Custom Car Chronicle
Barris Kustom ShopMarcia Campbell Collection

Barris 1949 Chevy Convertible


This classic, conservative restyled 1949 Chevy convertible was the first convertible ever to be customized at the Barris shop. Custom Car photographer Marcia Campbell was the original owner.


The story on Marcia’s chopped 1949 Chevrolet convertible might be a little controversial here and there. In several custom car publications, including several of the Barris books, there are two “nearly” identical 1949 Chevy customs mentioned and shown. One known as the Carl Abajian Chevy and the other as the Marcia Campbell/Bill Chuck Chevy. The fact is these two 1949 Chevy convertibles are the same car. Barris originally built this Chevy for Marcia Campbell in 1949.
Sadly the only photos shown so far are from the later two versions. We have not been able to find any photos of this Chevy when it was first finished for Marcia. Hopefully one day some photos of the car taken in 1949-50 will show up.
The photos shown in this article are from the period the car was owned by Carl Abajian from 1950 till 1952, and the Bill Chuck version from 1953. From the information we have gathered the Bill Chuck version was very close to the way Marcia had it built at Barris.

The story about the Chevy
Marcia bought the Chevy brand-new, and was the first person in California who bought a 1949 Chevy convertible. Son after she bought it she dropped it off at the Barris shop. Together with a list of things she wanted modified/improved.
The Barris shop did a really nice job on this car. It is very subtle and typical of the customs built in the late 1940s. Nothing on the car was overdone, or out of place. The car’s main focus points are the wonderfully shaped padded top, which was the work of the Gaylord Tops, shaped according to Barris’ instructions, and the raised and extended rear fenders.


Let’s start at the front. The hood was de-chromed and welded into one-piece, the hood corners were not rounded. Barris thought the stock sharp corners would fit better with the new modified grille. A 1949 Cadillac grille was modified to for the Chevy. The center horizontal grille bar end pieces were reshaped fit the Chevy fenders. The stock headlights were frenched into the front fenders, and a new splash pan was created to fit the new grille and the new bumper. The bumper was made using a 1949 Buick unit that was cut, reshaped and welded into one piece. It had a perfect fit to the body and new grille. The side trim was also removed from the body, but the chrome trim piece above the belt-line and on the rockers were left in place to give the body a more streamlined effect.

CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy1-WSide view gives a good look at the longer and higher rear fenders. The profile of the padded Gaylord top is absolutely perfect.

George and Marcia were not happy with the flow of the stock rear fenders because they did not match the shape of the trunk. So it was decided: the rear fenders needed to be reshaped. A power hammer was used to create new panels for the rear fenders. The end-result was 4 inches longer fenders and 10 inches higher at the rear, and level at the bottom. 1950 Chrysler taillights were fitted low on the reshaped rear fenders. The stock rear bumper was replaced with a much more elegant-looking 1949 Oldsmobile rear bumper. While reshaping the rear fenders, the gas filler neck was rerouted to the trunk and the gas door was filled in.

The windshield frame was chopped 3 inches, and then the car was sent to Gaylord with the message that Barris wanted a really smooth flowing top, with some very elegantly shaped B-pillars for the Chevy. The Gaylord shop did a wonderful job on the top. Its shape and flow is absolutely perfect, the top corner radius on the side window opening and angle of the B-pillar is very elegant and complements the shapes of the body. Gaylord was also responsible for the interior upholstery. They used turquoise blue and white naugahyde in horseshoe shape seats with tuck and roll panels. The dashboard was painted in two tones, regal blue metallic and blue mist, and a set of custom chrome dash knobs was used to finish off the interior.

CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy3-W1953 license plate on the Bill Chuck version of the car.



A close up of the front shows the modified grille end-pieces and the frenched headlights.


CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy5-WInterior was done by Gaylords. (photo from the Barris DVD)

During the customizing in the shop, George Barris badly damaged the hood on Marcia’s Chevy. George was working on one side of the hood – while welding the two half’s together – and the other side kept popping up. In a moment of totally frustrating, George hammered hard on the hood… to hard! The hammer not only left a deep dent in the hood, but bounced off and cracked the windshield. Marcia was in tears and George went out and bought a new hood and windshield the next day.


Carl Abajian
Marcia owned the Chevy only for about a year. She then traded the car with Carl Abajian for his unfinished 1942 Ford coupe, another Barris custom.
When Carl Abajian owned the car he had Barris repaint it in a dark deep royal blue. Carl’s version of this Chevy was featured in Motor Trend magazine, Dan Post Blue books and a few smaller photos in several other magazines in the early 1950’s.

CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy4-WCarl Abajian (left) with “Smiley” are posing with the freshly redone Chevy at the Barris Shop.

CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy7-WPhoto above shows the Carl Abajian version of the Chevy in the Dan Post Blue book. Incidentally these photos were taken by Marcia Campbell.

The Chevy received a full write up article in the September 1953 issue of Hop Up magazine.  The article tells a story of the car being owned by Bill Chuck. The car was powder blue again when it was photographed for this 1953 feature. Apparently the car was repainted in powder blue after Carl sold it to Bill. The heading on the Hop Up 1953 article “confirms” the car being redone again. “First ‘49 Chevy Convertible Delivered in California has been customized, customized and re-customized many times.” After this the car disappeared, and we have not been able to find a trace of the car.
Reference and more info

  • Dan Post, Blue book of Custom Restyling
  • Custom Cars, Trend Book No. 101
  • Hop Up magazine, September 1953
  • Rodder’s Journal, Number 51, Marcia Campbell article
  • Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s Volume 1 and 2

[box_light]Marcia Campbell was a well known, published, automotive photographer who took many, now very famous, custom car photos in the early 1950’s. To find out more about here work and here cars check out the Marcia Campbell Section on the Custom Car Chronicle.[/box_light]







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)

3 thoughts on “Barris 1949 Chevy Convertible

  • Hi Rik !
    Thanks for highlighting this fantastic customcar , it is so perfect using part made to fit the car like it came from the factory . I never seen the interior picture before , looks like a -49
    -50 Pontiac steeringwheel and late version (dull peak) of 112 Appletons . I like both versions but I favor the Abajian version with dark paint and Sombreros , what a knockout custom car ! Quite amazing that no one have built anything close to this is 64 years ?

  • Rik,

    I had noticed and admired many of the changes Marcia and the Barris’ had made to this fine custom chevy, but because the rear quarters resemble the later Chevys I hadn’t taken note of the modifications there. Thanks for pointing out the things that make it appear, as Wolf said, “like it came from the factory”. I have always liked G.M.s light blue from that era (my first car was a ’54 Pontiac in that colour) and I have to say that, although the darker blue looks fantastic, I personally think the lighter shade offers a more cohesive appearance with the white(?) top. You provided a quick colourized pic of the Abajian version, so I took the liberty of showing it in the lighter colour for comparison.

    Hope this works..!


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