Batavia – The Thomas Rocket Car is still in shop, in this case, Old World Collision, 3857 W. Main St.
“It is being completely built. They are starting from the ground up,” City Councilperson-at-Large Bob Balkowski said on Saturday. “They had the frame primed and painted. It required a lot of body work. The whole exterior had to be repaired. One time it was in a junkyard and they were cutting it down. Somebody said, ‘Hey, it needs to be saved.’ The body is completely tinted and I think they are waiting for the windshield. I know they are waiting for some parts to be made…”
The rocket car is privately owned and was at the Memorial Day parade this year, Balkowski said. Old World Collision owner Richard McClurg brought it to the parade on a trailer.
“They painted it burgundy, it was the original color,” Balkowski said. “Many collectors and enthusiasts around the country know about the car, including those from Batavia.”
Bialkowski said he stops there from time to time to say hello to the Old World Coalition. He said he was probably there two weeks ago.
Responding to a question about the status of the car at the city council’s conference session on 28 June, Balkowski said, “It was a strange question to come before the council. The city has nothing to do with it. I think That there were five or six investors who had bought it and were investing money in it. It is a private enterprise.”
At the June 28 meeting, Grandview Terrace resident John Roach asked the council if there was anything new going on with the car.
“I was talking to a few people today about this. Will the city find a place to put it? We haven’t heard much about restoration or where it is, or something, for a while. I’m talking about it. I was curious,” he said.
Bialkowski said at the meeting that “99 1/2 percent of all external work in the body is done.”
“Inside the headliner, the interior panels are done,” he said.
City manager Rachel Tabelsky said before COVID, there was a meeting regarding the car that involved the County Chamber of Commerce and McClure’s.
“There was still a little bit of money to be raised – those last few parts and pieces of it. We haven’t set up a permanent home or location,” she said. “They constantly move it in and out to get it on different shows. want to go, so we don’t know if city center will work for that option. We don’t really have the ability to do that.”
Bialkowski said the car was made in Batavia and, laughingly, added that it had nothing to do with the rocket.
“A fellow by the name of Mr. Thomas lived on Ellicott Avenue. He went and built this car. I think it was 1948,” he said. “He took it to Detroit, showed it to the Ford Motor Company. They were very impressed. This entire car, all four wheels, had independent suspension. It had a periscope, because at that time, if one remembers the old cars, they were torpedo shaped at the rear. You could not see anything backed up. This little periscope went up, you looked at a mirror and you could see where you were backing up.
Bialkowski said the car had a lot of innovations.
“The problem was that the auto companies weren’t even close to being ready for something like this, so it was way ahead of its time,” he said.
Bialkowski said McClurg made people stop and want to see the car.