The Most Significant Hot Rods of the 20th Century


The 20th Century was truly the century of the Hot Rod.  In celebration, Championship Auto Shows, Inc. has assembled a grouping of the world’s most iconic hot rods for its “Most Significant Hot Rods of the 20th Century” showcase display, which will be featured at the 2020 Detroit Autorama.

This grouping is comprised of Ed Roth’s Beatnik Bandit and Outlaw, Bobby McGee’s 1932 Ford Roadster, Norm Grabowski’s Kookie T, and Tommy Ivo’s 1925 T Bucket. These legendary hots rods will be brought in from the West Coast for this special showcase.

The Beatnik Bandit was created by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in 1961. It features a clear bubble canopy, a shortened Oldsmobile chassis from the 1950’s, and a 303c.i. (5.0L) Oldsmobile V8 engine with a supercharger.  Instead of a conventional steering wheel and floor pedals, The Bandit has a central joystick which controls speed, direction and braking. The Bandit graced the cover of the May 1961 edition of Car Craft magazine, and was featured in the article “Bandit at Large” in the July 1961 issue of Rod & Custom magazine, and in retrospectives that appeared in the Rod & Custom in 1991 and in the March 2002 issue of Custom Rodder. Roth’s The Outlaw was designed and built in 1957.  It was Roth’s first experience building in fiberglass, a revolutionary material at that time. The Outlaw  was based on a Ford Model A frame with a 1925 Model T front cross member and a 1958 Chevrolet Impala steering wheel and Stewart-Warner gauges. It appeared on the cover of Car Craft Magazine in January 1960, and it became one of the Revell Model Company’s best-selling model kits, which is still in production today.

Bob McGee’s 1932 Ford Roadster appeared on the cover of Hot Rod magazine in October 1948, just a month after being chosen as the signature car at the Southern California Timing Association’s (SCTA) meeting stressing hot rod safety. The roadster earned its Green Cross safety sticker and was featured in the Los Angeles Times.

McGee created his ideal of a hot rod after returning from serving in the Pacific during WWII. His changes included lowering the suspension, changing wheels, smoothing the grille shell and removing the radiator cap.  The hood was made into a three-piece unit with louvers, and fenders and door handles were removed. Custom paint and upholstery plus a ‘34 Ford V-8 and a Burns dual carburetor intake manifold also added to the many modifications.  The McGee Roadster was just one of two 1932 Fords chosen to become U.S. Postal stamps in 2014.

Norm Grabowski’s “Kookie T” is known as the car that kickstarted the T-bucket movement, and one of the world’s most famous hot rods. Appearances in LIFE magazine in April 1957, on an episode of The Ford Television Theatre anthology series, and featured as the car of character Gerald Lloyd “Kookie” Kookson III in television’s “77 Sunset Strip,” the Kookie T received wide exposure and earned many fans.

Grabowski originally called the T-bucket Lightnin’ Bug.  Grabowski combined a 1931 Model A Roadster and part of a 1922 Model T. He shortened the touring body and added a shortened Model A pickup bed to the back, and did a lot of work on the chassis to make it match the nose-down, tail-up look he had in mind. Additional modifications included a GMC 3-71 supercharged Cadillac 331c.i. V8, 1941 Ford rear axles, and a leaned-back windshield.

Tommy Ivo based his 1925 T-Bucket on Grabowski’s ‘Kookie T.’  At just 19, he began his build by locating a Model T body in the desert. The body had a yucca tree growing out of the middle of the cab, so he cut it down.  After retrieving it, he went to work on the body and then added a 322c.i. Buick Nailhead V8, three induction systems (a dual-quad manifold, a six pack of Stromberg 97’s and Hilborn fuel injection). Ivo raced the car and earned several Top Eliminator awards at drag ways with dependable 11-second elapsed times and a top speed of 119 mph. Ivo was also a child actor in the 1950’s, and when hot rod movies became the rage, his T became a prop.  It became the hero’s car in 1956’s “Dragstrip Girl” and Ivo played a heavy who stole the car in the film. Ivo’s T-Bucket also appeared in the Disney-made television mini-serial “Spin and Marty.” It also made the cover of the August 1957 edition of Hot Rod Magazine.

Make it a point to stop and see these world renowned icons at the 68th Detroit Autorama February 28 – March 1st, 2020.


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