Custom 1933-34 Fords

FORDS MODEL-40 CUSTOMIZED

Today almost all of the modified ’33 and ’34 Fords are done up as street rods or traditional hot rods. In the 1940’s and up until the very early 50’s these cars were routinely built as customs.

Between these two years of Henry Ford’s popular art deco influenced cars, the 1934 was the hands down favorite as custom material. Many ’33 models got a ’34 grille and the two handled ’34 hood as standard operating procedure. It was later when the hot rods got popular that car guys liked the curved bars and thinner grille shell surround of the ’33. Today both years are equally popular and as we know there is a high demand for these good looking and desirable Fords.

When they were built as customs, back in the day, the popular body styles were the roadsters, cabriolets, three window coupes and five window coupes. Although not customized as often as the other styles, the sedans, both two and four door, also made very nice customs.
CCC-34-Ford-Wes-Collins-01-WWes Collin’s 1934 Ford Roadster is possibly the best sample of how good the 1933-34 Fords can look customized. The DuVall windshield, padded top, fender skirts, long GM headlights and Lincoln bumpers add an almost movie star elegance to this type of car.

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Pat Ganahl did an excellent article on Wes Collins 1934 Ford in the Rodder’s Journal issue 51. This photo shows Wes’ roadster with a light color, the padded top in place and this photo also shows the George DuVall “swirl” hubcaps.

 

The first order of change in the forties was to get rid of the stock 17” wheels in favor of 15” or 16” solid wheels with flipper hubcaps or other full wheel hubcaps mounted with wide white wall tires, or black walls in the early ’40’s. Headlights, bumpers, and taillights were also routinely changed.
Lowering with a slight “speedboat effect” gave the desired look for an early custom. Fender skirts were popular in the forties and aftermarket skirts were available for these cars.

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This 1934 Ford coupe was chopped, had solid hood sides, Appleton Spotlights, 1941 Ford bumpers and white trim rings to simulate white wall tires. The stance and overall look and feel is all custom. The photo was taken in 1947.

 

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Here is the same coupe as above, but now wearing a set of white wall tires and single bar flipper hubcaps. The rest stayed the same, but what a difference in appearance.

 

 

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A chopped 5-window coupe with 1936 Ford rear fenders. The taller rear fenders made sure the rear could be lowered a bit more than the stock rear fenders allowed.

 

Appleton spotlights look good on the closed cars of this vintage. In the forties one spotlight on the driver’s side pointed to the rear was common. Later the trend was for dual spotlights turned down in a traditional manner.

Body modifications often included filling the deck lid and door handles. Smooth or louvered hood sides gave a cleaner look to the front-end. These cars really lend themselves to a chopped top and many closed car ’33-4 Fords were chopped. The roadsters would sometimes get a DuVall windshield and the cabriolets a chopped windshield with a Padded Top.

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All three photos above show that even 1933-34 four door sedan’s were customized back in the day. This sample is perfectly chopped and restyled by John Dennis.

Some of the more radical examples of these customized cars might have been channeled and the running boards were removed when raising the fenders on the body. Sometimes a different grille such as a Brewster was added, but most customizers preferred the ’34 grille.

These two years of Fords gave the custom fans lots of options and the results were “easy on the eyes”. Rick Dore reminded us how good they look as customs when he unveiled his mint green ’33-4 roadster a few years ago. Although filled with modern billet parts, Rick Dore’s Ford sure had a full custom feel. He used a set of 1935-36 Ford rear fenders to get the car really low in the rear. The car was obviously inspired by the Wes Collin’s 1934 Ford Roadster.

 

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Rick Dore debuted his 1934 Ford Custom Roadster in 2005. Although much more modern in appearance, it still is evident that the Wes Collins roadster built in the early 1940’s was the inspiration for Rick Dore’s version. (photos by Dave Lindsay)

Hot Rod, Custom or a little of both the ’33 and ’34 Fords definitely have “the look!
We hope that more of these cars will be built as customs in the future and hopefully this article and images will help some to get motivated building a customized 1933-34 Ford in the near future.

 

 

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1950 Sacramento Autorama

1950 SACRAMENTO AUTORAMA

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The Capitol City Auto Club, better known as the Thunderbolts organized a two day Auto Show in 1950. Held at a Sacramento Chevy dealer the show hosted 23 top class Customs and Hot Rods.

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Special thanks to Lawrence Fears.

The title of this article is 1950 Sacramento Autorama, which is not precisely accurate. But, many people refer to this small 1950 Auto show organized by the Capitol City Auto Club “Thunderbolts” as the first Sacramento Autorama. Hence the name of this article.

In 1950 Car Shows was still brand new. The first of these shows were held just two years earlier. The Sacramento Custom Car and Hot Rod scene was very active, a lot was going on, rod runs, street drag racing, and some of the countries leading Customizers had their shop in or around Sacramento. The Capitol City Auto Club better known as the “Thunderbolts” had a great number of high quality cars in their club. Harold “Baggy” Bagdasarian was one of the club members and president of the club. He was one of the leading forces in organizing this first Sacramento Auto Show.

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The club members just wanted to know who had the nicest car among them. What better way to find out during a Car Show. Plus they really wanted to show off their cars, and not just at the local hang out places, but at a nice indoor event. The Capitol Chevrolet Company dealership at 13th and K Streets in downtown Sacramento had the perfect space for the show the members had in mind. In total the club brought together 23 cars this first show. And among these 23 cars there were some top Customs and Rods. The cars displayed at the show represented the high quality, and creative minds of the Nor Cal car builders. Custom builders Harry Westergard, and Dick Bertolucci were well represented at the show. Of all the Customs, many had been based on convertibles and all had Hall of Oakland Padded Tops. According different sources the two day show drew between 500 and 1000 visitors.

The show was held on November 4th and 5th, 1950. Saturday from 3:00 P.M. until 10:00 PM and Sunday from 10:00 A.M. until 10:00 P.M. The admission was 60 cent. The story goes that the entrance had to be kept below a certain amount, because otherwise everything had to be done official and Federal Amusement Tax would have to be paid. This first show was not about making money, it was about having a good time for the attendees as well as the visitors.

There were two trophies awarded.  One for Best Custom Car and Leroy Semas won the Custom Class with his 1937 Chevy. Burton Davis won the Best Rod with his 1931 Ford Roadster.

Rod Dust newsletter dated November 1, 1950. This was the issue that mentions the first Sacramento Auto Show in 1950.

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Local newspaper from Friday November 3rd, 1950 announcing the Sacramento Auto Show.

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On the top right we can see Al Garcia Westergard restyled 1939 Ford,  #5 Lawrence Brocchini ’31 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails V-Windshield, Vern Haversack 1927 Model T with track nose with #11,  #1 Burton E. Davis 1931 Ford Roadster, and on the left is #19 Harold Casarang’s ‘25 Model T. bottom right shows the #14 of Jack Odbert’s 36 Ford, behind it the engine and front of #15 Ronnie Brown’s ’32 Ford 5-window.

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Show overview

The nice thing about the Capitol Chevrolet dealer ship location is that there was a second floor, from where some nice overview photos could be taken. These overview photos show that this small show was jam-packed with the best of the best. Amazing padded topped Customs created by the countries leading Customizers. Harry Westergard and Dick Bertolucci. The photos taken at the two day show also show that the cars were actually moved around a bit during the weekend. Some cars were added, like the two ’32 Ford 5-window Hot Rod’s in the photo below. In some photos those two cars are missing.

The cars at the show were mostly local cars, but some came as far as Oakland. Hot Rod magazine devoted some space to the Sacramento Auto Show in the Januari 1951 issue. The feature included the beautiful overview photo (below) which showed the nation that Sacramento was packed with beautiful Custom Cars… just as well as Los Angeles, which was always much more represented in the early magazines.
I have been collecting photos and info on this show for many years, and all I have is included in this article. I know there is more out there, and hopefully we will be able to share more in the near future.

Overview of part of the Chevrolet Dealer Show illustrates the great number of Custom Cars invited to this show. A perfect balance.

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Same photo as above, now with numbers, perhaps somebody will be able to identify some more. We still need to know # A on the far left, # B on the top right center, and from car # C we know that that is Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury, but we do not have a show number. (The number – car – identification list is shown further down in the article)

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This overview photo was taken either earlier or late as the one above. The two ’32 Ford 5-windows are missing sitting behind the #14 Jack Odbert’s ’36 Ford.

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Custom Cars at the Show

The Custom Cars shows we have been able to identify were all top of the line, and are now mostly considered historical Customs. Created by Harry Westergard, Les Crane, and Dick Bertolucci. The Barris Brothers had already been moved south for a few years, so their work was not represented at this show. It is really remarkable that a great number of the Custom Car show entries are Convertibles with chopped padded tops, which were all created by C.A. Hall Auto Tops in Oakland, Ca.

Unknown number for Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury restyled by Harry Westergard and Les Crane. More on Butler’s ’40 Mercury can be seen in this CCC-Article.
#2 Custom 1946 Chevy Convertible Butler Rugard restyled by Harry Westergard. (Listed in the program as Bob Ghilotti)
A little more clear photo of Butler Rugard’s ’46 Chevy Convertible restyled by Harry Westergard. Harry used a set of the Jimmy Summers fade away fenders on this Custom.
#4 1948 Johnny Lehman Mercury Convertible with padded top restyled by Dick Bertolucci. Most likely the Hall padded top of Al Garcia Westergard restyled 1939 Ford is showing on the left of the photo.
Johnny Lehman’s Mercury seen from the back shows the ’49 Mercury bumpers and taillights. The top was done by Hall of Oakland. On the right we can see the ’37 Chevy Coupe from Leroy Semas. More on Johnny Lehman’s ’48 Mercury in this CCC-Article.
#4 Enlarged section of another photo shows another peak at the Johnny Lehman Mercury and behind that on the right showing a small portions of Mel Falconer’s 41 Lincoln.
#14 Jack Odbert 1936 Ford Convertible restyled by Harry Westergard with Hall Padded top. More on Jack’s Beautiful ’36 Ford in this CCC-Article.
#18 Mel Falconer /Bruce Glenn 1939 Ford Convertible restyled by Harry Westergard with a then new metal top replacing the Hall padded top that was on the car originally.
#21 Mel Falconer 1941 Lincoln with 1948 Cadillac rear fenders, 1949 Mercury bumpers. Restyled by Harry Westergard, and the car is supposed to be still around, anybody knows more about this?
#23 Leroy Semas 1937 Chevy restyled by Harry Westergard. Leroy was the winner of the big Custom Car trophy at the show. One of the two trophies awarded at the show. More on Leroy’s Harry Westergard Restyled Custom can be seen in this CCC-Article.
Interior of Leroy Semas his ’37 Chevy Coupe.

Cars in the show
According the the information we have been able to find 23 car were entered. 14 of them we have been able to identify, hopefully some of our readers can help name the others that were at this 1950 Sacramento Auto Show. From the 23 cars entered at least 8 were Customs, high end Customs. Below is a list of the cars and numbers we have been able to identify.

1 Burton E. Davis 1931 Ford Roadster
2 Butler Rugard / Bob Ghilotti 1946 Chevy Convertible
3 Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose
4 ?
5 Lawrence Brocchini 1931 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails V-Windshield
6 ?
7 Herk Vigienzone 1924 Model T Roadster
8 Rico Squalia 1924 T Roadster.
9 – 13 ?
14 Jack Odbert 1936 Ford Convertible
15 Ronnie Brown 1932 Ford 5-window
16 – 17 ?
18 Mel Falconer / Bruce Glenn 1939 Ford Convertible
19 Harold Casarang 1925 Model T
20 ?
21 Mel Falconer 1941 Lincoln
22 ?
23 Leroy Semas 1937 Chevy Coupe

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The Program
The 8 page, text only First annual Auto Show program generously donated by David E/ Zivot shown below, has a list of all the people and cars that planned to be at the show. Most of the numbers in the program correspond with the numbers we have seen in the show pictures, but apparently more cars were added to the show after the Program had been printed. The Program only lists 20 cars.

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In early 2020 David Zivot donated a 1950 Thunderbolts First Annual Auto Show Program. The 8 page program has a list of the cars and people that planned to have their car displayed at the event.

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The Hot Rods at the show

The Thunderbolts Auto Club had both Custom Car as well as Hot Rod oriented members. The Sacramento erea has been big on Custom Cars from the early beginnings, but Hot Rodding was very popular as well, and the Hot Rod and Race scene grew bigger every year. The show displayed some of the best Hot Rods and Race Cars in the wide area.

#1 Burton E. Davis 1931 Ford Roadster, the winner of the big Hot Rod award at the show.

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#3 Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose.

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A better look at the Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose.

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#5 Lawrence Brocchini ’31 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails V-Windshield.

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The actual number 5 sign from the 1950 Sacramento Thunderbolts Auto Show, used on Lawrence Brocchini’s Hot Rod.

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#5 Lawrence Brocchini’s ’31 Ford.

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#15 Ronnie Brown’s ’32 Ford channeled 5-window coupe showing off its kilmont brakes. On the left is Johnny Lehman #4 ’48 Mercury and on the right we see the Buick trim on the skirts of Jack Odbert’s  #14 1936 Ford Convertible

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#15 Ronnie Brown posing with his channeled ’32 Ford 5-window Coupe.

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#19 Harold Casarang Oakland Roadster club member took his ‘25 Model T to the Sacramento Auto Show.
January 1951 Hot Rod Magazine article on the show.

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Sources and more information

  • Garage Magazine
  • Classic & Custom Magazine
  • Don Montgomery books

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The Willis Horn Coupe

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The Willis Horn Coupe

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In 1941 Willis Horn from Marysville California purchased a Custom 1936 Ford Chopped Coupe from a Hot Rod Shop. Since 1973 it is owned by grandson Jeff Boone who is now looking to find out more on the cars history for a full restoration.

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Jeff Boone from Live Oak, California, was given this early Custom Restyled 1936 Ford 5-window coupe as a gift from his grandfather back in 1973. Jeff was just 11 years old when his grandfather gave him the car. Information his grandfather might have told him about the cars history back then has been forgotten over the years. “Just a boy with hotrod dreams…”. At 11-12 years old the fact of owning your own Hot Rod, and getting it ready to drive overshadowed the historical facts. During 1973 and 1974 Jeff and his grandfather worked on the car for a coupe of month before putting it away in a barn. In 2017 Jeff is ready to bring out the car and start putting it back together how it used to look. With the restoration work now started he is looking into the history of the car, finding old family photos and asking family members what they remember about the car. Not much is known about it, so Jeff is hoping that sharing the car here on the Custom Car Chronicle might shed some light on the history of this early Custom Car. We will be adding more material and info to this article when we find it. Including some photos of how the car looks now and it being pulled from the bar is has been stored in since 1974.

Jeff’s grandfather, Willis Horn from Marysville, California (close to Sacramento) purchased the ’36 Ford back in 1941. Jeff was told the car was bought from a Hot Rod Shop, but nobody seems to remember which one, or even where, if it was local, or from further away. (Edit: we now know that the car was bought in Los Angeles in 1941, close to a place called Los Angeles Auto Auction, more about that further on in this article) At the time Willis bought the car it was completely finished as a Custom Car, with a unique chopped top with the rear quarter windows filled it, the b-pillars slanted forward, and the top door corners rounded. The car was painted green, and by the looks of the one black and white photo Jeff has found of this version of the car it was a dark shade of green. Jeff also recalls his grandfather saying he changed the hood sides and put the original louvered hood sides on the car cause the engine would put off too much heat inside the coupe… He never knew what type of sides were on the car when he first bought it?

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When Willis bought the car back in 1941 the car was finished in green. He left it that color and added some advertising for his used car lot on the door.

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Cropped image shows some more details. Appleton Spotlight point pointed forwards position, a typical early 1940’s feature. Flipped door handles, rear quarter windows filled in after the chop and rounded door top corner with angled forward B-Pillars. I think that this is the earliest sample of a round door corner on a Custom Car I have seen so far.

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Stock ’36 Ford 5-window Coupe the Willis Horn coupe started out as.

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Other restyling features on the car are a new grille shell with a 1939 Nash grille installed, double Appleton spotlight facing backwards in the photos we have of the car, a typical 40’s feature. turned around door handles, also a typical 40’s trick to make the door handle look more streamlined. Something discussed in many of the early restyling manuals from Dan Post and others. ’39 Ford tear drop taillights and teardrop bubble skirts, and a chrome plated dash inside. The chop obviously being the most distinctive feature on this car. Very unique, especially for the time it was built, when 3-window coupes much have been relatively easy to find. It was still decided to turn the 5-window coupe into a short door 3-window coupe. Unique about the chop is that the b-pillars are angled forward, and that the top door corners are rounded. Rounded Door Corners on a ’36 Ford are rare, and having them done back in 1941 even rarer. Perhaps the earliest sample of rounded door corners I have come across so far. The belt line fabrication and filled top look to have been done very well, indicating the work was done by a good craftsman.

Willis owned a Used Car lot in Marysville, California, since the 1930’s. He used the ’36 Ford, which always attracted peoples attention because of its unique and good looks, as rolling advertising for his lot. Somewhere in the 1940’s Willis repainted the car in maroon with cream on the main body below the beltline. The car was also used as the lead vehicle in the annual the Bok Kai parade in Marysville.

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“This is my grandmother, Lola Horn standing next to the car after the sign was painted on the door…car was green when grandpa brought it home…”

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The 36 pulling Willis Horn’s race car… This must be around 1949, shortly before the car was repainted.
Close up on the car from the previous photo.

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In the late 1940’s, the car was repainted in maroon with cream on the lower main body.
Willis Horn(right) standing next to the car with one of his salesmen on the left.

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According to Jeff his grandfather Willis Horn alway led the Bok Kai parade in Marysville, California. And ideal opportunity to promote his used Car lot. So far this has been the best photo Jeff has been able to locate of the car. It shows the Nash grille, the single bar hubcaps, and teardrop skirts. Notice the loud speaker on top of the car. Judged on the license plate and tag in the photo this one must have been made between 1948 and 1950.

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Willis posing with one of the three race cars he had.

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Willis (with hat) and a couple of his drivers.

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Willis Horn, ready to race…

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Herman Jenkins remembers

Jeff recently spoke with a good friend of his late grandfathers, Herman Jenkins about the ’36 Ford to see if more info could be found about the cars history. Herman remembered that his grandfather, Willis Horn, used to buy his used cars at the Los Angeles Auction Yard. he could not remember where that place was located in Los Angeles, but he did remember that the Hot Rod Shop where Willis bought the ’36 Ford was very close to this L.A. Auto Auction. So, now we need to find somebody who might remember where this Auto Auction yard was in Los Angeles, perhaps that will help find the Hot Rod Shop who built this ’36 Ford. If any of our readers knows more about this Los Angeles Auction Yard, where it was located, please email Rik Hoving.

Herman was in the US Navy stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack and remained till 1947. When he was honorably discharged, he came home to Marysville and remembered that he and my Grandpa drove down to Los Angles and picked up the 1936 ford where my grandfather had a shop put a hotrod flathead motor and Three speed transmission which shifted on the column.
(Herman didn’t recall who or where my Grandfather purchased the car)

He said my Grandfather told him the car was originally black, then green, then blue and lastly, it was maroon.  He recalled the 36 had flat hood sides, but at some point, my Grandpa said it was too hot inside the car. He changed the sides to the original 36 ford hood sides so the engine heat could escape.

He also recalled going with my grandfather, on occasion, to North Beale Road, Marysville California   
(The road to Beale Air Force Base) Apparently it was the choice “drag strip” for my Grandfather!

Herman remembered one story vividly… a guy who drove up from Los Angeles in his ’49 Ford 2-door, just to race my Grandfather!  Herman said the LA guy says… I hear you have the fastest car in California!  My Grandfather, a bit modest, said my car’s pretty fast and pointed at the 36 custom. The guy looked, started laughing,(customs aren’t supposed to be fast) and said he had $50 to race that car!  Herman said your Grandpa says give me a minute, I’ll take that bet…  Herman says “your Grandpa blew his doors off” (laughingly)!!!

The guy was so upset he wanted a second chance, double or nothing. My grandfather told the Los Angeles guy he would even give him a head start…”when you leave, I’ll start”!  

Herman said…”I waved at the guy when we drove by”!  Your grandfathers car was fast!  When they pulled over, the LA guy handed my grandfather $100… Herman said they had a great laugh!  Herman had shared so many great memories with my Grandfather, that I couldn’t remember them all!  Unfortunately, On August 7, 2018 Herman Jenkins of Yuba City passed.
Not only was Herman my Grandfathers good friend, but I would like to think he was my good friend as well.
Truly yours
Jeff Boone

Herman also remembered that Willis bought new cars from a good friend in Los Angeles, Les Kelley. Les ran the famous Kelley Kar Company and Les Kelly Ford where Willis bought the cars wholesale and brought them to Marysville to resale at his own lot. Les Kelly Ford later moved to the corner of Figueroa and Pico in Los Angeles and becomes the largest used car dealership in the world.

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Les Kelley Ford where Willis bought new cars at wholesale for his Marysville lot. (Photos from www.kbb.com/company/history)

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In 1975 Jeff’s uncle, Willis Horn JR, helped  put a 327 Chev, a t350 trans and a 10 bolt rear end in the ’36. They did some body repairs with bondo in 1975 and the plan was to have the whole car painted 1936 Ford Maroon, but they got it in red oxide primer. At one point Jeff needed a new engine for his race car, so out when the 327. The the car with the fresh red oxide primer, went back to the barn till 5/25/2017.

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This is how the car has been sitting for many years.

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Clearing the rubble around it.

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All cleaned up.

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Jeff Boone on the left and his uncle, Willis Horn JR. on the right with the disassembled ’36 Ford.

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A good look at the main body with the unique chopped top turned from 5-window to 3-window back around 1940 in Los Angeles, California. The treatment of the belt-line behind the doors and the angled forward B-pillar and rounded door top is really unique.

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The bare frame of the ’36 Ford at the Standley Brothers Hotrod Shop.

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Soda blasting at Standley Brothers Hotrod Shop in Yuba City, California.

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The soda blasting revealed the body Jeff and his uncle added to the car back in 1975.

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You can see the lead at the chop and rear quarters in some of the other photos as well. Back in 1973, when Jeff was 11, he used a rosebud tip on a torch to heat the lead and he removed a good portion of it. You can see where his uncle and Jeff tried doing some body work after the majority of lead was removed. “We know better today than we did in 1974!”

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Over the last couple of years Jeff has been working on and off on the restoration to how it used to look, and hopefully he will come across more photos from the 1940’s how the car looked. Hopefully with the help of the Custom Car Chronicle readers he will be able to find out more on the cars original history from before his grandfather bought the car in 1941. If you know anything more about this ’36 Ford Custom ex-5-window Coupe, from pre 1973, then please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to add any new historic info to the article and help Jeff with the history of his car.

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The car in bare metal ready for the Sacramento Autorama 2019.

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Jeff Boone with the Ford at the 2019 Sacramento Autorama.

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The Willis Horn Coupe will debut completely finished at the 2020 Sacramento Autorama.

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(This article is made possible by)






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41 Merc Fade-Away Convertible

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41 MERC FADE-AWAY Convertible

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1941 Mercury Convertible with full fadeaway fenders and chopped padded top. A Mystery Published Custom Car.

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Over the years I have come across a lot of Unidentified Custom Car photos in the early Custom Car Publications. Mystery Customs that appeared in just a single publication, and sometimes even in multiple magazines or booklets, but always lacking any info on the original builder or owners name. In this series of articles I will be showing some of these Mystery Published Custom Cars, and hopefully the extra publicity will lead to some more information on these cars.

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Original article from 2016, updated in April 2019.

The first “Published Mystery Custom” is an very nicely done 1941 Mercury Convertible with full fade away fenders, chopped windshield, padded top and somewhat odd looking Lincoln grille.
The first time I saw a picture of this car was on Pat Ganahl‘s “The American Custom Car” book. On page 24 of this book he shows this mercury Custom with taped headlights, windshield and race numbers on the side at one of the Russetta Timing Association events. It is unsure when this even took place, but most likely around 1950. Perhaps one of the contender lists would reveal an owners name for this 1941 Custom. Pat wrote in his book that the car was an Ford, but later I found more material showing that the car was actually Mercury based.

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Pat Ganahl writes this about the photo in his book: While customs were built more for style than peed, some did turn up at the dry lakes, where heavy weight wasn’t a hindrance and streamlining actually helped. This anonymous Postwar Ford with Lincoln grille, chopped padded top, and full fade-away’s was competing at Russetta Timing Association meet.

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The other place I have found photos of this Custom was in the 1951 edition of the Speed and Mileage Manual by Edgar Almquist. The first edition of this manual was published in 1947, but I’m not sure if this ’41 Mercury was already part of it then.

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The side view shown in the Almquist Manual shows the really fantastic Custom restyling of the car. The full fade away front fenders, the molded in rear fenders and shaving of all the trim. 
The second photo of the car shown in the Almquist manual gives us a better look at the low mounted Lincoln grille, the reshaped front section and the stock headlights rings. The Windshield was chopped, but very conservative, perhaps around 2 inches. The front bumper appears to be a 1942 Buick Special rear bumper with the guards moved closer together.

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The 1941 Mystery Lincoln looks to be a very nicely restyled Custom Car, most likely created by one of the top shops in the later part of the 1940’s or around 1950. The full fade-away fenders done this way, all molded to the body with nice leaded edges, was something both the Ayala’s as well as the Barris shops were well known for. The overall proportions are right on the money, and even though the Lincoln grille is now considered and odd choice, or perhaps better said not the most attractive, back in the mid/late1940’s they were used on more Customs and considered a high-end choice.

Around the late 1940’s a lot of full Customs were produced and there were not to many magazines out there that could or would published these cars. The owners and the Custom Builders did not take as many photos of their projects as we all would have liked. And even though this Custom Mercury did get published back then, there was no mentioning of the builder to help promote his business.

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In 2019 this photo of the Mercury was shared on Facebook. So far I have been unable to find out where the photo was taken and who shared it originally. If anybody knows more about the photo location, or who owns the photo, please let us know.

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Enlarged section of the photo shows that the car has 1948-50 California license plates when this photo was taken. Most likely with the unknown owner standing proudly next to the car. The Lincoln grille is considered an odd choice today, but back in the 1940’s it was used a lot.

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Colormelacquer shared a photos with us showing the same location of the photo above in 2019. Not too much has changed….

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From what I can see in the photos the newest parts used on the car are from 1947, Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps. So this version of the car could not have been created before 1947. The padded top has a nice flow on the back and a straight B-pillars, most likely the same upholstery shop did a full custom interior for the car as well.

Who knows more about this rather nice 1941 Mercury Convertible Custom with full fade-away fenders. Who was the original owner, and who built it. Hopefully one of our readers remembers this car from back then, or has seen more photos of it. If so, please let us know and send Rik an email here at the Custom Car Chronicle.

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Albrecht Goertz 40 Mercury

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ALBRECHT GOERTZ 40 MERCURY

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Albrecht Goertz of Los Angeles, California designed a European influenced 1940 Mercury based Coupe in late 1939. Later Albrecht would become world famous designing BMW cars.

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The 1940 Mercury during final construction in late 1939. Obvious in this photo are the hand made body, the use of modified Mercury front fenders and Lincoln rear fenders with factory flush skirts.

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Albrecht Graf von Goertz, was born on January 12, 1914, the second son to an aristocratic family in Germany. His parents were Else and Rudolf Graf von Schlitz gen. von Goertz und Freiherr von Wriesberg. Albrecht and his two siblings grew up on their parents’ estate near Brunkensen (Lower Saxony), about 40 kilometers south of Hanover. At the age of five, he discovered a passion for cars that would last all his life. Goertz began designing cars from his youth.

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Francis Griffen, the builder of the car posing with the nearly completed car. The convertible in the back is an Auburn that was apparently owned by Gary Cooper, who wrecked it and the two bodyshop owners purchased it and repaired it.

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In 1934 he went to London and in 1935, Goertz applied to the American embassy at Grosvenor Square for an entry visa to the USA. In the autumn of 1936, he left Europe for New York City.

A distant relative in New York helped him when he first arrived, but soon the young Count relocated to Los Angeles. To earn a living, Goertz worked at a car wash, in a factory for aircraft engines, and at a flight service. The car aficionado watched with great interest the emerging Hot Rod era and grasped the opportunity in 1938. Goertz rented a garage and showroom located on Rodeo Drive and began to modify Ford Model A and B models. In 1939 he designed his first complete car on a Mercury chassis. the mostly new body for his car was done by Francis Griffen, who owned together with a co-worker, a very small body shop in Glendale, California. Goertz named his curvy two door coupe the “Paragon”. The car was exhibited at the 1939-40 San Francisco World’s Fair.

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Albrecht Goertz posing with the nearly finished Paragon.

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The finished Paragon Custom Car shows influences from European Coachbuilders with its flowing lines and curved dip on the belt-line.

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We do not know much about the body shop that was owned by Francis Griffen and a co-worker. And also not much on what was used on Goertz Custom Car. The only published information we have been able to find is that it was based on a Mercury frame. But how the body was constructed, if it was all hand made, or if body panels from other cars have been used, other than the Mercury front fenders and Lincoln rear fenders we do not know.

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Two small blurry images show the car in the early 1940’s.

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Front 3/4 view shows the beautiful falling down roof shape, the what appears to be Mercury windshield, rather flat body sides, and a very pointy hood. Beautiful styling.

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Later the car was repainted in a darker color, Here Albrecht Goertz poses with his car while in service.

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This photo appeared in the 1949 edition of the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling. It shows the set in license plate , the really small rear window and use of Teardrop taillights, most likely from ’38-39 Lincoln, but they could be Ford units as well. The license plate looks to be a California 1945 unit.

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The front of the car shows the 1940 Mercury headlights, reshaped fenders and bumpers The grille was as far as we can tell home made in a homemade surround.

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The Albrecht Goertz Mercury was used in all 1949 and up editions of the Dan Post Blue book, as well as in a few other early 1950’s publications. And that is also the last we have been able to find out about the car. We have no idea what ever happened to this unequally restyled Mercury. The car had both coachbuilt as well as Custom Car influences and helped boost the automotive design career of Albrecht Goertz.

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Overview of the 1939-40 San Fransisco Treasure Island Fair were the Mercury was displayed for some time.

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The car was displayed at the 1939-40 San Francisco World’s Fair, but so far I have not been able to find any photos or movie footage of the car at this event. My guess is that a car like this in 1939-40 must have caused quite a stir. Somebody must know more about it…. Lets hope this article might lead to some more info about the cars history and whereabouts.

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Albrecht Goertz, who had worked for three famous designers by 1953, soon set up his own design business. Through his contact network, he got to know Max Hoffmann, BMW’s general importer in America. Hoffmann knew of BMW’s plans to build a big sports car and encouraged Goertz to contact BMW in Munich. Goertz sketched an awesome vehicle and quickly won the bid. In less than 18 months, he designed the BMW 507, the car that celebrated its world premiere in the New York Waldorf-Astoria hotel in 1955. At the same time, Goertz designed an elegant coupe that was also available as a convertible: the BMW 503. This four-seater debuted with the BMW 507 at the 1955 Frankfurt Motor Show, where both automobiles caused a sensation. Even today, the BMW 503 and the BMW 507 are considered absolute dream cars. Sporty, elegant and also cultivated, they represent the core attributes of a BMW car.

Albrecht Goertz at work at the BMW design department.

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Special thanks to Keith Griffin for supplying some of the unique images from his fathers collection.

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1945 San Francisco Customs

 

1945 SAN FRANCISCO CUSTOMS

 

Northern California had a very active Custom Car Scene back in the 1940s. Bruce Heather shared some photos of unequally Restyled Nor-Cal Customs from 1945 with us.



Bruce Heather shared some really interesting pictures of Early Customs from his Collection with us. The photos was all taken around 1945 in San Francisco, and where given to Bruce by Harry Costa. Harry Coast is the owner of a channeled, chopped and padded topped 1941 Ford with raised fenders that has been a show winner in the California Bay era since the mid 1950’s. Harry still owns the car in 2018.

The Custom Car in Nor California, and around the Sacramento and San Francisco, Bay area has been together with So-Cal a very important place in the history of the Custom Car. Southern California, and especially Los Angeles was perhaps the best known area for Custom Restyling. The better weather had a lot to do with this, plus the fact that the early car magazines were mostly published from Los Angeles, therefor it made perfect sense to feature mostly local cars. These So-Cal Customs were perhaps of that better documented, more photographed than in other places.

Nothern California did house some of the very best Custom Builders. Harry Westergard, Les Crane, Dick Bertolucci, Hall Auto Tops, and George and Sam Barris came from there before they moved to Los Angeles during WWII. All these fine creative builders in Northern California had a huge impact on the scene, and in the last couple of years more and more pictures from this Nor-Cal Scene have surfaced.

The first photo shows a very interesting ’36 Ford Cabriolet. Interesting restyling includes, narrowed running boards, reshaped fenders, ’38 La Salle grille mounted low on the filled in front section. The lower half of the grille was split in half and placed along side the main grille. Chopped windshield with an non Ford windshield added. Lowe angled b-pillar padded top, single bar flipper hubcaps and custom script on smooth hood sides.
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1938-39 Ford Coupe milder custom uses smoothed and filled in hood sides, aftermarket sealed beam headlights, ’37 DeSoto bumpers, single bar flipper hubcaps, Appleton Spotlights and fender skirts with Buick skirt trim added. Anybody recognizes the building in the background?
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Mild Street Custom 1936 Ford Coupe with a bit lowered suspension, teardrop fender skirts and single spotlight.


[divider]Last photo is another very mild street Custom. This time based on a ’39 Ford Sedan with what look like ’41 Buick skirts, pointed forward Spotlights and single bar flipper hubcaps.
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1939 Ford Convertible

There were four photos of the same 1939 Ford Convertible in the collection Bruce received from Harry. A very interesting Custom, with a lot of Custom Restyling and and a lot of body work. Most of the Customs created in the early to mid 1940’s were rather mild, with minimal amount of body work to get the right result. But there were a few exceptions that might have set the bar for the future generation of Custom Cars. We know that Harry Westergard created some heavy body worked customs in the early-mid 1940’s. George Barris was very much influenced by what Westergard did, so he took the heavy restyling style to Los Angeles. This ’39 Ford however is restyled by an unknown body shop or Customizer, in a way that shows whoever created it sure had some sense of styling, and creativity.


Front 3/4 view shows the removal of the running boards and special below the body panel to hide the frame rails.
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The whole body is smoothed in a very unique way. The complete belt line has been filled in from the hood all the way to the back of the car. The fenders have been molded to the body, the running boards have been removed and the fenders extended down to fill the section where the running board used to be. A filler panel was created to fit under the body to hide the frame rails. The stock grille was removed and a filler piece created that would allow a bottom section of a 1940 Dodge grille to be installed. he headlights were replaced by body color painted 1940 Ford units.

The windshield frame was chopped a few inches, and a medium colored padded top with very nice flowing lines added.  The flowing lines of the padded top make me feel that the tom might have been done by Hall of Oakland. The two part stock hood was welded solid and completely smoothed. At the rear a lot of effort was done to create an ultimate smooth body. The molded in fenders have a very smooth transition due to the molded in belt-line.

The grille looks to be the lower section of an 1940 Dodge grille set into custom reshaped front sheet metal. The Bumper looks to be a 1942 Packard unit with 1942 Studebaker bumper guards added.
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Rear 3/4 view shows the beautiful lines of the ’39 Ford with its smooth rear end, flowing lines of the medium tint padded top and chopped windshield frame.
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The trunk or rumble seat was welded shut and smoothed creating one large body panel for the complete back of the car. The only details are the set in license plate and the stock teardrop taillights. The stock bumpers front and rear were replaced with what looks like 1942 Packard bumpers mounted a bit closer to the body than stock. At the front 1942 Studebaker bumper guards were modified to fit the Packard bumpers. The rear one was left smooth.

The photo from the rear shows that the fenders were molded to the body, and the complete trunk, or rumble seat cover was welded and smoothed to make it completely smooth.  square hole with very small radius corners was cut into the rear for a behind glass set in license plate. The rear bumper also looks to be 1942 Packard, but no bumper guards were used.
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Typical for the era the door handles remained on the car, also typical are the single bar flipper hubcaps and black wall tires due to the rubber shortage during WWII. The car was painted in a dark color, and most likely turned heads were ever it went. Most likely daily transportation for its owner. These are the only photos I have ever seen of this car, I have checked all my early publications, but there is no photos of it anywhere as far as I can tell. Any of our readers knows more about it?




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Joe Hocker 1936 Ford

 

JOE HOCKER 1936 FORD

 

The Hocker brothers Joe and Tom from Oakland California were both into Custom Car. Tom had the famous Barris Restyled 1940 Ford, and Joe a DuVall windshield 1936 Ford Phaeton.



Of the two Hocker Brothers Joe (Joseph) and Tom we are most familiar with Tom’s 1940 Ford restyled by the famous Barris Kustom Shop around 1953, and later updated around 1957. While doing research for the restoration of the Tom Hocker 1940 Ford, John Canepa came in contact with the Hocker family. Sadly Tom and Joe are no longer with us, but John was able to get some great information and pictures from Joe’s Hocker‘s widow and son Joe Jr. Besides some great snapshots they also shared some valuable information that helps John with the restoration on the Tom Hocker ’40 Ford.

During the conversation with the Hockers, John also learned about brother Joe’s earlier custom, his 1936 Ford Phaeton. Joe Jr. shared a few of the family snapshots of his father’s ’36 Ford and when John shared those with me I recognized the car immediately as the Joseph Hocker Ford that was entered at the 1951 National Roadster Show in Oakland Ca. For some strange reason I never made the link between Joseph Hocker with his ’36 Ford and Tom Hocker with his 1940 Ford Coupe, and never realized these were two brothers who were both into Custom Cars.

Tom Hocker with his chopped ‘40 Ford fresh from Barris Kustoms in ‘52. When John Canepa was asking the Hocker family for more info and photos of the Tom Hocker ’40 Ford they found this one, and many more, and they also came across the ’36 Ford images of Tom’s brother Joe. The car we concentrate on in this article.
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Tom’s 1940 Ford was a very well known Barris Custom, first painted Fuchsia Orchid, and later in metallic medium blue with scallops and later dual headlights. The was featured in many magazines, and in color on the cover. Joseph’s ’36 Ford was on the road a few years earlier, basically just before the major car magazines were published. So far we only had heard about his Ford from the 1951 National Roadster Show. And seen a few photos of the car from this show. We also had some info how the car had survived and is still around today as a semi restored car with dual cowl and dual V-Windshield. When John Canepa shared the Hocker family photos and the info he had gathered it all fell in place.

We are still trying to find out more about the early days of the Hocker Brothers and their Custom Cars. Finding out more about Joe’s ’36 Ford, when it was restyled, and who did the work on the car. Hopefully we will be able to get more details at a later date, initiated by this article. And if we do, we will update the info in the article.

Joe Hocker 1936 Ford

George DuVall designed and created the now famous DuVall V-Windshield for the SoCalif. Plating 1935 Ford in 1936. Even though the windshield was original designed for the ’35-’36 Fords the windshield really became popular after it was modified to fit the narrower 1932 Ford body. Over the decades the DuVall windshield has been used more on Hot Rods than on Custom Cars for which it was originally intended for. But there are a few samples of early Custom Cars that used the streamlined DuVall V-windshield. Joe Hocker’s 36 Ford Phaeton is one of them.

Joe Hocker with his 1936 Ford Pheaton with DuVall windshield and matching padded top.
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Julian Doty is DuVall’s nephew and was selling the windshields in the 40’s & 50’s. Most likely Joe bought the DuVall windshield from him.
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We are not sure if Joe ever saw the SoCali Plating ’35 Ford in person, or perhaps in one of the early publications. So we do not know if this inspired him to get the DuVall windshield, and shape of the Padded top in a similar way, but since the similarities are striking we do think the SoCal Plating Shop truck was an influence on Tom’s Ford. Julian Doty, who was George DuVall’s nephew, was marketing the DuVall Windshields in the 1940’s and 1950’s. So most likely Joe bought one of them from Julian, or perhaps thru a dealer.


What we do know about the Hocker brothers is that they were very creative, and skilled to do a lot of work on their cars them selves. But when it came to work they felt not comfortable with, like the majority of the body work, paint and interior, they went to the best on the market. Joe’s 36 Ford was never featured in any magazine or book, at least not in its original form. Which could have helped us with crucial information. At this moment the Hocker family could not remember if anybody else but Joe and Tom worked on the Phaeton body. Making the windshield fit the cowl, and other body changes, perhaps the Hocker brother did the work at their home shop, perhaps it was outsourced. The uniquely shaped padded top, with French curve, might have been done by the C.A. Hall Auto Tops in Oakland Ca.

Joe and Gwen with the ‘36 Ford.
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Gwen Hocker, Joe’s wife, remembered a few things about Joe’s ’36 Ford ans shared those memories with John Canepa. Joe got his driver’s license when he was just 13 years old. Joe and his brother Tom worked on their cars on a dirt floor behind their small house. One day, when taking a trip in the ‘36 with the padded top left at home, they were caught in a rainstorm, and lightning struck the chrome dash while they were driving! In the early 1950’s Joe made a living from being was a handyman at an apartment complexes nearby where they lived.

Joe and Tom behind the ‘36 Ford. This side view shows the very steep angle of the DuVall windshield really well. It gave instant speed to the Ford.
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Joe installed a 1946 Semi-race Mercury engine with Edelbrock heads and manifold, Harmon Collins cam, Kong Ignition and ’46 Mercury transmission in the car. He modified the suspension to get the car a bit lower, but not as low as most other Customs from the same era. He updated the suspension with ’46 Ford hydraulic brakes. The stock bumpers were replaced with 1940 Oldsmobile bumpers front and rear. The stock hood sides were replaced with aftermarket smooth units, the hood ornament was replaced with a bull nose aftermarket piece for a smoother look. And the grille side pieces were chrome plated.

Joe shaved the door handles and with all the body work done, the car was painted with 25 coats of metallic maroon paint. Joe added 1939 Ford teardrop taillights to the smoothed rear fenders. In the 1951 Oakland Show Brochure it is listed that the car had Cadillac Hubcaps, but by the looks if it I think they are aftermarket look alike that are a bit less deep, allowing the stock Ford wheels to be used. The hubcaps look really great with the car with the wide white wall tires and no skirts in the back giving the car an European vibe.

The only rear view we have of the car is this out of focus snapshot. It shows the canvas covered spare tire, and the use of ’39 Ford teardrop taillights on smoothed rear fenders.
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Joe’s ’36 Ford on the right along with a few Friends cars.
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At this moment we do not know the full story on Joe’s Ford, what happened to the car from the time the snapshots in this article and those at the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show were taken, until the late 1960’s. Hopefully we will be able to update this article later with more info about this time. We do know, thanks to Ron Brooks, that in the late 1960’s, or perhaps early 1970’s Harry Morse owned the ’36 Ford, and he took it to Don Bridgeman (Don’s Body Shop) to convert his car to a dual-cowl body.

Wonderful front 3/4 view of Joe’s Ford with some of his friends cars next to it.
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The 1951 National Roadster Show

Until recently the only photos we had seen of Joe’s ’36 Ford were taken at the 1951 National Roadster Show, the second annual Roadster show in Oakland California. In the 1951 Show booklet the owner of the car was mentioned to be Joseph Hocker. The Roadster Show was a local show for Joe, but it meant that his car would become world wide known. Perhaps not right then, when it was shown, but it sure has been in the last few decades.

Overview photo of the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show shows Joe’s Ford with one hood side open to show of the mercury engine and the padded top in place.
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Close up of the photo above.
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This picture shows a hint of what is going on in the engine bay. It looks like Joe used plenty of chrome and polished parts to make the Mercury engine look at its best. The inset is the write up on Joe’s Ford in the 1951 National Roadster Show booklet.
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A double exposed snapshot showing the engine of Joe’s Ford.
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Custom Cars were well present at the 1951 Show.
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Side view photo taken at the show by Rudy Perez. It gives us a good look at the padded top.
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Joe’s Ford just visible on the right of this picture of the National Roadster Show award.
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The Dual Cowl 1936 Ford

In the late 1960’s or early 1970’s Harry Morse, of Castro Valley, California acquired the ‘36 Ford Phaeton Custom for a good price from a guy named Pete Paulsen. When Morse bought the car the car still had the original DuVall windshield and the Mercury engine and most likely all the other custom touches. (Pete Paulsen recently confirmed that the car he sold to Harry Morse was indeed the Joe Hocker Ford.)

Morse replaced the Mercury engine with a bone stock unit and had the interior redone in leather. The DuVall windshield was not stock, but it inspired Harry to do something special and create a dual cowl ‘36 Ford based on a General Motors design for a ’34 Cadillac he had always been impressed with. The second windshield was created using the original brass unit as a base, and modified it to fit the hand made second cowl, created by Don Bridgman. Don used a cowl of a ‘35 Ford Roadster parts car to create the second cowl. The brass cast unit was polished and plated. Morse kept the smooth hood sides, and added body color grille sides, stock hood ornament as well as grille extension Fultron trim pieces on the front of the hood.

July 1979 issue of Custom & Rod Ideas had a very nice feature on the ’36 Ford after it was own by Harry Morse, of Castro Valley, California.
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Custom &Rod Ideas opening spread. This bottom photo shows that the car has an fender mounted gas filler as well as ’39 Ford taillights. Both are most likely left from the original Joe Hocker version.
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Second spread showed some color as well, including the beautiful leather interior.
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In the early 1990’s Harry Morse sells the Ford to Mike Aahl, also of of Castro Valley. Mike has made a few small changes to the car over the years, including adding new wheels and tires and adjusting the stance a little to get it a little lower, perhaps more to how Joe Hocker had it in the early 1950’s. Mike still enjoys the car and it pops up at local car shows from time to time.

Taken a few years ago, now owned by Mike Aahl of Castro Valley, who has owned it for 25 plus years now. Mike has made a few changes to the car, including a stance adjustment, new white wall tires and steel wheels with 48 Ford hubcaps and beauty rings.
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Ron Brooks took this picture at a GoodGuys show a couple years ago.
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The George DuVall designed SoCalif Plating Shop hauler 1935 Ford was created in 1936. It might have been the inspiration for Joe to created his ’36 Ford.
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A ’36 Ford similarly restyled as the Joe Hocker Ford is the Tommy The Greek ’36 Ford. Often these two cars are mixed up. Joe’s Ford has stock fenders with running boards, four doors and had Olds bumpers, while Tommy’s Ford has reshaped fenders, removed running boards, skirts and Pontiac bumpers.
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Special thanks to John Canepa and Ron Brooks




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Marvin Lee 42 Chevy

 

MARVIN LEE 42 CHEVY

 

Marvin Lee of Pasadena California Restyled his 1942 Chevy Fleetline AeroSedan when the car was brand new in 1942.



1942, the last year the major US Car Companies brought out a new car model. Production stopped around February that year, and it would not be until after WWII, in 1946 before they would start production again, and introduce new cars. Everything a Hot rod and Custom Car guy would need to turn their every day driver into a hopped up or Restyled driver was rationed, all tools, supplies and most man (and woman) were needed for war production.  This however did not stop Marvin Lee, from Pasadena to restyle his brand new 1942 Chevy Fleetline AeroSedan. The 1942 model was most likely produced in late 1941.

1942 Chevy Fleetline AeroSedan from the factory brochure.
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The car is relatively mildly restyled, with its most obvious modification the filled in rear quarter windows, and the removal of most of the car’s chrome. The end result of the car is one of the best know “ration customs” and despite the early year, we can be very fortunate that several photos of the car have survived. Many thanks to Dean Batchelor and Spencer Murray for taking those photos and hanging on to those all these years.

The side profile of Marvin’s Chevy shows the nice lines of the top after filling in the rear quarter windows. And to make it work as good as it does, the drip rails were removed, and the rear top door corner was rounded to follow the shape of the door side window.
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Marvin Lee’s 1942 Chevy was a typical Custom for the WWII period. Created with the limitations of the time. There was rubber shortage, so there were no white wall tires available, chrome plating parts was not an option either.
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The real unique details about the Marvin Lee Chevy is that the car was nearly completely de-chromed. With that it was way ahead of its time. Most Customs from the early 1940’s still had most of their chrome, with perhaps some hood and trunk pieces removed, but on Marvin’s Chevy all the side trim was removed, and even though the door handles remained on the car, they were painted body color to make them less obvious. It does look like the stance of the car was not changed much, perhaps it was lowered a little, but not much. Due to the restrictions the car had black wall tires, possibly the stock units from the factory. And it looks like it was dressed up with some early single bar flipper hubcaps.

We do not know if Marvin did all the body work on the car himself, or if a local Pasadena body shop might have done the work. David Giller mentioned Marvin had worked at Coachbuilding shops in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s as mechanic and painter. Filling in the rear quarter windows, removing the drip rails and rounding the door top corners are not easy tasks. Especially if there where no tools, or supplies available as they used to be. We have heard stories that body shops collected and melted down fishing sinkers to use for body work. Perhaps that was what was used on Marvin’s Chevy as well.

From this rear 3/4  photo we can see how smooth the body was done. The shaved trunk, removal of most of the chrome and flush factory accessory skirts make it look ultra slippery. The car ran on black wall tires, since there were no white wall tires available, or perhaps it was by choice to make the whole effect even more dramatic.
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Dean Batchelor wrote a 3 page article in the May 1953 issue of Rod & Custom magazine about Pre-War Customs, and included 2 pictures of Lee Marvin’s Chevy.
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The only photos we have been able to locate of the car are from around 1942, nobody seems to know what happened to the car after that. Due to the time the car was created, it was never featured in any of the magazine, but the images taken in 1942 were used multiple times in different publications as a sample to show how Custom Cars during WWII looked like.

If any of our readers knows anything more about Marvin Lee’s Chevy, has more photos off it, or knows what happened to it after 1942, please send us an email so that we can add it to this article.



About Marvin Lee

by David Giller

Marvin Lee was a longtime Hot Rodder and had a background in Customs too. I did some research and found he worked at the famous Bohman & Schwartz Coachbuilders (Pasadena) in 1938 as an Auto Painter, and in 1940 at D’Arcy Coachworks in nearby Alhambra as an auto mechanic. I suspect he could have done the custom work on his Chevy himself. He later also ran fast cars at the Dry Lakes and Bonneville Salt Flats. In 1949 at El Mirage dry lake he had the streamliner entry with a Class record at 153.545 mph. Marvin Lee went to Bonneville in 1950 with a new enclosed body streamliner using a Horning GMC six. One of the first full body enclosed cars at Bonneville. Also called The City of Pasadena. That car spun and flipped at 230 mph. Only minor injuries to the driver “Puffy” Puffer because the car was so well constructed. Story is that Lee gave up on streamlined cars after that. I didn’t know until recently that Marvin Lee was one of the founders of The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) along with Wally Parks.

Marvin Lee was later involved with new car dealerships in the Pasadena area. Died in Newport Beach in 1994 at 80 years of age.

Marvin Lee’s 29 Model A, which burnt complete and a color photo of the City of Pasadena in 1950. Marvin Lee is bending over the car with his red and white sweater.
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Left to right are: Bill Spalding, Wayne Horning, Marvin Lee and Tom Spalding. (from Tex Smith’s Hot Rod History Book One by Tom Medley)
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My college roommate, Dave Graham, was from the Pasadena area and in 1956 or 1957 we were over at the Pasadena City College campus on Colorado Boulevard. Adjacent was a Bob’s Big Boy Hamburger restaurant. Dave noted the used car lot next to Bob’s and said it was Marvin Lee’s lot. Lee sold customized cars, all stick shift and well known by the local young car guys. Dave said he was sometimes known by the local car guys as “Starvin Marvin”. This specialty sale lot much the same as the famous Andrews and Evans dealership in Burbank which, oddly enough, was also next door to a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant on San Fernando road. Marvin Lee’s lot was at 1650 E. Colorado, the main street through Pasadena. I have been by there many times over the years.

By my experience, these two specialty dealerships usually had a good inventory of clean later model cars, mostly Ford or Chevy, with various levels of customizing – from just a nice set of Glasspak duals, lowering and chrome Moon wheel covers (no flippers) to some cars with additional quality repaint, pin striping, custom tuck and roll interiors, often other special body work and more. Then there were the occasional full customs by Barris and other shops, maybe earlier show or magazine feature cars plus a couple of finished Hot Rods – Roadsters and Coupes. A real candy store to young guys with some saved first job money to spend. Or just a cool free car show.

Dave Graham had a custom 1950 Mercury while we were roommates and he later decided to live at home in San Marino and drive over to school. He then had a very nice slightly custom 1957 Chevy two door coupe.
I should ask him if he bought it from Marvin Lee or if Marvin ended up with the Custom Mercury.

There were several ads like the one shown in this article in the Pasadena Star News paper from 1956 though 1960. Some advertising about the lot and customizing of the cars for sale and others listing some stick shift cars for sale.
My guess is he established the “Custom Car Lot” about 1954 or so. In 1951 he was a salesman at a Pontiac dealer in Pasadena and also in 1949. By 1963 appears he was at other Pasadena new car dealerships like Cadillac, possibly as the owner or a partner. Have not found any car business information for him after about 1966 but he still lived in Pasadena.

This is an ad ran by Marvin Lee in the Pasadena Star-News Oct 25 -26 1957. Sorry it is hard to read.
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The Phantom Corsair

After doing the research on the Marvin Lee ’42 Chevy and Marvin’s personal History David Giller could not help think about the 1937-38 created Phantom Corsair for the Heinz family. And how, in a way, similar this car looked like Marvin’s Chevy. Here are some thoughts about this from David.

History of the Early Custom Car

An extraordinary special, one off, custom car of the prewar period was the “Phantom Corsair” designed by owner Rust Heinz of the Heinz Foods family. This on a Cord front drive chassis. I saw this car at Harrah’s museum many years ago and I think also on special display at the Pebble Beach Concours about 1990 or so. Spectacular car and design and unlike anything else up to that time. Lots of photos on this car on the internet or perhaps you have some file photos or even an earlier article on it. When I compare the Marvin Lee Chevy custom details to the Phantom Corsair I see real similarities, especially the closed top line and angle, the fitted skirts, lack of body chrome and impact of the black color.

Maybe just wishful coincidence. Except….

The Phantom Corsair was built by Bohman and Schwartz Coachworks in Pasadena in 1937-1938. Marvin Lee was employed at Bohman and Schwartz in 1938, listed as an “Auto Painter”  there in the Pasadena City Directory. So very possibly, or likely, he was the original painter and did metal work on the Phantom Corsair. Did it influence his 1942 Chevy Custom?

Best Regards,

David Giller




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Light Color Early Customs

 

LIGHT COLOR EARLY CUSTOMS

 

Most of the time we think of dark painted cars when we think Early Style Custom Cars. But there were actually quite a few light color Early Customs. Lets take a closer look.

I guess that when somebody asks you to visualize an early Custom, from the late 30’s up into the lat 1940’s, you most likely end up seeing a dark painted Customs in your head. During these Early Golden Years of Custom Restyling the dark deep organic paints, perhaps with a hint of bronze metallic powder dominated the scene. Colors based on dark hues from General Motors, mixed with darker toners, and clears, applied in multiple coats to create extra depth were often considered trade marks for some of the best known builders. These dark and deep colors enhanced the new body lines, showed off the excellent body skills these crafts man had. These dark colors were a perfect way to show off how perfect they were in blending body panels, every flaw in the body work would show up with these mirror gloss dark colors if not absolutely perfect.

But there were exceptions… There were a good number of Early Customs that were painted with light colors. I think that using lighter colors on early Customs has its origins – as many other elements in the history of Custom Restyling – in the Coachbuild or Exotic High-End cars. Quite often. These early coach build and high-end cars had very bright vibrant Colors, to set them further apart from the showroom models. The same thing could ave been done with early Custom Cars, the light, bright colors made them look even more different that the mostly dark colored cars that came from the factories. Clark Cable’s ’35 Duesenberg is one of the most famous light colored cars that comes to mind.

Clark Cable’s 1935 Duesenberg, a huge car, looked even larger with its light color.
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And perhaps Hollywood had something to do with the lighter colors as well. A few of the early Custom Restyled Sports Customs created specifically for the movies were light colored as well, as this Topper movie car for the movie featuring Constance Bennett and Cary Grant.
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For me personally I have always thought that the Custom Cars from my favorite era, the late 30’s up to the late 40’s looked the very best in very dark deep organic colors. But for the past couple of years I have started to really enjoy some lighter colors on these early customs, both from vintage photos’ as well as for more current creations clearly inspired by the original early Customs. The ’36 Ford Roadster created by Altisimo and the 37 Chevy created by Paul Cepeda and a few years earlier a beautifully mild early 440’s styled ’39 Mercury convertible are just a few samples of recent created light colored Early styled Customs that have made a huge impact.

The Wes Collins / Al Marx 1934 Ford roadster with DuVall windshield and Padded top was originally painted black, but in the later part of the 1940’s repainted in a light color, making the car look a lot taller.
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Perhaps the best known light colored early Custom Car is the off white painted chopped ’36 Ford for Bob Pierson.
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During the restoration of the Jimmy Summers / Bob Fairman ’36 Ford Coupe the team found what they think is the light color that can be seen in the black and white photos we know of this car. One of the very few samples of actual light colors used on the early Customs that have survived. We will be showing these samples when the progress on the restoration of the Fairman Ford continues. (1942 photo.)
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Frank Sandoval’s 1936 Ford Coupe looking fantastic in a light color.
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Late 1940’s photo shows 1936 Ford 5-window coupe with the rear quarter windows filled in, narrowed grille and 1940 Ford headlights mounted on the front of the modified ’36 Ford fenders. And painted in a light color, making the car look classic, and taller than it really was.
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Unidentified ’36 Ford Roadster with V-Windshield, removed running boards with stainless panel covering the frame, DeSoto bumpers and a light painted body with dark accents on the door tops, possibly to make it look like a “dip”. (1947 photo.)
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Jim McKinley’s ’36 Ford Coupe must have looked stunning with its 20 hand-rubbed coats of light cream lacquer and contrasting fire engine red grille, wheels and backs of the DeSoto bumpers.
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This heavily chopped ’36 Ford Sedan went thru several versions, first one done in the later part of the 1930’s was with dark paint and a white canvas covered top. Later, in the 1940’s the car was redone with a metal top, and new light colored paint. This photo was taken during, or shortly after WWII.
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Jay Everette’s 1936 Ford four door with chopped top and filled in rear quarter window.
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In an phone interview Jesse Lopez ones told me that when he was working with Sam Barris on his 1941 Ford Coupe he thought about painting the car in his all time favorite color, light pale yellow. And he was very serious about actually painting his to be iconic Custom Car that color. But in the end, he decided to got the more common, route and find a dark organic color. Imagine what might have happened if Jesse had painted his car in a light color. The Coupe was very well known in the late 1940’s up into the mid 1950’s. Could have had the car just as much impact with the light color, or perhaps it could have resulted in many more light color painted customs in the later part of the 1940’s…. who knows.

Sadly we do not have many early color photos of these light colored Custom Cars, so we do not know much about which colors or hues were used, or if special effects as bronze or silver or even pearl powders were involved. We know that all these special products were available at the time., so it is quite possible that the Custom Car pioneers experimented with these products. But more than likely these lighter colors were mostly based on factory colors, perhaps specially mixed to suit the car even better.

Unidentified 1937 Ford convertible with dark colored chopped padded top, set in license plate, and bubble skirts.
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Another unidentified ’37 Ford convertible with chopped windshield, smooth hood sides, Appleton Spots, lowered stance, custom hubcaps and white wall tires looked very good with a light paint job. The tarp on the back indicates the top might have been white.
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Restyled ’37 Ford coupe made into a pick up in 1938 when the car was brand new.
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This photo is very interesting since it shows an ’37 Ford four door convertible with aftermarket Auburn style exhausts coming out of the hood sides. This indicated that the owner was looking for an more exclusive look for his chopped convertible. Perhaps that was also the reason for his choice of a light color on the main body, and a dark color for tthe top and above the belt line.
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I really love this photo of this ’38 Ford convertible on the streets in the 1940’s. light paint, light padded top, white wall tires… Classic.
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Very similar restyled ’38 Ford convertible as the one above, but it is a different car photographed during WWII.
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’39 Ford convertible with chopped windshield, teardrop skirts, black wall tires, single bar flipper hubcaps, ’37 DeSoto bumpers.

Coachcraft build 1940 Ford in 1940 with a mostly hand build body which was painted in a light color, that might have been silver.
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Mildly restyled 1940 Mercury Coupe that might have even been its stock color, possibly Sahara Tan.
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Another Coachcraft restyled car is this 1941 Cadillac with later grille and beautiful fade-away fenders, V-Windshield and padded top had a very classic look enhanced by its light color.
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1941 Cadillac owned by Paul Dallmeier was restyled in the late 1940’s, and updated with a light color in the early 1950’s. Light color on a huge car making it look even bigger.
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Unidentified custom ’40 Chevy convertible with chopped padded top and wide hand made grille looked really good painted in an unknown light shade.
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Possibly based on a 1942 Nash Convertible, this unidentified wild custom was also painted in a light shade. But since the Carson top looks lighter, the color has to be darker than white.
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Al Twitchell’s 1941 Plymouth is one of the few color photos were have found of the early restyled Customs with light colors. Al did all the work on the car himself, including the light baby blue paint.
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This 1940 Chevy 4-door is a milder custom, but still has some very nice body work going on with the shaved doors and removal of trim. Unsure is if the original light color was touched up on the body worked sections, or if the owner choose an an all new, light color for his custom restyled Chevy.
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From the Julian Alvarez Collection comes this light colored beautiful mildly chopped Lincoln.
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Chopped windshield, white padded top by Gaylord’s and light painted, most likely factory stock color that was matched on the windshield and hood.
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One of the cars that really got me into appreciating the light colors on early customs is the Murray 1939 Mercury mildly restyled convertible. Which was very inspirational, and refreshing to me after being used so much to all the dark organic painted customs.
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Two other cars that were done recently that got me inspired for this article are Paul Cepeda’s 37 Chevy painted pearl pale yellow, and the ’36 Ford restyled by Altisimo. The later one being more traditional, but Paul’s Chevy very inspiring because it is a coupe.
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Link Paola Custom Car Pioneer

 

LINK PAOLA Custom Car Pioneer

 

Link Paola Custom Car Pioneer from Glendale California created some beautiful Custom Cars in his career. lets take a closer look.


Link Paola‘s name often pops up as one of the Pioneer Custom Car body man ,together with names as Jimmy Summers, Roy Hagy, Carson Top Shop, Harry Westergard and a few others his name is forever linked to the early style Custom Car. But there are very few photos and stories from Link Paola’s work. There are a few photos of mid/late 1940’s Cars that we have to thank Spence Murray and Dean Batchelor for, who were there to snap a few of the cars coming from Link’s hands. But as far as I know there never was done a proper article on him in the early magazines. Spence Murray is the with out doubt the best source when it comes to Link Paola’s history. Spence worked for Link, and had at least four cars restyled by him.  1941 Ford, 1941 Chevy, 1946 Chevy and 1949 Chevy.

Link Paola worked as a body and paint man at a large Ford dealership in Montrose, which is located a little north of Glendale, California. Linked loved fine automobiles and in the later part of the 1930’s he found out about Custom Restyling. He started to do custom work on the side at the Ford dealer ship. The work included chopping convertibles for Carson tops, removing of running boars and removing chrome trim for the smoother look.


Hot Rod magazine ad from January 1949.
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One of Link Paola’s best known and perhaps most important Customs is an super stylish done 1940 Ford Convertible. Since Link was working at the Ford Dealership, he could get his hands on a brand new 1940 Ford Convertible shortly before the cars were introduced to the public in late 1939. Normally this allowed the dealers to make showroom displays, announcement adds and all kinds of publicity needed to promote the car. But to Link this meant he could create his personal dream custom from a brand new car, before most everybody had even seen the model.

After the dealership owner had signed off the car to Link he started to work on it right away, well after shop hours so that nobody could see what he was doing. When the car work was finished, he painted it dark maroon, took it to the Carson Top Shop for a tan padded top and a week later the car was all done. Just in time to display it across the street from the Ford Dealer at the day the 1940 Fords were introduced.

This is how the Link Paola second shop at 3451 N. Verdugo Road in Glendale (Montrose) looks around 2018.
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You can imagine that Link’s very slick looking Custom drew a huge crowd, and everybody wanted to have one just like it. He took away a large crowd from the dealer who had worked hard for the 1940 Ford introduction display, but of course the stock bodied cars could not stand up to the beautiful custom Link had created. The Dealer owner was not amused at all and fired Link the same day. With having drawn all the attention to him it was the right moment from Link to open up his own body shop. In the late 1930’s he opened his own Custom Shop in Montrose which was was actually across the street from the Ford Dealer he used to work. In his first small shop he created three cars for Spence Murray, as well as most likely many more that we do not have any info about at this point.

Link Paola worked from his own one stall shop for a few years and shortly after the war he relocated to a larger shop located at 3451 N. Verdugo Road in Glendale (Montrose). He named the new shop Link’s Custom Shop, and according a Jan 1949 Hot Rod magazine ad the shop specialized in Auto Painting, Welding and Body Work. In the beginning Link concentratd as much as he could on doing custom work, custom body work and paint. But to be able to get the bills paid he started to do more and more regular body work, straightening fenders, matching paint etc.

Later he found out that he could buy totaled cars from insurance companies for very little money. He then would buy new replacement panels, or find them at the local junk yard and fix up these totaled cars and sell them. It was a way of making good money in an relatively short time. It paid a lot better than doing the Custom Work he did like better, but being able to pay the bills makes up for a lot.





In 1951 Link closes his shop and buys a local Oldsmobile dealer together with his brother Pete Paola. The dealer located at Foothill Boulevard and Glenwood Ave. and is named Paola Oldsmobile. It will stay in business until the mid 1960’s. Link will not work on Custom Cars again after 1951.

Link Paola and his brother Pete bought the Williamson Oldsmobile dealership at Foothill Boulevard and Glenwood Ave in 1951. This photo was taken in late 1956, and stayed open until the mid 1960’s.
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The Link Paola Restyled Cars




Link Paola 1940 Ford

Link’s own 1940 Ford convertible was what attracted many customers to his shop. He had filled the hood, making a mild peak down the center. The deck was filled also, the front fenders were welded to, and molded into, the panels under the body (which were used to hide the frame with running boards removed). Chopped Carson top, Buick fender skirts, 1937 DeSoto bumpers and finished in maroon.

History of the Early Custom CarLink’s 1940 Ford which he restyled in late 1939 looks absolutely stunning with it chopped tan padded Carson Top, removed running boards, ’37 DeStoto bumpers and super nice smoothed and peaked hood. These photos were taken in 1941.
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This picture is the same as above, but shows a bit more of the background. I love old photos.
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Bill Faris 1938 Ford

Bill Faris of Burbank, California was a Throttle Stompers member and owned this ’38 Ford Convertible. At first, only the hood ornament was removed, then the deck smoothed, and license plate sunk in. Buick fender skirts were added, and finally the windshield and side windows were chopped for a Carson Top. At the time, around 1942, they did the car both Bill and Link were in the Air Fore and the only tools they had to use where ball-peen hammer, a piece of pipe, and a few odd pliers. Link ended up painting the car in a beautiful George Washington Blue. Later, and we have not been able to find a photo of this,  Bill and Link Paola shortened the gas filler and added a later model fender gas filler door to the rear fender.

Early version shows minor updates as single bar flipper hubcaps.
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This photo of the finished Ford was taken by Dean Batchelor in front on the Valley Custom Shop owner Neil Emory’s house in 1942.
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Bill Faris with his beautiful heavy chopped 1938 Ford in 1942.
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Dean Batchelor 1941 Pontiac

Link Paolo restyled Dean’s Pontiac with removed side trim. The trunk and hood had the wide center trim were removed, and the large center piece of the trim on the hood was replaced with a hand shaped metal piece that was welded in places and leaded smooth. Link finished the work by painting the car light blue in 1941.

Dean Batchelor’s 1941 Pontiac before he took it to Link Paola’s Montrose shop.
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The Pontiac after Link had finished it in light blue in 1941. Subtle and elegant.
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1941 Chevy convertible

Spence Murray took a few photos of an 1941 Chevy Convertible mild custom that Link worked on. The owner is unknown, but the work on the car included a reshaped front end to accept a 1942 Studebaker Champion grille which makes the Chevy look a bit wider in the front. The hood was smoothed and peaked. And most likely Link also painted the car, but we have no info on the color, nor the owners name.

1941 Chevy, dechromed, molded and fitted with a 1942 Studebaker grille and single bar flipper hubcaps.
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By the time Spence took the photos of the Chevy the grille had suffered a bit of damage, and a few of the Studebaker grille bars are bend out of shape.
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Spence Murray Customs

Spence met Link Paola in late 1941 when he worked out of his one stall shop across from the Ford dealer. He drove his incredible good looking 1940 Ford Convertible with padded Carson top and used it as rolling advertisements for his skills parking it in front of his shop.



Spence Murray 1941 Chevy

Spence Murray took his 1941 Chevy to Link Paola for a few updates when money allowed. Link smoothed the hood and trunk and lowered the suspension and added skirts. Then Spence took it to the Carson Top Shop for a stock height padded top. Spence could or would not afford the extra $50 for chopping the windshield at the time. The car changed a bit over time and in the end Link had added a low mounted custom grille into a smoothed front end. And the side trim was removed from the rear quarters and party from the doors.

Decked trunk by Link Paola.
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Side view shows basically all stock ’41 Chevy with the stock height padded top and three bar propeller aftermarket hubcaps.
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The final version of the ’41 Chevy had a beautiful speed-boat stance, black wall tires (there were no white walls at the time) smoothed front with custom grille. Not to long after this photo was taken Spence traded it to get a ’46 Chevy Fastback.




Spence Murray 1946 Chevy

The 1946 Chevrolet Fastback Spence got shortly after he had returned from the U.S. Navy. He again took it to his friend Link Paola for a Custom update which included a set of full fade away fenders he bought Jimmy Summers for $69.50. Link also added a few other mild touches to the car, and in 1949 Spence sold the ’46 to be able to buy a brand new 1949 Chevy fastback. Sadly there are no photos of the ’46 Chevy and early stages of the ’49 since the photos were destroyed due to flood damage.



Spence Murray 1949 Chevy

For the ’49 Chevy Spence wanted something a little more dramatic, a full Custom with chopped top.It was 1949 and Spence started working at Link’s body shop, doing body sanding, fixing small dents, and driving the shop and tow truck of Links Shop. By then Link was doing more and more regular body work, which was a lot less time consuming than Custom Restyling. He also went on to buy cars that had been totaled in crashed from insurance companies, fix them up with spare parts and junk yard parts and sell them again.

At the time Spence brought in his ’49 Chevy fastback to have Link work on it, Link was just working on a crashed ’49 Chevy Sedan with damaged body, but intact frame and front end. Link proposed to Spence to use his fastback body to fix the damaged car and sell it to an already lined up customer, and then find a new body he could chop for Spence in his spare time as a trade at a later moment. Spence agreed as long as he could use the shop truck as transportation until the ’49 was done.

The original version of the car with just the top chopped and non of the other modifications done in yellow, which was the original color of the Chevy, and purple on the top. Both Spence and Link did not think the darker color on the top really benefited the chopped look, so they soon started doing the rest of the body work and would end up painting the body in one color only.
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Some time later Link found a suitable Sedan body and started to work on it in his spare time. And in September 1950 he started to chop the top 3 inches with some beautiful lines, shaved the drip rails, and rounded the door corners. Link performed all the work together with a few other shop workers after hours and in the weekends to keep his promise to Spence. The car was first painted yellow, which was the Chevy’s color and a custom mixed purple top. Shortly after that the car was back in the shop for round two.


Nice low angle photo shows off the unique outside rear fender wrap around tailpipe. One of the key elements on the car that got noticed everywhere the car went. Spence used a set of aftermarket Cadillac Sombrero look-alike hubcaps.
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Spence Murray’s ’49 Chevy at the 1952 Oakland Roadster Show.
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This time the car was lowered, nosed, decked, shaved, frenched headlights, and shaved taillights. New taillights were added to the bumper, and at the front a ’49 Mercury grille shell was molded in place and an 1951 Plymouth grille was mounted inside it. The June 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine, which was actually written by Spence, states that the body was channeled over the frame as well. Plus an additional lowering job with two inch lowering blocks in the rear brought the car down to perfect height. After all the work was done Link painted the car in a metallic mustard enamel, and we added some very distinctive wrap around exhaust pipes.

Notice the smoothed rear fenders and the small taillights mounted just inside the silence plate guard on the rear bumper. The exhaust pipe follows the side trim and adds to the optical length of the car.
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The Chevy at the Indianapolis Custom Car Show.
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Spence entered the Chevy in the 3rd Annual Oakland Roadster Show in February 1952 where it took Second Place. Dean Batchelor was at the show and was very impressed with the car,  and that is how it ended up in the June 1952 issue of Hop Up Magazine. Later Spence took the car on a “Cross Country” trip all the way to Indianapolis for the Custom Auto Show as well as to attned the Indy-500 race.Photographer Ralph Poole joined Spence to take picture along the way for an upcoming Hop Up magazine article. “6000 Miles in a Custom” (Hop Up , September 1952), which was written by Spence and launched his career as automotive writer.

In this article we have collected as much information on Link Paola as we could find, which is quite a bit, but I guess still only the tip of the iceberg. Link has bean in business as Custom Body Shop for at least a decade, and must have produced a lot more cars during that period than those listed in this article. Hopefully somebody will know more about Link, and the cars he restyled from the late 1930’s till the early 1950’s. Hopefully one day we will be able to share more info, and more photos of the cars he created, and perhaps of the shop’s from where he worked. If you have any more information on Link Paola, please Email Rik so we can add it to this article for everybody to enjoy.

Thank you





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