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Photo Analysis: Sam Barris chopping the top on Jerry Quesnel’s Mercury


Sometimes we find surprising information in photo’s. Like a true photo detective Rik Hoving unravels mysteries. This episode involves Marcia Campbell, Sam Barris and Jack Steward.

The photos for this analysis were taken by Marcia Campbell at the Barris Kustom shop in the early 1950’s. The photos belong to John Barris, Sam Barris’ son, and were ‘discovered’ by Curtis Leipold in a box of material he borrowed from John.
These step by step photos on how Sam Barris chopped the Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury were first published in the Rodder’s Journal #51 article on Marcia Campbell. They can be seen on the Custom Car Photo Archive

This set of photos, 39 in total, are very important. They show Sam Barris performing one of the first chops on a 1949 Mercury. These photos have been used in a very interesting discussion on the HAMB about which Mercury Sam Barris chopped first, his own, or the one for Jerry Quesnel. You can read the discussion on the HAMB here.


We do know a lot about the history on certain custom cars, and we also found out a lot of details, many years after these cars were built. But sometimes the facts and details about certain cars have faded in time. And those who were present at the time, simply cannot remember everything in details (although we always hope they will).

For instance on the Sam Barris and Jerry Quesnel Mercury’s, we have no confirmed dates on when they were built and finished. We know when the cars were shown in the magazines, or when they were at a show. But still some dates are still a mystery. So it comes as a wonderful surprise if some unexpecting elements in a photo can lead to more info.

We were working on a different project and were looking a bit closer to some of the Marcia Campbell photos. We are always attracted to what ever goes on in the background of these old photos. Suddenly we noticed something never noticed before… in three of these photo we can see Jack Stewart 1941 Ford is in the background.

It is known that the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford was mostly built at the Ayala shop. But George Barris finished it for Jack in 11951. Also known are a few dates when certain things were done to this car. So – with the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford in the background- is is safe to say that Marcia took the photos of Sam chopping the top. Or at least with Sam finishing the metal work on the top after the end of January 1951.
Jack Stewart entered his 1941 Ford in the 1951 Hot Rod and Motor Sport Show at the Los Angeles National Guard Armory held at the end of January (25-28). He showed the car there with white-out-windows since he did not have an interior in the car yet.

In these photos shown here, we can see Jack’s 1941 Ford in the background. One of them shows the car with a full interior. Jack never mentioned when he did the upholstery on his car, but I know this must have been after January 1951. It must have been in the beginning of 1951, since later that year he sold the car to Jim Skonzakis.

Before these photos showed up it was often thought Sam had finished the jerry Quesnel Mercury in 1950. But with these Marcia Campbell photos we know it must have been in 1951. Many say Jerry’s car was finished before Sam Barris finished his own Mercury. We do know Sam’s mercury was shown at the 1951 Oakland roadster show held February 20-25.


  • In the center photo we can clearly see that the Jack Stewart Ford had been painted. Before that Jack’s car was in white and pink primer for a number of month.
  • The photo of the bottom left shows that Jack’s Ford has an fully upholstered interior. The background is a but blurry, but with the help of other photos of the Jack Stewart Ford we can positively identify the interior.
  • The photo on the bottom right is added to show the Jerry Quesnell with the almost finished chop. But in this photo Jack’s Ford also appears in the background. The hood shows up right above the trunk of Jerry’s Mercury, and the rear fender trunk of Jacks car can be seen viewed thru Jerry’s windshield and passenger rear quarter window.


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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