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Barris Kustom Shop

Barris 1940 Ford Chopped Coupe




In 2007 I first spotted this oddly styled 1940 Ford Coupe with a beautiful heavy chopped top and Barris Crest. It turned out to be another original Mystery Barris Custom.

Around 2007 I came across an 1940 Ford Coupe with heavy chop, DeSoto Bumper, and very ugly forward rake and Barris Crests on ebay. The seller claimed the car was built at the Barris Kustom Shop and that it was found in a chicken ranch in Yucaipa, CA. The more I looked at the small photos on this ebay auction the more details I noticed that made me feel that this could very well be a real Barris Custom. One that for sure came in the hands of perhaps not the right person to “restore” it. The car had a very much rock&billy 80’s Kustom identity crisis theme going on.

Big & Little white wall tires with Radar wheels, a very much out of place rake, going opposite directions with the really pleasing lines on the leaned back windshield and flowing chop. ’37 DeSoto bumpers with the stock bumper guards (rare) black paint and an overload of bright red pin-striping. But if you looked past all those odd out of place stuff, you could see a really well done, heavy chopped top, with all the elements of an late 40’s early 50’s Custom Car. With that in mind I looked at my Barris Photo Archive and soon found some photos of what must be the same car in progress at the Barris shop around 1950-51. Several photos of the heavily chopped 1940 Ford Coupe appear in the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s volume 1.

This was the first photo I saw of the car around 2007. I noticed the smooth flowing chop, shaved drip rails, rounded door tops, and Barris Crests.

Barris 40 Ford chopped topThe April 1950 issue of Motor Trend magazine showed this early stage photo of the 1940 Ford Coupe. All the details match with the later photos.

Ralph Manok working on the Ford at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood. The photos show him installing pre-shaped metal panels to form the sail-panels. The Barris shop used California Metal Shaping for this a lot, it saved them a lot of time, and the work was a lot cleaner this way. Notice that the trunk corners are not rounded.

The book showed  6 in progress photos of this very same car at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood, were Ralph Manok works on the C-Pillars installing pre-formed panels created by California Metal Shaping, and leading around the rear quarter windows. All the details on the car in these photos are identical to the black painted car offered for sale on eBay in 2007. The Barris book did not mention an owner name, or if the car was finished or not, no info. Later I also noticed that the same car was sitting outside the shop, next to the abandoned sectioned 1951 Ford Victoria. By now the car’s body work looked to have been all finished and it had been covered in a dark primer. But there were bumpers or another details. It can be seen in several photos taken by the Life Magazine photographer visiting the Barris Shop around 1952. And it also shows up in a photo of two girls from Texas in a ’32 Ford Roadster parked in front of the shop. The Texas license plate is from 1953.

Later I came across one more photo of a heavily chopped ’40 Ford coupe with a leaned back windshield that I think is the same car in a very early stage. That photo was used on the April 1950 issue of Motor Trend magazine, and was possibly taken at the Barris Bell Shop, prior to moving to the Atlantic Blvd. shop in Lynwood. Also the Motor Trend magazine did not mention a name of the owner of the car.

Leading the rear quarter windows, and making sure the whole shape of the top flows well after the chop, removal of the drip-rail, rounding the door top corner and installing the custom shaped sail panels.

The last photo of the ’40 Ford taken by George Barris showed the car in the paint area at the Barris Shop, getting ready for a fresh coat of primer after all the body work was done. This photo shows the molded in fenders, front and rear, the shaved trim and handles, the removal of the taillights and of course the heavy smooth chopped top.

With the several photos showing the car sitting next to the Barris Shop in primer, along side with the abandoned sectioned 1951 Ford Victoria, and the Mystery 1941-48 Ford Coupe, it sure looks like the ’40 Ford in this story suffered the same fate, the owner might have ran out of money, or lost interest in the project, perhaps he left for Korea? The unfinished car was eventually pulled out of the shop, and set aside waiting for a possible buyer? In photos taken at the Barris shop after 1953, the Mystery 41-48 Ford can still be seen, but the sectioned Victoria, and the heavy chopped ’40 Ford are gone now. According the George Barris the Victoria was eventually wrecked, but nobody never mentioned the chopped ’40 Ford Coupe. So it looks like either the original owner eventually picked it up, or it found a new owner.

The big questions are

  • Who was the original owner of this ’40 Ford Coupe that took it to the Barris Shop for a Full Custom make-over?
  • What were the original plans for the car other than the molded fenders, the heavy chop, and the shaved taillights that we can see in the photos?
  • Was it ever finished after it left the Barris Shop around 1953-54?
  • Who found it in the chicken ranch barn in Yucaipa, CA. When was this, and how did it look then?

The ’40 Ford then showed up in a series of photos taken at the Barris Shop done for Life Magazine around 1952. This photo shows the Ford parked next to the Barris shop with the Chet Herbert’s “Beast” Bonneville streamliner in the front on a trailer. The Streamliner was at the Barris Shop to get a new body. The ’40 Ford is now in primer with all the body work completed as far as we can tell.

A peak on the ’40 Ford thru the windows of the abandoned ’51 Ford Victoria.

A look from behind shows that the drivers side bumper guard sits on an odd angle. Perhaps it had been hit while the car sat outside?

Close up of the molded fenders on the ’40 Ford. The unfinished Victoria that was later wrecked according to George Barris is sitting behind the ’40 Ford.

When this car was originally built in the 1950 – 1952 period, the Barris Kustom Shop was at their absolute peak when it came to Custom Car creativity, style as well as productivity. Around this time some of the very best Barris Customs were created. Think about the Matranga 1940 Mercury, Snooky Janich 1941 Ford, Jack Brumbach 1942 Ford, Jerry Quesnel’s ’49 Mercury, the Sam Barris ’49 Mercury. During the time this ’40 Ford was in the Barris shop George Barris finished the famous ‘1941 Ford that the Ayala’s had done for Jack Stewart. All these cars must have had an impact on the owner of the ‘1940 Ford, and with the radical chop the Barris crew did on his Coupe they must have had some spectacular plans to finish the car.

At this time, with the information we have we can only speculate about the original plans for the car. The chop done on the car is more extreme and streamlined than the one the Barris Shop later did on Tom Hocker’s 1940 Ford Coupe. My guess is that the plan was to get the car dropped very low to the ground, similar to the ride height of for instance the Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury. The bumpers would probably have been more heavier than the ’37 DeSoto bumpers the car later got. More something like 1946-48 Ford bumpers, or even more modern. The taillights were shaved of the rear fenders, that were molded into the body for that ultra smooth look. And more than likely they would have planned some bumper guard taillights for the car. Those were the big hit at the time. Wide white walls and perhaps the always popular Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps and a dark organic paint-job… I hope one day we will find out more about the original plans for this mystery 1940 Barris Custom.

In the foreground some guys are working on Frank Sonzogni’s 1950 Mercury, Sam Barris leaning against the building while tapping water for the wet sand on Frank’s Mercury. All the way on the right is the mystery 41-48 Ford sitting in front of the Barris Shop building. In the background we can see the ’40 Ford in primer, sitting next to the abandoned ’51 Ford Victoria.

This is a small portion of a photo taken from two girls from Texas who drove their ’32 Ford Roadster to the Barris Shop for a make over. The ’32 has ’53 Texas license plates when this photo was taken. The ’40 Ford can be seen still sitting in the same place behind the small 11052 Atlantic Blvd building. On all later photos the car is gone.


To me it looks like after the car had been found a new owner planned to rebuild the car as an early style Custom. A fully detailed flathead engine was installed. A set of original ’37 DeSoto ribbed bumpers, complete with original bumper guards was found and installed. Possibly to lower the car to a nice speed boat stance, perhaps with wide whites, fender skirts… The interior was kept mostly stock, stock dash, stock steering wheel. Everything so far fitted an early Custom Car theme. Possibly the project then was sold and somebody who decided to Hot Rod the car, perhaps making it look more “interesting” to be able to make a quick buck on it… The Barris crests on the car are most likely reproductions, but they sure helped me look into the history of this car.

I have no idea when or where the work on this version of the car was done, but I would love to know. I first saw the “finished” version of the ’40 Ford around 2007, when it was offered for Sale in California. In 2009 the car was auctioned at the Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson event, the car is now part of a private collection. The new owner has put wide white wall tires with single bar flipper hubcaps on the car and adjusted the stance to make it look at least a little more to how it was originally intended.

This was the first photo I saw of the car around 2007. All I could think about was “What were they thinking when they put that beautiful Custom body on a rake with the Radar wheels and out of place pin-striping”.

The back was even worse with bold striping on the trunk, and even the top, and how about the spider web… But look at those smooth sail panels.

Close up of the small side window opening and working vent window.

I came across this side view some time after the ebay auction had ended, I have no idea if the car sold then or not. My first reaction when I saw this photo was to cover the wheels/tires and bottom with my hands to see the beautiful profile on the body…. WOW.


Here is the information provided at the Barrett Jackson Auction in Scottsdale 2009

Auction Scottsdale 2009
Status Sold ($84,700.00)

Year 1940

Lot #1238 – A 1940 Ford chopped coupe that was found in a chicken ranch barn in Yucaipa, CA. It was restored to preserve the Kustom features of the find including shaved drip rails and door handles, frenched head and tail lights, leaded molded fenders and 6 -7″ chop from the original Ford lines. Chromed Radir single ribbed wheels were added with chromed De Soto bumpers. Powered by a rebuilt Ford Flathead with original speed equipment and Offenhauser heads, Eddie Meyer custom intake, LaSalle 3-speed transmission and Lincoln brakes. The paint and striping was done by E-Dog of Riverside and interior by Kiwi Kustoms also of Riverside. Along the way of this project, the find was documented and authenticated by George Barris as a part of Barris Industries permanent collection. Not a copy. An original one-of-a-kind.

VIN 5259754
Exterior Color BLACK PEARL
Interior Color BLACK/WHITE
Cylinders 8
Engine Size 223
Transmission 3-SPEED MANUAL


The pictures from the Barrett Jackson Auction were a little better and showed really well how bad the forward rake really looked on this car. It also showed that when the car was rebuilt the smooth rear fenders were butchered to install a set of frenched ’39 Ford teardrop taillights. Both the front and rear ’37 DeSoto bumpers have their original (behind the bumper) bumper guards.

The stock 1940 Ford Dash was smoothed and painted gloss black and just as the exterior covered with bold red striping. The steering wheel and column are stock 1940 Ford units. The interior is done in black and white tuck&roll with black carpets.

Fully dressed Flathead engine, and of course plenty of bold red striping on the firewall.

The front 3/4 view photo from the Barrett Jackson auction was the best photo I had seen of the car. It made me decide to do a quick Digital Restyling image how the car could have looked when it had been finished in 1951-52.

This is the last photo we have seen of the car, with new white wall tires, single bar flipper hubcaps and a bit better stance at the new owners private collection.

How it could have been?

Thinking about all the possibility the owner had when this car was first created at the Barris Shop around 1951 I decided to Digital Restyled one of the Barrett Jackson photos to get a feel of how the car could have looked when it had been finished. I gave the car a dark blue new paint-job, added heavier 1946 Ford bumpers, wide white wall tires with Sombrero hubcaps. I modified the forward rake to a more appropriate Speed-Boat Stance, added teardrop fender skirts, Appleton Spotlights and a chrome trim from an ’39 Ford around the windshield. I think a version similar to this styling could have been the goal of the original owner, as well as the team at the Barris Shop. Hopefully we one day see a new owner go this direction with this car.

Digital Restyled photo: I gave the car  a better, nice speed-boat stance, wide white wall tires and Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps,  1946 Ford bumpers, Appleton Spotlights, skirts and removal of the red pin-striping.

I hope that we will be able to shed some more light on this Mystery Barris Kustom Shop created 1940 Ford Custom Coupe in the future. Hopefully we will find somebody who knows where it went from 1954 till when it showed up again around 2007. And perhaps somebody knows what happened to this car after it was sold in 2009. If anybody can tell us more on this Mystery 1940 Ford, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to know, and share it here in this article. Thank you.


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Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

2 thoughts on “Barris 1940 Ford Chopped Coupe

  • Yes, very cool, especially in the restyling pic, it sold for 84.700 USD at the 2009 Barrett Jackson auction in Scottsdale. I hope it ended up in good hands.

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