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Ralph Bush Sports Custom




Ralph Bush owned this 1941 Chevy based Sports Custom while in Collage in 52-54 in Santa Barbera. It was originally created in Pasadena around 1948-49.

Special thanks to Geoff Hacker for sharing the photos and information.

The photos of this Sports Custom are all from the Ralph Bush Collection. Ralph¬†bought the car in 1952, and owned it for about 3¬†years, while he was in Collage in Santa Barbera. Before Ralph bought the car he had seen it many times on the roads in Pasadena Ralph had a good friend Bill White, who would later become a business partner. A business partner from Bill at that time was Keylor Whitehead from Pasadena,¬†Kaylor was half owner of this car. Kaylor and his brother (Ralph could not remember the name of the brother) had build the Sports Custom in their home garage after they had returned from WWII. They had found a 1941 Chevy, that most likely had been in an accident and decided to build a dream Sports Car from it.¬†When Ralph bought the car it has already been completed for a few years, and he never really asked what all was used to create the car, but the ’41 Chevy base was clearly visible and the engine in the car was still the original Chevy Blue-Flame 6 cylinder motor.

CCC-ralph-bush-sports-custom-04A 1941 Oldsmobile rear bumper, and 1946-48 Lincoln continental rear fenders/taillights were used. A smaller trunk opening was cut into the new shaped rear portion of the car.

The only thing Ralph remembered about how the car was build was when Kaylor Whitehead had told him that after the new fenders were added, or created the transition from the fenders to the hood was to sharp. The brothers cut a galvanized quarter inch pipe in half and welded and leaded that in place to round of the transition from fender to hood, and make this look more pleasing. It appears the brothers might have used some newer fenders, and possibly doors to create the new sides of the car. At the back they incorporated 1946-48 Lincoln Continental rear fender sections including the Lincoln taillights. The door tops were reshaped with the main section lower than stock, creating larger side window openings.

The grille opening was home made and grille parts came from all over. Originally the grille had chrome plated horizontal bars installed, which looked very nice. But Ralph drive the car a lot more than the original owners had ever done, and found out that the car overheated to easy. So he removed the horizontal grille bars. All the photos Ralph had showed the car after this modification. Ralph also did the new center grille insert with the “RB” engraved in it. When Ralph bought the car it had a large “W” from the Whitehead brothers in the center of the grille.

CCC-ralph-bush-sports-custom-01This was the only photo Ralph could find of the car with the Carson top removed. The photo was taken somewhere in Santa Monica. 

Ralph was very familiar with the car and had always liked it very much. He also remembered it from the Annual Junior Rose Ball Parade in Pasadena in 1949. The car looked really gorgeous leading the parade. In 1952 Ralph’s friend Bill mentioned that the Whitehead brothers planned to sell the car. Ralph bought it then for $900.-. Quite a big sum of money for a High School kid of 18 in 1952. But Ralph had a nice 36 Ford which he sold, and with the savings he had, he was able to get the money. He was in heaven with his new car… and the car made quite an impression with his school buddies and of course the girls in town as well. Ralph remembered that the car had a special radio in it. One that you could choose the radio station with using a foot controlled button… a big success with the girls as well. Ralph remembered that the real Carson Top Shop top was not to heavy, and could be easily removed with two guys for some topless cruising.

CCC-ralph-bush-sports-custom-02The front uses an unidentified bumper and grille parts with integrated amber fog lights. Notice the huge antenna. Something that was used a lot in the 1940’s.

CCC-ralph-bush-sports-custom-03Close up of the front shoes that the bumper is misaligned, making the front end a bit crooked. 

One one trip from Santa Barbara to Pasadena the car broke down on highway 118. It turned out the top of one of the pistons had broken off. It was in the middle of the night and fortunately had was able to reach a small town on the highway and used a pay-phone to call his father to ask him to pick him up, which he did. The next day Ralph returned with his toolbox. Took of the head, and found the broker piston problem. He took out the piston, and the spark-plug, put the engine back together and started the engine. He drove the car back to Santa Monica running on 5 cylinders with no problem… there he rebuild the engine. Ralph remembered that the engine had an aftermarket two carb intake, but it was never really powerful, but did what it needed to do.

CCC-ralph-bush-sports-custom-05This front 3/4 view shows the nice lines of the car really well. Ralph remembered the paint was a solid, non metallic light (ice) green.

CCC-ralph-bush-sports-custom-06The Whitehead brothers had installed a nice Mercury Monteray Accessory steering wheel. Sadly the photo is a little dark so we cannot see much details on the interior. Ralph remembers that the¬†upholstery was a dark green and the back seat was curved with a diamond pattern and his¬†mother commented that “it looks like a love seat… but don’t use it as one!”.¬†Notice that the Carson Padded top shows some sagging after being around 8 years old when this photo was taken.

In the mid 1950’s¬†Ralph sold his Sports Custom to his cousin¬†Ray Milton who lived in Palmdale, California. Over the years Ralph¬†lost track of both the car and his cousin. Ralph¬†has no idea what ever happened to the car. After Ralph sold the Sports Custom he bought a brand new Singer Sports Car, and has always had a soft spot for Sports Cars ever since. As far as Ralph could remember this car was the only car the Whitehead brothers ever created. They were not in the automotive business at all, it was just a fun project for them.

(this article is made possible by)




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)

4 thoughts on “Ralph Bush Sports Custom

  • Fun story! Looks like the Post-War Lincoln Continental was a major inspiration for the Whitehead brothers. That light cool color was all the rage in those late 40s. The Cecil Wentz sport roadster had a color quite like this one.

    Keep those photos and articles coming. Love how we can look back to see just how wide-spread custom building was across the land after WWII. It was no-limits creativity, no-rules fabrication.

  • Agree with Larry. Great article and made even better by the fact that it was built in their garage.
    Ingenuity ruled the day back then.Try telling some one today that you used galvanized pipe in your custom build. LOL

  • Neat sports custom! I wonder how many homemade jobs like this roamed the streets of SoCal in the ’40s.

    Thanks for the pictures and information ūüôā

  • The upholstery was a dark green and the back seat was curved with a diamond pattern and my mother commented that “it looks like a love seat but don’t use it as one!”. I sold the car to my cousin, Ray who lived in Palmdale, California and bought my first Singer which got me started on my road racing career which I am still doing now racing a Thunder Roadster.
    Ralph Bush

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