Custom History

April 14, 2018

Early Pictures Tell a Story – Curb Parked




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.


Kurt McCormick shared these two snapshots of the Nick Matranga Mercury parked in front of a house. It shows that even award winning full customs were driven in every day situations.


Around 1951 Jack Stewart parked his Ayala/Barris 1941 Ford business coupe in front of a friends house.


Chopped 1936 Ford convertible with ’41 Ford bumpers and Appelton Spotlights parked on the street in the mid 1940’s.


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.


Dale Runyon’s 1941 Ford full custom convertible parked on an Everett street around 1948. The car has survived and today is owned by Paul Harper.


Early 1940’s snapshot of a typical street Custom with chopped windshield, padded top, De Soto bumper and single bar flipper hubcaps, parked on the street.


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.


Most likely taken at an early drag-strip, cars parked at the side of the road, including these two chopped padded topped Customs.


Gil Ayala’s ’42 Ford Coupe with out the hood and a mildly restyled ’49 Chevy Convertible.


Ron Sobran’s metallic maroon 1951 Mercury with angled A-pillars and sunken rear window parked at an unknown location.


Bob Aguilera’s 1953 Mercury Monterey Restyled by the Dick Richardson Custom Shop parked on the street.


Stan Lendzon Clarkaiser restyled 1952 Buick parked in the street.


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.


My friend Doug Mumaw’s custom 1951 Merc parked in Everett, Washington around 1962.


Mild smoothed and lowered painted all black 1950 Mercury parked at the curb on the corner in Los Angeles.


Buick Sedanette parked on the curb has radiused rear wheel openings and lake pipes popular in the late fifties or early sixties. The taillights appear to be from a Corvette.


Jim Roten captured his friends 1950 Ford and 1958 Chevy mild customs parked in front of the lawn.


Unidentified 1949 Chevy fleetline mild Custom in the mid 1950’s.



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About the Author

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.



  1. Great Pictures Tom!
    Always cool to see a custom on the road!

  2. Thanks Tom, really neat pictures.

  3. Tim Norman

    Nice job Tom, I have an old Navy pic of my Dad in front of a mild custom 50 Merc.

  4. That 40 Merc Conv. looks very alike the Huth/Marr 40 Merc. that was built and finished before X-mas in 1939 and was found and restored in 2008/2009 Now for sale here:|overstreet_house_of_cars

  5. That 40 Mercury Conv. looks a lot like the Huth/Marr Merc. that was built and finished in LA before X-mas in 1939, it was later found and restored in 2008/2009 Now for sale here:|overstreet_house_of_cars

  6. Dwight

    Love these pix Tom. Keep them coming. Thank you.

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