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Art & Design

January 9, 2014

Introduction to Walter Otto Wyss

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W.O.W.


Once in a while you come across a person that leaves such an great impression on you, that it is hard to believe you have not heard about him before. Walter Otto Wyss is such a person.



On my frequent searches for old custom car, and hot rod photo material, I came across some really nice 1940’s, early 1950’s color slides, taken mostly in California. The photos, mostly of street scenes, buildings, city overviews, and pretty ladies, caught my eye at this online offering. Without knowing anything about these color slides, I started to saved the previews on my computer, just because they were so nice.

One morning I found a set of three photos, showing a wonderfully shaped 30’s streamlined car. A couple of days later the same seller offered a scrapbook about this very same car. An amazing scrapbook with many photos, plans, printed material, etcetera. I informed my good friend Geoff Hacker about the scrapbook, knowing he would love material like this. The next day, I looked at the photos of this scrapbook a little better, and found the name Walter Wyss on one of the photos. I did a Google search, and after a while I found out that Walter Wyss was originally from Switzerland, and moved to the US in 1939. Best of all I found out that a family member of Walter, Tobias Wyss, had made a documentary movie about Walter called “Flying Home”.
While watching the trailer from the movie it dawned on me. Walter Wyss not only created this teardrop shaped car, but he also was the photographer behind all those wonderful color photos I had seen.


Then some really interesting photos were found. Color slides of Marcia Campbell with her Model A Roadster pick up, Johny Zaro’s 1941 Ford and, several other very interesting Hot Rods photographed at early 1950’s Californian car shows (with special thanks to Jamie Barter). As well as color slides of the 1939 World Fair.


The material I had found from Walter Wyss was already very interesting, and beautiful. But these early color photos of Hot Rods, and Custom Cars made me extremely happy. I needed to know more about this guy. Why was this collection of wonderful material, sold instead of being sold  in a museum, or published in a book. After a while I was able to get in touch with somebody in Switzerland who had worked on the movie Flying Home about Walter. He forwarded me the email address of Tobias Wyss, the movie maker, who was a nephew of Walter Wyss. I contacted him and since then we have been communicating.

Tobias told me there are over 25,000 color slides, a huge amount of black and white photos, and negatives. Furthermore there are scrapbooks, letters, postcards, and other interesting material. All material is collected and  supervised by the Wyss family in Switzerland. The items that were sold online were the doubles that Walter must have stored in the US after he move to Japan in 1959.

In 1963 Walter moves back to the US and found his new home in Hawaii where he would live, and work until he dies in 2001.

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Walter took these amazing color photos at the 1939 New York World Fair.

 


 CCC_WOW-Introduction-07-WA few examples of the early/mid 1950’s color slides Walter took.

 


CCC_WOW-Introduction-02-WOne of the scrapbooks Walter dedicated to his second car he created. The W2. (This particular book is now in the Geoff Hacker Collection)

 


CCC_WOW-Introduction-05-WOne of the many color slides Walter took while he lived in California. An amazing trip back in time.

 


Automotive history

After doing some more research, I found out that Walter Otto Wyss had worked in the Automotive industry for Ford Motor Company as well as GM. From 1946 till 1949 he was developing an hybrid car (running on electricity and gas) at the Beechcraft factory, an airplane company in Wichita, Kansas. The car, the “Plainsman” was completely developed, and even one prototype was constructed. But after that the program was canceled and Walters dream never made it into production.

CCC_WOW-Introduction-03-WThe Beechcraft Plainsman Hybrid car Walter, and his team developed. The inset photo shows the full scale prototype. The cars production plans were cancelled after the first prototype was finished.

 


CCC-Johnny-Zaro-Guys-Wyss-PhotoBWalter visited several Hot Rod shows in the early 1950’s. Here he took some color slides as well. In this photo we can see Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford with Johnny, Jack Stewart, and George Barris getting the car ready for the show.

 


CCC_WOW-Introduction-01-W2Two samples of some of the many interesting street scenes, and signs Walter photographed.

 


CCC_WOW-Introduction-04-WAnother slide taken at an early 1950’s Hot Rod show.

 


FLYING HOME the documentary about walter

Tobias send us the DVD of the movie Flying Home he made about his uncle. A wonderful movie about an enigmatic man.
Read our full Movie Review.

Flying Home – Theatrical Trailer, English from Mira Film on Vimeo.


There is so much to tell about Walter Otto Wyss, that we will do several articles on the man, his cars, the photos and the rest of the story. Stay tuned…

CCC_WOW-Introduction-08-WWalter’s W2 car he created while he still lived in Switzerland. We will show much more on it in a later article.

 


 

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About the Author

Profile photo of Rik Hoving
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)




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One Comment


  1. Profile photo of Jeff Neppl

    This is very interesting to me , what a great article Rik and great determination to research and find out about this guy. I really want to see the movie now. This guy took some amazing photos and had great taste. This guy just seems so deep I really want to find out more.



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