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January 28, 2016

Gary Niemie 56 Buick

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Written by: Rik Hoving
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Larry Watson Gary Niemie 56 Buick



Niemie and Watson were friends in the 1950s. Niemie created the laminated knobs for Larry’s Grapevine, Watson did the scallops on Niemies 56 Buick in the late 1950s and redid them again in 1990.

Gary Niemie and Larry Watson were friends and they helped each other out back in the 1950’s. Gary had created the hand-made two tone pink and white laminated dash knobs for Larry’s 1950 Chevy the “Grapevine“. When it came time for Gary Niemie to have his mildly customized 1956 Buick Century scalloped he of course went to Larry. Gary Niemie was from Long Beach California and his Buick was a typical mild custom for the time for that area. The mild customizing included emblem removal from the hood and the trunk and lowering the suspension for the perfect stance. The icing on the cake for the car was a fine scallop paint-job. We have no exact date when Larry Watson added the scallops, but the finished car can be seen with two photos in the Motor Trend February 1958 issue. This issue has an article names Splash your car with Color by James E. Potter and Gary’s Buick was used as a sample. The 1959 Custom Cars Annual shared the same two photos of Gary’s Buick as well. The work on Gary’s Buick was most likely done in 1957.

This article shows a selection of photos from Gary Niemie’s 1956 Buick. All the black and white photos and the color photos of Larry working on the recreation come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo ArchiveSpecial thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle. The color photos come from the Howard Gribble Collection.


We have only found three black and white photos and set of black and white photo-proofs from Gary Niemie’s 1956 Buick Century. As far as we know Larry Watson never had any color photos of the original car.

CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-04Gary Niemie 1956 Buick was lowered with wide white wall tires with ’56 Oldsmobile Fiesta hubcaps. The main scallop on the side follows the Buick side trim. Note the short lake pipe below the front quarter panel, those were hot in 1957.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-03Rear 3/4 view from the photo-proof sheet, hence the not so good quality. The scallop on the rear quarter changes into a single flame lick and wraps around the “Century” script.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-02This side-view show how nice the tires now fit the wheel opening after the car had been lowered.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-05Gary Niemie made his own tear drop shaped laminated dash knobs in white and red. Gary also added a telephone and a record player. The rest of the interior remained stock at the point this photo was taken. 


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-06Close up shows a detail painted scene on the glove box. Most likely painted by Larry/ Sadly we do not have a better quality photo to see more details on this. It looks like some sort of alien is chasing two people.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-08Larry had three good quality photos on Gary’s Buick in his personal collection. Two of them had been used in the Motor Trend and Custom Cars Annual publications and are mot likely taken (just as the proof sheet photos) by James Potter.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-07The MT magazine described the scallops on the front of Gary’s Buick as follow: Twin streaks and a center peak emerge from the encircled grille scallop.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-detailEnlarged section of the photo shows the find striping in red outlining the gold and bronze scallops as well as the free striping around the body details.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-09Gary Niemie standing proud with his 1956 Buick Century with Larry Watson scallops.


CCC-larry-watson-renegades-clubGary was a member of the Long Beach Renegades. Larry had this snapshot of some of the members in his collection. Gary Niemie is on the far right in the rear.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-mt-feb-58One of the two photos used in the Feb. 1958 issue of Motor Trend magazine shows how the magazine had highlighted the scallops on Gary’s Buick for the Customize your car with paint article.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-mag-01From the 1959 Custom Cars Annual.


Gary Niemie’s 1956 Buick Recreation

In the late 1980’s Gary Niemie now a member of the Long Beach Sultans, set out to recreate the car he had back in the late 1950’s. The car was mildly customized with a nosed hood and decked trunk, painted white and lowered over a set of wide white wall tires and Olds hubcaps just as how it was done back in 1957. Gary asked Larry Watson if he could replicate the scallops he had done some 33 years ago. With the photos in hand Larry marked the body and started to lay down the tape.After the car was taped completely and masking paper was added he painted the scallops in the same hue gold fading to bronze as in 1957. After the tape was removed Larry add the striping in red. This time around Gary also updated the car with a full custom tuck & roll interior in white and red.

CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buickn-00The side trim was removed and to make it easier for Larry to recreate the scallop which needs to follow the shape of the trim, he had applied masking tape where the side trim will be. 


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buickn-01Scallops are freshly painted with gold with the ends fading in bronze.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buickn-03This photo os the scallop ending in the single lick flame around the Century script shows the bronze fading really well, especially because the red striping has not yet been added to this part yet.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buickn-02Larry adding the red striping on the roof of Gary’s 1956 Buick.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buickn-04The lick around the script is now all done with red striping. Note the full custom two tone interior in Gary’s recreation.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-gribble-02Howard Gribble took this photo of the finished Buick at the Sultans Car Show held on the athletic field of Millikan High School in 1995.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-gribble-04Wonderful flowing lines from the red pinstriping and gold to bronze fading scallops.


CCC-watson-gary-niemie-56-buick-gribble-05Gary even added the short lake pipe below the front quarters. Since he was a member of the Sultans Car Club when his new car was finished, he added a Sultans club plaque to the Buick. 




CCC-watson-gary-niemie-photo-frameLarry had several photo frames devoted to Gary Niemie’s 1956 Buick in his personal museum. This one shows some of the photos taken the day Larry recreated the scallops on the recreation. On the top left photo we can see that Larry used the old photos to get all the lines perfect.



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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. I remember seeing the ’56 Buick in the Custom Car Annual and I really liked it then and still do. The recreated version is perfect with the Watson scallops and the nicely rolled and pleated interior. ’55-6 Buick Century was the best model in my opinion. They had the lighter body and the bigger engine and four portholes not three like the Special.


  2. Larry Watson is the master……. And was one KOOL KAT.
    Even in the 90’s
    This Buick is a perfect example of a kustom car that could be built in the 1950’s on a budget not over done and looks just sweet…!!!

    Another 1956 Buick port holer chopped by Chuck Boy EMPERORS CAR CLUB VICTORVILLE LOS ANGELES



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