Watson Jerry Preston 59 El Camino

 

JERRY PRESTON 59 EL CAMINO

Besides having one of Larry Watson’s first panel job on his 1954 Ford, Jerry Preston also owned a 1959 Chevy El-Camino that he had customized by Bill DeCarr and painted several times by Larry Watson.



For issue #21 of Kustoms Illustrated I wrote an article about four late 1950’s photos showing four Larry Watson painted Custom Cars. At the time Larry Watson was still alive and when Luke Karosi, editor of the magazine asked Larry to help with some information about for the article he got us in contact with Jerry Preston. Jerry was the owner of the 1954 Ford shown in one of the four photos. When I contacted Jerry to ask him about his 1954 Ford, he also mentioned Larry had painted a 1959 Chevy El Camino for him, several times. Jerry emailed me three photos, all he had of his old 1959 Chevy.


CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-32Larry signed the article I created about four old photos of Custom Cars Larry had painted, for Kustoms Illustrated magazine #21.
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When the Kustoms Illustrated article was published Larry mentioned he really like the article, and even send me an signed copy of it. He also mentioned that he had more photos of Jerry’s El Camino in his Personal Collection which could have been used perfectly for that KI article. I did not see those other photos Larry mentioned until after Larry had passed away and his Personal Photo Collection was shard with the Custom Car Chronicle by Roger O’Dell. So now it is time to show you all the photos we have of Jerry Preston’s 1959 El Camino with very nice and stylish body work by Bill DeCarr, and several different paint jobs by Larry Watson.


[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos of Jerry Preston’s 1959 Chevy El Camino Custom, restyled by Bill DeCarr and painted four times by Larry Watson. A large selection of 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. Special thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle.[/box_light]



Jerry Preston’s ’59 El Camino at Bil DeCarr’s Shop

In 1960 Jerry Preston took his near new 1959 Chevy El Camino to the body shop of Bill DeCarr. Bill worked out of the former Ed Schelhaas body shop on Artesia Blvd in Belflower, California. In the back of his shop Bill’s good friend Larry Watson hired the paint booth to perform his color magic on many fantastic customs in 1960-61. So it was a great idea to bring the car to this shop, first have the body work masterly done by Bill DeCarr, and then push it in the paint-booth in the back to have Larry Watson perform his magic.


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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-01At the rear the stock taillights were removed and oval shaped openings were created from bend and reshaped tubing. The new shape was extended onto the tailgate and shaped with sheet metal. as can be seen in the first photo the handles and scripts had already been removed.
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On the to-do-list for Bill was a modified grille opening to fit a 1960 Mercury grille, molded headlights, removing of the the stock “eye brows” reshaping the front of the hood and top of the grille opening. At the back the taillights would be completely reshaped and styled with a similar oval shape as was used on the front to house the quad headlights. At the rear Bill used large diameter round rod and hand shaped metal to create a complete new look. All emblems were removed and the door handles shaved. Then Bill primered the sections of the body he had done work on, and the car was moved back to Larry’s paint-booth.


CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-02The new taillight metal work has all been finished and is now ready for some final lead and a coat of primer. A new molded in shape around the recess for the license plate has also been added by Bill DeCarr.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-03Finished passenger side taillight shows smooth flowing lines.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-04The driver side still needs some final body work and primer. Notice the nice molded in license plate surround.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-05The lip on the tailgate section, covering the top portion of the taillight surround needed some extra wok to get right.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-06At the front we can see the molded in headlight surrounds, which have a similar shape as the new taillight housings. Bill spend a lot of time on the front of the fenders/hood to remove the factory “eay-brows” and to make the lines just perfect. Some ’59 Chevy’s have a packed hood after this modification. But Bill decided to add rounded corners on Jerry’s Chevy and let the hood end where the grille opening starts.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-07The lower grille opening bar needed some work to get in the right shape for the new hood shape and yet to be installed Mercury grille.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-08Front end restyling all done and in primer.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-09The first version with a light gold and darker gold accented paintjob by Larry is almost done. The roof scoops were an after thought and it was decided to add those after the car had already been painted. Notice the Johnny Zupan Merc sitting against the wall on the right.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-10The temporarily turn signals sitting inside the grille indicate that Jerry used the car in the period while the restyling was going on.
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First version finished.

The first version of Jerry’s El Camino was finished in a pearl light gold with darker gold outlines pinstriped in black. Very subtile colors which looked really well on the car. When Larry was already finished with the paint it was decided that the top needed something more. So dual functional scoops were created by Bill DeCarr and then Larry repainted the top in light gold with the complete center section apart from the new scoops in the darker shade of gold. The upholstery in Jerry’s Chevy was done in white with gold accents and the tonneau cover was done in white vinyl to match the interior. This version did not lasted all too long. Jerry wanted the car to look a bit more brilliant, so it went back to the shop for an new Larry Watson paint job.


CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-11The scoops that Jerry decided he wanted to add. This photo also gives us a nice look at the dash with the pin-striping and chrome plated gauge cluster.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-12Sitting in front of the Bill DeCarr / Larry Watson Artesia Blvd shop in Bellflower in its first version. The 1960 Mercury has now been installed and the rides on chrome reverse wheels with medium size white wall tires.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-13Snapshot taken from the roof of Bill DeCarr’s shop gives us a nice view of the upholstered Tonneau, the interior and the two tone outline paint job.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-14The interior on Jerry’s El Camino was done really nice in white and gold material. Jerry had the interior and tonneau cover done in TJ.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-27Great snapshot shows many cars parked at the show. It also shows the new taillights that Bill designed. The unknown taillight lenses sit on chrome plated perforated sheet installed into the new shaped taillight houseing. Very nice. Look how nice the brilliant light gold paint gleams in the sunlight.
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Jerry Preston had mentioned he had the car painted 4 times by Larry, and that he only had the photos of the car in the last version in pale orange yellow, and nothing else. When we searched in the Watson Personal files we only found snapshots of three different paint jobs. Jerry was already incredibly happy with these new photos of the Chevy. Photos he had never seen before. This got Jerry inspired to look for more material on his old car. Jerry did find one more snapshot of the car done in root-beer candy, and we later came across one more photo of this version on the Rod & Custom website in an article on the 1962 Oakland Roadster show. This was really great, since this root-beer version is the the version missing from the Watson Collection.



Candy Root-Beer version.

CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-30Other than new Larry Watson paint the car remained as the previous version. Snapshot shows the nice slight forward rake.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-33This rather poor photo of Jerry’s El Camino was taken from one of the many framed photos hanging on the walls at Larry’s museum.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-31This photo shows Jerry’s el Camino at the 1962 National Roadster Show in Oakland, California. Bill Neumann took the photo and we can see the car is still running the four taillights in this version. Great to see is the fully detailed pick up bed and upholstery on the inside of the tonneau cover. (Petersen Archive)
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Jerry named his 1959 Chevy El Camino “The Bradado” and each time Larry would repaint it Jerry put a number behind it on the show cards he created for the car. The last one was the “The Bradado 3”, since the first one did not have a number added to it. The Candy root-beer version seen above was “The Bradado I”. Larry added this wonderful deep candy root-beer over a pearl base. The whole car was just done in one color, no outlines, pin striping or anything else. It looked stunning according to Jerry. Jerry also added a new set of narrow wide wall tires to the car for this version.



The pearl Lime green version.

“The Bradado II” car is now painted in a pearl lime green. For the top Larry decided to do something special this time. He painted the top in a heavy flaked silver and added cob webbing in several different colors, then applied several coats of clear to burry the webbing and create a smooth surface. The dash remained the same pale gold in which Larry painted the car in the first version. Another minor update on this version of the car were the new taillights. The perforated chrome plated steel base and the four taillight lenses were removed and replaced with a stainless base and a set of 1958 Ford taillights. This version of the car was done at Larry’s Lakewood Blvd shop in Paramount.


CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-26The side view shows a hint of the cob webbed roof and also shows Jerry had installed a set of wire wheel hubcaps, but Jerry did not care much for those so he soon would replace them.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-22Still with the same lime green pearl paint Jerry installed another set of mag type wheels, which made the car look more sporty.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-21This is the only photo in the Larry Watson Collection, or in Jerry’s personal albums that show a section of the show card with the name “the Bravado” on it. It also shows the addition of the number “2” behind the name.
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“Banana Gold” paint version.

The fourth and final version of Jerry’s 1959 El Camino “The Bravado 3” was painted a pale yellow-orange pearl by Larry. Larry named the custom mixed color “banana pearl” yellow. The top remained the same in silver with cob webbing just as the previous lime green version. For this version Jerry switched back to chrome reverse rims


CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-16This side view from a higher point, shows that the upholstered side panels have been removed from the pick up bed.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-17Jerry had decided to update the car for the new painted version with a set of 1958 Ford taillights in the new openings.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-18Larry, or on of his friends loved to take side view photos of the cars larry painted. Most of the photos in Larry’s Personal Collection are only shown in side view photos taken in front of his shops. This one shows the nice rake Jerry’s Chevy had. The “Banana Pearl” paint looks absolutely brilliant.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-23This photo is one that comes from Jerry’s Personal collection.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-24This one from Jerry’s Collection shows how nice the restyled front end works and give us a bit of a look of how the two toned headliner looked.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-25Jerry’s fade photo of the top shows a bit of detail on the cob webbing, but perhaps more important in this photo is the wonderful tuck & roll interior done in Tijuana, Mexico.
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CCC-larry-watson-jerry-preston-59-chevy-28This photo from Larry’s personal Collection shows the cob webbing much better.
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Jerry Preston sold his 1959 Chevy El Camino in the mid 1960’s and he never saw it again. He has no idea what happened to it.Anybody out there who might have a clue what happened to this 1959 El Camino after the mid 1960’s, please let us know, we and Jerry would love to find out.

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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)

7 thoughts on “Watson Jerry Preston 59 El Camino

  • December 10, 2014 at 22:43
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    I think I may have seen this car sitting in some type of business lot in the 99-2000. It sat there for about a year and I looked at it from behind the fence a couple of times wondering why such a cool custom was just sitting outside. At the time it was a lime green and complete. I did not inquire and I will always regret it and the fact that Bill Heinz and the Bat II were parked in a driveway around the same time and I did not try and meet him and see the car. Anyhow this all took place in Windsor Ontario about 10km or 6 miles from the Detroit border. Any Michiganders remember this car?

  • December 11, 2014 at 04:36
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    Eric you may have seen Merrifields Auto Body custom 59 El Camino . It was very similar. Merrifields was on a side street off Howard Ave. in Windsor. Long gone.

    • December 11, 2014 at 06:11
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      Thank you Eric and Bob. Bob do you have any photos of the Merrifiels ’59 El Camino, or know if it was ever in a magazine or so. I did a search built could not find anything, and right now it does not ring a bell with me. Thanks

      • February 14, 2019 at 18:03
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        Rik Hoving, those “unknown” tail lights I think are for certain, 1961 Mercury tail lights. Would make sense if this project started in 60, carried through 61. Jerry would have put more Mercury into the car, seeing the NEW 61 that came out. I like how he cleaned up the hood with the 1960 Pontiac approach.

  • December 11, 2014 at 11:22
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    Any relation to Bob Marrifield? This car was sitting off of N Talbot by Naples Pizza. Are you in Windsor Bob?

  • December 12, 2014 at 05:52
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    Not in Windsor but lived there and Chatham. Only have a picture in newspaper from late 60’s and it is of interior with door open. Great El Camino and someone in Windsor must have a picture. I will try to find reference.

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