Custom Car Builders

July 30, 2018

Barris Display Wall Pan-Pacific Auditorium




The Barris Kustom Shop had a special wall Barris Shop display at the Petersen Motorama Shows held at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. From 1951 till 1955 these Barris Shop Wall Displays were among the highlights of the event.

Petersen Publishing had a lot of experience with promoting their publications and they used their knowledge to help promote that would be come a series of most influential Hot Rod and Custom Car shows on the West Coast, and possibly in the whole USA in the early to mid 1950′. The show ran from 1950 till 1955, originally names the Petersen Motorama show, but in 1954 the name was changed to Motor Revue & Motorama due to the Motorama name now being used by General Motors for their futuristic new car show events. George Barris already worked with the Petersen Publishing people for some of their publications supplying Custom Car content. As soon as George heard about the plans for the Motorama shows he knew instinctively that these shows would become a huge success. Both locally, as well as nationally when they were covered in the Petersen publications.

George also understood that these shows were not only to show off a series of beautiful Custom Cars to the public. These shows were much more than just that. These shows were ideal to help promote the Barris name, and to draw attention from possible new customers. Potential customers needed to have somebody to speak to at these shows, so George would be there at all time, and if he had to step out, there were other employees who could show of the cars on display, and talk about possible future projects. Besides handing out actual business cards at these events George Barris understood that the cars on display were even more an business card for the Barris Shop. So from early on the Barris team tried to display their latest, and very best customs, presented the best way possible, with trophies, etc. From the 1951 Peterson event George had a special Wall Display for the Barris Shop. These wall displays drew a lot of people during the multi day event. Only in 1953 the Barris Shop did not have a full wall to be used as Shop display.

Creating displays like this for large events was not something new in 1950, it had been done by the big car brands at car shows for many years. But it might have been something new for a Custom Car Shop to promote its business like this at Car Shows. George Barris had a great sense for promoting his business, and these Barris Wall Displays at the Motorama are a perfect sample of this.


In 1951 the Petersen Motorama Event moved from the LA Shrine Convention Hall to the beautiful Art-Deco Pan-Pacific Auditorium building. The first show was very well promoted, and a huge success, learned from the first show the second event at the new locations became an even bigger show. From this first Pan Pacific Auditorium held show there are very few known photos, and only one photo we know about, shows the very first Barris Wall display. Only one Barris Custom can be seen in this photo, the Larry Ernst Chevy, with George and Sam standing next to it. At this moment we are not aware if any other Barris Customs were part of this display, or if there was just the Ernst Chevy. If any of our readers has any more details about this, please let us know. The 1951 Petersen Motorama event was held from November 7th till the 11th.

1951 Motorama Program and floor plan. Sadly the Barris Shop was not listed in the incomplete list of vendors/participants, so we have, so far, not been able to find out where the Barris display was at the show.


The only photo we have come across from a Barris Display at the 1951 Petersen Motorama Show is this photo of the all suited up Sam and George Barris standing proudly with the Larry Ernst Chevy in front of  a curtain covered wall with beautiful Art-Deco BARRIS letters.



The display wall at the 1952 Petersen Motorama was the largest of them all. At least with the greatest number of cars displayed at the wall. For this year Barris Kustoms had teamed up with the Carson Top Shop, and both their names were on the huge curtain covered back wall. 6 recently completed Barris Customs were on display in the joint display space. The 1952 show was also the first time Barris Kustom displayed their cars with their brand new Barris Crest mounted on the front fender. From this year on many of the cars on display had small plants separating the display area from the visitor path. The green plants gave the show a very special feeling. The 1952 Petersen Motorama event was held from November 10th till the 16th.

The Barris / Carson display at the show included some of the very best and recently finished customs. From left to right we can see Tommy Thornburgh’s 1947 Studebaker, Robert La Briola’s 1949 Oldsmobile, Dan Landon’s 1949 Chevy, Jack Brumbach’s 1942 Ford, Don Vaughn’s 1947 Buick and barely visible in this photo at the end of the line-up was Bob Hirohata’s 1951 Mercury.


Tommy Thornburgh’s unusual 1947 Studebaker convertible was sitting on the far left side of the Barris Kustoms Display wall. The car was painted ice blue with a dark blue Carson Padded Top.


Robert La Briola 1949 Oldsmobile in lime gold was a relatively mild custom, but it was exceptionally restyled for a beautiful, almost European feel.


This photo taken by Andy Southard shows the huge Carson letters on the curtain covered wall above Dan Landon’s Chevy. In the center of the display the Barris team had displayed some of the trophies won by the cars on display, and set up a small table with business cards for the potential new customers.


Dan Landon was a member of George Barris’s Kustoms Los Angles Club as the brass tag on the front bumper shows.


Jack Brumbach‘s 1942 Ford came all the way from San Fransisco.


Don Vaughn’s 1947 Buick in a deep purple must have looked stunning with its white top, plus it was parked next to the light colored, sea foam green Hirohata Merc Don came all the way from Port Orchard, Washington (But perhaps the car was still in Ca, after it had just been finished).


The last Barris Custom of the Display wall all the way to the right was the just-in-time finished 1951 Mercury for Bob Hirohata.



At the 1953 Petersen Motorama event at the Pan Pacific Auditorium the Barris Shop did not have a wall presentation. I have not been able to find out why the hop did not have their annual wall display this year, perhaps they applied for it too late. Instead the Barris Shop displayed a number of cars spread out over the building, with the Sam Barris 1950 Buick, which was just finished in time for the how on a center stage display. The Barris name, created from gold glitter cardboard most likely for the previous years was used on the single car display of the 1947 Studebaker “the Grecian”. The 1953 Petersen Motorama was held from October 26th till November 1th.

Overview photo shows the Sam Barris 1950 Buick on the center display allowing the audience to walk around it and view it from every angle. In the background is the ’47 Grecian with the “Barris” name on the curtain behind it.


The Grecian ’47 Studebaker had been recently finished at the Barris Shop, and there had not been enough time to do the interior. So it the car was displayed with white cardboard taped to the inside of the windows. Interesting is that the dot on the “i” on the Barris name is missing. The fact that the “Belond” sign in the background seems to be made of similar glitter card-board might indicate that this part of the displays was organized by the Petersen crew.


1954 MOTOR REVUE & Motorama

The Petersen Show was renamed Motor Revue & Motorama for the 1954 year. This was done to make sure people would not confuse it for the GM Motorama. At the ’54 Barris Shop Wall Display the Barris crew displayed 5 new Barris Customs, plus the Golden Sahara was displayed on a huge turn table just in front to the wall. Making this one of the most spectacular Barris Show displayed in history. George Barris had just started his Kustom Of America, which evolved from the Kustoms Los Angeles Car Club. A lot of attention to the new nation wide club was paid at this event and besides the “Barris” script in gold glitter card board, a huge Barris Crest, there was now also a huge sign for the KUSTOMS of America done in gold glitter cardboard on the curtain covered back wall. The 1954 event was held from November 5 till November 14th.

Overview of the Barris Display wall at the 1954 Petersen Motor Revue & Motoramat at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. From left to right we can see the following Barris Customs; Dave Bugarin 1951 Mercury, Chuck DeWitt 1952 Ford wagon, Roy Dobb’s Simca/60, Nobby Miyakawa’s 1953 Mercury HT “The Japan” and Ed Sloan’s 1953 Plymouth Belvedere all the way on the right only showing its front fender and hood.


Close up of the Barris letters, the Barris Crest and the KUSTOMS of America cardboard glitter signs.


Barry Mazza shared this photo taken from the opposite side, showing the Chuck DeWitt wagon and the Dobb’s Simca. Most likely the well dressed lady and men in the picture were helping Barris to promote both the body shop as well as the Kustoms Of America club at the event.


Another snapshot from the Barry Mazza Collection is rather blurry, but since only very few photos of this event and the Barris Wall have surfaced I like to show it here anyway. Can you imagine being able to walk around the Golden Sahara I, and then look in the other direction and see the wall full of other amazing Barris Custom creations.


The Barris crew sure knew how to draw attention, with the Golden Sahara as highlight on the turntable and the long Display wall behind it. Custom Car Golden Years.


The 1954 event is the first one we have been able to find color photos from. Ina May Overman, who owned a Valley Custom Shop ’52 Lincoln custom, which was also at the event, took a series of beautiful color slides, including this one of the Golden Sahara I with part of the Barris Display wall in the background. So now we know that this year the Barris Shop had a dark blue curtain as backdrop.


The point of view in Ina May’s photo was the Golden Sahara.


Walter Wyss took this photo of George Barris talking to Jim Skonzakes about details on Jim’s just finished Golden Sahara. This photo illustrates how these shows meant business for shop owners as George Barris.


The Dave Bugarin 1951 Mercury was just finished in time for the 1955 Petersen show. It was put on display all the way to the left side of the designated wall and was lacking the Appleton Spotlights which would be installed shortly after the show.


Danny Lares, the new owner of the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford took this snapshot of the Dave Bugarin Mercury at the event.


Chuck DeWitt, who used to have a beautiful well known Barris Kustom restyled Shoebox Ford convertible with chopped padded top had his latest Barris restyled car on display at the event A much milder ’52 Ford wagon in beautiful green with burnt orange.


Interesting detail showing one of the woman of the Barris crew promoting the Barris shop and the Kustoms of America Car club in front of Chuck’s Wagon.


A very unusual car for Barris to display at the event was the Roy Dobb’s Simca/60 that was slightly restyled and fitted with a flathead V-8. I guess that Barris was aiming at a new group of clients who would have the show restyle the more and more popular Sports Cars.


Nobby Miyakawa’s 1953 Mercury HT “The Japan” was the subject in several How Two magazine articles written by George Barris.


At the 1954 Petersen Show George Barris paid a lot of attention to promote his newly formed Kustoms of America Club. Several signs were set up at the Barris Shop Wall display, as well as a desk where you could sign up and fill out your application for the club.


Barris even had Miss Kustoms of America hand out flyers and business cards at the show. In this photo from the Danny Lares Collection we can see here with a stack of flyers that look to be a reprint of the special Rod & Custom magazine ad George Barris ran (inset picture).


1955 International MOTOR REVUE

The last year the Petersen event was held it had changed name ones again. It was now names the International Motor Revue, and the location was held again at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. 4 Barris Kustom creations were displayed in front of a red curtain covered Barris Display wall. Dave Bugarin’s 1951 Mercury was displayed at the wall for the second year in a row. This time it can be seen with the Appleton Spotlights installed.

From left to right are; Buddy Alcorn’s 1950 Mercury, Frank Monteleon’s 1941 Ford, Dick Jackson / Ronnie Dragoo 1954 Mercury and Dave Bugarin’s 1951 Mercury. The Kustoms of America sign is again up on the wall, but the signs on the floor and table where you could sign up used at the ’54 show are now missing.


Buddy Alcorn’s 1950 Mercury was originally restyled for an unknown owner by the Ayala brothers, but later bought by Buddy and delivered at the Barris Shop for a complete make over. They finished it just in time for the 1955 Petersen International Motor Revue. Sadly the overview photo is the only one we know about showing the Alcorn Mercury at this event.


Dick “Peep” Jackson / Ronnie Dragoo’s 1954 Mercury looked really amazing in Colonial White with “Sam Bronze” in front of the red curtains. The green plans and wood planters looked so great at these show. They might be in the way of showing the cars completely, but the overall effect was very classic and stylish. Andy Southard captured this show in some amazing color slides.


Frontal view of the Jackson / Magoo Mercury.


Frank Monteleon brought his super wild ’41 Ford Convertible to be displayed at the Barris Wall Display. The ’41 Ford was updated with later model Oldsmobile fenders which gave the car a much more modern look. The bright pink paint with white top must have drawn a lot of attention at the show.


The top on Frank’s ’41 Ford was constructed from a ’38 Ford sedan top. Notice the beautiful detailed Midget that was done by the Barris Shop as well. 


Dave Bugarin’s deep blue ’51 Mercury really stood out a lot better with the red curtains behind it at this ’55 show than with the blue curtains of the previous year. When this photo was taken the midget had been moved to be displayed with Dave’s Mercury.


Mercury Perfection.


Close ups of the glitter card-board signs on the 1955 Display Wall.


As far as we have been able to find out the Barris Display walls only happened at the Petersen Motorama events. Of course the Barris Kustom Shop and the cars entered by this show were at many other Car Show’s around the US, but possibly never all situated together as we have seen in this article. If you have any more information about these 1950-55 Petersen Motorama events, and specifically to the Barris Displays, please let us know. We are looking to find more photos of these events, as well as personal stories, of people who attended these event. Please send the Custom Car Chronicle and email if you have more input.


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About the Author

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)


  1. Great article, Rik.
    I always wondered who owned that Simca, as I love customized sports cars.
    I did a little research and discovered it was in Rod & Custom Magazine, October, 1959. I quickly went through my stacks of R&C, but did not have that issue. Ebay to the rescue – it’s on its way!


  2. Very nice article with lots of information. I always liked the “how to series” on Nobby Miyakawa’s ’53 Mercury. I was also a fan of Ronnie Dragoo’s ’54 Mercury and liked the pictures you included in this story.


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