Ride of the Week… Fire-destroyed Ranchero finds new home at Murphy Auto Museum

The Woolsey Fire left many cars in ruin. 

Literally hundreds of them litter the ’Bu, and many of them will head to the scrap heap.

But when my friend Thom Panunzio asked me if there was anything we could do with his 1957 Ford Ranchero, I had to take a moment to contemplate. This Ranchero was in Panunzio’s hands for many years and two days before the fire started, it was just completed. His to-do list was done. The next stop for the car was my Wheels and Waves show here in Malibu.

But alas, the fires ripped through the canyon and destroyed his garage, cars and all its contents. 

So I made a call to my friend David Neel at The Murphy Auto Museum. What if we could drag the car out of the ash-littered garage, take it to the museum and put in on display as a piece of history? And to no shock at all, Neel was immediately on board.

A few weeks later, I was heading to Panunzio’s again with my wife, Kathie, and friend, Ken Vela, to grab the car. We posted on Facebook that we needed a trailer and up popped Dennis Burnham from Torrance. He had just purchased a trailer and was eager to help. We arrived at the garage to find that the car sat on its belly and was in park. The only way to get it out was to drag it. So, we did.

It took four hours to get the car on the bed — twice as long as we expected. 

We had to come back the next day and drive it from Malibu all the way to Oxnard, ash flying out the back. The dismount of the ’57 was slightly easier than getting it on the trailer, albeit it falling a few times. But once we got it cleared using a forklift, we set her down in a prime spot where people could see her.

The Murphy is currently closed for the holidays, but will reopen in January if you want to go up and get a closer look.

But as we settled the car in the space, Panunzio called me to express his gratitude that the car that he once had truly loved was going to have a second life. This made me very happy and gave me perspective in regard to the cars, homes and things that people lost in this fire. The attachments we had are not about the things, but about the feelings behind them.

The emotion that was rattled in this year’s fire was what truly shook us. Most things can be replaced and some things can’t, but the feelings we suffered from hit us to our core. Many of us identify ourselves with what we have instead of who we are. And it’s who we are that truly defines us.

Loss of your possessions is horrible. But loss of yourself is worse. And that can only happen if you give up, which is something Malibu will never do — and that’s why I’m grateful to be here with all of you.

Want to be featured in Ride of the Week? Send Fireball an email at askfireball@fireballtim.com.


FIRE RAVAGED 1957 FORD RANCHERO SAVED? PART 1 – FIREBALL MALIBU VLOG 877 – Fireball, Ken, Kathie and volunteer Dennis Burnham head to pick up a burned out 1957 Ford Ranchero. Discover it’s tougher than it looks.

A Whole Lot of THANKS from The Daily Driver Project

Last week was Thanksgiving when many, including me, sat around a big table with family and friends and ate a whole lot of food, giving thanks for the things they and I had in our lives.

But during last week, Fireball gave me a call to let me know that we had a friend in need. Our friend Thom Panunzio in Malibu needed some help. Thom had lost his garage and guest house to the Woolsey Fire and when I say lost… I mean leveled. There was pretty much nothing left when I got there on Saturday.

But I wasn’t alone. I joined over a dozen friends and we were there for the simple reason that Fireball called us and someone needed help. Not to get anything out of it but simply to give back and help a friend. To give back thanks.

Thom’s a car guy. I met him thru Fireball and I met Fireball thru cars. Cars are what connect almost all of my world. They are a huge part of my life and thanks to the guys that thought it was a good idea to put an engine into a wagon… boom, the CAR was born.

Getting back to Thom…, he thanked us over and over again while we were at his house. It was great but it wasn’t about the thanks. It was about being able to help and having the ability to do what I could do to help Thom find some of his memories and life experiences among the rubble.

To all those that read, follow and have friended me and more… thanks for being apart of my life.

Watch Wes’ Vlog below…


WOOLSEY MALIBU FIRE RECOVERY CLEAN-UP – FIREBALL MALIBU VLOG 868 – Team Fireball heads to the home of Music Producer Thom Panunzio to help clean up the Garage and Cars he lost to the Woolsey Malibu Fire.


MALIBU CAR COLLECTION GOES UP IN FLAMES – FIREBALL MALIBU VLOG 866 – Fireball visits the home of buddy and Music Producer Thom Panunzio who lost his entire Car Collection to the Malibu Woolsey Fire.

GET FIREBALL’S COLORING BOOKS HERE & SUPPORT FIRE RELIEF! https://tinyurl.com/fireballtimbooks


MUSIC MOGUL & CAR GUY THOM PANUNZIO – FIREBALL MALIBU VLOG 839 – Fireball features friend and Mega Music Producer Thom Panunzio in this one. Someone who does the Common Job… uncommonly well… for people like Lennon, the Stones, U2, Petty, Nix, Springsteen, Joan Jett and pretty much everyone else.

Coming up on the Vlog… Amazing Singer and “Queen Phenom,” CELLESTE Live Session!!!

So excited about this upcoming show!

My special guest will be CELLESTE, (an incredible Pop Singer out of Montreal Canada) new to Malibu and HOT, HOT! This young lady is destined for greatness and you’ll get to hear one of here incredible songs (Phenomenal) as a Live Acoustic Session. SMOKIN!!!”

Pictured here with Legendary Music Producer THOM PANUNZIO and her husband and Producer ERIC DICK. We got some things cookin.’


What’s it like to have a GARAGE FULLA COOL CARS?

What’s it like to have a GARAGE FULLA COOL CARS?

When you hear the name Thom Panunzio, you may not recognize it at first. But a brief moment in universal contemplation will lead you to Wikipedia, where it states that he’s been the recipient of over 50 gold and platinum records, having worked with John Lennon, Bob Dyan, Ozzie, Aerosmith, The Who and Bruce Springstein. Who? They must’ve been up-and-comers, right? Whatever. The list goes on, but even though Thom has worked with these no-namers, he likes cars. Which makes him my new best friend.

Nestled in the hills of Malibu is Thom’s pad, a sweet and serene piece of land overlooking a fantastic view of Malibu with rolling hills and other celebrity pads. He’s the highest one, so that means something, right? When I walked in the door, I was pleased to learn that he not only loves music and cars, but seems to be a surf fanatic as well. OK, that’s strike three and I’m in. A short jaunt through his homey home and past his cute pup revealed a four-car garage with a gambit of coolness. His dog kept a keen eye on me so I didn’t touch them.

First up was his 1957 Ford Ranchero, the first year — original 312 motor and 3 on the tree. “I bought this car when I first moved to Malibu from NYC to take my dogs and surfboards to the beach,” Thom said. “The beaches in Malibu are why I moved to California.” Thank goodness he didn’t move here to get away from the traffic.

Next up was his 1967 Ford Fairlane 500. A 390 CI big block. 

“My aunt bought this car new in Newport, Rhode Island where she lived and would drive us all to the beach with it. The car was always full of sand. I always loved the Fairlanes, especially the ‘67. She gave it to me in 1980 with 50,000 miles and the motor and interior are still original.” He restored the body, painted it, put on some new shocks, springs, exhaust, chrome mags and a new top on, but left the sand in. Yeah, typical surf punk. I need a bucket just to scoop the sand out of my Tahoe.

Towards the interior of his man-cave, Thom has a 1973 Corvette Stingray T Top with a L82 350 and a 4-speed. He’s the original owner and the car is all original with only 24,000 miles on it. He repainted the car 10 years ago. “I only drive it on Sunday mornings before anybody is out and only if the weather’s nice.”

Finally, and although not a classic, Thom has a 2007 BMW M6 soft top. This car has a V10 with 500-horsepower. This is the bad boy he drives to work everyday. “It loves gas but it’s worth the price. Nobody shuts me down. It’s a beast!”

A lover of cars, true. But as we spoke, it was revealed that Thom’s passion is all encompassing. We talked about the environment, Malibu and even his animals. Clearly Thom’s a waterman and digs all thing Bu. But as a car aficionado, his eclectic collection is historical Americana extending to a bit of German technology. Nice.

“None of my cars are real big bucks rides, but I love them all. The old ones have been with me for a long time and are full of memories. I feel like they are who I am. When I drive my old Fords through the hills I feel like Robert Mitchum in “Thunder Road,” my favorite movie. He runs moonshine in a 50 Ford 2-door coupe and a 1957 Ford Fairlane. That’s how Nascar came about. It’s a real greasy movie.”

Some cars are trailer queens and some drivers, but all have personality. But our own personal collections are about love. You are what you drive, literally. And thanks God for that.

Yes, my legal name is Fireball – FIREBALL MALIBU VLOG 221

Today’s Vlog! Gym, Malibu’s Paradise Cove, the 2016 Hyundai Genesis & Kathie NY Update! It’s like a big soup! PLEASE SHARE Today’s Episode!


Cool Ass Fire Truck – FIREBALL MALIBU VLOG 186

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Visit Fireball’s Cool Hollywood Car Blog! http://www.fireballtim.com

Today’s Episode : Prior to Thanksgiving Din-din, Fireball location scouts for a commercial, then checks out a 1949 Dodge Fire Truck. Kathie builds a Ray Gun and Tentacle suckers. Um, yes.