Jim Street Golden Sahara I

 

JIM STREET GOLDEN SAHARA I

 

The Amazing Golden Sahara I. The Futuristic Car designed by Jim Street that was the perfect combination between Custom and Show Car.


Special thanks to Jim Street for his stories on the car and how it was created.


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(Special note; Jim Skonzakes and Jim Street are the same person. In the early 1960’s Jim Skonzakes officially changed his name from Skonzakes to Street hoping his new last name would be easier to spell for others)
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In the late 1940’s early 1950’s there is a young guy from Dayton, Ohio, Jim Skonzakes, who dreams about living in warm, sunny and dry Los Angeles, California. He sees himself driving there in the most fantastic Custom Cars. But being needed in his parents successful Dry Cleaning business prevents him from actually making the move to the West-Coast. Instead he started building his own Custom Cars and Custom Bikes in Dayton, and when time allowed it he jumped in his Custom Car and drove the 2200 miles to California. There he spend some good quality time looking for Custom Cars, visiting the shops he has heard about, going to shows, and making new car friends.

Jim Skonzakes (Street) always said he had Customizing in his blood, he just could not help it. Everything he had needed to be Customized. So the industrial dry cleaning machines in his parents business were not save for Jim’s urge to customize either. All the machines were detail painted and parts send out to be chrome plated, for that extra special Skonzakes look and touch.
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One of his California trips in the late 1940’s, perhaps early 1950, Jim meets George Barris and starts to hang out at the Barris Kustom Shop. At one of Jim’s longer stays Jim even rented a part of the Barris shop where he could built his own custom, a 1949 Buick, with the help of some Barris employees. In the meantime Jim drives from LA to Dayton several times a year, mostly in the Custom Cars he owned at the time. On one of his LA visits he buys the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford, and a few years later when he is back in LA again he heard about George having had an accident in his personal mildly customized 1952 Lincoln. The wrecked car was in bad shape, however the cars engine and drive train appeared to be intact and was low mileage since George had not used it a lot. This would be the ideal base for a project Jim had on his mind for some time and started to discuss it with George Barris.

George Barris took this photo shortly after having the accident with his 1952 Lincoln. George was towing the Dan Landon 1949 Chevy behind the Lincoln when out of nowhere a hay truck appeared on a very foggy day. George his Lincoln was totaled, and Dan’s Chevy had some damage as well, but not too bad. Fortunately nobody was really hurt in the accident, and the totaled Lincoln would later become the base for the Golden Sahara.
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Some sketches of a very futuristic car where made and further plans discussed and Jim’s Dream Custom plans slowly took shape. In the end it was decided that the car would be built at the Barris Shop as a Barris Custom, and that Jim would be the owner and financier of this futuristic project. A project both people involved already assumed would have a big impact on the scene even before the project was started. But they never realized how popular the Golden Sahara would become, and how much impact the car would have in the history of the Custom Car. Jim also could not have assumed at that time, that the Golden Sahara would set the path for the rest of his career…. But more on that in Part II.

Plans called for a heavily restyled body with a very futuristic bubble top design, some characteristic parts from other cars, and a lot of scratch built details. Something never before seen done on a Custom Car back then. The whole idea had more the vibes of a factory design study, which was exactly what Jim loved to see in a Custom Car.

Due to the busy work schedule at his parents Dry Cleaning business Jim could only visit LA a few times during the built, and was not able to see if the work done on the project would meet his standards. Several people worked on the car during the time it was build. But Bill DeCarr (Ortega) was the one who did most of the work, and could be considered the head of project. Jim always liked Bill very much, and thinks he is a really great craftsman. But due to different aspects the work done on the Golden Sahara was nerve really up to Jim’s Standards.

Under construction photos from the work done at the Barris Shop. The project was a major undertaking, first deciding what should go, replaced with new body panel, reshaped panels and all new body work. Bill DeCarr is credited for doing most of the work on the original version of the Golden Sahara.
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Bill DeCarr lifting the top of the firewall/cowl after cutting it apart for the body sectioning.
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Customizing the 1952 Lincoln

The top of the car, the top of the rear fenders and the trunk were removed completely. When the project started there were no wrap around windshields available from production cars. But Bill DeCarr, who worked a day job at the Lincoln Mercury dealer parts department, had seen samples of these wrap around windshield and knew they would become available in the very near future. So the cowl on the Lincoln was sectioned, and would later be reshaped to accept a pre-production test windshield for a 1955 Lincoln. The Lincoln doors where sectioned and the door tops were reshaped to flow down toward the back of the car, where they curved into a custom made scoop that would later be filled with gold colored mesh. The door opening she was reshaped with more grace. Most upper parts of the body were completely rebuilt out of sheet metal, shaped over a handmade wire frame, and welded to the body to create the desired body shape.

The completely reshaped rear fenders used 1954 Kaiser Manhattan taillights. Jim had bought a lot of parts from the Kaiser-Frazier dealers that were closing down in Dayton. He always loved those parts, and figured sooner or later he would be able to use those parts on his projects. The Bumperettes at the back – which also act as exhaust outlets – were created from leftover Kaiser bumper ends. The section below the gold colored side trim on the rear fender was made as a removable section, a huge fender skirt. The panel itself was gold anodized and clear coated strips of semi gloss were added – which gave it a beautiful effect with vertical gloss and semi gloss stripes. The fender skirt panel was surrounded by hand made trim which was later gold coated. A steel spare tire cover from an unknown 1930’s car was welded to the new trunk at a near-horizontal angle, but would never actually hold a spare tire. It was added for good looks and created some extra trunk space, which was very welcome in later years when the car was further modified for the Golden Sahara II, but more on that in the next issue.

Freshly finished Golden Sahara photo taken at the Ford plant in Pico Rivera, CA where Bill DeCarr worked a day-job at the time. Jim Skonzakes can be seen behind the steering wheel, George Barris standing next to the car, with Bill DeCarr to the right of George.
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The Golden Sahara looked stunning in color with its refrigerator white painted body and gold coated parts. Not only the design of the GS must have looked totally out of this world, even the gold colored parts in an era where Chrome plating was hot must have turned heads everywhere. The “Targa Top” and rear window could be removed to create a full convertible.
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Wonderful color print of the Golden Sahara shows how the top panels could open up.
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Nice bird eye view of the Golden Sahara I. This is also one of the few rare photos I have seen so far that shows the GS with a license plate mounted at the back. This high angle give a good look at the huge plexiglass rear window that had to be created for the car.
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The front-end had been completely cut off and a new handmade nose was made with an oval shaped grille opening. This grille opening would later be fitted with a with gold plated extruded metal. The fenders were extended at the top and completely reshaped, the wheel openings were reduced downwards, compared to stock. The front of the new front fender has a large opening from top to bottom, which holds a vertically mounted gold pcolored metal mesh panel which serves as the base for the bullet-shaped bumperettes, created from part-box 1930’s headlights buckets the headlights and parking lights. The inside of the front fender top section was covered with the same gold plated metal mesh.

“The Golden Sahara was one of the most complex customs the Barris shop had produced at that point in time.”

With most of the car now roughly shaped it was time to create the top. When Jim had the car designed he wanted to have a car that could have the top on, but he also wanted to convert it easily to a full convertible.  The wrap around windshield had been arrived and installed and Bill DeCarr shaped a new panel that would be fitted as a large and wide B-pillar just behind the doors from side to side. Bill also made a thin roof panel that would fit between this B-pillar and the windshield header. On either side of this, Plexiglas was shaped to form the “Targa Style” T-top. At the rear, a local Los Angeles company, create a huge rear window from plexiglass to match the wrap around windshield. All these panels were incorporated in such a way that they could be removed to create a full convertible.



The styling on the Golden Sahara I was so far ahead of its time, and as these color photos show every body line worked together to enhance the overall look.
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While the Barris Shop had performed most of the work on the Golden Sahara, Jim Skonzakes hired John Getz to do some final detail work and get the car up to the Factory Design Car Standards he was looking for. The work done at the Barris shop was really fine, but done in the typical Custom fashion, looking good from a few feet (which was sort of the standard back then). The Car lacked a bit in details Jim thought where very important to the car. When all the body work was finished and in primer. The parts to be plated were sent out for gold color plating, which would set the car even more apart from the rest, where chrome plating was the standard. For paint Jim chose a solid refrigerator white to be the perfect color for this amazing Custom Car, the white would create a good contrast with the gold colored metal. It was George Barris who came up with the name for the car. “The Golden Sahara“. Exotic and mysterious… just as the car.

One of the very few photos that show the Ohio 1954 License plate mounted on the Golden Sahara. This photo was used in the May 1955 issue of Motor Trend magazine.
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A good look at the beautiful lines of the Golden Share with this rear 3/4 photo. The ’54 Kaiser Manhattan taillights look right at place on the car. The rear bumperettes/exhaust tips were created using Kaiser bumper ends. This low angle photo also shows that the T-Roof panel is relatively this. It had to be lightweight so it could be removed with ease.
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Photo showing the beautiful lines of the Golden Sahara. Notice how the angle of the front of the front fenders is identical to the scoop/leading edge of the rear fenders.
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A wonderful experimental interior was created by Glen Hauser of the Carson Top Shop. Glen used gold brocade cloth and white leatherette to stitch up the unique interior. The dashboard was hand built, completely upholstered, and held a TV in the center and a tape recorder in the console. There was also a telephone, radio, and a loudspeaker system installed. In the back of the car, a full bar, with mini-fridge was installed in the center and a comfortable half round bench wraps around it. The floor was covered in plush white and beige mink carpeting. All the electronic equipment was the installed and incorporated by Jim Skonzakes himself.

The Golden Sahara was a unique custom in its first form, and it won the Sweepstakes at the 1954 Motor Revue, held in the Los Angeles Pan Pacific Auditorium. And would later win many more trophies. The total cost for building the Golden Sahara I was estimated to be $25,000. – a substantial amount of money in 1954. Jim really enjoyed his new Custom Car and all the attention it got at the shows, but Jim was never completely happy with it. Jim mentioned the car was very nice from a distance, its design overwhelmed you, but when you got up close, he saw all kinds of flaws which he loved to fix at one point. When he drove the car for the first time he discovered that the frame of the car was never fixed properly after it was (slightly) bent in the George Barris accident. This made the car rather hard to drive. But since Jim had spend a small fortune on the car he decided to make it all work and showed the car all around the U.S.

Close up look of the plexiglass semi gull-wing roof panels.
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The interior of the Golden Sahara I was state of the art in 1954, this photo nicely shows the huge tape recorder in the center console. Notice that this photo shows white rubber mats on the floor, to protect the white and beige carpeting.
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1954 Motorama Debut

The big debut for the Golden Sahara was at the 1954 Petersen Motorama / Motor Revue. The Golden Sahara was a unique custom in its first form, drawing a huge crowd where ever it went. In the previous year Barris always had a huge wall side display at the Petersen Show at the Pan Pacificc Auditorium. But with the Golden Sahara they realized this car could have a huge impact on the  Barris Shop. So they went all out and The Barris crew and Jim Street created a large display with the Golden Sahara on a turntable. The car won the Sweepstakes at the show an was enjoyed by a huge crowd, of which many were especially drawn to the show to see the well announced Golden Sahara. The show was held November 5-14, 1954, more info and photos of the show can be found in this CCC-Article.


Color slide taken by Walter Wyss shows the amazing display they had created for the Golden Sahara. Both George Barris and Jim Skonzakes knew how much impact this car would have on the audience, and they also knew how to get the best publicity out of this all.
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The Golden Sahara I was a huge hit at the Motorama Show, and soon Jim received phone calls and letters from other show promoters in other States asking for the Golden Sahara to be present at their shows. During the 1954 to 1956 Car show season, Jim Street took the GS-I touring around the US to all the big and not so big shows enjoying the crowd that was always gathered around the car.

This wonderful color slide was made by Ina-Mae Overman and gives us a good look at the wonderful interior created by the Carson Top Shop. At most indoor shows the complete top was removed to show of the incredible interior.
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The Golden Sahara I was displayed at the ’54 show without the top. This way the beautiful futuristic Carson Top Shop created interior could be shown better. downside was that the audience could not be in awe over the huge bubble top rear window. Which must have been spectacular in 1954.
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The 1954 Motorama Sign

Jim and Barris had a beautifully hand lettered sign made for the debut of the Golden Sahara. Ina Mae Overman had most of the sign in one of her color photos of the car. With some sharpening and adding contrast I was able to read most of it.

Golden Sahara Designed and build by
Barris Custom Autos
For Mr Jim Skonzakes Dayton Ohio

This body was formed on 1954 Lincoln
Chassis from power hammered panels
taken from design sketches and patterns

• Upholstery by Carson Tops
• Bar By G & C Bar Specialist
• Solid 24 K Gold by Artistic Platers
• 300 HP Super Charged Engine
• Elec. Push Button Controlled
• Refrigerator Ice Cube Unit
• Front & Rear air conditioning
• 2-way wire recorder
• 3 mile Telephone system
• Loud Speaker Dash Unit
• Selector push type Radio

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During most of the show the passenger door was left open so that the audience was able to take a better look inside the Dream Custom. The Drivers door remained shut so the overall profile could be enjoyed as well.
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The Interior was filled with the latest gadget’s as a TV, telephone, fancy radio, speaker etc. The back had a beautiful wrap around cocktail bar seating arrangement with full bar.
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Walter Wyss captured Jim Skonzakes talking to George Barris at the ’54 Motorama Show. We have no idea who the other people are in the photo, but since they are inside the display, they must know either George or Jim.
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George and Sam Barris proudly showed Aunt Edith around at the Barris Display during the 1954 Peters Motorama Show. And the highlight was the recently finished trend setting Golden Sahara.
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The February 1955 issue of Rod & Custom magazine announced the Golden Sahara. It was all part of a marketing plan to promote the car as good as the Barris shop and Jim Skonzakes could do.
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On the cover of the 1955 Sacramento Autorama Show Program, and the May 1955 issue of Motor Trend Magazine where Jim’s Golden Sahara I was named “The $25,000 Custom Car”.
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Announcement newspaper ad for the Saramento Autorama with the Golden Sahara I as the main attraction.
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Displayed at Car Dealers

When Jim and George Barris developed the Golden Sahara it became clear that it was going to be an unique automobile. And that with the proper marketing the money invested in the project could be made back, and the Barris shop name could receive a huge boost. Show promoters saw the potential of this crowd pleasing custom and started to offer money for its display at their shows around the US. And soon Jim came up with a plan to rent out the Golden Sahara to car dealers for promotional of the dealers products. Jim provided the car, photo material and text which could be used in advertising the dealer events in local news papers and flyers to be spread around town.

The Golden Sahara-I being displayed at one of the numerous Car dealers around the US.
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The Golden Sahara I proved to be the excellent tool for drawing a huge crowd, and dealers who had rented the Golden Sahara for a weekend or week soon were flooded with extra orders. The news spread quickly and soon it became a full time job to drive the Golden Sahara to dealer locations all over the US. Jim had to hire people to make it all happen. In the end everybody was happy Barris, with getting all the exposure of the Golden Sahara being build at their shop, which has undoubtedly led to new clients, Jim Skonzakes for all the exposure of his dream Custom, and the money made by renting out the GS-I to earn back the $25,000 bill for creating it, and saving up for the next phase. And all the dealers who rented the car who all had multiple new cars sales because of it.

Jim had special note-books printed to make renting out the Golden Sahara as easy as possible.
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Car Dealers, but also other business could rent the Golden Sahara for a certain amount of time to help promote their business. The Golden Sahara was extremely successful in drawing a crowd, especially if the dealer had made flyer, or local newspaper announcements. On the left is just one of the many flyers that Jim saved, and two of the many Thank You notes from very happy car dealers, who had the Golden Sahara on display.
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Another sample of a very happy car dealer from Atlanta, Georgia, who had the Golden Sahara on display in their showroom. News like this spread around quick, and the was a huge demand to have the Golden Sahara on display to attract new customers.
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The face of a tire company
Another way of promoting the Golden Sahara was making a deal with Seiberling Tire Company. The Golden Sahara would be used in a special series of magazine ads promoting the Seiberling Sealed-Air The Tire of Tomorrow Here Today campaign. Photo shoots with the Golden Sahara were organized, even a shoot at Daytona Beach in Florida where the Golden Sahara can be seen racing at the beach with the new Seiberling tires was done. In 1956 when the car had paid for itself and more Jim decided it was time for the next phase. With all he had learned and all he had experienced with the Golden Sahara I he was confident that the plans he had in mind for the Golden Sahara II would make it en even bigger success.







One of several ads that were created for the Seiberling Tire company. For this ad the Golden Sahara was photographed racing the Daytona Beach. On the right a snapshot of the Golden Sahara at the Dayton Beach set for the Seiberling ad campaign
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The Golden Sahara I on display to promote the tire of tomorrow today for the Seiberling tire company.
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Many people absolutely adored the Golden Sahara I, and many tried to buy it from Jim, including Liberace, who according to Jim, desperately wanted to have the car in hi garage. However the GS was not for sale. This photo of Liberace in the Golden Sahara was develop in December 14, 1956. Can you imagine what the impact of the GS I was, if you compare it with the cars in the street in the background.
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Jim showing some of the details of the Golden Sahara to Liberace.
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As wild as this first version of the Golden Sahara was, it was still relatively mild, compared with the plans Jim Street had in mind for the Golden Sahara II, which he began building in 1956, and which will be in PART TWO of this article.










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Jim Street Golden Sahara II

 

JIM STREET GOLDEN SAHARA II

 

Around 1956 Jim Street sets out to improve on the first version of his Iconic Golden Sahara dream Custom. Jim and his team created the legendary Laboratory on Wheels, the Golden Sahara II.


Special thanks to Jim Street for his stories on the car and how it was created.


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(Special note; Jim Skonzakes and Jim Street are the same person. In the early 1960’s Jim Skonzakes officially changed his name from Skonzakes to Street hoping his new last name would be easier to spell for others)
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In Part One on Jim Street’s Golden Sahara we shared the story on how the accident that George Barris had with his personal 1953 Lincoln, eventually led to the creation of one of the best known Custom Cars in the world, the Golden Sahara. We also mentioned that the owner of the car, Jim Skonzakes (aka Jim Street) was not overall happy with the quality of the car. After showing the car around for some time Jim decided in 1956 that it was time to redo the things he did not care for, and add all the other features he had been dreaming about, but never had been able to incorporate into the first version of the Golden Sahara.

Jim also had not enjoyed that the first version of the Golden Sahara was created on the other side of the country from where he lived, which prevented him from having full control over the project. So this time around, the car would be build closer to his home in Dayton Ohio. Jim had planned the new version with his good friend Henry Meyer. Jim was a visionary guy with a photographic eye, and saw all things in his head before they were created. Henry was the engineer who could realize all of Jim’s wild ideas in three dimensions. Together they formed the perfect team for the job. Henry Meyer worked at a shop called Delphos Machine & Tool Co. in Dayton, Ohio.

In 1956 Jim saw the double fins Bob Metz had created on a 1955 Buick, and decided that he wanted to have that feature on his Golden Sahara II as well. Jim had worked with Bob Metz before, and knew Bob would be the perfect guy to handle most of the body changed he had in mind. The rest of the job on the GS-II would be handled at the Delphos Machine & Tool shop in Dayton, Ohio.
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Delphos Machine and Tool Co. frontman Ray Teague liked the idea to work on “things that can’t be done”. Delphos Machine engineer Henry Meyer had been accomplishing the “impossible” with race cars and other vehicles for many years. Similarly, Joe Rote electronic specialists, refuses to take “No” for an answer on any project and Bud West, an automobile painter of high repute on the local scene, turned his perfectionist eye on the problem when told: “You’ll NEVER make these pulverized Oriental fish scales into paint that will adhere to metal.” This team under guidance of Jim Street did wonders on the new version of the Golden Sahara. Ray’s younger brother Kenny Teague also assisted in a lot of the work on the Golden Sahara.

Jim Skonzakes’s plan for the new Golden Sahara was to create a functional car which combined show quality with all kind of state of the art electronic gadgets. This would created as Jim called it a “laboratory on wheels”. The end result would be something the car show audience would have never before seen in their live.




This is how the Delphos Machine & Tool shop looks like in 2018. It is the shop where a lot of work on the Golden Sahara II was done around 1957-58.
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Building the Golden Sahara II

To make sure the Golden Sahara II would become Jim’s dream car he realized he had to deal with the project in a different way that how he did it with the first version of the car. Jim needed to be in control at all time. And the best way to do it was to start creating many design sketches of the ideas he had in his mind for so many years. The old Lincoln frame, which was still bend from the accident, was removed and replace by a stretched FoMoCo frame found at a local junkyard.

Many Changes needed to be made to the chassis and suspension to allow for all the state of the art electronic features Jim had planned. Jim wanted to hide as many of the electronic components as possible and to be able to do this a double floor was constructed. When it was time for the body modifications, Jim took the car to Bob Metz‘s Custom Shop in Shelbyville, Indiana. Jim had known Bob for many years and had relied on his handy work on several older project. Bob created new body panels for about half of the car, and modified most of the rest.

An rare early image of the Golden Sahara, before the rear portion of the top was added.
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The original rear fender scoop design from the GS-I would remain on the second version, but the rest of the rear fenders was reshaped with a double fin by Bob Metz, Henry Meyer created a set of hand-made taillights (formed in the kitchen oven) to be fitted to them. The front fenders were reshaped with a new added panel that would create a functional scoop on top of the headlights and that would flow into the front fender character line. At the doors, this character line was also reshaped and now curved down to the bottom of the body, creating a cove. This cove would later be filled with a shaped steel insert fitted with many gold plated 1957 Chrysler radio push button ornaments. One of these “ornaments” was used as a push button to open the car’s doors.

New quad headlight where created. A set of frosted Plexiglass sheets with gold plated “G” and “S” monograms added to them, were used as covers. Below the headlights, bullet-shaped housings cover the electronic eyes that would automatically brake the car when needed. This was all set on gold plated mesh and set in a reshaped and extended headlight opening. The grille shape design remained very similar to the GSI version. The hood on the original version was rather poorly done and rather thin making it to flex when opened. So this time the shape was modified and round bar stock was added to make the new hood much stiffer, and a new smaller than before scoop was added to the front. At this time the body was put in primer and the team started to concentrate on the details. Jim considered the 1955 FoMoCo wrap around windshield too old for the updated car, and nothing from a production car would fit his ideas. Jim designed a new windshield as well as a much larger bubble rear window … next problem… how to create it for the car.


Miss Arizona (in the late 1950’s) Joanne Adams posing with the Golden Sahara II at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
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During one trip to California in 1959 Jim took his Golden Cobra with him as well. He took it to Eddie Martinez for an alligator type black vinyl upholstery job. On the way back they stopped at Lake mead for some time off and met there with George Barris for a Photo shoot. George wanted to shoot the GS with the boat behind it, so it was set up like that. This photo shows that there was never a hitch on the GS, it was just faked for the photo shoot. The Cobra Boat and trailer were still part of Jim’s Collection and will auctioned at the Jim Street Estate Collection Mecum Auction.
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The shape for the windows was created by building a metal frame to fit the cars interior. This was covered with chicken wire, this wire mesh was covered with plaster and sanded till the perfect shape was created. This mold was carefully removed from the car and used to create new Plexiglass windows. The very expensive plexiglass sheets were heated in a huge oven and shaped over the plaster dies. Not an easy thing to do, and it took them several tries to make it work. All this was something nobody had done before at the time. The shaped plexiglass pieces were place on the new Golden Sahara body and marked where the overlap material needed to be cut, and then this was very carefully removed and the glass shaped to fit the body perfectly, and the needed channels and rubber molding where created as well.

Close up of the Bob Metz created double finned rear fenders. Henry Meyer hand made the taillights and the ornaments on the rear fender skirt are 1957 Chrysler radio push buttons.
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Jim designed a new V-shaped “roll-bar” that Henry created with a solid piece of shaped metal as base. The bar itself was cut, shaped and welded by Henry, while Jim assisted with cold wet rags to prevent the metal from warping, later this was metal finished till it was perfect for the gold plating. Jim also made a Plexiglass top section to be fitted in between the windshield and the roll bar, but once finished he barely used it. “The car just looked so much better without it”.

A rare photo of the Golden Sahara II with the Plexiglass top section in place. (photo courtesy of Jim Street Collection/Mecum/Rodder’s Journal)
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During the process on the car Jim often wondered about the color and paint type he would use for the car. It needed to be something special. Jim had found a fake pearl necklace in a dollar store and he really like the pearl finish on them. After a lot of experimenting Jim was able to create his own unique pearl paint, and Bud West was responsible for painting the pearl mixture over refrigerator white and created the amazing finish. People who saw this car in the 1950’s and 60’s mentioned the paint was “out of this world”, Something they had never sen before. I have been told that these old pearl paints, as used on the GS-II had a completely different look and feel than the modern pearl paints. More on the Pearl Paint on the Golden Sahara II can be read in this CCC-Article


Jim wanted to have single stick drive in the GS-II and asked if Henry Meyer could create it. Henry came up with two ways to do it and they picked what they thought was the best way, and it came out working perfectly. Then the electronics guy Joe Rote said that he could do a voice control system for the car, (remember this is in 1958) which even impressed Henry Meyer.
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Jim demonstrating how the lever could be used to steer the car, but also as accelerator and brake. Notice the steering wheel had been removed to make this demonstration even more dramatic.
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Jim also had many new plans for the interior of the Golden Sahara II. The dash was heavily modified to fit the new style of the car, and to house all the controls needed for the new electronic features. At the top center of the new dash, Jim installed a 1958 Ford hood scoop ornament to house some of the controls. The steering wheel was created from a cut down 1957 Chrysler Imperial. This steering wheel was just one of the multiple ways to steer (five!). There was also a center control joystick, made from gold plated rod with a brass base and topped with a laminated shaped plastic knob. This rod could steer the car, but also acted as the accelerator and brake. Then there was a push button steering on either side of the dash, and also a voice control unit to steer the car. And yet another method was a complete remote control unit that you could use to steer as well as control everything else in the car. One of the features of the car was that it would automatically stop if an object came to close to the front of the car.

A good look at the bubble top that was created for the Golden Sahara II. Bob Settles Melrose fabrications in Dayton Ohio was hired to made the plexiglass windows over the chicken wire and plaster molds Jim had created. The company could not get it right, so in the end Jim and Henry had to create the bubbles them selves.
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The interior also had a TV, a telephone, 8-track recorder, and special massage units inside the seats. The trunk of the car was loaded with electronic control systems and batteries needed for all the electronic features as we can see in one of the photos. You have to remember that this car was built in the later part of the 1950’s, before anyone had ever heard of transistors or printed circuits, let alone Silicon or microchips. It was all done with hand soldered chassis and vacuum tubes – bulky and heavy. The interior for the car was done by a guy in Indianapolis. Sadly Jim forgot the name of the guy. Henry Meyer knew his work, since this guy also did a lot of work on the interiors of the Indy cars. Jim had found the upholstery material that had gold colored wire woven into it. The material was fantastic back then, and even today, it is amazing. To protect the interior Jim had special plastic covers custom made, those covers are still on the car today in 2018. The total cost for this version of the Golden Sahara was estimated to be over $75,000. A substantial amount of money now, but an incredible amount in 1959, when the car was finished.

From the day the Golden Sahara debuted back in 1954 up until today, the car has amazed and inspired many people all around the globe. The cars design and technical features have been incorporated into many cars created since. And several Custom builders have created vehicles that were inspired by the looks of the Golden Sahara. More on that in a later article on the Custom Car Chronicle.

The later version of the Golden Sahara had transparent Good-Year tires and illuminating custom hubs on handmade, by Bob Metz, hubcaps that weighted 20 pounds each.
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A good look at all the electronics that were needed to control the car. No place for groceries here.
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Close up for a better look.
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Dealer Displays

When show promoters heard about the GS-II and how many people it attracted Jim was invited to many shows and even offered money to bring his car to the shows. Besides doing the shows Jim promoted the car any way he could, including magazine ads, and which turned out to be very lucrative displaying it at new car dealers. The car always drew a crowd, and because the car was so far ahead of its time it would remain “new” year after year.The dealer owners knew how to draw a crowd with the car. They advertised the display of the car at the local papers, and then placed the car in the showroom for everybody to see. The car sales during these displays went up a lot. People were very inspired to buy the latest car after seeing the Golden Sahara II.

Some of the special flyers created to promote the Golden Sahara at car dealers.
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Jim saved as many news paper ads and articles as he could find. This is just one of the promotional ads from a car dealer who was going to have the Golden Sahara II and the Kookie T on display.
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On the GS the front fenders where so low that the overhang almost acted like fender skirts. To be able to turn the front wheels the wheels had to be offset to the inside. The wheel centers where cut out and placed further out wards, this way the tires would fit closer to the center of the car, all that was needed to be able to steer the car.
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Just a few of the many newspaper articles devoted to the Golden Sahara II from all around the US. At nearly every town that had the Golden Sahara on display the local newspaper would write a story on the car.
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The dealers used the Golden Sahara to promote their business, but also as backdrop for other promotional photos.
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One of the dealer employees demonstrating the remote control unit Jim had later developed for the last version of the Golden Sahara. If you look careful you can see the Kookie-T on the far right of the photo, and its seat on the window reflection on the left.
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The Golden Sahara at yet another car dealer showroom.
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One of the things Jim often did when demonstrating the Golden Sahara II was let some people of the audience work the many features including the voice operated door openers. Notice the stainless steel band in the center of the tires tread.
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Jim demonstrating the GS II at a San Antonio dealer. When and where ever Jim was doing these demonstrations there was always a crowd. The beautiful painting on the wall was done by a very talented Mexican guy Jim knew.
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Traveling across the US

After having showed the Golden Sahara I at many shows Jim realized there was some good money in touring his cars. He decided to take it all very serious, the only way for him. So he decided to create a customized hauler for the Golden Sahara that matched the car, and had a cargo bay that would be custom suited to fit the Golden Sahara and carry all the needed tools equipment etc that they would ever need while on the road. The cargo bay was designed in a way that once the GS-II was inside, Extensions of the truck frame would be raised and meet with the frame of the GS-II and would be raised further so that the wheels of the GS-II would be in the air. This made sure that whatever happened to the truck the GS would not hit the walls front, rear or sides. The Custom restyling on the cab was done by Bill DeCarr in California, but the cargo area was done close to Dayton Ohio.

The first version of the Golden Sahara Hauler was restyled by Bill DeCarr and painted pearl white with gold ad candy red by Larry Watson. The GS Hauler can be seen here leaving the Larry Watson Bill DeCarr Artesia Blvd shop in Bellflower Ca.
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Later the car was further restyled and repainted metalflake gold and silver. The black and white photo shows the hauler with the special Kookie-T trailer, this is how the Golden Sahara and Kookie-T toured the US for many years. (Inset color photo from the Denny/Trent Knight Collection)
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The Kookie T getting unloaded from the special trailer created by Don Mann at Creative Metals in New Carlisle, Ohio.
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The Golden Sahara getting unloaded from the truck. The inset photo shows the car getting unloaded at Lake Mead.
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Becoming World Famous

The Golden Sahara II made it into the Cinderfella movie because the movie prop manager of Paramount had seen the car in a Good Year magazine ad and liked the looks of it. He contacted Good-Year and they contacted Jim about it. When Jim called the movie prop manager, who was a super nice guy, he and the GS were at a car show in Denver Colorado. The movie prop manager asked if they could see the car in person. Sure no problem. After the show is over I will drive to the Paramount studio’s to show the car.

The prop manager explained that they needed the car for a movie kind of like the well known Cinderrella story, but then based around a guy. The car they had in mind  would change into a bike and a chauffeur driving the car would be changed into a gold fish. And that for the car they needed a sort of magical futuristic car and they though the Golden Sahara might be the perfect car for them. When Jim arrived at the gates of the studio he got escorted to the office where the prop manager was having a meeting. Jim was introduced and asked to show the car. Jim asked if he could use the parking lot next to the building to unload the GS from the truck. Sure those are all our cars parked there and we can move them.

Jim Street, on the right showing Jerry Lewis all the high tech features of the Golden Sahara II.
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The parking lot was in between two studio’s and in one the Bonanza series was being filmed at the that moment. Tony Curtis was there as well. Jim opened the truck and was taking the ramps out. Ones he got into the car and started to back up a crowd of people started to gather around the Golden Sahara.

And soon after that the whole cast of Bonanza got out of the studio to look at the car. Jim had the car out of the truck but still on the ramp and figured he leave it there since there were to many people around it and he was afraid to damage it. It seemed like everybody at Paramount had stopped doing what they were doing to look at this amazing car. The movie Prop manager said that Jim could put the car back in the truck again and if he wanted to get inside with him. Inside he was asked to sign the contract. The GS-II was EXACTLY what they had in mind and needed for the movie. So Jim signed the contract. The shooting on the movie would start soon after that so the car had to stay at Paramount. Which would fit perfect with Jim’s other plans for the car.

Jerry Lewis and a lucky kid in the GS-II at the Paramount Studios. Wherever Jim took the Golden Sahara, there was always a crowd.
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Goofing around at the movie set
During the move shooting of Cinderfella Jim was pleasantly surprised  that everybody, and especially the actors were goofing around all the time, joking and trying to pull pranks on everybody. So one time, when they were shooting close ups of Jerry Lewis in the Golden Sahara while on a big screen behind the car some moving images made it appear Jerry was driving the car, Jim came up with a great idea. The seats in the Golden Sahara had heavy duty massage units build into them. And they could, just as every other electronic feature, be remote controlled. So when the camera’s were running and Jerry doing his lines Jim, out of sight, starts the massage unit. Jerry stops acting, puts his head in the cushion, moans and completely relaxes… “I want this car” he yells. Guys at the set had warned Jim not to do it since he was not supposed to interfere with the actors, but Jim, stubborn as he was did it anyway, and Jerry loved it.
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Jerry Lewis was very impressed with the Golden Sahara and used every opportunity to get in, and even drive it around at the movie studio.
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Accident at the Movie Shoot
To be able to shoot the driving scenes of the Golden Sahara for the Cinderfella movie Hollywood Boulevard had been closed down partly for the public. The shooting took place at 2 o clock in the morning. After the shots were taken, the movie people told Jim to wait for his police escort to take the car back to where the Golden Sahara truck was parked. The escort bike was there, but nobody to drive it. While Jim was waiting for his police escort, the police at the road block on Hollywood Boulevard thought they could open the road to the public again. By then Jim’s motor-cycle cop escort had arrived but could not get his bike to start. Then all of the sudden Jim was hit in the drivers side by 1955 T-Bird. Jim heard the gold plated ornaments drop all over the street.

Jim jumped out of the Golden Sahara, and forgot he had just gotten back from the hospital and had metal clamps in his leg from surgery. The metal clamps ripped off, lots of pain, but Jim was just to upset to think about that right now. He could see the front hubcaps being damaged, some of the pearl paint was badly chipped and many of the buttons on the cove front panel were torn off. Since the motor-cycle cop could not get his bike to start Jim jumped into the GSII and chased the guy in the ’55 T-bird. When the guy had to stop for a red light Jim jumped out stumbled to the car, pulls the door open and punched the guy in the face, preventing him from getting away. Later the polices arrested the guy and Jim pressed charges against him at the police station. The Golden Sahara was needed for promotions while in California, so he asked if he could use the facilities from the Paramount studio’s. Jim’s GS hauler truck had every tool and supplies in it he needed, but he needed some space to get the damage fixed and the pearl white sprayed. The truck had a compressor, and Jim had brought paint guns, extra pearl paint, white base, and spare gold plated ornaments.

Movie stills from the 1960 Paramount Pictures movie Cinderfella in which the Golden Sahara II stars next to Jerry Lewis. Gold painted actor Norman Leavit is the chauffeur in the close ups, but it was Jim Street who did the driving scenes in the movie.
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Once the movie shooting for Cinderfella was done with and the contract ended Jim was asked to keep the car for another month at Paramout studios. The car had left such an impact there that people from all over asked to see the car. The studio happily paid Jim an substantial amount of money for another month. “Not a problem,” Jim said.

After that month Jim drove the truck with the GSII inside back home to Dayton while on the road for quite some time, he was pulled over by a cop. “What did I do officer” Jim said knowing he did not do anything wrong. “are you mr Jim Street sir” the officer asked. “Yes I’m” Well here is a number you need to call! Paramout studio’s had another movie roll for the Golden Sahara and wanted Jim to come back. Remember, this was the time way before there were any cell phone’s but the connections Paramout had made the police cooperate in this. The new movie planned for the Golden Sahara to be in was going to be with Elvis Presley as lead actor. Although the movie never happened. Jim did drove back to the Movie Studio, and was introduced to Elvis Presley, who totally loved the Golden Sahara, and even tried to buy it from Jim.

The Cinderfella movie was shown world wide, and made the Golden Sahara II World Wide popular. Car enthusiasts outside of the US, who might have heard, or had read about the Golden Sahara, were now able to see it in color, and moving in the film footage.


The Golden Sahara II was also used for several TV commercials, both local as well as national. Walter Cronkite shot the Golden Sahara at Miami beach, and it was used in several local Ohio commercials. In 1962 Jim appeared with the car on the very popular TV show I’ve Got a Secret, which made a huge impact on a very wide audience. A YouTube clip of the I’ve Got a Secret can be viewed HERE. Another TV show appearance on YouTube can be seen HERE.

Jim demonstrating the Golden Sahara II early version at a local TV studio.
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Jim demonstrating the latest Golden Sahara features for one of the many TV shows it appeared in.
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Radio interview for Jim Street about the Golden Sahara.
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Jim Street and his Golden Sahara II as seen on a June 25, 1962 broadcast of I’ve Got a Secret.
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The Golden Sahara II appeared on magazine covers and was featured inside. It also appeared on the cover of several car show programs, helping to attract more visitors to the show.
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An illustration of a mix between the Golden Sahara I with GSII double finned rear fenders was used at several car shows and award plaques.
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The Golden Sahara II appeared on at least two trading cards in the early 1960’s.
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The Golden Sahara also made it into the Guinness World Records Book as the most expensive non-production car.
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Henry Meyer

Henry Meyer worked at the Delphos Machine Shop, but he also had his own shop. Jim and Henry became very close friends and their friendship lasted until Henry passed away in 1994. They worked on the Golden Sahara very closely and together came up with a huge amount of inventions they used on the car. Together with Henry Meyer Jim spend countless hours at the junkyard finding the right parts to create the Golden Sahara. Jim is a visionary and sees things with his on-board camera, as he says it. With Henry he had this special relation that he was able to tell him what he wanted, and Henry came up with the ideas how to create it. This was how they created the items on the Golden Sahara as the stick steering, the push button steering and many other special features. Jim met Henry for the first time in 1947, and have always remained friends.

Henry J. Meyer, good friends with Jim Street from back in 1947, was the engineer behind many of the special features on the Golden Sahara. Henry was the guy that made sure it all worked.
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Radar Security and Retiring the Golden Sahara

When Jim Street showed the Golden Sahara around the country during the 1960’s he had plenty of time to think about possible future updates, a Golden Sahara III. While he was making plans for the GSIII he also thought about ways to use the technology Henry Meyer and him had developed. One of the interesting techniques they used to have the car stop automatically when it was approaching objects was especially interesting. The system they used would detect any motions of living creatures even thru walls, and Jim figured that would be ideal for a burglar alarm. Jim went ahead and explored the possibilities to use the technique for security, a burgular security system. It turned out to be the perfect start for a state-of-the art movement security system.

In fact it was so good that Jim decided to start producing the security system, and build a complete business around the system. RADAR Security was born, and became a very successful security business in and around Dayton Ohio. The business grew fast, and would stay in business for the next 30 plus years with Jim leading it. Even though the business part of it was very nice, it did prevent Jim from creating the Golden Sahara III.

In 1966, the Radar Security. Business took up most of Jim’s time. The Golden Sahara II had been traveling the US for almost ten years and was in need of freshening up at the least. The car was not up to the ever evolving standards Jim had, and especially the wear on the car from all the traveling had become hard for Jim to look at. Since Jim spend most of his time at the Radar company he decided to retire it and store it at his climate controlled garage ,all wrapped up. Jim was asked multiple times to take out the GS and enter it at special event, but Jim knew the ones brilliant pearl white paint had turned golden brown, and the plating on many of the exterior parts needed to be redone.


Jim Street behind his office in the Radar Security office building in the 1970’s. Notice the GSII, Kookie-T and GS Hauler photos on the wall behind him.
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So there was no way Jim would show the GS if it was not up to his high standards. In the last 10 years when I talked to Jim about the GS we often talked about restoration of the GS which Jim seriously considered from time to time, but always realized he just did not have the time which was occupied mostly with his passion for vintage wooden boats etc, and other car projects. The Golden Sahara Would remain in storage as how it was stored back in 1966 until Jim passed away on November 29th 2017 and was not uncovered until March, 2018, when it was photographed for the May, 2018 Jim Street Estate Auction at Mecum Indianapolis Auctions. Read more about the uncovering of the Golden Sahara and the Kookie-T in the CCC-Article.



Golden Sahara III
Jim had plans for a GSIII based on the current car. But this time it would become an amphibious vehicle. Boat and car in one, based on the same car… perhaps, or perhaps all new. Jim often mentioned that especially the interior would be something really special, he has some great plans for that in his head. Many of those plans were discussed with Henry Meyer and both were looking forward to start on the project which was about 30 years ago from now. But since Jim was in the 24-7 business of his Radar Security he never found the time to start the project. Henry always regretted that since he really looked forward to start working on the car that could be used both on land and in the water. And knowing what both people could create this would have been one spectacular vehicle.

The Golden Sahara in March 2018 after the covers had been removed for the first time in decades.
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Golden Sahara Hubcaps

 

GOLDEN SAHARA HUBCAPS

 

Jim Street’s Golden Sahara had several sets of unequally styled hubcaps. From stylish on the first version, to space age filled with electronics on the final version.


Golden Sahara I

In our series of articles on Jim Street‘s (Skonzakes) Golden Sahara I and II we want to highlight the Custom Hubcaps created for the Golden Sahara over the years. When Jim, his friend who made the actually sketch for it and George Barris designed the Golden Sahara around 1954 they knew they were doing something special. The car was a wonderful combination between traditional Custom Car and a Factory Futuristic design study. Every aspect on the original version of the Golden Sahara was well thought out, clever use of exciting car part use, in a traditional Customizing way, and creation of many hand made off of sections. The Hubcaps, which are often a focus point on a Custom, had to be something special as well.

Golden Sahara I hubcaps

On the original version of the Golden Sahara Jim picked a then brand new design Aftermarket hubcap that was sold by the Chicago based Lyon Inc. The hubcap was beautiful cone shaped, wit small fins all around the protruding cone shape, very much like a fine pressed lady dress. The top of the cone was flattened and decorated with a crest, several different crest options were available. But Jim was not interested in the crest, since he had plans to ad a large bullet to the center, to match the bullets used on the front of the car. The whole hubcaps was rather simple, but had the just right feeling for the car, the combination of the small fins and the large bullet made it look very futuristic, matching the rest of the car perfectly. The whole unit was cold color plated.

Shortly after the Golden Sahara was finished with Jim Skonzakes behind the steering wheel, George Barris standing next to the car, with Bill DeCarr to the right of George. Bill DeCarr was responsible some of the work on the Golden Sahara. The picture was taken at the Ford plant in Pico Rivera, CA where Bill worked a day-job at the time.
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Gold color plated details made the Golden Sahara a truly unique Custom Car, especially for the time it was created. The large bullets used on the Lyon hubcaps stick outside the body creating a unique, never before sight.
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Ina Mae Overman took some beautiful color slides during the mid 1950’s. She took two nice slides of the Golden Sahara at the 1954 Petersen Motorrama Show held in the Pan Pacific Auditorium in November 1954. Thanks to her photos we can see that the gold colored hubcaps were mounted on Firestone brand white wall tires on the first version of the Golden Sahara.
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In several of the promotional photos, created around 1960, that was made to show of the glowing Good-Year Tires one of the tires was shown with the same hubcap Jim had used on the Golden Sahara back in 1954.
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The Lyon hubcap similar to the one Jim Skonzakes and the Barris team started with for the early version Golden Sahara Hubcaps.
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This photo shows that several center crest options were available, but were of no use for Jim, since he would cover them with a large bullet.
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The Lyon hubcap with an added Bullet very similar to what Jim and the Barris Team created in 1954.
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Golden Sahara II

In 1957 Jim decided to do a complete makeover on the Golden Sahara and create the Golden Sahara II. Major body reconstruction, new hand made windows, new double fins on the rear, and scooped completely restyled front fenders and many other refinements on the design. And the most important part the addition of many state of the art, specially developed for the Golden Sahara, electronic gadgets. Totally unique in the world new features that would shock the car loving enthusiast for many years to come. The work on the Golden Sahara II was done at the Delphos Machine & Tool Ahop in Dayton, Ohio with a team put together by Jim of special craftsman including Joe Rote, responsible for the electronics, Bud West for the paint and Henry Meyer, the engineer behind many of the new developed techniques. Some of the body work, including the double finned rear fenders was done by metal master Bob Metz in Indiana.


Golden Sahara II First version hubcaps

When the Golden Sahara II was first finished the car had the original hubcaps that were created back in 1954. Based on the Lyon hubcap with the large diameter bullet added. But some changed were made to the hubcaps to fit with the theme of the car. The end of the bullets have been removed and nicely finished. Inside the bullets special sonic units had been installed with small antennas sticking out. These sonic units send out a signal when the car came to close to the curb. And electronic curb feeler. The early version of the Golden Sahara II rode on regular white wall tires.

The early version of the Golden Sahara II used the same Lyon based hubcaps with the addition of the sonic curb feelers in the bullet ends.
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Close up of the early version hubcaps on the Golden Sahara II photographed around 1960s at the Larry Watson Artesia Blvd. shop showing the antenna for the electronic curb feelers.
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Sometimes later Jim created some unique new white wall tires with chrome plated pins and a stainless steel center on the thread of the tire. The hubcaps stayed the same.
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Close up shows the pins and the stainless band a little better. We will get back to this in an later article.
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Golden Sahara II Second version hubcaps

For the last and ultimate version of the Golden Sahara Jim added some very special “glass” Good-Year tires to the Golden Sahara II and created some very intricate finned hubcaps with translucent hubs. The unique thing about the tires which were made from translucent synthetic rubber that was toned using special dies allowed light to pass through. Jim and Henry Meyer developed a unique wheel with small light bulbs that would make the tires look like they were glowing. You can read more on the Glowing tires on the Golden Sahara in this CCC-Article.


Illuminated gold colored “glass” Good-Year tires and the illuminated turn signals in the hub.
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The hubcaps on this last version of the Golden Sahara II were totally unique and beautifully hand made by Bob Metz at his El Rancho body shop in Shelbyville, Indiana and Henry Meyer at the Delphos Machine & Tool Shop. Each fin blade was hand cut and assembled on a special machined hub. The total width of the finned section was wider than the actual wheel, covering part of the tire, making it look like the Golden Sahara used a much larger wheel size. As mentioned the wheels were modified with light bulp’s that illuminated the translucent tires. The center of the hubcap was machined from Lucite and frost finished. At the end a new sonic curb feeler was added and inside the translucent center hub another  light bulb was added, this could be used as turn signal. With the gold illuminated tires and white turn signals in the hub the look must have been totally out of space at the time… well actually it still is.

The special Good-Year “glass” tires looked very special when they were lite at night, but during the day they looked a little odd, like somebody had painted regular tired with gold pearl. Still the whole combination worked, and no mater where Jim showed the Golden Sahara II, the unique tires and hubcaps were a huge success.
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Close up of the lite Good-Year tires, the finned hubcaps and the frosted Lucite center hub acting as turn-signal.
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More closer to have a good look at the hand made fins on the hubcap, and the sonic curb feelers. Jim told me that with the hand made blades and everything needed to make it all work these hubcaps were very heavy. The hubcaps were made by Bob Metz and Henry Meyer.
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Illuminated at night, with long shutter time moving tires.
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Close up during the day showing the turbine like look of the special designed and hand made hubcaps and machined Lucite center hub. The photo also shows that the “glass” tires have a much different look than any other tire.
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Turn signals inside the hub.
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Illustration done for a sign to promote the special illuminating Good-Year Tires. The illustration was obviously based on one of the color photos shown above.
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When the Golden Sahara II was uncovered on March 13th, 2018 the finned center section of the hubcaps had been taken off before the photos were taken. The “glass” tired had disintegrate and some new tires had to been put on the car, before it could be moved. And since the fins on the hubcap were larger than the wheel and to prevent damage, they were carefully removed.

Because the finned center section had been removed we can now have an unique look at what is under the finned section. Everything all hand made and machined by Delphos Machine & Tool Shop employees instructed by Jim Skonzakes and Henry Meyer.
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When the Golden Sahara was revealed to the public on May 14, 2018 at the Mecum Auction in Indianapolis the Bob Metz created finned hubcaps were mounted on the car again.
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Jim Street Collection Uncovered

 

JIM STREET COLLECTION UNCOVERED

 

Jim Street passed away on November 29th 2017. His amazing collection is currently being sorted and cataloged. Part of the Collection, the Golden Sahara and the Kookie T have just been uncovered.


In November 2010 Palle Johansen and me went on our Jack Stewart Ford Research trip. Palle had recently become the new owner of the Jack Stewart Ford and we thought it was a good idea to try and visit the previous owners of the ’41 Ford, who were all in their 70’s and 80’s by then. One of the people we visited on that trip was Jim Street (Jim Skonzakes) in Dayton Ohio. Jim had owned the Jack Stewart Ford for a few years after he had bought it from Jack Stewart in 1951. We met Jim in the Radar Security building in Dayton. In the previous years I had been in contact with Jim on the phone about the Golden Sahara, the Jack Stewart Ford and many other things in his large collection. Jim had told me about the Radar Security business and how it came from all the electronics Jim and Henry Meyer had developed for the Golden Sahara. Jim ran the Radar Security business for over 30 years. By the time Palle and I visited Jim in the building it had been closed down as the security business, and he used the building as storage for part of his collection.

Jim Street on the right with Rik Hoving in 2012.
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When Jim opened the doors for us the first thing we saw was the Kookie T…. We were speechless, we had of course hoped that we would see some of Jim’s famous cars, but since we were there for the Jack Stewart Ford, we had no high hopes for anything else. And now we were standing next to the Larry Watson pearl painted and candy red flamed Kookie -T (formerly owned by Norm Grabowski). It looked amazing… the interior was damaged by mice or other rodents., and part of the paint was blistering, but what an amazing feeling to be able to touch this famous Hot Rod. On the floor there were a few pearl white paint chops that had fallen off. I asked Jim if it was okay for me to take those home. Sure he replied. Sadly the chips completely vaporized on the flight back home. We talked to Jim about the Jack Stewart Ford and many other things… and of course we asked Jim about the Golden Sahara. He could not show us the car at the time, since it was covered up, with several tarps, all taped around the car to seal it completely.

In 2010 the Kookie T Custom made trailer was sitting outside the Radar Security Building.
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In 2012 I visited Jim once again. By then I was working on the Jack Stewart Ford book, and I wanted to interview Jim more about all his cars and boats for the chapter on him in the book. I spend an amazing week with Jim, in which he shared the complete history of the Golden Sahara with me, as well as many other cars in his collections, the boats and all the details he remembered about the Jack Stewart Ford. One day went by his house and I was walking around his garage, and looking inside to see the contours of the Golden Sahara inside the garage… I was just a few feet away from the Sahara, and now I also understood why he could not show it. It was meticulously wrapped and stored in a way that the tires were off the floor. So close… and still not able to see the one of the worlds most iconic Custom Cars of all time.

In the years that followed I spoke to Jim on a regular base and Jim mentioned that he had several overs turned down for the Golden Sahara and Kookie T over the years. There were moments that he thought about letting them go, but most of the times he knew he had to hold on to them. Especially the Golden Sahara was his baby and he did not want it to end up in the wrong hands (what ever that might be). Jim was starting to have some health issues in the last couple of years, but most of the times he had good spirits and loved to talk about the past and how he had created all the special things on the Golden Sahara, and how he mentioned all the people involved in creating it.

After I heard that Jim had passed away on November 29th, I knew it was a matter of time before the cars would be uncovered. Jim had never mentioned where his cars would go to after he would be gone, and since he has quite a large collection I already figured they might end up at an Auction sooner or later. This is a very exciting day, to see the Golden Sahara and Kookie T for the first time in so long. But at the same time it is a very sad day as well, since it reminds me of my friendship with Jim, and how he loved to talk about his Custom Car Creations. More on Jim in future Custom Car Chronicle articles. The Golden Sahara Kookie T and others will be auctioned in May, 2018 at the Indianapolis Mecum Auction.

The Golden Sahara auction will include a lot of original receipts from 1958-and early ’59, as well as original photos.

The Golden Shara outside for the first time in several decades. The second version of the Pearl Paint applied around 1959 has turned yellow and brown. Most likely caused by the clear used to mix in the pearl paste. The special custom made hubcaps are partly disassembled. The finned center section is missing in these photos, but they are still with the car. The Good-Year glass tires disintegrated when the car was unwrapped .
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Ben Blevins was a lucky man to have a good friend of him helping out sorting the Jim Street estate. In March 2018 the Golden Sahara was unwrapped in the garage and moved outside for the first time in decades. It was later moved to the Radar Security building. Ben’s friend invited Ben to check out the collection and Ben shared some of the photos he took with the Custom Car Chronicle. This is the moment all Custom Car Enthusiasts from all over the world have been waiting for for so long. lets enjoy the photos of the Golden Sahara II and the Kookie-T seen for the first time in decades.

Ben took this photo after the Golden Sahara had been moved into the Radar Security building. The car looks amazingly complete, and in very good condition.. apart for the yellowed paint. It makes me wonder how well the paint will clean, and if there perhaps it are multiple clear coats that could be carefully sanded to take away some of the yellowing.
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The front of the scoop shows some cracks in the paint. The Golden Sahara never looked this gold before.
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The hand made bubble top looks to be in excellent condition, and so does the rest of the interior.
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Everything is still there. The phone, the TV, the Special steering wheel, the laminated shifter and the ’58 Ford hood scoop on the dash.
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The original Golden Sahara already had a beautiful wrap around rear bench, created by the Carson Top Shop. For the Golden Sahara II jim had everything redone, including the custom made box, cocktail bar in the center which included among many other things a small fridge. Sadly Jim forgot who did the upholstery on this version of the car.
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A 1957 Chrysler steering wheel was modified to create the aircraft type steering wheel.
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Remote controls.
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Bob Metz created the twin-fin rear fenders. The Delphos Machine & Tool shop assisted in creating the unique taillights. Unique to see the rear fender skirt panel with the top corner loose. The buttons on these panels are 1957 Chrysler Radio buttons.
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Hood open on the Golden Sahara… for the first time I see that.
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This is the first time I see the 525 HP engine of the Golden Sahara.
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Signs

Over the more than a decade Jim had showed the Golden Sahara he had a good number of shown signs created to be displayed with the car. The last time I talked to him he mentioned he still had most of them stored away in the Radar Security building, but he had no idea where exactly. It looks like some, perhaps all have been find while searching the Jim Street Collection. Good to see these signs.

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Jim was a fine business man, and one way of generate some extra travel money with the Golden Sahara and Kookie T was to sell photos of the cars at the shows they attended.
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Very nicely done sign especially to promote the GoodYear illuminating tires which Jim named Gold Glass Slippers (which must have been inspired by the Cinderfella movie in which the Golden Sahara stared) Also showing is Robbie The Robot, Jim loved this toy and always displayed a dozen or two of the robots with the car.
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Kookie T

When Palle and me saw the Kookie T in 2010, Jim mentioned it just came out of storage. He mentioned that the place where it had been stored was supposed to be mice and other creature free, but when he inspected the car in 2010 he unhappily found out that the interior had been heavily damaged by critters. So he decided to take it home and make sure it would not get any further damage.

The Kookie T at Larry Watson’s shop around 1960.
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The Kookie T still wearing its ’60’s pearl white and Candy flame paint job. The front white wall tires did not hold up as good as the double slicks on the back.
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Take a look at the pearl paint on the Kookie T which was applied around 1960. It is surprisingly in a much better color shape than the pearl on the Golden Sahara. Which was clearly created with a different, a lot less durable type of clear base.
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When Jim picked me up from my motel in 2012 the first day, we drove to a local shop where Jim had one of his latest projects he was working on. A mild Custom ’49 Buick. He had some custom trim plans for the car as well as a few other neat ideas. The car will also be part of the auction in May, 2018.
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Many thanks to Jim for being a great friend for the 12 or so years we have been in contact. I loved listening to you talking about the Golden Sahara and the Kookie T, as well as all the other stories you shared. I knew this day would come sooner or later, and wish it had been later, much later. I often told Jim that the world would go wild if the Golden Shara would be shown again, not matter in which condition. And Jim always replied that he would only show it in perfect condition like he did when he showed the car in the mid 50’d to late 60’s. And that it most likely would not happen in his lifetime. Now see what happens on March 13, 2018, the Golden Sahara and the Kookie T are uncovered on the internet for the first time… and the world goes wild. I really wish Jim could have been here to see it happen.


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Golden Sahara II Pearl Paint

 

GOLDEN SAHARA II PEARL PAINT

 

Around 1957 Jim Skonzakes starts to experiment with with special Pearl Paste used in the jewelry Industry. He managed to use it as a finish for the Golden Sahara 2 which initiate the popularity of the Pearl Automotive Finish.



We will be highlighting the Golden Sahara I and II details in a series of articles here on the Custom Car Chronicle as a tribute to Jim Street (Skonzakes) who passed away in early December, 2017. In this article we will highlight the totally unique and spectacular Pearl Paint that was used on the Golden Sahara II.

After having toured the Golden Sahara I around the US for a few years it was time for Jim Skonzakes to take the car apart and start all over. In the past few years Jim had dreamed up a lot of new ideas to make the already stunning Golden Sahara even more spectacular. When Jim’s friend designed the Golden Sahara around 1954 everything was state of the art, especially the design features of the car, a wonderful mix between traditional Customizing, and Factory Show Car. Even though the Golden Sahara I was spectacular, Jim felt that his Dream Custom could be much more in many aspects.

From a Barris Golden Sahara Press Release in the early 1960’s.
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From the beginning the pearl paint on the Golden Sahara has been the subject for many wild stories. Some of the stories mentioned that the car was painted using a special paint mix created from fish scales bought at the local Market. The fish scale part is actually true, but they were not sourced from a local Los Angeles market as claimed. We get back to that later. Lets first tell the story where the idea of the pearl paint came from. Jim Street told me the story that would led to the Golden Sahara II paint during my interviews with him for the Jack Stewart Ford book in 2012.

Jim Street in 2012.
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During the time (around 1957) Jim was working on creating the GSII he often wondered about a new color for his car. The first version of the Golden Sahara was painted refrigerator white, and while Jim loved the color, he felt that the new much more sophisticated version of the Golden Sahara needed a more spectacular paint finish. He had looked at many metallic paints, but none of them were considered suitable for what he had in mind.





Pearl Necklace

One day while eating lunch at a local restaurant, Jim noticed that the waitress that was serving his food was wearing a pearl necklace. The pearls looked amazing, sparkly and pearly, with this amazing warm shine. He asked the waitress about the pearls, and secretly hoped they were not the real deal, but something that was manufactured. They were fake pearls the waitress said, she had bought them at the Ten-Cent store, and they were actually very cheap. She took of the necklace so Jim could have a closer look. Jim thought the pearl finish looked absolutely stunning, and would suite beautiful as paint for his Golden Sahara.

A similar cheap fake pearl necklace as Jim Skonzakes was inspired by to paint his Golden Sahara II in pearl white.
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All hyped about the new idea he went down-town Dayton Ohio, where he lived, and found the pearl necklace at the Ten-Cent store, just as the waitress had mentioned. He bought the necklace and went home to study the information on the box. The manufacture company address was listed on the back of the box, and he got in touch with them. Jim soon found out the pearls were made from plastic which were coated in a special pearl paint. After Jim had made sure he only wanted to have the paint info to see if he could use it to paint his special Custom Car, the necklace company was even so kind to provided Jim with the contact info of the pearl paint.





The Mearl Corporation

The Mearl Corporation was the one that produced the beautiful pearl paint for the necklace pearls. Jim talked to them on the phone, explaining that he needed the paint for his car. The people at the Mearl Corporation told Jim how they used imported fish scales from the orient, a by-product, as base for their paint. The scales were bought in bulk, washed and cleaned, then dried and carefully pulverized. The powder was then mixed with special resin to form a paste. This raw paste was the product that was sold and which could then later be mixed with clear nitro cellulose and sprayed onto the plastic pearls at the necklace company. The Mearl Corporation told Jim that because of the Nitro Cellulose base, it most likely would not be suitable for use on larger area’s like a complete car. But that they were more than happy to help, and supply Jim with the raw paste and even the pulverized pearl power, so that Jim could experiment with it. And they would be very interested in the results.

Part of a newspaper report on the special features on Jim Skonzakes’s Golden Sahara.
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The Golden Sahara was being constructed at the Delphos Machine & Tool Shop in Dayton, Ohio, where Jim did a lot of testing with the pearl paste together with Bud West, a local Dayton Ohio paint legend. They started with clear and mixed in the pearl paste, one table spoon first then mix it completely and very carefully, then add more pearl paste as well as pearl powder, and keep mixing and experimenting until the effect was just right. They finally succeeded in creating a paint that could be sprayed on larger areas, like a car, and it looked absolutely amazing. When the Golden Sahara was ready for paint, the car was first made as straight as possible. Many guide coats where needed to get the body as straight as needed. Then the car was painted refrigerator white and then it was covered with many coats of the translucent special pearl mixture. The end result was absolutely stunning, and just as breathtaking as Jim had visualized it. He knew he had made the right choice, and the paint was accenting all the body modifications, and enhancing all the other spectacular features on the car.



Beautiful shining pearl paint finish on the just completed Golden Sahara II.
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Close up of the pearl paint finish.
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People who saw The Golden Sahara at it first outings around 1958 mentioned the paint looked like something they had never before seen in their life “Just out of this world”.

Shortly after the Golden Sahara was painted disaster struck. The car was painted perfectly and sitting in a corner of the Delphos Machine & Tool shop to dry and parts of the car were in other parts of the shop. There was this guy working at the shop one evening and apparently he was drunk at the time. He had just finished painted a car green. He was walking around a bit with the paint gun still in his hands and trips over something on the floor. While falling down he pushes the handle on the paint gun…. green paint every-were! Part of it went over the fresh Golden Sahara II paint and and on the just finished hand made plexiglass windows. Fortunately the paint was covered with a few coats of clear, so that could be sanded down and re-polished, but the plexiglass windows were a lot harder to clean… more on that in another Golden Sahara Story.

Most people saw the Golden Sahara II at indoor Car Show around the US illuminated with light bulps. (Jim Palmer photo)
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The soft glowing shine of the pearl paint combined with the gold plated body accents looked spectacular.
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The Golden Sahara I Pearl Paint at Larry Watson’s Artesia Blvd Shop photographed in the late afternoon around 1960.
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Due to the fact that Nitro Cellulose clear paint was very sensitive to light, and would yellow and even brown over time, the first pearl paint job on the Golden Sahara did not last too long. After the clear had yellowed it had lost its wonderful sparkle and looked a bit dirty. More experimenting was needed and different products were used. Champion Bronze Powder & Paint Company as well as the Mearl Corporation were asked to help solve the problem. For the new paint job the Pearl Paste and powders were mixed in with a different base. The new paint job was done by a friend of Jim, Russ George, at a local Ford Dealer paint booth. The car was painted a few times more during its almost ten years on the show  scene. As far as we know the car was last painted pearl white around 1964 by Russ George. This same paint job although very much yellowed and deteriorated is still on the car when it was uncovered in 2018.

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About Russ George
By Russ George Jr.

My Dad, Russ George, was best friends with Jim Street all through the years until he past away in 1982. I can remember first meeting Jim when I was around 12 in the late 1950’s and since have looked up to and admired Jim for his talent and imagination, way ahead of his time and just being one of the good guys. My dad was involved with the construction and painting of the Golden Sahara and Jim always said Dad was one the the best he had ever known. He wasn’t the only one involved, a lot of talented guys from Dayton Ohio were also involved, the talent was amazing. Dad also traveled with Jim around the country for many years. If Jim had to get back to Dayton, Dad would go ahead and demonstrate the car and electronics, load up and meet Jim at the next show.

My dad painted the Sahara in 1962-1964 time period. He could have used acrylic lacquer clear like what was used on the repainted Kookies Kar, but he rather used straight lacquer clear.  Because as the paint aged it got a slight yellow tint and looked so much better than the new pearl with water clear. As you can see after 50 years the clear turned yellow/brown. My dad did lot of work on the car through years and of course painted it the last time. I’ve been around the car since Jim brought it back to Dayton right after it was built.

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Correspondence between Jim Skonzakes, The Delphos Machine & Tool Company and Champion Bronze Powder & Paint Company about Pearl Paste and how to solve the problems that happened to the first paint job.
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Correspondence with the Mearl Corporation in October 1958.
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Even in black and white photos you could see how special the glow of the pearl paint was.
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The pearl paint looked very sparkly in the Jerry Lewis Cinderfella movie.
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Golden Sahara Pearl paint shining in one of the dealer show rooms it was displayed in all over the US. The combination of the special features, unique futuristic design and out of this world Pearl Finish made the car a huge crowd magnet.
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About the Pearl Paint by Don Boeke

The Sahara II has never been any other color but white pearl in its lifetime. After Bob Metz completed all the metalwork it was painted here in Dayton by Bud West. The last time painted was also here in Dayton at Russ George’s body shop. I was only about 24 and did some prep and prime work along with his sons, plus Tom Schnebly, Jim Begley, Street of course, and several other volunteers. It was done in lacquer.

It’s present condition (2018) is result of complete neglect while stored in his business warehouse and garage. There was never gold paint on this car. That’s what lacquer does with age and why it was reformulated to acrylic lacquer a few years later. Note: The Kookie roadster was painted with acrylic white pearl the second time around 1964, and did not turn color. Note: Perfect example the shifter skull, unlike the body, and the skull above the rear end on the Kookie roadster I did in nitrocellulose lacquer base and clear, and it too suffered the same consequence over the same period of time.

The turned yellow/brown clear on the Kookie Kar shifter knob with the original nitrocellulose lacquer around 1965. The same as we see on the Golden Sahara.
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A young Don Boeke on tour with the Golden Sahara in 1965.
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The Golden Sahara moved over to the Radar Security building in 2018. This is the building where Jim Street used some of the special electronics developed for the Golden Sahara to start his Security business.
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Outside at last…. We all have been waiting for this moment many years! The Golden Sahara, and other parts from Jim Streets Collection will be auctioned in May. This will be very interesting.
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When Jim Skonzakes experimented with the Pearl Paint to be used on a car in 1957 he was not the first to do so. In the early 1930’s several car manufacturers had already offered their cars in a pear-essence paint. In 1932 Chevrolet listed a few colors in their paint options that were pearl based paint. Of special note is that these pearl colors were only optional for the upper body parts, and a special not on the paint chart was made that these colors were impractical to color match. So in case of body damage or paint damage, the whole body needed to be repainted. Therefor this type of paint, which was based on crushed fish scales, did not became very popular, and soon the option was not available anymore. During this time the first more practical metallic paints were developed.

1932 Chevrolet Color Chart listing the Pearl Essence paint.
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Murano Pearl

Murano was manufactured by the Mearl Corporation, and was originally used primarily in mass-produced plastics and costume jewelry. There were several color options: white, red, pink, blue, two shades of green, and yellow (often referred to as “gold Murano”). Originally the paste was not marketed as an automotive product, but after Jim Skonzakes had used it on the Golden Sahara and his information how he had created the paint was shared with the Mearl Corporation the Murano Pearl product was marketed in a much wider market. Murano Pearl Paste was compatible with all lacquers, enamels and urethanes due to its resin base. Its color-shifting quality came from fish scales, not pearl or abalone shell as many believed. Murano had a 30% lead content in concentrated form. Today’s lead-free mica-based products offer a nice pearlescent effect, but nothing matches the true pearl quality of a Murano finish.

In the late 1970’s lead based paints were banned, and so was Murana Pearls. Newer pearl paints based on powdered mica (like the Mearl Corporation Nacromer series) made painting pearl paints a lot easier, and much more practical and popular, but these never were able to come close to the original pearl shine of the Mearl Corporation Murano Pearls.

The Mearl Corporation produced Murano and Nacromer Pearl Paste products. The Murano Pearls were based on fish scales.
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GSII Glow in the Dark Tires

 

GSII GLOW in the DARK TIRES

 

Jim Skonzakes had created his Golden Sahara II around 1958, filled with the latest technology. When Goodyear developed a glow in the dark tire in the 1960s, Jim stepped in and help develop some for his Golden Sahara II.



In the late 1950’s Jim Skonzakes (Street) was touring his Custom Car extraordinary, lab on wheels, the Golden SaharaII all over the US. The car was filled with every state of the art electronic device. Techniques developed specially for the Golden Sahara, or modified from known systems. The car had voice control, several steering wheel options, radar control that stopped the car automatically and many other special featured. In the years prior Jim had used the Golden Sahara as promo vehicle for tire brands, special exhibitions etc. Everybody wanted to have the Golden Sahara on display or use it for some sort of promoting, since where the Sahara went, there was an audience.

From the Goodyear Triangle Newsletter September 1968.
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When the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co was experimenting with glow in the dark tires they reached out to Jim to see if he would help develop the product, and promote it with his futuristic Golden Sahara. Jim, always looking for new state of the art technology, was very interested. And together with his friend and master engineer Henry Meyer, they developed a special wheel and hub to make the glow in the dark tires look absolutely amazing. Jim had the glow in the Dark tires on the Golden Sahara for many years, and people at the shows always went completely nuts when they were illuminated. Below is an interesting story about the Goodyear glow in the dark tires I found online from www.ohio.com. 



Goodyear Glow in the Dark Tires

Motorists slammed on their brakes and pedestrians froze in their tracks. Crowds gathered at intersections to stop and stare. A sleek white convertible cruised the streets after dusk. Its four tires glowed a fiery red, blinking and winking at gawkers. The lighting effect was as startling as it was beautiful.

In the early 1960s, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. conducted colorful experiments on ‘’the tire of tomorrow,’’ a translucent model with tiny light bulbs mounted inside the wheel rim. The Akron company predicted a revolution in ‘’future auto styling’’ when it rolled out exotic tires in shades of blue, yellow, red, green and orange. For one shining moment, glow-in-the-dark tires were the hottest thing on wheels.

Life magazine photos from the Good year Glow in the dark tire experiments.
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Goodyear scientists made the experimental tires by pouring dyed compounds of Neothane synthetic rubber into special molds and heating molasses-like batches to 250 degrees. This was a big departure from the standard method of building tires piece by piece with plies of rubberized fabric. ‘’It’s something like baking a cake,’’ Goodyear research chemist William M. Larson explained in 1962. ‘’You just mix the ingredients, pour them into a mold and pop the mold into an oven.’’

Larson developed the process in the late 1950s with Goodyear chemist Anthony F. Finelli. Neothane was Goodyear’s trade name for a polyurethane compound derived from petroleum and synthetic chemicals. The molecular structure was similar to ‘’a three-dimensional fishnet.’’ The cordless, tubeless tires resisted punctures and cuts, and performed well in road tests up to 65 mph.

‘’The experimental tires run quietly and smoothly, and our tests indicate they eventually will provide tread wear far beyond today’s standards,’’ said John J. Hartz, Goodyear tire development manager. Synthetic rubber could be dyed in a rainbow of hues, an aspect that greatly pleased the marketing department. ‘’Goodyear’s translucent tire can be produced in any color to match the car . . . or perhaps the wife’s new outfit,’’ the company noted. ‘’Some day a wife may tell a husband: ‘Charlie, go out and change the tires. I’m wearing my blue dress tonight.’ ’’

Engineers installed 18 tiny bulbs in each rim to make the wheels shine in the dark. Wiring devices supplied electricity to create an eerie glow. A control switch inside the automobile allowed a driver to make the tires blink individually or in unison. Goodyear invited Life magazine to visit the Akron testing ground in 1960. A photographer took beautiful nighttime pictures of cars decked out in green, yellow and red tires. A reporter noted that the tires could improve auto safety in bad weather or be wired to light up when the driver hit the brakes. However, street tests were causing some confusion. ‘’Other motorists have been so enthralled by the pretty colors that they have gone through red lights or just stopped to stare,’’ Life magazine reported.

That certainly was apparent when Goodyear took its show on the road. The company equipped a white Dodge Polaris convertible with red wheels and drove it around downtown Miami. Traffic halted in the streets. Pedestrians gaped in awe. Next, a red-wheeled Chrysler Silver 300 rolled through Manhattan, drawing crowds at Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the United Nations. Spectators asked the driver where to buy such tires. They were disappointed to learn that the product wouldn’t be on the market ‘’for several years.’’

‘’We still have a lot of work in developing this tire, but it takes only a little imagination to see it as the tire of the future,’’ Goodyear research and development director Walter J. Lee said. Although they weren’t in showrooms, the tires continued to cause a stir at public exhibits and parades. A glowing red wheel dazzled visitors at the World of Rubber museum at Goodyear Hall. The U.S. Information Agency borrowed a tire for the ‘’Plastics USA’’ exhibit that toured the Soviet Union. Communists from Moscow to Kiev waited in line for hours to view the latest in American ingenuity. It’s anyone’s guess how many Soviets were left with the impression that all U.S. cars had incredible devices.

Article on Jim’s Golden Sahara II in the New York Times mentioned the light up at night tires.
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Wonderful photo showing the illuminated GoodYear tires as well as the light coming from the unique completely hand made hubcaps.
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The best known photo of the illuminating tires on the Golden Sahara is this photo showing Jim’s first wife Gloria painted gold posing with the Sahara in a dark studio with the tire lights on. The photo was used on a promotional postcard as well.
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Goodyear allowed only one private collector to put the futuristic tires on an automobile: Dayton resident Jim Skonzakis, a custom car owner better known as Jim Street. His show car, the Golden Sahara, a remote-controlled, bubble-topped dream, looked extra snazzy in four golden tires. The $75,000 vehicle appeared in the Jerry Lewis movie Cinderfella in 1960 and the TV game show I’ve Got a Secret in 1962.

Scientists spent the better part of a decade trying to perfect Neothane tires, but they couldn’t get past the experimental stage. For one thing, the translucent tires had poor traction on wet pavement. They began to lose stability around 65 mph. They began to melt under heavy braking. On top of everything else, they cost more than regular tires. Even if engineers had solved all of those problems, the glowing lights probably would have been too much of a distraction for night driving. Generally speaking, it’s unwise to hypnotize other motorists.

Goodyear quietly pulled the plug on ‘’the tire of tomorrow,’’ ending a colorful experiment in local transportation. Husbands never got the opportunity to change the tires to match their wives’ outfits. (Source: www.ohio.com)

This photo was taken at the same location as the color photo with Gloria. Jim could not find a color version of it when I visited him in 2012, but he knew they are around. Hopefully one day we get to see them. This photo is nice, showing both front and rear tires illuminated.
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Most likely this photo was taken by the Life Magazine photographer at the press day Goodyear tires organised. Open shutter photo of Jim Skonzakes driving the Golden Sahara with illuminated tires and hubs during the night. 
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The clearest photo of the illuminated tires from Jim’s Collection is one he made to show how the details on the Sahara are being displayed at the shows around the US. It shows how the tire itself illuminates, but also the hub. (More info on the Robots can be found in this CCC-Article)
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Without the illumination the tires looked a bit muddy, at least by todays standards. I guess back then it was something new, state of the art, and everybody loved them because they were so unique. (Sadly not to many photos show the Goodyear Glow in the Dark Tires on the car.)
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A special sign Jim had made to promote the Gold Glass Slippers, as he named the GoodYear Tires.
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Jim’s Golden Sahara II had a 5 minute special on the June 25, 1962 CBS broadcast of Gary Moore’s I’ve Got a Secret TV show. Jim was able to show off many special features of the car, but the illuminating tires sadly did not show up at all on black & white TV.
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Golden Sahara Seiberling Advertising

 

FEATURE STAR THE GOLDEN SAHARA I

 

In the mid 1950’s Jim Skonsakes’ Golden Sahara I, was hired by the Seiberling Rubber company to promote their new tire range . The futuristic Golden Sahara was used in an advertising campaign for the company.

 
Jim Skonzakes (Street) has always been a very good business man. When Jim and the Barris shop had created the Golden Sahara I, he realized that the cars futuristic appearance drew a lot of attention. Jim used this knowledge to promote the Golden Sahara the best way he could. And not only that, he also offered the Golden Sahara to companies and Television Networks to help promote their business. In the mid 1950’s, Jim made a business deal with the Ohio based Seiberling Rubber Company. Seiberling would hire the car to help promote their new line of tires, the Sealed-Aire tires, at shows and at dealers throughout the country. The company marketed their tire with the pay-off line the tire of tomorrow – is here today,  and the futuristic appearance of the Golden Sahara I, was an absolutely perfect visual for this. This deal was very welcome to Jim, since the built of the car had cost him a small fortune. Seiberling also used the car for a series of magazine ad’s, both full color ads as well as black and white used on single pages, and full width spreads. As far as we know, the ads were used in magazines like Life magazines, and not in the specific car magazine.
 

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CCC-Golden-Sahara-Ad-Tire-01-WThis image is part of a two page (spread) ad that was used in 1955. It shows a photo of the Golden Sahara I in combination with an illustrated Seiberling Sealed-Aire tire.
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Golden Sahara Dealer Display

 

DRAWING A CROWD

 

The futuristic appearance and many high-tech features of the Golden Sahara show car were cleverly used to inspire people to buy new cars at car dealers across the US



[dropcap]We[/dropcap] had planned to include this material on the Golden Sahara Dealer Display in the Jack Stewart Ford book in the Jim Skonzakes chapter on the Golden Sahara. But we ran out of space. We were only able to use very little info about this promotional adventure with the Golden Sahara. So now it is time to share it here on the Custom Car Chronicle.

Jim Skonzakes (aka Jim Street) toured his Golden Sahara (I and II) together with the Kookie T (originally built by Norm Grabowski) all over the US. He would display his cars at any hot rod and custom car show for a period of more than a decade. Wherever he went the cars drew an amazing crowd. From the beginning, Jim realized that there were many ways to promote his show cars. When he was in town for a Custom Car show, he had made agreements upfront with several local, and not so local car dealers to have his cars on display at these dealers. Jim’s cars could be hired by day, weekend, week or longer to be displayed, and do what they did best: drawing people to the car dealers.

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CCC-Skonzakes-Showroom-08Two photos showing the Golden Sahara at the car dealer showroom. The photo with the ‘button lady’ shows two of the many pamphlets from the Jim Skonzakes collection as inset.
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The Golden Sahara was a very popular car . Dealers were almost fighting to have this amazing crowd-pleaser in their showroom. But a lot of the time both the Sahara and the Kookie T were displayed side by side. Sometimes drawing over 20.000 people in the car dealers shop, over a weekend period. Car dealers had special ads made up for the local news papers announcing the “Jerry Lewis Movie car”, or the “$75,000.- futuristic car”. Special pamphlets were printed, and handed out in the cities to curious possible customers. The pamphlets, and flyers announced Jim’s cars on one side, and have dealer promotional information on the other side.


CCC-Skonzakes-Showroom-03News paper announcement ad from Bob Jones Midway Motors.
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CCC-Skonzakes-Showroom-04The front of a Bob Jones Midway Motors flyers.
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Jim saved some of the “thank you” notes from car dealers from all over the country. Thanking Jim for a huge success for the dealership during the display period. Dealers that sold up to 70 new cars during the Sahara display weekend. Dealers that had to hire extra people to deal with the extra business generated from the display of Jim’s cars. Especially the Golden Sahara with its futuristic looks, and amazing remote and voice controls inspired people to look at the new cars at the dealers, and spend some extra dollars.

CCC-Skonzakes-Showroom-02This photo gives a good impression of a car dealer display of the Golden Sahara. There was always a crowd around the car, which can barely be seen here. The bubble can be seen at the right of the photo. Especially when Jim, or one of his helpers, was demonstrating the many unique features of the Golden Sahara, the showroom was packed with people in awe.
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Showing the Golden Sahara and the Kookie T was a full time business for several years. Bookings were made months ahead, and more than once, dealers wanted to book the Sahara for a second display, after having great success with it the first time.


CCC-Skonzakes-Showroom-09Proud car dealer owner and his wife posing with the Golden Sahara after the car was moved into the showroom.
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CCC-Skonzakes-Showroom-05Car dealers across the US made sure new paper reporters would announce the display of the Golden Sahara, and the Kookie T in the local newspaper. Jim provided standard press releases for the dealers to use. This sample was from the Ontario Upland California, Daily Report newspaper.
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Movie clip of Gloria, Jim’s wife back in the early 1960’s showing some of the amazing features of the Golden Sahara in one of the dealer showrooms the car was displayed at.
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CCC-Skonzakes-Showroom-10 Two photos showing the Golden Sahara and the Kookie T in yet another dealer showroom. Jim could not remember who had send these scans of two fading Polaroid photos to him.
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Golden Sahara at Watson’s

 

GOLDEN SAHARA AT WATSONS

 

In late 1959 Jim Skonzakes, owner of the Golden Sahara has Bill DeCarr customize and Larry Watson paint his 1958 Ford Truck, which will be used for transporting the Golden Sahara.



[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos of the Golden Sahara II and the Golden Sahara Hauler. The hauler was painted by Larry Watson. All these photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo Archive.[/box_light]


[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen the Golden Sahara II was nearly finished, Jim Skonzakes bought a brand new 1958 Ford C-Series Truck and had a local (Dayton Ohio) company built a custom stainless steel cargo box for it. The Cargo for this truck would be the Golden Sahara and everything needed to display the car at shows across the nation. Inside the truck a special frame was constructed to mount the Golden Sahara to, to assure the car would not bounce the walls on bad roads or if something happened with the truck. The cargo box had a full work bench, and all kinds of tools and equipment to be able to create anything needed if the truck or the GS would break down.

After driving the truck with the Golden Sahara around the country for some time Jim figured it was time to get truck customized, to make it fit better with the cargo. On one of the countless tours to show the Golden Sahara Jim found enough time in busy show the schedule to take the truck to Bill DeCarr’s how on Artesia Blvd. in Bellflower to have it customized. Driving an award winning Custom Show Car inside a stock Ford Truck was something not done for Jim.

CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-05-WSnapshot taken when the stock truck with the custom made cargo box was delivered at Bill DeCarr’s shop.
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Bill added a 1960 Mercury grille in the slightly modified grille opening. Inside the grille opening he bended a surround for the Mercury grille from round tubing with parking lights mounted at the grille ends. This whole unit was chrome plated and the parking lights of unknown origins received some chrome bullets in the center. This would match the planned bumper treatment. Bill removed some emblems and the body was straightened and cleaned up before it was handed over to Larry Watson.

At that time Larry still had his most famous Bellflower shop on 9012 Rosecrans blvd. Larry painted the truck in pearl white, to match the paint on the Golden Sahara. He then created some very stylish panels in metallic gold and candy fuchsia to accent the body lines of the truck.The gold sections were pin striped in white by Larry. Bill added two 1958 mercury Park Lane taillights as cabin lights and a chrome plated scoop in the center of the roof. Jim could not remember what was used for that. The bumper was chrome plated and dressed up with 1958 Cadillac bumper bullets.The huge steel wheels were cleaned up and send out for chrome plating. A set of long chrome plated behind the cab exhaust tubes were installed. At the back they created some oversized dummy bellflower tips that were put at an angle on the rear quarters of the cargo box.

CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-02-WThis photo was taken at Larry Watson’s Rosecrans blvd. shop shortly after Larry had finished the paint. They already had started to put the car back together, but a lot was still missing including the cabin lights. Larry also still needed to outline the golden stripe at this time.
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CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-03-WParked in front of the Peanut House next to Larry’s shop we can see that Larry has added the white striping around the gold sections of the paint. The cabin lights, made out of 1958 Mercury Park Lane taillight units are installed now, but the grille and roof scoop are still missing.
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CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-07-WThis photo was taken at Bill DeCarr’s shop, it shows that the roof scoop of unknown origin is now installed. On the right we can see the the rear fender of Terry Holloway’s 1957 Plymouth who was at the shop for a complete make over.
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CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-01-WParked in front of the famous Watson shop wall at the Rosecrans Blvd shop. It looks like by now the car was completed.  
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CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-08-WLarry Watson had this photo listed as “Skip”. So we guess the guy in the photo is Skip, but so far we have not been able to find out more about it. He holds a chopped gas tank in his hand painted in the same colors as what Larry used on the Golden Sahara. When we asked Jim Skonzakes about this, he had no idea. He never had a bike done like this. So most likely the colors on the two are the same, but otherer than that nothing is related.
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CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-11-WNot the best photo, but this one is very interesting. In the back on the left we can see the finished, or near finished Golden Sahara Hauler, and on the right, behind the pearl white ’57 Ford we can see the tubular frame of the Kookie-T trailer. Jim Skonzakes also owned the Kookie-T, and most of the times both the GSII and the Kookie-T would be displayed at the same show. The GSII was inside the truck, and the Kookie-T in a trailer behind the truck. At first in this tubular frame trailer with a canvas tarp over it. Later Jim constructed a wild aluminum trailer especially for the Kookie-T.
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CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-10-WThis is the last photo we have of the Golden Sahara Hauler, when it leaves the Bill DeCarr shop. The truck looks to b completely finished, including upholstery in pearl white and burgundy. This must have been quite a sight to see on the roads… and even better to see it stop and the GSII being unloaded from it.
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Judging the photos the truck was driven back and forth between Bill’s and Larry’s shops to get the work done. While the truck was in the shop for Bill and Larry’s handy work the Golden Sahara stayed at a local show. But when the truck needed some final detailing the Golden Sahara was unloaded and stayed at the shop’s parking lot attracting a lot of attention for other customers of the shop. Some even went home and brought the family to get a private demonstration by Jim Skonzakes of the top Show Car of the moment.


CCC-larry-watson-golden-sahara-01Customers, friends and family are gathering to see Jim’s full demonstration of all the working features on the Golden Sahara II at the Artesia Blvd. shop.
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CCC-larry-watson-golden-sahara-02The GS II interior and hand made plexglass windshield. The stick controle was just one of several ways to steer and drive the GSII.
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CCC-larry-watson-golden-sahara-03Jim Skonzakes, with the dotted shirt in the center of the photo, explains the GSII features to some visitors.
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CCC-larry-watson-golden-sahara-04The pearl paint on the GSII looked amazing. This photo show how it really glowed in the setting sun.
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CCC-larry-watson-GS-truck-06-WPeople looking in awe at the GII when Jim showed all the electronic features he and his team had incorporated into the car. This was extremely high tech in those days.
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Golden Sahara Display Card

THE GOLDEN SAHARA ON DISPLAY

Jim Skonzakes is one of the most prolific custom show car owners of our time. His latest custom car: the Golden Sahara, was used to promote the Seiberling Rubber Company new Sealed-Aire Tires, The tire of Tomorrow.

When I visited Jim Skonzakes aka Jim Street in 2012, to interview him for his chapter in the Jack Stewart Ford book, he showed me several interesting items in his collection. One of these items was a hand out card from the Seiberling Rubber Company. On one site of this card we can see an illustration of the Golden Sahara I “the Car of Tomorrow” , and on the other side, some product information of their Sealed-Aire Tires, the “Tires of Tomorrow”. The card is the result of one of many items and deals, Jim worked on with the Seiberling Rubber Company.

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One side of the display card shows the really nice illustration of the Golden Sahara. The text sums up in short what the car is about. But it does not mention Barris , nor the Carson Top Shop being the builder, nor basic information about  what the car was based on.

Jim Skonzakes was always very good in promoting his own custom cars, which he had been building since the mid 1940’s. Although he lived and worked in Dayton Ohio, he commissioned his dream car, the famous Golden Sahara I, at the Barris Kustom shop in Lynwood, California. Very soon he realized that the car, he was creating with the Barris shop, was something really unique. It was a show car, its time far ahead. He also realized the final cost-price for the car would be phenomenal, especially for that time. The business man he is, he found ways to promote the Golden Sahara. Not only at shows around the country, but also renting the car out to car dealers, for commercials etc. He made a long lasting deal with the Ohio base Tire manufacture Seiberling Rubber Company. The company was very interested in the futuristic look and feel of the Golden Sahara. They felt, the car would be perfect to promote their latest – state of the art -, tire range.

The company used the Golden Sahara I in several magazine ad campaigns, and on displays at some of the bigger car shows in the mid 1950’s, as well as at local and not so local car dealers. To enhance the WOW effect, the company had the hand out cards we picture here made.

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The other side shows a cut away drawing of the Seiberling tire. And gives a short impression about the “Tire of Tomorrow”: the Sealed-Aire Tire.

When people walked by the Seiberling display with the Golden Sahara, and the tires, they were given a card. Or they could take one from a stand next to the display. Most of these of cards ended up in the trash can on the way home. Jim, of course, hold on to some of these. He saved most everything in documentation on all of his cars, boats, and bikes. And even though Jim feels the first version of the Golden Sahara I cannot be compared to the superior appearance of the Golden Sahara II, he realizes this version is part of the whole experience.

The Golden Sahara I was displayed at shows, and dealers from late 1954 till late 1956. Then Jim took the car apart, and created the revolutionary Golden Sahara II with the Delphos Machine and Tool Shop, Henry Meyer and Bob Metz. Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate any photos of the Golden Sahara I being on display with the Seiberling Rubber company, so we have to do with the card only… for now.

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