PANORAMIC FORD part one
The Buster Litton Panoramic Ford is really what Customizing is all about. Created by the Barris Kustoms Shop and Carl and George Cerny enhancing all the lines on this 1949 Ford to create this wonderful flowing Custom Car Milestone.
I have been gathering material for a Custom Car Chronicle Buster Litton Panoramic Ford article for quite some time. The Panoramic Ford as Buster named it has been on my list of personal faborite Custom Cars for as long as I first saw a photo of it. Fortunately for us the car has been documented pretty well back in the early / mid 1950’s with lots of photos, and even better in more recent years even more material has surfaced as in some amazing color photos and the best of all detailed information from the two of the original owners of the car, Buster Litton, officially the second. Owner of the car, but the one after who the car was named, and Don Schaedel, who owned it after Buster sold the car. (we will name him third owner of the car) We will all get into that much more detailed in a bit. With the help of good friend Rob Radcliffe we have been able to get a Pretty good view of the cars history. In fact we have so much information, that we might need more than just one article to cover it all.
Allen Anderson 1949 Ford
The story on the car starts with an owner from which we do not know much, basically just his name, Allen Anderson from Compton California. Allen is the owner of the 1949 Ford Coupe who takes his car down to the Barris Atlantic Blvd. Kustom Shop to have it converted to a wild, but ellegantly looking hard-topped full custom. With a wonderfully shaped hard-topped style top and both front and rear completely restyled.
This photo appeared in the December 1952 issue of Motor Trend article “What is the cost of Customizig”. George Barris was interviewed in this article and some of the past and present shop projects were used to illustrate the MT article topic. It shows the 1949 Ford how it looked in primer at the Barris Shop. It is unknown if the car still belonged to Allan Anderson at the time of the photo, or if it already was owned by Buster. We can see the stock Ford side trim, and interesting to see is that the cut down 1951 Mercury fender skirts are already in pace. This is so far, the earliest photo we have seen of the car.
According to Buster Litton, as well as the later owner Don Schaedel, it was Sam Barris who tackled the increadible chop, by removing the B-pillars completely, welding the tops of the door frames to the top, reshaping the A-pilars and reshaping the entire roof and turret panel to one of the best looking chopped cars ever created. Sadly, so far, no in-progress photo of the cars initial restyling have ever showed up. The numbers on the chopped top listed in the old and newer publications have varied quite a bit, and both Buster and Don are not sure about the amounts either. The only number that seams constant is that the windshield was chopped 3 inches. We assume that Sam dropped the rear just as much as it needed to look right, and never really took any measurements. Shoebox Ford convertible side windows where heavily modified to fit the car. With the chop in primer it was decided the Ford’s front end needed more “movement” and a set of forward raked 1951 Studebaker front fender headlight units was bought, and one, the drivers side, was tacked in place. Then, for reasons unknown at this point, Allan decided to sell the the unfinished project.
(Both Buster Litton and Don Schaedel mentioned the car started out as a Coupe model, but after doing some research and talking with Andreas Åberg, who built a near clone of the Panoramic Ford, we have come to the conclusion that the Panoramic Ford more likely was based on a Sedan model. We will get back to that in part two)
Buster Litton buys the Ford
The 1951 Studebaker front fenders installation was completed and a new grill opening was created using the top portion of an 1951 Mercury grill surround welded to the bottom of the 1949 hood. The stock half round opening in the hood was filled in at the time as well, and the center hood peek extended down. The new forward portruding hood lip worked really well with the pointy Studebaker front fenders and headlights, making it all flow together like it belonged on the car in the first place. A new grille for the new opening was created from a 1953 Chevy grille bar with 3 grille teeth. To the end of each side of the grille bar The Barris Shop added a 1951 Ford grille spinner.
The Fords front bumper was kept, and even it stock position was working really well, but the spash pan did need some work and was molded into the fenders and lower grille opening to work with the rest of the new front end. All the work on the top, including the sliding rear quarter windows, and weather proofing the top was finished at this time. The Ford was already lowered when it was still owned by Allen. At this point Buster takes the car home and anjoyed it like this for some time.
Before there had been any of the color photos published or shared I did this colorized version of the Panoramic Ford for an article in the Rodder’s Journal.
Carl and George Cerny get to work on the Ford
In early 1953 Buster takes the car to George and Carl Cerny’s shop, (Cerny’s Auto Paint & Metal Shop) to have the car finished. Buster had been really happy with the way he top and front end of the car looks, but the rear now needed some attention. Together with the Cerny’s it was decided that the Ford rear fenders needed some more length and that the 1951 Oldsmobile 98 units, which George Cerny loved so much, would suite the car really well. The Stock Ford rear portion of the rear fenders was cut off and the Oldsmobile units grafted in place creating a nice counter weight for the overhang on the front created by the Studebaker front fenders. To make everything look like it actually belonged on the car, the stock Ford rear bumper-end pieces were cut off and 1952 ford rear bumper ends were welded in place. The shape of the 52 Ford units folowed the shape of the Olsmobile rear fenders really well and the larger wrap around section tied everything wonderfully together.
Wonderful rear 3/4 view of the Ford with an 1953 tag on the License plate.
Side view photo from a higher point of view shows the wonderful lines on Buster’s Ford. The forward angle on the front fenders, the wonderful sloping top, the Buick side spear and the Oldsmobile rear fenders work all wonderfully together.
The rear spash pan was molded to the body, and the stance was fine tuned. Most of the work was done by Carl Cerny before brother George Cerny and Doug Anderson, who worked at the Cerny shop at the time, painted the car with a wonderfull deep coco rust lacquer. The paint was picked from an excisting car color, sadly none of the people involved remember whick car color was used. But Don mentioned that the base color was mixed with toners or other colors to reach the perfect color for the car. A 1950 Buick side trim had the absolute perfect shape for the car, so the stock Ford side trim which had stayed on the car was removed an the Buick unit was mounted in its place for a much more elegant look.
The Panoramic Ford was also used in the Barris list from 1953-54 illustrating number M64 Chop and Hard Top Coupe version for $650.-.
Car Craft magazine did this nice four page full feature on Buster’s Ford in the December 1953 issue. One spread was done in sepia tones and the second spread in greenish tone rotogravure print.
This snapshot of the Panoramic Ford comes from the Bill Gaylord photo album. This photo was most likely taken by Bill’s wife who was also model in a color photo-shoot at this same location (see photo below). Sadly Bill’s photo album did not include any close up photos of the actual interior work done at the Gaylord’s shop.
Up to this point buster had a mild Custom interior without any tuck & roll panels in his Ford. Nobody remembers who did this early version of the interior, but Buster remembers that when the car was nearly finished at the Cerny shop he decided the simple interior was not enough for the car and sold that complete interior to Junior Conway, who used it in his famous Shoebox Ford. Buster then took his car to Bill Gaylord for a full custom interior with wild rolls and pleats in off white (antique white) and dark orange (bittersweet orange). He added a set of 1953 Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps on wide whites, and a set of appleton spotlights and the Panoramic Ford was born.
This photo comes from an article about the Gaylord shop in Rod & Custom magazine. It shows the car with the nearly completed upholstery and one of the employees is refitting the steering wheel horn ring on the Crestliner steering wheel.
A good view on the uniquely styled interior in the Panoramic Ford. The Gaylord shop really outdid themselves on this one. The antique white and bittersweet orange must have looked so great with the coca copper paint on the car. This photo also shows that the side window garnish moldings were chrome plated as well.
Cropped photo shows the Gaylord interior in color. The wide and very round pleats give the interior a very luxurious look and feel. The Steering wheel used in the Panoramic Ford is an Ford Crestliner Accessory steering wheel.
Updates on the Panoramic Ford
Buster Litton owned the Panormic Ford from 1953 till the early summer of 1954. He showed the car at several in- and outdoor car shows in California winning quite a few awards with the car. During the period Buster owned the finished car he made a few small changes to the car, which help us identify the date some of these photos where taken. The first modifications made are the installment of the Ford Shoebox dealer accessory bumper guards on the front bumper. And a 1951 Kaiser over-rider on the rear bumper which was modified to have the exhaust tips run true the bullets. A little later the Barris crest was added on the front quarter panels just above the Buick side trim.
Buster Litton and his Ford with some of the other original Kustoms of Los Angeles club members at the Barris Kustom Shop on Atlantic Blvd. Possibly gathering to drive to one f the Car shows. We can see the following cars in the picture from L-R: Nobby Miyakawa 1952 Mercury “The Japan”, Chuck DeWitt 1950 Ford convertible, Louis Bettancourt Ayala/Barris 1949 Mercury, Buster Litton’s Panoramic Ford, Tommy Thornburg’s 1947 Studebaker, and an unknown 1946-48 Ford Coupe. The guys are all posing for the unknown photographer.
Not sure if this photo was taken at the same day as the one in front of the Barris Shopm but we do know that this photo was also taken at Atlantic Blvd. not to far from the Barris Shop. Just driving away from the corner is Buster, with Chuck DeWitt behind him, Louis Bettancurt is speeding up in the middle of the street.
This Custom Car Chronicle article contains a lot of information gathered by Rob Radcliffe and his good friend Octavio Chavez on their meetings with Buster Litton. First hand information which has helped us solve a lot of mysteries about the Panoramic Ford.
How Rob Radcliffe got in contact with buster Litton and Don Schaedel.
By Rob Radcliffe
Long story short, my best friend Octavio Chavez has worked in the bodyshop of our local Ford dealership for the past few years and about a month or so ago he walked into the front office area on his lunchbreak and happened to walk past a cubicle and spotted a picture of the Buster Litton shoebox hanging on the wall with the Ford dealership’s shuttlebus driver Ron standing in front of the car. The particular photo was taken in the mid 1950s.
Octavio recognized the car immediately and had also known Ron from talking to him at work, so he asked him about the picture and it just so happens that Ron and Buster have been friends since High School in Huntington Park. Octavio called me up and I ran over to the dealership after work to meet Ron and hang out for some time, talking about the cars from back then and of curse Buster Litton. It was really one of those small world/too good to be true coincidence stories…
Ron told us that Buster Litton would park the car at his house in South Gate while he went up the mountains to go skiing with his girlfriend and Ron would take it out cruising and hit the Drive-In movie and the Clock Drive In. I kept in touch with Ron and got to meet him and Buster Litton on a Saturday morning at the Rod Run over breakfast and talk about Kustoms… it was pretty damn kool! We have stayed in touch ever since.
This is one of the photos that got us puzzled a little. Buster has mentioned that this must have been taken after he sold it to Don since Buster was not in the King Pins Car Club. But the car does not show the Barris crests. So we do believe Buster must have still owned the car when the photo was taken. That is Buster in the black and white shirt with his back towards the camera, talking to Jack Stewart.
Chris at Shoebox Central send us this photo of a NOS set of the same bumper guards used by Buster on the Panoramic Ford.
The car always had a great running stock flathead motor and Ron, Busters good friend, remembers it very vividly when Buster and him both drove it up to the Oakland Roadster Show in 1954. A long drive, but with no problems what so ever. Ron mentioned that the motor was untouched and always filthy dirty from oil leaks and road grime, but nobody at the shows cared because the hood was never opened and mechanicals were not important to show judges back then.
Buster Litton accepting the award for Best Custom at the 1954 National Roadster Show in Oakland California. By now the car has Barris crests mounted on the front quarters and not visible in this photo the Ford Shoebox Accessory bumper guards.
In early summer of 1954, when Buster’s son was born, buster decided he needed a more practical car for his young family, and decided it was time to let go of the Ford. Don Schaedel, who remembered the car from its early primer stages at the Barris shop in 1951, decides this car is perfect for him and made a deal with Buster. More about that, and many more photos and interesting info including a full time line on the Panoramic Ford can be seen in the second part of the Panoramic Ford story here on the Custom Car Chronicle….
Go to Part TWO of the Panoramic Ford…
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