As soon as Ralph Whitworth saw the little roadster, he knew it was a historical find. However, he had no idea how important of a find it was. The little roadster’s shape didn’t ring any bells and the he couldn’t recall ever hearing Tom Cobbs’ name.
The roadster was running a typical and simple three-deuce setup. And when I say “running,” I mean running and driving. The car was in absolutely incredible condition – relatively untouched since it was built in the late 1940′s and last registered for the street in 1987. Still, Ralph wasn’t quite sure what he had other than an oddly proportioned and very well preserved little roadster.
Uncertain and a bit confused, Ralph called Greg Sharp – the curator of the NHRA museum and a legend in his own right. Greg instantly knew the name of Tom Cobbs, the roadster, and the details of its incredible history. By all accounts, Ralph Whitworth had just found the holy grail of drag racing.
The only real changes made to the car since “the drag race” was the induction. Gone was the blower and the trick four carb setup. However, a quick search through Cobbs’ inventory turned up all the parts needed to put the car back to its original state. Ralph took the roadster to Don Prudhomme’s shop (close friend and neighbor) and he and his boys got to work. The car now sits exactly as it did in 1952 – running methanol and all.
Upon hearing the news of Ralph’s discovery and after Ralph granting me the permission to write this article, I beg and pleaded with Coby Gewertz (Church Magazine) to go to Prudhomme’s shop for a photo shoot. He relented and arrived in Vista, CA to find this:
Once Coby was done with the shoot, he gave me a ring from his cell phone.
“They fired the roadster… Man, that is one pissed off flathead.”
And I guess that’s when it all hit me. Sure, Tom Cobbs didn’t leave behind a household name. He isn’t remembered as widely as he should be. His roadster doesn’t grace the NHRA logo like it probably should. But, you know what? His legacy is his own private one… I have to think that Tom was sitting somewhere looking down at that scene in Vista, CA and smiling.
A half century after he built the first blown flathead roadster, it was still amazing folks like Don Prudhomme, Greg Sharp, Coby Gewertz, and Ralph Whitworth. To me, that’s a legacy worth having and being proud of.
Ralph Whitworth. Obviously, this series wouldn’t have been possible without Ralph. He went above and beyond to aid with photography, research, etc… More so, I want to thank Ralph for doing what he does – preserve traditional hot rodding. His collection is quickly becoming one of the most important assets we have.
A small part of Ralph’s collection is currently on display at his Flying A Garage in Winnemucca, Nevada (775. 625.3555). If you are in the area or are up for a roadtrip, it would be well worth your time to drop by. Where else can you see the Tom Cobbs roadster, the Spirit of 76 streamliner, the Teague and Bentley roadster, the Rajo Rod, the Beatty tank, and more?
Alex Xydias. I’m often amazed at how many great people are into this craziness we call a passion. I attribute that to the wonderful people that started it all. Mr. Xydias took a good part of a couple of hours to help me with this series. It was a dream come true and something I’ll never forget.
Coby Gewertz. That man can use a camera – huh? Coby took a good little drive to Vista, CA to take the incredible shots above. He’s a pal and a genius.