A product of the fifties car culture, I grew up watching TV detective shows like the 1958 released, “77 Sunset Strip”. Each week I tuned it to catch Stu Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) and Jeff Spencer (Roger Smith) deeply enmeshed in solving the latest crime caper that crossed their doorstep at 77 Sunset Strip. More than their characters, I eagerly awaited scenes with their cool cars, but prayed each week for serious camera time with the Kookie T. Car hop, Gerald Lloyd Kookson, ‘Kookie’ for short, (Ed Byrnes) parked cars on the Strip at Dino’s Lodge and drove a way-out T-bucket. He combed his hair while referring to everyone as, “Daddy-O” and the scenes became vivid memories of mine well past the sixties when the show finally ended. It was always that T bucket that lingered in my mind as I thought back on the entire genre of detective shows.
The little bucket was the conception of famed hot rodder and custom car builder, Norm Grabowski. The original version sported a blown ’52 caddy engine and a combination of body panels. He mated a ’31 Model A body to the front end of a ’22 Model T Touring body and brought up the rear with a pickup bed from a Model A. Later on, the bucket T was modified by swapping out the blower for four Stromberg carbs and altering the side exhaust from a tractor-style straight up design to the tucked-in chrome pipes that follow the bed rails rearward. This is the way DM rendered the car – in all its definitive period glory. Essentially red, white and blue, the diminutive hot rod exudes substantial charm.
Danbury took pains in getting everything right and it serves my old dusty memory well to see it again. They also crafted the hell out of the details. Just look at the fuel lines and spark plug wires. Set eyes on the photo-etched grillwork, pin stripes, front suspension pieces, the intricacy of the exhaust system. It is superbly delicate, accurate and detail-exacting. The interior features Norm’s skull head shift knob, the steering wheel floor boot, pinstriped dash with wood veneered dash top. And wait until you see the chassis assembly. The emergency brake and fuel line craftsmanship is marvelous and the ’56 Dodge Royal Blue paint is over-the-top! It’s bright, shiny and full of scaled pinstriping in red and white.
DM has been the master in creating hot rod and custom treasures for us collectors. I’m a big fan of their fantasy issues but maybe even a bigger fan of their genuine historically famous recreations. Thanks to them nostalgia is alive and well and preserves our cherished automotive dreams and remembrances.
-Tony F Perrone