Dave Crook 1958 Pontiac

 

DAVE CROOK 1958 PONTIAC

 

Dave Crook is perhaps best known for a few amazing Custom Cars he created together with designer Harry Bradley. But before he teamed up with Harry he created several Custom Cars on his own, including this wildly restyled 1958 Pontiac

 

By Dave Crook

I will start at the beginning when I bought the car. I was 18 yrs. old and¬†working at a Pontiac-Cadillac dealer in the Buffalo, N.Y. area as a body man’s helper and was driving my Hemi powered unfinished chopped ’47 Ford coupe.¬†A ’58 Pontiac came in wrecked and the owner decided to trade it in on a new car instead of repairing it. I was able to purchase it from the dealer in the wrecked condition and that was where it all started. I repaired the car and made it into a mild custom–nosed, decked, door handles removed, lowered, with a California rake, and painted it 53 Buick Tahitian Red. Sadly I could not find a photo of this first version of the Pontiac.

I drove it that way for a year or so. At that time I went to work for Ron Gerstner, who owned the big hotrod and custom shop in the Buffalo area. We had a deal that I could build the Pontiac there nights and weekends. He was also building a 34 Ford 3 window for himself. I owe Ron a lot because I really did not have all of the equipment needed at home at my parents house to build the car. I also learned a lot while working for Ron.
 
CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-01After driving the car for a year s a mild custom I decided it was time for a complete make over and started the project with chopping the top.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-02At¬†Ron Gerstner’s shop with several project behind my Pontiac.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-03With the chop finished and the glass installed again.
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I started on the car in November of 1961, 3 months before my 19th birthday. With all the restyling I had planned, complete new front and rear end of the car with my own design for the head and taillights, it took me 9 months to build the car to the primer stage. Most of the photos from the car in progress were taken in 1962. Some of them still show the 1953 Buick Tahitian Red I had painted the car with in its earlier stage. I drove the car that way for 3 months and then decided it was time to paint the car so that I could attend shows with it.
 
CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-06Early stages of the new front end on the car. Lots of bend round tubing and large diameter tubing for the angled quad headlights.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-07Same thing going on at the rear, round tubing and other left over material I could find to restyle the Pontiac the way I had it in my head. The rear trunk line has been raised and the corners rounded.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-08A bit fuzzy, but this close up of the taillight show how I created them using large diameter tubing cut on an angle and welded together to fit inside the cut down original Pontiac rear fenders. Still a ton of shaping and welding to do at this point.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-09More progress at the front. Sheet metal has been shaped and formed the new grille opening, and the new headlights are starting to take shape.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-10And the rear is also taking shape, with a lot of metal shaping and welding done. The surface rust shows that I was doing a lot of the work outside at the time.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-11Now the front end is mostly together the way I wanted it to be. The a-symetrical hood scoop still needs to be done. Notice how the dip between the two headlight buckets flows all the way to the cowl. 
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-05On a rainy day in the summer of 1963.
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I wanted to debut the Pontiac at the big Buffalo Hotrod and Custom Car Autorama in March of 1963, which was also the weekend of my 21st birthday. I painted the car in a lime gold candy paint, however this color was on the car only for a few month.¬†If you talk to any of the guys doing Kandy paint¬†during the early 1960’s they will all tell you the same stories.¬†With a gold under base, we were all having trouble with primer that was not thoroughly dry (over a month)¬†or bondo on the car would cause dark spots to show up where ever those spots were in two or three months. This being¬†my first¬†kandy paint job, I was unaware of this problem. In talking to my friends Mike and Larry Alexander, they were having the same problem.¬†In any event at first the paint job looked¬†stunning. I¬†was lucky enough to win Best Custom at¬†that show.
 

CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-29The Pontiac at the Buffalo Hotrod and Custom Car Autorama in March of 1963.
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Something happened at that show that I will never forget and will be forever grateful for. Mike and Larry Alexander were at the show with the Ford Custom Car Caravan and they offered me a job to come to work for them. I wanted desperately to take them up on their offer, but at the time, I was trying to get a job with the Fisher Body Division of General Motors and I did not want to accept their offer and then have to leave them if I got the job with GM, which I eventually did get. Larry, Mike, and I did become life long friends thanks to that chance encounter.
 
CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-30It was early March of 1963 in Buffalo, New York,¬†I was 20 years old and very¬†excited¬†when the photographer took these photos on an empty parking lot on a gray day for Car Craft magazine. Besides mostly black and white photos for an feature article a few color slides were also taken in case the car would make the cover… which it did.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-14As far as I know only the few color photos taken for the Car Craft magazine article are the only outdoor photos taken of the car in lime gold.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-15The Pontiac made it onto two covers in its short time it was painted candy lime gold. The photos used on the cover of the Speed and Custom magazine from August 1963 were taken at the Buffalo, New York show in March 1963. The Car Craft magazine showed two color pics of the car on the cover.
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Disaster strikes

A local college friend,  Eric Daulquist, who was on a great career path of his own, photographed the car and was able to get it in the July 1963 issue of Car Craft and on the cover of the August 1963 issue of an East Coast Magazine, Speed and Custom. After that it was on the cover of the February 1964 issue of Car Craft and it was picked as one of the 10 Best Customs of 1963. I drove the heck out of the car that summer and in August of that year I decided to repaint the car and take it to the National Champion Ship Drag Races and Autorama in Indianapolis, Indiana on Labor Day weekend. Since I had some problems with the gold undercoat on the lime gold paint I took no changes and sanded most of the paint of from the car and prepped the body for the new paint. Candy Apple Red.

When the car was done it was time to go on the road to the Autorama in Indianapolis, Indiana. While enroute somewhere in Ohio, in the middle of the night, one of my best friends, who was driving my other car, a Kandy Red 1960 Pontiac, fell asleep and ran into me at about 50 miles an hour. The ’58 was totaled from the doors back and the 60 Pontiac needed a complete front end. Thus the rebuild and re-design started, which I did in my parents garage.
 

CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-16This is how the Pontiac looked like after the accident… a very sad sight.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-17But…. the front was still looking good, time for a new design on the rear portion of the car. This photo shows how nice the Candy Red paint was on the car.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-18Not much left from the rear of the body after I had cut off all the damaged beyond repair body panels.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-19I added some late model rear fenders, redid the taillight very similar as on the previous version and hand made the rest from sheet metal and round rod. On the left you can see the repaired Candy Red 1960 Pontiac which my friend used when crashing into the 58.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-20aI wanted to do something completely new for the rear window. So I made this a-simatrical design matching the hood scoop.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-21aThe side view shows how radical the new rear window shape changes the looks of the car. The front wheel openings were modified and the stock side trim was removed and the holes filled.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-22aI added a scoop to the trunk and all the body work was nearly finished when I took this photo. On the right is my daily driver the Candy Red 1960 Pontiac.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-23aGood look at the new rear portion of the car with the wild redesigned rear window… which still needs to be made from green plexiglass at this point.
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Just about the time all the metal work was done, I¬†did get the job with Fisher Body. Thus, I¬†had to move to Detroit¬†and¬†live in an apartment. That meant no place to finish the car. That meant Ron Gerstner came back into the picture. I¬†took the car to Ron’s shop and would come home on weekends¬†to work on the car at his shop. He was a big help and did most of the work on priming and blocking the car to get it ready for paint. I then came home one weekend and painted the car. Then the¬†car sat for a year or so¬†because I was traveling most of the time with my job.

In 1966 I was permanently transferred to Denver, Colorado and I took the car with me. I used the car a little, but as you know, by 1966 the hotrod and custom thing was dead. That’s when I decided to build my chopped 1967 Pontiac Catalina 2+2. I drove the ’67 Pontiac back to Detroit in August of 1968 to our annual new model training and the chief engineer of Fisher Body wanted to show the car to Bill Mitchell (head of¬†GM¬†Styling). Long story short, Bill Mitchell¬†offered me a job at Styling as a Technical Stylist, which is one of the engineers in the design studio. I took the job with Fisher Body’s blessing. That was when I¬†started building my¬†1970 Firebird based on the Harry Bradley Designs and decided it was time to let go of the 1958 Pontiac.
 
CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-24With all the new body work finished it was time for an all new paintjob. Candy green with a gold fade in the center of the car.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-25The tubular grille I made for the previous version was replaced with a single bar unit created from shaped and chrome plated heavy sheet metal.
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CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-26And the rear grille opening had a similar single bar insert with the license plate a-symatrical placed in line with the scoops. The green plexiglass can be seen really well in this photo.
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I¬†sold the ’58 Pontiac to and old friend in Buffalo, N. Y. And to my knowledge the car is still in his family, but by now it is completely redone with an new interior and new paint in white with ice green fades.

 
CCC-dave-crook-58-pontiac-27Mikes Big 429 took these photos of Dave’s old Pontiac in the summer of 2015. The basic body is all still there, but the new paint job changed the look of the car completely.
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Dave crook finished his last car in 2013, another masterpiece this time based on the wonderful designs made by Harry Bradley. A full CCC-Article on this car be seen HERE.
 
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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)

6 thoughts on “Dave Crook 1958 Pontiac

  • August 17, 2015 at 15:58
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    Each time I think it can’t get any better than this, CCC does! Dave Crook, thank you for sharing. The photos in progression are like a time capsule video of the new directions customizing was taking through the 60s era. Some bold design ideas from a truly creative guy. No wonder you moved onto the design teams in that Golden Era of styling, as David North put it. Thank you so much for letting us have a look-see.
    Larry Pointer

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  • August 18, 2015 at 03:16
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    I loved this car when it was gold and when redone and painted candy green. Its still in the Buffalo area as shown in the last pictures ,a little rough, and I believe it can be bought. It would be a great car to save and put back to the candy green [without the gold stripe]Ron Gershner is still in business and is referred to as ‘Mr. Black’ for the fabulous black paint jobs he performs at his shop.

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  • August 19, 2015 at 15:49
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    I have always thought this was a great looking car in all it’s versions. I had no idea it was still around….how wonderful! Thanks for the great article and than you Dave for sharing your pics. Totally cool to get to see so many construction pics from back then and the amazing work that was done with less than what most garage builders have to their disposal today. Truly a talented man!

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