The 4 wackiest customs at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show
The 2020 Chicago Auto Show brought in droves of pony cars and herds of pickups, sprinkled in exotics and topped it all off with a healthy dose of Jeeps. However, away from the Rams and Jeeps crawling over various obstacle courses in McCormick Place, and opposite a luxe Infiniti display, showgoers flocked to a simple folding table, surrounded by four outrageous customs.
We chatted with the folks from Chicago’s Klairmont Kollections, who hosted the display, to discover more details about these wacky rides. Until you can make it to Chicago to see the collection for yourself, here are the four wild creations that Klairmont brought to the show, from the six-wheeled “Ice Princess” to The Golden Sahara II.
1954 Chevrolet Corvette Nomad replica
Lest you think Corvette controversy is a modern phenomenon, behold the Corvette station wagon, constructed at the behest of Harley J. Earl himself. Or, more precisely, a replica of it.
Conjured from the original 1954 Motorama show car, this Corvette Nomad build started in 1999 with a ’55 Pontiac Safari. A ’77 Camaro’s front subframe was integrated with the Safari’s, preparing the way for a Chevy 350. Equipped with the Camaro’s front disc brakes, the replica promised to actually run—unlike the original show car built on the first-ever Corvette chassis and long since lost.
A team of restorers commissioned by Zane C. Zander then set to work on the metal and fiberglass body. Designing and engineering the tailgate was particularly involved. The team converted the Safari’s two-piece tailgate into a single, bottom-hinged unit that allowed the rear glass to retract down into the door. Naturally, the design demanded some custom hinges; but one of the critical mechanisms was lifted from a mid-’80s Suburban.
So how much of this is actually a ’54 ’Vette? The dash—and that’s about it. However, we applaud the commitment of these Nomad lovers and their tribute to Corvette’s past.
Six wheels, two cockpits, and…. 12 exhaust pipes? A one-off build by Richard Fletcher, the Ice Princess is mostly a 1950 Studebaker. Fletcher harvested the fins off a ’59 Cadillac and plucked a 500-cubic-inch V-8 from—as far as we can tell— an early ’70s Eldorado, before he let his imagination run gloriously free with the rest of it. Also known as the XF58, the car features twin canopies from an F4 Phantom fighter jet (reportedly) and originally toured Europe as the Vampiremobile—which explains the “blood” gauge—before receiving a restyle in 2005 as the Ice Princess.
We spotted the Princess at Russo and Steele’s Scottsdale auction in 2018, where it sold for $38,500. We haven’t received confirmation from Klairmont yet, but it’s likely Klairmont notched the winning bid, since the collection also added the Golden Sahara II that same year. The Ice Princess has received some well-deserved love since then; imperfections from the original build aside, the car sat on the Chicago floor clean down to its silver skull shifter.
1983 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur
Larry Klairmont, the owner of the Klairmont Collection, loves Rolls-Royces. As Keith Buckley told us, Klairmont had a pocket-sized model decked out in the sparklies, and one day he decided he wanted the full-size version. Thus did this 1983 Silver Spur receive its glitzy get-up. We’re guessing sunglasses are mandatory… maybe even at night.
The Golden Sahara II
Reborn not once, but twice, the Golden Sahara II is witness to man’s ability to turn cartoon-worthy dreams into rolling, glittering, rumbling reality. Every aspect of this car was a testbed for the wildly inventive and excessive. The interior boasted the first-ever in-car phone, had a television and cocktail bar, and could be driven via an aviation-style yoke when you weren’t driving it via remote control by way of a dissected TV antenna mounted inside the trunk.
Both the original tires and the car’s current rubber were custom-made by Goodyear. Back in the ’50s, the company was studying light-up designs for safety. Think better visibility in a pouring thunderstorm, for instance. Nowadays, the idea’s still alive and well; Goodyear’s Keith Buckley, who molded each LED-equipped unit himself out of roughly nine gallons of urethane, said autonomous cars are likely candidates. “Think about a self-driving car in front of you,” he said. “You know if it’s going to turn, but how do you know if it’s speeding up? Or how quickly it’s slowing down?” He envisions coding the tires to glow green under normal acceleration or flash red under abnormally aggressive braking.
The Golden Sahara’s original paint featured ground-up fish scales to achieve the perfect luster—and it’s safe to say you wouldn’t recognize a 1953 Lincoln Capri under the hood, skirts, and multi-finned-fins. Built by George Barris and turned up to 11 by Jim Street—“if one fin was good, two fins were better,” Buckley says—the world-famous concept disappeared from the public eye for nearly 50 years between the late ’60s and 2018.
When the deteriorated glamormobile resurfaced, it crossed the block at Mecum’s Indianapolis auction, where it was purchased for $385,000 by Klairmont Kollections and subsequently restored. Now, on the floor of the Chicago Auto Show, the Golden Sahara II is doing what it does best: wowing show crowds.
Which of these wild creations would you put in your dream garage? Do these spark any ideas of your own? Let us know in the comments below.