Custom Car Designers

October 5, 2014

Jim Roten Custom Car Designs

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Written by: Rik Hoving
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Jim Roten was close friends with Riley Collins, who ran a Custom Body show in Chico Ca. This article shows some of Jim Roten’s amazing design sketches he made for Rileys Customs.

(Special thanks to Mike Roten, Jim’s son for scanning his father’s illustrations and photos)

Mike Roten send us these amazing scans he made of his fathers designs. Jim recieved these sketches in an envelope from Riley’s wife after Riley had passed away. Jim had not seen these since he created them in the mid to late 1950’s. They brought back many memories. Jim handed the envelope over to his son Mike. Who scanned some of the material to share with the Custom Car Chronicle.

The envelope contains over 100 sketches so what we show you here is just the tip of the iceberg. We hope to be able to show you many more of these amazing sketches in the near future. Most of the sketches in the envelope were created for Rileys Custom projects, but a few might have been for other projects.

Mike calls them the ‘red’ sketches. They are all are done on identical sheets of 5×7 newsprint in red pencil. Some of them are really well detailed, others are just quick idea sketches. Most of these illustrations might have never made it into reality, but some of the designs we recognize. If you see something in these illustrations that you can remember from the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. Please let us know. We would love to be able to identify some of the cars in the sketches.

CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-16(A) We start with a photo Mike took of some of the content of the envelope. This particular sketch was made with regular gray pencils. Mildy customized Shoebox 1950 FordClub Coupe.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-17(B) Better look at the side view and rear fender modifications designed by Jim.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-15(C) 1953 Ford Sedan project. Nice use of side trim, quad headlights, pancaked hood, tubular grille and 1955 Pontiac Split bumpers. Very elegant. 


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-14(D) 1958 Ford front end design. With pancaked hood with rounded corners. Toothed grille bar and reworked bumper. I also love the hood scoop.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-13(E) Most of the designs Jim made are based on milder custom cars. But this 1950 Mercury was a full custom concept, named the Wildest Big M of them all! Jim’s designs call for a huge amount of body work including a wrap around windshield, quad headlights. Sectioned body with coved behind the front wheel openings, hood and rear quarter scoops, extended rear fenders, split bumpers and floating toothed grille. WILD.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-12(F) Possibly based on a 1957-58 Mercury with a lot of mild but wild reshaped body panels, new bumpers based on Oldsmobile units and an outline and scalloped paint job.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-11(G) Another sketch based on a 52-54 Ford shows coved panels behind the wheel openings, bullet rille with vertical placed quad headlights in reshaped fenders. Finned rear fenders with quad pointy taillights. Jim Roten 1959.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-10(H) Perhaps created for the same owner as the openings photos these quick sketches show some ideas for a 1950 Ford Club Coupe. This one is chopped and converted to a hard-top body style with a larger rear window. Edsel styled taillights and possebly Studebaker pans used to create the front and rear grille openings. Jim also created a really nice two tone paint option using the side trim and scallops.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-09(I) This is one of the sketches we can identify. This one was designed for the Riley Shop Truck based on a 1955 Chevy Cameo.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-18Under construction photo of the truck from Jim’s Personal collection. Sadly none of Jim’s photos showed the work done on the taillights to show how his sketch was used by Riley Collins. But fortunately we can see that in the finished truck photos below.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-19The finished Riley Collins Shop Truck was featured in the Custom Car Annuals.



CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-02(J) Another Pick-Up project was this 1957 Ford truck. Some body work, but the wildest part was the nice paneled and flame paint design Jim came up with.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-08(K) Perhaps my personal favorite of them all is this very stylish 1955 Chevy mild custom. Oldsmobile grille/bumper surround with hand made center. Canted quad headlights, reshaped and rounded hood opening. Wonderful use of side trim, cruiser skirts, again coved panels behind the front wheels and a nice two tone paint job. Somebody really should build this one.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-07(L) Another sheet with some quick sketches/ideas for a few projects.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-06(M) This looks to be based on a early-mid 1950’s four door Cadillac to which added fins on the rear fenders.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-05(N) Another really great design is this one based most likely on a 1952-54 Ford or Mercury. Jim designed it with an heavy chop, quad headlights, Studebaker pan shaped grille opening, pancaked hood and again a really nice two tone paint job with clever use of custom side trim, outlines and scallops.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-04(O) Jim designed the 1955 Mercury of Ray Cress. You can see more about the Ray Cress Mercury in the CCC-Article.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-03(P) Interesting design ideas using Edsel taillights on a 52-54 Ford Coupe.


CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-01(Q) The text Jim wrote to go along with this 1956 Ford Victoria design says it all. Another very wild and well balanced design.  






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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. Very cool Rik! A big thanks to Mike for scanning his Dad’s sketches!! Rik is there a reason a lot of illustrators use red pencil? I see it used quite a bit and love the look of it but always wondered if there was a technical reason for using it.


    • Yeah these are really great… Glad you enjoy them. There are a lot more. So hopefully Mike will find the time to scan some more soon. As for the Red pencil. I have no idea why that is used. I had never seen it before. Red acts the same as black when you want to reproduce it the old fashion way (as it was done pre-computer). But the red could be easily hidden by red film. But I do not see any reason for that here at all.

      So No I have no idea. I will ask Mike to see if he can ask Jim why he used the red pencil.


  2. Cool thanks Rik. The red film may be it, not necessarily in this case but I have also seen it used a lot by animators and tattoo artists so maybe it is an easy way to do rough sketches and then eliminate what they don’t want afterwords by covering with the red film.


  3. love all them drawings very cool,


  4. thats amazing creations !! i hope we could see them all !!


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