Chopped 1949 – 51 Mercury Convertibles

 

CHOPPED 49-51 MERCURY Convertibles

 

A trip in time back to the late 1940s and early 1950s when the first of the 1949 – 51 Mercury Convertibles were Customized with chopped padded tops.



The 1949-51 Mercury has made a huge mark on the Custom Car scene ever since the first model rolled out of the Factories in late 1948. The body style was so familiar to the Custom Car enthusiast, with just the perfect proportion of heavy body below the belt-line, and relatively small windows all around. These cars did not need much to make them look perfect in the eye of the Custom Car enthusiast. But to make them look absolutely perfect, a few inches taken out of the top height would do absolute magic to these cars.

Ever since custom builders started to chop tops to improve on the looks of the cars, the convertible models were among the first to get the lower top treatment. Especially in California, where the weather was mostly good all year round, the convertible cars were very popular. And Upholstery shops were specializing in adding padded tops to cars with chopped windshield. A trend that was started by the Carson top Shop where Glen Houser developed the first padded top “Carson Top”  in 1935.

Just like with most other brand and specific year cars before, the first “victims” of chopping the top on the ’49 Mercury, were the, much easier to chop, convertibles. Especially if the working folded top, were to be replaced by a removable padded top, the chop process could be realized in a matter of days. In this article we are going to take a look at the ’49-51 Mercury convertible customs that were chopped early on when these cars were still very new. We have already created an article around what could be the First Chopped Mercury Coupe here on the CCC, and now its time to concentrate on the convertibles. This is not (yet) a quest to find the timeline of the first chopped 49-51 Mercury convertibles, just a gathering of those we are familiar with, and hopefully more info will come from this article, to possibly create an more accurate time line.

1949 Mercury convertible from the original sales brochure.
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Bill Gaylord 1949 Mercury

Bill Gaylord was one of the very first to chop the top on a 1949 Mercury. This car was Bill’s personal driver. The story on Bill‚Äôs ‚Äô49 Mercury started in early 1949. Bill had a very nicely done ‚Äô42 Mercury convertible with front sheet metal from a ‚Äô47 Mercury. It was a really nice late 1940‚Äôs style custom with chopped windshield shaved handles, nosed, decked and one of Bill‚Äôs nicely flowing padded tops. Bill took his ‚Äô42 Mercury custom to a local Mercury dealer and traded it for a brand new ‚Äô49 Mercury convertible. The Mercury dealership put the ‚Äô42 in their best spot in front of the showroom and it sold very fast. Soon after that they asked if Bill could do another one for them and sell it the same way. He created another custom, with a George Cerny chopped windshield. It also was sold very fast.

In the meantime Bill was also planning the customizing on his new ‚Äô49 Mercury. At the same time George Barris came over to Bill’s shop, asking Bill if he could create a long low padded top for George’s personal ‚Äô42 Cadillac (with ’47 fenders and bumpers). Sure I can do that Bill mentioned. If you chop the windshield on my ’49 Merc, french the headlights and remove the emblems‚Ķ deal! So Bill created the long and smooth padded top for George Barris his‚Äô42 Cadillac, while George was busy chopping the windshield of Bill‚Äôs new ‚Äô49 Mercury.


This photo showing the windshield already chopped by George Barris, and the top skeleton made by Bill. But the padding still had to be done. 1949 tags on the license plates.
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George also removed the hood emblems, peaked the hood and molded the grille surround to the front fenders. The trunk was shaved and the suspension was lowered. George extended the bottom of a set of ‚Äô49 Mercury accessory fender skirts and when all the work was done the car was painted a lime green color. All this was done in 1949, and most likely Bill Gaylord‚Äôs ‚Äô49 Mercury was he very first ‚Äô49 Mercury convertible that was ever chopped. After George was done with his part, Bill Gaylord reworked the door side windows with curved rear corners, and crafted the frame for the padded top.

Bill’s ’49 Mercury at an unidentified indoor car show in 1949, perhaps early 1950.
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Bill styled the top in a similar way as he was used to on the pre-1948 cars he had done so many times. Meaning the padded top sides would start right after the door jamb, created “filled” in quarter windows and a very long looking padded top. This style of top Bill did for his own Mercury is one of the very few like it. Later Padded tops created by Bill and other shops were created with rear quarter windows, to “lighten” up the rear of the padded top, as well as to add rear viability for the driver. What is also very unique on Bill Gaylord’s Mercury padded top is how it flows at the back. Because the rear quarter windows were filled in, the down arc could start almost at the back of the doors and gently falls back. Creating an almost fastback flow.

1950 Bell High yearbook ad for Gaylord Kustom Tops. The picture shows how extremely long and flowing the padded top is on this ’49 Merc is with the quarter windows “filled”. (Shared by Ross from 46-64 HighSchool Yearbooks. )
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Two different style Padded Tops

Besides the no quarter window padded top as first created by Bill Gaylord I have found that there are two styles of padded tops that were create for the 49-51 Mercury. Which is very similar to what was created for previous model cars. One style top had a rather upright rear of the top, where the rear of the top basically follows the same shape as the rear quarter window shape. These more traditional styled tops have a much longer look, where the top portion of the top is horizontal for a large part of the car before it falls down toward the catwalk. These tops have a a similar shape, or feel as a four door 49-51 Mercury metal roof. One characteristic element for these tops is that the “C-Pillar” of these tops have a rather uniform width from bottom to top.

The second style has the rear of the top flowing much more gently from around the back of the doors, or a little more toward the back with a very gently curve towards the catwalk. The shape of these padded tops feels much more lake the regular Mercury Coupe metal tops. The “C-Pillar” of these tops have a much wider section at the bottom than at the top which results from the more flowing top line.

At this point I’m not sure if any of these two styles were typical for a certain Top Shop. Like on the 41-48 Fords we know that the Carson Top Shop had special jigs created to produce the padded tops off the cars. These tops had a much more upright back of the top, than those created by Bill Gaylord for the same car where Bill created lower rear bows. But I’m not sure if the Carson Top Shop ever created jigs for the 49-51 Mercury. There is one photo taken inside the Carson Top Shop that shows an unidentified ’50 Mercury with the padded top frame constructed. Judging the frame work this top would be the second category, with the more flowing lines. It also looks that some of the padded tops, both styles have different length rear quarter windows. Some of the customs appear to have shortened quarter windows, creating wider “C-pillars”.

Carson Top ShopUnidentified 1950-51 Mercury at the Carson Top Shop with the padded top frame ready to be upholstered. By the looks of it, this will be the more flowing type of padded top.
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The More Upright tops

Unidentified 1949 Mercurys

We have no idea how many ’49 Mercury Convertibles were done with chopped padded tops, but there must have been several. Some made the magazines, but we know from experience that most of the Custom Cars created never made the magazines. We would love to find out more about these unidentified Mercury’s, who owned them, who created them? And what happened to them. The two Mercurys below are very mild customs, one has most of the stock emblems and trim and stock hubcaps, with the only major change the chopped windshield and matching padded top. The one below it is slightly more restyled with frenched headlights and shaved emblems, but it still e very conservative Custom.

Typical Street Customs for the very early 1950’s. Practical as every day cars with the benefits of the good looks of the chopped windshield and padded tops. Both cars had similar styled padded top with the stock rear quarter windows chopped in place, and the top reshaped to follow the side window contours. This resulted in a less streamlined/flowing top than the one Bill Gaylord had created on his personal Mercury. The shape of these type of padded tops looks a lot like the 4-door Mercury tops.

Unidentified 1949 Mercury was published in the Trend Book No. 101 Custom Cars from July 1951. It was a mostly stock 1949 Mercury convertible, with mildly chop windshield and padded top. The car had 1951 License plates.
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A very similar restyled mercury appeared in one of Don Montgomery books. The only difference between this one, and the one above it are the molded in headlights, modified side trim and ’51 Mercury fender skirts. This photo was taken in 1952-53.
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Johnny Hagen 1950 Mercury

Johnny’s 1950 Mercury was also a rather conservative Custom, with a mild 2.5 inch chopped top and matching padded top made by the American Top Shop in Lynwood California. The car was featured in the October 1951 issue of Hop Up Magazine with 1951 license plates.

Johnny Hagen’s Mercury was lowered just the right amount in balance with the mildly chopped windshield. The handles and emblems were shaved for a cleaner look. The American Top Shop also created a full cover behind the rear seat for topless driving.
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The Padded Top on Johnny’s Mercury was perfectly proportioned and shaped around the rear quarter windows.
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Sam Dibitonto 1949 Mercury

According a full feature on Sam Dibitonto’s 1949 Mercury in the R&C of December 1953, Sam bought a totaled ’49 Mercury  when the car was just a few month old. He started working on the car, and instead of actually chopping the windshield, he laid back the whole unit, making the side profile of the car lower, as if it was chopped. A matching padded top as added. The photo below shows the car in its early version with regular rear fenders, and ’48 Cadillac grille added. When the car was featured in the  R&C issue in 1953, Sam had added 1951 Cadillac rear fenders.

Early version of Sam’s Mercury shows the stock rear quarter panels still in place. The dog leg had already been removed from the doors though. The windshield on the Mercury was not actually reduced in height by removing a horizontal piece (chop) but rather by laying it back resulting in a lower side profile similar to a regular chopped top, but with the “benefits” of a more streamlined shape.
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1953 Version of Sam’s Mercury shows the addition of the ’51 Cadillac rear fenders. The padded tops flows very nice. The rear window flap has been removed in these photos.
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Bob Lund 1950 Mercury

Bob Lund took his 1950 Mercury convertible to the Barris Kustoms Shop in Lynwood, California. The team at Barris created a stunning, very elegant and well balanced Custom for Bob. The windshield of Bob‚Äôs Mercury was chopped, but only mildly, 2, perhaps 3 inches.  The car was taken to the Carson Top Shop who create a very nicely traditional shaped padded top for the car. It appears that the rear quarter window on Bob’s Mercury has been shortened a few inches, creating a slightly wider C-pillar. But since there is now profile picture this is hard to proof.

Bob Lund 50 MercuryBob Lund trying to leave the Barris Shop in his beautiful padded topped ’50 Mercury with ’51 rear quarters. This photo shows how upright the rear of the roof it, and how they are almost the same angle as the rear angle of the rear quarter windows. Giving the car a nice late 40’s looks and feel.
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Bob Lund 50 MercuryBob Lund’s Mercury with Carson Top Shop padded top with the side windows closed. A sight we do not often see.
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Fred Row 1951 Mercury

Fred Row’s Beautiful 1951 Mercury was created around 1953, and the long padded top was created at the Carson Top Shop.

Carson Top Shop Fred Rowe



The More Flowing tops

Al Glickman 1949 Mercury

Al and Gill Ayala created this 1948 Mercury Convertible for Al Glickman at Gil‚Äôs Auto Body Works in East Los Angeles. The Ayala Custom was featured in Hop Up magazine of May 1953. The really interesting thing about the padded top on Al’s Mercury is that the flow of the top is right in between what Bil Gaylord created on his personal ’49 Mercury, and the later versions with rear quarter panels. The top was created by Chavez and unlike most of the padded tops with rear quarter windows retaining, the outside shape of the top is not following the shape of the side windows, but rather flows like the top of a coupe, resulting in a wonderful flowing padded top.

Al Gickman 1949 Mercury with padded top was a very classic looking Ayala Custom with unique styling.
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This side profile of Al’s Mercury shows the nice flowing lines of the outside shape of the Chavez created padded top. It shows that towards the top of the “C-Pillar” the width is reducing due to the flowing shape of the top. The shape of the side window opening is dictated by the cut down stock Mercury rear quarter window frame.
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Carl Johnson chopped Mercurys

Body man Carl Johnson created several chopped 49-51 Mercury’s in the early 1950’s. A 1949 Mercury with an Eddie Martinez padded top as his own personal driver, and a 1950 convertible for Bill Verna. The ’49 Merc was done prior the ’50 he did for Bill, and there are photos from Bill’s mercury with 1951 California License plates.

Carl Johnson in his personal 1949 Mercury convertible with padded top. The stance on the car is rather high, typical for the every day used customs from the late 40’s early 1950’s.
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The 1950 Mercury of Bill Verna restyled by Carl Johanson with a padded top by Eddie Martinez. Notice the lipped front fender.
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Eddie Martinez did the padded top on Bill Verna’s 1950 Mercury. The windshield was chopped more than most others and it looks like the shape of the rear quarter window was made more flowing before the padded top was created.
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Ralph Testa 1950 Mercury

Barris Kustoms created the beautiful restyled 1950 Mercury for Ralph Testa in the early 1950’s. We are not sure when it was created but the car was published for the first time in the July 1952 issue of Hop Up Magazine. And the first confirmed date on the finished mercury is from the 1952 National Roadster Show which was held from Feb 19-24, 1952 in Oakland California. Most likely the car was restyled in late 1951.

The windshield on Ralph’s Mercury was chopped 3 inches and the padded top with beautiful flowing rear section was created by the Carson Top Shop.
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This wonderful rotogravure printed photo was the openings photo of the three pages feature article on the Ralph Testa Mercury in the July 1952 Hop Up magazine.
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1947-48 Buick Gaylord Tops

 

1947-48 BUICK GAYLORD TOPS

 

Bill Gaylord created a couple of stunning looking super long chopped padded tops for 1947-48 Buicks that completely transformed the looks of those cars. A closer look.



I was browsing thru some old photos to get some inspiration for a Digital Restyling project I was working on when I noticed the really long padded top, and especially the long rear quarters on the Buick in the opening photo from the Bill Gaylord Collection. It made me think of the Ben Mario and Don Vaughn Buick’s that were restyled at the Barris Kustom Shop, and both had similar shaped, but with panoramic rear window, Gaylord padded tops. It also reminded me of the padded top Bill Gaylord did on George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac, which had the same huge rear compartment that he covered with full length padded top with beautiful flowing shapes.




Bill Gaylord was a true artist when it came to smooth flowing shaped padded tops, and there was a reason that the Barris Shop took many of their streamlined Customs to Gaylord, instead of the Carson Top Shop. Carson was known for their slightly more boxy padded tops, very nice, and perfect on certain type of Customs. But when it came to the mid to late 1940’s GM cars, like the ’47-48 Buick’s in this article, the Gaylord Kustom Tops shop was THE place to go to.

Stock 1947-48 Buick Convertible at the Gaylord Kustom Top Shop, possibly waiting to get the windshield chopped and a full padded top done. This photo shows the car with the stock folding top, and how the car original has a rear quarter window. Which makes the full length padded top look so special on these. The car is not the same one I think as the one below, notice the spotlight on the stock one, and non on the one chopped below. That is Bill’s personal chopped ’49 Merc behind the Buick.
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Chopped windshield, super sleek Gaylord padded top, lowered suspension and smoothed hood. All that is needed to make this Buick look super nice, and a mile long. I wonder if the owner perhaps saved up to have more work done at a later stage, as in shaved door handles, frenched headlights…
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Close up of the chopped padded Gaylord top. Perfectly shaped, with beautiful flow of the rear of the top and the just right angle of the B-Pillar.
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This is such a great photo showing Bill Gaylord’s personal ’49 Mercury with the chopped top still in progress, Ben Mario’s Barris restyled ’47 Buick with none buffed paint, or perhaps primer? with the top still at stock height, and Bill Gaylord’s personal ’41 Ford with super low padded top behind it.
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Close up of Ben Mario’s Buick from the photo above.
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Different photo, taken the same day as the one above shows the satin finish of the paint job on Ben Mario’s Buick. The guy all the way on the right looks a lot as a young George Barris.
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Ben Mario’s ’47 Buick was restyled at the Barris shop as a none chopped custom at first. The custom interior was done by Bill Gaylord. This photo of the car was taken later when the paint was completely polished, and a cover was added over the rear seat.
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Later the windshield was chopped on Ben Mario’s Buick and Bill Gaylord created a beautiful super long padded top with panoramic rear window.
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Ben Mario’s 1948 Buick photo that looks to be taken at the Hot Rod Show at the Los Angeles Armory, most likely in Jan 1950. Notice that the sign behind the car reads Barris Kustom Shop Bell. In March 1950 the Barris Shop moved to the new Lynwood Location.
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Barris and Gaylord advertised combined in Motor Trend magazine and the Ben Mario Buick was used to illustrate Bill’s Interior Skill’s and the Barris Shop’s body work and design skills. Sadly Bill Gaylord went into the military right when the magazine with this ad hit the newsstand, so there was nobody at the shop to welcome any new customers responding to the ad.
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Don Vaughn’s Barris¬† Restyled ’47 Buick. Notice the very round shape of the rear of the side window opening. Very different that the light colored Buick at the start of this article.
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Don Vaughn’s ’47 Buick might was very similar styled as Ben Mario’s Buick. And there are some stories around that mention the the Mario and Vaughn Buick’s are the same car. So far we have not been able to find any evidence for that, but the resemblance sure is remarkable.
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Close up of the Gaylord Panoramic rear window he added to the chopped padded top. The glass was made from shaped plexiglass.
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The flow of the top into the trunk is so nice on these Gaylord tops. They enhance all the Barris Restyled elements very well.
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This possibly is the Ben Mario or Don Vaughn Barris / Gaylord restyled 1948 Buick. The photo was taken quite a few years ago, and we do not know where it is, or who owns it. But the rumor is it is the original Barris Restyled Buick with the Gaylord created padded top frame in place. The one odd thing about the car in the photo is that it shows a door handle in place, which was shaved on both the Mario, and Vaughn Buick. Hopefully the future will bring more info on this mystery.
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Bill Gaylord 49 Mercury

 

BILL GAYLORD 49 MERCURY

 

In 1949 Bill Gaylord gets a 1949 Mercury Convertible which George Barris chops right away. Its the first ever chopped 1949 Mercury Convertible.



In the later part of the 1940’s William (Bill) Gaylord Lunney was working closely with the Barris Kustom Shop. Even though the Barris Shop had always had tight bonds with the Carson Top Shop, George Barris saw possibilities in working together with Bill. It started when George Barris was not happy about the way the Carson Top Shop did the padded tops on the 41 Ford. George wanted to have a more flowing line on the rear of the top. He went to Bill Gaylord and together they found out a way to make the padded tops on the 41-48 Fords flow much better. George was very happy about the result an the two started trading work, and send cars to each others workshop to let the other do their thing. They even joined some advertising space in Motor Trend together. First when the Barris shop was still located in Bell, and later when the Barris shop had moved to its famous Atlantic Blvd shop… close by Bill’s shop who was also had his shop on Atlantic Blvd.

CCC-barris-gaylord-adsSome of the ads that ran in late 1949-early 1950 issues of Motor Trend magazines where Barris and Gaylord worked together.
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The story on Bill’s ’49 Mercury started in early 1949. Bill had a very nicely done ’42 Mercury convertible with front sheet metal from a ’47 Mercury. It was a really nice late 1940’s style custom with chopped windshield shaved handles, nosed, decked and one of Bill’s nicely flowing¬†padded tops. Bill took is ’42 Mercury custom to a local Mercury dealer and traded it for a new ’49 Mercury convertible.¬†The¬†Mercury dealership put the¬†‚Äô42 in their best spot in front of the¬†showroom and it sold very fast. Soon after that they asked if Bill could do another one for them and sell it the same way. He created another custom, with a George Cerny chopped windshield. It also was sold very fast.

CCC-bill-gaylord-42-mercury-01Bill with his ’42 Mercury that he later traded for a new ’49 Mercury convertible.¬†
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CCC-49-mercury-convertible-adMagazine ad for the new ’49 Mercury convertible.
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Bill had his new ’49 Mercury and at the same time George Barris came over asking Bill if he could create a long low padded top for his personal ’42 Cadillac (with 47 fenders). Sure I can do that Bill mentioned. If you chop the windshield on my Merc, french the headlights and remove the emblems… deal! So Bill created the long and smooth padded top for George Barris his’42 Cadillac, while George was busy chopping the windshield of Bill’s new ’49 Mercury. George also removed the hood emblems, peaked the hood and molded the grille surround to the front fenders. The trunk was shaved and the suspension was lowered. George extended the bottom of a set of ’49 Mercury accessory fender skirts and when all the work was done the car was painted a lime green color. “The lime green they used back then.” according to Bill. All this was done in 1949, and most likely Bill Gaylord’s ’49 Mercury¬†was he very first ’49 Mercury convertible that was ever chopped. If you want to know more about the first chopped 49-51 Mercury’s, be sure to check out the CCC-article we did on this topic.

CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-03A young Bill Gaylord proudly showing of his freshly chopped ’49 Mercury Convertible. This photo gives a good look at the extended down Mercury fender skirts and the very rare round beauty rings Bill Used. The same units were used on the Barris Kustoms restyled Snooky Janich ’41 Ford.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-05Besides being a car guy Bill also love the water and boats, speed boats. So when time allowed he spend his spare time at the lakes with his boat pulled by his ’49 Mercury. Note the ’49 tag on the license plate.
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Unique styled Padded Top

Bill took out the stock ‘Mercury dash board, smoothed it and send it to the chrome plater to be completely covered in bright shiny chrome for a really special effect. He drove the car for a little bit before he had time to get to work on the top. The interior for this lime green version was done in brown.

Bill always liked the filled in rear quarter window look on the padded tops, especially if the flow of the rear of the top was very smooth.¬†He decided to create this kind of top for¬†his personal ’49 Mercury. The top he created was very¬†similar in style in¬†what he did on the 41-48 Ford’s and Mercury convertibles. Bill also created some very handsome door window channels¬†from Aluminum channel with a wonderful round rear corner to match the padded top.¬†Bill later added an red all leather interior with beautiful tuck & roll panels, and to top of the chrome plated dash he bought a brand new Monterey Accessory steering wheel which gave the car an even more luxurious feel.

CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-02The earliest photo in Bill’s collection of the Mercury with the padded top being constructed in this one taken in front of the Gaylord shop. Ben Mario’s Barris restyled Buick is parked behind it. Bill would later add a padded top to Ben’s Buick after the windshield had been chopped.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-00This photo, also taken in front of the Gaylord shop, but facing the other side shows Bill’s Mercury a little later. The frame and door window channels now have all been finished and the padding and canvas were up next. These photo show that Bill used his Mercury as daily driver, even during construction of the top.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-01Enlarged section of the previous photo shows a little more details. Frenched stock headlights, molded in grille surround, peaked hood, center bar removed from the stock ’49 Merc grille.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-businessBill liked his ’49 Mercury so much he decided to use a side view photo of the car for his Business Card in late 1949.
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The Padded top Bill created for his mercury was uniquely styled with very long sides and a very small rear window. It must have been rather hard to drive it around in busy Los Angeles. Most of the mercury convertibles with padded tops created after this one had a different stye of padded top, with the rear quarter windows in place and a more square rear portion of the top where the rear window was more upright which also gave a better rear vision when driving. This later style must have been an improvement when driving these cars on the road for the driver, and most certainly for the passengers.

CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-07Parked next to Bill’s shop building we can see the window channels Bill created, and we can also see that the first version of the Merc has stock taillights, and the hitch for taking Bill’s boat to the lake.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-06Better look at the window channel with the nice curve on the rear corner. The ’49-51 Mercury convertible come with straight corners on the window channels, and curved units on the rear quarter windows. But since Bill eliminated the rear quarter windows he added the curve to the door frames.¬†
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-08A look inside reveals the full chrome plated dashboard, the Mercury Monterey accessory steering wheel, and the very subtile red leather tuck & roll upholstery.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-09Enlarged section shows the dash and steering wheel a bit better.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-12Another photo of Bill’s Mercury at one of the lakes he used to go to with his boat.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-13Cropped section shows the chrome plated dash a little better.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-04Bill’s ’49 Mercury at an unidentified indoor car show in 1949, perhaps early 1950. It looks like the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford could be sitting behind Bill’s¬†Merc.
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Share by Ross from 46-64 HighSchool Yearbooks. 1950 Bell High yearbook. Ad for Gaylord Kustom Tops.
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Second version of the Merc

Somewhere in 1950 George Barris shaved the door handles and locks, removed the Mercury taillights, filled the holes and re-painted the car in a deep maroon. The new color gave the car a completely different look, mean look. Barris Kustoms also reworked the stock 1949 Mercury rear bumper guards. They removed the bullet section of the guards and hand shaped clear red lucite to create a set of very unique bumper guard taillights.

Bill enjoyed the car for some time, but never as much as he had hoped he would, simply because he was called away to serve the Army. Just at a time the combined ads with Barris were starting to bring in extra clients he was¬†shipped to Germany. It was frustrating for Bill to be in Germany and get the latest issues of Motor Trend magazines shipped and see the Barris Gaylord ads in the magazines. Knowing Barris was getting all the work from them, but he could do nothing. Bill had¬†left the car with his wife and later instructed¬†her to try and sell the car. One day a guy came over to buy the car. He was very serious about it and later explained to Bill’s wife that he needed to have the pink slip in his name so that he could get a loan for the car at the bank. The pink slip was handed over, he drove off with the Merc and nobody ever heard from the guy, nor the Mercury.

When Bill returned from his stint in the army he worked hard to get his business back on his feet, and he never heard anything about his beautiful ’49 Mercury convertible again. Who knows, perhaps the car is still out there, further customized over the years, being driven around by somebody who has no idea the car might be the very first chopped ’49 Mercury, worked on by Custom Legends George Barris and Bill Gaylord. Or it could be long gone. If any of the readers knows anything more about the Mercury, please let us know.

CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-10Shorty before Bill has to leave for his stint in the Army George Barris shaves the door handles and stock taillights, and paints the car in deep maroon.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-taillightsClose up of the rear shows the complexed shaped bumper guard taillights in the last version of Bill’s Mercury. These were also created by the Barris Kustom Shop.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-11The new dark maroon paint job gave the car a quite different look than the green early version. The two maroon version photos were taken shortly before Bill was shipped to Europe and the car now has 1951 License plates on it.
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Bille Gaylord Mercury published

Bill’s ’49 Mercury never had any magazine exposure when Bill owned the car.¬†Mainly because the car was¬†around very shortly as a completely finished custom before Bill had to leave for his Army duties. Also because soon after Bill left for Germany, the car was stolen, and magazine exposure would sure lead to the person who took the car. Also around 1950, not many magazines featured Custom Cars, and there were a lot of cars to choose from. But in some more recent articles about Bill Gaylord the Mercury was mentioned. In the Jerry Weesner article on Carson Tops in Street Rodder magazine April 1989 Jerry shared a few photos from Bill’s photo album, and one one of the photos showed Bill’s ’49 Mercury sitting next to Bill’s home. It mentioned that Bill’s Mercury was the first ever chopped 49 Mercury convertible. In the 1991 published Hot Rod Memories by Don Montgomery there are two 1949 photos shared from the Hal Petersen collection showing Bill’s Mercury. And in Kustoms Illustrated magazine issue # 35, fall 2012 there are several photos used in part one of the Bill Gaylord story.

CCC-bill-gaylord-street-rodder-magFrom the April 1989 Street Rodder Jerry Weesner article on Carson Tops.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-montgomery-bookFrom the Hot Rod Memories book by Don Montgomery.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-kustoms-illustratedIf you want to read more about the history of Bill Gaylord, then you have to get Kustom Illustrated issues 35, 36 and 38. It has the most complete Bill Gaylord history story based on interviews and Bill’s personal photo albums in a three part¬†story.¬†
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Special thanks to Luke Karosi, Jeff Neppl and Bill Gaylord.


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Gaylords Coupe DeVille

 

GAYLORDS COUPE DEVILLE

 

How the Gaylord shop in Lynwood California turned a badly damaged 1954 Buick Riviera into a Dream Custom Masterpiece for owner Sal Mammano.



Towards the mid 1950’s¬†several of the major Custom Car builders in California created heavily restyled, almost concept car like custom creations. Cars that took Custom Restyling to a new level. The Barris Shop was working on the “Golden Sahara” based on an 1953 Lincoln Capri for Jim Skonzakes from Ohio, as well as a sectioned 1954 Cadillac “The Parisienne” for Milton Melton, and Bill Gaylord was creating a full concept show car based on a ’54 Buick. These Custom Cars were created for clients that were able to spend the¬†money needed to creating these new types of customs. Some of these new clients¬†planned¬†to use these Custom Cars to help promote their successful business’s, or plan to extensively promote these cars at car show all over the country. It appears this new clientele generated a new style of Custom Car, more classic or coachbuild that what had been done in the years before.

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In 1954¬†Sal Mammano delivered 1954 Buick Riviera to Bill Gaylord‘s shop in Lynwood California. Although Gaylord never really advertised with it, his shop could tackle a whole lot more than just the interiors and tops they were best known for. This 1954 Buick is the perfect case to show this shop¬†did not hesitate to take on the nearly impossible jobs.¬†You see, the ’54 Buick Sal delivered to the shop was,¬†despite having only¬†3500¬†miles on the odometer, in far from pristine condition. The car had been in a¬†rather bad accident damaging the car pretty bad. So before the team at Gaylord’s could start the restyling process the car first had to be pulled straight and fixed. Sal Mammano ran a very successful hair styling salon “Casa Di Bella” in Downey Ca. and he planned to help promote his salon with a beautifully restyled Custom.



Construction

Before the body was straightened Gaylord had¬†collected a ’54 Cadillac front end and rear bumper and taillights, and had marked the car for the modifications he had in mind for it. The damaged Buick parts that would not make part of the final design, were simply removed or cut off before the car was straightened. With everything in line, the body could be sectioned 3.5 inches to create a much longer looking car. The Cadillac front fenders were matted to sections of the Buick, and the hooded headlights were extended 2 inches. The Cadillac hood was modified at the front to match the new grille opening which was created from the Cadillac grille surround.¬†A custom scoop was created near the back of the hood on each side. The rear fenders were extended, and heavily reshaped to accepts a set of 1954 Cadillac taillights¬†and the narrowed 1954 Cadillac rear bumper.

CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-01This is how Sal¬†Mammano delivered the Buick to Bill Gaylord’s shop… it needed a little work.
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-02Bill Gaylord (outside of the car) and an employee working hard to get the body back in shape.Notice that large portions of the floor have been cut away.
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-03When the frame and body had been straightened they started to remove the parts they would be replaced by the Cadillac components, or in need of more body work. Many shops would not have taken on a job as complexed as this one.
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Both the wheel openings front and rear were completely reshaped with a very elegant teardrop shape fine tuned with a wonderful lipped edge. The peak running from the headlight covers to the sides of the front fenders was repeated on the rear fender, but much longer and towards the rear of the door this shape curved up, all the way to the belt-line and formed a scoop to help cool the rear brakes. The new grille opening was filled with a shaped and chrome plated pressed steel insert. The front Cadillac front bumper was narrowed to fit the Buick body.

CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-04This interesting construction photo shows how the original round Buick rear wheel openings had been filled in prior the new reshaped wheel opening. It also shows that the rear fender is created from the Buick fender to with the Cadillac taillight was added using sheet metal and round rod.
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Version One

The hard top had been completely removed and the windshield¬†surround was cut free from the body and angled back to give the car a chopped appearance. The stainless had to be cut and reshaped to fit this new set-up.¬†A¬†two part “Sedanca, or Coupe de ville” style top was created for the car. Bill Gaylord created the base for the new type from wood covered with fiberglass, which was still a very new product to be used back in 1954. Once the fiberglass had been shaped it was covered with thin padding and white¬†Orlon¬†and the sides were decorated with chrome plated cast bronze landau irons. The front, removable, section of the roof had a large clear lucite center section. With all the body work done the car was painted red. The interior was done really beautiful in white leather tuck ¬†& roll with button tufted red velvet. The car was dressed up with a set of Appleton Spotlights, and 1953 Cadillac hubcaps. The car was actually finished on the show floor of the 1954 Pan Pacific Petersen Autorama show.

CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-06Local Los Angles news paper article about the reconstructed wreck becoming a dream¬†on wheels. Bill Gaylord is finalizing the interior on the show floor at the Pan Pacific Auditorium 1954 Motorama show. (The name Lunney in the news paper article comes from Bill’s full name: William Gaylord Lunney.)
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-07This is the only photo that we have been able to find that shows Sal’s Buick in its first red finish at the 1954 Petersen Motorama show in November 1954.
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-14At the shows Bill sometimes lifted the top on his cars to give the audience a better look at the beautiful interiors he did.
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-05Sal’s¬†’54 Buick in 1954 shows the car without the two part Coupe De ville top. This photo also shows very good that the first version of the car did not have any side trim added. Not on above the belt-line, nor on the body sides.¬†
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Version Two

Not too long after the car was finished, the Buick was redone again. We are not 100% sure, but the car was most likely taken to the Barris shop at this point for an new paint-job and some new details. It might also be possible that Barris only did some minor work on the car, details and info on this are a bit sketchy. For this version the 1954 Cadillac front bumper was replaced with a 1955 Cadillac unit that had longer and smoother bullets. A set of 1955 Cadillac Eldorado belt line trim pieces was modified to fir the Buick, and a side trim created from 1955 DeSoto units was created to be able to do a great looking two-tone paint-job. The car was then repainted with 30 coats of opalescent blue lacquer and white below the DeSoto side trim. The 1953 Cadillac hubcaps were updated with Eastern Auto spinners added to them. The interior was redone in white and dark blue. At one point the section below the DeSoto side trim was painted in a light metallic blue. But it is unknown if this was done before or after the white version. The Blue and white version of the is how the Coupe de Ville appeared in color on the September 1956 issue of Motor Life magazine.

Two a new side trim was added that allowed for a nice two tone paint job.  with the addition of De Soto side trim, and painted with thirty coats of opalescent blue lacquer, with light blue below the trim. A new interior in white and blue replaced the red velvet. Later, the lower panel was painted white. This version was featured prominently on the cover of Motor Life magazine in September of 1956.

CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-08This color photo shows the Buick with the new Blue paint-job and the lighter shade of metallic blue below the side trim. The car looks absolutely stunning and very classic. Notice the new longer and smoother front dagmars. The sand below the car and the red curtains behind it make the absolute perfect setting at this 1956 show.
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1501925291956 Custom Car Show South Bay. Rear portions of Sal Mammona’s Buick with Cadillac rear fenders and Junior Conway’s Ford, customs displayed in a large parking lot near San Pedro. (Photo by Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images)
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-10The beautiful color photo used for the Motor Life September 1956 magazine cover was taken by Bob D’Olivo with magazine art director arch Grey in the car at¬†2232 North Beachwood Canyon Drive in Hollywood.
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-12This rear 3/4 view shows how long the sectioned Buick with Cadillac components looks. The chrome plated louvers added to the rear fenders are also new for this version of the car.
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-13The September 1956 issue of Motor Life magazine showed the car in color on the cover and in black and white on a full spread inside. The George Barris photographed and written article mentioned Gaylord as the builder with details done by Barris.
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-15The car was selected as one of the 10 of the best customs in the 1957 Custom Cars Annual. One of the photos used in that annual was this one with Sal Mammano behind the wheel of his Buick.
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CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-11At one point, it is also not known when, the car in this version was repainted again and the whole rear of the car above the added lip and the trunk was repainted in white. This photo taken at the Gaylord shop, shows how the wood and fiberglass top was re-upholsterd. This photo shows very clearly how the transparent center was installed in the front removable section of the top. The car has the second white and dark blue interior. Notice the upholstered seat in the shop window in the background.
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Version Three

Some time later the car was redone again. This time with some more body work. The 1954 Cadillac taillights were removed from the rear fenders and replaced with Cadillac El Dorado rear fender fins. A set of modified ’56 Oldsmobile taillights was added into reshaped pods below the Caddy fins. A third El Dorado fin was added to the trunk and the whole body was re-painted in Brilliant Gold and dark metallic blue below the side trim. The 1953 Cadillac hubcaps were replaced with 1957 Lincoln units.

CCC-gaylord-54-buick-coupe-de-ville-09The last version of the Buick as we know it has three Cadillac El Dorado fins added and the car is now painted polychromatic gold and metallic blue.
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Later the Buick Coupe de Ville¬†was sold to Tony Carlos. And we have not been able to find out what happened to the car after that. The one photo shown above¬†is the last we have been able to find. If anybody reading this knows what happened to Sal’s Buick after 1957, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to find out and add this part of the story to this article.

CCC-sals-casa-di-bella-beauty-salonTwo images showing Sal’s Casa Di Bella Beauty Salon where the original owner Sal Mammano worked.
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The Monroe Manor complex that was used as backdrop for the 1956 Motor Life cover photo-shoot is located¬†at 2232 North Beachwood Canyon Drive in Hollywood. It was constructed in 1949 and is made up of ten terraced, duplex-type units built right into a Hollywood hillside. ¬†Each of the twenty apartments in the complex is entirely different in size and style. ¬†The building was later also used for the TV serie “Joey”¬†with actor¬†Matt LeBlanc. ¬†(More info on this building on the¬†IAMNOTASTALKER¬†wesbite.)

CCC-gaylord-cover-monroe-building-02The Monroe Manor complex located at 2232 North Beachwood Canyon Drive in Hollywood.
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Resources and more info

  • Motor Life, magazine September 1956
  • Barris Kustom Technique, book Volume 2
  • Kustoms Illustrated, Magazine Gaylord article #36

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Warren Ayers 41 Chevy

 

50s FLASHBACK CHEVY

 

Warren Ayers bought a second hand 1941 Chevy in 1953, and was able to turn it into a wonderful mild Custom with work done by George Barris and bill Gaylord on a grocery store box boy salary.

 
CCC-Member Chris Sharman send me an email a little while ago about a nice mild custom 1941 Chevy restyled in the early 1950’s. He mentioned that the owner of the guy back in the 1950’s had mentioned that both the Barris and the Gaylor shop had worked on the car. And also that he had a few small photos to share. Well I’m always interested in any old Custom Car related stories, no matter what, they are always interesting to document, and share with the world to enjoy. Chris was going to meet the owner of the Chevy, Warren Ayers again, to ask him some more details about the Chevy. The small faded photos seen in this article is all that is left of the Chevy.
 

CCC-warren-ayers-41-chevy-01Warren Ayers posing proudly with his mildly restyled Tropical Green metallic 1941 Chevy parked in his driveway in Van Nuys California.
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Warren Ayers 41 Chevy Special DeLuxe

Warren purchased a cherry 1941 Chevy from his neighbors in Van Nuys, California in June 1953. He spent the next 2 years modifying and customizing and enjoying the car until he enlisted in the US Navy in 1955. At the time, Warren was working at a Grocery store as a box boy at Ralphs in Van Nuys. His father was able to help him out with things as the project progressed.

Together they replaced the old Engine with a 1952 GMC six cylinder Engine. And when it was time to do some mild body restyling Warren took his Chevy to George Barris. The Barris Shop took care of the body work and the trunk handles, hood ornaments and some trim were removed and they slightly modified the tail lights. 26‚ÄĚ glass packs with cut outs and pencil tips were installed by a shop called Magic Muffler and the car was fitted with moon hubcaps. The car was also lowered slightly by cutting the front springs and putting lowering blocks in the rear.
 
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In August of 1953 Warren and his father sanded the entire car down to bare metal and shot it with red oxide primer. After that it was shot with 2 coats of black Nason, color sanded, then shot with Kaiser Tropical Green (a 1953 Kaiser color) and finally coated with clear. Warren’s father worked at a Chevy dealership and they had the car painted there.

Warren’s father in law (to be) had made aluminum side plates for the dash, to replace the plastic units on both sides of the radio as they were the station selection controls and volume control plates. Warren’s Wife (Girlfriend at the time) had made angora socks in green and white to hang from the rear view mirror to match the interior of the car. That was really the thing to have in your car back then.
 
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When it was time for a new interior Warren took the Chevy to Bill Gaylord, who did the upholstery using Warren’s design throughout, including the trunk compartment in white and green tuck and roll style.
Tools mounted in the trunk were chrome plated by Faith Plating in North Hollywood, CA. I knew the guys son and he chromed a lot of stuff for us in those days for cheap!

CCC-warren-ayers-41-chevy-interiorThe interior in Warren’s 1941 Chevy was done by Bill Gaylord in white and green.
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When the Chevy was completely finished it was slated to be in an issue of Hot Rod magazine along with a White 1950 Mercury owned by a fellow named George Ono. However for one reason or another it never made it but there was a photo shoot done. Sadly Warren does not have any copies of the photos of this Hot Rod Magazine photo-shoot.

When Warren enlisted in the Navy his Mother became the caretaker of the Chevy. She had some of the more performance orientated modifications reversed while Warren was away and eventually decided to sell the car. Its whereabouts or if it still exists today are unknown.
 

CCC-warren-ayers-41-chevy-04One of the photos Warren had was of a bit better quality than the rest. Although a bit fuzzy is gives us a nice look at this nicely done mild Custom Chevy parked in wonderful 1950’s Van Nuys, California.
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Warren’s 1941 Chevrolet is a nice example of a typical guy building a custom in the early 50’s on a grocery store salary. There were so many like this out there at the time. Wonderful mild Custom Cars that never made the magazine. Young guys, and girls who drove these cars all year around as every day transportation. Its great to hear stories like this, and see snapshot from back then to go with the story. If you know about any of these personal Custom Car related stories, please let us know. We love to share them with the Custom Car Enthusiast from around the world. Thank you Warren Ayers for telling the story, and thank you Chris Sharman for sharing the story and photos with us here on the CCC.
 
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Custom Interior Tags

 

INTERIOR TAGS

 

In the 1940’s and 1950’s some of the better know upholstery shop used small tags with their name or logo and address information mounted in the cars they upholstered. Let s take closer look at those tags.



We know that the couchbuilders, who build complete custom made bodies on exciting chassies usually had some sort of tag, or crest on the body with the company name, or logo. As a sort of business card, making sure the people who looked at the car would see who was responsible for such beautifull work. And of course hopefully some people who see the work and the tag/crest might end up a potential client.



The Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag

In the 1940’s some of the upholstery shops started to specialize in Custom and Hot Rod upholstery. Some of these shop also started to use small tags in the cars they had upholstered. One of the more famous shops was the the Houser’s Carson Padded Tops shop in Los Angeles. This shop created the famous Carson Padded tops, but also did full interiors and the tag they put in their cars is probably the most famous of these tags used by the custom and hot rod upholstery shops.

CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-carson-01An early Carson Top Shop magazine ad.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-07Wally Welch, owner of several early Custom Cars kept his blue tinted Houser’s carson Padded Tops tag in his photo album. Nobody knew if this one was ever used in one of his cars, or if it was he got as an extra. This photo shows the slight shadow on the text and illustration that the relieve etching creates. (from the Wally Welch Collection)
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The original tag the shop had made was a very small metal tag. These original tags look to have been etched on one side leaving everything except for the letters, the cars illustration and border as a relieve section of the metal plate. This relieved section was painted either with black or a dark blue color, I have even heard somebody mention ehad seen one done in dark red. The most common place for the Carson Top Shop tag was in the middle of the top, right in the center above the rear view mirror. There it was held in place with two small nails. Sometimes the center of the header was needed for one of the hold down brackets, then the tag was positioned next to the bracket. In all my research I have never seen any other location being used. I am not even sure if cars that only had the interiors done by the shop, and not one of their padded tops, recieved a tag. So thismight have strictly been a tag used for a padded top. Perhaps any of the readers could shed a light on this.


CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-04Another original tag in a bit worse condition comes from the Valley Custom Shop built sectioned 1940 Ford for Ralph Jilek. Tom Sewell restored the car and documented everything along the way. This photo shows the tagand its original nails that were used to mount the tag to the header on the Padded top.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-05These two photos show the tak on the original position. Left of the tak was the padded top mounting mechanism, so it was mounted to the right of that. Notice how the tag was bend slightly to folow the shape of the wood header. 
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In the early 1970’s the then owner of the Carson Top Shop was asked to restore an original Carson Padded Top. The work on the top was done, but then one thing was missing, the tag. None of the original tags could be found, so a new tag was created. Creating these tags asked for a minimal order of a lot. After the restoration project was finished some of these extra tags where given to friends, other where sold. These still can be found from time to time. The recreated tags are a bit different from the original once, small details in the size of the text. But the main difference is that the reproduction is silk screened on a metal plate, while the original was etched creating a relieved tag.


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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-03The three photos above show the replica of the Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag that was created in the early 1970’s. The center photo shows that the black was silk screened onto the metal plate, creating no relieve section as the original had. Many thanks to David E. Zivot for suplying this sample. The tags are 50 x 25 millimeters¬†in dimention (nearly two inches wide).
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-carson-03Jim Thompson used another replica Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag in his recenly finished 1936 Ford Custom Convertible.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-carson-04This photo shows the replica of the original interior tag on the bottom (almost two inches wide) and one done as key-fob that is three inches wide (thanks to Tom Nielson for the Key-fob). The large one is similar to what Jim Thomson used in his ’36 Ford, and is made out of aluminum silc screened in white and black.
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The first time I saw an photo of one of these Carson Top Shop interior tags waw when upholsterer Tom Sewell shared the restoration of the valley Custom Shop built sectioned 1940 Ford Convertible wit Carson Padded top and Carson interior with us. The restored interior has the tag located at the excact same spot it was put in by the Carson Top Shop in the early 1950’s.



The Hall of Oakland tag

The C.A. Hall Auto Tops shop did a lot of Padded tops and Custom Car and Hot Rod interiors in the bay area, and for other Northern California based car owners and shops. This shop used an oval etched tag. The only known sample of the original Hall tag we know of is in Ron Brook’s 1940 Chevy Convertible. Here the tag is also mounted on the front header of the padded top.


CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-hall-07The C.A. Hall Auto Tops tag is an etched oval shaped metal tag. (thanks to Ron Brooks for the photo)
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-hall-08The C.A. Hall Auto Tops tag mounted in Ron Brook’s 1940 Chevy Convertible.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-hall-06Hall’s Top Shop invoice¬†form¬†and magazine ad. Courtesy of Ron Brooks.¬†
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The Runyan tag

The recent restoration of the bob Pierson 1936 Ford learned us that the Runyans interior shop also had an interior tag. In this case two small tags were mounted on the seat side base covers. The South City Rod & Custom shop had these small tags recreated by Tony Parker who hand painted them. At this point we have no info on how these original Runyan Interior tags were produced.


CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-Runyan-08Tony Parker hand painted these small metal plates to recreate the original Runyan tags to go on the Bob Pierson 1936 Ford.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-Runyan-09These tags were mouned in a recessed setion of the tuck & roll panel covering the sides of the beach seat in the Bob Pierson 1936 Ford Coupe.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-Runyan-06 CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-Runyan-07One of the ads Runyan used showed the interior of the Bob Pierson 1936 Ford. 
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Gaylord’s Tops tag

We were unable to find a photo of an Gaylord’s interior tag. But according to Bill Gaylord the shop did use them. When Luke Karosi and Jeff Neppl interviewed Bill Gaylord for an full article on the history of the Gaylord interior for Kustoms Illustrated magazine. Bill mentioned the shop used such a tag, in fact people even came to the shop asking for the tag. even though they did not even have an Gaylord interior. The tags were given away to people like they were business cards. Sadly in non of the photos from the Bill Gaylord Collection this tag could be seen. And Bill also mentioned that non of them were left. We have no idea how these tags looked like, all we know is that the shop had them and used them on the cars they did.
If somebody out there has a photo of this tag, or perhaps even has an original one, please let us know. We would love to add a photo of one to this article.


CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-gaylord-01This was one of the Gaylord’s logos used in the magazines back in the 1950’s.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-gaylord-02The Gaylord’s Top business regular card showing Bill’s personal chopped and padded topped 1949 Mercury.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-gaylord-03Some Gaylord ads used this skript type logo. But at this point we have no idea how the actual Gaylord’s interior tag looked like.
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There were of course several other major interior shops in the 1940’s and 1950’s But so far we have not been able to find any other interior tags from any of these shops. If any of you readers know of any other 1940’s, or 1950’s interior shop tag that was used in the car interiors, please let us know so that we can add it to his article. Email Rik Hoving
Thank you.

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The first chopped 49-50 Mercury?

 

FIRST CHOPPED 49-50 MERCURY

 

Who was the first one to chop the top of the 1949-1951 Mercury, the quintessential Custom Car? This is a question that has been on the minds of a lot of die-hard custom car enthusiast for many years.



I’m not quite sure when the discussion about who did the first chopped ’49-51 Mercury came up for the first time. Perhaps it was at the time the Barris Technique books were first published, and photos of Sam Barris chopping a 1949 Mercury where shown in these books. On the HAMB there were several threads discussing this topic off and on for several years. When a photo album, created with photos that Marcia Campbell took of Sam Barris chopping Jerry Quesnel’s 1949 Mercury, showed up at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama, the discussion took on a whole different direction. I was fortunate to be at this show, and be able to copy the content of this amazing photo album and share it on the Custom Car Photo Archive, and later in the Rodder’s Journal article on Marcia Campbell, TRJ #51)

The first couple of customized 1949-51 Mercury’s are the trend setters for most customized Mercury’s being built ever since. So it is interesting to find out who actually chopped the first of these customized mercury’s. More than likely these¬†first well known customized Mercury’s¬†were all build around the same period, chopped with perhaps just days, weeks or mostly a few month between them. Possibly the builders must have known about the facts the other Mercury Customs were being build, and how they were build and chopped. The fact is, that unless some photos will show up with an exact date, or with multiple of the discussed Mercury’s in the same picture, at possibly different or the same building stages, we most likely will never really know the answer to the question who was first. However it is really fun to do the research needed for a project like this. And most of the times the research will reveal other new Custom Car related facts.

The candidates for this quest in this CCC-Article are: (in alphabetic order)

  • Buddy Alcorn 1950 Mercury
  • Sam Barris 1949 Mercury
  • Louis Bettancourt 1949 Mercury
  • Bill Gaylord 1949 Mercury
  • Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury
  • Wally Welch 1950 Mercury
  • others?

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For long it was “believed”¬†that the Sam Barris 1949 Mercury was the first Chopped Mercury out there. Sam had chopped his own personal car in his spare time. It was said he had bought the car brand new and started working on it a few weeks after he got it. We now know that Sam actually bought his Mercury as a used car, but we are unaware of the date when he bought it. Some of the photos shared in the Barris Books (published in 1994-97), as well as a few other publications, show Sam Barris chopping the top of a 1949 Mercury. In multiple publictions the photo captions always read that Sam was chopping his own personal Mercury.

Fortunately Custom Car photographer and good friends with Sam Barris, Marcia Campbell, took a series of photos of Sam chopping the top on a 1949 Mercury andcreated a photo album from those. Some of these photos taken by Marcia were the same that had been used in the Barris publications with photo captions saying Sam Barris chopping his own personal Mercury, letting us believe Sam was the first one to chop one of these Mercury bodies. However the rest of the photos in this photo album created by Marcia, clearly showed that Sam was not working on his own, but rather on Jerry Quesnel’s Mercury. Which made the enthusiast wonder how true the written “facts” were that Sam Barris chopped his own personal Mercury as the first with this body style. And then the whole discussion about who was first was brought up again.

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-campbell-20The photo album that shows the photos taken by Marcia Campbell chopping the Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury.
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Below are two lists of Original Radical Restyled Custom 1949-51 Mercury’s, one by Harry Bradley (published in 1986) and the other by Pat Ganahl (published in 2001). Since then, a lot more new information has surfaced. So these lists are not quite accurate anymore. However they are very interesting to look at, and also to see that back then the question who had done the first Radically (chopped) Mercury, was already on people’s minds. And publishing these findings was possibly done to trigger a discussion… well they succeeded, and the discussion is still going on in 2014.

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-02Harry Bradley published this list of the Original Radical Customs in the February 1986 issue of Super Hot Rods & Customs magazine.
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CCC-first-chopped-mercury-03Pat Ganahl published his own version of this list in his The American Custom Car book published in 2001.
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In this CCC-Article I have collected as much facts about the “candidates” for being the first chopped 49-51 Mercury, as I could find. Hopefully this article will generate even more info from the readers that might have been there when some of these cars were customized and might remember details we have not seen, or heard before.

The new 1949 Mercury has been available to the public since April 1948, and in the past it has happened more than once that a brand new, or near new cars where customized right from the dealer¬†by their owners. So in a way it is kind of strange that the 1949 Mercury was not chopped as soon as it hit the dealers. Perhaps the relatively high price was responsible for that. However¬†Bill Gaylord did not mind¬†this,¬†and he had George Barris chop his 1949 Mercury Convertible in 1949. Bill then¬†created a wonderful padded top for it. Perhaps this was the real first chopped 1949 Mercury.¬†I have included Bill’s Mercury in the candidates list, but since it is a convertible we have to see it apart from the other candidates.

Lets take a quick look at the candidates and we will share all the details about them further on in the article. Right now I like to concentrate on the big name shop customs. I think that these Mercury’s were relatively¬†expensive when they were brand new, making¬†the changes that somebody would just chop it in their back yard or home garage when brand new very small. So its probably fair to say that the first 49-51 Mercury was chopped by one of the bigger custom shops.

Below are the facts we know about these early Restyled 1949-51 Mercury’s.

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Buddy Alcorn 1950 Mercury

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(Buddy bought the car already chopped and customized in 1955, original owners name is unknown)

  • Chopped by: Ayala’s.¬†Gil’s Auto Body Works year unknown
  • First documented¬†appearance: Unknown
  • First publication: Dan Post Blue book of Custom Restyling published in 1952 (the car is shown here unfinished and in primer)
  • Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: unknown
  • Other facts: Full fade away front fenders, molded in rear quarter panels, Oldsmobile rear fenders, rounded hood corners, near fade away roof chop at the back, angled forward B-pillars¬†Further restyled¬†by Barris in 1955 for owner Buddy Alcorn.

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-alcorn-11Two photos of the mercury as it looked when the Ayala’s had finished the body work on the car. These were published in the 1952 Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling.
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CCC-first-chopped-mercury-alcorn-09Sadly we have no photos (yet) of the Mercury as a finished Ayala custom, we are not even sure if it was ever finished, but this photo shows the car after Buddy Alcorn had the Barris Shop restyle it for him in 1955.
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Sam Barris 1949 Mercury

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  • Chopped by: Sam Barris
  • First documented¬†appearance: Oakland Roadster Show 20 to 25th February 1951 (Shown in full paint but with unfinished interior, indicating a rush to get the car done for the show.¬†The car placed second in full custom class.)
  • First publication: Motor Trend Magazine, December 1951
  • Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: 1951
  • Other facts: Full fade away fenders with molded in rear quarter panels. heavy chop with straight B-pillars. Grille uses parts of a 1951 Ford. Sharp hood corners, hand made taillights.
    No known in progress photos. Car most likely built in Sam’s spare time after shop hours.¬†Car was sold in 1951 to its new owner Bob Orr of Muscatine, Iowa.
    A few of the Barris books claim Sam bought this car brand new from the dealer, but several other sources who worked with Sam in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s all say Sam bought the car used.¬†Sam had to work on his own Mercury in his spare time, after shop hours. This being a disadvantage over client cars (Jerry Quesnel) which could be built during shop hours.
    (The photo of the snow scene on the cover of Dec 51 (winter of ’51-’52) Motor Trend was most likely photographed¬†around October or perhaps even earlier – assuming the Dec ’51 issue hit the stands before Dec ’51 + production time of at least one more month. Therefore, since Sam’s Merc was sold in February¬†’51 – right after the Oakland Roadster show, it pretty much proves that the photo was shot in the winter of ’50-’51 right before the show at which the car was sold.)

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-barris-13Sam’s mercury at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show. The photo shows the car had no custom interior yet.
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CCC-first-chopped-mercury-barris-14Cover photo for the December 1951 issue of Motor Trend Magazine.
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Louis Bettancourt 1949 Mercury

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  • Chopped by:¬†Ayala’s.¬†Gil’s Auto Body Works
  • First documented¬†appearance: Petersen’s Pan Pacific Motorama 1952 November 10-16
  • First publication: Restyle your car, 1952
  • Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: 1952
  • Other facts: ¬†full fade away fenders with molded in rear quarter panels. Angled forward B-pillars, and lots of molded in panels. Large radius on all the corners. Removal of most external body trim. Hand made taillights. Of all the Mercs in this list this one has the most body work done to them.¬†There are no¬†known in-progress photos. Car was styled a lot like how the Ayala’s styled the 1941-48¬†Fords.
    Perhaps this could have been the first one chopped and customized because of a lot of the late 1940’s styling cues. Possibly lack of funds or simply the huge amount of work involved this radical customs, prevented Louis to have the Ayala’s finish the car for him until late 1951 or early 1952.
    Car was redone by Barris in 1953-54. There are also stories that say that it was planned that the Louis Bettancourt and the Wally Welch Mercury, both painted in “similar” lime gold paint jobs, were going to debut at the same time at the 1951 MotorRama show. The Wally Welch Mercury made that deadline, but Louis had to wait another year to show his car at that show.

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-Bettancourt-16Colorized photo of the first version of the Louis bettancourt Mercury. No external trim and molded in body work gives the car a late 1940’s custom feel.
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CCC-first-chopped-mercury-Bettancourt-17Hand made bubble taillights are most likely shaped from laminated red lucite. and set in round rod shaped openings flared into the rear quarters. Notice how the fade away fenders wrap around the body all the way to the trunk. 
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Bill Gaylord 1949 Mercury convertible

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  • Chopped by:¬†George Barris
  • First documented¬†appearance: Hot Rod show,¬†Los Angeles National Guard Armory in 1950.
  • First publication: Unknown
  • Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: 1949
  • Other facts: chopped windshield, sharp hood corners withe grille surround molded in. Rear quarter panels are not molded to the body. George Barris chopped the windshield and frenched the headlights in trade for Bill Gaylord doing the padded top and interior on George his personal 1942 Cadillac. Bill’s Mercury is a Convertible and not a Coupe like the others in this list, but since most likely this is the very first 1949 Mercury ever to be chopped, we feel it is significant enough to be part of this list.

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-05Freshly finished with the George Barris body work showing 1949 license plates.
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CCC-first-chopped-mercury-gaylord-10Bill’s 1949 Mercury Convertible at the 1950¬†Hot Rod show,¬†Los Angeles National Guard Armory.
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Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury

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  • Chopped by: Sam Barris / Jerry Quesnel
  • First documented¬†appearance: Possibly the tent Show in Montebello in 1951. No exact dates known for this show. (the¬†Car was shown at this show in white primer, possibly a late arival, indicating a rush to getting it ready for the show)
  • First publication: Popular Science October 1951 (in white primer)
  • Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: 1951
  • Other facts: Heavy chop with curved forward raked B-pilars. sharp hood corners, similar grille as on the Sam Barris Mercury (painted version) rear quarter panels do look to be not molded to the body. Taillights hand made and set in bumper guards. Marcia Campbell documented Sam Chopping this mercury in a photo album containing 37 photos.¬†Stock grille when the car appeared in white primer. Later the grille would be replaced with one made out of 1951 Ford parts, similar to the Sam Barris Merc grille.¬†Sharp hood corners. Jerry was an Barris employee working afternoons and evenings at the Barris Shop. We are not quite sure if Jerry’s merc was a customer car, or build in the spare time of Sam and Jerry.
    Jeff Neppl has been in touch with Jerry for a couple of years, and have had several conversations about this topic. Jerry mentioned that he started customizing his mercury in his parents driveway, on a near new Mercury. His father got very upset about the fact he was cutting in a perfectly good car. Jerry (who is still with us in 2014) claims that Sam Barris cut the top on his merc before Sam chopped his own Merc. (This was confirmed by the late Jack Stewart in a short video Jeff Neppl recorded, but Dick Jackson mentioned that both Sam’s and Jerry’s where chopped at the same time, perhaps just a few days apart.)

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-quesnel-06Jerry’s mercury in white primer at the Montebello Armory tent show. We¬†assumed this is 1951 since that is the date on the license plate, but we have no date for this show to find out what time of the year it was.
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CCC-first-chopped-mercury-quesnel-12Jerry’s Mercury after it was painted deep purple at the Barris shop and after the new grille made from 1951 Ford grille components was installed.
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Wally Welch 1950 Mercury

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  • Chopped by: Ayala
  • First documented appearance: Petersen’s Pan Pacific Motorama 1951, November 7-11
  • First publication: Hop Up magazine, April 1952
  • Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: unknown
  • Other facts: Straight B-pillars, rounded hood corners, rear quarter panels are not molded to the body. reshaped extended front fenders. ’51 DeSoto grille teeth, stock taillights with the bezels removed. The chop on the Wally Welch Mercury was relatively mild with shorter (compared to the others) rear quarter windows. In 1952 Barris redid the car for Wally, changing the color to deep purple, and adding two extra 1951 DeSoto grille teeth.¬†Rounded hood corners.¬†This Mercury has a lot less body work than the Bettancourt Mercury, a relatively easy chop and could have been done in a shorter time.
    Wally was known for having had a lot of custom cars already. And most likely he was able to sell them for good money thus generating some money for having his 1950 Mercury to be built in one run and fast.

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-Welch-15The Wally Welch Mercury at the 1951 Petersen AutoRama show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium.  
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Some quotes of people who where there.

Some quotes by people who were around when these first ’49-51 Mercury’s were restyled in the late 1940’s early 1950’s.

Sam’s was the first one I¬†saw chopped at the Barris shop. Sam was a cop at the time, not sure it this was part-time or full-time, but he¬†worked on his Merc¬†after work. It took him some time to get it done because he could only work on it in his spare time. I do not remember¬†Jerry Quesnel, nor the Mercury you mention.¬†I was building my¬†1949 Buick at the Barris shop at that time, and in 1951 I¬†bought the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford, but I lived in Dayton Ohio and I was not there all the time, so it did not see every car being build there. (Jim Street)

 

Back then there was no competitive attitude about who had his car chopped first. Like many books and magazines have said, Sam did not buy his mercury brand new from the dealer. Sam bought is towards the end of 1950, and it was in a stock Mercury green color.
I used to drive Sam’s Merc¬†(when it was in primer)¬†to high school sometimes,¬†and I even got it¬†stuck at a RR crossing with a train coming, when the battery cable popped off and we¬†couldn’t get the doors to open. We¬†were on our¬†way to the Carson Top¬†Shop,¬†to pick up a Chevy convertible that was just finished. Somebody as able to put the cable back on just in time. Sam had¬†Bill Gaylord do a black and white rolls and pleats interior right before he sold it. I remember both Sam’s and Jerry’s being built at the same time, and finished at the same time as well, perhaps with just days or a week between them. (Dick Jackson)

 

Another observation. When¬†Barris Kustoms put the Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury in the Feb. 1951 Oakland Roadster show (same show where Sam debuted his 1949 Mercury) they used the wall behind the car to display the latest or most important work by the shop. (Check out the¬†CCC-Article¬†about this display).¬†This photo display¬†did not show any 49-51 Mercury’. We know that Sam’s 1949 was at this same show, but it still is a bit strange¬†that Barris would display only older model cars as promotional material. Most likely Sam’s¬†Mercury was so fresh, that no photos had been taken of the car yet.

 

 

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The Jack Stewart Ford timing the photos.
The Marcia Campbell photo book of Sam chopping the top of the Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury has learned us a lot about how Sam worked. It also showed us that Jerry’s Mercury had 1951 plates shortly before it was going to be chopped. Two photos in this series showed something else that also dated the chop process a bit more detailed.¬†The photos below show the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford is in the background. And show that the Jack Stewart Ford has the interior installed. (the photos are a bit blurry in the background, but since I have studied the Jack Stewart Ford for my book about the car, I can tell for sure that the interior has been installed at the point those photos were taken.)

We all know that the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford was mostly built at the Ayala shop, but George Barris finished it for Jack. And we also know a few dates when certain things where done to this car. Jack Stewart entered his 1941 Ford in the 1951 Hot Rod and Motor Sport Show at the Los Angeles National Guard Armory held January 25 thru 28 of 1951. He showed the car there with white out windows since he did not have an interior in the car yet. So with the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford in the background with an interior we can now be sure that Marcia took the photos of Sam finishing the metal work on the top of Jerry’s Mercury after the end of January 1951.

Jack could not remember¬†exactly when he had the¬†upholstery on his car done, “sometime after the Hot Rod show” was as close as Jack could remember it. So if the Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury and Sam barris his personal Mercury were chopped around the same time, we can now narrow this happening down to January and the first half of February 1951. Sam had his 1949 Mercury finished in paint at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show held in February 20-25, a short month after the Hot Rod show where jack showed his 1941 Ford.

 

CCC-first-chopped-mercury-quesnel-07Sam Barris filing the fresh lead on the top of Jerry Quesnel’s Mercury. Between the Merc top and Sam’s right shoulder we can see the Jack Stewart Ford.
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CCC-first-chopped-mercury-19If you look carefully you can see the interior on the top right of this photo of Sam using the grinder. I have set in a more recent photo showing the original interior which is still in the Jack Stewart Ford today.
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Based on all these findings we can draw the following conclusions;

  • First chopped ’49-’51 Mercury to be shown at a car show.
    Sam Barris at the Oakland Roadster Show February 1951.
  • First published chopped ’49-51 Mercury.
    Jerry Quesnel, unfinished in primer Popular Science October 1951
  • First published finished chopped ’49-51 Mercury.
    Sam Barris, Motor Trend Magazine, December 1951
  • Earliest date on the license plate of a chopped Mercury.
    Sam Barris and Jerry Quesnel, both 1951. Bill Gaylord Convertible has a 1949 plate.

Will all this info and facts about who was first be really important? No, I do not really think so.
Back in the day when these cars where being built it was not important who was first. As long as a new Custom Car was making the deadline for a major show. Car owners wanted to win trophies at these shows, and the builders needed these new entries to attract more clients for the shop. But I doubt that it was a race against the clock to have the first ever 1949-50 Mercury chopped.

Well, this was quite long… I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I had gathering the information and creating¬†this article. I hope more facts will be added in this thread in the futures. And hopefully one day we will be able to get a date for when the first 1949-50 Mercury was chopped, and or finished.
If you have more info on this subject to be added to this article, then please leave a comment at the end of the article, or email Rik, so that I will be able to add it to the article.

Many thanks to Jeff Neppl, Rob Radcliffe, Ian Gibbons, Jason Bickford, Curtis Leipold, Ulf “Wolf” Christiansson, and many others who have discussed this topic with me.

Resources and more info 

  • Popular Science, magazine October 1951
  • Motor Trend, Magazine December 1951
  • Blue book of Custom Restyling, book by Dan Post, 1952
  • Restyle your Car, Trend book # 105, 1952
  • Hop Up,¬†magazine, April 1952
  • Kustoms Illustrated, magazine #35
  • Super Hot Rods & Customs, magazine February, 1986
  • Barris Kustoms of the 1950’s, book 1994
  • Barris Kustom Technique books, books 1996-97
  • The American Custom Car, book by Pat Ganahl, 2001
  • The Big Book of Barris, book, 2002
  • The Jack Stewart Ford, book, 2012

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Bill Gaylord Photo Album

 

BILL GAYLORD PHOTO ALBUM

 

Custom Upholstery legend Bill gaylord shared his story and his scrap albums with Kustoms Illustrated magazine. We now show you the outtakes from the KI articles.



In Kustoms Illustrated magazines issue 35,36 and 38 we, Luke Karosi and this author (Rik Hoving) collaborated on three articles on the history of legendary upholstery shop of Bill Gaylord. Luke Karosi assisted by Jeff Neppl visited Bill Gaylord in March 2012. They interviewed Bill about the golden years of Customizing when Bill owned his Gaylord’s Kustom Tops shop. A large selection of material was scanned from several of Bill’s personal scrapbooks. We used a lot of this in the Kustoms Illustrated articles, but despite the article was spread out of three issue we still had some great outtakes. Material we could not fit into the reserved pages, or material that did not have the quality we where looking for with the magazine articles. Time to show the magazine outtakes of the Gaylord’s Tops, the Story of Bill Gaylord, the upholstery legend Kustoms Illustrated Articles.


CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-13-wBill Gaylord during the interview in March 2012. In front of him his amazing scrapbook.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-12-wThis photo was actually used as the opening photo of the first article in Kustoms Illustrated, but since it was covered with text and in the center spread we wanted to show you the whole image. Bill’s 1949 Mercury with the padded top frame waiting to be upholstered, Ben Mario’s Barris-built Buick with Cadillac rear fenders, and Bill’s 1941 Ford are parked in front of the Gaylord’s shop… what a sight.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-09-wThis fuzzy photo of Bill and his mildly customized 1936 Ford four-door was to blurry to be used in the printed magazine. But its a neat snapshot anyway.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-01-wHere is a better snapshot of Bill in front of his ’26 Ford four-door. Ripple disk flipper hubcaps on black wall tires, ’37 DeSoto ribbed bumpers, skirts and Appleton Spotlights make this a very nice 1940’s cruiser. Bill love to push his weights¬†as we can see in this photo.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-04-wThis picture shows just how nice Bill’s ’36 Ford¬†was.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-10-wBill owned several 1941 Ford’s in the 1940’s. This snapshot taken in front of Bill’s house¬†shows a nice one he did the top and interior for.¬†
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-02-wA bit blurry photo of a customers Buick and Bill’s own 1949 Mercury convertible parked in front of his shop.¬†
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-05-wLate ’49, early ’50 photo of Bill’s 1949 Mercury convertible with chopped windshield and padded top with blanked out rear quarter windows. Bill was heavily into boats back then and had a hitch on this Merc to be able to pull his speedboat to the lakes.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-03-wScanned directly from Bill’s scrapbook is this photo showing the front of Bill’s personal 1949 Mercury. This snapshot shows the car with the later dark¬†paint job.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-07-wOne of the old business cards Bill ¬†has left from his early 1950’s business. The card showed his personal ’49 Mercury.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-08-wThis nice framed photo shows Bill’s girlfriend posing with his ’51 Ford F1 shop truck. Art Chrisman did the body work on this car for Bill. We would have loved to use this photo in the Kustoms Illustrated article, but the photo could not be removed from the frame for making a decent magazine quality scan.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-11-wAnd unknown 54 Chevy sedan for which Bill had just finished a full interior.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-14-wAnother unidentified car is this ’49-50 Mercury convertible with chopped windshield and padded top. Sadly¬†Bill could not remember anything about this car or photo.The Cadillac bumpers and Packard grille are an unique feature on this Custom.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-tops-06-wBill receiving an big award at the Oakland Roadster show in the mid 1950’s for his ’53 Oldsmobile. This was another photo that was in a none removable photo-frame, preventing Luke from making a magazine quality scan.
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If you enjoyed this CCC-Article about the outtakes of the Kustoms Illustrated series of articles on Bill Gaylord, and if you do not have the three issue’s of KI, with these articles. Then its time to get in touch with Luke Karosi from Kustoms Illustrated magazine and get them as back-issue. Click on the Kustoms Illustrated ad below to get to their website where you get contact info.

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(this article is sponsored by)

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