AL TWITCHELL 52 WAGON
This mild Custom Wagon that makes it on the cover of a ’54 Rod & Custom helped me refine my taste in custom cars.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]round 1985, I was still very much developing my taste in Custom Cars, I came across 10 small size Custom Car magazines at a car show I visited. This was the very first time I hold one of these small size early/mid 1950’s Rod & Custom magazine in my hand. Not many of these ever made it out to the Netherlands, so I had never really thought I would be able to find them here. But there they were, in a box underneath a table at the swap market section of this car show. There were a couple of Rod & Custom magazines, one Custom Cars magazine, an issue of Honk and a Car Speed & Style magazine. Magazines ranging from 1954 till 1959. When I took them out and placed them on the table to take a closer look I noticed the sellers started to smile. After looking at them really quick with my hands still shacking, excited about my amazing find, I asked the seller how much for all ten. I expected an price way beyond my budget, (I was still in school back then and had very little money to spend) but the seller told me he was very happy somebody finally showed interest in these magazines. He had carried them to swap meets fro several years, and nobody ever looked at them. He made me a price for all 10 magazines I could not refuse. The seller was happy since he did not have to take them back home again and I was on top of the mountain with my first ever small size custom car magazines.
One of the Rod & Custom magazines from this set was the October 1954 issue, the one with the baby blue 1952 Ford Wagon on the cover. For several years after this I was not able to find any other old custom car magazines in the Netherlands so these 10 were all I had and I read them over and over again, and its content formed my taste in customs in a big way. So this Baby blue ’52 Ford Ranch Wagon built and owned by Al Twitchell played a role in the Custom Cars I like today.
Back in the 1980’s, my taste in Custom Cars was still developing, and I liked the much wilder Custom Cars much better, in fact for many years I could not understand why this almost stock looking ’52 Ford Wagon was chosen to be the Cover Car for this October issue and have a full four page feature inside. Don’t get me wrong, I did like it, but I thought every issue back then deserved a full wild Custom on the cover… I have learned a lot since then.
My guess is that one of the reasons for R&C magazine to put Al’s conservative Custom on the cover was to show that you did not need not have a full Custom, with a load of body work to make it into the magazines. And that car owners could do some of the milder body work and aftermarket parts adaption themselves, at home. This would be something good for the Magazine advertisers who advertise products for the customizers at home, so everybody was happy.
A couple of years ago “mrspeedyt” shared some of his fathers old photos on the HAMB. To my surprise a couple of those showed a series of snapshots of Al’s 52 Ford Wagon. I recognized the car immediately as the R&C cover car, when I saw the photos. Turns out “mrspeedyt” was Al Twitchell’s son. WOW. I message him that his father’s ’52 Ford had been a huge influence in the style of Custom Cars I like today.Sadly his father had passed away in November 2010, so I was never able to tell him this in person.
Al Twitchell was born and raised in hollywood. His family moved to from maine to California around 1920. Al’s interest and employment was the ‘body shop’ until 1955. Besides doing some custom work for clients and his own cars he did primarily repair and paint work on cars. Al built several Custom Cars for himself, this 1952 Ford was the last one he built. After this Ford and being on the cover of R&C he kinda lost interest in building customs. But he would allways enjoy looking and talking about Custom Cars.
Al’s Ranch Wagon
The car was a mild custom with some really nice touched done by Al at his own body shop. Al already had a family with three kids, so the Wagon was chosen for its practicality. The car had all the right Custom touches that were designed in a way to improve the lines of the car, not just to customized it. The front of the car was modified with and reshaped hood which included a ’54 Ford lip, and a hammered out hood scoop. The grille surround has ’54 chrome trim added and the grille was built from ’54 Pontiac center piece, ’53 Ford parking lights and ’54 Ford grille wrap around end pieces. Instead of shaving the complete hood clean of all the emblems, al added the letters WAGON on the hood. The side was modified with ’54 Ford side trim, 1953 Mercury chrome strips on the rear quarters. The rear of the wagon was modified with 54 Olds taillights and the tailgate was modified by removing the license plate brackets and using vertical strips of a ’54 Pontiac wagon. The car was moderately lowered and a set of ’54 Chrysler hubcaps was mounted on wide white wall tires. Al painted his wagon in a light blue with dark blue on the window posts.The photo makes the car look even better with the really great stuff going on in the back ground.
The wagon was used as daily transportation for the Twitchell family, also during many road trips and family vacations as this snapshot show.
A good look at the hammered out hood scoop, the molded in headlights and the hood lip.
Comparing Custom and Stock, with molded in taillight pods and ’54 Olds taillights and same year olds wagon tailgate trim. The difference the dark blue section makes is also very good visible in these photo. Notice the cut out in the rear bumper to mount the license plate in.
Side trim is from a 1954 Ford, the three side “scoop” chrome trims look absolutely in place on Al’s Wagon.
The end result result is an very attractive mild practical custom, that looked good enough to make it on a magazine cover. The car showed me that even subtile modification can make a difference, and that you do not need to go wild all the time to create a stunning Custom.
The R&C article
5,464 total views, 1 views today