Lightning Bug

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The Lightning Bug at the National Hot Rod Association'S Drag Racing Meet Held In Santa Ana, Calif
The Lightning Bug at the National Hot Rod Association'S Drag Racing Meet Held In Santa Ana, Calif
The Lightning Bug at the National Hot Rod Association'S Drag Racing Meet Held In Santa Ana, Calif
Picture from the Kustomrama Archive
The Lightning Bug April 02, 1957
Norm Grabowsky19572.jpg
Norm Grabowsky19573.jpg
Norm-grabowski-lightning-bug.jpg
Photo by Ralph Crane
The Kookie T at an indoor car show in Columbus, Ohio around 1960, after Jim Skonzakes had bought it an repainted it white with red flames. The car is displayed next to Jim's radical Golden Sahara custom by Barris. Photo from The Dave Jenkins Photo Collection.
Dick Bailey test-sitting the kookie T at the Columbus, Ohio car show. Dave Jenkins believes he took the photo late 1960. The Kookie T made a huge impression on Dick, and less than a year after this photo was taken he built his own Model T hot rod from the ground up. Photo from The Dave Jenkins Photo Collection.
A photo of the Skonzakes version of the Kookie T at the 1960 National Champion Custom Car Show in Detroit, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Dick Page.
An album containing a photo of the Skonzakes' pickup at the 1960 National Champion Custom Car Show in Detroit was listed for sale on eBay in October 2011.
Jim-skonzakes-1924-ford-kookie-t2.jpg

The Lightning Bug is a Ford Model T Roadster built by Norm Grabowski. The Lightning Bug is also known as the Kookie T due to its appearance in the TV serie 77 Sunset Strip. Norm began building his roadster in 1955. Because California law required the use of fenders on all vehicles weighing over 1500 pounds, there was some question as to whether Norm's rod would qualify as legally fit. Fortunately for Norm, the car tipped the scales a few pounds below the mark. It was in its first black version that the car caught the eyes of TV producers. This version of the car was featured in The Ford Television Theatre - Season 4, Episode 36, - Mr. Kagle and the Baby Sitter. After a while Norm added a four deuce manifold and a wild flame job to the car. This version of the car was the version that appeared as the car of beatnik-lingo valet Edd "Kookie" Byrnes on the TV series 77 Sunset Strip. This is the car that launched the T-bucket craze, as well as Grabowski's long career as a character actor (usually playing good natured oafs named "Moose" or "Bronko"). In 1959 The Kookie T appeared on the cover of Life magazine, under the lights at Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake, with Norm wolfing down dinner.


In Rodding and Re-styling January 1961 the car is shown at the first annual National Champion Custom Car Show held in Detroit, Michigan in 1960. By then car has swapped hands, and it has received a new paint job. Dayton custom tycoon Jim Skonzakes was the current owner, and had recently bought the car. The car came 2nd in the Rod Pickup class at the show.


Unfortunately the original car has gone through several owners and has been repainted and hacked and "updated" beyond recognition. But once again Von Franco came to the rescue, building two perfect clones of both Grabowski versions of the car.


In 2008 Piero DeLuca, the man behind the Mad Fabricators movies creates a documentary movie about the famous Model T Roadster called The Car That Ate My Brain. In the movie Von Franco tells the history of Norm’s car along with never before seen home movies and pictures.


Movie and TV Appearances

77 Sunset Strip
The Ford Television Theatre - Season 4, Episode 36, - Mr. Kagle and the Baby Sitter


Magazine Features

Car Craft July 1957
Trend Book 143 Restyle Your Car
Rod & Custom September 1959
Rodding and Re-styling January 1961
Rodders Journal Number 36




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