Hot Rods That Rocked The World

Created for the Detroit Autorama, Championship Auto Shows Inc. assembled what they deemed to be the 5 Most Significant Hot Rods of the 20th Century. In from the West, coast these iconic builds represent the roots of Hot Rodding. Innovative, cutting edge and revolutionizing, these rods planted the seeds for Hot Rodding as we know it. The builders and their creativity coupled with their non conformity started the revolution that continues today.

#1 Norm Grabowski’s “Kookie T”, the Grand Pooh-Bah of Model T’s. This ride owns the title for igniting the National T Bucket phenomenon. Grabowski combined a ’31 Model A Roadster and part of a ’22 Model T pick up.  The extensive and innovative work on the chassis created the now iconic stance.  A super charged Cadillac 331ci V8 gave the “Kookie T” it’s get up and go. 

Finished by Grabowski in 1955, the car found fame in 1958 appearing in the TV series 77 Sunset Strip as Gerald Lloyd “Kookie” Kookson’s custom ride.  Sometime in 1959, the car was sold into Jim Street’s collection where it remained until 2018 when it crossed the auction block at the Mecum Indianapolis event. The purchase price was a hefty $484,000. The “Kookie T” then underwent an extensive restoration to return it to its original condition. (Mr. Street had customized the T Bucket almost beyond recognition) Roy Brizio Street Rods executed the spot on restoration. The newly restored “Kookie T” debuted at the Grand National Roadster Show in January, then found its way east to the Detroit Autorama where it sat proudly as one of the 5 Most Significant Hot Rods of the 20th Century.

#2 & #3 Hot Rodding’s favorite nonconformist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth created 2 of the 5 historic Hot Rods. Roth’s “Outlaw” came to life in 1958. The “Outlaw” was the first ride he made out a fiberglass and working with the new medium allowed Roth to push the limits of car design. He, like many, admitted the “Kookie T” was an inspiration for this radical ride. The “Outlaw” sits on a model A frame. Although a predominantly hand fabricated ride, the “Outlaw” does sport some preexisting parts. Roth used ’59 Rambler headlights, ’58 Bel Air taillights and a ’59 Chevy grille. If you look closely, you will also notice a ’22 Dodge windshield frame, and a ’58 Impala steering wheel. The motor for this marauder is a ’50 Cadillac engine, augmented with four Stromberg 97 carbs, and Cal Custom valve covers .


The “Beatnik Bandit” created in 1961, was Roth’s second fiberglass car. He pushed the limits even further with this build. The addition of the futuristic bubble top canopy of his “Beatnik Bandit” is pure atomic age awesomeness.  A shortened Oldsmobile chassis provides the foundation for this Hot Rodding hooligan. A blown Oldsmobile 303 erupts out of the open engine compartment. For a ride this far out, a sterile steering wheel and pedestrian foot pedals would never do. Rather, the “Bandit” has a central joystick which controls speed, direction and braking. Mr. Roth’s painting skills adorn both iconic rides.

#4 Tommy Ivo’s 1925 T-Bucket. Ivo makes no bones about the fact that Grabowski’s “T” was the inspiration for his build.  Some say his ride is the same only different. Once Ivo located a Model T body (abandoned in the desert) and after a tiny little felony (breaking into Mr. Grabowski’s garage to spy on specs), he went to work on hand fabricating his dream ride.  After the design and chassis were complete, for an avid drag racer the engine was the next priority. He installed a Buick 322ci Nailhead bored to a 402. The power plant sported three induction systems: a dual-quad manifold, the quintessential six-pack of Stromberg 97s, and the  T Bucket’s trademark Hilborn fuel injection. The dashboard featured a deeply tunneled panel fit with a full set of black-faced Stewart-Warner instruments. Ivo finished his soon to be famous/infamous ride in 1956.

According to Car Craft magazine Ivo touted, “My “T” held records at all the tracks I raced until they booted me off the drag strip”.  Ivo’s “T” left the track and moved over to the silver screen. In the 1956 movie, Dragstrip Girl, the T Bucket stared as the hero’s ride. Ironically, Ivo played one of the heavies in the movie and believe it or not, the script called for him to steal his own car!

#5 Bob McGee’s 1932 Ford Roadster. McGee’s list of modifications to what possibly could be the most iconic ’32 Ford’s is extensive. When building his Hot Rod, McGee lowered the suspension, changed the wheels, smoothed the grille and removed the radiator cap, fenders and door handles. Additionally, he added custom paint, upholstery and a Burns dual-carb ’34 Ford Flathead V8.

 It has often been said that McGee’s Roadster is “the prototypical Deuce Roadster” and “one of the cornerstones of Hot Rodding.” Looking at his build you see familiar Hot Rod details, but back then they were revolutionary innovations. The hidden hinges, smoothed three-piece hood, one-piece rear deck and the chopped and channeled rear frame and dropped axle to create the perfect low stance, all iconic and all from the mind of Bob McGee. Often imitated but never duplicated, McGee’s Roadster is still a standout nearly 3/4’s of a century after Bob brought his vision to life.

Hold on to your history books, here are the Hot Rods in living color.

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