Ken Smith Illustration

Mr. Norm's GSS
©2007 Mr. Norm

There's a story behind this one.

In January 2007, I did a YouTube video talking about the history of Mr. Norm's Grand Spaulding Dodge, the legendary 1960's and '70's Chicago muscle-car dealer, and showing what it looks like today.

As a result of that video, I actually got to meet and shoot a video interview with Mr. Norm in late June at a Chrysler show in Fox Lake, courtesy of a collector muscle-car agent named Patrick Krook. (I was in a leg cast and on crutches, having broken my foot two days before.) That video couldn't be used because of loud music and engine noise, but there was a silver lining.

Two weeks later, again thanks to Patrick, I got to go on an 800-mile road trip to Pennsylvania to Chryslers at Carlisle, one of the biggest outdoor Chrysler shows in the country. (Still in a leg-cast and on crutches, by the way.) It was a busman's holiday; I manned the booth for, Patrick's company, shot video and pictures of him and of the show, helped get the tent set up and taken down, and answered potential customers' questions. And with one of his customers providing a flawless black numbers-matching '70 'Cuda 440 as a display, he had plenty of customers.

If you've ever been to a show at Carlisle, you'll appreciate how perfect his location was: right across from the food court, at the main stop for the half-hourly visitor tram, and right next to the booth for Mopar Collector's Guide. Better than Times Square.

My Dad owned a '57 Plymouth while I was growing up here in Chicago in the '60's, so I couldn't come all that way and not rent a golf cart to visit the '57-'59 section of the show. Don't laugh; their giant tailfins and low, swooping rooflines won Chrysler 20% of the market, a share that carmaker would be more than happy to have today. And boy, were they beautiful, especially the convertibles. Some of their owners have banded together to create the website, a treasure trove of info on '55-'61 Chryslers. The frightening part was, I can remember vividly when these cars, not to mention '57 Chevys and '65 Mustangs, roamed Chicago streets as daily drivers.

It was a great time all around, including the road trip there and back; if you're going to Carlisle next year, Patrick, count me in. Walking on two good legs this time. And I promise to do more of the driving;-)

Back in Chicago, I shot video for Patrick at two more Chrysler shows, in Belvidere in mid-July (still in the leg cast) and at the Volo Auto Museum in early August (finally free of that #@$%&*! cast). The Volo show was memorable for two reasons: the torrents of rain early that morning, causing the event coordinators to cancel the show (car owners showed up anyway, the rain having ended by 8a.m., and the show went on), and the opportunity to shoot a second interview with Mr. Norm, with Patrick interviewing him this time.

The second time was the charm, and you can see the results on Patrick's YouTube site as a two-part interview. In the first part, Mr. Norm talks about the creation of the original 1968 Dodge Dart GSS; in the second, he shows his latest project: a 2007 GSS that looks like the original, but has all new modern suspension, wheels, tires, interior and drivetrain, including the owner's choice of two transmissions with Hurst shifters and four tire-shredding big-block hemi V8's, ranging from a 600 h.p. 472 to a monster 572 aluminum-block making 825 h.p.! The one shown above is the prototype, in Hurst orange. It's owned by Arizona car collector Bill Sefton, and my illustration of it is nothing compared to how it looks -- and sounds -- in real-life.

There are 40 being built, not including the prototype. If you've got $109,000, one can be yours.