Growing up, my grandparents subscribed to Life Magazine and I would look through each new weekly issue when I visited them. In the Spring of 1957, my 8 year old eyes were transfixed on a full page photo of Southern California rod builder Norm Grabowski chowing down on a car hop-delivered cheeseburger while seated with a buddy in the coolest car I had ever seen! The flames were awesome and the Cadillac engine hanging out there for all to see was mind-boggling.Contrary to popular misconception, the photo of Norm in what would shortly become known as the “Kookie Kar” was not on the cover. Rather, it was part of a Photographic Essay titled, “The drag racing rage: hot rodders grow in numbers but the road to respectability is a rough one.” Wow! A radically cool looking car that’s also part of an outlaw movement — I was hooked.
Kookie’s T-Bucket on 77 Sunset Strip
About a year later, I was able to feed my appetite for more of this fascinating rod that started what would later become known as the T-bucket movement. Warner Brothers introduced the detective TV drama, 77 Sunset Strip, which ran for six seasons and featured car valet Edd “Kookie” Byrnes whose personal car in the show was Norm’s hot rod that had been rented out to the producers for $50 per day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in every episode, but I became an avid fan always hoping to catch a glimpse.
From T-Bucket to T-Touring
As coincidence would have it, Norm and Marty Hollmann were buddies and fellow LA Roadsters club members, as you’ll note in this Eric Rickman photo which captures Norm in his T-touring, which later became famous in the TV series “My Mother the Car”.
Not only was Norm’s Kookie Kar unique in itself, but because of its exposure on a popular television series, in a very popular mainstream magazine like Life, and later in many car magazines as a result of its role in 77 Sunset Strip, this car became one of the most famous T-Buckets of all time.
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5 thoughts on “Norm Grabowski and the Kookie Kar T-Bucket”
I to became a t bucket and hot rod fan from watching 77 sunset strip
My obsession with the “Kookie Car” goes back to the fifties when I was in my early teens, and then in the mid eighties when I was asked by Von Franco to help with the first clone of the car I had to do it. To me it was a chance to help build the car of my childhood dreams, we worked from 8×10 prints, home movies, and movie shots that Norm sent us. I did all the body work, built the dash board, helped with the frame, did the exahuast pipes, and helped with the assembly. Believe me, I know every nut and bolt on that car! Then a few years ago Von Franco looked me up and asked if I would help him build another clone of the Grabowski Roadster. this time we did the first version of it when it was black. The only thing left would be to clone the white version of the car……Thank you Norm for fifty plus years of insperation in car building and a special thanks to Von Franco for the opportunity live the dream of building the my favorite car.
Danny Brown..no relation to to Ted..as a young guy in 57 or 58, I had the pleasure to meet Norn at his house in Sun valley. He inspired a whole bunch of young guys with his open nature, willingness to put up with us and just be a regular guy. Now approaching 70, I remember him well, his cars, and know well what a henways !! (3 pounds) or maybe 3,000 pounds, depending on the way you look at it. Great guy..thanks Norn. (If I am 70, he gotta be OLD)
As slick a street rod as they come, no need for monster rear tires for a great look and ride.. Thanks Norm for all your inspiration.. Ted Brown