Ever since the Tesla Model S introduced huge, tablet-like touchscreens to the auto industry, carmakers as a whole have done their best to make their cars as phone-like as possible. They needn’t bother with all that hoopla about apps and connectivity, though, because Canadian hot-rodder Gerry Nimz figured out the right way to combine cars and phones more than four decades ago, and it wasn’t by sticking a big and distracting touch screen to the dash.
Inspired by another phone booth hot rod made by noted movie car builder Carl Casper, the brain behind KITT and the General Lee cars, Nimz built the hot rod you see here in the late 1970s on a Ford chassis using a Northern Electric phone booth for its body. He first showcased his creation at the Canadian International Auto Show, where it got enough attention to warrant touring other North American auto shows. In 1981, the vehicle made its European debut at what’s now known as the Essen Motor Show in Germany, where it caught the eye of a well-to-do local who decided it had to be theirs. After the show, the German arranged to buy the hot rod from Nimz, squirreling it away in a private collection.
Thirty-five years later, the hot rod resurfaced as part of an estate sale, selling on eBay for $29,000 according to the eBay Motors Blog. From there, the phone-rod’s new owner set about turning it from the static display model it had been its whole life into a running, driving vehicle, by way of a General Motors small-block V-8 from the late 1960s. This four-barrel carbureted V-8 is believed to produce around 375 horsepower, which is sent to the rear wheels through a Turbo-Hydramatic 350 automatic transmission, and controlled by a throttle cheekily rigged up in the booth’s phone dial. It also features a hydraulic handbrake and power steering, though it’s hard to imagine how one steers this hot rod with no apparent steering wheel.