If you want a special one-off car in your garage, you can ask a car company to make it for you. Or you can contact a coachbuilding company that can take a regular car and give it a completely different look. In both of these cases, you’d be involved in the process of making this special car. The company would call you to inspect the car and to see if everything is going the way you want. But, if that’s too much of a hassle for you, why don’t you make the car yourself in the comfort of your garage.
Well, that’s exactly what happened with this cherry red open-top Buick in the late 1940s. Norman Timbs was an automotive engineer who worked on many Indy 500 racecars in 1930s and 1940s. He even worked with Preston Tucker on the Tucker 48 “Torpedo”. Timbs was amazed by the sleek design of German racecars back in those days such as the Mercedes W25 Avus and Auto Union Typ C (pictured below). After WWII, he began to work on his own streamlined road-legal roadster that would look similar to the German racers.
He made sketches of his dream car, which led to a couple of 1:4 scale models. After a lot of detailing, he took some of his most favorable elements from each of the models, and combined them into a full-scale wooden model. The wooden model was used to make aluminum panels for the actual car (all hand-made by Timbs himself). In 1948, after three years of hard work, the car was finished.
This beautiful machine stood at 1.20 cm (47in) and weighed just over a ton. Its “heart” was a 200hp Buick straight-8 that was just behind the seats. Steering, brakes and other equipment were borrowed from Mercury. The rear of the car featured hydraulic hinges that lift the entire rear section, giving the access to the engine, fuel tank and spare tire.
The overall appearance was a Hollywood version of Auto Union racer, with its rounded nose and sleek shape. There was no roof, no door and was a bit impractical. But, it gained a lot of publicity. It was featured in many motoring magazines like Motor Trend, Popular Mechanics, Motor Life and others. There were rumors about a limited production run, but Timbs denied that, because the production of one car was already too expensive. He spent around $10.000 on it (you could’ve bought 3 Cadillacs for that amount back then), and the car remained a one-off.
But, I think the car was already “too old” for its time. The 1950s were just around the corner, and car makers started adopting jet-inspired designs. So, the era of streamlined cars was coming to an end. Streamliners were outlived by tailfins and exposed fenders, all of which announced the beginning of a new era.
Still, the Special was very, well…special. It was a 4-wheeled masterpiece. Timbs sold it after few years, and the car changed many owners after that. But pretty soon, the Special fell off the radar. In the late 1990s, the car was found abandoned at a Californian junkyard. Thankfully, help was on its way.
The wreck of the car was briefly featured in the remake of “Gone in 60 Seconds” with Nicolas Cage. Two years later, it found itself at an auction block, where it was bought by a car collector Gary Ceverny for over $17 million. He immediately started restoring the car, first repairing the grille, wheels, hinge-opening and drivetrain. Later, he gave the car to Loveland’s Custom Auto to complete the restoration.
In 2010, the car was once again presented to the world. Ceverny is still the owner of this beauty, and I’m pretty sure that he will take good care of it and not sell it as soon as he gets the chance. A car like this is just too beautiful to give away…no matter what the price could be.