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1954 Petersen’s Motorama


The Petersen’s show, held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium, was THE place to be, and the place to be seen in the automotive world.

A short introduction to the Petersen Motorama
In 1950 Robert E. Peterson wanted to organize a special automotive exhibit. The intention of this event was to show the most interesting, spectacular, and unusual innovations in the automotive, and in particular the hot rod world. On display for the first year of the show, were a large number of automotive creations, spanning in type from cherished antiques, through the entire range of motordom, up to the most revolutionary styled custom cars, and hot rods of that time.

Motorcycles, competition styled cars, and boats of championship caliber, have also been a large part of the show. Thus making it a very interesting exhibit for a large audience. Robert E. Peterson named this show the MOTORAMA. It was held from November 16 through 19, of 1950, at the Convention Hall in Los Angeles, California. For the second year, the 1951 show, Peterson moved the show to the prestigious Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. A building with a characteristic Art Deco styled entrance, that suited the character of the shows better.

The show was well organized and promoted, and a lot of effort was taken to make the cars on display, look as attractive as possible. Many magazine ads announced the event far ahead of the show dates. Huge amounts of velvet type curtains were used to divide individual display units. Many displays were further divided from the main floor by the use of wooden planks that formed boxes in which plants and flowers were potted.

Rock salt was used to cover the floor were the cars were displayed. Display cards were all created by the same show sign writer, again to make sure everything was uniform and all individual cars attending created one uniform show. Some individuality was allowed, but everything needed to be styled to fit the rest of the exhibit, and kept to a minimum. Even though the Motorama show covered a wide array of automotive subjects, it is best known for the Hot Rods and Custom Cars on display.



A new name for the 1954 show

In 1954, the show had already established a big name for itself and car, bike and boat builders worked year round to get their cars finished, especially for this show. The Petersen’s show was THE place to be, and the place to be seen in the automotive world. 1954 was the first year the show changed names over the original MOTORAMA name it used since 1950. General Motors had announced its GM MOTORAMA shows, and MOTORAMA show cars. Not wanting a conflict with General Motors, nor creating confusion with the audience, Petersen and team (Motorama Inc.) decided to renamed the show “International MOTOR REVIEW and (Motorama)”.

Ina Mae Overman was asked to display her Valley Custom Show built 1952 Lincoln Capri, at the exhibit. Along side several other Valley Custom Shop created cars. Ina Mae’s Lincoln was first built in 1952-53, and had just been redone, and repainted in white with a gold top. The car was a typical Valley Custom Shop creation, which was styled with an interesting mix of custom touch, combined with styling elements for the Detroit factory design teams. Ina Mae always had her trusty camera with her, and shot a great number of 35 mm Kodachrome slides at the event.

Very special thanks go out to Ina Mae Overman, and her daughter Mary Ellen Marcy. Ina Mae for taking these wonderful photo’s, and Mary Ellen for scanning them, and sharing them with us. These color photos really give us a fantastic look at the shows in the early part of the 1950’s. Very unique material.

CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-011937 Cord was just one of the many Classic Cars that attended the show.


John Dietrich Valley Custom ShopThe Valley Custom Shop created this wonderfully styled 1951 Chevy HT Custom for John Dietrich. It has a ‘50 Olds grille, ‘53 Lincoln taillights, 53 Dodge rear bumper with Kaiser guard, and a stepped frame in the back. A technique that was covered in an article­ in the October 1954 issue of Car Craft using this particular Chevy.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-05Chuck Porter showed his 1948 Ford shop truck at the show. This truck was chopped sectioned and had a full custom front end. The velvet blue curtains make the car a stand out.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-06Next to the Chuck Porter pick up, the Pomona Valley Timing Association (PVTA) showed this Chrysler powered drag car. The car ran very fast, with driver Chuck Griffith winning several class trophies.


golden-sahara-jim-skonzakesBarris Kustoms had a large wall display to show of their latest line of Custom Cars, which can be seen on the left side of this photo. But the Barris highlight at this show was the Barris/Skonzakes Golden Sahara. This show car debuted at the 1954 show, and was displayed on a large turn table, so spectators could look at this amazing car from all angles.


golden-sahara-jim-skonzakesThe Carson Top Shop was responsible for the very classy interior in the Golden Sahara. The removable top, made from plexiglass, was left at home, so the audience could view the interior at its best.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-14 Unique photo of the Valley Custom Shop-built “Polynesian” Oldsmobile for Jack Stewart, shows the second version of the car in a two tone paint-job. The top is still the original metallic orchid paint, but the lower body was repainted a gold tinted color in 1954. The car has been modified with new side trim (which is mostly hidden behind the wooden display) from its original built.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-12Wonderful chopped pick up truck for Tim’s Precission Engines. The white wall tires, red wheels and hubcaps look great on this bright red hot rodded pick up.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-07This photo shows Mary Ann Ubrun’s midget racer in the foreground, as part of the Quarter-roadster Association display. It also shows the use of shop window mannequins to create an interesting drag race pit crew display. In the back we can see the Gaylord built 1952 chevy of Tommy D’Amico in white, and sea foam green.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-04The Valley Custom shop also built this wonderfully styled 1939 Mercury convertible with 1940 Mercury front crafted on. The bottom of the fenders were cut off to sit at the same height as the bottom of the doors after the running boards were removed. The wheel openings were enlarged, and the windshield frame chopped to fit a Carson Top Shop built top. Glen Hooker was the owner.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-15Liberace’s Cadillac was mildy customized, and the Carson Top Shop did the unique musical theme interior.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-10Bob Casey’s mildly customized 1952 Ford Convertible was painted an unusual white color with a bright red, and white tuck & roll interior. The custom side trim, and low stance were enough to have Ina Mae take this great color slide.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-09Barris Kustoms created this mild custom 1954 Oldsmobile for Joy Ferguson. The car had extended rear fenders to which 1954 Packard taillights were added, as well as extended front fenders. The Carson Top shop created the pink and white interior.


CCC-Pan-Pacific-Motorama-54-08Ina Mae’s 1952 Lincoln Capri custom at the show. The Valley Custom Shop extended the rear fenders, and radiused all four wheel openings among many other subtile modifications.



[box_light]About Ina Mae Overman, as told by her daughter Mary Ellen Overman-Macy
Ina Mae Overman had a long history with the Southern California car scene. She served in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII where she met her future husband at Camp Pendleton. He was later killed in the Korean War when Mary Ellen was 4 months old. As a way of dealing with the loss of her husband, and raising a daughter while working full-time as a civil engineering draftsman/designer, she bought a new 1952 Lincoln Capri. She spent her spare time drawing, and redesigning the car.

As an admirer of the Dick Flint ’29 Ford roadster (Hot Rod, May 1952), – she found out through Flints father, with who she worked -, that it was built by Valley Custom (Clayton Jensen and Neil Emory). Ina Mae decided to have Valley Custom execute her designs for the Lincoln. In its day, the Lincoln won many trophies, was written up in several magazines, and showed at the Petersen Motorama in 1953 and 1954. When Ina Mae showed the car at the 1954 Show, someone else had to pick up the car after the show, because she had left with her brother for Mexico to go to the Carrera Pan Americanna (1954 Mexican Road Race).

All the entrants of the Petersen’s show received a watch for participating. Since Ina Mae Overman was the only woman entrant, they had to special order a lady’s watch for her. She had to pick it up later after her return from Mexico. Obviously, women weren’t thought of as participants in the automotive world.

CCC-Ina-Mae-Lincoln-602-01Ina Mae Overman’s 1952 Lincoln Capri. On the left we can see Clayton Jensen and Neil Emory from the Valley Custom Shop stands on the right.






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 “1954 Petersen’s Motorama

  • Great photos, these give me the chills . Its like the closest thing to a time machine. One important thing though Rik…. I wish I would of stuck with my gut feeling and kept the curtains in the then and now building.We made a last minute decision cause none of us were used to seeing em in a show setting.For that show…..I think we needed them.

  • Rik…

    These photos are beautiful. Do you know if she took additional ones including the fiberglass sports cars? I’d love to know more.



  • Yes, great images! I was startled by the pic of Jack Stewart’s Polynesian in it’s two-tone paint. I love the car in it’s single shade of purple, but this version with it’s second colour is pretty appealing! That brassy shade almost looks somewhat transparent as the orchid shade seems to glow through in the shadows – wow! I wonder if that is a load of gold dust in a clear carrier over the orchid? This is a second version – right?

    Thanks Ina Mae and Mary Ellen; and congrats to Ina Mae for representing the gals as an accomplished custom owner among the fellows.


    • Yes Dave, this is the second version of the Polynesian. And this is the only photo I have ever seen of this version of the car with the original Valley Custom Shop created taillights but still with the modified side trim over the original version. And of course the two tone paint. I do not think the color is actually transparent over the original orchid paint. The original slide was very dark.

  • I love how in about the 5th picture down the golden sa Hara driver side view shot. You can see Miss San Pedro in the far back corner, I wish we could get some more photos of that one. I think there are more pics out there floating around.

    • Yep… the Bugarin Merc with out the Appleton spots. As always the background of pictures like these are as good as the subject in the photo itself.

  • Unreal photos , I can’t get over the quality of these shots. First time seeing them on something bigger then my cell phone. Great pics,I would love to get some of them framed.

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