Monied fans of old-school iron showed their wallets at Dana Mecum’s 2018 Spring Classic sale, which took place in Indianapolis, Indiana from May 15 to May 20. Among several collections that crossed the block was the Jim Street Estate collection, which featured the contents of multiple buildings. A majority of the lots were boat-related, including more than 300 marine engines. There were several cars, too, including two icons of hot rodding and custom car history: the Golden Sahara II showpiece and the original Kookie Kar T-bucket, both offered with no reserve. Mecum showcased both, despite what some would consider almost ruinous changes and poor preservation. The entire Street Estate was sold at no reserve as well, an amazing assortment of water-borne horsepower that topped hundreds of thousands of dollars before it was over.
The history of the Golden Sahara II is almost as bizarre as its appearance. Rebuilt from a damaged Lincoln Capri by George Barris in the mid 1950s, the original rendition was sold by Barris to fellow custom-car builder Jim Street, whose legal name was James Skonzakes. It grew in stature, much like the cars of the legendary GM Motorama, after Street bankrolled a $75,000 freshening of the project, resulting in something akin to a space program experimental. Multiple innovations like in-dash television, fully remote opening doors, and luminescent wheels and tires made GS II a crowd-gathering star. Once completed, Barris himself headlined it at many events, but Street took the car off-tour in the late 1960s, and it was never seen again.
The Kookie Kar, a Hot Rod and Car Craft cover star best known for its role in 77 Sunset Strip, was even more radically changed. The Norm Grabowski creation begun in 1952 is one of the most iconic cars in the history of hot rodding. After Street bought it from Grabowski in 1959 for $3,000, it was repainted by Larry Watson, and retrofitted in appearance similar to the twin-engine gas dragsters popularized during the NHRA’s infamous nitro ban. While the car retained its single engine, it was given a pair of superchargers, monster-height chrome headers, dual rear slicks, and ISCA-style interior fur. Like the Golden Sahara II, it also disappeared suddenly, and some in the hobby wondered if it even still existed. Street had simply tucked the roadster away in a place where the primary residents were cats. Yes, cats.
Before a packed house on Saturday, May 19, the Sahara II was pushed to the stage, with ancient duct tape on its surfaces, its fish-scale-infused paint faded to multiple hues, but still fairly complete, including its custom remote controls. The naysayers were silenced as the cadence of the auction grew in excitement until $385,000 later, including the buyer’s premium, the Golden Sahara II was with its first new owner since the 1950s. The Kookie Kar was pushed forward immediately following that, and the money got even larger, $484,000, despite its obvious changes and worn appearance, thanks to the cats.
It was an amazing moment in hot rod history, and we expect to see them again before another 50 years pass.
Photos courtesy Mecum Auctions