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custom carsEarly Custom CarsEd Jenson CollectionHarry Westergard

Gene Garrett’s Westergard Ford


Gene Garrett brought his already mildly customized 1936 Ford convertible to Harry Westergard, to have it turned into -what nowadays is considered-, the first Westergard styled 36 Ford.

Ed Jenson’s amazing collection of old Sacramento based Hot Rods and Custom Car photos, gives us a good look at the early work of Harry Westergard.


In 1943 Gene Garrett took his 1936 Ford to Harry Westergard. The car was already customized a bit by an unknown shop, where they had removed the running boards. Something we don’t see much these days. But back in the early 1940’s, this was a very common customizing trick. It is said that this car is the first ‘36 Ford that has the well known “Westergard style” to it. The car was built around 1943. Harry chopped the windshield a couple of inches. He filled in the stock grille opening, and used a 1941/42 Packard Clipper grille in its place to give the car more elegance. A set of non-stock headlights were molded into the tops of the front fenders; perhaps not the most elegant modification. But remember, this is 1943, and the custom style is in its infancy. The running boards had already been removed when Harry got the car, but Harry did reshaped the back portion of the front fenders to make them look much better – like something that could have come from an expensive sports car. Harry also made a filler piece to fit under the body, and hide the frame from view.

The holes left in the rear fender – from the running board mounts – were filled and covered with a rock shield. In the close up photo, we can see that, at that point, the rock shield was rather crude, and looked to be made out of ribbed material. The hood sides were filled in using 1934 Pontiac hood sides. At the back of Gene’s ford, Harry sunk the license plate just above the bumper, and below the trunk. Harry also installed a set of Appleton spotlights, mounted 1937 DeSoto bumpers front, and rear and ripple disk flipper hubcaps on wide white wall tires. Later Harry would finish the car with a a new lift-off top. Harry loved to use sheet metal shapes taken from other cars. To fabricated the top on Gene’s Ford, he used the top from a wrecked 1937 Pontiac, and reshaped it.
Harry painted the car in two-tone green, while Gene was in the army. According to the stories, Butler Rugard – who has owned several Harry Westergard customs – , bought the car from Gene, just a couple of days after Harry had finished it.

CCC-Gene-Garrett-36Ford-01-WThis early 1940’s photo from the Ed Jenson Collection shows Gene’s 1936 Ford in progress on the streets of Sacramento.


CCC-Gene-Garrett-36Ford-02-WThis close up shows how Harry Westergard shaped a new nose piece, and adapted the Packard grille to it. The hood looks to welded into one piece with a smoothed center. It also shows the bare metal work on the front fender mounted Headlights. We can also see how the front fender was extended  into a pointed back portion. And it looks like the Appleton Spotlights were none plated units. Only one stock DeSoto bumper guard is used, mounted in the center of the bumper.


CCC-Gene-Garrett-36Ford-04-WThis close up shows the ribbed rock shield on the rear fender. The teardrop shaped skirts and 1941 Buick trim piece turned upside down.


CCC-Gene-Garrett-36Ford-03-WThis photo shows the car all finished and painted shades of green. It also shows the new lift off top Harry created for the car. Oddly the white wall tires that were on the car during construction, are now replaced with black wall tires.


CCC-Gene-Garrett-36Ford-05-W A look at the back, shows us the use of 1939 teardrop shaped taillights, mounted low on the rear fenders. The set in license plate, is also mounted as low as possible. And the double rear window in the hand made top.



After that the car disappeared. We have no idea what happened to this milestone custom 1936 Ford. Wouldn’t it be great to find a car like this sitting an a garage? Hopefully this car is still around today.

The Gene Garrett 1936 Ford is often mistaken to be the George Barris 1936 Ford. Several publications made this mix up. But luckily, we found a photo in Ed Jenson’s amazing collection, that shows both George Barris’, and Gene Garrett’s 36 Fords in one photo, as can be seen below.
We will be sharing more on this amazing photo in an upcoming article on George Barris his 1936 Ford. Stay tuned.


CCC-Garrett-Barris-36Ford-01-WThis wonderful early 1940’s photo shows George Barris’  unfinished 1936 Ford in front of the unfinished Gene Garrett 1936 Ford.




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)

3 thoughts on “Gene Garrett’s Westergard Ford

  • The headlight treatment reminds me of the early Pierce Arrows.

    On the Barris car, it’s interesting to note that the headlights are dropped to the position we are more familiar with of these customs.

    Also, have the reveals been eliminated on the doors of the Barris car? They look smooth. Now I look back at the finished shots of the Westergard car, they have been smoothed too. These cars must have been built almost in parallel!

  • the headlites are ugly, and are ruining the front of the car, but as you say it was the beginning of kustoms, and you had to try to know it didn’t work! Now, one have just to pick up options on other kustoms to see what looks kool ! 🙂
    thanks for highlighting the first westergard kustom Rik 😉

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