Custom Car Builders

November 5, 2015

Bill DeCarr Old Body Shop




After having worked at the Barris Kustom shop for many years, Bill DeCarr openeded up his own body shop. Lets take a look at some photos of Bill DeCarr Old Body Shop from the Larry Watson Collection.


This article shows a selection of photos of photos taken at the old Bill DeCarr Body Shop. All of these photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo ArchiveSpecial thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle.

Before Bill DeCarr moved to the shop where he would be the most prolific, the Artesia Blvd. Shop, Bill shared a Speed and Custom Shop with Bill Bickel and Lee Shelton in Bellflower. The Shop / gas-station was called Bill’s Speed and Custom Shop, were Bill DeCarr took care of the Custom work, while Bill Bickel was responsible for all the mechanical jobs in the shop.


CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-00Beautiful mild customized candy purple 1956 Chevy sitting in front of the Bill DeCarr shop. Notice that the name on the sign is still Bill Ortega, but soon after this, Bill would change his name from Ortega to DeCarr. The shop was shared with Bill Bickel who ran the technical part of the Speed and custom shop.


Bill DeCarr had been working at the Barris Kustom Shop for many years, and in the late 1950’s Bill decided that it was time to get started on his own. Bill was a terrific body guy who worked on a great number of famous and not so famous Customs produced at the Barris Shop. He had become good friends with Larry Watson and when Bill started to work in his own shop he worked close with Larry Watson who had his shop first at 1016 E Artesia Shop North Long Beach, and in 1959 when most of the photos in this article where taken, in his famous 9012 Rosecrans Avenue shop in Bellflower.

Bill DeCarr would start the projects with the custom restyling and the finishing boy work, then on to primer before the cars were taken to Larry Watson for a new high end paint job. This collaboration would continue for many years. In the Larry Watson Personal Collection there is a selection of photos from Bill’s old shop. Most of these photos are dated November 1959, and a lot of them are rather fuzzy. Possibly the camera used was broken, or the settings were off. We have asked a lot of people about this shop, Barry Mazza even talked to Bill DeCarr’s widow about it, but nobody seams to remember much about it.

CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-07This very mild 1949 Ford Convertible can be seen in several photos at this shops location, as well as at Bill’s next shop on Artesia Blvd. Perhaps it was Bill’s personal ride, or one of his employees?



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-08The Ford had a really nicely done interior in white with green tuck & roll panels and white piping.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-09Fred LeFevre nearly finished 1959 ElCamino sitting front of the shop. Larry Watson had painted the Chevy after Bill DeCarr had performed the bodywork. More projects, and possibly employee cars in the background.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-01Fred LeFevre’s Elcamino is now finished in its first version, and parked next to it is Jones his 1959 Ford Ranchero also with body work by Bill DeCarr and paint by Larry Watson. 



Jones 1959 Ranchero

Among the photos taken in November 1959 are a couple blurry shots of a very nicely done 1959 Ford Ranchero. The only thing we know about the car is that the owner’s name was Jones, and that the body work was done by Bill DeCarr and the paint in off-white pearl by Larry Watson.

CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-04Well dressed Jones showing off his California raked Ranchero. Bill’s work was to clean up the body, removing emblems and scripts. The great stance, perfect size white walls, four bar flipper hubcap and lake pipes are so right for this car. 



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-03The handle on the tailgate was removed as well as the logo below it and the Ranchero scripts on the top of the rear fenders.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-02At the front we can see dummy spotlights, shaved hood, shaved fender tops and a chromed tubular grille. 



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-06This photo of the Jones Ranchero was taken at Bill’s later shop on Artesia Blvd in Bellflower. I have included them since they show the car a bit better than the photos taken in 1959 at the old shop. And these show how nice the car was with subtile body work and a wonderful off-white pearl paint job by Larry Watson.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-05We assume the guy next to the Ranchero is Jones, but we have no idea who he is. If anybody knows anything more about Jones and or his 1959 El Camino, please let us know so we can add the info here.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-01-10Lot of “movement” in this low angle photo showing body work done on a 1957 Chevy. The hood rockets are removed and the wind-splits extended forward and shaped into a nice peak.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-signClose up of the Bill Ortega sign on the front of the building. Bill’s sign was on the left side of the building and read: BILL’S BODY CUSTOM SHOP ALL TYPES CUSTOM WORK BODY-FENDER Bill Ortega



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-old-shop-sign-02The Right side of the building had the big sign with the main title BILL’S SPEED & CUSTOM SHOP and the names Bill Bickel on the left and Lee Shelton on the far right.



1955 Pontiac

Several photos have been taken of this unidentified 1955 Pontiac Hard Top that was taken to the Bill’s old shop for some custom restyling. The car already had a nice Californian stance when Bill got to work on it. Bill was hired to do some mild updating, typical for the time the car was created, 1959. He removed the door handles, shaved the trunk and modified the taillight and back up lights to accepts 1959 Cadillac taillights. The 1959 Cadillac taillights were brand new items back then, and had not yet been over-used.

CCC-watson-bill-decarr-Pontiac-01This photo was taken at the shop before Bill DeCar was starting to restyle the car. We can see that the car already had a California rake stance, and modified exhaust.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-Pontiac-02The front shows the center bar of the grille had been removed and a new tubular grille had been constructed before the owner decided to have some body work and new paint done.



Bill also set in the license plate in between the two bumper sections. At the front Bill frenched the headlights and modified the scoops on top of the fenders. He removed the trim on the hood, except for the ribbed sections, which add optical length to the car. Sadly the Larry Watson Personal Collection did not have any photos of this car further than this primer spot stage. So we have no idea if Larry ended up painting it or not.


CCC-watson-bill-decarr-Pontiac-03The next batch of photos were taken when Bill’s work was finished on the car, and it was ready for a new paint job. The car was shaved, smoothed and with some restyling on the taillights and the sunken plate in between the bumper.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-Pontiac-04At the front Bill frenched the headlights, removed the fender top scoop trim pieces and molded in a shaped round rod as the leading edge of the scoops. The hood emblem and ornament were removed, creating a nice smooth front end.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-Pontiac-07The headlight fender scoop on a stock 1955 Pontiac are already very attractive, but smoothed and reshaped like Bill did on this one makes it looks even nicer.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-Pontiac-06The taillight and parking light pods were modified to accept brand new 1959 Cadillac taillights. Notice the small scoops on the top of the fender, similar to the once created on the front fenders.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-Pontiac-05Bill removed the bumper over rider and reshaped the lower pan below the trunk to have the license plate set in. 



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-Pontiac-08Sadly there are no photos of the car with the front bumper installed, or even with a new paint job We have never been able to find out anything more about this car, and how it looked when it was finished.



CCC-watson-bill-decarr-bills-speed-shopIn one of the photos we spotted this 1957 Ford with the 76 as well as Bill’s Speed and Custom Shop emblems painted on its side. Not sure if this was one of the owners cars to help promote the shop, or if it was a race car sponsored by the shop / gas-station.



(this article is made possible by)







3,146 total views, 3 views today

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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)



Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *