Custom Car Chronicle
Custom HistoryThe Tom Nielsen Collection

Canted Quad Lights




Canted Quad Headlights on Customs, a trend started in 1957 highlighted in the early 1960’s. By the mid 60s it was all over, time to bring back the style?

By Tom Nielsen

Early customizers often had a goal to make their cars appear newer along with making a personal statement on their customs. In 1958 Detroit brought out newly designed cars with four headlights. It was only natural that custom builders would begin to try to use them on their forties and fifties cars.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-58-lincoln-011958 Lincoln introduced their canted quad headlights in 1958. Perhaps the most beautiful designed units of them all.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-57-chevy1958 Lincoln headlights taken to the extreme.

In the Pacific Northwest and Canada the “quad headlight” look took off almost immediately after the new cars came out. I particularly liked the “canted quads” as used on the new ’58 Lincoln. That long oval trim ring looked especially good in lots of different applications.
I was always in awe of the creative way that Vancouver’s Fred Welsh fit them into the fenders on his ’40 Ford sedan. I also like the Lincoln quad lights in some ’49-’51 Mercurys and the ’53- ’56 Ford pickups with their large grille opening seemed made for them. There was a ’56 Chev pickup from Seattle that had a nice installation of the canted Lincoln housings. There was a ’56 Chev pickup from Seattle that had a nice installation of the canted Lincoln housings, sadly I got rid of the picture that I had of it.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-welch-40-ford-02Fred Welsh from Vancouver used a set of ’58 Lincoln headlights in his 1940 Ford four door show winning custom.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-otto-rhodesOtto Rhodes 1953 Ford Pickup truck with 1958 Lincoln canted headlights in a new grille surround created from bend and shaped round tubing.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-lore-sharp-buick-01Lore Sharp’s sectioned 1956 Buick had a completely redesigned front end with 1959 Chevy headlights canted into reshaped front fenders.

Customizers from the Northwest also used canted quads from other makes and fit them into their custom designs. Lore Sharp used this look in the sectioned ’56 Buick that was a Car Craft magazine Top Ten Custom. Ray Wilson created a great looking front end for Paul Savelesky’s 1955 Chev hardtop “Miss Elegance”. His canted quad design really seemed to flow well with the whole car.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-55-chevy-01Ray Wilson cleverly integrated the canted 1959 Chevy headlights into the complete grille shape. Heavy metal surgery was needed to make it all work on Paul Savelesky’s 1955 Chev hardtop “Miss Elegance”.

When the “canted quad” trend was hot in the Northwest, it was also going on in California and the rest of the country as well. If you look in the magazines that featured customs in the late fifties and early sixties you can find lots of nice examples. All of the big custom shops in California created some unique ways to utilize the “canted quad” headlights in their restyles.
Cushenberry, Winfield, Barris, Bailon and others all came up with interesting and attractive ways to put the modern angled headlights into earlier cars.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-cushenberyBill Cushenbery’s heavily restyled 1940 Ford the “El Matador” for which he created a complete home made front end including canted quad headlights.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-barris-filesGeorge Barris took many photos of great restyled custom car with canted quad headlights in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Some of the cars were only moderately reshaped to make the headlights work, while others had complete restyled front ends with integrated canted quad headlights.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-59-Buick-011959 Buick had wonderful shaped canted quad headlights from the factory.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-62-chrysler1962 Chrysler came stock from the factory with canted quad headlights which matched the shape of the grille.

Meanwhile, Detroit brought out more cars with “canted” headlights too. The 1959 Buick lights looked nice on the Buick but the trim on them made them harder to use in other cars. I think that one of the “best looking Detroit canted quad designs” was in the 1961-62 Chryslers and the 1961 De Soto. However, by this time the custom trend for “canted quads” started to slowly fade.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-watson-busonic-01John Schott designed the front end of Roy Abendroth 1955 Buick named “Busonic” using canted quad headlights set in chrome plated mesh in extended fenders flanking a home made grille opening.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-roten-sketch-55-chevyJim Roten designed this beautiful 1955 Chevy with canted quad headlights for a client of the Riley Collins Custom shop in Chino, Ca.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-leroy-goulart-01Most of the front end work on Leroy Goulart’s 1951 Ford, including reshaping the grille opening and the integrating of the canted quad headlights was done by Gene Winfield. The shape of the front created by Gene became so popular that the AMT model kit company even included a similar shaped front end in their model kits.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-barris-merc-fireThe Barris Kustom Shop restyled Bobby Yamazaki aka “Chimbo” 1954 Mercury with a set of canted quads in 1957. On December 7, 1957 the just finished car burned down in the devastating Barris Shop fire and destroyed the car, even before any photos of the finished car were made.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-Bradley-designHerb Gary worked together with designer Harry Bradley to restyle this 1957 Oldsmobile with among many other features, canted quad headlights, for Russ Grady. (From the Mark Karol-Chik Collection)

CCC-canted-quad-lights-shoebox-01Canted Quad headlights on a sectioned four door Ford Shoebox from Vancouver.

Canted Quad LightsJust a few sample color photos showing a wide range of different styled of canted quad headlights form the early 1960’s. (from the bill Usedom Collection)

Canted Quad LightsMore samples of canted quad headlights from the early 1960’s, this time with black and white photos from the bill Usedom Collection.

Now that traditional customs are becoming more popular we might be seeing more “canted quad” lights again! When used on the right cars, along with a grille and bumper that complements them, the end result is spectacular.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-paul-bragg-02One of the more recent adaptions of canted quad headlights was done by Paul Bragg on his wife’s Pat 1954 Mercury.

CCC-canted-quad-lights-paul-bragg-01Paul Bragg has always been very creative when it comes to styled and mixing style, and more important make it all work very well together. The integration of the canted headlights on Pat Bragg’s 1954 Mercury is a perfect sample of his design skills and metal craftsmanship.

See also the CCC-Story Baroque Custom Dreams for a story about the canted headlights which doomed a unique custom ’56 Chevrolet.

(this article is sponsored by)




Tom Nielsen

Tom Nielsen is a long time Custom Car fan with wonderful collection of photos of 1940's to 1960's custom cars. He loves to share his collection and to tell stories about them.

7 thoughts on “Canted Quad Lights

  • Thank you, Tom, for taking us through this custom trend, and the styles out of the Northwest. I also liked Gene Winfield’s Solar Scene Merc in use of separate quad headlights and tail lights.

  • Canted Quads are like some other aspects of customs that people seem to have strong opinions about. I like them. They really work well on the 53-56 Ford trucks.
    Great article on the origins of canted quads.

  • love the article, we put canted headlites on my friend an co worker maldonados 51 chevy coupe an pontiac split bumpers packard tail lites an candy blue kustom paint job back in 57 at kolberts kustom shop in pomona car never made the mags to much politics with them people back then an now, nice article rik,

  • Thanks for the “tour” Tom! I’ve always appreciated this style on the larger customs as the late ’50’s was my introduction to modified cars. Stuck “Quads” on almost every model car I built!


  • Like most things, it’s all about taste, application and restraint. Some look stunning… some, well, not so much. Canted quads definitely set a time period of the custom style.

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