History of the Early Custom Car

 

HISTORY of the EARLY CUSTOM CAR

 

For as long as there have been automobiles they have been modified for personal taste. This evolved in the 1930s to a style we now know as Customizing. Part One the History of the Early Custom Car. The 1930s



Early Custom Cars

An article about the early history of the Custom Car is something I wanted to do for a long time. I’m a huge fan of the early Custom Cars, and love to read, see and hear about the early days, how it all evolved into the golden years of Customizing of the later part of the 1940’s up to the mid 1950’s. This history of the Custom Car is not an exact science, there is no clear mark in history that marks the beginning, no real first car that can be marked as the start. In fact there are even very few photos from this early era, making it very hard to visualize. There were no car related magazine to write about the scene, and latest trends. And especially this latest made this era so interesting. Because there were no written rules the early Custom Cars are very diverse, and very creative until the style was set for the Custom Car as we know it.

I personally feel that it all really started when the factory cars were designed with more rounded fenders, from around 1928 and up. The lines on these cars were more suited for the restyling we consider Customizing. I like to call all 1948 and older created Custom Cars Early Style Custom Cars. Main motivation for this cut off date is that in 1948 the first Hot Rod and Custom Car shows were held, plus Hot Rod Magazine and Motor Trend magazine started year. Magazines that would spread the word and especially photos of Custom Cars around the state, and changing the scene for ever.

This article will be long, at least two long parts, and more likely even more. In it I will highlight some of the key players that have been crucial in the early years of the history of the Custom Car. Pioneer Custom Restylers are George DuVall, Frank Kurtis, Jimmy Summers, Don Lee, Harry Westergard, Les Crane, Link Paola, but also coachbuilders as Dutch Darrin, Bohman & Schwartz, and upholstery specialist Glen Hauser who is responsible for the Carson Padded Top all have had a huge impact on the history of the Custom Car. This first part will cover the history up to the end of the 1930’s.

A beautiful sample of a late 1930’s created Custom restyled in a way very typical for the era. Sharp styling and much smooth and streamlined than how it came from the factory. This beautiful 1937 convertible shows a¬† chopped windshield, lowered convertible top, smooth hood sides, removed running boards with frame covers added, large rock shields on the rear fenders and low mounted headlights. Wide white wall tires and ripple disk single bar flipper hubcaps.
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We have no written or photographic proof of when the first, what we now consider, custom car was created. In general we can say that as long as there have been cars, there have been people who wanted to personalize, customize these vehicles. Early on specialist body shops, most likely with a heritage in the horse carriage bodies, started to specialize in the creation of hand crafted bodies for chassis from the major car builders, and especially the more exclusive brand cars were becoming more popular to be chosen by these special carossaria companies.

Bodies designed by in house designers, who would create bodies tailor-made for each individual client. Often inspired more or less by cars build by European designers. We can say that these cars were the first Custom Cars. However when we think about Custom Cars, we think about cars that have left the factories as completed cars, and which then have the body, sometimes the frame, and interior modified to; A fit the clients specific needs, B improve over the factory stock appearance, or C appear more luxurious, or classic than the stock vehicle it was based on.

1933 Cadillac Aerodynamic V16 Coup√© was displayed in the GM pavilion at the 1933-34 “Century of Progress” Chicago Worlds Fair. The prototype shows many elements that would later become popular Custom Restyling touches. Details as small windows with low top, hints to¬† a inset license plate in the trunk. Ribbed bumpers, single bar flipper hubcap, teardrop shaped fenders.
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What is a Custom is of course always an individual opinion, there are certain rules, but even those rules can vary from one person to another. What we call Custom Car has to do with a certain look, a feel, and most of the times it needs certain body modifications, as in updated grilles, chopped windshield or top, to create. More streamlined, or longer and lower look. Smoothed body elements, as hood sides, hoods, running boards, fenders. New hand made elements as grilles, bumpers, lower convertible or padded tops. One of kind hubcaps, white wall tires, modified, lowered position of the headlight and or taillights. Lowered suspension. Very often these cars created early on, might appear more closer to original design studies made for the production models, then how the eventual approved production model looked like. I have heard stories that a some of the early car designers drove customized production models they had developed them-self. Customized to come closer to the dream images they had in mind before the production department changed these designs so they could be mass produced.

These early stages of the history of the Custom Car took largely place in California. All the elements were just right for this to happen. The year round good weather made the use of convertible car, which were used for most of the early Customs a natural choice. The Hollywood movie Branch made sure there was enough money, and enough people looking for individuality, even with their automobiles. The year round good weather made sure the roads were in better shape than in most other States, give spending money on your car much more sense. But with most of the automobile industry based in Detroit this area of the US as well as others, had a large car scene, and early stages of Customizing took place there as well but the scene was by far not as wide spread and large as it was in California. In the early 1930’s Edsel Ford had the in-house designer E.T. “Bob” Gregorie design a few Custom Roadsters after Edsel had been inspired by coachbuilt cars on his Europe trip.

 

The Custom Car movement as we know it really started in the early 1930’s but at least a decade before that the movement was set in motion. In the late 1910’s the rich and famous demanded more elusive cars than the cars available from Detroit. They found their way to several of the Los Angles local Custom Coachwork companies. Who could create more streamlined and luxurious bodies that would set them apart from everything else on the roads. It would help give them even more status than they already had.

One person in particular that had a lot to do with the car styling in the 1920’s was Harley Earl who started working in his fathers Los Angels based carriage works in 1918. Later this company evolved into Earl Automobile Works. Harley became chief designer of the huge company that was capable of creating anything from Roman chariots, sturdy airplane fuselages, and custom automobile bodies. Harley Earl understood how important good clientele was for the business so he spend after hours and weekends at many of the Hollywood parties making friends in the movie and music world. Some of who would become future clients and commissioned Harley Earl with designing automobiles to fit their desires.

Earl Automobile Works on the left and Don Lee’s Cadillac LaSalle on the right. Two locations that had an great impact on the style of Custom created Cars in the 1920’s and 30’s.
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Don Lee owned a large Cadillac Dealer and Body Works building on San Francisco‚Äôs Van Ness Avenue and besides that he owned another 45 dealerships, including the famous Hillcrest Cadillac, in Beverly Hills. He later bought the Earls‚Äô family company, and renaming it Don Lee Coach & Body Works. Harley Earls now worked for Don Lee, and with Lee’s fast network the shop produced around 250 custom bodies per year during 1920s. Many of these went to the famous movie actors and singers of the time. Working with Harley Earl in this company was a young Frank Kurtis who learned the trick of the trade here. Around 1927 Harley Earl left for Detroit to work for GM here he would influence the styling with his Californian Custom Car styling sense. Frank Kurtis moved on and started his own body shop where he would create early Customized Cars as well as the race cars that would make his famous in the race car world in later years.

A few of the special cars Harley Earl designed in the 1920’s. This type of Custom created cars would eventually lead into the creation of the first Custom Cars as we know them.
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Gordon Buehrig Model A Ford

On September 27, 1930, Gordon Buehrig (automobile designer responsible for the Auburn and Cord designs) got his 1930 Ford Model A Cabriolet at the Ford Motor Co.’s Indianapolis factory branch. The car was Equipped with 8-ply General white sidewalls, with dual side-mount spares, a rumble seat and auxiliary trunk rack, Buehrig’s Briggs-bodied Model A (model 68B) would have cost $645, not including the optional Ford accessories ($70) and six 19‚ÄĚ x 5‚ÄĚ General tires ($30).

The very next day Augie Duesenberg’s men commenced its reconstruction at the Duesenberg Bros. race car shop. Buehrig had a lot of changes in store for the car and had already created a full-sized body draft. He radically re-designed the car’s coachwork ‚Äď chopping the top by 3‚ÄĚ, extending the hood by 4‚ÄĚ and fitting it with a convertible Victoria top. Buehrig’s blind-quarter top preceded the ones constructed by Dietrich, Waterhouse and Rollston by several years.
The workmen removed the body and convertible top and discarded the rear-half, forom the ‘B’ pillar back. The cowl’s integral dash/firewall and toeboard were carefully cut out, and re-attached 4.5‚ÄĚ forward of their original position in front of the ‘A’ pillar. A new extended hood was also constructed that fit over the 4.5‚ÄĚ metal addition to the cowl assembly.

Next step was to build the framework for the rear of the body per the full-sized body drafts, put it together and install the carefully-sized hand-hammered aluminum panels. Buehrig retained the folding ‘B’ pillar which was shortened at the bottom by 3‚ÄĚ – this allowed the original linkage and windshield header to be used. From the ‘B’ pillar back, an all-new bows and folding top linkage had to be constructed from the templates included on Buehrig’s body drafts. The headroom lost by chopping the top was regained by dropping the floor and footwells several inches below their stock location, which provided a most comfortable driving and seating position. The rear seat was similarly lowered by notching the bottom of the seat so that it cleared the driveline.

Gordon Buehrig’s 1930 Model A Custom created in 1930.
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Once the reconstruction of the coachwork was completed the Model A moved across the street to Duesenberg’s paint shop where the body painted by Duesenberg’s finest in 3 different shades of DuPont lacquer: the body (including dash and steering wheel) in Light Capucine; the fenders and belt molding in Dark Capucine; and the wheels and pinstripes, Flame Capucine.
Buehrig designed a special set of seat cushions for the car based on the same Marshall Knockland design typically used on the Model J.

All of the work at Duesenberg was done after hours with Harold T. Ames permission and Buehrig paid the workers out of his own pocket. Completed on December 21, 1930 the car, which he christened ‘Baby’ attracted attention wherever it went, Buehrig recalling: ‚ÄúThe first day I drove it down town to go to lunch I parked it in front of the L.S. Ayres Company. After lunch, when I returned, there was a crowd around the car extending into the street to the streetcar tracks. A policeman was trying to clear away the crowd. He was happy to see me arrive and solve his dilemma.‚ÄĚ





Aftermarket
Another important player in the later part of these early years is the starting aftermarket companies the Los Angeles based Eastern Auto started by Joseph Kraus in 1919 was the most popular. The company started to develop parts for the model T Fords, Parts to help people keep their cars running through the rough depression years. Around the mid to late 1930’s, when business improved and demand for individuality increased the company started to produce specialize products for customizing production cars. Trim pieces to decorate the fenders and running boards, special grille moldings, solid hood sides for the Model to ’36 Fords, fender skirts, and later more and more hop up parts were developed and marketed, specifically aimed towards customizing cars. Different styles of ripple disk hubcaps, inspired by the Cadillac knock off hubcaps were also among the first items they developed especially for the Custom Car enthusiast.

Beautifully restyled 1937 Chevy Convertible with padded top, solid hood sides, removed running boards, narrow grille, spotlights, and teardrop skirts parked in front of the Eastern Auto Supply Co. store for this promotional photo.
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Frank Kurtis

Frank Kurtis born in Crested Butte, Colorado, January 25, 1908. He developed his love for cars in his fathers blacksmith shop in Pueblo, Colorado. The shop was doing both horse and buggy repairs as well as the new automobiles. In 1922 the Kurtis family moved to Los Angles were Frank found a job with Don Lee Cadillac. In the early 1930’s Frank started his love of designing and building race cars in the 4 car garage behind his home in Los Angeles. He built several Custom Cars and race cars throughout the 1930’s. His Custom Cars as well as the grille design work on the race cars was trend setting. Frank Kurtis worked on several of the famous So Calif Plating Co delivery trucks, creating some of the unique parts on the car. Later on in his life Frank concentrated mostly on race car orientated cars.

Frank Kurtis around 1950.
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In 1933 Frank rented a section in the Paramount Auto Top Shop where he created some of his early customs including this 1931 Ford roadster with chopped raked windshield and custom grille and the 1929 Oldsmobile sedan with custom grille. The humble beginnings of Custom Restyling.


[divider]A few more samples of Frank Kurtis created early Customized automobiles. Top left, 1929 Model A Ford Roadster with modified Hudson fenders, stretched wheel base, Woodlite headlights, chopped windshield and the characteristic Frank Kurtis grille, Mottom left, 1931 Model A with Kurtis grille and modified fenders. Top Right,  beautiful speedster based on LaSalle parts with raked windshield and of course the typical Kurtis styled grille. and below right the same Model A as in the photo above, now with the top up and another model A with stretched wheelbase longer hood and huge Cadillac headlights.
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Frank Kurtis also did the work on the Atlas Chrome Special race car, with a wonderful restyled chrome plated front end. As well as the work on the Atlas Chromium Plating Service 1931 Dodge Panel tow-truck with modified front with 1933 Ford grille and reshaped fenders around 1933.
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Another Atlas Chrome Plating truck was restyled by Frank Kurtis based on an 1929 Ford to witch a set of 1934 Ford fenders, hood and grille was added. The truck featured a home made cast V-windshield and hand shaped top. Frank also created uniquely styled bumpers obviously influenced by the coachbuild creations from the early 1930’s.
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George DuVall designed this So-California Plating Co. truck based on an ’31 model A cabin back in 1933. New skirted fenders were added, and a beautiful chrome plated grille designed and incorporated with the modified hood. Cast slightly v-shaped windshield and modified v-ed bumper. Notice that the windshield on this truck is more upright than the one below.
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So-California-Plating-Co. Truck Restyled by George DuVall and Frank Kurtis, based on an 1932 Ford pick features custom made grille, v-windshield, skirted fenders, custom bumper and many other custom made components. Stunning looking truck back in around 1934 when it was created.
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1935 Ford So-California Plating Co truck

This is the one car that set the standard, that had a huge impact on many car builder and car enthusiast. It is perhaps the most important car in the Custom Car history. The car was commissioned by Leonard K. DeBell, owner of the So California Plating Co. in Los Angles. The company already had owned several restyled pick up trucks that were used to haul to be plated and freshly plated parts from all over Los Angles. The previous cars were designed by George DuVall who started working for DeBell in 1933, and created together with Frank Kurtis.

DeBell had bought a brand new 1935 Ford phaeton which he planned to rebuild into a classy delivery truck. Completely restyled just as the previous cars, but the design George DuVall had come up for this one was so completely different from the previous truck. The design sketches George had made looked absolutely stunning, with very streamlined Art-Deco shapes incorporated into the truck, including a very large padded style top mounted on a heavily angled back v-windshield. To be able to make the truck practical with the new top on it the frame had to be lengthened 12 inches to assure freshly chromed bumpers could be stalled behind the front seat cargo section.

The one car that, in my eyes, was the real start of the Custom Car movement as we know it. The So-California Plating Co. 1935 Ford designed by George DuVall and created by DuVall, Kurtis Chad Schultz, George Thomas Top Shop and Jimmy Summers. Oh and this one also has a set of Woodlite headlamps… hidden behind the front fenders, just showing the small opening.
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George and his¬†friend Frank Kurtis did most of the work on the car. And possibly Jimmy Summers, an other Custom Car pioneer, also worked on the car. The team incorporated more pleasantly looking ’36 Ford fenders, lengthened the frame, the body, created the V-Windshield, the first one of the famous DuVall windshields, the unique chrome plated grille and all other work needed to create this Iconic Custom Car. The beautiful padded top to fit the longer body and v-windshield was created by the George Thomas Top Shop¬†in Hollywood.

The long low padded top with curved openings and angled windshield combined with the long horizontal chrome lined of the custom chromed plated grille created an unique look that has inspired many Custom Car builder ever since it was created. There have been more very nicely restyled cars before this one, but on this 1935 Ford designed by George DuVall is all came together, and made sense. A new style of car was born. The Custom Car.


This is a really fantastic photo taken around 1936-37. It shows the ’32 Ford based So California Plating truck parked next to the ’35 Ford based one, next to an early 20’s car. It shows how much streamlined the ’35 Ford based car is, and how much impact this car must have had when it was driving around Los Angles, where the roads were filled with 20’s and early 30’s boxy cars. My guess is that many young car enthusiast car guy got very inspired by this DuVall/Kurtis created Custom Car.
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George DuVall

George H. DuVall¬† was born on August 19, 1913 and passed away on February 12, 1999. George was inspired by automobiles from a very young age, and when he grew older his dream was to be an automobile designer just like his idol Harley Earl.¬†After graduation from Hollywood High School he enrolled at UCLA to study mechanical engineering, taking a part-time job as a delivery truck driver with the Southern California Plating Co. (located at 4444 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. ‚Äď later 3434 San Fernando Rd., Los Angeles) to help with his expenses. In 1933 he dropped out of college to start work for Southern California Plating full time. George DuVall was hired to design and develop new chrome plated aftermarket parts for the company, and as part of this he had already designed and build several company pick up trucks.

George DuVall personalized his own daily drivers, one example being the Cragar-powered 1929 Model A roadster pictured below which impressed Leanoard DeBell a lot.¬† The car was constructed based on George his design’s by Don Leomazzi’s Service Auto Body Works, 1676 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, Calif., a small body and paint shop that did excellent work.

George DuVall’s personal driver in the mid 1930’s was this heavily restyled 1929 Model A Ford. According the Flying V’s article by¬† Dean Batchelor in R&C magazine the car was restyled by the Don Leomazzi’s Service Auto Body using George’s designs. Beautiful restyled skirted fenders, solid hood sides, ’32 Plymouth grille, Woodlite headlights and DuVall created the hubcaps, bumpers and unique V-windshield himself.
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DuVall’s boss, Leonard K. DeBell, liked the custom touches George incorporated into his own cars and gave him an opportunity to do some creative design work at the company. A large part of So. California Plating’s business was constructing and plating midget race-car grills and accessories. To advertise the business, DeBell Custom Restyled his delivery vehicles, outfitting them with whitewall tires, wheel discs, V-windshields and custom chrome grills and bumpers all designed by George DuVall. His front-end treatment on So. California Plating’s 1931 Ford pickup has been credited with inspiring the grille found on the 1933-34 (Hudson) Terraplane.

Two people that played a huge roll in the early history of the Custom Car are Plating Shop owner Leonard DeBell (on the left) and George DuVall. George worked many years for DeBell creating unique one off items like the grille he is holding, complete cars, but also mass produced aftermarket parts like the Hollywood hubcap and frame covers for cars with removed running boards.
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Some of the early 1930’s car designs George DuVall created when he was around 18 years old. These early designs already show some of the Custom Car styling ideas George would later incorporate into his own personal cars as well as the So Calif Plating trucks.
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Designs from around 1935 show several ideas for the ’35 Ford based SoCali Plating truck, and well as a very stylish boat tail shaped speedster. All designs that we have seen being incorporated in Custom Cars in later years.
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Influenced by the designs of Harley Earl, George began creating custom bumpers and grilles (for 1930s Fords) he already had been working on a few of the company truck but the real deal came when and in late 1935 he was put in charge of customizing the Plating Co.’s new delivery vehicle, a 1935 Ford Phaeton with 1936 Ford front end added. The car featured an 12 inch extended wheelbase filled-in rear doors and a flat rear floor which was accessed by a lift-up rear hatch constructed.

A all new Custom grill for the delivery car was constructed out of flat brass stock by DuVall’s friend, Frank Kurtis. George designed and mastered the first of the famous 5-piece cast bronze ‘DuVall windshield’, originally this car, the windshield was later made available for the public as well. George developed many aftermarket Custom and Hop up items, some marketed by the SoCal Plating company, others produced and offered for sale by other companies. Including the products he designed for the aftermarket were the famous ribbed single bar flipper hubcaps (Hollywood hubcaps)

DuVall also created the logo for the Hollywood Wheel Disc Shop, 116 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, a firm that manufactured aftermarket Cadillac Sombrero knock-offs known as Hollywood Wheel Discs, which were memorable for their spinning ‘S’ logo. He also designed the famous the Eddie Meyer logo.

Beautiful Custom bodied V-windshield roadster designed in the later parts of the 1930’s.
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Movie Cars

In the 1930’s there were several cars designed especially for to be used in a movie. Special Custom built cars, that had to help sell more movie tickets. Exclusive Sporty looking luxury cars, sometimes with complete hand made bodies. These specially built cars had a huge audience, not only where they visible in the movies., they most of the time were also used in promoting the movie, and were often featured in the news paper’s reporting about the movie or in a number of magazines.

Emile Diedt created this unique car for the movie Mr Cinderella that came out in 1936. Unique pontoon  shaped fenders that would become very popular on factory cars, as well as on custom cars in the years that would follow. Notice the unique pattern on the white wall tires, and the ribbed hubcaps with small smooth center caps.
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Couachbuilders Bohman & Schwartz used a 1936 Buick Roadmaster chassis with a complete custom made body to create the streamlined car used in the 1937 movie Topper. After filming the Buick was for sale and was bought by the Gilmore Oil Co. who used the car for promotional purposes for many years.
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The late 1920’s and early to mid 1930’s Auburn boat-tail speedsters (Gordon Buehrig) have had an impact in the looks of the Custom Car for sure as well.
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Jensen from the UK used the ’36 Ford as a base for their beautiful 4-seater custom roaster. These two were imported to the US by Percy T. Morgan to try and market them to the Californian people. The inset photo shows movie actor Clark Gable posing with one of the Jensen Fords, a car he never owned, but it was used for promoting the car as movie actor style car for some time. The long low nose, and curved fenders gave the car a very much Custom Look in 1937.
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Phantom Corsair

The Bohman & Schwartz created Phantom Corsair was designed and ordered by Rust Heinz in 1936. The car was finished in 1937, and the streamlined super low appearance for sure has had a huge impact in the history of the Custom Car. Photos and stories of the car have been published ever since it was first created. And its image must have been seen by many car enthusiast during the 1930’s and 40’s when the Custom Car style ‚Äď as we know it ‚Äď was developed. The Phantom Corsair was low, long looking evil with its super small windows, and had a super smooth all molded body with a minimal amount of chrome. Seeing the Phantom Corsair on the road surrounded by mostly boxy vehicles in the later part of the 1930’s must have been quite an experience.

What is really interesting on the Phantom Corsair is that the car had a few styling features designed in 1936 and created in 1937, that would become very popular features in Car Customizing, but not for almost a decade later. The Phantom Corsair had no conventional door handles to open its doors, but rather small push buttons on the outside (behind the door b-pillars) and on the dashboard to electronically open the doors. This feature later become a very popular Custom feature. The other new feature that the Phantom Corsair had that would become traditional in Custom Restyling was the one-piece smooth molded in look.


Perhaps the first Restyled car that was “Custom Car low” was the Phantom Corsair designed by Rust Heinz in 1936 and created by Bohman & Schwartz on the chassis of the front wheel drive 1936 Cord. The body, interior and everything else was custom made by B&S. The headlights were inspired by the popular Woodlight¬† units, but were actually hand made especially for the Phantom Corsair.
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Bohman & Schwartz also created this 1937 Lincoln Zephyr Custom for Marquise Hachisuka, a talented mechanical engineer, who designed the car himself. The car featured longer fade-away style front fenders, solid removable rear fenders, removed running boards, filled in rear quarter windows, smooth hood sides and heavily modified front. The headlights were recessed into the front fenders. On the edge of Coachbuilding and Custom Restyling.
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Woodlite headlights

I have noticed that quite a few of the very early Custom Restyled cars used the distinctive Woodlite headlamps. This streamlined polished aluminum headlight gave any car a more modern, futuristic upscale feel. Not everybody appreciates the look of these lights, but especially back in the 1930’s and early 1940’s these lights were very popular on Coachbuild as well as Custom Restyled cars. The woodlite headlamps were originally designed by William G. Woods in the late 1920’s (patent was applied for in 1926).

Unique Custom Restyled Roadster with metal lift off hard-top and Woodlite headlights was photographed in San Fransisco in the early 1940’s but the unidentified car was beautifully restyled in the 1930’s.
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A few more samples of early Custom Restyled cars from the 1930’s using the Woodlite headlights.
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The Carson Top Shop

Besides several pioneer Car builders being responsible or the early start of Custom Restyling, there is one other influence that has plaid a huge part in the style and development of the Custom Car. The California Padded top. Also named French Tops, or perhaps the most accurate name. The Carson Padded Top (or short Carson Top).


Carson Top ShopThis photo of the Vermont Los Angles shop where Amos Carson started to work using the front section of the Vermont Auto Works shop was taken in the mid 1930’s. The window reads that Tops (convertible) are $10.-. The French tops advertised on the left window were more, but we do not know how much more. The shop window also shows that the shop already did seat covers as well at this time. (lower left corner of the window)
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In 1930 Glen Houser started to work for Amos Carson in his Car Top Shop  Glen had a soft spot for customizing and started to add custom touches to the model T and A’s that would be at the shop. Special convertible tops and other details, Glen Houser became a very important asset to the shop. And in 1935 he unknowingly gave himself a icon status when he designed and developed the first smooth non-folding, padded top. He named it the French top, since it was styled after the looks of some of the metal padded topped cars from French created coachbuild cars. According the stories the first car for which Glen designed this padded top was a 1930 Model A roadster.

Since then the shop has been creating hundreds of these tops. In the early days, a lot of the to be customized car were based on convertibles and roadsters. They were relatively easy to chop to create the desired low profile. And the best way to do it was with a super smooth padded top from the Carson Top Shop.


History of the Early Custom CarThe narrowed stock grille on this early 1936 Ford makes the car look taller. The smooth hood sides, chopped windshield and matching padded top, single bar flipper hubcaps, skirts, rather high stance, and door handles left in place. All very characteristic for the early Custom created when the car was as good as new.
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Typical look of an early style Custom Convertible with chopped padded top. this 1936 Ford had its windshield chopped a few inches, and a matching white covered padded top added. The hood sides are aftermarket smooth units, the stock grille was narrowed, and new grille side panels added. The ride height was practically stock back then and the rear wheels are the factory stock units without the ripple disc single bar hubcaps used on the front. The door handles are left in place.
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Clean and crisp
Characteristic for the early Style Custom Cars is their crisp, almost factory stock look. In early Custom Restyling the molded in look created by welding body components together to create a single piece looking body had not been invented, or at least was not popular yet. Fenders could have been modified in shape, so were hood sides and grille surrounds, but they rarely were welded to the body. They were left as separate parts, and sometimes even painted a different body color, just as you could order on factory stock models, for a more individual feel. This crisp feel required good craftsmanship, ill fitting panels could not be made look better by hiding the uneven panels with lead feathered out into the next panel. The fact that most early Customs retained their door handles and most of the trim helped with this crisp look.



Creative Restyling

With the Frank Kurtis and George DuVall restyled 1935 Ford based So Cali Plating truck in 1936, the style for the what we now consider Early Custom Style has been set… more or less. The heavily restyled truck traveled the streets of Los Angles on a daily base, and could be seen at the race car tracks around town during the weekends and evenings. Leaving an ever lasting impact on many young car enthusiast. During this time, the late 1930’s and up into the mid 1940’s, there were no magazines that covered this type of vehicle. The people where where inspired by these new Custom Car’s could not stare at magazine photos of their favorite cars like people could do starting around 1948.

The result was that the car created in this early stages of the Custom Car history were very creative. The style had been set, with the chopped windshield, and padded top, and overall streamlined looks of the So Cal Plating truck and some other cars created during the same period. The car builders and car owners at the time were very creative and innovative in incorporating this style into their own Custom creations.

1937 Ford sedan turned into a chopped three window coupe with a swoopy padded top. With the running boards removed, the car took on a completely new, much more sportive, perhaps European look. Creative restyling very distinctive to the early years of Custom Restyling.
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The US was slowly recovering from the recession and people started to spend some more money on cars. Second had cars were relatively cheap and where perfect to be used in restyling. Hourly rates were still very low, making it possible for a car owner to have the local show spend a lot of hours on the cars. Where the first Custom Restyled cars were mostly based on convertibles and roadsters, which were much easier to chop, builder now started to experiment with chopping the top of coupes and even sedan’s. It resulted in a wide range of uniquely restyled cars, perhaps not always the most graceful, but incredibly inspiring and unique for sure. These early years of Custom Restyling are to me the most interesting years of the history of the Custom Cars. Especially because a lot of the cars were so fresh in incorporating the Custom Style.

Very interesting early Custom from the Found Film Society archive. This photo was taken at Southern Speedway in 1938. Model A Ford with more modern, perhaps hand shaped more rounded fenders with skirts both front and rear, removed running boards frame cover, fender mounted molded in headlights. The whole nose section looks to be custom made with most likely a hand made grille, perhaps inspired by the International truck grilles of that era. 1932 Ford bumpers, and a split boat style hand made windshield. The name on the door mentioned that the car was created by “Ran’s Auto Works.” So far I have not been able to find out anything else created by this shop, anybody knows more?
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The majority of the early Customs can be considered mild customs. Street Customs is what they were named in later years. Restyled with a fresh look, to make the every day car look more appealing, more luxurious. Without the “benefits” of published magazines and catalogs of after market parts.¬† On some of these early Customs it was clear that the creativity played a huge part, everything could be made back then, if you had the time, and a few extra dollars to spend on it.

This ’37 Ford Coupe was turned into a pull pick up for the midget race track. During the process the car was also restyled with extended headlights, smooth hood sides, and ear;y aftermarket hood trim.
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Custom Restyled 1936 Ford 5-window photographed in 1938. The car featured removed running boards, modified fenders, frame cover, teardrop skirts, long teardrop chrome plated headlights, ripple disc and small smooth moon hubcaps on wise white wall tires. High stance and an single pin-stripe highlighting the cars’ belt-line.
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Pinstriping
In the mid to late 1950’s pinstriping your Custom Car was the latest rage. Nearly every Custom had some kind, but most of the time a lot, of pin-striping going on. Wild bold pinstriping with curly effects not necessarily enhancing the looks of the car, or at least not enhancing the carefully designed body work.In the earlier decades of the Automobile pinstriping was also used a lot on the cars, it was a style inherent from the horse carriage era.¬† Here the pinstriping was added to add class to the hand made bodies. The pinstriping used on the early automobiles was plain and simple, enhancing the body character lines, around the edge of the fenders, the belt-line and around the wheel spokes. I have found several samples of the early style Custom Cars that used this early style pinstriping as well. Most people feel that pinstriping on Custom Cars was an mid 1950’s invention, but in fact it was used in the 1930’s as well.

The pinstriping was used very sparingly, perhaps just on the belt-line, to give the car an optical longer feel. It was not about the pinstriping artist like it was in the 1950’s, where the artist could show off how good he was laying down straight, curved and free style striping, it was uses to enhance the body lines, perhaps in a same matter as later side trim would be added to cars.

Set in license plates
Another important Custom style  developed during these early years is the rear set-in or inset license plate. This is where a rectangular hole, slightly smaller than a license plate, was cut out in the rear of the body, usually in the trunk, or the panel below it. The corners and edges were nicely rounded and a license plate was attached from inside the car, usually there was a piece of glass set between the license plate and the body. More on the Set in license plates with many sample photos can be found in the set in license plate CCC article.


This beautifully restyled 1938 Lincoln most likely sports a chopped padded top created by C.A. Hall from Oakland in Northern California. Perfect styling and proportions was done by an unknown body shop, and included the chopped windshield, removal of the running boards, reshaping of the fenders front and rear, custom plated rock shield protecting the rear fenders, custom grille (not visible in this photo), ripple disc hubcaps with small diameter single bar flippers and a lower than stock stance. The photo was taken in the late 1930’s.
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This beautiful 1937 Ford Convertible Sedan was restyled in the late 1930’s and photographed in 1940. The car was owned by a Pasadena Ford dealer‚Äôs son. Chopped windshield, white padded top, ’37 DeSoto bumpers, removed running boards, custom side trim smoothed hood. The style was really set by now.
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1938 Ford sedan convertible with chopped windshield and black padded top. Removed running boards, rock shield and teardrop skirts, smooth hood sides and customized grille. The photo was taken in early 1940.
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Late 1930’s photo showing an unidentified Custom with 1938 Ford front end with restyled grille. Possibly the car was created form a coupe or a sedan, judging the shape of the chopped windshield. Interesting is the V12 sign on the smooth hood sides, as well as the dual spotlights mounted on the A-pillars. The ’36 Ford 4-door sedan in the background sports a very popular aftermarket Pines grille, which gave the ’36 Ford a Cord like appearance.
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One of my personal all time favorite Custom Cars is this chopped ’36 Ford 5-window Coupe restyled in the late 1930’s. Not much is known about the car, most likely the owner was from Santa Monica, and some say the narrowed and reshaped ’36 Ford grille and custom side grilles might have been the work of George DuVall. Possibly the ribbed running board cover, the rock shield on the rear fenders and the single bar flipper hubcaps were all parts created by George DuVall and offered from the SoCal Plating Company.
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Jimmy Summers

One of the earliest body shops that specialized in Custom work as we know it was Jimmy Summers Custom Automobile. Jimmy started working out of his small shop located in Los Angeles on 7919 Melrose Avenue across the street from Fairfax High School in the 1930’s. he was Restyling cars, doing simple work as removing badges, replacing bumpers and grilles mostly with more expensive car parts, but he also did more elaborate restyling including chopped tops, set in plated and around 1940 his fist famous fade-away fenders. Clients coming into the Summers shop with low end cars mostly Fords, and after Summer was finished with their cars/ they would drive home a one of a kind fare more exclusive looking automobile. one that would turn heads. Jimmy Summers was known for his excellent quality work, and above all Jimmy had the eye when it came to style and proportions.

Jimmy Summers around 1946.
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Jimmy Summers, George DuVall and Frank Kurtis were the names connected to the Custom Car building scene in the 1930’s. These were the shop owners that you wanted to take your car if it needed to be special, exclusive and unique. It is no wonder that these three pioneers worked on several projects together, or in phases. It was especially Jimmy Summers, who was this tall skinny well dressed gentleman, who was popular and well known as the guy to go to for your chopped top or other unique modification. According an article in the May 1947 issue of the Popular Mechanics May it was mentioned that Jimmy hand-tailored about one car per week for customers. At that rate there must have been a lot of Jimmy Summers created cars around in California during the 30’s and 40’s. To bad they were not documents as well as they should have.

We have not been able to find any photos of Custom Cars that Jimmy Summers created during the period we concentrate at in this article, the 1930’s. But according to some he did work on the 1935 So-Calif Plating Co. truck, and possibly the 1936 Ford Coupe with full fade away fenders that was created for Summers Shop employee Bob Fairman, was started in the late 1930′. More on Bob’s 1936 Ford can be seen in this Custom Car Chronicle article on the car. If you have any photos, or know more about other Custom Cars Jimmy Summers worked on in the 1930’s, please let us know. We would like to add that to this article.

Jimmy Summers shop in the mid 1940’s.
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Link Paola

We do not have much information on Link Paola in the 1930’s but we do know that he ran a shop named Link’s Custom Shop which was located on 3451 No. Verdugo Road Glendale 8, California. According an early magazine ad he was specializing in Auto Painting, Welding, Body Work and General Automotive work. Link created the beautiful 1940 Ford Convertible Custom in late 1939. The all new 1940 Ford was introduced in early October 1939 and Link bought the first convertible at the local dealer at the end of September, before the official release date, and went to work on it right away.

The windshield was chopped, and a padded top added. The two part hood made solid and the center strip removed and center peaked. The running boards were removed and a new cover to hide the frame constructed. Bumpers were replaced with ribbed 1937 DeSoto Units (the ribs on the bumpers matched the ribs on the Ford Side trim perfectly) and the stock hubcaps were replaced with aftermarket ripple disk single bar flipper hubcaps. The car was lowered a little, but not as far as we see in the 1940’s. An aftermarket teardrop fender skirt was added and then Link parked the freshly made super slick looking Custom 1940 Ford right across the Ford dealer. making many new Ford Customer rather want to have a car like Link’s instead of the factory Stock 1940 Ford.

These two photos of Link’s stunning 1940 Ford were taken in 1941, when the Custom was already one year old.
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Roy Hagy
Roy Hagy is another pioneer Custom Car builder from the Los Angeles area. It is known that Roy already restyled cars in the 1930, together with Jimmy Summers they were the only two shops in town that were really known about doing the what we now know as Custom Car work. They smoothed body lines of lower end factory cars, chopped top and reworked and replaced grilles. We have not been able to find any of Roy’s Custom Car work done in the 1930’s, the earliest car he worked on is the Earl Bruce 1940 Ford Coupe which was reworked both by Summers and Hagy and hit the road in early 1940.



Sacramento
Even though Los Angeles was known as the hot-bed for Hot Rodding and Customizing in the early days, some other Californian cities also had an important role in the scene. In Sacramento there was Les Crane and Harry Westergard both starting to build Custom vehicles in the later part of the 1930’s Sadly we have not been able to locate any photos of their work from the 1930’s. But the stories of these two already doing their Custom Car magic work during this period are there. Les Crane and Harry Westergard both worked on the Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury which was started in 1940, and shows that the Custom Car basics were already down by then, so that shows that they must have already had a few years experience.

From the 1946 published Edgar Almquist Speed and Mileage Manual.
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We know Customizing was done outside California in the early years as well, but locating photos from the other states is even harder than finding them from California. This one was used in an early Motor Trend article. Originally restyled back in 1938 in Nassau, New York, and later updated with an more powerful ’46 Mercury engine.
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This is the end of Part one of the History of the Custom Car. We hope you have enjoyed it. If there is anything you can add to this part , perhaps feel that something important is missing. Or perhaps want to supply input for the next part of this story, then please email Rik Hoving here at the Custom Car Chronicle. if you want to see more samples of Early Style Custom Cars, then use the Early Custom Cars Menu here on the Custom Car Chronicle. This will bring you to a series of articles we already have devoted to the early style Custom Cars.


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Sources and Reference

  • The Old Motor, website
  • Coachbuilt, website
  • The American Custom Car, book by Pat Ganahl
  • Frank Kurtis Article, R&C magazine October 1968
  • Flying V’s, R&C article
  • Motor Life, magazine May 1955
  • Hemmings, website
  • So Cal Speed Shop, book
  • Dean Batchelor, photographer/author
  • Revs Digital Library, Stanford University online photo archive

 

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Early Flipper Hubcaps

 

EARLY FLIPPER HUBCAPS

 

In the mid and late part of the 1930s the industry started to create the first Custom Car accessory parts. Lets take a closer look at an very early Flipper Disk Hubcap.



A couple of year ago I was browsing eBay searching for some Custom Hubcap photo for my Single Bar Flipper Hubcap photo archive. I came across an auction that was listed as: 1930’s? Ford Accessory? Hollywood Flipper Hubcap Original – Old School.

The hubcap that was offered looked very much like some of the ripple disk hubcaps I had seen from some very early dry lake racers, but this one had a flipper added to the center. Which was very much like the Hollywood style Single Bar Flipper Hubcaps we all know so well from the 1940’s customs. I had never seen anything like this flipper before. The small diameter smooth section of the hubcap looked a lot like the Cadillac flipper hubcaps from ’34-35, which are shown in an older article I did on the Single Bar Hubcap design. But on the Cadillac unit the smooth hubcap with flipper are separate piece, while on this eBay offering it is all one hubcaps (with the flipper as a separate part). What really intrigued me about the offering is that it mentioned that the hubcap might be a factory accessory.

The hubcap eBay listing did not come with much info:¬†Few Dings–Needs some TLC No holes! Measurements are approx. 13 7/8″ across front and back!
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The last photo shows the hubcap mounted on a sort of beauty ring, and the flipper part has been removed from the hubcap, to show how it was mounted.
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Some time after I had saved the eBay early Flipper Disc Hubcap I came across a photo of an early Customized 1937 Ford convertible sedan in the Rodder’s Journal promotion on the¬†Strother MacMinn book Hot Rods and Custom Cars and this car seemed to have the same hubcaps with the small smooth section and small flipper hubcap. Exactly the same hubcap as the one I had saved from the eBay offering. So now I know that the hubcap¬†was most likely an aftermarket or factory accessory unit, that was available. The photo caption in the RJ magazine did not mention a date, but it looks like the license plate is a California 1940 plate.


The photo from the Strother MacMinn Collection is not dated, but it looks like the California plate comes from 1940 with larger rounded corners. And that the chrome license plate surround is an older type fitted to the pre 1940 more square cornered plates. The nice chrome plated hubcaps look really good with the multiple ripples and small spinners. It gives the car a very classic look.
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Enlarged section of the photo gives us a good look at the hubcap with the small flipper.
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In early 2016 I came across another photo, a really good quality one of the Tommy Lee Speedster that shows the exact same hubcaps on this car. The photo is part of the Revs Institute and scanned at high res, which allows us to have a really good look at the hubcap. This photo also shows the license plate of this car which is a California 1938 plate. So we now know that the hubcaps are at least from 1938, or perhaps older.

The Tommy Lee Speedster¬†was created by Frank Kurtis in 1937, and the car was designed by George Du Vall. After I found this Revs photo I searched in my online collection and found more photo of the Lee Roadster with these hubcaps. For some reason I had¬†never really noticed them… perhaps especially since the restored car has a set of ¬†more regular Single Bar Flipper Hubcaps mounted.


Beautiful night time photo taken by Ted Wilson at the Gilmore Stadium in 1938.
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The hubcaps were used on the car without beauty-rings which would become very popular in the next couple of years.
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And the one on the rear wheels showing a little bit more of the side of the flipper.


Another photo of the Tommy Lee Speedster with the hubcaps at one of the dry lake races, year unknown.
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George Du Vall

Now I knew that these unique hubcaps were also used on the Tommy Lee Speedster I did a little more research, and remembered a really nice design sketch that George Du Vall. Ron Kellogg had shared this image online some time ago and I had saved it with the rest of my Tommy Lee material. When I looked at it I was shocked to see that the design sketch included the exact design for these ripple disk flipper hubcaps. So could it be that George Du Vall had designed these hubcaps, perhaps especially for the Tommy Lee Roadster, or perhaps he had already designed them for another project and they had been in production already? George Du Vall has been credited with the design for several custom hubcaps including the more common ripple disk flipper hubcap, and the Swirl Hubcap.


The beautiful side view Sketch George DuVall created for Tommy Lee and Frank Kurtis in 1937 shows the design for the early ripple disk flipper hubcaps.
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I have not been able to find any proof that the hubcap in this article¬†is an George Du Vall design and product, but it does look very plausible. Especially with the exact design on the Tommy Lee Speedster sketch, and the knowledge that Du Valle designed more hubcaps in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Most likely George sold his design and the production drawing to several aftermarket companies who started to produce these hubcaps. In preparation of this article I tried to find as many samples of these hubcaps as I could. But they are very rare. Most likely not to many where produced before the more common larger size 2 or 3 ripple disk single bar flipper hubcaps took over the market.


An old article on George Du Vall shows that George Du Vall was also the designer of these hubcaps, which have a larger moon section and flipper. ¬†It looks like this is the hubcap that is also used on the ’38 Lincoln at the end of this article.
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This unusual 1937 Ford ex Sedan Custom also appears to have a set of similar styled hubcaps, but it looks like these are used without the flipper. We know that the later version of the Ripple Disk hubcap was also available without the flipper, so perhaps this was the case with this early unit as well.
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Most likely this photo was taken¬†around 39 (square corner CA plates with World Fair text on the top). The ’36 Ford 5-window coupe has its running boards removed, fender ends reshaped, a set of beautiful torpedo shaped chrome headlights and a set of what looks like a none flipper version of this hubcap. Also interesting in this photo is the pin-striping along the belt-line, one of the earliest, if not the earliest I have seen on a Custom.
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And another set of the hubcaps with-out the flipper on this 1939 Ford Coupe. Unsure about which state this car comes, I cannot read the plate. Also notice the double sided white wall tires.
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1934 Ford chopped Cope from the AHRF shows a similar, non flipper ripple disc hubcap. Notice that the ’34 was nicely Custom Restyled with matching ripple ’37 DeSoto bumpers and a set in license plate.
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From the Howard Gribble collection comes this ’37 Ford that appears to have the same hubcaps as well. Perhaps these are an in-between version of the original hubcap in this article, and the more common wider hubcap that was “mass” produced.
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A Single Bar flipper box label I came across online many years ago. Not sure if this is a box for the hubcap in this article, or a later version with a larger moon section. I have not seen many of these boxes. “Streamlined” Doll-Up Wheel Discs.
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This beautiful restyled 1938 Lincoln was built before WWII and uses also a smaller size Flipper disc hubcap. But this one is clearly an in-between the hubcaps from this article, and the more common 2-3 ripple disk hubcaps from the 1940′.¬†
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Just including this photo to show the most popular version of the single bar flipper hubcap. And how it was already available in 1940. This particular one has three ribs, but there were also version with two, and even one rib.
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Factory or Dealer Accessory

In the beginning of the article I mentioned that the eBay auction listed this Single Bar Flipper Hubcap as a possible Factory Accessory part. I was very intrigued by that, since I had heard one time before about a single bar flipper hubcap as a factory accessory, but I’m still unsure about this, and so far I have not been able to find any information about this. It could of course be possible that FoMoCo had bought the designs from George Du Vall for these hubcaps… but at this moment I think they were aftermarket products, perhaps they were available from the FoMoCo car dealers. I hope one day to find out more about this.

Here is an photo of an dressed up 1939 Mercury that was listed as an factory or dealer photo with factory accessory parts, antenna’s, spotlights, bumper over-riders¬†and flipper hubcaps. Anybody knows anything more about this?
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Customized Tow-Trucks

 

CUSTOMIZED TOW-TRUCKS

 

In the 1930s and 1940s, Midget Racing was very popular. A good way to get attention for your automotive business was to customize the cars and trucks that would start the midget at the stadium races.


While browsing the amazing and extensive Photo Collection of the Revs Institute¬ģ Archives¬†I came across some known and some unknown 1930’s Customized Tow/Push trucks. I have always loved the early Customized cars from the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Restyled with pure and unique designs, not influenced by any of the magazine and books.¬†Some of the companies that specialized in restyling cars and even offering restyling products were Frank Kurtis, Jimmy Summers, Don Lee, and George DuVall who worked out of the¬†So Calif Plating Company. There were quite a few more, but these are the names that have been responsible for a lot of the early restyled cars that left an impact then, and still do today. Cars that that were trend setting, cars that feature restyling elements that we still use today.

Some of these shops were also heavily involved in midget racing. And these races were besides having a great time racing cars, also a great way to promote your business. A lot of these midgets were beautifully designed and crafted. Loads of chrome plated hand made parts to show of the work that could be done by the sponsoring companies. Besides the wonderful race cars the tow and pull trucks were also restyled, to make more impact, and again to show of the quality and capability of the shops. Rolling advertising.

Lets take a closer look at some of the great looking customized tow-trucks at several of the famous Californian race tracks from the 1930’s and early 1940’s, based on the photos form the Revs Collection. To further illustrate these cars we have added a few photos of the used cars from other publications.




Early So California Plating Company Trucks

CCC-race-car-trucks-socal-early-01A lot of the races took place at night and the flash light of the photographer captured only what was close, but sometimes the background showed some very interesting cars in the dark. I was intrigued by the wide bumpers on the cars on the right of this photo, vaguely remembering their slight V-shape.
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CCC-race-car-trucks-socal-early-02When I lightened the photo somewhat I was able to recognize two of the early SoCalif Plating Company trucks in this 1935 photo. The one on the left, showing only the bumper and front fender is based on an 1932 Ford pick up and the one on the right in the background on an 1931 Ford pick-up. Only very few photos are known to exist of these two cars restyled by George DuVall, and seeing both of them in one photo is really unique.
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CCC-race-car-trucks-socal-early-06This is one of several designs George DuValle created for the SoCalif Plating Company trucks.
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CCC-so-california-1931-ford-02-revs Ted Wilson photographed the car in the early 1930’s at one of the race tracks.
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CCC-so-california-1931-ford-revsEnlarged section of the Ted Wilson photo gives us a good look at the truck.
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CCC-race-car-trucks-01Sadly the background of the photo is a bit blurry so the view of this 1931 Ford pick up truck restyled by George DuValle is not the best… but still very interesting. Notice the custom made waterfall grill.¬†
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CCC-race-car-trucks-socal-early-03This photo is possibly taken at the same location as the one above. On the far right we can see the rear of the what I think the 1931 based truck. If you look hard you can see the So California Plating sign on the sides of the pick-up bed wood planks. And on the left we can see in the background another wood sign reading California Plating, most likely from the 1932 Ford pick up. Notice that the trunk on the light colored convertible on the left has been removed and chrome plated bard have been added to the sides. The crew would sit in the trunk when puling the midget at the start.
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CCC-so-california-1931-ford-03-revsTed Wilson captured one of the So-Califorinia Plating truck in the background. This version shows large low mounted headlights.
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CCC-race-car-trucks-socal-early-05Magazine published photo of the 1931 Ford restyled by George DuVall. The headlights on this version of the truck are different (larger) and mounted lower on the front fenders.
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April 28, 1936 ‚ÄúNational Auto Racing News‚ÄĚ advertisement.(Courtesy of James Taggart / TheOldMotor.Com)
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CCC-so-california-1932-ford-1933-photo-revsThe 1932 Ford Roadster pickup based So-California Plating Co. truck was also designed by George DuVall.
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Atlas Chromium Plating Truck.

CCC-race-car-trucks-atlas-chrome-01Frank Wearne sits in car number 57, the Atlas Chrome Special, with a wonderful restyled front end. The Atlas Chromium Plating Service 1931 Dodge Panel tow-truck with modified front with 1933 Ford grille behind it. The photo was taken in Los Angeles, exact year unknown.
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CCC-race-car-trucks-atlas-chrome-02Close up of the front end of the car with the modified hood and hood sides to accept the 1933 Ford grille. The front fenders were also reshaped.
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Atlas Chrome Plating 34 Ford Truck.

Beside the So Calif Plating Company there was also the Atlas Chromium Plating Service who basically did the same work, and was also sponsoring the midget races. The Atlas Chrome Plating 34 Ford truck was restyled by Frank Kurtis it was actually a 1929 Ford to witch a set of 1934 Ford fenders, hood and grille was added. The truck featured a home made cast V-windhsield and hand shaped top.¬†Frank also created uniquely styled bumpers obviously influenced by the coachbuild creations from the early 1930’s.

CCC-race-car-trucks-atlas-plating-01Ted Horn admires the best appearing car trophy the company just won with the Atlas Chrome Special.
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CCC-race-car-trucks-atlas-plating-03Closer look shows the wonderful V-windshield with wipers on top, the waterfall grille with one bar missing and the chrome plated long teardrop shaped headlights. The top was done in metal, but had a similar shape as the padded tops.
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S0 Calif. Plating Company 35 Ford Truck.

We recently did a full article on¬†the¬†1935 Ford truck restyled by George DuVall for the So California Plating Company. So please look there for many more photos and info on this amazing early Custom. But we wanted to include two¬†unique photos of the car from the Revs Collection. In two¬†of the start line photos taken at an 1930’s midgets starting line-up¬†photo taken by Ted Wilson at the Atlantic Speedway,¬†in¬†South Gate, California, we spotted the 1935 Ford with added headlights and opened trunk.


CCC-socalif-plating-truck-22Sadly the photo from the Revs Archives was not dated, but judging the other tow truck and midgets in the photo we assume the photo was taken in 1936-37.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-21A little out of focus, but still very unique to see this version of the SoCalif Plating Company truck with the added headlights. This photo shows clearly that the original small set in headlights are still in place. Other than the new headlights the car appears to to have changed. Notice the lettering on the open trunk.
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So Calif. Plating Company 36 Ford.

Pat Ganahl shared a photo of another So Cal Plating trunk styled in a similar way as the famous ’35 truck, in his excellent story in the Rodder’s Journal issue 36. The car was listed as an 1938, but with the help of Lynn Bird we now know the car was actually a late 1936 Ford convertible sedan. We do not know much about this car, and according the RJ article there might even be yet another one similar styled as the 1935 truck. But so far we have not been able to find any photos of that one. The Revs Archives does have another photo of the car pictured in the Rodder’s Journal article. And even though most of the car in the photo is covered by three guys, we still are able to see some of the front of the car. Styled in a similar, yet different way than the ’35 truck.


CCC-socalif-plating-truck-20The other¬†So-Cal-Plating ‚Äútruck‚ÄĚ. This one is based on a late 1936 Ford Convertible Sedan. the photo was taken in 1938 and shows that there is no top on the car as we can see in all the photos of the ’35 Ford.¬†The grille bars look to be a taller and less in number than on the original 1935 based car. The front bumper is also quite different, interesting to see the wrap around sections ¬†appear to be separate units. According the Revs site the guys in the photo are: Dominic Distarce, Sam Hanks and Karl Young.
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CCC-so-california-1936-ford-night-revs This is the photo that was taken by Ted Wilson in 1938 and show the 1936 Ford So Calif. Plating Co. tow-car in action.
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CCC-so-california-1936-ford-dash-detailThe great quality of the Revs Collection photos allowed us to zoom in on the machine turned dash in the 1936 So Calif. Plating Co. Ford.
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CCC-so-california-1936-ford-detailIn the background of a photo I spotted this portion of the So Calif Plating 1936 Ford with the Du Valle Windshield. It does not show much of the car, but since photos of it are so rare, I wanted to include it here anyway.
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Mike Randall 1937 Ford.

So far we have been unable to find any info on this 1937 Ford coupe turned pick up that was used by Mike Randall as a tow truck. It appeared in several photos of the Revs Collection and it showed some nice early restyling with wi reshaped rear of the car, smooth hood sides, custom headlights and aftermarket trim on the hood.


CCC-race-car-trucks-37-ford-01This photo does show the reshaped rear of the body with the nicely shaped and chrome finished hold on bars. The hubcaps are small size single bar flippers, possibly early Cadillac units, but perhaps these are some early aftermarket units. We have no idea why the name on the side of the car was taped off in this photo. 
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CCC-race-car-trucks-37-ford-03This photo shows the car pulling Pat Cunningham in the Gilmore stadium. We can see Cadillac bumper and that the car was now outfitted with a set of white wall tires. the photo was taken in 1941. 
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CCC-race-car-trucks-37-ford-04Close up shows the Cadillac front bumper and the custom headlights. Possibly shaped after the Lincoln units, but it appears the headlight bezels are 1937 Ford units. The trim around the grille and hood is an early Eastern Auto aftermarket product.
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CCC-race-car-trucks-02And the last photo that got my attention was this Anderson Frigidaire Service truck. Very mildy customized with Buick fender skirts and aftermarket hubcaps. And most likely repainted in refrigerator white. Notice the heavy bumper on the front.
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SoCalif Plating Truck

 

SOCALIF PLATING TRUCK

 

George DuVall designed the 1935 Ford for the So California Plating Company and it turned out to be one of the most outstanding early Custom Cars.



The first time I saw a photo of the So Calif. Plating Co. truck was in the Flying V’s article by Dean Batchelor and Pat Ganahl in the August 1990 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine. The article showed three black and white photos of this amazing car/truck. One with the midget on the trailer behind it, from a bit higher point of view was shown in a nice size, and two others rather small. And there was quite a bit of written info about it as well. I thought that 1935 Ford was one of the most beautiful Customs¬†I had ever seen. With its wonderful slanted DuVall windshield and long and low padded¬†Top, large white wall tires with chrome hubcaps and that amazing hand made grille. Stunning.

I could not believe no more 35-38 Fords were styled like this one, it was so beautiful, in my eyes everything was right about this car. Later I started to collect every bit of info and photos from this car I could find.

In en email conversation in 2006 ,¬†Pat mentioned he was working on article about the SoCalif Plating Co. truck for the Rodder’s Journal, and how he had found some new images and some very interesting info on the car. In the summer of 2007 that article was published in the Rodder’s Journal #36. And it is an incredible article with a load of new information on this car the enthusiast had been waiting for for a long time. If you have not read it, and love custom car history, you better get a back issue for your collection.


CCC-socalif-plating-truck-rodders-journal-36Pat Ganahl wrote an excellent article in the Rodder’s Journal issue 36. Several never before seen photos as well as some really great information about the car was shared in this article. (openings spread of the RJ-article)
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-american-rodderThe American Rodder published an article about George DuVall in 1997 which featured another nice never before seen photo of the SoCalif Plating truck.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-sketchThe American Rodder article also shared this amazing sketch George DuVall created for the SoCalif Plating truck he designed for Leonard DeBell’s 1935 Ford. The overall shape is all there, but the details as the grille, and bumpers are different from what was actually build.
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CCC-1935-ford-phaetonA 1935 Ford Phaeton from the Ford Sales Brochure. A car like this was the base for the SoCalif Plating Co. Truck.
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The 1935 SoCali. Plating Co. Truck has always been a great inspiration for me. When I looked at the photos of the Custom, especially the one with the midget behind it, and the old cars in the background I could not stop wondering how much impact this car must have had back in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. It must have looked like it came from outer space to some. The car was so far ahead styling wise. As Pat Ganahl mentioned in his RJ article it is really a wonder that there are no old magazine or news paper articles about this car. The only thing I can imagine is that everybody who saw the Custom during the day trips to deliver fresh chrome, or in the weekends at the race track, was to much in awe to even take pictures, let alone think about doing something about it for an early magazine or newspaper. As far as I have been able to find out it was not until 1955 before the first photos of the Custom appeared in a magazine.

In the 1930’s and early 1940’s the Custom Cars where created for other reasons than during the golden years of Custom Cars (late 1940, to late 1950’s). There where no cars show to enter your Custom in, no reason to modify something to gain extra points. These Early Customs were designed to improve over the original designs of the cars they are based on. They were designed to look more exclusive, more expensive, and perhaps more powerful. And in this case the car was designed as a working truck. A full Custom Car with a exceptional amount of work done knowing the end product would be used on the road 7 days a week!



Creating the So Calif. Plating Co. Truck

Because the Custom has been built so long ago a lot of real facts about the car have been forgotten, and the people who might have remembered are no longer with us to ask about it. But with the several articles on the car, and memories shared by the people involved in the creation of the car over the years, a lot of history about how it was created has fortunately been documented.

The car was commissioned by Leonard K. DeBell, owner of the So Calif Plating Co. who had bought a brand new 1935 Ford phaeton. His plan was to use it as a very classy delivery truck. But to be able to do that the car had to be lengthened 12 inches to assure freshly chromed bumpers could be stalled behind the front seat cargo section. George DuVall had been employed by DeBell since 1933. He was hired to design and develop new chrome plated aftermarket parts for the company, and as part of this he had already designed and build several company pick up trucks.

It is unsure who all worked on this truck, and who did what, but from the archived documents we know that George was of course responsible for the design.¬†We do not know who actually added the 12 inches to the frame, and welded the rear doors before extending them with 12 inches. Some people say it was the George DuVall – Frank Kurtis team who did this, others say Jimmy Summers might have done some of the body work.¬†George and his¬†friend Frank Kurtis created the grille from brass sheets, bend to shape. It has been described as a lazy “Z” shaped sections that form the actual grille bars. One bend and shaped all the separate unit where chrome plated and installed. George did an absolutely fantastic job integrating the new grille with the 36 Ford body work.


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George also created the V-Windshield that would later be his most popular product. The typical V-shaped windshield with the thin posts and wonderful lines which would later be used on many Hot Rods and Custom cars was specifically designed for this 1935 Ford. We also know that the rear door, which hinged at the top, was created by¬†Chad Schultz¬†of¬†Joe Newell’s¬†body shop. The door could also be removed easily when larger parts needed to be transported. The rear door gave access to a flat floor that started just behind the front seats. So there was actually quite a lot of space for product. But it might perhaps not have been as handy as an actual pick up truck like the previous So Calif. Plating Co. trucks were. However DeBell liked the idea to promote his business, and knew that the good looks of this truck would help him sell more product.

After the frame and body had been extended 12 inches DeBell bought a set of fenders, hood sides and radiator shell from the brand new 1936 Ford directly from the dealer. He liked the shape of them better than from the 1935 Ford. It looks like the new 12 inch longer running boards are made out of stainless steel, and that the four step on strips on them are actually integrated, pressed in the units, rather than using separate strips. At least the new high res photos give us the impression they are.

CCC-socalif-plating-truck-06Another photo taken at the same location from the Revs Institute Collection gives us a good view at the rear of the car. My guess is that the tubular rear bumper might not have been finished when these photos were taken.
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DuVall added a 1936 Cadillac bumper to the front and created small teardrop shaped headlights, more like paring lights. At the rear a four bar bend chrome tubular bumper with cone shaped ends was created. A single taillight was mounted below the lower pan mounted license plate. I have not been able to fin a gas filler car on the photos I have seen on the car. Possibly this was moved into the cargo section?

With all the body work done the car was painted in the So Calif. Plating Co. Sea Foam Green color by Charlie Remidi. A very unusual color for a car back then. The color is sometimes described as a gray green color, others have mentioned it had a sort of olive tint to it. George Du Valle created a set of ribbed wheel covers to cover the wire wheels, and they were dressed up with some fake knock-offs. Unsure is if the hubcaps were designed for the truck, or if they were already in production by the company. The wire wheels were fitted with large Vogue white wall tires Vogue. It took them a total of three month to create this Custom Car mater-piece.

The long and wonderful padded top was create by the¬†George Thomas Top Shop¬†in Hollywood. He created a top that fitted the DuVall windshield perfectly and the teardrop shaped side window openings give the car instant speed. We are not sure why there was never an rear window created in the top. Driving the long car with blind rear must not have been easy. But on the other hand this was late 1930’s and the roads were of course not as crowded as they are now.

CCC-socalif-plating-truck-05Rear 3/4 view shows the amazing lines of this car. Everything about it is just right. This photo shows the unfinished rear bumper, and the hitch sitting in front of the bumper coming from underneath the rear pan. It appears that the rear fenders and lower rear panel have been extended, possibly to make space for a lower position of the gas-tank, so that the cargo floor could be flat, and lower.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-08The photographer might have been more interested in the Midget than the truck, hence the cut off front fender.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-07This photo of the midget does give us a good look at the unique Vogue white wall tires and the Chrome disk with “knock-offs” covering the wire wheels.¬†
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The Details

The Revs Institute scans allowed me to see details on the car that I had never saw before. The car was built really well.. and even more designed exceptionally well. The close ups of the windshield and top show all excellent designs and craftsmanship. Photos like these make it even harder to believe why there have not been more cars build inspired on this one. (special thanks to Jamie Barter for the link to the Revs Institute collection photos of the So Calif. Plating Co. delivery truck.)

CCC-socalif-plating-truck-detail-01Notice the small peak at the center of the top visually extending the windshield center. The fit of the windshield to cowl, and the top to the windshield is really flawless. The DuVall windshield is made up from 5 separate brass casted parts.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-detail-05Before these photos became available all we had were the photos that appeared to have been copied form the original photo, and were rather dark. I always thought the extended running boards were a slightly different color, or shade than the rest of the car, and for sure not covered with rummer. But these high res photos make it look like the running boards were actually made from shaped stainless steel with the four step on ribs pressed in them, rather than them being separate strips. 
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-detail-04George DuVall really did an amazing job on the design of this car. The V-windshield is absolutely gorgeous, but how about the grille bars extending to the hood sides, and even a little bit on the cowl. Look how they are beautifully rounded at the end, and the way to overlap on the cowl, make the hood look longer than it actually is. Another detail I had never notice before is the side trim t the top of the hood side, below the hood. The 1935-36 Fords never had side trim, but if you look at the image below you will see it makes total sense for it to be placed there.
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A close up on the front of the car shows the very small headlights intergrated in the front fenders, the 1936 Cadillac bumper, the oval shaped license plate frame and of course the beautiful shaped and created grille. This photo also shows where the top side trim seen in the previous photo comes from. The original 1936 Ford nose/grille piece was used, and the trim is actually in place of the original 1936 Ford grille surround. The oval shaped license plate cover might have been another DuVall- So Calif. Plating Co. product. The plate is from 1936.
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ccc-socalif-plating-truck-23-wheel-tireThe beautiful patter on the Vogue white wall tires is clearly visible in this photo. It appear that the custom hubcap covering the (most likely) wire wheels is made up of at least two separate pieces, possibly even three, or four if the “Knock off” comes off.
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By looking good at all the photos it appears to me that the photos taken with the midget on the trailer and similar once at the same location where taken in early 1936 when the car was freshly done, and not yet 100% finished. The rear bumper is still unfinished in thos photos, and there are no side view mirrors mounted.


CCC-socalif-plating-truck-10Here the ’35 truck can be seen parked with an older So-California Plating Co. truck, which was based on an 1934 Ford pick up truck, dressed up with DuVall designed chrome hardware.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-16This photo from the rear, and the next one show the finished tubular bumper really well. The bumper guards are the same as from the front bumper, 1936 Cadillac. And it appears that there is just one singe taillights mounted behind the bumper, below the license plate. Most likelely the hitch used for the weekend midget trailer was a removable one. 
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-15By now the trunk has been decorated with a Modern Plating Service logo. And the top sides have the S0 Calif. Plating Co. teardrop sign added. All the photos taken after the midget trailer photo session show the car with hinge mounted side view mirrors, but left and right. 
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-14This front angle photo shows the teardrop shaped very small headlights. They are rumored to be Woodlite headlights. But the shape of those does not really matches these units. The low angle gives the car a wonderful aggressive look. 
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-11A wonderful low angle photo shows the wonderful Art-Doco styling on the car, which goes perfect with the building in the background.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-04 CCC-socalif-plating-truck-03May 1955 issue of Motor Life magazine most likely is the first time the SoCalif. Plating Company truck was ever published. It appears that the photos are taken in 1936. The rear quarter photo clearly shows the 1936 California license plates. It also apears that the car did not yet have the hinge mounted mirrors added when these photos were taken.
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Snapshot taken at a midget race in 1937 at an unknown stadium. Very interesting photo shows the chrome plated hand made hinges for the custom made deck lid. 
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Enlarged section from photo above shows a little bit of the car’s dash, and the deck lid hinges again.
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Updated headlights

Somewhere in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s the car was updated with a set of low mounted, or perhaps molded in headlights. Most likely done by Jimmy Summers. Apparently there have been a few, perhaps as many as three SoCalif Plating Co. trucks with a similar design during the late 1930’s. There is more information about this in the Pat Ganahl Rodder’s Journal article. The article also covers what might have happened to to car, that it might have been in use up to the mid 1950’s and that if might have been seen as late as the mid 1960’s sitting in a shop on Melrose. And that the car¬†might possibly still be around today. I really hope so, and I really hope it will be “found” and shared with the public again.

CCC-socalif-plating-truck-12A rather fuzzy photo, actually only a small portion of it, enlarged, shows the truck with the new headlights. 
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-21The Revs Institute for automotive research has another very interesting photo in their collection showing the front of the 1935 SoCalif Plating truck. This time with the new headlights added. We can see clearly that the original headlights are still in place and the new headlights are not molded into the front fenders. Sadly the photo is not dated. Note that the trunk lid is open in this photo.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-22This is the complete photo taken by Ted Wilson with the SoCalif truck on far right. Judging the other tow cars and race cars on the¬†Atlantic Speedway, South Gate, California,¬†track it looks like this photo is taken in the late 1930’s.
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So Cal Plating 35Parked on the inside of the track with the trunk door open.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-last-photoThis is supposedly the last known photo of the car, taken by Spencer Murray in March 1944 at 5229 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles. It appears that the hubcaps might have been changed, and the white wall tires look to be less tall. And it also looks like the padded top has been recovered with a lighter material. Although the last might only look that way due to a light overexposure. In this photo we can also see the added headlight, which were done by Jimmy Summers. But there still is no real evidence of the rear lights. 
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-colorized-2At one point I set out to do a colorized photo of the SoCalif. Plating Co. truck. But at the time all I had was a rather poor scan of a to dark copy of the photo. So I did get it started, but never really finished it with any details. Still nice to see some color on the car. It still makes me wonder how spectacular this one must have looked like in color with all the bright chrome.
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CCC-socalif-plating-truck-02I really love the 1936 photo of the car taken from a bit higher point of view, but always wondered how it would have looked without the trailer behind it. So when I came across the Revs Institute scan of the original photo I had to do some photo shop work to set the car alone, all by itself.. and I think it looks absolutely amazing.
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CCC-duvall-windshield-adJulian Doty took over the patterns and rights to cast the DuVall V-Windshield in 1946. Here is an late 1940’s ad he ran. The windshield was one of the most popular items DuVall designed, and it all started with the SoCalif. Plating Co. truck.
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CCC-36-ford-joseph-hockerOne of the cars most likely inspired by the SoCalif Plating truck was this 1936 Ford owned by Joseph Hocker. DuVall windshield and white padded top. Although the top is not as nicely shaped as the one on the original one. 
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CCC-36-ford-phaeton-otherAnother one based on a 1936 Ford also shows a lot of similarities with the DuVall designed Custom. This version has the running boards removed.
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Over the years several projects have been started recreating, semi recreating or inspired by the So Calif Plating Co. truck have been started. But so far none of them have been finished as far as I know. Back in the 1940’s there were a few 1936 Fords inspired by the SoCalif Plating Co. truck. At least two of them are documented. Hopefully new creations inspired by it will be created, or finished in the near future. This 1935 Ford designed by George DuVall has played a huge roll in the history of the Custom Car. And I think we all have to be very happy that there are so many photos of it taken back in the 1930’s, and that so many have survived and are being shared.

CCC-socalif-plating-truck-20Here is an interesting photo showing another So-Cal-Plating “truck” Based on a late 1936 Ford¬†Convertible¬†Sedan. Pat Ganahl’s Rodder’s Journal article showed a rear angle of this car, and the Revs Collection gives us a bit of an front view. There is no top on the car when this photo was taken, and the grille bars look to be a taller and less in number than on the original 1935 based car. The front bumper is also quite different. According the Revs site the guys in the photo are:¬†Dominic Distarce, Sam Hanks and Karl Young.
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Reference and more info

  • Motor Life magazine May 1955
  • Rod & Custom Magazine August 1990
  • American Rodder¬†Magazine 1997
  • Rodder’s Journal Magazine, issue #36
  • Earlier So California Plating Company trucks CCC-Article.

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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¬†‚Äst1930’s and 1940’s ‚Äď 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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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¬†‚Ästalthough I have never been able to find any real evidence for this ‚Äď 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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’36 Ford in the Magnificent Thirties – Forties

A DEFINING ERA

A special era for custom cars is the late 1930’s till the late 1940’s. In this particular period the custom car style was really developed which ultimately lead to the famous early 1950’s customizing style.

These early years produced inspirational wild and originally styled customs. There was a wonderful mix of coach build influences, combined with factory accessories, aftermarket parts and splendid streamlining. The 1936 Ford 5-window coupe shown above has been published before. The inset photo has appeared in many articles that Dean Batchelor was responsible for.

This car is extremely inspiring. It sits higher than we are used to nowadays. It even has a slightly less chop than what we mostly see these days and the single spotlight is also something that we are not used to anymore. But this car is just as good as they get. The styling is just perfect. The grille is one of the best on any 1936 Fords ever. And it looks like a simple narrowed unit until you start comparing. The top radius is larger than on a stock grille. Most likely the whole outer trim piece is hand made. The combination of the removed running boards and addition of trim pieces on the frame cover and rock shield on the rear fender is just so classy! The trim pieces on the frame covers might have been inspired by the 1939 LaSalle… or could it be the way around?

CCC_36_FordKolorized-RH

A fairly unknown looker

The colorized photo was taken in Santa Monica in 1941 and it has been described as being painted maroon with gray. We have a strong feel that the customizing on this car has been done (or at least partly) by George DuVall. George was working on many dress up items during the time this car was built. And the grille changes are something just up his alley. The large photo shown here was found on ebay and the new owner of the photos was happy to share it with the Custom Car Photo Archive. (thank you!)

This for sure is one of our favorite custom car photos ever. So, what’s your favorite custom car photograph?

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