WATSON 1950 CHEVY – PART ONE
In 1955 A young Larry Watson buys an used 1950 Chevy two door sedan, he had no idea how much impact this car would have on his career.
[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos of Larry Watson’s 1950 Chevy. All these photos 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 Archive.[/box_light]
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n this article about the Larry Watson 1950 Chevy – part one of three,we will share the photos and snapshots from the Larry Watson Personal Collection showing Larry’s Personal Chevy. One of several personal cars Larry owned and created not only for fun, but also to promote his business. Larry would create three versions based on a 1950 Chevy sedan, which he bought in 1955. Each version will be highlighted in a separate CCC-Article with the use of photos from the Larry Watson Collection, and a few other sources.
A young – seventeen years old – Larry Watson behind the wheels of his first car. This photo was taken in 1955 and shows the 1950 Chevy sedan that would later become Larry’s Grapevine Chevy Custom Car. The car is still bone stock in this photo but only weeks after this photo.
Larry bought his first car in August 1955, a 1950 Chevy from money he made as a carpenter. About a month after he bought the car the passenger side front fender was damaged in an accident on Bellflower Blvd. in front of the Bellflower Clock Drive-In. Gary McNaught who had just moved to the same neighborhood as Larry lived in with his parents, saw the damaged Chevy in the driveway. He started to talk to Larry about it and they soon became best friends. It was Gary who would later suggest to Larry that while the car was being repaired he should also have it mildly customized at the same time. This lead to the first mild customizing, removing some of the trim pieces, leading in the holes and a bit later adding the first wild pinstriping.
These photos show Larry’s Chevy after the accident at the Bellflower Clock Drive-In. The front and the drivers front fender and door were damaged. The repair work was done at Artesia Auto Body.
Larry’s first striping
After the damage to the Chevy was repaired and some mild customizing as in removal of the emblems on the hood and front fender was finished Larry started to experiment with pin-striping. Gary had showed him an great article how to get started in pin-striping in the March 1955 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine. Inspired by the magazine which featured the Barris Von Dutch painted Ford woody on the cover, they headed out to the Barris Shop to try and get info on how to get going in pin-striping. Von Dutch was not there, and Jeffries had filled the spot Von Dutch had left. But nobody wanted to help Larry, afraid he would be too much competition, and I guess they were right. Larry managed to buy some brushes and paint and other supplies and went home to practice.
The article in the March 1955 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine that helped Larry to learn how to pin-strip.
Larry’s first striping was on the dash of the car. A wild dragon and some roses were painted using model enamel paint and a model kit brush. The roses don’t show in this photo, since they are on the dash board ends. The pin striping you can see in this photo was added later.
In October 1955 Larry added the first pin-striping to his ’50 Chevy, from the start Larry had his own unique style of striping as the two samples below show. Larry used copper metallic paint for this, and it took him a whole weekend of trial and error to get the first straight lines on his Chevy. As soon as Larry hit the local Drive Ins people thought the striping was done by Von Dutch. No matter what he told them, they would not believe he had done it all himself. He had to proof it on the spot (his parents driveway) to show he was the striper of his own Chevy. His first real striping customer was Harvey Buthoff who took his 1950 Ford Sedan to Larry to stripe.
The work on the hood rally shows that Larry was very creative and already had his own style of striping right from the begin.
In January Larry had made enough money striping other cars, that he was able to start the real customizing on his Chevy. Larry and his friend gary McNaught lowered the suspension of the Chevy and then they took it to Ed Schelhaas Custom Body Shop. Ed’s shop was located on Artesia Blvd, and 5 or so years later Larry would actually run his paint shop from this very same shop which was took over from Ed by Larry’s friend Bill DeCarr.
The front bumper was flipped upside down, which required modified brackets, the lower section of the grille was modified and the license plate was set inside the grille. The exhaust was split and 22 inch Smitthy steel packs with chrome tips were installed. Larry created his own unique hubcaps from a set of ’56 Olds Fiesta hubcaps and a set of ’55 Olds Fiesta hubcaps. The ’55 flippers were used combined with the ’56 hubcaps.
A little later the trunk handle was shaved and Larry added while striping to the primer covering the body work. Notice how the license plate on the front is mounted inside the grille. and on the back it was mounted on the trunk and surrounded by a ’49 Chevy guard.
The trunk was shaved at the Lakewood Body Shop, and when the primer they added to the trunk was rubbed out by Gary, Larry added some crazy wild pin striping to it. The striping did not stay on the car for long. Since Larry took it back to Ed Schelhaas and had him remove the Chevy taillights, smooth the fenders and welding them to the body. While Ed was leading the fenders Gary installed a set of ’51 Buick taillights at Ed’s Shop. The rear bumper was changed and the license plate mounted on below the trunk. Larry found a ’53 Chevy grille surround, two grille bars and a lot more extra grille teeth. Ed installed the grille and created the floating grille bar with 13 teeth.
Ed and Gary lowered the suspension on the car some more. They stepped the A-arms 5 inches, and cut the front coils for even more lowering. The frame was modified with cut out notches in the back, the floor tunnel was raised so that the drove shaft would clear. The springs where de-arched and with the 6 inch lowering blocks it would lower the back end 8 inches. The gas tank also had to be raised up into the trunk to make sure it would not hit the ground. Somewhere during this period Larry had his hood flip up while driving, damaging the windshield, and front fenders. Ed fixed it and installed a one piece 1950 Oldsmobile windshield which looked much better than the two part original unit. Brand new ’56 Buick side trim was bought at a Buick dealer and installed by Ed. With the whole body smoothed and in primer it was time for paint.
The rear fenders are molded to the body, a new rear bumper installed with the license plate mounted above it. And the 1951 Buick taillights installed on the panel below the trunk.
Close up of the finished work on the shaved and molded in rear fenders and the new 1951 Buick taillights.
George Newton, was a painter working for Ed Schelhaas, he started the paint job on Larry’s Chevy with the section below the ’56 Buick trim. Ivory white nitrocellulose lacquer was chosen for this. When it was dry, it was taped off and the rest of the body was painted in 1956 Olds Rosemist Metallic synthetic enamel. The paint job came out absolutely stunning, and after spending some time rubbing it out it was the most beautiful car Larry had ever seen. Larry added full length lake pipes, which made the car look even lower than it already was. Even though Larry was then mostly known as a pin-striper… he did not add any striping to his own 1950 Chevy at this stage.
An early photo from the Larry Watson Personal Collection was taken by the mother of Gary McNaught. The girls in the photo are Sherry Wright on the right and Pat “the Spinner” on the left, both from Compton. On the left we can see Larry Watson’s father leaning against his Mercury.
This photo, as well as several others in this article were taken at a photo shoot held at the Lakewood Shopping Center on a Sunday afternoon in November 1956. Photographers Bob D’Olivo and Al Paloczy where shooting several cars that day, and photos from this shoot have been used in several magazines.
Larry added several chrome plated goodies to his engine.
Heart shaped upholstery made larry nick name the car “heartless” The white and pink laminated dash knows where created by Gary Niemie.
The first version of Larry’s Chevy already had a fully detailed trunk interior.
1955 and 1956 Oldsmobile hubcaps were used to create the one on Larry’s Chevy.
This low angle photo shows how low Larry’s Chevy was, and how much more the lake pipes ad to that effect.
After driving the car around for some time and doing a lot of customer striping jobs Larry had saved enough money for a new custom interior. Pacific Custom in Bellflower created the interior Larry had designed. The car was upholstered in white vinyl and rose lavender heart shaped pleated inserts. Gary Niemie created the white and pink laminated plastic dash knobs. The car was finished in its first “The Heartless” version, and Larry showed it at all the local car shows, and enjoying it driving everywhere. Until a day in November 1956 when he was in an accident with a drunk driver damaging the complete front of the car… time for more updates to the Chevy which we will cover in Part Two of the Larry Watson 1950 Chevy.
Sources and more info:
- Watson Custom Car Confessions by Thom Taylor and Larry Watson
- KustomLand The Custom Car Photography of James Potter by Thom Taylor
- Grease Machines by the editors of Consumer Guide 1978
- Custom Rodder magazine Winter 1992
- Rod & Custom Magazine June 1996
The Larry Watson 1950 Chevrolet had three major versions. All versions are highlighted in three separate articles on the Custom Car Chronicle.
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