As a young “car crazy kid” growing up in the 1950’s, I always kept an eye out for customs or hot rods parked along the road while riding in my parent’s car. When I spotted one it was pretty exciting, kind of like finding a “gem in a pile of stones”!
By Tom Nielsen
There is a kind of excitement in looking at a vintage photo and spotting an old hot rod or custom parked at the curb. These pictures may tell a story of why the custom or rod was parked at the curb while being used for transportation by the owner.
One of the things I am drawn to in this type of photo is the “randomness” of the pictures. Many of them appear as if a passerby happened upon a cool looking car and luckily had a camera available to snap a quick photo. Sometimes the pictures are entirely un-posed and show that the custom or rod in the photo was parked at the curb while the owner was out running errands in his daily driver.
Many of the “curb parked” photos tell a story by just looking at them. Using your imagination you can think of a scenario of why the car was parked in this spot. Often times there are signs of recent body work like primer and the picture represents a work in progress. An owner would be doing work in stages so that he could keep the car available to use as a driver.
I came by my fondness for this type of “curb parked photo” by reading Custom Car Chronicles and seeing some of the photos that Rik used in his articles. The surroundings of the early photos and the buildings and other cars are often quite interesting.
This photo from the Jamie Barter Collection has the “look” that inspired me to search for more photos of customs parked along the curb. The picture has that random quality and it is obvious that the full custom was used for transportation by the owner.
My favorite group of photos came from a story that Rik wrote about a 1940 Mercury convertible parked alongside a street by “the curb” from the Jamie Barter Collection. It had that random, unknown quality to it with a few mysteries like why it had no hood on it. The car also had the look of being used for a period of several years.
As most old car pictures were posed for photographing by their owners, it is a little more difficult to find these “curb parked pictures”. However, I have a few in my collection and have found some others in various sites including the Rik Hoving Custom Car Archives.
As you look at these photos see if you can imagine why the car was parked in this spot and who may have taken the photo. You never know, maybe you will develop a fondness for “curb parked” pictures too?
Two snapshots taken at the Barris Compton Ave, Shop of Sam Barris his personal 1940 Mercury convertible. Sam used his Custom Merc as daily transportation to and from work. If you look careful you can even spot his brother George’s 1941 Buick parked in front of the Barris Shop. Also George drove his full Custom on a daily basis.
Most Custom Cars back in the 1940’s were mild Customs, like this unidentified 1940 Chevy. The car was lowered, had long teardrop skirts, Appleton Spotlights, set in license plate, and dark paint job. Classic restyled cars like this were most of the time the owners only way of transportation.
1948-50 photo of a very nicely done mildly custom 1939 Ford four door sedan. ’46 Ford bumper, bubble teardrop skirts and since bar flipper hubcaps on black wall tires. Another very day cruiser most likely parked in front of the owners home.
Photos like this really do it for me. An amateur photographer takes a picture of a beautiful building in Pasadena Ca. And a beautiful Custom 1940 Ford with padded top happened to be parked at the curb across the street. Over 6 decades later the ’40 Ford was identified as the Bill Halliday Ford.
Slick looking 1940 Ford convertible with chopped dark colored padded top and removed running boards parked on the side of the side of the street. It looks to be a sports field in the east, or mid west of the US.
Some of the customs were also used to transport surfboards to the California Coast. This chopped with padded top Mercury has the rear window flap removed so that the surf board could fit in there from the back. My guess is the beach is across the street from where the Custom is parked.
Unidentified chopped with padded top 1940 Ford convertible. The car looks very much like the Bill Halliday Custom in the openings photo, but it is a different car, this one, photographed in the early 1950’s still has the running boards. Another great photo showing these Customs were used as any other car.
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