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Barris Kustom ShopEarly Custom Cars

Dick Fowler 1938 Coupe




It is miraculous that this very early Barris Custom survived and it in relatively good condition. And the best news is it has been acquired by early Custom Car Collector Kurt McCormick who has the car completely restored at this moment.

Special thanks to Kurt McCormick for the help with this article.

Early Custom

The 1937-38 Ford’s are rarely seen as full customs. Some blame this on the fact that during the tis time America was in a recession, and car sales was way down compared to before and after. Making the ’37-38 Ford much rarer than other year Fords. Others feel that these model Fords are considered “ugly” by many, thus not a good candidate for a Custom. I personally feel that this 1938 Ford Standard, the Dick Fowler Barris Kustoms built Custom proofs how beautiful these cars are, and how perfectly suited they are to be restyled. Especially done as this sample in the typical 1940’s style. The tear drop shape of the main body, the window openings and the fenders lend themselves exceptionally well for a speed boat stance cruiser.

Dick Fowler’s 1938 Ford coupe was restyled in 1946 – 47. The exact dates are unknown, but the Dan Post California Custom Car Photo Album published in 1947 shows one photo of the car, finished in a medium to dark glossy color. Because this was such an early Custom there are very few original photos of the car left, or at least known to us. One other photo of the car, the most popular and possibly the best looking as photo, as well as how the car looks in the photo, is the one used in the Barris Kustom “Techniques of the 50’s” volume 1 book published in 1995. This photo shows the car in white primer sitting on the street in front of the Barris’s customs shop on Compton Ave.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-01This is the¬†only real clear photo we know of Dick’s Ford. It is parked in front of the Compton Ave, Barris shop, with the Rex Liquor store in the background. The overall look of the car is stunning, even in white primer.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-22Dick’s Coupe appeared in a dark most likely gloss color in the Dan Post California Custom Car Photo Album small book which was published in 1947.

Lets take a closer look at the car and the story as we know it now.

Dick Fowler took his 1938 Ford Standard Coupe to the Barris Brothers. Most likely the project was started in 1946, while the two Barris brothers had started their first shop together on Imperial Avenue in Los Angeles. And was later finished when the shop had moved to a larger location at 7674 Compton Ave. Florence, California ( Los Angeles ). Dick lived in the city of Southgate, California.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-barris-business-cardEarly Barris’s Customs Shop business card from the Compton Ave. shop.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-20Dick’s coupe parked in front of the Barris’s Custom Shop o Compton Ave. The car looks to be gloss painted in this photo, but it is hard to tell.

The Barris shop was named Barris’s Custom Shop at this time, no “K” for Customs yet. At the Barris shop it was most likely Sam who performed most of the work. The car was lowered with a slight more drop in the back. 1940 Ford brakes were installed for safety reasons. Sam Chopped the top with a beautiful transition from the top towards the cat-walk. The roof line on this coupe flows really well. During the chop the drip rails were removed for a smoother look, but also because it was much easier to do than to recreate the drip rail and make it look very good. Besides, this was SoCal, so who needs drip rails. Sam rounded the top rear corner of the door with a large radius, which really helped the top flow nice into the rear quarter windows.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-21Enlarged section of the photo in front of the Barris’s shop.

At the front an 1942 Packard Clipper grille was installed, an the hood was modified to fit. 1939 Ford standard hood sides had the grille louvers on the front section and the louvers at the sides filled for an new smooth yet sculptured hood side. The early photos do not show the hood louvers. So those were added later to cool the engine with a now much smaller grille and no hood side louvers four rows of louvers were punched in. The hood trim piece was removed. All handles and trim were shaved and at the rear the license plate was recessed in a wonderful shaped cut out in the lower section of the trunk. The taillights are the stock teardrop shaped 1938 Ford units. The stock bumpers were removed and replaced with two 1937 DeSoto front bumpers, a typical period custom touch. A set of aftermarket seal beam headlights were added. And a set of amber colored fog-lights were mounted on the front bumper. Another accessory item early Custom Cars used to have.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-03A small side view photo of Dick’s Ford appeared in the November 1949 issue of Motor Trend magazine in the CUSTOM CREATIONS section.

To finish the looks a set of aftermarket tear drop skirts was added. Probably since the car was built shortly after WWII a set of black wall tires was used. During this time white wall tires were sometimes hard to find. Single bar flipper hubcaps and beauty rings mounted on 1940 Ford wheels finish the look. The car was then primered in white. We have heard this from several sources that Custom cars were usually finished this way and driven for a while to find out any bugs before the car would get painted.


The styling of the car is in a style we also see from early Customs created by Harry Westergard. We know from George Barris his personal 1936 Ford convertible that the Barris brothers worked with Harry and learned a lot from him when they still lived in Sacramento in the early 1940’s. Most likely this influence might have “dictated” the final shape of the Dick Fowler coupe in 1947.

In the early 1950’s Dick Fowler became a Crane Operator and slowly started a family… and “moved on” in live. Most likely Dick sold the car, but at this point we do not have any details from this period. The next “sighting” of the car appeared in 1979. We know all this because Alex Idardi has researched the car when his family owned the car from the late 1990’s till 2013.

Discovered in 1979

In 1979 a gentleman by the name of¬†Robert Lomax found the car in a small Los Angeles newspaper ad¬†(the Sunland, CA Recycler).¬†The ad read something like “Old custom Rod 1938 Ford coupe for sale”. Mr. Lomax drove out to Sunland California – (near the L.A. Valley). He saw the car, looked it over real good, figured it was some old Custom from “the old days” but back in the late 1970’s not too many people really cared. Mr Lomax appreciated that the car was something old and nifty, bought it, brought it home, and carefully tore it apart. He cleaned up the chassis, added a very healthy High Performance 350 Chevy engine & turbo transmission, had certain parts rechromed, then, for no apparent reason stopped the project and let the car sit until 1997. The car was then found by Marky Idzardi at an Riverside garage, for sale. Marky informed his brother Alex, to come and take a look at this typical 1940’s Custom. They had no idea what it was, but they liked the looks of it. Fellow Shifters member Kevan Sledge was called in to see if he knew any history on it. All three tried to find the money to buy it, but in the end they could not raise¬†enough for the asking price.

The Idzardi years

Several years later Marky¬†and Alex’s¬†parents came across the car again, now for sale at a yard sale at Mr Lomax his home. This time the Idzardi’s bought the car, and took it home. With the Ford safe in the family garage Alex called¬†Kevan Sledge to come over and take a look at this car his parents had just bought. “You will really enjoy this”.¬†The Ford had been on the guys mind ever since¬†they saw it a couple of years ago, and it came up in several conversations after that, so Alex knew¬†Kevan would really love this. Kevan was very thrilled to find out which car Alex had talked about. And after staring at it for some time Kevan¬†mumbled, ‚ÄúMan, I swear I‚Äôve seen this car in a book or magazine at some point in time. It has history.‚ÄĚ It was actually Rob Radcliffe who found the pictures of the car on the Custom Car Photo Archive site. Especially the one from Barris Technique book made it clear that this must be the the Dick Fowler 1938 Ford. The guys, and especially the Idzardi family was very happy. They asked George Barris to come over and look at the car, to see if this was indeed the Dick Fowler Ford.¬†George¬†confirmed that this was indeed the Dick Fowler car. George¬†Barris later handed over a pair of gold crests along with a certificate of authenticity.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-15This is how the Ford sat for some years in the Idzardi’s garage.

Knowing this was an very early Barris Custom, Axle continued researching into the history of the Ford¬†and its original owner. Alex got in contact with some of the guys he knew that were at the scene at Barris back in the 1940’s. Guys like¬†Johnny Zero, Jesse Lopez, Jack Stewart, Bill Ortega, Nick Matranga and others. All knew Dick an were able to tell a few things about Dick and the car.¬†Dick attended Fremont High School in South Gate ‚Äď a suburb of LA. Dick dated, and later married, the most beautiful gal at Southgate High School. He and his friends¬†were known as the ‚ÄúFox Florence Guys‚ÄĚ because they all hung around the new Fox Theater on Florence Avenue.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-foxFox Theater was a new theater built in the 1930’s with art deco flare. It was surrounded by communities deeply immersed into the young hot rod and custom scene of the 1940’s and 50’s. (images from:

When I talked to¬†Jack Stewart in 2010, he mentioned that he remembered Dick car¬†in white primer, but he added that the photo in the Barris book of the car in white primer might have something to do with this… “fading memory”. However when Alex Idzari carefully sanded layer for layer on the car in 2010 he came to the conclusion that Dick’s Ford was painted black from the factory. After it was first customized in 1946-47 it was in white primer white primer. After that the car was painted a dark navy blue, and the last finished paint job was in Jade green.

Restored for the Customs Then & Now Exhibit.

The car sat in the Idzardi’s family garage for years. It was for sale, but not to many people knew about it. Kevan Sledge was one of the people who really would like to buy it and bring it back to its former glory. But the asking price was just to high. It wasn’t until Alex was asked to assist in the Grand National Roadster Shows “History of the Custom” gathering that the family got inspired to fix the car up in time for the event. For this event 80 of the most historic customs for all era’s would be gathered, and the Dick Fowler coupe would fit the event perfectly.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-19A few more photos of the car how it sat in the Idzardi garage. Notice the molded in rear fender. George Barris explained they called it “sealed in” back in the 1940’s. (photos by Rob Radcliffe)

When the car was found by the Idzardi’s the rear fenders had been molded to the body with a larger flair, this was not evident in the early photos, so it was removed, however the fender is still welded to the body, and most likely this was how it was done by Barris. When the family restored the car they found tar and burlap on the inside of the top. We have seen this before on several old customs, including the Jack Stewart Ford and the Snooky Janich Ford. Most likely this material was added as heat insulation or used for sound deadening. The car was put back together and once again painted with white primer to “debut” at the 2011 GNRS Customs Then & Now exhibit. At the show the car was a big hit, especially amongst early Custom Car enthusiasts.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-16This photo shows the wonderful chop Sam Barris performed on Dick’s coupe. It also shows the really pleasant overall teardrop shape of the 1938 Ford body, and how well it lends itself for a period custom.¬†

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-06Notice how the rounded door corner helps with the flow of the chopped top.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-09The Dick Fowler Ford at the 2011 GNRS Customs Then & Now exhibit. The photos above were taken at set-up day, before the other cars had arrived.

Not to long after the show the Ford was up for sale again, not widely advertised, but some insiders knew the car was available. In January, 2013 the Idzardi’s decided to put the car for sale on eBay. Before the auction was ended the listing was ended by the Idzardi’s, because a deal was made with Kurt McCormick. Kurt had seen the car at the Customs Then & Now event and had fallen in love with it.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-18The set in license plate in the lower part of the trunk, the stock 1938 Ford teardrop shape taillights fit the theme perfectly. A 1937 DeSoto front bumper is mounted on the rear.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-17The 1942 Packard Clipper grille makes the hood look tall and gives the car a powerful appearance. The smooth modified 1939 Ford Standard hood sides help with this effect. Aftermarket sealed beam headlights and amber fog lights and the DeSoto bumpers are all period custom car details.


The new caretaker, Kurt McCormick

Kurt Mc Cormick’s¬†friend John Beste of Denver, picked up the Ford from California in March of 2013. The car as hauled on an open trailer, that must have been quite a sight. Kurt¬†arranged a¬†friend and local car builder Gary Finney to do a body-off rebuild on the Coupe.¬†The main body work and paint will¬†be done by another friend and restorer, John Meyer, owner of Clean Cut Creations of Webster Groves, MO.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-10March 2013, the Dick Fowler Coupe arrives at Kurt’s home. John Beste hauled the car from Alex Idzardi’s home in California.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-11Pushing the car into the garage.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-12The grew relaxes after the body was taken of the frame in Kurt’s garage.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-13Pushing the frame on the trailer to take it to Gary’s shop.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-14The finished frame waiting for the engine to be re-intalled.

The body is back on the chassis for now to finalize floor mods and do body reinforcement. Once that is all done the work will concentrate on the body.¬†Kurt is still unsure what color he will choose for it.¬†Black or jade green, depending on what they will¬†find when the body gets stripped. Kurt recently talked to¬†Jesse Lopez about the car and he remembered the car as being black.¬†Time will tell…

The Dick Fowler Coupe has been published in:

Dan Post’s California Custom Car Photo Album (1947)
Motor Trend November 1949
Custom Cars Trend Book No. 101 (1951)
Barris Kustom “Techniques of the 50’s” volume 1 (1995)
Rodder’s Journal #60


About Robert “Bob” Lomax

Bob Lomax is not a stranger to Custom Cars, so it did make sense he bought the Coupe back in 1979. In the mid 1950’s Bob had the Ayala’s build him a very nice 1953 Chevy Convertible with padded top. The car was featured in the Mary 1960 issue of Rod & Custom magazine and later in 1961 it was on the cover ofSpeed and Custom magazine (inset). Want to see more on Bob’s ’53 Chevy, then check out the full CCC-Article on this Ayala built Custom.

CCC-barris-dick-fowler-bob-lomaxBob Lomax 1953 Chevy with padded top. (Rodder’s Journal photo)






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)

40 thoughts on “Dick Fowler 1938 Coupe

  • I’m pretty excited to see this, especially given my project. I really look forward to the progress.

    A couple of points, the hood sides look to be 39 standard with the vents filled?

    Also the tail lights are in fact 38’s. I know everyone calls them 39’s, but they actually first appeared on the 1938 models.

  • Oops! I made the comment about the hood sides before I’d read all the copy, which makes my question redundant.

  • Hi Rik !
    What a wonderful custom car , inspiring to see another early custom headed back to its former glory ! In the early pictures it doesnt have Appletons or louvers in the hood , is it possibly such early custom car build that Appltons were not considered a standard custom item , George Barris -41 Buick was first done in 1948 , did it have dual Appltons then or later ? Is it known when the hood lowers was made ? The Herb Ogden Buick had lowers in ?-55 , was it possibly a mid fifties change ?
    Thanks to both Rik and Kurt for a great article that will inspire me ūüôā !!
    Best regars Wolf

  • Gee , I really love this car. Personally,I think the 37 38 Fords make gorgeous customs. Just that they are stuck between 36 and 39s that I remember as bad 70s hot rods. The black wall tires really give a great traditional look. Its got that Westergard influence that obviously Sam and George learned early on. Why is it that more contemporary builds don’t go for this look? I know Tony has soaked in it for years and yes it is perfect encouragement for him to make 2015 his year.

  • It’s going to be really nice to see McCormick bring this old Barris kustom back to life now that it’s in the right hands and will receive a proper restoration. Like all of Sam Barris’ chopped tops, this one has a fantastic look to it…

    Bob Lomax sure had a nice chopped Chevy, too!

  • I remember seeing the Dick Fowler ’38 Ford in one of my old car magazines long ago. It’s not in my Dan Post Custom Blue Book on reStyling that I’ve had since the ’50’s, and I was almost sure it would appear in this book. This car has always intrigued me since it was one of the earliest Barris customs. You can’t deny it’s historic heritage, but it was not one of my favorite of the early customs. Either way, it’s a milestone custom.
    One more comment ‚Äď and I might ruffle some feathers here ‚Äď why are early customs called “tail-draggers” even if the car sat level. If it was lower in the rear, then the “tail dragger” or “speed boat stance” term would apply. In the b/w picture in this article it shows a side view of the car in front of a house, and the car sits level. In my humble opinion, if this car was lower in the back, the front bumper would be even higher than it shows in this side view, which I don’t think would be as stylish. Again, just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions.

    • Manue, perhaps you saw it in the First Custom Cars Annual the Trend book #101, there is a small side view photo in it. And you are right on the fact that the Dick Fowler coupe is not a tailldragger, not even has a speed-boat stance. I have corrected it. The way the car sat at the GNRS shows a bit of a drop in the rear, but originally the car sat level.

  • Jeff, the guys on the hamb qualify nearly everything that is lower in the back as a tail-dragger… no matter what year. To me a taildragger still refers to cars with separate fenders with a rear lowered considerably more than the front creating the Speed-Boat stance. But this is a personal opinion. I do like the term Speed-Boat stance much better.

  • Thanks for the update Rik,……. I applaud Kurt for driving all of his kustoms all over the Mid-West. I have followed him while he drove the Alcorn Merc down a gravel road. All of his collection would make a kool part of any museum but like most of us he loves to drive them. Watching a historical Kustom in motion is a religious experience. It is a historical Kustom that will be (except the running gear)100% true to the original build and shown with the hood shut so it doesn’t really mater what is under the hood. Kurt updating the running gear on all of his kustoms is very smart if you want to drive them like he does. Looking forward to seeing it on the street.

  • JEFF–

  • Kurt.. its not a matter of getting upset with your choices of your cars. In fact I don’t even know what you have in any of your cars except the Alcorn car and further more don’t really care,they are your cars.If I remember right it had a Cadillac. In my personal opinion I can’t name a better choice to put in that beauty. I was strictly talking about this car when I got “upset” and was going off of what I read in this feature.
    So with that being said …. when talking about a custom that is this early I’m obviously not a fan of a SBC for the mill and I’m not the only one ,most just don’t want to say anything. We obviously have different beliefs with historical cars and I probably shouldn’t of stated my thoughts and opinion, your cars really are none of my business.

  • Love the history of this car but not a fan of the original look. I would definitely put whitewalls on it similar to the above picture when it was in Idzardi’s garage. The car also looks to have a lower stance. The car is improved 100% in my opinion. Good luck Kurt.


    • JEFF–

  • Over the years I have learned to concentrate on the things I like, and not on the things I like less, or do not like. Its not always easy to do, but I know one thing for sure. It makes live a lot more enjoyable.
    In this case, if I look at the fleet of Custom Cars that Kurt has in his collection, I see nothing but beauty. The cars look amazing, they sit amazing with the right stance. And as the icing on the cake, people “close” to where he lives get to enjoy them because they get driven, they get to be seen at the car shows and on the street. Because Kurt loves to drive them, and love to share his collection with other people. Are his cars even shown with the hoods open, no they are not.
    Do I know most of these cars have non traditional engine. Yes I know, and I have to admit that if they had original engine it would be very cool, and historical totally correct. But more than likely they would see far less road time, and we would be able to enjoy them far less for sure.
    I’m still getting very excited every time I see one of these cars at car shows, these amazing historical customs parked amongst present day custom cars. and I like it even better knowing the car was driven to the event. And driven with a huge smile on the face of the owner, because he knew the set up would take him where he wanted to go. Its not that the engine choice in these cars can not be turned back. In the history a lot of historical customs have been dressed up with other than original drive trains, engine and many other parts. Sometimes even done by the original owners or builders. All done to make sure the the cars would be enjoyed the best way possible.
    There is nothing wrong to go for the full 100%, but sometimes its perfectly ok to settle with a compromise.
    I choose to concentrate on the things I like, and in this case there is a LOT to like.

    • Rik, I could not have said it better myself.

      Jeff, my Ford has a smallblock Chevy under the hood, a 350 turbo, and a 9″ rear end. The car is 100% 1954 on the outside as far as the kustom changes. My paint is not traditional in terms of brand, application, or even the hue, but it closely resembles the Wally Welch Merc plum and it is what I wanted.

      Consider this: The Cadillac engine in the Hirohata was a modern V8 for the time, right? How is that bit of technology for 1952 any different than a modern 350 vs. flathead? Consider the modifications made to some of the old kustoms as modern for the time.

      I have always been impressed with Kurt McCormick’s preservation of historic kustom cars and hot rods and I had the pleasure of talking to him with Spence Murray one time at GNRS in the Wally Parks NHRA Museum and telling him about the time my dad almost bought the Sam Barris Buick…they are his cars now and he can do whatever he likes with them. The main thing is that when the hood is shut and he’s driving a bitchin kustom, the car is brought back to life. We’d all love to have someone install a period-correct Cadillac under the hood of our kustom, but is it really the point of the entire car, or just a detail that keeps the owner and a handful of people happy?

  • Well put Rik. While I agree with your sentiment Jeff they way I look at it is until I come up with the money to buy and restore one of these cars (which will be never) to my liking I have zero right to criticize what someone else is doing with them. I can be disappointed that something might not be historically accurate but I don’t feel I have the right to criticize.

    Having said that the one thing I have always found peculiar about your hardcore stance in regards to these cars is that I cannot recall you ever making a comment about what to me is the most glaring inaccuracy with nearly every historic car that has been restored and that is the paint. Nearly every car has used modern urethane paint in their restoration, I do understand the reason behind this, but it is by far the most prominent feature of these cars and also one of the most blatantly obvious incorrect aspects of these restorations yet you never seem to comment on that aspect. Why is that?

  • O.K., let’s get back to the car and the build progress.

  • vereey intrestin like in the old laugth in…im standing on the sidelines taking all this in, rik, i like what you said,

  • Well im a huge fan of the old paints and I would love to do one on my own car. It just seems that nobody wants to touch the old paint these days. Also just to see these historic customs restored is great and even if the paint is period perfect. .. I still enjoy them. It really sounds like the paint bothers you though.
    To me having modern paint on a historical car is pale in comparison to having a smallblock chevy in one but im obviously the minority here. Im fine with SBCs in cars but just not these original survivor customs.Of course thats just my opinion.

    I don’t own a historical custom and can not afford one but I felt opinions were welcomed on historic cars and on an open forum. If the build was anybody else’s we would be hearing a lot more comments on the mill.At the end of day it is great to see an old custom restored and driving rather then sitting and rotting.

  • I saw Kirks Buddy Alcorn Merc in Indy last year. It blew me away and I saw it being driven.The history of that car , what a mess it was before Kirk bought it and now its on the road. The Fowler 38 had a Chev installed by Robert Lomax over 30 years ago .The recent over restoration of the Pierson and Dunn Fords are legit topics as well. . What about the reshaping of the front wheel wells of the Jack Stewart coupe. I know he said he was going to do it BUT he didn’t. .I’m just glad these cars still exist .

  • Bob. … although it may not seem like it im with you. The Alcorn is really a sight .

  • Jeff… you are with me because we both love customs. Your passionate about a certain look and era and I’m a little more liberal. One of the most exciting times of my life was touching the Sam Barris Merc. I understand. If the Alcorn Merc ever comes up for sale I’m in line.

  • But thats kind of my point Jeff you are picking and choosing what to call guys out on based on your own personal preferences not necessarily what is actually historically correct. I would bet far more has been written about the mile deep lacquer paint jobs on historic customs than was ever written on what was under the hood unless something special was there. Yes I am disappointed more cars are not done in lacquer, urethane looks NOTHING like lacquer. Some guys can get it close but I can’t recall a single historic custom that looks like it was painted in lacquer. I don’t want to insult anyone but one only has to compare the paint on a car like Jesse Lopez clone to the Snooky Janich restoration to see that there is really zero comparison between the look of the two types of paint. Now having said that I understand why guys do it and the huge advantages in longevity and ease of upkeep of urethanes so I would never criticize someone for their choice.

    • Ian ‚Ķ
      Regarding “historical paint” on restored customs or even on new “period builds” like my own ’36 Ford, getting the correct look to the actual historical color is almost impossible to achieve. Sure, you can get close, but it would not be the same. I would have loved to paint my ’36 in lacquer, for 2 reasons. One, I’m used to painting in lacquer, second, with my color choice, I could have achieved that “mile-deep look we all relish. But, any lacquer toners that I could probably have used to make my color were “not clean enough”. Fairly muddy, With lacquer paint as you now know, more translucent coats equals that mile deep look. The new water-based and urethane paints take 3 coats of base to achieve color, then clear coats, usually 3 coats. O.K., sand those 3 coats smoother, spray on 3 more coats and now you can color sand as smooth as you want. Now you have a super smooth paint finish but it’s now the exact opposite of a mile deep lacquer job. The new paints can look like it was dipped in plastic but the base color is not mile deep looking. Of course, we’re talking about those “organic metallic” colors of the very late ’40’s / early ’50’s. So on my ’36, I was able to get the color I wanted, but it had to be in the new water based paints. It came out great, the color looks great in the sun, but it doesn’t have the color depth like lacquer. You lucked out on the color for your truck. You have lacquer in the color you wanted, and the finish will be period correct.

      I’ve been told my new paint is supposed to be durable, especially with the “UV protection” of the clear coats. I was told on more that one occasion that I would be nuts to paint my car in lacquer, “it won’t last”, “lots of upkeep to keep shiny”. As far as I’m concerned, that was a bunch of bull. All the lacquer paint jobs I did in the past held up great. Some better than others. Color and/or owner care had a lot to do with that. Lacquers don’t take any more upkeep than any of the new paints.

      If Kurt can get this car done in lacquer, then he is in the “historical zone”. If for any reason the color he needs is not available in lacquer, than urethane he must go. Since I live in California, I’m limited in the paint I need. Maybe in other parts of the U.S. this may not be the case, but I have yet to see a lacquer job on any restoration or new build. Again, I’m talking organic metallics. Solid colors are not being discussed here.

      So for practical reasons, urethanes are a necessity in the custom painting world. Obviously, there are exceptions, if money / time is not an issue, good lacquer colors can maybe found, they have to be out there somewhere. I know that Stan Betz had his private stash and was able to recreate the colors in lacquer for the Hirohata Merc. I’ll bet you a 6 pak of beer it was acrylic lacquer. Now to be historically correct, the colors should have beed nitrocellulose lacquer. But at least in was lacquer.

      The Ala Kart restoration paint was not in lacquer and even the pearl was not accurate. Firstly, the Mearl Coprporation does not make Nacromar Pearl Pigments anymore, at least not since the 1980’s. Secondly, the original clear lacquer that was used to make that wonderful pearl color had an amber cast and would yellow with age. So even if the pearl pigment was available, would anyone want to pay the $40,000+ for a white pearl paint job that would yellow out in short order. Of course acrylic lacquer could be used, but it would not have been historically correct. The original was in nitrocellulose lacquer. So ‚Ķ a urethane you must go.

      Finally in closing, Ian, you’re a lucky dude. You have lacquer, in metallic lime gold like the Wally Welch 1st version Merc. And, like I wrote in my 1st reply, the above words are my opinion, and again, you know what they say about opinions.

      Praise The Lowered!!!

  • Ian, if you read what I wrote I was not personally “criticizing” Kurt. I was simply talking about restoring historic customs and keeping the car true to what it was.So don’t make this into something bigger then it is. See I’m not sure how many guys from back then you talk to but at many of the custom shops around back then,most guys took a lot of pride to what they had under the hood of their custom. With that being said… To me the engine would be a huge part of the restoration but like I said earlier,I’m definitely in the minority here and that is ok,these aren’t my cars and it isn’t my money.

    I just still think it’s funny how so many people have been ripped on another website for this same type of stuff but here its all dandy and fine and gets praised. I love how not one person has said or mentioned that a car can be driveable with an engine other then a small block Chevy. Yes they are great engines but they aren’t the only one. Anyway, I have said about enough on this topic, its not my car.

    Ian one more thing …. You might be a little rusty or haven’t noticed but the Hirohata is painted in lacquer and yes that is 100% FACT . I like how nobody mentioned anything about if the Hirohata had a SBC like I mentioned earlier . We all know that restoration wouldn’t be what it was if it didn’t have the mill that it has.

    • Jeff, I think you are presenting things a little black and white here by saying “but here its all dandy and fine and gets praised.”. I do not think anybody here is praising the choice of modern engines in historical customs. I think we all would love to see any historic car gets restored to the way it originally was, including the engine and paint. But for many personal opinions and reasons some of these car owners make different choices. And then I can speak only for myself, as long as the look and feel of those cars remain faithfull to the original, I choose to be fine with it. That way its much more enjoyable or me. But that does not say I would have liked it even better with an original, or more vintage engine choice over the more modern option.

      Bob Hirohata first showed his 1951 Mercury with its original engine, but when he decided to make a trip to Indianapolis, he put the modern Cadillac engine in it…. For reliability reasons. Leaving the question if the Cadillac engine is the right choice for the restoration…. And how about all the engine details Jim added later in the 1960’s that are still on the car today? Don’t get me wrong here I love the Hirohata and the restoration…. But there is always a personal choice that is made by the current owner of the car that is a compromise, there is no other way.

  • I’ve been kinda sitting back and reading this drama and thought I’d put my two cents in. I fully understand what Jeff is saying, I think some of the posters want to pick out specific things Jeff is saying and hyper focus on them, like engine and paint choices, as opposed to looking at the broader point of what he is saying. I think the point he is trying to make is that the “caretakers” of these historic cars, and that’s all we really are, have kind of an obligation to keep these cars true to their original builders to preserve them for future generations to enjoy, like rolling, driving historical artifacts.
    The use of modern paint, reproduction tires or trim parts is not terrible, as they are not irreversible in the future. To me, it’s not the engine choices that are the issue, it’s the changes that are more permanent such as frame boxing, cutting and kicking up frame rails, cutting out original floors, and in extreme cases cutting entire roofs off historic cars that gets a bit iffy. Those types of changes are not much different than cutting LED lighting into the Mona Lisa so that it will match your living room d√©cor better, or tracing over the signatures on the Declaration of Independence, because it makes them easier to read. I know these examples are a bit extreme, but if we care about the history at all, and truly want to be considered “caretakers”, then maybe we should be more considerate of the care we give them for future generations. Using the “driveability” excuse is just that, an excuse to personalize, not preserve. Remember, the Hirohatas, Matrangas, Stewarts, Zaros, Andrils and others DROVE these cars the way they were built, because they were driveable. If you want the comfort and reliability of a newer car, buy a new car or build a clone of the historic car and street rod that.
    But that’s just one man’s opinion…

  • I think drivability in today’s world is a perfectly valid issue to consider. Yes, these guys drove them once upon a time in a totally different world under entirely different conditions. Much less traffic with other cars of the same technology if you will‚Ķ.bias plies, weak and slow engines, drum brakes, etc. These days, if you are going to drive any of these cars any real distance at all as Kurt does, you are in heavy traffic that is going 75+ with people texting and weaving and cutting in and out of lanes not paying attention in cars that can maneuver and stop way quicker than any of our customs, much less one restored to 1946 specs. We all make choices on where our line is. Kurt has chosen to draw the line at the look and feel of the car and the big picture and perhaps compromising on a few things that no one will see so the car is drivable and useable in today’s world cross country. He could restore them dead on, then leave them in his garage and no one would get to see them except for the occasional transporting to a big show like several of the other restored cars‚Ķand recent builds‚Ķare. I’m not knocking those guys, they have a different line. That’s OK. This is still car customizing so far as I can tell. If we are a group of hard lines and rules even in restorations, we should all just get Corvettes and a set of chalk pencils to put our assembly line marks back on. ūüėČ

    And as an aside, Jim’s comment about cutting entire roofs off of historic cars I assume refers to the Zaro car Kurt redid and the famous picture of him sitting in the driveway with all the stuff he threw away‚Ķ.we do all know that when Kurt got the car the entire body was galvanized sheet metal pop riveted together and covered in filler over rust, right? Again, where is the line? The Sam Barris Buick was found in a field rusted to bits and took an ENTIRE second car that was cut apart and used to put the thing back together. WIthout it, the car would have been nonexistent. How is that different than doing the same thing to save the Zaro car? Very, very few of these cars sat babied in climate controlled storage for 60 years until they could be cleaned up and repainted‚Ķ.even the Hirohata that did sit in a garage for nearly 40 years needed significant work to restore. At the end of the day, Kurt has invested zillions of dollars buying these cars and doing what ever it takes to not only restore them but once gain put them on the road where they can be driven on the interstate cross country to a show where we can enjoy them and the beauty that they are‚Ķ.and not one of them is a “street rod” regardless of the engine in them.

  • Well said David. Thank you.
    And as all these comments show, so many people, so many different opinions.

  • I agree Rik. We all have opinions on what we like and what we prefer‚Ķthat’s what makes this hobby so cool, creative and always something fun to look at. Certainly, in terms of traditional customs, there have always been guidelines and trends, but even then, there was variation and not a strict adherence to “musts” and “have tos.” When we start phrasing our opinions in such cut and dried words such as “needs,” “must,” “can” or “can not,” instead of “I prefer,” “generally,” “I like,” or “if were mine, I’d..” they cease to be presented as opinions but rather presented as hard and fast rules. Even in the case of the restoration of historical (i.e. documented) and non-historical (old and cool but not documented) customs, they aren’t “our” cars that “must” be done a certain way by the current owner who owes us nothing, they are still “his” cars that he is free to do with as he pleases. Thank goodness there are guys out there restoring them to pretty close or dead on to what they once were, because there are plenty of guys turning “Zaros” and “Piersons” into hot pink street rods with mag wheels, leather interiors and billet everything with little regard for any history at all. Even, then, that’s still OK, it’s their car for the time being‚Ķ..but if it were mine‚Ķ‚Ķ

  • I agree with Manuel about lacquer. And I’m going to use it when I finally (if ever) get to that stage.

  • Manuel, I am happy that I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to have had your help to find what I was looking for. As I mentioned I definitely understand the need to use modern paints and as you and Jeff mentioned it is becoming harder and harder to find or get someone to paint in Lacquer. I know up here if I had not been doing the painting myself I would have been limited to using waterbase as well as most shops won’t touch anything else. There are exemptions for restorations (not sure if California has similar exemptions) but my guess is the hoops you would need to jump through would be such a pain it wouldn’t be worth it for a shop.

    I always love Jeffs passion for these cars I think sometimes his posts come across a little harsh but it is purely due to his love for these cars and I find it hard to fault him for that. In the end I am just happy any of these cars survived so we can see them in whatever configuration they are in. Seing Sam’s Merc when it showed at Paso or seeing the Jack Stewart car when Palle had it at the GNRS are just thrilling moments for me and I am grateful that people spend the huge amounts they do to keep them alive for us to enjoy.

  • I think Jim and David brought up very interesting points on the Zaro merc and I would love to hear the opinions from people of the chronicle. That is a feature story that needs to happen.

    • Jeff… please feel free to start a CCC-Forum on that topic. The top and bottom portions of the Zaro Merc both went their own seperat way in life… One portions still looks very much how it used to be, the other portions not so much.

  • Jeff and Rik, the subject of the Johnny Zaro Mercury, and what happened to it, is a depressing one. While I respect David for having an opinion on the topic, I feel that his opinion is no more than a weak attempt to defend his friend that ruined a historic car.
    The bottom line is that the Zaro car survived until the 90’s, when a collector decided to cut off it’s roof and install it and the dashboard on/in an entirely different car, then cast off the rest of the vehicle. While this collector was free to do whatever he chose to with the car, and I can respect him for that, preserve it he did not. The only funny part of the sad story is that due to politics and the respected name of the collector, most people on this and other forums, including “the experts” not only act as if the car was done a service, but they actually call the donor car “The Zaro Merc” and not The Clone that it is.
    The two basic facts are these..
    1) The Zaro Merc clone that everyone refers to as The Zaro Merc is no more than an entirely different car, with the original car’s roof and dash added, and
    2) The original Zaro car, that David says was unsavable, is still driving the streets as a convertible.
    I understand that the original body was rough, but a man with the means to replace the entire bottom of Sam’s Buick, certainly had the means to lavish the same care on the Zaro car, instead of merely parting it out. After all, a mere mortal in the car hobby managed to get it back on the road and make a cool convertible out of it.

    Sorry for the rant, now back to The Dick Fowler show…

  • i like what david said about the drivablity of the cars back then, everything he said is true, the traffic back then wasent as heavy as today, back then all the cars dint drive like today racing to the next red lite thats the way it is in calif, anyway yes we all had bias tires that were good for the times back then, most everybody ran 60..65 speed on the hightways then, now radials are the way to go i run them cuase i run my car all over the place an they handle good, most of the guys i new back then in the early 50.s ran the same running gear that came with there cars cuase you could run like all the other cars out there a few guys change ther motors most of the hot rod guys did, even us cruzers we allso like going fast once in a whill, now in todays times i would not run the old drive train that came with the car why for one thing like david said better brakes , disk brakes stop better than drum brakes any day an a good running v.8 any day,just my preference i want a dependable car i can go anywhere an get in the freeway with it speed no problem if i have to go fast, now the guys that like running the old running gear thats what they like in there cars its all good i allso like looking at the old motors allso if every car out there were all the same it would be boreing,…thats why i love kustoms, i hope i dont upset nobody,

  • I was pretty sure that would happen. What a shame. Keep up the good work Rik.

  • Well, that’s unfortunate because I was looking forward to updates on this.

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