The wildfires ripping through California have killed more than 77 people and consumed some 150,000 acres. More than 993 people are missing and dense smoke from the first has been described as “the dirtiest air in the world” and officials are calling the fires the worst in state history.
Citizens and celebrities alike have lost their homes and properties to the flames. Well-known car enthusiasts and collectors Gary and Diane Cerveny lost an irreplaceable collection of classic and rare vehicles.
Worth millions, the cars lost included a Ferrari Dino, a ’65 Pontiac GTO gasser, a ’66 Dodge Dart, a Marty Robbins NASCAR, a ’66 Dodge Charger, a ’71 Plymouth Barracuda, a ’97 Dodge Viper, a Studebaker kart hauler and perhaps the rarest car in the collection, the one-of-a-kind 1948 Norman Timbs Special.
Created in the 1940s by engineer Norman Timbs, the custom car took more than three years to build.
The Norman Timbs project began with several comprehensive drawings of the chassis, followed by a quarter-scale clay model of several potential ideas. These were followed by a wooden model that incorporated several of the more pleasing design elements. The aluminum body was hand-formed by Emil Diedt and the chassis was constructed from aircraft tubing.
The rear body of the car had a special hydraulic operation that allowed it to raise and lower with the push of a button. When opened, the engine, spare tire, and fuel tank were exposed and accessible.
The design of the car was influenced by several pre-World War II race cars, like the Auto Union Type C and the Mercedes-Benz W25 Avus Grand Prix cars. The Norman Timbs Special was built for the road, and not the track.
By the mid-1950s, it was painted white and was in the care of Air Force Officer Jim Davis of Manhattan Beach, California. Much of its later life was spent outside in a desert where it deteriorated over the years.
In 2002, it was auctioned by Barrett-Jackson at the Petersen Museum Classic Car Auction and sold for $17,600.
To aid victims of the wildfires in California, you can mail physical donations to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 348000, Sacramento, CA 95834, call (530) 776-1009 or (800) 725-2769, or donate online to the Del Oro Division of The Salvation Army.