Walter Wyss Photos of 1950’s LA Hot Rod Shows

WALTER WYSS LA HOT ROD SHOWS

Walter Otto Wyss moved from Switzerland to Dearborn, Michigan in 1939. In 1950 he went West and moved to Los Angeles. While living in LA in the early 1950’s, Walter visited several Hot Rod and Custom Car shows. This article shows a small portion of the color slides he took there.

Walter Wyss loved everything automotive. After building two cars back in Switzerland and being involved in developing a hybrid car in the US, he said good-bye to the provisional automotive business in late 1949. This did not stop Walter from loving automobiles though. In California he took many photos of wonderful streets scenes with nice cars, and he visited many car shows, including several early Hot Rod shows. The great thing about this is that Walter started taking color slides from the late 1930’s. So when he took his cameras to the early Hot Rod shows, he shot took photos with color film. We have seen some photos from these early 1950’s shows the past, but rarely color photos.

Walter took several color photos of Custom Car photographer Marcia Campbell and here model A Hot Rod. We know that Marica showed this car at the Oakland Roadster show in 1951. So most likely Walter met Marcia at that show. Perhaps since both were into cars and photography they spend some time talking. Walter must have asked Marcia to go and pose with her Hot Rod for his camera. Which resulted in some unique color photos of Marcia and her car. Check out the CCC-Article we did on the other color photos of Marcia Campbell with here Hot Rod.

We hope to be able to bring you more of these amazing early Hot Rod and Custom Cars color photos taken by Walter Wyss, in the near future. If you know anything more about the cars in the photos we show in this article, please let us know. We would love to add the information to this article.

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This transparency taken by Walter at the 1954 Petersen Motorama in the Pan Pacific Auditorium has its colors almost fade to only the reds. We have tried to get some colors back into it to show the Jim Skonzakes “Golden Sahara”. That is George Barris with suit and tie talking to Jim Skonzakes and an unknown man beside Jim.

 

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The photo above is an early Kodachrome color print created from the slide shown below. The original slide was square, but the color photo material Walter Wyss choose, was not as high as it is wide. Resulting in loosing some of the original image in the photo-print. The color print colors turned out to be more age resistance than the original slide was. The slide colors have faded a lot over the years. The Road Devils LA club members gather around an unidentified belly tank racer. This photo was taken in 1950 or 1951. Most likely at the Oakland Roadster Show.

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CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-06-WKenny Smith’s 1929 Ford Roadster’s nose on the left and Lou Banta’s 1927 Model T with 32 Ford grille in red on the right. 1950-51 photo, possibly at the Oackland Roadstershow in 1951.

 

CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-03-WJohnny Zaro 1941 Ford by Barris Kustoms. With George Barris polishing the bumper guards on the right. Jack Stewart leaning on the drivers front fender, possibly John Manok polishing the hood and possibly Gene Simmons on the far left. Photo possibly taken at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show.

 

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Beautifully detailed flathead in an Don Ferraras 1929 Model A Ford with 1932 Ford grille.

 

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One wheel motor cycle. Possebly at the 1952 Hot Rod show, held in the Los Angeles National Guard Armory.

 

CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-02-WUnidentified lake racer with the hood removed showing the engine. Another early color photo. If anybody can identify this car, please let us know, we would love to add the information here.

 

CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-20-WBack side of the early color photos from Walter Wyss. There are just business buildings on this address now.

 

CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-21-WModel T roadster body with track nose. If you know more about this car, please let us know.

 

CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-12-WLarger format transparency of Hilborn – Travers – Larsen Model A Roadster with a cut down 1932 Ford grille and custom headlight bar.

 

CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-13-WDon Rackemann 1932 Ford three window coupe Hot Rod with a mild chopped top and hopped up flathead V-8. Sadly the small scan does not allow us to read the sign.

 

CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-14-WModel T Roadster with track nose grille, built for the street.

 

CCC_WOW-LA-Hot-Rods-10-WWe have shown this slide before in our article on Marica Campbell’s Model A Roadster. However  we now show it complete with cardboard surround as how Walter kept it. This photo was most likely taken at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show.

 

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Another photo of Marcia Campbell and here Model A Roadster Pick up. Marcia smiling at Walter behind the camera. This particular photo has not been published before.

 

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Karl Johansson’s twin boom Howard Cams Special.

 

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And this is the photographer, Walter Wyss.

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[box_light]For more articles on the Amazing Walter Wyss check out the Section on the CCC-Site we have created for his amazing work. With special thanks to Tobias Wyss for supplying information and material from the Walter Otto Wyss Collection.[/box_light]

 

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Walter Wyss W2

 

WALTER WYSS W2 CAR

 

Young, very talented Swiss automotive engineer Walter Wyss developed and created this unique automobile in the early 1930’s.



Walter Otto Wyss created three very unique cars in his career. Two of them while he lived in Switzerland before 1939, and one after he had moved to the US. We will highlight all three of his automobiles here on the Custom Car Chronicle and start with his second car the “W2”. The reason to start with his second car was because this car linked me to Walter Wyss the photographer and triggered my interest in this very interesting person.

Walter originally wanted to production the cars he developed for buying customers. However after creating his second car, the W2, Walter realized Switzerland might not be the ideal place to produce such an typical Custom Sports Car. There simply was no good market for his dream project then and there. Walter abandoned the idea. After a tragic accident Walter decided to leave his beloved Switzerland and move to the US to try and find his place in the blooming automotive industry. He ended up working for Ford, Chevrolet and would later, in the 1940’s, be head of a team developing a Hybrid car of his design in Wichita.



The Walter Otto Wyss W2

Walter Wyss was student engineering in Zurich, Switserland when he started to work on his cars. To be able to construct the cars he had in his mind and sketched on paper, he re-modeled his parents two car garage into a well equipped workshop. The W2 as Walter named his second car was constructed over a period of two years. Walter started sketching his W2 in the early 1930’s, once decided on the rough shape of the car, he created several small models from wood, clay and metal. He used these model to find the right proportions and most desirable shapes.


CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-01One of the wood/clay.metal models Wlater created before he started the real car. The distiggtive teardrop shapes on the fenders are still missing here.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-12A section of Walters workshop in which he could create any part he needed.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-15Walter posing with the finished Chassis. This photo shows how low it sits.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-02When the chassis was completed it was time for the body. For this Walter used cardboard and bed sheets to create the shapes he was looking for. Once completely satisfied he started to create the body from sheet metal and possibly aluminum.
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Walter picked an 1.1 litres, twin overhead camshaft Salmson race car engine for motivation. An old frame from old wrecked American car was cut up and reused as a backbone rectangular frame. An Peugeot rear axle was installed in the kicked up rear portion of the frame. Walter designed and created his own independent front end. Two small radiators are mounted on each side of the frame, next to the engine. This allowed Walter to create a very low body-line. The teardrop shape is the overall theme of the body. An really unique feature are the front fenders which are fully concealed. To stream line the front even more Walter created separate tear drop shaped extension behind the front wheels. The rear fenders were created with the same teardrop shape. A low windshield sits rather straight up on the cowl. There are no doors in the car. Walter wanted the car to look and feel as race car as possible so the body sides are cut out very low for easy access. The interior was upholstered in leather and can house four people. The back seat is completely removable to access the rear axle and suspension.

Once completed the Walter Wyss W2 drove really great, only the engine ran a little hot from time to time. So Walter used some photos of his W2 and started sketching a version with a taller grille on the front of the car. The new grille worked well with the design of the car and cooled the engine perfectly. The low center of gravity of the car gave it perfect driving qualities.

Walters W2 is an interesting mix of Custom styling, combined with Sports Car and Coachbuilt design elements. Perhaps the car would have been a success if he had decided to bring it to the US in 1939. At least we know that he brought many photos and albums of his two hand built cars when he moved to the US. So those must have helped him in his US career in the Automotive industry.
As far as we know the W2 does not exits anymore. The Wyss family looked for the car, but found no evidence is was still around. The car was sold at one point, but with Walter in the US, no effort was taken to keep in touch with the new owners. Nobody really knows what happened with the car.


CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-03The work on the W2 is almost finished. The body is all shaped and only missing paint and details. This must have been quite a spectacular sight on the streets of Zurich, Switzerland in 1935.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-05This photo of the freshly finished car shows the front suspension and the small radiator behind it. For the era the car was extremely streamlined.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-06The rear of the body is wonderfully streamlined into a boat tail shape. The huge Swiss license plate frame affects the lines quite a bit.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-07Side view with the soft top up.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-08When the two small radiators on the side of the frame proved to be insufficient to cool the engine Walter made several new designs using some of the photos he hat taken of his car.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-11The later version of the W2, with the reshaped nose with radiator added in front of the engine. The top could be folder up partly to create an half open top.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-10Tight, but it was possible to fit four people in the W2. Walter, on the right, giving some instructions to the driver.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-09The rear three quarter view is particular attractive.
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CCC-Walter-wyss-W2-14A full page of one of Walters photo albums he put together about his W2. The top row and a few other photos, show Walters car parked in front of his workshop.
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The Autocar magazine published a full page on Walters W2 in the March 27th, 1936 issue. Walter had this article reprinted for promotional usage.
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[box_light]For more articles on the Amazing Walter Wyss check out the Section on the CCC-Site we have created for his amazing work. With special thanks to Tobias Wyss for supplying information and material from the Walter Otto Wyss Collection.[/box_light]

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Introduction to Walter Otto Wyss

 

W.O.W.


Once in a while you come across a person that leaves such an great impression on you, that it is hard to believe you have not heard about him before. Walter Otto Wyss is such a person.



On my frequent searches for old custom car, and hot rod photo material, I came across some really nice 1940’s, early 1950’s color slides, taken mostly in California. The photos, mostly of street scenes, buildings, city overviews, and pretty ladies, caught my eye at this online offering. Without knowing anything about these color slides, I started to saved the previews on my computer, just because they were so nice.

One morning I found a set of three photos, showing a wonderfully shaped 30’s streamlined car. A couple of days later the same seller offered a scrapbook about this very same car. An amazing scrapbook with many photos, plans, printed material, etcetera. I informed my good friend Geoff Hacker about the scrapbook, knowing he would love material like this. The next day, I looked at the photos of this scrapbook a little better, and found the name Walter Wyss on one of the photos. I did a Google search, and after a while I found out that Walter Wyss was originally from Switzerland, and moved to the US in 1939. Best of all I found out that a family member of Walter, Tobias Wyss, had made a documentary movie about Walter called “Flying Home”.
While watching the trailer from the movie it dawned on me. Walter Wyss not only created this teardrop shaped car, but he also was the photographer behind all those wonderful color photos I had seen.


Then some really interesting photos were found. Color slides of Marcia Campbell with her Model A Roadster pick up, Johny Zaro’s 1941 Ford and, several other very interesting Hot Rods photographed at early 1950’s Californian car shows (with special thanks to Jamie Barter). As well as color slides of the 1939 World Fair.


The material I had found from Walter Wyss was already very interesting, and beautiful. But these early color photos of Hot Rods, and Custom Cars made me extremely happy. I needed to know more about this guy. Why was this collection of wonderful material, sold instead of being sold  in a museum, or published in a book. After a while I was able to get in touch with somebody in Switzerland who had worked on the movie Flying Home about Walter. He forwarded me the email address of Tobias Wyss, the movie maker, who was a nephew of Walter Wyss. I contacted him and since then we have been communicating.

Tobias told me there are over 25,000 color slides, a huge amount of black and white photos, and negatives. Furthermore there are scrapbooks, letters, postcards, and other interesting material. All material is collected and  supervised by the Wyss family in Switzerland. The items that were sold online were the doubles that Walter must have stored in the US after he move to Japan in 1959.

In 1963 Walter moves back to the US and found his new home in Hawaii where he would live, and work until he dies in 2001.

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Walter took these amazing color photos at the 1939 New York World Fair.
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 CCC_WOW-Introduction-07-WA few examples of the early/mid 1950’s color slides Walter took.
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CCC_WOW-Introduction-02-WOne of the scrapbooks Walter dedicated to his second car he created. The W2. (This particular book is now in the Geoff Hacker Collection)
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CCC_WOW-Introduction-05-WOne of the many color slides Walter took while he lived in California. An amazing trip back in time.
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Automotive history

After doing some more research, I found out that Walter Otto Wyss had worked in the Automotive industry for Ford Motor Company as well as GM. From 1946 till 1949 he was developing an hybrid car (running on electricity and gas) at the Beechcraft factory, an airplane company in Wichita, Kansas. The car, the “Plainsman” was completely developed, and even one prototype was constructed. But after that the program was canceled and Walters dream never made it into production.

CCC_WOW-Introduction-03-WThe Beechcraft Plainsman Hybrid car Walter, and his team developed. The inset photo shows the full scale prototype. The cars production plans were cancelled after the first prototype was finished.
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CCC-Johnny-Zaro-Guys-Wyss-PhotoBWalter visited several Hot Rod shows in the early 1950’s. Here he took some color slides as well. In this photo we can see Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford with Johnny, Jack Stewart, and George Barris getting the car ready for the show.
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CCC_WOW-Introduction-01-W2Two samples of some of the many interesting street scenes, and signs Walter photographed.
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CCC_WOW-Introduction-04-WAnother slide taken at an early 1950’s Hot Rod show.
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FLYING HOME the documentary about walter

Tobias send us the DVD of the movie Flying Home he made about his uncle. A wonderful movie about an enigmatic man.
Read our full Movie Review.

Flying Home – Theatrical Trailer, English from Mira Film on Vimeo.


There is so much to tell about Walter Otto Wyss, that we will do several articles on the man, his cars, the photos and the rest of the story. Stay tuned…

CCC_WOW-Introduction-08-WWalter’s W2 car he created while he still lived in Switzerland. We will show much more on it in a later article.
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Zaro ’41 Ford Color Slide

 

KUSTOM SLIDE

 

An amazing and rare color slide of Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford, taken at set up day at one of the early 1950’s custom car shows.



Color photos from the early 1950’s custom car scene are pretty rare. So when we come across one our heart is starting to pump a little faster. And this color slide is even nicer since it was most likely taken at set up day at one of the early 1950’s indoor car shows. Usually photos were taken at the show it self, or if the photographer was lucky before the show opened to the public. But rarely we see the owners getting their cars ready for the show, especially in color.

In the photo we can see on the right side a young George Barris polishing the bumper guard. Leaning on the drivers front fender is Jack Stewart, and polishing the hood is possibly Johnny Zaro himself. But its a bit hard to see with the quality of the scan of the slide. We have no idea who the guy on the far left is. If you recognize him, please let us know.

We are not really sure where this amazing slide was taken, possibly at the Oakland Roadster show in 1951, but it could also have been at and Los Angeles show. We are still trying to figure out more about the photo. And we are also trying to get a little better scan of this great slide.



CCC-Zarro-Barris-photo-01-WThis is the original scan with the slide permanently stapled inside the cardboard slide border.

CCC-Johnny-Zaro-Guys-Wyss-PhotoBWe have tried to adjust the colors on the original scan a little. But the low res quality makes it hard to do. Hopefully in the near future we will have access to the original slide and be able to get a better scan.








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Marcia Campbell’s Hot Rod

 

GIRL HOT RODDER

 

This 1929 Model A Hot Rod was built and owned by famous custom car photographer Marcia Campbell.



Marcia Campbell is best known for here custom car photography in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. Marcia spend a lot of time at the Barris Kustom Shop and photographed many projects as well as finished customs. A lot of Marcia Campbells photos were used in the early Hot Rod and Custom Car publications. Marcia loved custom cars and cars in general. She had customized cars from the moment she could drive. In addition to custom cars Marcia also liked hot rods and racing at the dry lakes. Together with the Barris shop, she built this 1929 Model A roadster pick-up truck. The Hot Rod was built on a 1932 Ford frame. To this Marcia added a sectioned ’32 Ford grille and to get he perfect profile she channeled the body and the shortened pick up bed over the frame.

The roadster appeared in the January 1951 issue of Hot Rod Magazine with a photo of Marcia wrenching on the flathead engine inside the Barris Shop. The article mentions Marcia getting ready for the next Oakland Roadster show, doing a lot of the mechanical work on the roadster herself, but giving credit for the body work to Barris. The car rode on black wall tires and Lyons’ Sombrero-like aftermarket hubcaps and the ‘Kustoms of Los Angeles’ club plaque on the headlight bar showed her custom background.

CCC-marcia-campbell-29A-03 There are at least two photos of Marcia wrenching on here Hot Rod pick up. Possibly because the photographers liked the idea of a beautiful woman working on her own car and wanted to show this to the audience. The photo above was staged in the Barris shop, but the fact was that Marcia did a lot of work on here own cars. Later in her live Marcia would restore complete cars all by here self.
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CCC-marcia-campbell-29A-08Amazing color photo of Marcia sitting in her petrol green Roadster Pick Up at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show. This is the first time, that we know of that a color photo of Marcia’s Pick-up has been published in color.
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CCC-marcia-campbell-29A-04 Image above shows a photo of Marcia and her Hot Rod was used in an early issue of the Rodder’s Journal.
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CCC-marcia-campbell-29A-07Another color slide of Marcia and her Roadster at the Oakland roadster show. This photo shows the painted red details as well as the – bit out of place – Kustoms Los Angeles plaque really well.
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From the 1951 Hot Rod Show program.
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After Marcia Campbell passed away in 2009, her live partner Suzanne Irvine was interviewed about Marcia by Michelle M. Yiatras and David E.Zivot. The only thing Suzanne could remember about the ’29 Model A Roadster Pick Up, was that she and Marcia took a trip to Oakland in it. Most likely to enter the car for the 1951 Oakland Roadster show, but Suzanne could not remember any details about the show or year this must have been in. All she remembered was that the car needed two batteries to get started.

What happened to Marcia’s old Roadster Pick Up… We assume Marcia sold the car in the early 1950’s after she found our Roadsters were not really her thing. Who bought it… and where did it go? If anybody recognized Marcia’s old Pick Up, please let us know.




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