The 1948 Norman Timbs Special just might be America’s slickest roadster.
When you’re an automotive engineer in the post-war era, you tend to have a lot of free time on your hands. That’s what most successful engineers had in the age before the internet: more time than they knew what to do with. So they did the only thing they knew how to do: build more cars.
Norman Timbs was an automotive engineer of some pedigree. By the late ‘40s, Timbs had already made a name for himself by creating the Blue Crown Special Indy car racers, which won the Indy 500 on several occasions. This meant that Timbs was both rich and had an eye for speed.
While the Indy 500 was certainly nothing to scoff at, Timbs was inspired by German automobiles that were setting land speed records in the late ‘30s. Cars like the 1937 Mercedes-Benz Avus Stromlinie spoke to him in a way that no other vehicle could. So when Timbs decided to make his own roadster, he used the German streamliners as his jumping off point.
With the help of Indy car builder Emil Diedt and with $10,000 of his own money (which would be well over $95,000 in today’s dollars), Timbs created the 1948 Norman Timbs Special. And it looked only mildly insane.
To start, the entire car seemed to be built backward. The cockpit was squished up at the front just after the first axle. The teardrop-style body all sloped towards the back with a blunt nose at the front. There was a trunk in the front, while the entire rear half of the body hinged upward like a clamshell to provide access to the spare tire and engine.
That engine, by the way, was a Buick Straight-8 which helped propel the 2,200 lb car to speeds of up to 120 mph. That might not sound like a lot by today’s standards, but for 1948 that was extremely fast.
Since its creation, ownership of the Timbs Special changed hands several times before finally winding up in the garage of Gary Cerveny of Malibu California. He purchased the car at a Barett-Jackson auction in 2002 for $17,280 and then had it restored to its former glory.
Now you can see the Timbs Special making the rounds at various antique car shows around America, including the most recent Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.