Custom Car Builders

November 5, 2017

Ed Sloan 1953 Plymouth


Ed Sloan had his 1953 Plymouth Hard-Top Restyled at and unknown body shop. Later after it was reworked with a chopped top at the Barris Kustom Shop, it became a famous Magazine Cover Custom.

Although most people will recognize Ed Sloan‘s beautiful 1953 Plymouth as this unique Barris Restyled Custom, the car was actually mostly restyled by an unknown shop, before the Barris Shop did the final work on the car, and made it famous. The story reminds me a bit on the words Jack Stewart once told me about his 1941 Ford Custom. This car was mostly created at the Ayala shop, but Jack mentioned that George Barris’s fine tune work made the car look fantastic and famous. The same certainly is the case with Ed’s Plymouth as well. Even though a majority of the work was done before the car went to the Barris Shop, everything the Barris shop did, including the chopped top, was the icing on the cake. The details that were needed to make the car look great. Plus, lets not forget, when you brought your car to the Barris Shop, you ended up with a fantastic unique looking Custom, but George Barris also opened the doors to the magazine publishers for you.

Around 1954 Ed Sloan took his near new ’53 Plymouth hard-top to an unknown body shop for some custom restyling. A couple of years ago Mickey Lehman set out to create a clone of Ed’s Plymouth and talked to Ed about the Barris Custom. Ed mentioned that the car was actually mostly restyled by this other shop, of which he could not remember the name anymore, before he took it the the Barris Shop. According an four page feature in the July 1955 issue of Rod & Custom magazine Ed took the car to the Barris Shop as a stock Plymouth, but in fact the car already had been heavily restyled by another unknown shop before it was delivered to the Barris Shop. The other shop had performed all the work as you can see it in the primer photos including the grille. And Ed drove it around for a while as this more milder version, before taking it to the Barris Shop for the final work, including the chopped top.

Stock ’53 Plymouth from the Plymouth brochure similar to the one Ed Sloan took to the Barris Shop.


The Barris Shop mostly restyled cars based on FoMoCo or GM models which they knew how to tackle, so this ’53 Plymouth must have been a real challenge for them, but they knew they could do it. The suspension on the car had already been modified by the other shop and to get the car lower to the ground the rear was dropped 6 inches, which required the frame to be c-notched for axle clearance, and the front was dropped 3.5 inch resulting in a nice speed boat stance. The stock flathead 6 cylinder engine was left alone. Ed’s Plymouth was for cruising and looking good, not going fast.

Great snapshot shows Ed’s Plymouth in an early road worthy stage with a number of the restyling work already done by the other shop which name Ed cannot remember anymore.


Custom Restyling

The front of Ed’s Plymouth was heavily modified. The lower front fender sections, which are separate units from the wind-split down on these cars, were molded to the rest of the front fenders. The Grille bar was removed from this section and the parking light hole was filled in, and the ends towards the grille opening was reshaped and molded  into the top of the grille opening surround. The lower grille bar was moved down and molded top the span that had been molded to the front fenders to form a solid smooth unit. All magazine article on Ed’s Plymouth mention that the grille was made up from Ford components and that the horizontal bar was created from two ’53 Ford grille bars. To me it always looked like the main grille bar was just the cut down Plymouth bar which was moved down an few inches. It even has the stock Plymouth center strip still on it. The top bar from the grille was made from the top sections of a ’49 Ford grille bar, with the half circle cut off end the ends welded together. The early photos of the car with the stock height top shows that the main grille bar was left smooth at first. Later when the car was further restyled Barris added 4 ’53 Ford pick up grille teeth to the bar. In the early version of the car the horizontal floating bar was painted lime mist, later it was chrome plated.

The stock headlights were removed and replaced with 1951 Mercury units which were molded to the fenders, these light have a factory stock french of a little less than half an inch, which looked perfect on Ed’s Plymouth. The hood was shaved of all the trim and the factory peak was extended where the badges were remove which gave the car a smooth slick look. The rest of the emblems and handles were now also removed and all holes filled.The early un-chopped version of the car shows that the rear quarter panels had been modified at the front with working scoops added to the lower quarters. It looks like three Mercury spears were added to the front of the quarter panel on this version. Aftermarket lipped fender skirts were used to cover the rear wheel opening. We are not sure if the taillights on this version had already been modified to the Lincoln units.

Enlarged section of the early snapshot gives us a good look of the work already done at this stage. Everything but the chop, the side trim and the final reshaping of the rear quarter scoop seam to have been done already at this point. Notice that the car still had the stainless windshield trim in this photo, after the chop the trim was left off.


The early primer photos show that the front fender on Ed’s car had already been modified with the guards removed and the bolts welded to the bumper with the heads cut off and the whole unit smoothed before send out for new chrome. The new smooth bumper looked really great on the car. According the February 1958 Car Craft article on Ed’s Plymouth the rear bumper was replaced with an ’54 unit, but I’m not sure about that, as far as I know the ’53 and ’54 units are the same. However the rear bumper was modified, not only where the bolt welded to the bumper with the heads removed for that super smooth look. Also the recess for the license plate was removed and filled in for a smooth look.

The rear fenders were modified with the rear section cut off to accept a set of 1952 Lincoln taillights. A new opening in which the Lincoln light could fit was created with round rod and sheet metal. The new Lincoln lights look amazingly well on the Plymouth rear fenders. The rear splash pan was, just as the one on the front welded to the body and nicely molded in for that desired smooth one piece look. The lower section of the rear quarter panels, below the body wind-split was modified at the front. The front section was cut off to create an working scoop and some shaped metal was added to make the front edge nicely rounded. The early version shows the use of three Mercury teeth, but for the final Barris version the teeth were removed.

Further restyled at the Barris Shop

The Barris crew chopped the top on Ed’s Plymouth. The ’55 R&C article mentioned the top came down 3 inches in the front and 5 inches in the rear. Later the ’58 Car Craft magazine article mentioned the car was chopped 4 and 6 inches. But by examining the photos I think that the R&C article is more accurate, and perhaps the actual chop might have been slightly less than what was mentioned there. After the chop the rear glass could not be made to fit, so a new rear window was made from plexiglass. Not an easy task back in 1954. The rear window on these cars is rather large, and the plexiglass had to be heated to make it fit the shape of the window channel.

Ed’s beautiful finished Plymouth photographed by George Barris at his favorite location “The House” just a few blocks from the Barris Atlantic Blvd. Shop.


Low angle view at “The House” photo location. The unique Plymouth wind-split body lines really work well on this Custom.


The Barris Shop also added the 1953 Chevy rear fender trim was flipped from side to side, and slightly reshaped to create the unique trim on the door and rear quarter panel of Ed’s Plymouth. The side trim was located in such a way that it ended just inside the top and bottom of the rear quarter scoop. The aftermarket skirt used in the earlier version looked perfect, so they stayed. Barris also rounded the lower rear corners of the doors and molded in the rocker seams for a smoother look.

The Carson Top Shop was responsible for the upholstery in Ed’s Custom, and they also did a full job on the trunk.


This photo taken at the Barris Atlantic Blvd shop shows how nice the Carson Top Shop interior looked. the Button Tufted dark green velvet or mohair panels looked very luxurious. Notice hos the front bench side panels had been chrome plated.


A little closer for a better look at the dash and Carson Top Shop interior.


The headliner in dark green mohair and tuck&roll panels.


The wide piping on the outside of the tuck &  roll panels on the headliner were done with special fabric for that wonderful Art-Deco luxurious feel.


With all the body work done the car was painted at the Barris Shop in a dark green metallic paint on the main body, and lime mist metallic on the top and inside the side trim panel. The lower grille bar was also painted the same lime mist. The car already was outfitted with a set of Appleton Spotlights in the earlier version and the car already rode on wide white wall tires. For this version of the car the Barris Shop modified the Plymouth hubcap centers and added a set of spun brass bullets which were brass plated for the perfect finish.

Close up of the molded front section of the car with the frenched ’51 Mercury headlights and the added bullets to the hubcaps.



Rear 3/4 angle of Ed’s Plymouth looks so great with the nice lines of the chopped top, and the ’52 Lincoln taillights look like thy belong on the Plymouth. The smoothed rear bumper has Barris exhaust tips added in the lower corner.


Close up of the rear window that was made from plexiglass. One of the things I would have liked to see on Ed’s Plymouth was some stainless trim around the rear window and windshield. I think that would have made the car look even more classic.


When it came time for the interior Ed took it the Carson Top Shop who created the perfect classic looking interior for the Plymouth. The material used was Dark green mohair that was button tufted with lime colored buttons and piping and accented with sections of lime green tuck & roll Naugahyde sections. The carpet as dark green offset with lime piping and lime green colored diamond pattern floor mats. The headliner was done in dark green mohair with two lengthwise rows of lime green pleated sections. The Carson Top shop added piping to the headliner with a wonderful pattern in it, for an even more luxurious feel.

From the Ed Sloan personal collection comes this page of a photo album with 1955 photo’s.


Ed placed the cover on the front bench to keep the seat clean when not at shows.



The Barris shop finished the job with the installation of the Barris crest, not in the usual front quarter panel location, but mounted on the C-pillar in the dark green section, just below the drip rail. After the door handles had been shaved the Barris team had installed solenoids and electronic door poppers to open the doors. The Barris team installed some small glove box key operated buttons into the new side trim on the doors. This way Ed would need a key to activated the solenoids to open the doors from the outside On the inside a set of push buttons was mounted on the dash to open the doors.  Ed’s Plymouth was named the “Pioneering Plymouth” in the July 1955 issue of Rod & Custom magazine.

With the Barris Shop working on your car you do not only get the finest Custom around, but also much better access to the publications. George Barris got Ed’s Plymouth into several magazine, including in color on the cover of the July 1955 issue of Rod &Custom Magazine and with four pages inside.


From the R&C cover.


The color photos of the R&C magazine are not the best reproduction quality, but they are very interesting showing details we had not seen in other photos.


Detail photos from the R&C article taken by George Barris show the work done on the Lincoln taillights and the ’51 Mercury headlight. Work done by the unknown body shop before the car went to the Barris Shop.


I have always felt that the grille created for Ed’s Plymouth looked a bit odd, with the top bar, created from the ’49 Ford grille components, not matching the shape of the opening to well. The work was done by the unknown shop. The Barris Shop added the ’53 Ford pu grille teeth to make the odd grille look a bit better. Possibly Ed insisted on using the grille that he already had spend money on.


Close up of the grille. Notice the lower grille bar that was molded into the front of the car and splash-pan.


Owner Ed Sloan sitting in his Plymouth and George Barris standing at the Compton Drive In for the R&C photo-shoot.


Zoomed in, shows the chrome front bench seat cover. I wonder what magazine ed is reading!



Side view of Ed’s Plymouth. Beautiful lines are accented with the unique ’53 Chevy based side trim and two tone color combination. The extension of the rear fender with the ’52 Lincoln taillights works so well on this car. This side view also shows the caster wheels added just below the rear bumper.


Ed and George talking details.


Close up of the reshaped rear quarters with the added working scoop, and how the ’53 Chevy side trim ends inside the scoop opening. The lipped aftermarket skirts work well with the Plymouth wind-split character lines on the front and rear quarters.


Just as the car is totally unique, so it the location for the famous Barris Crest. On the C-pillar.


Ed showing the key operated push button the Barris Shop installed in the ’53 Chevy side trim on the doors.


The later Version

Ed drove the car fore several years, and later, around 1958 decided to update it with a chrome plated grille bar, added bumper guards, and new three bar with bullet and painted center hubcaps. Ed also added new longer “cruiser skirts” type fender skirts, and, as was the trend, a lot of pin-striping. After having started a family with kids the Plymouth turned out to be not so practical anymore. So in 1961 Ed decided it was time to sell the car. Ed sold it to a man named Del-Rio from East LA. According to Ed, the new owner did not take very good car of the car and it started to look really bad the last time Ed saw it. A year later Del-Rio was shot and killed. After that the car pretty much disappears. Bruce Heather remembers seeing the car in Seattle, this was in the early 1960’s and he saw the car late at nigh. He remembers that at the time he saw it, which was the only time he saw it, the plexiglass rear window was missing. Does anybody else from the Seattle area remembers seeing the car in the early 1960’s?

The later version had different or perhaps further modified hubcaps. The hubcaps now have painted centers, and the bullets have three spinner blades added. Also new are the bumper guards front and rear and an overload of gold or yellow pin-striping.


This photo of the later version shows that better that the bottom grille bar, which was painted lime green first, is now chrome plated. It appears that the new cruiser type fender skirts also have a scoop at the front.


Very fuzzy photo showing the pin-striping on the front fender above the headlight of Ed’s Plymouth.


The Compton Drive in was such an amazing photo location, George Barris used it a lot, and every car looked amazing with the entrance of the drive in as backdrop.


Rear quarter view of the last version shows the new cruiser skirts the best. It also shows new pin-striping over the taillight and on the trunk. Notice the passenger side of the car had curb feelers installed.


Special thanks to Mickey Lehman and Barry Mazza.

(This article is made possible by)



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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. Brand loyalty. With this car, Barris knocked down some barriers to imaginings beyond Ford and Chevrolet mostly. Yet how many other make parts have been adapted to those major name brand customs. Chrysler, DeSoto, and Dodge grilles have been major contributors to the custom scene.

    Yet the same Chrysler Corporation cars had really good “bones”, as this Plymouth, and earlier model years, show us. On the CCC, John T’s golden 55 Dodge is outstanding. The red Cooper 55 DeSoto is exemplary, as well as that metallic green 55 Chrysler that wound up in Sweden
    Here’s a “what if” challenge to our digital restylers. How about using the Ed Sloan car as a base, and changing items such as that out-of-synch grille mentioned by Rik. Would the Canadian Ford grille be a natural? Don’t think the frenched Lincoln tail light, or the 51 Merc headlight rims can be beat. But what about side trim variations?

    Then, there’s the car Brian is asking for ideas to consider. The 48 Alexander coupe is just a beginning.

    What do you think, digital graphics people?

    yer Forrest Gump fren’

  2. As Larry stated it is always nice to see other brands being used as custom fodder and this one works out really well.
    The grill on it has always reminded me of what was used on the 1951 Hudsons.
    Larry’s suggestion of the use of the 53 Canadian Ford grill has a lot of merit. That’s a trick that my homeboys at the Clarkaiser shop in Detroit used more them once I believe.
    Any pics of the reproduction version. Did it get finished?

    • I don’t think he ever got it finished Torchie. He stopped adding to the HAMB thread about the car at one point, and never returned. Perhaps he will see this article and gets inspired again… Hope so, would love to see a good recreation of Ed’s Plymouth getting done.

  3. This is such a gorgeous kustom, of course green is my favorite color! Thanks for such a great story on it. It’s a shame it’s still not around. So much goes into a kustom, old or new, most have such rich history like this one.

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