GEORGE BARRIS 1942 CADILLAC
This Cadillac Convertible Custom with well proportioned Padded Top was a mystery Barris Custom Car for many years. We now know it was one of George Barris his personal rides in the late 1940’s early 1950’s.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he first time I came across this Cadillac Convertible, was when I saw a picture of an old Barris Kustom Business Card. It was many years ago and at the time I thought it was an 1947 Cadillac. In the years folowed I tried to find out more about this car used on the Business Card, but I was unable to find much more on the car. It was not until I did an article on a photo of the Nick Matranga at the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show, that I was able to shed some light on this “mystery Custom Cadillac. On this Matranga photo there was a wall with a photo display behind the car, photos of Barris Kustom creations. When Pat Ganahl send me a high res version of this photo I was able to identify most of these cars. One of the photos showed a 1946-47 Cadillac Convertible with Padded Top. I was rather sure it must have been the same car as on the Business Card. I browsed my files on Barris Customs and found two photos of Custom Cars that showed a 1947 Cadillac convertible with chopped padded top in the back ground… possibly the same car. But I still had no information on the car.
This very fuzzy enlarged section shows the photo of the Cadillac that was used on the display behind Nick Matranga’s 1940 Mercury at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show. The complete photo with the Barris Kustoms photos displayed on the wall can be seen below. The Cadillac photo is the second one from the left. Most likely this photo of the Cadillac was taken by Marcia Campbell, who took many photos of the early Barris Customs.
In 2009 Palle Johansen and me went on a research trip for the Jack Stewart Ford. Jack had invited us to see his friend Junior Conway at his famous paint shop. On this visit Junior showed me some old photos he had in his collection, and one of the photos showed this chopped 1947 Cadillac with Padded Top. This was the first real good photo I found of this car. When I came back home I went back to doing research for the article on the Matranga photo. I contacted my friend David Zivot in Las Vegas. David is a early Custom Car and Hot Rod enthusiast, who has great knowledge about the early days of Customizing. Together with his girl friend Michelle they have interviewed and researched many of the old timers. I asked David if he knew anything about this chopped 1947 Cadillac Custom. David was not sure, he thought he had seen or heard about it, but would ask some of his friends including Jesse Lopez and Bart Bartoni.
The Junior Conway photo was the first photo I saw showing the Cadillac really well. The car is parked in front of the Barris Compton Ave. shop and is partly in primer in this photo.
At least 4 different Barris Kustom Automobile business cards used the 1942 Cadillac side view image. The first one on the top left is from the Bell shop.
The Barris Kustom Automobiles Shop invoice paper also used the Cadillac in the logo. This invoice was used for many years, and I have seen samples of it being used up to 1955, but perhaps it was even used after that. (thanks to Per Webb for scanning the invoice from his personal collection)
In the meantime I had found a few more Barris Business Cards that showed the same Cadillac side view photo. I also found out that the Barris Kustom Shop invoice paper used the same car. So this car must have been important for the Barris Shop, could it have been owned by one of the employees or friends of Sam or George. But how could it be that this great looking Custom was never featured or even mentioned in the magazines back in the 1940’s early 1950’s, not in the series of Barris books?
The things I had found out so far:
- The car was used on at least 4 different Barris Shop Business Cards. One for the old Bell shop, and three for the Atlantic Blvd shop.
- The car was used on the Barris Shop invoice paper up to at least 1955.
- One of the photos (with the Harold Larsen 1941 Ford convertible) shows the car in front of the Compton Ave shop.
- A photo of the car was used to promote the Barris Shop at the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show.
- The Barris Kustom Shop had a joint ad with Gaylords Kustom Padded tops in the November 1949 issue of Motor Trend using a picture of this Cadillac.
Then David Zivot came back with some great information about the car and its history. Information we had crossed our mind many time, but now we knew for sure from the people who where there when this car was driving the streets of LA.
As to the mystery of the ’46 Cadillac custom that nobody seems to put an owner to, I can offer the following. After conversations with both Bart Bartoni and Jesse Lopez, their concurring opinion is that the car was built and owned by George Barris. Jesse Lopez asked George about the car directly showing him a photograph at the same time. George said it was “his ’42 Cadillac”. Jesse thinks that it was the car George had after his ’41 Buick. While there are very few pictures showing the side of the car that are not blurry or in shadow, I now believe it is a ’42, because of the visible flair at the bottom of the door that can barely be seen in the photographs we know. 1946 & ’47 did not have that feature. The grill, as I have mentioned before, is definitely not a ’46, but a modified ’47, in my opinion. This coupled with the fact that the ’42 Cadillac would be a much cheaper buy for George in the late 40’s, a ’46 or ‘7 would have a higher blue book (resale) value. This is not the definitive answer, however barring any further evidence I think it’s safe conjecture.
George his Cadillac was used in the joint Barris Kustom Automobiles and Gaylords Kustom Padded Tops ad in the November 1949 issue of Motor Trend. This photo shows very well how elegant the car was.
Around the same time I was working on a three part article for Kustoms Illustrated about the history of Bill Gaylord. Luke Karosi and Jeff Neppl interviewed Bill about his upholstery and Customizing years back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. During this interview Bill mentioned that Bill’s personal 1949 Mercury convertible with padded top had custom work, including the chopped windshield, done by George Barris. And that this work was done in exchange of a padded top he had created for George his personal 1942 Cadillac. And to make this even better, Bill had a photo in his collection showing George his Cadillac in front of the Gaylord’s Shop. It was an amazing rear 3/4 shot of the car showing the work done on the rear fenders and how the taillights were incorporated in the bumper guards. Bill also identified the car as an 1942 Cadillac to which George had added 1947 fenders, grille and bumpers.
The photo from Bill Gaylord’s collection of George Barris his Cadillac. I cropped the photo above, so that we can take a better look at the car. Molded rear fenders with the taillights removed. The ends of the bumper guard bullets were cut off and hand shaped taillight lenses installed to make some very elegant bumper guard taillights.
The complete photo from Bill Gaylord shows the Caddy parked in from of Bill’s hop, with some cars inside, and a few outside, possibly all waiting for Bill’s magical touch. We can also see the Ben Mario Buick with Cadillac rear fenders parked on the street.
The mystery unraveled… After many years of searching we finally knew for sure this was George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac Convertible. The only thing we still have to figure out is why was the car never featured, not mentioned in the Barris Books as George his personal car. We have tried to find out more about this, but so far without much efforts.
The car was a rather simple custom car with just the right amount of Custom touches to make it extremely elegant. The just right chopped windshield and perfectly shaped Gaylord Padded Top make this car stunning. George also removed most of the trim on the body, except for the horizontal fender side trim, which helped make the car look even longer. The smooth trunk looks amazing with the shape of the padded top and the sharp edged tear drop shaped molded in rear fenders. The late Jack Stewart mentioned in one of our conversations that he thought George his Cadillac was a deep maroon, but he was not 100% sure. Later Jesse Lopez confirmed to David Zivot that the Cadillac was indeed maroon. Jesse then also mentioned that the Cadillac was bought and customized shortly after George had sold his trend setting 1941 Buick Convertible.
Jesse remembered that he and George took the Cadillac out cruising on many nice LA nights. And that the girls really loved the Cadillac. Or as Jesse put it, the “skirts” loved it and they inevitably got the skirts. Jesse mentioned that Bill Gaylord did an extremely nice job on the padded top, and he also did the interior for the Cadillac, but George was not to happy with the last one and eventually had Carson redo the interior.
We would love to see more photos of George his Cadillac. We know that there is at least one more photo of this car, the one on display at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show, a photo possibly taken by Marcia Campbell. And more than likely there are more taken at this same photo session. But where are these photos now?
This photo from the Bart Bartoni Collection shows a Cadillac chopped convertible behind the Harold Larsen’s 1941 Ford parked in front of the Compton Ave shop. Most likely George his Caddy.
This photo used in an R&C magazine article on the Carson Top Shop by Greg Sharp shows the Cadillac in the back round as well. The photo was taken in 1951.
The George Barris 1942 Cadillac must have been a great sight on the streets of LA in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. The Cadillac was modified to look like a 1947 model and looked very new when it first hit the roads all customized in 1949. These Cadillacs are already very long from the factory, and with the lowered stance, the chopped windshield and the mile long padded top this car must have looked amazing. It makes me wonder why we have seen so few from this car, especially in the Barris books, but also in the early magazines like Trend books and the first Custom Car Annuals. It also makes me wonder why we have seen so few of this year Cadillac done as full Custom. My good friend Palle Johansen was very inspired by this Cadillac and found himself a 1947 Cadillac Convertible to built his own version of late 1940’s styled Custom, based on George Barris his personal ride. You can see more on Palle’s Cadillac in the four part Road-trip to Sweden in the summer of 2014 CCC-Article. And see for your self how beautiful these cars are done as Custom.
Hopefully this article about George his Cadillac will generate some more info, or even better, some new never before seen photos. If you have or know about more photos of George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac Custom, please let us know. If we find out more, we will share the updates with you, here on the Custom Car Chronicle.