Antennas on Customs – Beam Me Up Scotty!

 

ANTENNAS on CUSTOMS

 

When building a custom car the radio antenna is a feature that sometimes received “special treatment”. Many times it was left in the stock position or just recessed in a round enclosure. Often times the aerial was hidden or moved to a new location like the rear fender.


By Tom Nielsen

When car radios first came out in the thirties, jalopy owners proudly showed off the antenna on their cars because it meant you had a radio. The aerials were sometimes leaned back to represent speed. When radios became more commonplace, car companies became creative in the placement and use of multiple antennas.

Back in the day there was always the attempt to simply hide the antenna or make it disappear. Cadillac’s in the thirties hid them under the running boards. 1932-6 Fords used the chicken wire in fabric tops for radio reception. Other companies had their own way of building in the antenna.

Cowl mounted antenna’s. A popular aftermarket product in the 1940s. The sample below shows the popular version with the clear colored plastic ball at the end.
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Adding a “Fox-Tail” at the tip of the antenna was a very popular trend, even among custom car owners, for some time during the 1940’s.
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Cowl mounted antenna bent to follow the door line and windshield frame for a more streamlined look.
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It was also very popular to add antenna’s to the front fenders. This allowed the antenna to be detracted all the way. The way this sample was mounted, on an angle, added some extra speed to the car as well.
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In the 1950’s it was common to have your antenna mounted on the cowl from the dealer, but Customizers did not like it there too much, so they searched for alternatives. Jerry Quesnel mounted the antenna of his Barris/Quesnel Restyled ’49 Mercury at the top of the rear bumper, next to the bumper guard.
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Antenna/Aerial listing in the Barris Hollywood Custom Accessory Catalog from the mid 1950’s.
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Tom Hocker’s 1940 Ford (By Barris) had the antenna mounted on the rear splash pan, like many others did. This photo was taken around 1957.
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Around 1953 several aftermarket companies produced wild out of this world space age antenna’s. Even the Bob Hirohata Barris Custom used a double set of these for a short moment. More on these antennas in the story on the Hirohata Mercury Antenna’s.
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My own 1941 Mercury convertible from the early custom era had the antenna mounted the stock location which was in the center of the windshield header. It could be turned upward or down depending on your preference. This type of aerial was used on Ford and Mercury convertibles from the late thirties through 1948. It always reminded me of resembling a boat antenna. When I first bought the Mercury I asked my body man friend about filling in the hole and using a Cadillac under running board antenna. He was reluctant to get a torch that close to the windshield, so the stock aerial remained in place. In time it kind of grew on me until I liked having it upright. For the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair car show I had it proudly turned upward.

Tom Nielsen’s 1941 Mercury at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair showing the Antenna in its factory stock location, and proudly in the upright position, indicating the car had a full working radio.
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The revolutionary design of the 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser is a good example of the multiple antennas and futuristic look which had a space age feel. The Turnpike Cruiser had two forward roof scoops with antennas poking out, plus a fender mounted antenna.

The customizers followed suit and took creativity of antenna placement to a new level during the ’58 to ’64 rocket ship era.

1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser roof top corners antenna’s were an inspiration for many custom builders.
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A great sample of how much creativity went into some of the space age antenna designs.
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Hot rod/custom 1932 Ford with a unique custom antenna enclosure. (internet photo)
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The era in the late 50’s and the “rocket ship” trend saw the antennas on custom cars become an item to make your car more futuristic. The use of multiple antennas on customs and show cars became popular. The location of these antennas ran the gamut from poking out of scoops in various places on the body to having their own dedicated custom mounting place.


The famous 1957 Ford “Trendero” had wild space age restyled front fenders with cut of sections, scoops, floating headlights bucket’s and horizontal mounted recessed antennas.
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Madame Fi Fi, a custom ’56 Chev built in that ’58 to ’62 era has multiple antennas which accentuate its “rocket ship” theme. Tim Norman has been careful to replicate the authentic placement in his recreation of the well known Seattle show car.

The antennas on Madam Fi Fi (Recreation) in the two forward top scoops actuate the door solenoids.
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The two angled rear aerials set in a custom base give it the “beam me up Scotty” look!
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Roth used lots of antennas in various ways on his custom creations for that “futuristic theme” he was seeking. He had the antennas poking out of scoops in various locations.
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New cars like the 1961 Chevrolet used twin, slanted, rear antennas for a little extra bling in the late fifties to early sixties.

Custom Studebaker with twin aftermarket antennas mounted on double added fins in the late 1950’s.
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As car designs went back to the cleaner, understated look, the antenna was again mounted in a more conventional location.

This era was followed by recessing or frenching the antenna base. Sometimes the customizer used two antennas for a custom effect. Often times the opening for the antennas will be sculpted for an artistic effect

The famous Alexander Brothers created some very well designed Customs in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Always filled with small details, like this recessed and peaked antenna opening shows. They created it for the 1955 Chevy the “Astrian”.
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Perhaps the most popular Custom antenna treatment, flush mounted tunnel, with recessed mounted antenna. As this photo shows the style is even popular on Hot Rods. (internet photo)
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When I built my ’49 Merc in the 90’s I used an electric antenna and filed the head down to match the curve of the fender. Then I painted the top to match the car so it was almost invisible when down.

Currently, when people create traditional customs you will find a variety of these custom antenna techniques. Of course, nowadays no one refers to them as “radio” antennas or aerials. If you look at the satellite antennas on new cars they have no resemblance to the old style.

The digital revolution has changed everything in car sound systems. The old AM radio is indeed a relic from the past, but the traditional custom builder likes the vintage look of them in the dashboard. Although, they may have a digital stereo hidden somewhere in the car.

(Special thanks to Tim Norman for the idea behind this article and for the photos that he shared in the article.)




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Customizing with early Cadillac Tail Fins

CUSTOMIZING CADILLAC TAIL FINS

When the 1948 Cadillac introduced the all new Streamline rear fender Tail Fin it was quickly adapted by the Custom Car World. Adding Cadillac Tail Fins gave your car an instant Classy look.


From the early beginnings of Custom Restyling the high end cars as Packard, La Salle and Cadillac’s have provided key elements to restyle, and upgrade lower end cars as Chevy, Buick and Ford models. Using Cadillac and La Salle grills as shown in our Vertical Custom grille article is a good sample of this. In the early years of Customizing some taillight of these high end cars were used as well, but when the 1948 Cadillac was introduced in late 1947, its totally uniquely streamlined fish tail shaped rear fender-taillight combination was an instant hit among Customiziers. The distinctive Cadillac rear fender shape with its upwards flow towards the end fitted the streamlined shape most Custom Builders were after perfectly.

Early Design sketches for the 1948 Cadillac’s show the first hints of the later approved design of the Cadillac Tail fin that was introduced in late 1947.
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The distinctive Cadillac Tail-Fin shape started to develop in 1941. GM styling vice president Harley Earl took a group of senior stylists, including Frank Hershey to Michigan’s Selfridge Field, to see a remarkable new aircraft. To Lockheed Model 22, better known ad the P-38 Lightning. The P-38 was an imposing and unusual sight, with its cockpit in a narrow pod between two turbo-charged Allison V12 engines, mounted in distinctive twin booms with short vertical fins. It was this line from the nose of the plane to the tail of both booms that would be the inspiration for the 1948 Cadillac lines.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was the main inspiration for the General Motors design team under supervision of chief Harley Earl. Many elements, including the tail fins were eventually incorporated in the production model of the classy and exclusive looking 1948 Cadillac.
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Frank Hershey, then the head of GM’s special projects, developed various design studies, incorporating P-38 themes with rear fenders that had simulated chrome air intakes and stubby fins with integral taillights. In 1945 the Cadillac team had just started work developing the all-new 1948 models. The renderings and scale models that emerged over the next four months from the studio all sported P-38-inspired fenders and Tail-Fins, the fins added a rakish touch to a handsome car. For the 1948 model year, Tail-Fins adorned the rear of Cadillac cars for the first time. The Tail-Fin would grow in popularity for the next decade and a half. They finally reached their apex in 1959.

In the early days when these Caddy parts were still new, complete rear fenders, including taillights and bumpers, were ordered straight from the Cadillac dealers, and later these parts were highly sought after at the local junk yards. Using the complete Cadillac rear fender on some cars, and only cut off rear sections on other cars transformed the customized cars completely. The Cadillac parts added both optical as well as real length to the cars they were used on. Plus it disguised cars even further, making many people think the cars were based on a more expensive Cadillac.

Not only the tail fins of the ’48 Cadillac were highly desired by the late 1940’s Custom builders, the Caddy also offered a wonderful grille, dashboard, steering wheels, side trim and even more popular than the tail fins, the Sombrero Hubcaps.
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The complete ’48 Cadillac Rear fenders assembly looked particularly good when used on ’39-’51 cars that had teardrop shaped fenders to start with. The shape of the Cadillac fenders were perfect for the streamlined Custom Car look. The overall teardrop shape with large radius soft flowing ends fitted perfectly in the molded in look the Custom Builders were after. And the flip upwards tail fin and light were the absolute icing on the cake. Using the Cadillac Tail Fin on your custom meant that your car looked more high end, longer, and lower in the back. All elements Customizers were after.

These are the three type of taillights we are concentrating in this article (Plus the aftermarket units, not pictured here). The ’48-50 units are nearly identical, with an additional chrome trim piece below the lens for the ’49-50 units. The ’51-’53 units have the clear back up light underneath the red lens, with additional chrome trim. The red lens on the this unit is more square on the top. The fender tail is pretty similar for the ’48-53 units, but the rest of the fender changed very much after the ’49 model.
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In this article we will concentrate on the use of the 1948-53 Cadillac taillights and rear fender fins as being used on Custom Cars from the Golden Era from the late 1940’s till mid 1950’s.



Publications

In the late 1940’s early 1950’s Car magazines were blooming, and helped spread the popularity of Customizing. The magazines were mostly published by California based publishers and the cars featured in these early magazines were mostly local CA cars. Motor Trend was one of the early magazines that started to feature Custom Cars, and getting your Custom Car inside, or even on the cover of MT was a big thing. But perhaps even more important than the personal publicity these magazines spread the good looks of these early Custom Cars all over the US. When the Custom Builders started to use the 1948 Cadillac rear fenders and taillights, the magazines soon followed with featured on Custom Cars using this new trend. The February 1950 issue of Motor Trend had the Barris restyled 1947 Buick for Ben Mario on the cover. A really beautiful glamor photo taken an a golf course showing the beautifully restyled Buick in all its beauty, and especially showed off the use of the 1948 Cadillac rear fenders. A new National trend was born.

From 1948 on Custom Car Builders started to use the Cadillac taillights and rear fenders on their Custom Cars. And magazines soon started to feature Custom Cars that used these Classic looking tailfins. Motor Trend Magazine and the Custom Cars Annual from 1951 showed the Cadillac tailfin being used on the magazine covers which helped generate this popular Custom Car trend.
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From the 1951 published Trend Books first Annual Custom Cars #101 booklet.
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The 1951 edition of the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling was the first of the Post publications that mentioned the use of the Cadillac Tail Fin’s and lights. The write up was not illustrated with photos or graphics.
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The April 1952 issue of Motor trend mentioned that the use of Caddy tail fins had become standard Customizing trends!
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Cad Fins on Full Customs

We do not know who it was that used the first ’48 Cadillac rear fender on a Custom Car, or when this was done. But my guess is that as soon as the ’48 Cadillac hit the dealers the minds of the Custom Builders must have started to work overtime. We know that Jesse Lopez already put an order in for a ’48 Cadillac after seeing an advertising ad, even before the car had hit the dealer. The same thing might have been the case with the beautifully designed rear fender/taillights combination on the ’48 Cadillac. One of the early Customs that had a set of Caddy fenders installed was Ben Mario’s 1948 Buick. And already very nice car stock from the factory, but with those long, slightly more bulbous rear fenders with the airplane tail fin the car became absolutely stunning. The soft round edges of the sides of the rear fender when you looked at it from the side, and the long vertical lines when you looked at it from the rear were elements that made the design of these Customs with Caddy Tail-Fins really special.

The Barris Shop used the complete rear fenders of an 1948 Cadillac on Ben Mario’s 1947 Buick Convertible. The earliest photo’s of Ben’s Buick show ’49 California License plates. We are not sure if this was the first Caddy Fin’s used by Barris, but it sure was an early one. The Caddy rear fenders completely changed the cars appeal. Making it look much more high end than the stock Buick ever did. Barris also used a grille, front and rear bumper and set of Hubcaps from the ’48 Cadillac.
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The rear fenders of the Cadillac were longer than most of the rear fenders of the cars they were used on. Sometimes the fenders were moved forward onto the quarter panel, compared to the stock fenders. Other times extra length was added to the rear with molded in splash pans. The Cadillac fenders looked the best if they had been molded to the body, with a nice large radius, making them appear they were carved from warm butter. Usually the fenders needed to be modified a little to fit the quarter panels, and at the back there the rear fenders met the main body often some sheet metal work was required.

Famous Custom Builders the Barris and Ayala brothers had a strong bond with the Cadillac rear fenders. Both shops createdCustom Cars styled in a way the Cadillac Tail-Fin rear fenders would adapt to very good. There are multiple samples of those n this article. The Caddy rear fenders could be used in two different ways. One as a complete unit, and two just the Tail Fin section cut off and installed on the to be restyled car. This last version most often was used on the lower-end GM model from 49-52.

When Don Vaughn later owned the ’47 Buick, some updates and changes were made, including the addition of a set of ’51 Cadillac taillights. The rear bumper remains the 48-49 model.
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This low angle photo of  Don Vaugh’s Barris Buick shows how nice the Cadillac rear fenders and taillights look on the Buick. The full fade away front fenders complement the shape of the rear fenders, and the flow of the Gaylord Padded top and smoothed trunk is accented with the upward flow of the tail-fin. Custom Car design at its very best.
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The Barris shop also installed a set of ’48 Cadillac rear fenders on this ’41 Buick convertible. To make the Caddy fenders work with the Buick body the front section of the fenders, and the rear/top portion of the rear of the Buick had to be reshaped. Sadly there are no photos found of this car as a finished custom, but judging from these in-progress photos it must have looked stunning.
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These photos taken at the Barris Kustoms Atlantic Blvd. shop show how the ’48 Cadillac rear fenders on the ’41 Buick convertible shown above were later modified with round rod to be able to french a set of ’51-53 Cadillac taillight lenses for an even smoother look.
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The Ayala brothers Gil and Al were are also known for their use of Cadillac tail fins on their Custom Car creations. Gil used a set of complete ’49 Cadillac rear fenders and rear bumper on his 1940 Mercury. The full fade away front fenders matched the lines and shape of the Cadillac rear fender beautifully, and the lines of the chopped top, and smooth flowing trunk were nicely accented by the upward flip of the tail-fin. The extra height of the tail-fin, combined with the heavy looking rear bumper made the rear of the Mercury look even lower than it was, perfect for that desired speed-boat look. The Ayala’s used an image of the Cad-fin Mercury on their promotional material for year, helping the popularity of this Custom technique.
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For Hank Griffith‘s 42 Ford, the Ayala’s created a set of full fade away fenders using a set of 1950 Cadillac doors and of course the rear fenders and rear bumper. The rear quarter panels needed quite a bit of work to adapt the longer and flatter ’50 Cadillac rear fenders. The result was a much modern modern looking custom.
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The unknown builder of Hank Rains 1941 Ford also used a pair of Cadillac fenders and taillights to upgrade the Convertible. A set of ’48 Caddy fenders, lights and rear bumper were modified to fit the ’41 Ford body. The new rear fenders changed the look of the convertible dramatically, making it look much longer, lower and classy.
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Harry Westergards used a set of ’48 Cadillac Tail-Fins and lights on Al Laurel’s 1941 Cadillac. The were a perfect companion for the full fade-away front fenders, and brought a bit of extra styling and movement to the rear of this mile long Custom. Harry used a set of ’47 Cadillac bumpers, which suited the car better than the ’48 bumpers would have.
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The lower range GM cars from 49-52 are a natural for an Cadillac rear fender/taillight update. Many aftermarket taillights ended up on those, and in this case the white ’49 Chevy of Vern Gillingsprud had a set of ’49 Cadillac fins and taillights installed.
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The installation of 1949 Cadillac tail-fins and lights on Bill Passavanti’s ’49 Chevy shows how the Caddy components are a natural fit on these cars. The shape of the rather high trunk on these Chevy’s make much more sense with the Cad-fins. Bill’s Chevy  also show that the Caddy lights work very nice without the use of the Caddy bumper as well. All body work on Bill’s Chevy was done by Paul Atwood’s body shop.
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Another gorgeous sample of using the complete ’49 Cadillac rear fenders on a Custom is on the Jim Skonzakes 1949 Buick. Everything on this car is restyled just right, and the Caddy Tail-Fins give the car that extra bit of classy styling and extra optical weight in the back.
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Not all cars looked good with the Cadillac Tail-Fin rear fender taillights option. The otherwise very popular cars to customize, the ’49-’51 Mercury and the flat side bodied ’49-’51 Fords were not as suitable as other brand cars. The already high stock rear fenders looked a bit to high with the addition of the Cadillac fin, also the distance from bottom of the taillight to the bumper was to long to look very elegant. However there have been several Shoebox Fords and ’49-’51 Mercury’s that used the Caddy Tail-Fin.

Carlos Jenkins 1950 Ford coupe is perhaps the best known sample of the flat side Shoebox Fords that used Caddy Tail-Fins. The car was build in 1953 and is till around today.
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Another car that did not lend very well to the Caddy Tail Fin use was the very popular to be customized ’49-51 Mercury. Again the high rear fenders made the Caddy find looks out of place, and they were not enhancing the body lines of the Merc. There are however a still a few customizers that tried to use them on the Merc.
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Doug Thompson ChevyDoug Thompson used a set of 51-53 Tail-Fins and taillights on the 1950 Chevy he restyled for Larry Cochran. Doug’s creation is know as one of the very best uses of Caddy taillights on a the more recently restyled Customs.
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Mild Customs

It is remarkable how many mild Customs ended up with the Caddy Tail-Fin treatment back in the late 1940’s to mid 1950’s. It was an relatively easy modification for a body shop to perform. If the owner of the car had found an wrecked Cadillac on the Junkyard, they would cut off the back of the rear fenders, and take them to the local body shop. Here they would cut the part to fit the fender, weld it to the rear fender, body worked it and matched the paint with the rest of the car. The end result made the car look like a Cadillac from the rear, and very welcome upgrade, for a relative low prize. It makes me wonder how many ’48-’50 Cadillac could be found in your local junkyard back in the early 1950’s that still had their taillights or rear fenders in place.

’48 Cadillac lights and Tail-Fins were adapted to his ’49 Chevy Fleetline, with shaved trunk. This nice on the road picture was taken around 1951. and shows a sample of how many 49-51 Chevy’s where updated with Caddy taillights.
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Master Customizer George Cerny used a set of ’49 Cadillac Tail-Fin’s and lights to update his daily user 1949 Chevy four door.
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Another sample of the use of ’49 Cadillac fins and lights on a ’49 Chevy Fleetline. The factory accessory bumper ends are a nice option to reduced the height from the stock bumper to the now much higher position of the Caddy taillight.
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Kevan Sledge recently came across this 1950 Chevy Fleetline super deluxe with ’51-53 Cadillac Tail Fins installed. The story goes that these taillights were installed when the car was near new by a custom shop in Sacramento. Other than the rear fenders the car is basically stock.
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Cad Fins on Sports Customs

The Cadillac Tail-Fin option was not only popular among the Custom Car crowd. The Sports Car Builders also saw the potential of the Art-Deco shaped Tail-Fin’s and taillights. For the Sports Custom scene the aircraft inspired fins were very welcome adding instant speed and style. Some Sports Car builders took the taillights even a bit further and installed a third find and light in the rear dead center of the cars trunk. Creating even more the feel of an aircraft.

Lon Hurley’s 1946 Cadillac based Sports Custom uses a complete rear fender assembly of an 1949 Cadillac.
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Two unidentified Sports Customs using Cadillac taillights and rear fenders. The Cadillac units gave these Sports Custom instant class and style.
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Perhaps better named obscure Custom than Sports Custom, Warren Dorrill 1949 Ford Coupe “The Shark” used no less than three 1948 Cadillac taillights housed in home made fins. There were quite a few Sports Customs that used a third Cadillac taillight mounted as fin on the trunk.
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The Aftermarket

The Cadillac Tail-Fin design was also well present in the aftermarket speed and dress-up shops. Several companies made bolt on versions to imitate a Cadillac fin, while others created cast brass rear fender fin extensions complete with working taillight assemblies, or even die stamped fins. Options that could be bolted on, or welded for an more finished appearance. There were quite a view options available, since making your lower range car look more like an high end Cadillac was big business in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Companies like J.C. Whitney. Honnest Charlie, Cal Custom, Eastern and many more offered these Cad Type Tail Fin taillight assemblies.

Two different type of aftermarket Cadillac Tail Fin inspired aftermarket items. Most of these were used on either “Mild-Customs”, or “Dress-Up-Customs”.
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1950 Ford with polished aluminum aftermarket fender fins, which were obviously inspired by the ’48 and up Cadillac Tail-Fins. These were bolt on dress-up items available from several aftermarket companies.
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Cad Fins were cast brass finds that could be welded to the rear fenders and came with working Cadillac lookalike taillights. This aftermarket product was very popular, but require some expert tools to be installed, plus a new rear fender paint job. This one was advertised by Auto Accessories Company in Los Angeles.
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The same product was also available from Eastern Auto, as well as others. I have seen many snapshots of all kind of late 40’s and early 50’s cars using these aftermarket parts being used. The shape of the fin was slightly different and the actual taillight slightly smaller than the real Cadillac find and taillights. 
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Just two samples of these molded in brass aftermarket fins and taillights. These two photos also illustrate that the Tail-Fins work better on the Chevy on the left, than they do on the Shoebox on the right.
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Beautiful ’49-’50 Chevy Hard-Top with a set of the brass Cad Fins added. The assembly works particularly well because the rear bumper was dressed up with accessory bumper ends, extending the corners so the long vertical line of the rear of the fender is less obvious. The wide whites and Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps complete the theme.
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Restyling with Cadillac Tail-Fins is still being done today. Even though it might not be as easy to do, as it was in the late 1940’s early 1950’s, when you could just order a set of rear fenders and taillights from the local Cadillac Dealer, or cruise over to the Local Junkyard. I still see the new generation of Custom Car builder look for the Cadillac Rear fenders and taillights and use them on their Period Perfect Customs, or new customs insfluenced by the Custom Car Icons from the past, mixed with new ideas.



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1951 Eastern Auto

 

1951 EASTERN AUTO

 

Eastern Auto Supply has been in business sine 1919. In the third issue of Hop Up, October 1951, the company was subject of the Meet the advertisers article.



1951, Custom Restyling was booming like never before and could be considered to be in the middle of its Golden Years. In August of 1951 the very first issue of Hop Up magazine appeared on the news-stands. Hop Up magazine was an all new magazine created for the Hot Rod and Custom Car enthusiasts. It was published by the Enthusiasts Publications Inc. in Glendale Ca. To help gather more advertisers for the magazine they came up with the idea of creating an article telling a bit more about the advertisers, under the title MEET THE ADVERTISERS. This way the advertisers got some very welcome extra exposure, which made them very happy and they would most likely keep supporting and advertising in the magazine longer.

The October, 1951 issue of Hop Up magazine had a special Meet the Advertisers on the Eastern Auto Supply Co. This company has played a huge role in the lives of many young Hot Rod and Custom Car enthusiast in the US. They made it easier for people to order special parts needed to build your own hot rod or custom car by mail order, or if you were in the Los Angeles area, you could visit their well stocked shop. Especially this last must have been a really special event for many. From the photos that have been used in the Hop Up article we can see that the store was loaded with an incredible amount of Hot Rod and Custom Car goodies. Eastern Auto place their first ad in Hop Up magazine in the October 1951 issue. They would continue to advertise in the magazine for a long time.

CCC-eastern-auto-supply-1951-04The first Eastern Auto Supply ad in the October 1951 Hop Up issue. The ad mentioned the new for 1951 Custom Catalog which you could order for 25 cent.
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The Hop Up Meet the Advertisers Article

(text from the Hop Up article)
Eastern Auto can truthfully claim to be the oldest accessory and custom firm in the business, having been started in 1919, by Joseph Kraus, to feature speed and custom accessories for the model “T” Ford.
Alex, his son, grew up with the business, working there after school and on Sundays. Since graduating from UCLA in 1939, Alex has devoted full time to the store. Eastern Auto pioneered many items no taken for granted in the custom accessories line, such as “bull noses” for Fords, Plymouths etc. (the first being the 1936 Ford) While long schackles and lowering kits had been used for some time on Californian cars, Eastern Auto was the first to apply mass production technique to these items and make their popularity nation-wide, as well as lowering the cost. Also among Eastern Auto’s first are solid hood sides and grille panels, which, in the middle and late ’30s accounted for a good volume of their business.


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Thru the years, this firm has established an enviable reputation for fast service, excellent workmanship and fair dealing. Their guarantee of satisfaction is no idle claim. In addition to their retail store, Eastern maintains a large manufacturing division. There a research department constantly adds to their ever expanding line of custom accessories. Included are such itmes as chrome air-cleaners, chrome wire looms, and chrome dash-boards. In fact, Easthern Auto claims to have one of the most complete line in the business. While government restrictions may temporarily curtail introduction of some new items, Alex assures us that with the lifting of restrictions, they will offer more, better, and newer “automotive goodies” than ever before.


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The 1951 Eastern Auto Catalog

For 25 cents you could get the all new for 1951 Eastern Auto Supply Catalog. The catalog had 40 pages of the latest Custom Car and Hot Rod accessories and speed parts. The company delivered their product by mail in the whole USA. And made many young Car enthusiast very happy.


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The Super Wheel Disk

 

SUPER WHEEL DISK

 

When it came to Custom hubcaps in the early-mid 1940’s you did not to many choices. There was the full moon disk, the Single Bar Flipper hubcap, and there was the Swirl Hubcap. As far as we know this last hubcap was designed by George DuVall. Lets take a closer look at this Custom Accessory Hubcap.


As with a lot of the early – 1930’s and 1940’s – Custom Accessory parts, there is not really any documentation on these parts. A few of these early parts, like for instance the Appleton Spotlights do have some printed documentation, and even some patent drawings to help date the products. But for the hubcaps in this article, the Swirl flipper hubcap, or also called the Super Wheel Disks, we have not been able to find any documentation at all. Not even an advertisement or sales brochure where this hubcap was listed. Perhaps this printed material is out there, or at least some more information can be found. Hopefully this CCC-Article will lead to some more info on this early Custom accessory.


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 What we know about the Swirl Hubcap

We have heard from several sources that this particular hubcap might be based on a design by George DuVall. George is also credited with the Single Bar hubcap, the Custom Car hubcap with ripple disk and a single bar on its center. But for both we have no rock solid proof. It is said that this Swirl stamped hubcap was designed after the Single Bar Flipper hubcap and shows a bit more streamlined design without the separate single bar flipper. This Swirl hubcap was used on some early Customs in and around WWII, but it never became a real popular item as the single bar flipper was. Which is really sad, since the hubcaps looks absolutely gorgeous in combination with a beauty ring on a wide white wall tired steel wheel.


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These Swirl hubcaps do show up at swap meets or on-line auction sites from time to time. And in several cases they were offered as NOS parts still in the original boxes. Another indication that these hubcaps were produced, but for some reason never sold in the amounts the producer  and Speed Shops had expected them to do.

The Swirl hubcaps we have seen were all produced by the California Auto Products company and made to fit 16″ wheels. We have seen two different versions for two styles of 16″ wheels they would fit to. The California Auto Products Company was located at 113 West Ann Street in Los Angeles Ca. There are now modern office buildings on that address. We do not know if the California Auto Products company commissioned George DuVall to design these hubcaps for them. Or perhaps the initiative came from George himself and that he was looking for a company to start producing his designs.


CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-01The box suffered some damage from being stored in a warehouse for many decades. 
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-02Shipping label from the California Auto Products in Los Angeles on the box. 
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-03This set of four Swirl hubcaps was offered on eBay a few years ago. They came in the original box with cut down paper packaging material and had been in storage like this since the mid 1940’s. One of the paper cuttings in the box had the October 1945 date on it. 
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-08This hubcap in this box was designed to fit 16″ GM wheels.
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-07A set of four NOS Swirl hubcaps was found by Kevan Sledge of Sledge Customs in Auburn Ca. This set is also set up for 16″ GM wheels, but the hubcap backs can be easily modified to make sure the hubcaps will fit any kind of wheel.
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-06This photo taken by Kevan shows the nice soft “S”-shape pressed into the hubcaps.
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-04Super Wheel Disk sticker is added to each hubcap on the backside. 
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-11Here is a different back side for the same swirl hubcap. This set was also offered on ebay some time ago and had most likely been used on a car at some point. It was clearly showing some patina.
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-12The side view of the hubcap gives us a nice look at the curved “S” shape. 
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-13This photo dated Spring 1947 shows a 1936 Ford 5-window coupe with a set of Swirl hubcaps. 
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-14Kent Kozera used a set of freshly chrome plated Swirl Hubcaps on his 1938 Ford convertible. On Kent’s Ford they are used without the beauty rings that were more common to use back in the day. (photo from Deadend Magazine)
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CCC-duvalle-super-wheel-disk-15Bryan Rusk took this close up photo of the hubcap on Kent Kozera’s 1938 Ford. This photo shows how subtile and really beautiful this hubcap is.
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In this article we have shown everything we know about these Swirl hubcaps. This is far from a complete story, but we hope that with the help of this article we will be able to gather some more information about these Custom Car Accessories. So, if you have any more info about these hubcaps, when they were first made, designed, and where they were sold, or have perhaps more original photos from back in the day showing these hubcaps. Please email Rik with this info, so that we can add it to this article to further complete the history on this item.

Thank you.
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Identifying the Barris Crests

IDENTIFYING THE BARRIS CRESTS

Preliminary Examination and Detailed Comparison Study of the Barris Kustom Coat of Arms Badge.

 
[box_light]We recently did an article on the Custom Car Icon, the Barris Crest here on the CCC. Sharing all the information we have been gathering about these Crest in the past years. After reading the article CCC-Member and Custom Car and Hot Rod aficionado David E.Zivot compiled a Identifying the Barris Crests article based on his personal collection of Barris Crest. David has been so kind to share this information with us.[/box_light]

 

By David E. Zivot
 
I think it is important because so many fakes are being offered for sale on the internet, eBay, etc, that it would be beneficial to discern between vintage originals and modern remakes. As Rik Hoving so ably discussed, in the feature article on these iconic medallions of distinction, the exact date of introduction might be lost, 1952 being the most probable. To whom the original design ought to be credited, as well as the details of the heraldic design, and its meaning and significance to the Barris family name, I will leave to further research.

I will limit the scope of this exam to a detailed comparison between known original Barris issue pieces, and the newly made or reproductions currently available. This will serve to assist those who are seeking to obtain original examples, and wish to be informed about what to look for. I have deliberately made no reference to exact measurements of the original examples, so as to deter any potential counterfeiters from reproducing a “better” fake. As the original 1950’s issue pieces are quite rare and desirable today, be very cautious when considering a purchase.
 
 

  • Example A – Original early production 1952-58. No manufacturers mark, non-magnetic base metal, high quality finish overall, finely serrated thumbscrew-threaded post attachment.
  • Example B – Early K. McCormick reproduction. Very nice quality overall, correct spacing of mounting studs.
  • Example C – Current modern reproduction as offered by Barris and other vendors. No maker. Lower quality non-magnetic base metal, non-original spacing of threaded attachment post, thumbscrews of inferior quality.
  • Example BAC – Here we can examine the finer points.

 
CCC-barris-crest-identify-aOriginal early production 1952-58. No manufacturers mark, non-magnetic base metal, high quality finish overall, finely serrated thumbscrew-threaded post attachment.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-bEarly K. McCormick reproduction. Very nice quality overall, correct spacing of mounting studs.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-cCurrent modern reproduction as offered by Barris and other vendors. No maker. Lower quality non-magnetic base metal, non-original spacing of threaded attachment post, thumbscrews of inferior quality.
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  1. Original is slightly thicker in construction.
  2. Crest of shield where “Barris Kustom” wording is has very fine almost indiscernible pebbling in background. Copies are deeply and coarsely pebbled.
  3. Cloisonné colors on original are quite distinct. The blue at upper left is lighter and somewhat pearlescent in color. The red sections are also slightly lighter in shade and no pebble background is seen beneath the translucent red. The green on white horizontal stripes at lower right show the most difference. The green has a semi-transparent effect with very fine horizontal lines showing through from the base metal. The small gold dots on the white lines are very tiny on the original. Also note that the gold plating or “wash” on the originals is lighter in shade and more matte in finish.
  4. The “Barris” and “Kustom” lettering on the originals are thicker, in higher relief, and closer together than the remakes. One can also detect the slight differences in the lions, and the swords on the blue section. Also the formation of the green and white horizontal stripes is quite different on the remakes.
    I hope this has been of interest, and perhaps some assistance in helping to identify the authentic Barris Kustom badge, from the merely derivative and counterfeit.

 
CCC-barris-crest-identify-hammersThe original crest “A” has smaller dots as handle of the sword, than both resproductions.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-lion-aThe top right lion on the original crest “A” shows a differnt rear claw than the other two, which have a seperate “nail”. The front claws on the original appear to be crisper overall.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-lion-bAlso on the bottom lion the lion seams to be a bit more crisp on the original “A”, and the top front claw looks to be slightly fatter than on the other two. Overall small differences between the original and the two replicas.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-green-whiteThe dots in the white section on the original crest “A” are a lot smaller than on the two replicas. The surface beneeth the green section on the original “A” appears to have very thin horizontal stripes for extra reflection.
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Addendum:

  • Example D – Original example of the mid-1960’s badge. Those I have encountered have no mounting studs, and show evidence of having been affixed with some kind of adhesive.

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Single Bar Hubcaps Design

SINGLE BAR HUBCAPS

The most popular dress-up item in the early/mid 1940’s was the Ripple-Disk-Single-Bar-Flipper-Hubcap. Many Custom Cars from this era used them, but where did they come from?


The Mysterious Single Bar Flipper Hubcaps

This article is not suposed to be an historic article about the full history of the Single Bar Flipper Hubcap… perhaps one day it will be transfered into that. But for now I just had to create it since CCC-Member Quentin Hall shared a few very interesting concept drawings he had found on-line. Wonderfull illustrations from the later part of the 1930’s. Perfect inspiration for Quentin’s own 1939 Cadillac Project. In one of the drawing Quentin shared I noticed the hucaps. The illustrator James R. Shipley dressed up his 1937-38 La Salle designs with a set of Ripple-Disk-Single-Bar-Flipper-Hubcaps (scroll down to see the illustration). Could this perhaps we the very first design for this all time favorite early style Custom Car accessory hubcap? I had seen several illustration of similar hubcaps before, but never so close to the hubcaps we all know so well from the most popular Custom Car hubcaps from the early to mid 1940’s.


CCC-single-bar-hubcaps-091934 Cadillac V-16, the first year Cadillac used the single bar hubcap. This particular model also has a single bar hubcap mounted on the fender skirt, and the bar is extended as trim on the skirt. Very nice detail. (Photo from www.conceptcarz.com.)
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CCC-single-bar-hubcaps-031937 Cadillac V-16 with factory stock single bar flipper hubcaps. This was the last year Cadillac used this hubcap design.
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So far I have always thought that the Single Bar Flipper Hubcap was developed based on the 1934-1937 Cadillac hubcaps. Those hubcaps were mounted on a smooth outer disk. Some of the very early Customs appear to have used this particular Cadillac hubcaps and have mounted it on some ribbed disks. Later, we are now talking very late 1930’s and 1940, the first set of aftermarket Ripple-Disk Single-Bar-Flipper-Hubcaps appeared on Custom Cars. I have always thought – although I have never been able to find any real evidence for this – it was George Du Vall who was responsible for the first aftermarket Single Bar hubcaps. And I always assumes it was Also George DuVall who “designed” the final shape of these and put them in production. James V. Severino shared the information whcih Julian Doty had told him. He (Juliann Doty) got the casting patterns for the flipper bars from his uncle George DuVall. He told that the disks were spun on a lathe (like a Moon fuel tank). He also mentioned that he doesn’t know what happened to the tooling. Julian thinks while he was away in the service, they might have been destroyed in a WWll scrap drive.


CCC-single-bar-hubcaps-08This 1937 For custom has a 1940 license-plate and used what looks like 1934 Cadillac single bar hubcap on some kind of ribbed outer ring. But are in fact early aftermarket hubcaps designed by George Du Vall.
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CCC-single-bar-hubcaps-06This photo of an 1941 Ford appeard in an article on George DuValle by Mike Bishop. It mentions some of the parts, inluding a set of Ripple-Disk-Single-Bar-Flipper-Hubcaps are all popular dress-up pieces from George DuVall.
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But now with these new Illutrations from 1937 by James R. Shipley I believe that these hubcaps might have been designed by Mr Shipley. Perhaps George DuVall caem up with the same idea at the same time, or perhaps both designers knew each other, or saw each others work. Hard to tell, but I thought this was interesting enough to write a little story about. Obviously these illustrations come from a printed bublication, but so far I have not been able to find out which one.


CCC-single-bar-hubcaps-01James R. Shipley illustration from around 1937 shows his design for the 1937 LaSalle and uses the typical shape of the Riple-Disk-Single-Bar-Flipper-Hubcap.
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CCC-single-bar-hubcaps-02Another James R. Shipley illustration shows another LaSalle design also using the same Riple-Disk-Single-Bar-Flipper-Hubcap.
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CCC-single-bar-hubcaps-04wMagazine product information from 1951. Two different type of Single bar hubcaps were offered then. Several aftermarket companies produced them by then, several types and sizes were available. 
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Appleton Spotlight Restoration

 

SPOTLIGHT SECRETS

 

The Appleton Spotlights have been used on countless 40’s and 50’s Custom Cars. They are not being produced anymore, so if you find a set they most likely need to be restored. Manual Reyes shows you how to!



By Manuel Reyes
The last time I disassembled an Appleton Spotlight, I decided to document every step of what is needed to do this. I took as much photos of the process as I thought would be helpful. These photos should visually explain how these Spotlights go apart and after cleaning/plating, go back together. I spent hours studying these Spotlights to understand how they where put together, before taking them totally apart. Bottom line, they were engineered very well, strong, and basically simple in their electrical connections,which is basically one continous contact, from switch through to the bulb. You have to be careful not to disturb how the electrical works, so you can re-assemble them properly. There were 2 connections for the wires on each end of the spots that could have been just cut off, but then I would have had to lengthen the wires. I decided to melt off the existing solder with a soldering gun and when it came time, I just re-soldered them back.

Most of the parts are connected with screws, but to remove the mounting plates from the buckets you have to drill out the rivets holding them together. When reassembling them I used stainless steel hex machine screws which I polished to a high polish. Looks like chrome when done. You really don’t notice that they’re not rivets. I looked at restored Appleton’s on high quality customs and that’s what they used. Great care should be taken thru-out the process of taking apart the spotlights and I advise to take plenty of pictures, so you’ll know how to put them back together later.


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What stage of taking apart your spots are you at? I have about 40 pictures of my spots as I was tearing them down. All are close-up and many have notes regarding how to attach certain parts. I took all these pictures because I was sure I’d forget how they all went back together after chroming. As it was, it took my buddy to help me re-solder the wires back into their original location. I held all together while he soldered. Also, my buckets needed some dings removed plus block sanding the copper on the buckets several times until they looked good.
Anyhow, let me know where you’re at on the project so I can attach some helpful photos, or I can e-mail all the photos in batches.
I’m helping because I spent too much time restoring my spots and it just pays to help others from what I learned.



 The Appleton Spotlight

Lets first take a look at the assembled Spotlight before we take it apart. As you can see below, we took plenty of pictures from all angles which we can refer to when its time to get the cleaned up, repaired or chrome plated parts assembled again.


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CCC-installing-spotlights-27-WThis diagram is from a less popular Appleton S-551 series, but the main components on the spotlight, handle and shaft are the same as the more popular S-112 and S-552’s.
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 Taking apart the handle

CCC-appleton-restoration-28The plastic handle screws of with two screws. One at the end of the handle, and one on top of the metal part. (The screws are not visible in this picture), but the diagram above shows you which two screws need to be remove so that the handle can be taken off.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-01With the plastic handle and the metal section removed the toothed end of the shaft, that enables the movements can be seen.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-02A small screw removes the plastic light switch from the metal handle. The small screw removed the top portion of the switch. A second screw holds the actual metal switch, once this is removed the whole unit comes off.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-03All the parts removed from the handle. The clip on the bottom left holds the electrical wire to the shaft.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-04The other side of the handle shows the spring loaded screw.
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Removing the shaft 

CCC-appleton-restoration-20This photo shows the handle parts at the bucket side of the shaft.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-16The shaft holds the rack which is responsible for the movement of the bucket when the handle is turned. The rack is the top part on this photo, including the electrical wire.
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Removing the bucket handle

CCC-appleton-restoration-10On the left side of the bucket handle you can see the screw that needs to be removed. This one is spring mounted so be carefully.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-09When taken fully apart these should be the parts you have removed. Important is to see where the wire goes thru the ring.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-05The toothed screw on the left is turned when the toothed end of the shaft it moved using the handles on the other end of the shaft. 
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Removing the bucket

CCC-appleton-restoration-12The metal ring around the bucket, holding the glass in place, is attached with a small screw. The ring is not shown in these photos, but can be seen in the complete dissembled spotlight photo at the end of the article. The light bulb and reflector can now be popped out.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-13The end of the wire to the bucket handle and light bulb are soldered. Best is to remove the solder with a soldering iron at this point.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-11The brass screw at the base of the reflector back side hold the light bulb socket in place.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-27The bucket bracket is the only part that is pop riveted to the bucket. These pop rivets need to be drilled out carefully to be able to remove the bracket. The light bulb socket is removed from the reflector unit. This photo shows the section of the bracket that is held against the bucket.

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CCC-appleton-restoration-26To create a actual working set of spotlights it is very important that all parts need to be cleaned, otherwise the copper contacts might not make contact.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-25This photo shows the whole Spotlight completely taken apart.
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CCC-appleton-restoration-36Here is a photo of a set of mine when I got them back from the chrome platers. Plenty of tiny parts that can get lost during the process. I gave the plater a picture of mine all torn apart, with each part clearly showing. This way we could verify I got all the pieces back.
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Addition from May 21, 2015.

David Wolk, another CCC-Member shared with us that when he restored a set of Appleton S-552’s for his 1950 Mercury, he found a way to replace the rivets on the base of the buckets.
This is what he mentioned:

I’ve recently been restoring a set of 552 appletons and I’ve struggled in my mind with replacing the rivets. I bought rivets but I was afraid of damaging or dinging the re-chromed housings. A couple weeks ago I found this website Restoration Stuff they sell smooth headed stainless steel screws that look like rivets. See page 40 of their catalog. They call them threaded rivets. I purchased #4-40 rivets (screws) with lock washers, flat washers and enough nuts to double nut the screws. I spent less than $10 and don’t have to worry about damaging anything.


IMG_4619This is how the smooth headed stainless steel screws look like from the inside. David used two nuts per screw to make sure they would not come off unwanted.
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IMG_4617These two photos show how the smooth headed stainless steel screws looks like from the outside…. very nice!
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Check out the CCC-Article one how to install Spotlights from even more information.

We have also created a CCC-Forum post about how to install the Appleton Spotlight.
This is THE PLACE to find more information, or ask any question about the installation, restoration or any other questions about the Spotlights.

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