CUSTOM CAR PHOTO ALBUMS – PART 1
As a kid I loved to browse through old family photo albums. Hand-tooled, leather bound, black pages, with soft velvet paper protection sheets, covering classy black and white photos. All neatly organized by date, and event in the album, with the use of four black photo corners.
I even liked the albums that were used in the 1960’s and 1970’s. With stick-on pages, and clear cellophane covers. The way the glue had yellowed over the years, the special feel of the the heavy pages, and even the smell is etched in my brain forever. In later years, I saw similar photo albums that have been created by custom car, and hot rod enthusiasts. And I was lucky enough to be able to browse many of those wonderful photo albums, on my visits to the US.
A couple of years ago, I was writing some articles for a Dutch magazine, and thought it would be nice to show readers in the Netherlands how these old American custom car photo albums looked like, and how they evolved over the years. Each time period of these photo albums has its own character. Even though I really love the historical ones from the 1940’s, and 1950’s, the modern ones – including the albums from the 80’s and 90’s -, have something special about them as well.
So I set out, and recreated 6 photo albums from the 1940’s to the 1990’s. I re-created custom car photos and added them to existing photo albums. These images were photographed or scanned, and the rest was created on the computer. The articles were used in the Dutch magazine, and were later translated for the Swedish Gasoline magazine.
The articles showed the wonderful photos, and the photo albums in which they were carefully kept in the period 1940 to the 1990’s. It is something many of us miss in the digital world we live in nowadays; with the exception of some lucky photographers, who still work with actual rolls of film. Sure, we can take hundreds of photos at no extra costs. The best ones, we can even print out on photo paper. And with the aid of our iPhones, we can change our new snapshots in “make belief oldies”. But the special look and feel from the old fade and fading color sensitive photo paper is gone.
In this first of three CCC articles on these photo album’s we will show you the 1940’s and 1950’s albums. For these albums we used photos from the Barry Mazza, Wally Welch, Jay Johnston, Ed Jenson and the Custom Car Photo Archive collections.
Photos from custom cars from the forties are rather rare. Taking photos back then, was not as common as it would be in the following decades. Also a lot of photos where lost forever in moves, due to lack of interest, or simply thrown in the trashcan, when their owners passed away. The photos had those wonderful, rough edged, white borders. After several years they were often yellowed, and got torn edges, and rounded corners from handling them. The photo albums of the forties where wonderfully made, often with leather, or wood covers, with a exclusive feel to them. The pages inside where mostly made from black paper, the photos were neatly attached with nice little black photo corners. The custom cars on the photos, where beautiful, stylish, and pure. The customizers where pioneers, they had to invent everything themselves. They only had very few custom car after market parts, but they’d got lots of talent, and time to work with them.
The 1950’s brought us many more photos than the previous decade. Taking photos was much more common back then, and because of that, many more custom car photos from this decade survived. The albums where also produced in larger number, they became less exclusive. In the early fifties, the look and feel of the photos remained very much the same, but later on, photos with straight borders on heavy photo paper, and color photos became very popular. Kodak was perhaps the largest supplier for color photos, and the Kodachrome feel of these photos became immensly popular. Even today designers and photographers are still trying to copy the typical Kodachrome feel, when they want a fifties touch.
The custom cars in the early fifties were simple, stylish and well designed. This is considered the Golden Age of the Custom Car. Later in the fifties the custom car designs were much more extreme, as car shows became more and more popular and important. For every show the cars became increasingly extreme, that way they gained points for the owners, and the builders.
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