The “Moon Rocket” Is Back

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Jerry Anolik 1955 Ford Thunderbird Moon Rocket GNRS KruzinUSA.com

Jerry Anolik’s 1955 Ford Thunderbird “Moon Rocket” landed at the 2020 Grand National Roadster Show and caused quite a stir. Brought out of moth balls in 2009 and sold soon there after, the flawless restoration is a tribute to Anolik’s outstanding artistry and craftsmanship.

Cars were in Jerry Anolik’s blood from the beginning. The day he turned 16, he got his driver’s license, paid $85 for a Model-A and immediately ripped off its fenders. A few years later he quit commercial art school “because fooling around with cars gave him more pleasure”. When he was mustered out of the Army, he purchased a 1955 Thunderbird, began “fooling around with it” and the rest is history.

The T-Bird underwent race inspired cosmetic surgery and after Jerry’s “fooling around” a mild custom emerged. Anolik added nerf bars, louvers to the hood with an extended air scoop, a roll bar and Moon disc wheel covers. The taillights came from a Merc wagon and he fabricated headers that flowed along the side of the body. Incidentally, all the work was done in Jerry’s Mom’s garage. The T-Bird was his daily driver, a regular at local shows and pretty formidable at the strip.

Only hours after winning Best in Show at the Oakland Roadster Show, Jerry and the T-Bird were involved in a head on collision severely damaging the front end of the T-Bird. Jerry did not despair though, out came the torch, the radical customizing began and the Moon Rocket was launched. The final product, one the most popular and highly publicized show cars in the country.

The shortened fenders and sculpted channels with frenched headlights give the Moon Rocket an other worldly look. The rear fenders were sectioned 4 inched and ’59 Buick taillights adorn the rear end. Jerry wanted to roll on slicks but could only do so after extensive engineering to radius the rear wheel wells openings, using conduit to do so. 

The stunning ’56 Cadillac Eldorado mill augmented with a GM 4-71 Blower and topped with 4 Stromberg 97’s all erupting from between the rails is out of sight. 

Once launched, Jerry drove the Moon Rocket cross country cleaning up at every show he hit along the way. 1959 was a record year for Anolik when he won 10 grand with the Moon Rocket. The car even made it to a show in Puerto Rico. Returning from his second nationwide road trip, Jerry decided to put the pedal to the metal and put the Moon Rocket through its paces. He took the car to Bonneville, where it clocked over 163 MPH. On its return run it a fire broke out severely burning the custom front end. Anolik then decided to put the car on ice, parked in a T-Bird sized bird cage, literally.

The Moon Rocket was frozen in time for 50 years. According to George Barris, the Moon Rocket was the only radical custom still in the possession of its original owner. It had the original license plate, the original slicks and the original blown Cadillac engine. Jerry kept every piece of documentation from his travels with the Moon Rocket, all of it. All magazine coverage, show posters, entry forms, invitations, even food and gas receipts.

It was the perfect time capsule. That is until 2009 when the Moon Rocket showed up on Craigslist. 2010 saw the Moon Rocket back on the circuit when Anolik showed the car at the Sacramento Autorama in all of its “patina’d” glory. It soon changed hands and was precisely and painstakingly restored by Joe Hickenbottom. Fortunately for all of us, Joe graciously displayed the Moon Rocket and tons of memorabilia at this years Grand National Roadster Show.

The Moon Rocket was and is a one of a kind super star.

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Thank you kustomrama.com and Mecum.com for the archival photos

Till the next time – Keep on Kruzin!