Hot Rod Icon, Hollywood Actor Norm Grabowski Has Passed Away

-Norm flashes his winning smile at the Goodguys Autumn Get-Together in 2009

We are saddened to report that our friend, prankster and Goodguys Hot Rod Hero Norm Grabowski died this morning. He was a great friend to Goodguys serving as a Hot Rod Hero at our events on multiple occasions. Norm, a long time personal friend of Goodguys founder Gary Meadors, spread good cheer to our industry for over 4 decades.  One of his favorite events was the Goodguys West Coast Nationals in Pleasanton.

Made famous by a 1957 LIFE magazine cover photo (taken at a Southern California drive-in showing Norm eating a burger behind the wheel of his “Kookie Kar” – a 1922 Ford Model T with a Caddy engine), Grabowski was lovingly referred to as the “Clown Prince of Hot Rodding.”

He enjoyed a career as an actor in 50’s and 60s television series’. His famous T-bucket snagged a starring role in the hit TV show ’77 Sunset Strip. He also appeared in minor roles in many films produced by Albert Zugsmith and Walt Disney. He retired from acting in the 1980s after a minor roll alongside Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore and Dom LeLuise in The Cannonball Run.

He was also known as a master wood carver, whittling hundreds of his unique hand-carved skull gearshift knobs. He also carved elaborate carousel horses by hand for many clients.

“Norm was an original – one of the founding fathers of the hot rod scene,” said Gary Meadors. “He was so talented. He loved making things with his hands as well as entertaining people. He could sing pretty well but he could whistle like nobody I’ve ever met. He was entertaining to say the least but he was a hot rodder to the core. We’ve lost a true original.”

Services are pending at this time.

-Norm with a copy of the April 1957 LIFE Magazine cover

-Norm (near lane) races TV Tommy Ivo in a battle of the T Buckets in this classic LIFE Magazine feature photo

-Norm with Burt Reynolds on the set of Cannonball Run

-After leaving Southern California, Grabowski settled in Lead Hill, Arkansas. He spent a lot of time working in his shop, whittling 'Norm Skulls' - exotic wooden gear shift knobs

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