A few months ago I featured a one of a kind custom chopper known as Number 9 which was built by Nash Motorcycles. Today I am proud to feature another one of a kind Nash Motorcycle: the Nash Looky Looky bobber. The Looky Looky chopper is one of my favorite bikes built by Nash, it has a classic look, that has a large influence from hot rodder Ed Roth as well as having a large influence from the early 60′s style Bobbers and Hot Rods.
The Nash brothers, Taber, Trent and Teddy are known for building bobbers and choppers that are simple yet very full of detail, they are also known for being sleek and clean. Their Looky Looky bobber is one of their best examples of their famous building style. Looky Looky looks like a simple bobber from a distance but when you take a closer look her small details stand out and can be noticed.
She is powered by a 1000 cc (61ci) Ironhead engine that came out of a 1974 Harley-Davidson Sportster. The Ironhead has been rebuilt and has been modified for more performance. The stock carb was replaced with an S&S Super carb for more performance, a Velocity stack was added to the carb to help bring in more air and the stock exhaust was replaced with a set of custom ceramic coated pipes.
The bobber is built around a sportster frame which has been converted to a hardtail configuration, chopped and it has been extended. The front end of the bike is a set of forks from a vintage Harley-Davidson Wide Glide, these forks have been polished and extended to increase the length of the bobber. The frame of the bobber sits on a set of 16” inch wheels on both the front and the rear.
Unlike most choppers which have forward controls, Looky Looky has mid controls. The reason for having mid controls is that give the rider more control of the bike while cruising at high speeds. The further help with control a set of custom “Looky Looky” handle bars are used to steer the bike.
While looking at the pictures you probably have noticed that Looky Looky has a very clean paint job that happens to have a personality! You may have noticed that her paint job is simple, yet it is witty and it stands out in a crowd. However, you may have not noticed at first glance is that this paint has several hidden details such as Metal Flake green paint with white pinstriping. Another detail you may have missed is the Gas tank and the rear fender are outlined with black pinstriping.
The Looky Looky Bobber is one of the nicest bobbers that the Nash Brothers has ever built! They were able to build a bobber that is simple, yet is still able to stand out in a crowd!
The year was 1957, it was a time when Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis played out of car radios, beautiful tailfinned Chevy’s, Ford’s and Mopar’s flooded the road ways, Mickey Manlte was the best baseball player alive and Drag Racing was young and still in its infancy.
Big Daddy Don Garlits started making a name for himself in the drag racing world in 1957. It was the year that Don Garlits would make his debut in a slingshot in the young dragster class, he would make his debut in a slingshot that he nicknamed Swamp Rat. Swamp Rat was a project that Don began working on in 1956, she was a project that started out as nothing more than rails, wheels and a motor.
However, Swamp Rat would soon transform into the fastest Sling Shot in the world because Don would get serious about drag racing. In 1957 when Swamp Rat made her first pass when she was powered by nothing more than a naturally aspired early Hemi that had 8 carbs stacked on top of the motor. The Hemi was hooked up to a 2 speed transmission with a full rear end, and the best ET Don could get her to run was a time of 10.5 seconds at 145 miles per hour!
Swamp Rat ran in the 10′s for most of 1957, this would last unitl August when Don attended the ATAA World Series of Drag Racing at Cordova, IL. At the event Big Daddy would discover that his Swamp Rat wasn’t fast enough to compete with the other Dragsters. While his dragster ran in the 10′s most were breaking into the High 9′s! Don need some help, which luckily came his way. At the World Series of Drag Racing Don meet Emory Cook and Cliff Bedwell, these two gentlemen would help Don Improve Swamp Rats performance. Emory and Cliff helped Don with his tune up which allowed Swamp Rat to run almost 100% Nitro fuel in the engine which would shave a lot of time off of Don’s ET.
Both Emory’s and Cliff’s help really payed off at the world series because Don would beat both of them during the Elmination rounds. Swamp Rat was running the best she ever has and turned a then career best ET of 9.60 seconds at 155 MPH! However despite this vast improvement Big Daddy would lose to man by the name of Setto Postoian in the final round.
After Don returned home from IL, he made several changes to Swamp Rat using ideas that were inspired by the other dragsters at the event. He lowered the front of the car, had the engine lowered, replaced the transmission and installed a narrowed Olds rear end. He would also replace the front wheels with new wire spoke front wheels that he made and he would add a new Nosepiece to the front of the dragster which would help the Aerodynamics while racing.
All of his modifications would pay off because in November of 1957 Don would set the drag racing world on fire. Don was able to make a pass of 8.79 seconds at 176.40 MPH in Swamp Rat! Do to the success of the mods, Swamp Rat would remain in the same configuration until March of 1959. In 1959 Don attended the first ever Smokers March Meet in Bakersfield, California. Despite being a record holding Slingshot for the past two years Swamp Rat wasn’t able to keep up with the new dragsters because they were supercharged.
Don would stop by Iskenderian Cams to purchase a blower and have it installed. After his blower was installed he went off to Kingdom Dragstrip where he shut down the entire field! During this event Swamp Rat yet again set a new record!
Sadly, tradegy would strike on June 20th, 1959 at a race in Chester, South Carolina. While Don was making his first pass Swamp Rat’s blower exploded and Don was seriously burned! He was rushed to the hospital, he was alright but he vowed that he would never race again.
Don’s friend Art Malone would take over racing duties in his place. Swamp Rat’s cockpit had to be extend since Art was taller than Don after this Modification was made, the dragster became known as Swamp Rat 1B. A couple more changes were also made to the car, the 8 Stromberg carburetors were replaced by a Hilborn fuel injectin system. The fuel injection system made the car much easier to tune and it allowed her performance to improve. On August 23, 1959 Art Malone would set a new speed record of 183.66 MPH all thanks to the improved tuning from the fuel injection.
Art would soon be on a record setting track because in September of the same year he would set a new ET record of 8.23 seconds at the AHRA Nationals in Great Bend, KS! At the next several drag racing events Swamp Rat ran better than she ever had before and Art Malone would go undefeated! His winning streak would last until the end of the year, because a Partnership of Chris Karamesines and Don Maynard would come along and beat Art Marlone in their dragster nicknamed the Chizler.
Don and Art’s partnership had only been arround for less than a year but in that short time span they became the most feared drag racing team in the world! They would race one more event in December of 1959 at Riverside Raceway in California. Art would be a race man with the same name; Art Chrisman (driver of Husler 1) in the final round with a solid but not record setting ET of 8.51 seconds at 181.81 MPH.
Don, and Art would start off the 1960 season with a bang! At the March Meet in Bakersfield, Art would set a new speed record of 185.56 MPH in Swamp Rat. The very next week Art would set another speed record of 187.10 MPH! It seemed like every week a picture of Swamp Rat was in the newspaper of the town they raced in! All over the United States fans loved Don, Art and Swamp Rat!
On Memorial Day weekend in 1960 Don and Art attended a drag racing event in Union Grove. Promoter Bob Metzler was putting on the largest drag racing event he could and he invinted every fast car in the country including Chris Karamesines’ and Don Maynard’s the Chizler.
Don and Art wanted to get their revenage on Chris Karamesines and Don Maynard for ending their winning streak last year. Art Malone and Swamp Rat were able to get their revenage from Chris Karamesines not just once but two different times at event! Art beat Chris once in a Match race then a second time during one of the Elmination rounds! At the end of the day Art would make it to the finals and win the event!
After the event at Union Grove Don couldn’t stand watch the races from the staging lanes any longer. He remodifed the cockpit of Swamp Rat to fit him and began to drive the slingshot dragster himself.
One day, while Don was working on Swamp Rat back at his shop in Florida he received a visit from his friend Smokey Yunick. Smokey was shocked to learn that Don was using a Passanger Sedan as a Tow Vechicle and not a truck! He told Don that he should get a truck but there was no room for one in Don’s budget.
After his talk with Smokey, a few days later Don got a call from the local Chevy dealership telling him that “his” 59 GMC Carryall was there and he needed to come pick it up. Don didn’t own a GMC Carryall and tought it was a mistake! When he drove down over there he found out the the Carryall was bought for him through curitosity of Smokey! The Carryall would go on to become Don’s famous tow truck for the next several years.
1961 would be the last year that Garlits would run Swamp Rat I. Don would replace the Hilborn Fuel Injection system with a newer Enderle Barndoor injection which gave him even more control over Swamp Rats tuning. This would allow Don to set a speed record of 204.54 MPH and this record would make Don the first drag racing to reach 200 MPH in the Quarter Mile.
Don would retire Swamp Rat 1B in early 1961 before replacing her with Swamp Rat III. Even though Swamp Rat I was only used for, 4 short years it left beyond a huge legancy in the Drag Racing world. It was the first car to break the 180 and 200 Barriers and the car went undefeated for a while. Swamp Rat’s legency would be carried on by 32 other Swamp Rats.
Recently I was told an amazing story by a man named Mike. The story he told me was about a Ridder who wanted to own the greatest and most beautiful chopper in the world and her builder who spent years putting his blodd, sweat and tears into shapping her. After I heard the story, I loved it so much that I just had to tell it to the world! This is the story of the chopper named Peep Show and her builder Ron Westra.
Peep Show is a custom chopper that is currently owned by a friend of mine named Michael Dilley. Mike has been riding motorcycles his whole life, his earliest memories are of riding. When Mike was just 6 or 7 years old his Father did the smart thing and bought him a motorcycle. The bike was a 50cc motorcycle, it was a small bike so Mike could learn to ride. Each year Mike’s father would move him up to the next size, by the time Mike reached high school in 1984 he was showing up to class on a 400 cc Honda Automatic.
By the time Mike graudated from High School he was riding to college on a Ninja 600. After Mike completed college in 1989 he entered the United States Air Force. He was stationed at RAF Mildenhall in the UK and the first thing he did when he arrived was purchase a brand new Suzuki GSXR 750RR. He told me when he rode that bike he felt invincible, like nothing could stop him. He soon modified the motor and he would race the bike on weekends with his Air Force buddies at the Snetterton Race track where he would reach speeds of 180 MPH!
In 1997 Mike was transferred and restationed in Guam. Back in 1990s Guam’s roads were still mostly made with coral, and after it rain it was similar to driving on ice. This along with the fact that Mike had gotten out of the Air Force and started a computer company with a friend led to Mike wanting a custom cruiser or chopper. He released that a fast bike wouldn’t work well on the slippery roads so he wanted a bike he could just ride around on. However, before Mike had the chance to buy a chopper several things happened first. First Mike moved to the Island of Saipan where become the Executive director of a Celluar Company and he also got married! Due to these events he would have to wait a few years before he could buy his chopper.
A few years went by but the opportunity to buy a chopper finally came. After searching all over the internet he found the bike of his dreams Peep Show which was forsale at a shop in just outside of Austin in Round Rock, Texas.
Peep Show was built by Ron Westra of Round Rock, Texas; it took 4 years and $45,000 to complete her. It ended up taking a four years for Peep Show to be finished because build was plauged with several problems in the beginning.
The build started way back in 2003 when Ron orded a custom frame from War Eagle. The custom frame was suppose to arrive in a few weeks but it never showed up! In March of 2004 Ron received a call from War Eagle, they told him that they had a frame in a crate with no paper work that had been sitting in there warehouse for months! They sent the frame to Ron and when he received it, it was nothing like the frame he had ordered! However, Ron decided that he was going to use it anyway. To make the frame closer to his liking he chopped up the down tubes and stretched the frame.
The next thing Ron needed to do was find the right motor for his chopper. Originally he was going to use a 100 cubic inch motor, but he wanted something with a little more power. He decided that he was going to look for a bigger motor. After a few months of searching Ron found a TP engineering 114 pro series motor.
Ron soon added fenders and a war eagle gas tank that has a been customized with Matt Hotch gas cap. Originally Ron made a set of handle bars out of hollow stock however, the vibrations when riding kept shaking them a part so he ended up making them out of solid stock instead.
Peep Show was finally finsihed depsite several set backs that happened through the years. Peep Show made her show debut at the 2009 R.O.T. (Republic of Texas) Bike Rally. At R.O.T. Ron’s years of hard work payed off because Peep Show won 1st place for “Best in Show!” After winning first place Ron was offered $56,000 for the bike however, he loved her too much and he vowed never to sell her.
Sadly less than 2 years later tradegy struck. When Ron was on his way to the 2011 R.O.T. Rally, a truck ran a red light and crashed into Peep Show and him. Ron was ok, he walked away from the accident without a scratch however, Peep Show wasn’t as lucky. She would need a complete overhaul and a would need several parts to be replaced.
Ron was able to rebuild Peep Show but sadly he wasn’t able to make it to the 2011 R.O.T. Rally. Sadly more tradegy struck in 2011. Family problems and fincial issues led to Ron having to sell Peep Show.
One day while browisng the Internet Mike happened to find Peep Show, she was listed for sale. As soon as Mike saw the bike he fell in love with her at first site! “She was perfect, matching my personality and she had equipment on her I had never seen before all combining to make a bike with exquisite lines and craftsmanship I didn’t see in any other bike I had looked at. She was exactly what I had wanted.”
Mike wanted to own Peep Show badly for months he begged his wife if he could buy her, with the same end result every time “No.” However, unknown to Mike his wife would soon become the best wife ever! Just five hours after delivering their son she got on the phone, called America and ordered Peep Show. (She’s a keeper Mike)!
Mike’s dreams had came true on the same day he got a son he also got the most beautiful chopper in the world! The chopper was soon shipped to the Island of Saipan where Mike is able to ride her daily.
Sadly Ron has fallen on some hard times lately, which is why Mike asked me to dedicate this article to him. Ron whereever you may be I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and I hope that things will get better for you in the new 2013 Year. Hopefully Ron will have to chance to build the world another Head Turner, a one of a kind chopper for the ages!
Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you enjoyed our piece on the chopper Peep Show and the story of her origin!
Peep Show Specs:
- Professionally built by Ronald L. Westra out of Round Rock Texas.
- War Eagle wrath Frame custom made to order from the manufacture with the down tubes extended and the front boxed in, with a beautifully sleek swing arm. Her measurements are: Duel radius down tubes with an arched backbone, 44deg neck (2” over traditional to get her longer), 7” forward stretch (2” over traditional to get her longer), and 2” down tube to keep her low.
- War eagle wrath Gas tank – with matt hotch gas cap kit
- TP Engineering 114 pro series show chrome engine with 3” BDL primary drive & Revtec 6 speed transmission and a final chain drive providing a powerful combination of speed and durability.
- Goldammer front forks again for their sleek lines, clean look and rarity.
- Handle bars were custom made out of solid stock to keep the vibration down by Ron westra.
- Grandeur’s Top Fuel Super Auto Clutch
- Oil tank is a custom ball type that Ron had made and modified to put in front of the lower bike frame to cool the oil.
- Vance and Hines short shots exhaust with Stripper pole naked girl aluminum sculpture.
- Rims are Weld racing “Blades” front and back Rear is 250mm 40/18 with Venom tires.
- Front brake is a state of the art, 360 which looks and work beautifully, showcasing more of the rims beauty.
- The Speedometer is a Zumo 450 which was the only Garmin motorcycle GPS unit even to date which was military specked for all weather. The zumo 450 has speed, odometer, GPS, gas level, and food finder along with an MP3 player for those long cruises.
- Rear Brake is sprocket / Brake Combo which also showcase’s more of the rims beauty.
- Security keyless system, which was a combination of internals and switches from thekil.com and then all that was placed into a custom made housing by one of their group members named Punisher.
- Hand controls are PM Contour & Foot controls are Outlaw all chrome.
- Rear Fender was made by over lapping two fenders together with rear running led lights in between them and then welded to the war eagle frame.
- Seat was made with 12 gauge steel and then covered with inch and a quarter gel and wrapped in leather hide skin with Peep Show art work engraved into the seat. The seat shocks were even specially made out of aluminum and have a spring tension of between 100 – 140lbs
- Paint was done by Enrique Arellano (Gotflake.com) and pin stripping was done by Rat Daddy both out of Texas. The Pin stripping was done by hand and the art work of the woman was done by a method of silk screening.
The bikes Chrome sculptures were mostly 18 wheeler grab handles and or shifter knobs which were then bought and molded into the bikes theme as well as all of the trucker girl emblems and the Cadillac buckle located on the gas tank.
A few ago weeks I did a two different articles on a pair of custom choppers, one known as the Purple Queen and the other a Sportster Chopper. These choppers were built by my friend of mine named Peter Ström. While building these bikes, Peter had a good amount of help from his friend Kenta Falkerd, who owns Ace Performance; a chopper shop based in Sweden. Kenta has been building custom bikes for years and a few years ago Kenta built a one of his best bikes, a Knucklehead chopper named the Phantom Ace!
Kenta was inspired to build this Knucklehead chopper after he first saw the Phantom of the Opera on TV and later saw it in Theaters. After watching it, he couldn’t get the Phantom out of his head! All he could think about was the dark Phantom and his mysterious white mask. Since it kept on lingering in his head, Kenta decided that he was going to build a chopper based around the Phantom of the Opera!
When the build began, the first thing Kenta did was call up his friend and bike painter Brundin. He asked Brundin if he would be able to paint his upcoming Chopper with theme based off of the Phantom of the Opera. He was interested in Kenta’s idea and he would get started on coming up with a paint scheme.
Kenta then began working on building the chopper, the first thing he did was design a frame. When he started welding together the frame he soon released that the frame was too long, so he had to make a few changes from his original plan. The result was a handmade and hand welded frame that has a 50 degree rake and a 6 + 6 Stretch. Kenta then took a set of “Mr. More” springer forks that have a length of 28 inches.
Kenta then took a West Coast Choppers gas tank and modified it to make it slightly larger. He then took several pipes of metal and created custom handle bars from scratch. Keeping with the Phantom of the Opera theme, he needed the handle bars to look simple, yet menacing at the same time much like the phantom. The result was a set of custom handle bars that look like they are a cross between Ape Hanger and Bad Boy handle bars.
The next thing Kenta did was he dished out a custom rear fender from sheet metal; the rear fender has a smoothed and chopped look. He then welded together a sissy bar that follows the shape of the fender and he also added a small bell that hangs on the end of it. (Phantom of the Opera reference?). He then added a Cyclone headlight to the front of the bike to help achieve a classic look since this headlight resembles a classic Harley-Davidson headlight. He also added a taillight from a 1959 Cadillac to the rear of the chopper.
The beast that powers this custom chopper is a Harley-Davidson 103 cubic inch Knucklehead engine that is hooked up to Zodiac 6 speed transmission that has been modified with a Robbans Speed Shop closed primary and a BDL clutch. The engine also has handmade custom exhaust pipes that were made by Kenta and Ace Performance. The next thing Kenta did was take pipe bends that were originally going to be used for a styling bar on his Chevy truck and make an oil tank for the motor out of them.
Kenta then placed the bike on top of a set of 120 spoke wheels, A 21 inch wheel in the front and an 18 inch wheel in the rear. The front wheel is surrounded by an Avon tire and the rear is surrounded by a Metzeler tire. The rider sits on a saddle that is a combination of a Redneck Engineering seat pan and Bilekiperingen leather. The rider shifts the bike with Ace Performance foot pegs and controls and controls the throttle with Tolle hand controls.
One of the things I really love about this chopper is that it’s full of small and hidden details. Every time I look at a picture of the Phantom of the Ace I notice something new about it. Such as a phrase from the movie that has been painted on the frame or another one of the many Ace accents that are on the bike. Just like the Phantom, this chopper is full of surprises!
The Phantom of the Ace is a bike that is full of class and style! This is the kind of chopper that you want to ride while you look nice, it’s the kind of bike you would take to a 5 star lounge or a luxury night club. It’s the kind of bike that would fit in wheel driving down Venice or a fancy European town.
Kenta set out to build a chopper that was Dark and Mysterious like the Phantom of the Opera. Who would of ever taught that one of the most famous Musicals of all time would inspire one of the most beautiful Choppers of our generation!
Way back in April I did a review for Jesse James’ special that aired on Discovery that was known as Jesse James Outlaw Garage. For those who never saw it, the show featured Jesse and the famous Austin Speed Shop crew custom building a 1932 Ford roadster with a heavy 30’s Gangster car influence. When I reviewed I thought the show was great and should be turned into a full time series, recently my wish has come true. Last night on November 5th 2012, Jesse James Outlaw Garage premiered its pilot episode to launch the new series!
The pilot has picked up right where the April show left off; it features Jesse leading the Austin Speed Shop crew through a hot rod build. This time however, they are building a Hemi powered Ford coupe for a Mystery Customer who’s name was still not revealed at the end.
The way the shows format is set up is that the episode starts with Jesse introducing the build to his team, and then it moves to the early stages of the build then parts of show focus on something going on in Jesse’s life like him going to a big car show in Britain. The show spends its time going back and forth between these two parts of the show. I felt the format works overall but there are still things that I can criticize about it.
Yes there was some bad parts to Outlaw Garage luckily it’s really only on small thing. Though it was only a small portion of the show, there was too much Drama. At one point in the show Jesse and one of his employees get into a heated debate after the employee has a break down because the car isn’t near being finished. While things like this do happen in the real world I feel like the arguing and the yelling takes up time that could be focused on building.
There is quite a bit to praise about Outlaw Garage. The show spends most of its time talking about cars whether, it’s the build that is going on or Jesse doing donuts in his Trophy Truck at a car show, cars are the main focus of Outlaw garage which will make any gearhead happy.
Another great part of the show is that we actually get a look at the Austin Speed Shop team building the Hot Rod from scratch as well as seeing them do DIY work such as pulling a transmission from another car (A Mopar Torque flight from a Roadrunner), chopping up the frame on the Ford so the transmission can fit, and channeling the body of the coupe by hand! I think this is great because it shows that the Austin Speed Shop team puts real hard work and effort into their builds. It shows the audience how real Hot Rods are built, which takes more then just ordering parts from online.
Improvements that could be made:
Even though Outlaw Garage was good a show there are a few Improvements that could be made to make it even better!
- Focus more on the build itself and less on the drama or the other things going on. Show more DIY hands on building. Show the process of building a traditional hot rod from scratch.
- More tech info, the Engine that was used in the build was a 1950’s Chrysler Firepower Hemi. During the show, they did mention what engine it was but they didn’t tell us anything about it! Talk about the motor that is being used and explain why it would make it a great engine to use in the hot rod. Explain everything that is being done on the build such as the channel, and what parts are being used in the engine.
- A small How to Segment. The How to Segment doesn’t have to be like Stacey David’s Gearz or Trucks but show the audience a few tips like how to mount an engine, how to clean up rusty body, or how to find a junkyard engine. Just small things like that can make the show even better!
Overall I was impressed with Jesse James Outlaw Garage and I believe it will become a hit show. The Traditional hot rods, Jesse and his crews personalities and the concept of the Mystery customer kept me interested and will keep me coming back for more!
Motorcycle stunts have been something that I have always found exciting and are something that have enjoyed. I love all types of stunts from the Freestyle motocross of Crusty Demons and Metal Mulisha to the street stunts of Jason Britton. Recently I stumbled across an older motorcycle stunt, a stunt that is almost as old as motorcycles themselves: the Wall of Death. The Wall of Death is a stunt were a rider, rides inside of a large wooden drum sideways during a show.
The Wall of Death evolved from board track motorcycle racing, this type of racing was popular in the early 1900s. During a board track race riders would race on large wooden board tracks that were banked at 70 degree angles, these tracks were known as motor domes. Riders were able to use centripetal force to keep their motorcycles at 70 degree while traveling at slower speeds.
Spectators enjoyed the thrill of motorcycles racing at steep angles which led to Board Track racing became a popular spectator sport that fans couldn’t get enough of! The popularity of broad track racing would eventually lead to the first vertical drum known as the silodome to be built at Coney Island in 1915. This silodome would put on shows featuring motorcycles and cars riding completely sideways at the top of the drum! The show’s popularity quickly grew among spectators and it soon became known as the Wall of Death.
The show would feature motorcycles (which were usually Indians, Harley’s and BSAs) riding as fast as they can at 90 degree angles around the drum! The show would not only feature motorccles but cars, race cars and even lions were also featured in the wall of death! The Wall of Death was full of excitement! During a show the fans would be at the top of the drum looking down at the rider as the ride road atleast 15 feet above the ground!
Tricks such as riding side saddle, riding with no hands, riding tandem were done on a motorcycle, while tricks such as no handed, standing up and driving tandem were done in the cars.
It’s believed that the Wall of Death reached its peak of popularity during the 1930s, hundreds of these shows existed across the United States and they even existed overseas in places like Britain and parts of Europe.
Sadly the Wall of Death started to loose popularity in the 1960’s and the drums began disappearing from around the world. By the early 2000s only a few of these “Walls of Death” existed in the world.
However, in recent years the Wall of Death has seen a bit of a revival. Groups such as The Original Extreme Motorcycle Thrillshow, The California Hell Riders, and a few others have been bringing the drums back at several different bike shows across the country. The Wall of Death has also become popular in India where it is known as the Well of Death.
Hopefully the Wall of Death makes a large revival and becomes a common site at Bike shows. The Wall of Death is a large part of Americana and Motorcycle culture!
It has been a sad weekend in the hot rod world as many have recently found out that hot rod pioneer and legend Norm Grabowski has passed away. The news that he had passed away was received by Norm’s website Normsnews on yesterday morning October 12, 2012, he was 79 years old.
I had first heard of Norm several years ago, when I was just a kid. He had appeared on an episode of Jesse James’ Monster Garage, were he and a group of hot rod legends (including the late Dick Dean) built a sectioned and lowered yellow 54 Chevy. Little did I know at the time that Norm Grabowski was a hot rod legend who is famous for building the very first T-Bucket!
Norm Grabowski is known as the Father of the T-Bucket, he invented the T-Bucket hot rod after he left Military service in 1952.His invention came about when moved to Southern California and started attending local car shows. While attending this car shows he became fascinated with the hot rods that he saw at these shows, he decided that he was going to build one of his own.
He soon purchased a Model A truck for $100 but the truck wasn’t in perfect condition, so he then purchased a 1922 Model T touring and placed it on the Model A frame. The next he did was he attached the bed from the Model A to the Model T’s body. The only thing he needed was an engine, he decided to borrow a 1952 Cadillac engine from his parents old car and he put a GMC 3-71 blower on top of it!
The car was soon fired up for the first time, with the turn of the key it roared to life and the T-Bucket was born! The car was able to run be Norm found out that he had to make a few adjustments on the car. There was a problem with the steering, steering which was from an old milk truck was backwords! The car would go the opposite direction of which way the wheel was turned!
The 52 supercharged Cadillac engine was eventually replaced with a 1956 Dodge engine that was equipped with a Horne intake manifold that held four Stromberg double-barrel carbs. The car was then giving it’s famous blue paintjob with the flames on the side and the pinstriping on the grill! The last detail of the car was the shifter, Norm loved to carve and create things out of wood. He wanted to create something that was unique and would stand out so he carved a skull to be used as a shift knob on the car!
The car become such a hit in the local So-Cal scene that it ended getting it’s own part in the hit 1950′s TV show 77 Sunset Strip! The T-Bucket was driven by a character named Kookie, which is why his T-Bucket is nicknamed the Kookie Kar.
The car was not only known for it’s good looks but Norm use to drag raced the car as well! This lead to the car being featured on the cover of Hot Rod in 1955 as well as being featured in a story in Life magazine in 1957!
The car was so influential that Norm came home one day to find then hot rodder/actor and later NHRA Drag racer TV Tommy Ivo in his garage getting the measurements of his T-Bucket. Tommy asked Norm several times if he could measure his car but Norm refused. So Tommy snuck in Norm’s, got the measurements himself and went on to build a T-Bucket of his own..The two of them would drag race their Hot Rods frequently, this was covered in life magazine.
In the late 1950′s one of the actors crashed Norms hot rod while film on set, this led to Norm wanting to drive his own car for appearances TV and movies, so he became a stunt driver. Norm also later became an actor where he made appearances in movies such as High School Confidential, Darby’s Rangers, Hooper, The Cannonball Run, and several others.
Norm would continue to build custom Hot Rods, remaining a well known hot rod builder for the rest of his life. He would also continue his second passion of wood carving as well, carving several skull shift knobs, cars and other pieces of art all out of wood.
Norm Grabowski will be missed in the hot rod world but it is time for him to make Hot Rods for the good lord now.
I have been wanting to do a post about the famous 34 Ford known as the California Kid for quite sometime now. I fell in love with the car when I saw it several places online, saw the car on Car Crazy and saw it in the Rodder’s Journal. You may be wondering, If I love the car so much what prevented me then why haven’t I written an article on it? Well the reason I have never written an article about the car was because I never saw the movie; The California Kid! (Before you old guys started asking How could I never have seen it. I am not from your Generation and it was an old TV movie so it is really hard to find). Luckily thanks to Youtube I was finally able to see the movie.
The California Kid was built by Pete Chapourious who is Pete of the famous Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Parts shop. Pete purchased a 34 Ford 3 Window body and frame for $250 in the early 1970′s. The first thing Pete did was drop in a Small Block Ford 302 engine in the car. The engine was 100 percent stock with the exception of a Holley Four-Barrel carburetor.
The 302 Motor was hooked up to a Ford FMX transmission which was taken out of one of Pete’s older cars. The Ford transmission was hooked up to a quick change rear end which was also taken out of one of his older cars. The next thing that happened in the build was Pete gave the California Kid it’s iconic look. Pete had his friend Manuel Reyes paint the Ford black and gave it it’s famous full body flames. The black paint and full body flames would soon become an iconic symbol of American Hot Rods through out the world.
Pete happened to be friends with famous Hot Rod Magazine writer Gray Baskersville, Gray was impressed with Pete’s 34 Ford project while it was being built. He was so impressed with the car that he called a friend of his who went by the name of Jim “Jake” Jacobs who worked for Rod & Custom magazine. Jake happened to be building a 34 Ford of his own at the time and Gray decided to introduce the two of them. After Pete and Jake met the famous friendship had begun.
The two of them worked on their Hot Rods for the rest of 1973. After both of their Ford Hot Rods were complete they were placed on the cover of Rod & Custom Magazine in 1973. After both of their 34 Ford hot rods were featured in Rod & Custom, Pete and Jake decided to go into business together and start the famous hot rod garage Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Parts.
In early 1973 the cover of Rod & Custom was seen by a Hollywood movie producer who, happened to see the cover on a table at a relatives house. After seeing the car he felt that it was the prefect car for the up coming TV movie. He contacted right away Rod & Custom, who was able got in touch with Pete.
Inorder for the 34 Ford to star in the movie A few changes had to be made. The first of these changes was that the name The California Kid was painted on the door. The second change was the Mag wheels that were originally on the car were swapped for red Steelie wheels and side pipes were also added to the car to make it appear like it had more power.
After all of these changes were made, Pete’s 34 Ford was ready to star in The California Kid along side his Co-Star. His Co-Star was a man who would go on to become a famous actor; Martin Sheen. The 34 Ford was really the star of the movie because it did all of the Stunts! Since the movie was a TV movie it didn’t have the budget for stunt cars, so the 34 Ford did all of the car chases and high speed driving that is shown in the movie!
The California Kid would premiere in 1974 and it became a hit for a TV movie! The movie would make the older gearheads become re-interested in Hot Rodding and it would introduce Hot Rods to a new younger generation. It’s believed that the California Kid, along with George Lucas’ American Graffiti (released in 1973) helped spark a Hot Rod Revival in America in the 1970′s.
Thanks to the success of the movie Pete and Jake would use to the popularity of the car to help grow their shop, Pete & Jakes Hot Rods. Pete’s 34 Ford would be forever called by the name The California Kid and would for ever be an icon in the Hot Rod World.