One of the most significant and imaginative of postwar customs, the streamlined 1948 Norman Timbs Special, has been destroyed in the devastating Woolsey Fire near Malibu, one of the three deadly wildfires wreaking havoc in California.
The Timbs Special, well-known for its swooping mid-engine styling, was destroyed over the weekend along with about 30 other cars owned by noted collector and shop owner Gary Cerveny, who reportedly lost his entire collection to the fire as it roared north of Los Angeles.
Firefighters are struggling to control the Woolsey Fire, which has killed two people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses. Two raging infernos in northern California also remain out of control, killing at least 42 people and decimating thousands of acres of forest, homes and businesses.
Cerveny purchased the Timbs streamliner in junkyard condition at a Barret-Jackson auction in 2002. He had it completely restored to its original fettle, including the all-aluminum body with extreme cab-forward styling and a lengthy rear deck that lifted in its entirely to reveal the straight-8 Buick engine mounted amidships.
The Timbs Special was an award winner at the Pebble Beach and Amelia Island concours d’elegance, and was even made into a diecast model. It was also a familiar sight at Southern California car shows, its weirdly beautiful design attracting rapt attention everywhere it was shown.
Norman Timbs was an automotive engineer who helped design the rear-engine Tucker 48. He also sought to create his own unique automotive vision, enlisting skilled body craftsman Emil Diedt to sculpt the Special’s form in aluminum.
Sadly, the aluminum body of the Timbs streamliner with its low melting point is unlikely to have survived the inferno in any recognizable condition.
The loss of the Timbs Special will be keenly felt in the collector car community as it was an evocative link to an exciting time of innovation and invention in the automotive world, particularly among the budding crop of southern California rodders who were discovering the creative possibilities of new-fangled fiberglass.