Detroit Autorama 09
Home Current Projects Carvings Where's Norm? That DVD


Where’s Norm? 

The Detroit Autorama, March 6-8, 2009

Norm attends many shows but this year’s Detroit Autorama was very special.   Ron Kregoski unveiled his new Kookie clone and it is nice, really nice.  Ron commissioned Reno Rod & Custom in Oklahoma City, OK to build the latest clone of Norm’s famous car.  Ron was very clear about the goal for the project.  Accuracy was the paramount concern for the build team.  In the end the car is clearly a paramount success.  Ron wanted to have the best clone of Kookie ever built.  This is a notable task because several clones exist and are very good.  It is easy to build a car “inspired” by the Kookie car.  It is not too difficult to build a car that “looks a lot like” the Kookie car.  Building a true clone that could “be” the Kookie car is a major undertaking.


 Johnnie Overbay’s team at Reno Rod & Custom began with the task of gathering one of the best libraries of Kookie car documentation around. 

 Knowing that none of the preexisting clones perfectly capture Norm’s build, it was decided to not use clones as a source of details.  Another issue was selecting a snapshot in time of Norm’s car.  The original Kookie was not a static art form.  It evolved through many detail changes while in its original owner’s care.  Norm was contacted in October of ’08 and he provided some input to help fill in the blanks.  He also agreed to join the car for the unveiling at the ’09 Autorama.  Norm had heard good things about the cars that Reno Rod & Customs builds.  If there had been doubt about the team’s ability, Norm said that he would not have agreed to participate in advance of the car’s completion.  


The first thing Norm said when he saw the car was:

"It’s a lot smaller than I remembered."

"Oh wait this isn’t Ron’s car, it’s the new Danbury Mint Kookie Car." 

Ron’s car speaks for itself.








 If you think it’s easy building a clone, try coming up with a ROTO-FASE ignition.


In addition to the new Kookie car clone many famous friends had the chance to hook up with Norm.   

Barry Meguiar was taping at the Autorama.  We’re betting Barry realizes that every time he and Norm get together, Norm seems to have his hand out…

  Chuck Vranas stopped by the booth to chat and shoot a few photographs.  He is a master of words and images.  If you are not familiar with his work you must be new to hot rods. 




It will be a treat to see the results of Chuck’s efforts at this show.

Darryl Starbird was honored at the event as “Builder of the Year”.

  Darryl is one of the greats in our hobby.  Norm’s News would run out of space if we tried to list all of Darryl’s accomplishments.  At the luncheon he was asked to limit his speech to 10 minutes.  We were fortunate that he exceeded the time limit and wished he had kept talking.  He has recently produced a book highlighting his career (Darryl Starbird -“The Bubble Top King”).  It is a worthwhile addition to any automotive library.


Dave McClelland, Bob Larivee, Jr. and “Builder of the Year”, Darryl Starbird.


From center stage to Norm and the Kookie clone booth.  Dave McClelland and he brought “THE VOICE”.  Too Cool.



Legend and 2008 “Builder of the Year” Gene Winfield was on hand too.  Spending time with both Winfield and Starbird at the same event is enough to render most car guys speechless.  Of course Norm is no normal car guy so the conversations were not one sided.  Gene asked Norm to attend an event at his place.  Just the thought of Gene’s paintwork in the desert sun should make you squint.  Don’t count on sunglasses to protect you, bring a welding helmet if you value your vision.   And don’t forget to add Gene’s book (The Custom Cars and Hot Rods of Gene Winfield) to your hot rod library. 


Steve Tracy took a quick break at the booth.  If you’re lucky enough to have components from Pete and Jake’s then you’re familiar with quality chrome plating.  Steve is the man who makes much of it happen.  His face is not one that everybody knows but the metal finishing from Advanced Plating ( can be found at most gatherings of top quality cars.  Some of Norm’s projects feature chrome from Advanced Plating.  This is not some shameless plug.  This is just recognition of first class service and ability. 







Dan Webb brought two of his cars.  The Wedge and the Sub share an impressive trait.  They are both combinations of functioning automobile, art, detail and stunning execution.  Once again Dan’s ability and dedication has pushed the limits of automotive art.   The level of detail, fit and finish is beyond description so enjoy the photos and then realize the cars look even better in person.   A lot of press has been devoted to these cars and for good reason.  If Dan received a dollar for every detail, the Stimulus Package would be too small to fund his creations.


Featured speaker and automotive authority Ken Gross with Neal East stopped by to say “Hi” to Norm.  Both Neal and Ken were on stage during the awards luncheon.  Neal received “The Preservation Award” and Ken was the event’s “Guest Speaker”.





Neal’s historic roadster was on display too.



Norm has always said that he likes listening to Wings Kalahan ( ) but Norm added that he'd prefers to LOOK at Mary.



 "Grabowski is going to try to fit in the T, I need a picture of that."



"Hey Wings you're looking a little thin.  They've got burgers right over there, grab a few for me while you're at it."



Wings is no dummy, he knows that Norm has had over 50 years of fame based on a picture of him sitting in Kookie and wolfing down some food.  With Mary by his side, this photo could get Wings elected to office and not just Governor of Minnesota either.


“More Burgers, QUICK!”


Looks like Wings didn’t grab enough burgers.  Johnnie Overbay knows better than to be too close to Norm during a feeding frenzy. 



Lydia (see Where’s Norm?  Little Rock October, 2008) was not in Detroit but she still stayed in touch with “Her Man”.


In addition to all the celebrities, there where more than a few cars to enjoy at the show.









Whether clones, original or restored it felt great to stand near this gathering.  The Kookie car a few feet from the Kopper Kart, the Hirohata Merc and the Ala Kart with the real Grabowski and Barris too.  Put these ingredients together at a car show and it is difficult to pin down a decade, somewhere between the ’50s and today. 


Little known fact:  Norm once made a “beer run” in the Kopper Kart.  One can only wonder if only empties made it back to the shop at the conclusion of the “run”.


The fresh Orbitron not only looks great its features function too.  Dave Shutten gives Norm an overview of the remote controlled capabilities.  Roth should be pleased.


Of course there were more examples of Big Daddy’s “ahead of the curve” work at the show. 

Factory Five Racing’s kits do well at shows.  They provide the starting point for some great cars.  Some are built to race, some for street but many are built to show standards.  This one placed first in class.



“Double Trouble” probably can exceed the “double nickel” in under two seconds.


The ‘60s and early ‘70s had a certain style, love it or not, it’s a definite style.


Car Craft was once a small magazine.  It’s pretty big now.


Race car engineering mated to show car esthetics produced quite an offspring.





Norm is a fan of chopped tops.  There was a diverse group to enjoy this year.




 As expected nice Vettes were on display, this trio includes a ’67, ’68 and ’69.


Vettes weren’t the only attractive Chevrolets at the show. 


 “Too bad the ICE TRUCK stayed home, we could have had shakes.”





Muscle cars then, now and hopefully tomorrow.


Some feel that a Ford pickup is the perfect compliment for their Harley.  This pair shares more DNA that just an emblem.


It has been said that the ’59 Cadillac is an example of where Detroit got it wrong, we think it’s an example of where they got it right.



Just another candy apple red 1998 GTS Viper, until you look close.  The paint includes a subtle pair of stripes made up of an army of Sneaky Petes (the first generation Viper’s snake logo).


Sitting on a differential with a few thousands horsepower flowing through is one definition of courage, maybe madness too.


If they all looked like that, Sears would be selling them today.


Arriving at the show Norm was excited to see this sign,

 four hours later he saw a sign he liked even better.


Combine a car show, concert and a hockey game all at the same time for some slow moving traffic.




Thanks for spending some time with Norm and a few highlights from the 2009 Detroit Autorama.  Hope to see you soon where the cool cars gather.



P.S.   One friend shared a poem she wrote about Norm and the Kookie car.  Here’s Cathy’s work in her own hand: 



Home Up Detroit Autorama 09 LRCVB, AR 2008 Where I've Been 07 Nationals