slides. It was a fun car!" Few of today's top shelf trophy winners are that kind of "fun," and to keep it an accurate clone, Overbay and his guys had to be careful not to build Ron's T better than Grabowski's.
"It's got all the defects that were in the real car," Overbay said. "The interior is very crude by today's standards, but that's how the interior looked. And the painter wasn't happy because we wouldn't let him color sand and buff the paint. We wanted a little bit of orange peel, like you'd find on a teenager's street-driven car."
Another cheerful skull smiles...
Another cheerful skull smiles from between the '41 Ford banjo rearend and the Model A springs. Overbay says he wanted to ask Grabowski how many '50s fathers let their princesses go out on dates in a carriage like this!
Those intentional imperfections made Overbay a little nervous as Ron's Kookie clone was displayed among the flawless high-end show cars at its '09 Detroit Autorama debut. He had nothing to worry about.
"It seemed to be an instant success," Ron recalled. "Everyone, from all of my good buddies to small children to pretty girls and all of the old gearheads, just adored this piece of hot rod history. And to top things off there was Grabowski signing autographs and entertaining everyone."
"Rolling into Cobo Hall, we were wondering if they were going to laugh us out of the place-but everybody got it," Overbay said. "In fact, even against all the super-slick, super-nice cars, this was the one with the crowd of people around it."
Blowing minds, as Grabowski would put it.