Exported Historic US Customs




In the last decade or so several American Historic Custom Cars have been bought by new overseas owners. Exported Historic US Customs.

Recently (July 2017), an early 1940’s Custom Restyled 1941 Cadillac from the California Bay area was sold to a new owner in Australia. The historic Custom Car had been for sale for quite some time on the Custom Car Chronicle website. This particular Custom is special to me. A number of years ago I found three mid 1940’s photos of a very nicely Custom Restyled 1941 Cadillac. Not long after I had written an article about these photo Custom Car collector and Enthusiast Kurt McCormick mentioned that that car was still around, still in NorCal, and that the current owner was slowly restoring it back to how it used to look in the 1940’s. That idea, of seeing the car completely restored in its natural habitat of Bay Area California in a couple of years from then stuck in my head. I had already visualized the car being shown at some of the local California shows, and possible even at some shows I might attend in the future, being able to see this Historic Custom in person. Now the car was sold to a new caretaker in Australia I had to adjust this vision… and it made me think some more about the export of another Historic US Custom Car to an overseas owner.

Over the past few years, even decades, several well known Historic Custom Cars have been sold to new caretakers outside the USA. The first one I ever heard about was in 1979, when the John Brizo 1953 Buick was sold to a new caretaker in Sweden. I had read about that in a Swedish car magazine in the 1990’s. And this sure made me dream about the possibility of owning an real original American Custom Cars one day. I had not really thought much about Historic Custom Cars leaving the US until my friend Palle Johansen from Denmark, bought the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford at an ebay auction. I absolutely loved the idea of having such an historic Custom Car within driving distance from where I live in Europe. I realized how much this car would influence a generation of car enthusiast in Scandinavia when they would see the car at local shows and read about it.

At the same time I also realized that the Jack Stewart Ford was taken away from the country it was created in. An environment that had influenced how this car was designed. The car was taken away from where it had become a legendary Custom Car, where it was photographed for magazines in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Photos that Custom Car enthusiast would still be looking at in decades from now (I hope). I knew from some of the American Enthusiast that they were not very pleased with the fact that yet another of “their” Historic Custom Cars was leaving the country. “Loosing” another piece of Custom Car history. Others were pleased to finally see another historic car end up with an enthusiast that was actually planning on restoring it to how it used to look, rather than see it locked up, rust ways, or receive an Matt black paint job with flames, as was planned by the previous owner of the JSF who thought it might help get the car sold.

We have seen a lot of Historic high-end, used as investments, move all over the planet to new caretakers. But for the Historic Custom Cars this is still relatively new. With the help of the vintage magazine features and the stories told by previous owners and builders the area were these cars originate have a strong connection with these cars themselves. For instance in my mind, I always see the early Barris Customs cruise around the block at the Barris Shops, or going to the famous exposition buildings, or to balboa Beach, or into the mountains around Los Angeles.

The fact is, that all these historic Custom Cars that have left the USA, have been offered for sale for a period of time, some even at relatively low prices, like the Jack Stewart Ford for $25 K. And although there was interest in these cars from domestic buyers, they did eventually end up in the hands of foreign enthusiasts. One of my theories why this happens is that the enthusiasts from overseas have not been brought up with these cars around them. For them it has been much more difficult to gather all the information about the history of these cars and the scene than for those who grew up around them. Perhaps that is the reason why the overseas from the US enthusiast is willing to go a step further in obtaining a piece of Custom Car History.

One way to “save” some money is to stuff the whole car with parts before it enters the shipping container. Parts for the restoration project if needed, or otherwise for other projects or friends projects. Usually the shipper charges per car, not by weight.

Often I have heard about “to high” asking prices on these historic Custom Cars being for sale, resulting them to stay for sale for quite some time. Until they perhaps are discovered by the out of the US enthusiast, who is willing to pay the asking price to obtain his dream historic Custom. Which is even more amazing if you realize that these people have to pay a lot of extra money to have the car shipped in a sea container by boat. adding a few thousand more to the price, then they have to pay import tax when the car is entering the country of the new owner. This depends on the country, but it is at least 6%, most likely more, of the sales value. And if the car needs to be restored, then the new owner has to spend a lot more money to import specific parts. Owning a historic US Custom for somebody outside the US, takes a lot more, in multiple aspects, than what it would for somebody in the US, it shows how dedicated these caretakers are.

The ultimate trip for a a new overseas owner is to personally drive the car to the shipper…

Is it good, or bad that these historic Custom Cars are leaving the US. Personally I don’t really think its all that bad. I have to be honest and like the idea of these cars being owned by people around the area where the cars were original constructed, or lived. But I have seen with my own eyes what these iconic Custom Cars can do to an audience far from where the cars originated from. These historic Custom Cars can be seen as sort of ambassadors of the history of Custom Cars. They can share their beauty in person with a whole new audience. And I think that sooner or later these historic cars might end up where they came from. For instance Palle Johansen shipped the partly restored Jack Stewart Ford back to the US to be shown in bare metal. And as soon as the car is ready for the road Palle will be showing the car in white primer in Scandinavia, just like how it rode around in Los Angeles in 1951. It allows a much larger audience to enjoy this car, than if it had stayed in the US.

Overall I think that seeing these US Historic Custom Cars around the world, generates more interest in the history, and more people are taking a closer look at the Custom Car in general. An other interesting thought is what would the old Custom Car builders have thought about their creations being spread out all over the world? Lets take a closer look at some of the historic US Custom Cars that have left the US. These are just a few samples… there are more.

John Bozio 1953 Buick

1953 Buick Roadmaster owned by John Bozio, Connecticut restyled in 1956 as a mild custom. A few years later, around 1960, John chopped the top, the grille was modified as well as the headlights, but the car was never finished in this version. In the late 1960’s John sold the Buick and after that the car changed hands a few more times, leading a very hard life. In the late 1970’s Red McCormick who knew the original owner John Bozio, buys the remains. Red restored the car, and added the missing glass in the car, including new plex rear windows. Red McCormick took the car to the 1979 Hersey Swap Meet and the sold it for around $3000.00 to Bengt Sjöberg from Sweden. Bengt completely restored the car and made a few changes along the way before he painted it black.The car was finished in the early 1980’s and Bengt showed it at many Swedish events and it appeared in a great number of European magazines. John Bozio’s Buick is responsible for a lot of new Custom Car Enthusiast during that period. Being an original American Custom Car imported and finished in Sweden made a huge impact on a large group of people. And even today the car still makes an impact. Bent retired the Buick from the scene around 1990, and in 2013 he took it out to a local car show for the first time. The car had a huge crowd around it all weekend.

John Bozio’s Buick finished in its first version around 1956-57.


This is how Red McCormick had finished the car and was offering it for sale at the 1959 Hersey swap meet. This is how the car looked when it was shipped to Sweden.

Completely finished at an early 1980’s car show in Sweden. The car had a lasting impact on a large group of people.

Featured in Swedish Wheels magazine in 1993, a few years after the owner had “retired” the car.

Bengt Sjöberg with the Bozio Buick at the 2013 Jokers cars show Swede. The car was out for the first time since 1990.

Jack Stewart 1941 Ford

Jack Stewart’s 1941 Ford was originally restyled at the Ayala shop in the late 1940’s for owner Jack Stewart. The car was finished in 1951 by George Barris, and not soon after that it was sold to Jim Skonzakes from Dayton Ohio. In 1955 Bob Drake rescues the car from being crushed and finishes a full restoration/remake in 1972. Bob keeps driving in into the early 2000’s then sells the car to an Car Museum who plans to fully restore the car and display it in the all new museum. But before the museum opens its doors the owner Ralph Whitworth decides to not continue with his plans and all cars planned to be exhibited in the museum are auctioned at the Icons of Speed & Style auction. The Jack Stewart Ford is estimated to bring $80 – 120 K. But is eventually sold for $25.- to a car broker. A little while after that the car was offered on ebay for a buy it now price. Palle Johansen from Denmark decides to buy it and bring it over the Denmark for a full restoration.

The Jack Stewart Ford auctioned at the Icons of Speed & Style auction on the let and some time after that on ebay on the right.

The Jack Stewart Ford at the shipper in the US and prepped inside the sea container for the trip to the Netherlands.

The Jack Stewart Ford just unloaded from the sea container in the Netherlands. The import tax in the Netherlands was 6% at the time, while in Denmark it was 15%. Once a car has entered into the EU, a car can travel free inside the EU without having to pay extra sax. So this way 9% tax was saved. A road trip from The Netherlands to Denmark was far less than that.

The Ford arriving in Denmark.

During the restoration the car was all cleaned to bare metal and the work done by the Ayala’s and George Barris could be seen for the first time in history. Realizing how important this was for the Custom Car history Palle Johansen decided to ship the car back to the US. and enter it in the 2013 Grand National Roadster Show. This way the car could be reunited with the original owner Jack Stewart, as well as last owner Bob Drake, Both had become good friends with Palle during the restoration. During this trip Palle realized that even though the car is now owned by him, in Denmark, the car has its roots in So California. After the show the car was shipped back to Denmark, and the restoration is still ongoing in the summer of 2017. But eventually Palle hopes to bring the completely restored car back to the US, and share it in all its glory with the custom car enthusiast again…

In 2013 Palle shipped the bare metal, partly restored car back to the US to be displayed at the GNRS in bare metal. The car was reunited with the original owner Jack Stewart, as well as with the later owner Bob Drake at the show.

Butler Rugard Harry Westergard 1940 Mercury

The Butler Rugard Mercury was restored by Jack Walker and team and also became part of the Museum, just as the Jack Stewart Ford. When the car was auctioned for $82,500 to a new owner from Greece. A few years later in 2013, the car was for sale again and also offered at a local Greece auction organized by Coys with a pre-auction estimate of €80,000 to €100,000 (about $106,000 to $133,000). The car did not sell at the auction, and is as far as we know still in Greece, but I have not seen or heard from it after this. There is not really a big Hot Rod or Custom Car community in Greece, so the car is not shown to the public.

Photo shoot at a Greece olive orchard.

From the Coys auction in Athens, Greece.

Lawrence Garrison 1939 Mercury

Originally owned and restyled by Lawrence Garrison of Massachusetts. Possibly some of the work was done in California during WWII, there are some rumors that Jimmy Summers added the fade away fenders. But those might also be Buick units added to the car by another shop. Front and rear fenders are raised, the body is channeled over the frame. Chevy front bumper and Buick rear bumpers were added. At one time the car also had a padded top with nice curved side windows. The windows are still there, but the top is long gone. The was passed hands several times and ended up back in California where Dave Christensen from East Los Angeles, California found it in the mid 1960s. In the early 2000 the car was owned by Don Orosco who displayed it at the prestigious Customs Then & Now exhibit at the 2011 GNRS in Pomona. Shortly after this show the car was bought by Birger Meland, who shipped the car back to his home in Norway.

The Garrison Merc owned by Don Orosco displayed at the 2011 GNRS Customs Then & Now exhibition.

The car at the 2016 Coupe Devils Rod & Kustom Bonanza in Norway.

Birger has plans to built a new top for the car in the near future.

SoCal 1939 Mercury and 1936 Ford

Listed together in this article, because both cars were bought by two friends from Sweden. Both are SoCal customs and are now in Sweden waiting a full restoration. The 1939 Mercury was an very early Custom, restyled in 1940 with an Carson Top Shop padded top. And the ’36 Ford was chopped in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s in Long Beach. Ronnie Lindblom from Sweden is the new caretaker of the 1939 Mercury and Micke Hedberg now owns the ’36 Ford. More about the Mercury can be read in the CCC-Article. And more about Micke’s ’36 Ford can be read in the CCC-Article Here. In 2016 both cars were picked up by the current owners in California, prepared for a road trip and driven to the Los Angeles Roadster Show and later to the shipper who placed the car in containers and shipped the cars to Sweden.

Delwyn Triska’s ’36 Ford back in the early 1950’s, and the unrestored ’39 Mercury at the 2008 LARS show where it was a huge crowd pleaser.

Both cars arrived in Sweden save and sound, are now enjoyed and awaiting a full restoration.

Gil Ayala 1955 Thunderbird

Gil Ayala restyled this 1955 Thunderbird for himself. He modified it at least twice. In the last decade or so the car has been for sale and changed hands before it was bought by Björn Inge Jansson. Björn had the car completely restored in Florida by Yarils Customs, before he took it on a cross country trip from Florida to San Fransisco to have it shipped home to Oslo Norway where Björn lives. But before Björn took the car home he made sure he entered it in a few cars shows so that people could enjoy the car. And he took it to the old Gil Ayala Auto Body Works shop in East Los Angeles, where Gil Ayala had created in in the later part of the 1950’s. During this visit the car was reunited with a few old Ayala friends and employees, as well as Gil’s daughter Lynn Ayala.

Björn is talking to Bob Silva (Ayala relative) with the wild Bird parked on the corner where Gil’s Shop used to be. The sign that Gil Ayala had put up with a giant muffler is still in place today. The little house behind the car used to be the House of Chrome shop in the early 1950’s.

The car delivered at the shipper in San Fransisco, waiting to be prepped for entering the sea-container and the boat ride to her new home in Norway.

Björn picking the car up from the harbor in Sweden where the shipper delivered the car. Its the second Ayala Custom in Scandinavia that we know about.

California Bay Area 1941 Cadillac

This 1941 Cadillac Convertible was custom restyled in 1942 in the Berkeley-Oakland California area. At this moment it is unknown who performed the original restyling on the car, but we do know that the interior and the top were done by Ca Hall of Oakland. The original owners name is unknown, but the previous owner bought the car in 1953 from the original owner. The car received an white covered padded top in the 1950’s. Sadly the top burned in a garage fire leaving just the bare frame. Over the last few decades the previous owner has started and mostly finished a complete restoration of the car. But bofore the job was finished the 80+ year old owner decided to sell the car. After having been for sale for at least a year, and a few price drops the car was sold to an Australian based custom car enthusiast in July 2017. The car is currently, as I’m writing this prepped for the boat trip from California to Melbourne, Australia. The new caretaker will complete the restoration as the beautiful early 1940’s California Custom Car. More about this beautiful early 1940;s restyled 1941 Cadillac can be read in THIS CCC-Article.

Original photos taken around 1945 show the car with super gloss black paint, white wall tires, and black leather like material padded top.

The Cadillac being prepped for delivery to the shipper who will place it in a sea container and then ship to Melbourne Australia.

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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)

6 thoughts on “Exported Historic US Customs

  • July 26, 2017 at 15:59

    i hesitated to write a response to this because i don’t want anyone to take this as a negative. but i never like seeing historic customs leaving the U.S. the history they have is here. maybe i’m being selfish since i won’t be able to ever see these cars once there gone or maybe i’m disappointed that no one here stepped up and bought them. as a huge fan of traditional customs i’m often sad that there aren’t more around and seeing some leave just adds to it. it’s not that i think these cars now aren’t in good hands, i know they are. just wish they were still here. again, this is in no way meant to be offensive to anyone. just one persons opinion on the subject.

  • July 28, 2017 at 08:15

    I see the point Mike is making and I my own opinion (although beeing swedish) is that these classic customs do their best justice in their american enviroment but beyond that I still think its awsome when someone, whichever country they come from, takes the opportunity to buy one of these to restore, drive and enjoy for historic preservation.
    Also the ones who decide to make a clone of a long gone wellknown custom should
    be saluted, its a blast to see them come alive again.
    And who knows, maybe these customs comes back to the US sometime in the future…

  • August 4, 2017 at 19:09

    Great article! Although it seems like we’ll never see these American kustoms again once they leave the U.S., that’s not true. As Rik stated, the Jack Stewart Ford came back for a return trip to the GNRS. In my opinion, nearly all of the hot rods and kustoms that end up in Europe go on to live a better life. The craftsmanship put into their restorations and the attention paid to their histories is top notch. If someone is willing to invest and track down a car to the point of shipping it around the world, then I believe they are the best caretaker possible. If people were importing them to Europe just to turn a profit, then it might be a different story. Who’s to say some of these historic kustoms might not return to the U.S.???

  • August 5, 2017 at 12:42

    Hi… I have to agree with points by all the contributors …sad to see them leave the USA….but they could return restored to the USA in a better level finish than the first builder …craftsmanship in Australia and Europe is second to none and with communications these days it could look as if it was in your neighborhood with the digital photography available ..
    People all over the world are building high quality customs in Italy…..Sweden…Britain…Australia ..just a pity we cant drive to a point and display them together …its great to see that customs a becoming more traditional and getting back to roots 40-50s . As Kingkustoms said they just need quality care takers……

  • August 7, 2017 at 16:38

    I haven’t been here much lately as I no longer have internet in my home. But as soon as I saw this article on the library computer I knew that it would bring some interesting comments.
    My point of view is this.. I don’t care where these cars end up as long as they are not lost.
    I agree with Mike in that I’m disappointed that more”Local” buyers don’t get these cars and restore and preserve them. But like other things from our culture, they are appreciated more else where.( Jazz..As an example.) And lets face it. Custom cars have always been about being different from everyone else. And not being just part of the herd. Not ever one gets it…..
    On other so called custom car sites I have seen more then one Original survivor custom derided as “No car is worth that kind of money” even though it was built by one of the legendary builders.
    And lets face the facts. Buying a survivor is one thing and being able to afford to restore it (Yourself or having it done) is another thing. As well as the costs involved with the proper maintaining of it.
    If I won the mega-millions lottery tomorrow you can be sure that the list of cars for sale on Riks want ads would be a lot shorter.
    Thanks for the thought provoking article Rik.

  • August 8, 2017 at 19:16

    i agree with you Rob…if a guy like me buy a car i mean serios busines. the cost over here is 2x than in the US. and to be honest if a Kustom car is sold 4 states away you wont see the car that much anymore..
    and the internet has made the world so much smaller, and i rarely think about where you guys are living when we ´speak´
    but everybody is welcome to give me a offer i cant refuse, and the JS Ford will be back in SoCal in a minute..

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