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May 2, 2019

Dick Lippert 49 Chevy

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Dick Lippert from upstate New York customized his 1949 Chevy in his parents drive way in 1953.

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By Dick Lippert

I bought the car in the summer of 1951 while in the service and was putting almost 900 miles per week driving home on weekends and etc.
While in Korea I gave much thought to what I would do to the car when I got home. I was determined to chop my 1949 Chevy convertible upon my return to my home in 1953, in upstate New York, USA. I had to wait for good weather in the spring to be able to do all the work, which had to be done in my parents driveway.

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The first version from 1953 still had the stock grille, but the hood had already been made one piece, smoothed and the headlights frenched with the then popular half moon chrome covers added

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Figuring out how the cut the top bows to match the chopped windshield and still be fully functional.

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Early stages. The windshield has already been chopped, the hood smoothed, headlights frenched, but we are still working on the top bows, and the door handles need to be shaved as well.

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Here the top bows have been all done and the new canvas is in place. The rear fenders have been molded, and smoothed, but the taillights have not been added to the final horizontal position.

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Comparing with a stock convertible.

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The Olds Bumpers at the back, the smoothed trunk and fenders and the lowered stance are a huge improvement over the stock one parked next to it.

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I was just shy of my 23rd birthday when I started the customization of my car. I learned all I needed to know from reading Hot Rod magazine since 1948 plus all the car magazines that were available at the time. I purchased a Oxy Acetylene welding out fit and had a small assortment of hand tools

I studied the top mechanism for hours and made the decision to go ahead and chop the windshield and modify the soft top to fit. I chopped the windshield 2 1/2″, used a one piece 50 Oldsmobile convertible windshield and took it to a local glass shop. I told him they can do it in California! He said he was able to cut for me. While cutting, a crack developed but he was able to stop it. I paid $ 44.- for the windshield – I was only making $ 66 per week – 2/3rds of my pay check. So I was happy they were able to save it.

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Profile photo shows the lowered and slightly nose up stance.

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I had to make a few changes to let one bow drop down behind the back seat, when folded down. Had to cut down and weld the vent windows and send off for re chroming. I had a local auto upholstery shop sew up a new top fabric because a stock top fabric kit would not fit the lowered top structure and etc.

Other changes I made were, removed handles, nosed one piece hood, molded in rear fenders, decked trunk and frenched headlights. The stock tail lights were rotated 90 degrees with added wind-splits near the rear edge of rear fender/quarter panel inspired by the 49 Ford. I used 50 Olds bumpers front and rear with exhaust exiting the rear tips and shortened bumper guards on the front. Most parts used came from the scrap pile.

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The Oldsmobile bumpers, the smoothed body, lower top and the turned 90 degrees taillights gave the car a completely more high end look.

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Later I added a ’49 Mercury grill surround, Chevy front fender sections switched right and left under the headlights, 1953 Chevy grill bar ( look what’s driving bye ) ’49 Mercury grille opening panel was welded to the Chevy hood and the ends to right and left modified. The hood bottom corners were radiused. I ended up working for the body shop that primed my car as I made progress and also painted it. The color was Burgundy Maroon, a stock 1949 Chevy color.

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Posing with the Chevy

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The 2 girls sitting in the back are my sister and a friend. The guy behind the wheel was a close friend.

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The low mounted, turned horizontal taillights give the car a much cleaner and lower look as this low angle color photo shows.

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Slight nose up stance gives the car an instant speed feel.

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The Chevy looks amazing with the top down….

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… or with the top up. The new lowered top bows give the top a beautiful flow.

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In 1954 I installed a 303 cubic inch Oldsmobile engine and drag raced it that summer. The weight of the Olds engine brought down the front of the car and helped with the nose up attitude. The car was at it’s best in the black and white photo I took in September 1955.

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After the door handles were shaved I added push buttons hidden in the belt line trim, just behind the doors. The red and white interior looked so sharp with the maroon pained garnish moldings and dash.

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Zoomed in at the dash.

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All of the colored pictures were taken in September of 1953 and as you can see at that time the car still had the stock grill. The only picture I have of my customized front end was taken in September 1955 and only in black and white. I cannot believe I didn’t take a color slide of it. I accidentally lost many pictures in the 60’s and it still hurts, even today.

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The only photo I took of the car with the new ’49 Mercury grille shell and floating ’53 Chevy grille bar was taken in September 1955. I think the car looked at it’s best like this.

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About the Author

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)




22 Comments


  1. Perfect!
    And the best part is that you did it yourself.
    Any idea what happened with the car?
    Torchie

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    • Hi Torchie,

      In spring/summer of 1955 was a busy time for me, getting the car ready for our up coming honeymoon. In early fall I started my job as GM tool and die apprentice, making $ 1.66 per hour. As you can imagine money was tight. Then I made a decision that I wanted a used 1955 Chevy 2 dr. hardtop in January of 1956 Had a For Sale sign in the window for month’s, no one even asked about it. Customs were not appreciated like they are today. Sold the car in January of 56 for………………………………………………$300, count the zero’s. Rochester winter salt would have destroyed it.
      When you sell a car that cheap, you can’t control who owns it, in less than a year someone destroyed the front end. In 1964 could have bought it back for $ 400, mistake # 10,001 Found it in 1974 in a junkyard, the owner offered it to me, mistake #10,002, later I learned it was crushed!!! I’m still into cars, have 132,000 miles on my fender less 1929 Lippert/Ford that I designed and built, NOT A KIT CAR. It looks like a 1929 Ford roadster pick up in the cab area, but has doors 8″ longer with windows that tip in 12 degrees, plus many other features, including my Louvers in the hood sides Attend the NSRA Louisville, KY event every August under it’s own power, 640 miles one way.
      I recently sold the original grill parking lights for $70 on eBay, so make it $ 370

      Thanks for asking.

      Dick Lippert

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  2. rik great job . and to the builder wowwhat a story and great job on the car

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  3. Great looking Chevy, especially with the Merc grille shell.
    Really amazing color photos!

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  4. Thanks for sharing! Priceless look back into the true spirit of the golden era of customizing. You have to be so proud of what you accomplished.

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    • Hi Larry,

      Thanks for your kind words. See my reply to Torchie for the rest of the story.
      Just six years earlier I channeled a 1932 Ford many window coupe ( five window ) It’s a wonder I didn’t set Hot Rodding and Street Rodding back 20 years with that car. It was bad.

      At least one magazine said, don’t chop a convertible top, you won’t be able to get it to fold.
      I was able to prove them wrong.

      Dick Lippert

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  5. A very tasteful and clean looking full custom ’49 Chev convert. Nice color photos really add to the story. I like that it was built in the owner’s driveway much like another favorite Chev full custom, Moonglow!

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  6. Wow, nice color…tail lights leave a little to be desired but they’re interesting. Are there any other pictures of the Merc shell/’53 Chevy grill treatment?

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    • Hi King,

      Thanks for your kind words. See my reply to Torchie.

      The 49 Chevy tail lights were already on the car, I just turned them sideways.
      Money was tight, I was only making $66 per week in 1953
      I didn’t start my General Motors Tool and Die apprenticeship until 1955 at $1.66 per hour, no misprint.

      I lost many pictures in the early 60’s accidentally. Actually the only picture that you see of the front end, I didn’t take. I discovered that a Street Rod club member had taken a picture of it in Watkins Glen, NY in September 1955 If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have this one. The BIG GUY helped me out on that one.

      As the text say’s I used a left Chevy fender section on the right side and a right on the left. I joined them together directly under the center of the headlight. It left a nice cavity for the 53 Chevy grill ( notice whats driving bye)

      Dick Lippert

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      • Hi King,

        Read Dave’s comment below.
        I added a PS to his letter about the Mercury grill shell. A little more detail as to how I did it. Hope this helps you understand better. When I reread my comment to you I realized I didn’t do a very good job.

        Dick Lippert

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  7. Congrats on a truly beautiful Chevy and on doing the hard work yourself (colour me green)! The later rock guards help to visually lower the car too as opposed to the taller stock ones. I wonder, did you add to the bottom of your fender skirts? They appear to fill the well better than as stock – or am I imagining that? Great choices on every aspect of your custom!

    Dave

    p.s. You sell yourself short at $1.66/hr – that’s a decent wage for ’55!! Fifteen years later I started at $0.89; Just sayin’.. 🙂

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    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your kind words.
      You must know your Chevys, as your are the first one to notice or comment even back in the 50’s the newer rock guards.
      I did not add material to the bottom of the skirts.
      How I wish I could have kept the car, but always had to sell a car to buy the next in 56, which was a 55 Chevy 2 door hard top. In the spring of 57 we ordered a new Corvette with 3 options which made it one of 327 because of the positraction. I was making $2.25/hour. The payments were $67 a month. Who would have believed all of these cars are still popular today.
      Still working on my 1929 Lippert/Ford which has 136,000 miles. As I approach 90 it is getting harder to accomplish a days work. Every year I go to Watkins Glen on Friday for there annual Vintage Race weekend.

      Thanks for writing.
      Dick Lippert

      PS, In my comment to King about the front end treatment, I should have added that I took the 49 Mercury grill shell that was on body shop scrap pile. I did a vertical cut in the middle and fitted it to the bottom of the Chevy hood. I also flattened the lip on the bottom of hood. I radius-ed the hood corners, the rest was welded into the right and left fenders. No Bondo back then, used lead.

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  8. On my reply to Torchie, June 11th I messed up where I said some thing about my Louvers on my hood sides. Then I should have said. I attend Louisville, KY NSRA event every August in my 1929 Lippert/Ford.

    I also meant to say, I recently sold my original 49 Chevy parking lights on eBay for $70, making the total I got for my customized 49 Chevy $ 370 Oh if we had only known how popular these cars are, even today, 66 years later.

    Dick Lippert

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  9. I sure would like to see pictures of your Lippert/ Ford.

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    • Hi David,
      I will try to send you a link to pictures of my 1929 Lippert/Ford. I will need a little bit of time to do this. In the mean time you can Google Dick Lippert, if you see a open wheel car with two people behind it your there. The guy with the white hat is me. Click on the photo and the story will come up by Auburn Publishing. If you see a car picture and you see NY dragstriplist.com click on it you will see photos of my 49 Chevy at Fulton and also look for Penneville in 1954 possibly NY States 1st 1/4 mile Drag Strip.. Scroll way down past a black 57 Corvette into the comments section, I’m in there also. The internet is amazing.
      Dick Lippert ( A.k.a. louverguy )

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      • Hi David,

        Edit: Link did not work, so I removed it.

        I now have 137,000 miles on it. It has been seen in the WSJ newspaper, Bonneville, GG Bridge, Kalamazoo and Frankenmuth, MI. Burlington, VT. York, PA, Louisville, KY under it’s own power. It has also been seen on the West Coast of FL. Bradenton, Englewood, Daytona and Tampa.

        The car in the cab area looks like a 1929 Model A roadster pickup, No Ford parts anywhere, all designed and built by myself, SMART PEOPLE DON’T DO THIS. It features doors 8″ longer with tempered glass that comes up straight and then tips toward the center of the car 12 degrees. The doors are 1″ shorter in height at the front than at the rear of the quarter panel, often overlooked by admirers. My low profile exhaust under the cab area is made of 4 pieces of 3/4″ electrical Alum. conduit with a collectors that attach to my headers up front and modified mufflers in the rear.
        The engine is a GM 60 degree V6 with 1986 Camaro port fuel injection, 700 R4 transmission and 82 Corvette rear with 4.27 gears, 2050 rpm’s at 60 mph. 29 mpg at 75 mph.
        If there are other items you would like see let me know.

        Dick Lippert ( a.k.a. louverguy@ )

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  10. Oh, I forgot to tell you that your 49 Chevy is absolutely beautiful!

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