A Car with Real Curves

A Car with Real Curves

COLOUR PHOTOS  PETER HARHOLDT

B&W PHOTOS  |  KUSTOMRAMA

Unless you count the prototype clay or wooden scale models used in its design, this homemade 1948 Sport Custom Buick Streamliner is one of a kind. You could try this yourself but be warned - the creator was a mechanical engineer and sports car developer, and even still it took Norman E. Timbs more than two years to complete in his spare time, with assistance from master craftsman Emil Diedt on the bodywork, and the project cost over $100K in today’s money.

Weighing in around 2300 pounds (a tonne), it has an aluminium body and steel chassis, no doors, the luggage compartment is located in the front, and the rear body is hinged to raise hydraulically in one piece revealing the Buick Straight-8 engine behind the driver, fuel tank between the wheels, and spare tyre. Apparently it can get up to 120mph (193km/hr), though you'd need to be creative to test this.

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It featured on the second ever cover of Motor Trend Magazine in Oct 1949. In 1952 it had been purchased by Jim Davis of Manhattan Beach, California, and was in Motor Life Magazine in 1954 (by which time it had been registered for road use and received a fresh lick of white paint).

It seems the car was then parked in the hot California sun for a few decades until it found brief screen time in the background of a Nic Cage film in 2000, then was won at auction in 2002 (for $17,600 !!) by collector Gary Cerveny (who set to work trying to restore it himself, but sent it to Loveland, Colorado for the majority of the resto, and eventually brought it home to Malibu).

I’m glad they stuck with what I assume was the original paint scheme (colour photography was scarce in the 1950s, and the panels were down to bare metal when it was discovered in the desert, so we don’t have much to go on). This thing is beautiful, and has won awards following its debut at the 2010 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. It looks like something Jessica Rabbit would drive and has a special place in my heart (if not my garage). Now, to get an engineering degree and a spare $100K+...

Editor's note: there is a detailed forum following its recent restoration here.

Jo is a buxom redhead looking for adventure. She loves her motor children equally, and no, you can’t ‘take them for a spin’. Easily distractible, but also easily obsessed, she is our Creative Content and Lifestyle Editor, resident proof-reader, and zany ideas lady. Caffeine is her fuel of choice.