The Woolsey Fire that ravaged California in 2018 was one of the most destructive natural disasters Los Angeles has ever dealt with. According to the L.A. Times, the wildfire claimed three lives, 97,000 acres, and 1,600 structures. Within the wreckage, Gary Cerveny’s 21,000-square-foot home and invaluable collection of 76 rare classic cars were considered total write-offs by many, but there was one glimmer of hope. Enough of his 1949 Norman Timbs Special survived that Cerveny is planning to restore the one-off piece of history. Again.
In a new feature, Hemmings profiled Gary Cerveny’s recent journey and his plans to restore his Norman Timbs streamliner, something he has already done once before. Cerveny’s marriage to his Norman Timbs started sort of by accident when the vehicle came across the stage at a Barrett-Jackson Petersen Museum classic car auction in 2002. Cerveny was there to buy a Ferrari for his wife Diane, but he also occasionally helped kick-start auctions as a way to help his auctioneer friends who were running the show. He raised his hand on the run-down Norman Timbs, a car he knew nothing about at the time, and the next thing he knew, he was the owner. The final price was a meager $17,600.
The 17-foot-10-inch Special was inspired by Auto Union streamliners, conceived by Indy racecar engineer Norman E. Timbs, and welded by Emil Diedt, The two-piece body was made from 107 welded pieces of aluminum, and it had no hood, no doors, no trunk, and no roof. Behind the two-seat cabin, Timbs installed a 1947 Buick straight-eight. It was never intended for production, and only one was ever built. Cerveny took ownership of the car, learned of its significance, and took seven years restoring it to its proper state. In 2012, it was shown at the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach.
In 2018, the Special’s gorgeous swoopy body was completely melted in the fire, but Cerveny felt the frame was in good enough condition to save. Pending strength tests, Cerveny plans to use the frame to completely restore the car again, this time from the ground up.