Joe Bailon Miss Elegance

 

BAILON MISS ELEGANCE

 

Joe Bailon turned this once wrecked 1941 Chevy Coupe into the show winning Miss Elegance, his personal Masterpiece.



Joe Bailon bought his 1941 Chevy Coupe, which had severe frontal damage on the right side from rear ending an Navy truck and paid $50.00  He removed the damages sheet metal and fixed the radiator fan and drove it home. He ordered all new front fenders and a hood, and when installing them he tarted to customized those right away. In the late 1940’s Joe chopped the top on the car around 3 and a half inches, and moved the rear of the top forward the same amount.



First Versions

The first version of the car had a regular chop, but with the rear quarter windows and the stock, but canted forward  rear window in place. At the front Joe had created a full width grille surround, and filled it with hand bend chrome plated rods creating vertical grille bars. Over time Joe created no less than 7 different grilles before he ended up with the one we are all familiar with. The front bumper was replaced with an 1946-48 Chevy unit.

This is the oldest version of Joe Bailon’s 1941 Chevy with the full width home made grille. Chopped with the quarter windows still in place and with the stock rear window and primer paint. Notice the pointing forward of the Appleton Spotlights, black wall tires and moon hubcaps.
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A little later Joe had added a new smooth front bumper and the car was now painted.
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Addition of a license plate surround inside the grille opening.
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Second Version

Joe added a set of 1941 Cadillac rear fenders to the car and molded them in. They are similar in shape as the Chevy units, but longer, which fitted the design Joe had in mind better. Around 1951 Joe redid the top and filled in the rear quarter windows, and create a wrap around rear window by extending the windows sideways around the corner of the top. The new rear window would be a three part unit with chrome dividers. A license plate was set at the back below the shortened trunk.

Joe had created a custom dash for a client and wanted to go a bit wilder for his own personal Custom. He started with black sheet metal top and bottom, welded together to which he welded gauge surrounds from the junk yard. He added a total of 13 gauges and 32 dash-knobs to the unique dash. The plan was to have the dash chrome plated, so all the work had to be done extremely precise and everything needed to be metal finished. It took Joe several month of spared time to create the dash. He spend $50.00 to have the end result plated, and then spend some more money to fill all the holes with Steward Warner gauges that were all wired by Joe and all of them lit up and worked. Amazing considering Joe always mentioned he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. The interior on Joe’s ’41 Chevy was upholstered by Joe’s second wife, who used a dark red velvet drapery material found at a surplus store. The interior looked very luxurious, enhanced by all the glitter from the Chrome dash. and window moldings.

Photo taken around 1951 shows that Joe now had filled the rear quarter windows, widened the rear window, extended the front fenders using 42-48 Oldsmobile fender units, added the ’41 Cadillac rear fenders, hood side bulges, and reshaped the grille opening and front of the fenders and added new hand shaped 3/4 inch round tubing grille bars.
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This photo comes from a baby book for Carolyn Jo Bailon born April 10, 1950 it shows the baby sitting on the primered front fender of Joe’s ’41 Chevy. Interesting is to see the hand-made hubcaps without the Studebaker ornament. That’s Joe Bailon on the left side of the photo.
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A little later shows the car still in primer, but now with the ’48 Studebaker stars added to the hubcaps.
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The first versions of the car had the stock short ’41 Chevy front fenders molded to the body, but later Joe added 1942-48 Oldsmobile door fender sections to the car and matted them to the Chevy units. This gave the car a whole new different look, longer and lower. At the same time Joe also added material to the front of the fenders, possibly from a late 30’s Cadillac adding a more bulbous section below the headlights. A half round cut out was made under the headlights and the headlights rings were molded to the headlight pod. This all created a unique new look. Joe further modified the grille opening, and narrowed it compared to the earlier versions. Then Joe hand bend 21 grille bars from round tubing, smoothed then before having them plated and then installed them into the new opening. A custom made splash pan was molded to the front of the car, and the center section, where the grille bars are, was made as a separate part and chrome plated.



Third Version

The car was primered once again and driven for some time. Then Joe was inspired by the 1948 Tucker cars, and decided to redo the rear fenders on his Chevy. He handmade the top and front portion inspired by the Tucker’s front and rear fenders. He included a hand made chrome plated mesh for the working scoop. At the back Joe created a new bumper made from a center section with end pieces combined from Studebaker bumper guards placed horizontal. In the bulge section he create the exhaust outlets, again with home made bars. Later in his career one of the things Joe Bailon would be famous for where his hand made round rod grilles and bumpers. It all started with his personal ’41 Chevy.

Joe was very much inspired by the design of the Tucker when he redid the rear fenders, Here we can see Joe adding new sheet metal to the top and front of the ’41 Cadillac rear fender.
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Now with the new shaped rear fenders with an air-scoop in the leading edge of the rear fender. Cadillac fender skirts and ’49 Ford taillight housings. This photo also shows the shape of the wrap around rear window and how Joe added a drip rail around the door. Also notice the shortened trunk and bulged section below the trunk leading into the molded in splash pan.
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Joe painted his ’41 Chevy in a home mixed maroon to which he added silver for some sparkle and painted it over a yellow base. The end result was a very nice brilliant and deep color. The humble beginning of what he later would develop into his famous Candy Apple red. Joe entered the finished car in the 1952 Oakland Roadster Show and won first place (National Award). At the time Joe’s car was nick-named “the Dashboard”. The name “Miss Elegance” was given to the car a little later.

Another photo from the Carolyn Jo Bailon baby book shows a crown Carolyn polishing here fathers freshly pained Chevy. Notice the molded headlights, with extended froward fender sections and molded in splash pan. The center section of the splash pan was a separate piece and was later chrome plated.
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Joe’s ’41 Chevy at the 1952 Oakland Roadster Show.
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Joe’s freshly bright maroon over yellow painted Chevy looked brilliant at the show.
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The unique hubcaps were created by Joe out of farm equipment plow discs made from made from heavy spring steel. Joe cut them to fit the 16″ wheels added two narrow grooved towards the end and had them chrome plated. Later Joe added 20, ’48 Studebaker front fender vent door ornament stars to it. The heavy metal of the disk made in necessary to torch the holes for each of the stars. The working knock-off in the center was also designed and hand made by Joe.
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Life Magazine did a series of photos taken at the Hot Rod show in the National Guard Armory in Los Angeles held at April 24-27, 1952. Beautiful detailed photos of the Hand made front of the car, and smoothed bumper.
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Not to many cars had their bumper bolts shaved back in 1951-52. But that is what Joe liked. Notice the reflection of the grille bars in the chrome plated section of the splash pan. Joe had picked up numerous awards with “Miss Elegance” already.
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I like how the Life Magazine photographer captured the audience expressions when they looked inside to see the velvet maroon interior and chrome plated home made dash with 15 gauges.
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Photo taken at the 1952 Oakland Roadster Show. Nita Nelson checks out the 13 gauges and 32 push-buttons on the Joe Bailon 1941 Chevy Miss Elegance. An news paper article in which this photo appeared mentioned the costs for the Dash alone was a staggering $1160.00
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Joe’s amazing all hand made dash created from sheet metal and gauge surrounds he found. All carefully welded together and metal finished over a period of several month of spare time. It cost him $50.00 to have it plated back in 1951.The steering wheel comes from a 1952 Lincoln.
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Close up shows that Joe hand made the shifter handle from clear Lucite.
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This photo gives a good impression how luxurious the interior looked with the maroon velvet upholstery on the seats’ side panels, and also the headliner. With chrome accents on the garnish moldings and of course the 13 gauge dash.
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Beautiful higher point of view shows the great lines of the Chevy. The front bumper is either a smoothed ’46-48 Chevy unit, or ’47 Oldsmobile.
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Fortunately we have a few color photos of the car from around 1952 showing the Joe Bailon added metallic dark red over yellow. The car must have been stunning to witness in person.
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This fade color photo is the only photo I was able to find that shows off the bulge in the rear of the body really well, just below the shortened trunk line.
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Side profile, we always need a side profile to show off the cars proportions. Beautiful lines, with it nice flowing chop, the Oldsmobile extended front fenders, longer ’41 Cadillac rear fenders with Tucker inspired front sections of the rear fenders. The low mounted ’49 Ford taillight pods give the rear even more optical length.
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The heavy chrome and maroon velvet upholstery gave the car a high end luxurious feel.  The added tool box in the door panel and chrome plated top of the shortened running boards add to that high end feel.
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Joe had been very impressed with set in license plated since he first saw one on Tommy the Greek’s ’40 Mercury. So he knew he had to have one on his own full Custom Chevy. The ’49 Ford taillight housed use hand shaped clear red Lucite lenses. The rear bumper is mostly hand made using Studebaker Bumper guards welded to a center bumper piece. The bulged guard section was cut to have the exhaust tips sit into.
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Joe Bailon offered his car For Sal in the November 1952 issue of Hop Up Magazine. Asking price was over $4,000.00. Quite a some of money for an 1941 model car at a time a lot of those that might have been interested were heading to Korea. Joe ended up selling the car for around $400.00 a year or so after this ad.
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Fourth and last Version

After Joe had not been able to find a buyer for the car he decided that for the 1953 Oakland Roadster Show he wanted to make a few more changes to the car.  The grille surround was modified to accept chrome plated bullets next to the toothed grille. Joe also modified the bulge he had added to the hood sides in 1951, the front bulge was cut off and reshaped to form a functional scoop. He once again painted the car in a brilliant dark red, and won prices with the car at the show again.

Photographed at the 1953 Oakland Roadster Show. By now Joe had modified the grille opening by adding space for two side bullets. And the front of the hood bulge was opened up to for a functional scoop.
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Customs Bay Area Car Club uses an image of the Joe Bailon Miss Elegance.
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Joe also won awards with the ’41 Chevy at the ’53 Oakland Roadster Show. less than a year after the show Joe sold the car for around $400.- (Which is in strong contrast with the worth 12.000 sign on top of the car)
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After having showed the car for 2-3 years Joe ended up selling the car around 1953-54. The car was once estimated to be worth $12,000.00, but only brought Joe around $400.00. Older Custom Cars, no matter how successful and or popular just did not bring much money around that time. And Joe needed the money and Dick Carter of “Dickering” used car dealer knew that and had the deal of his life he though. He offered the car for sale for a very high price and sat unsold for a long time at his lot. Joe remembers that he later saw the car in Hayward looking very bad with caved in roof. Later it went to a new owner in Castro Valley who repaired the roof damage, put an Hemi engine in it, removed the skirts, opened up the rear fenders so that huge racing tires would fit and drag raced it for some time.



[divider]The Miss Elegance is perhaps the best know car Joe Bailon created, the Chevy has crazed many of his business cards over the years.
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Later in the 1970’s the owner got in a divorce and the car was crushed, but not before the owner had removed the hand made hubcaps, chrome dash and bumpers. The dash board eventually ended up in Ed Hagerty’s junkyard, and after some of the gauges were taken Bill Reasoner ended up with it, and gave it back to Joe years later. Joe was in the process of making a copy of his Miss Elegance using the original dashboard. He has been working on it for many years off and on, but the project was far from finished when Joe passed away on September 25th, 2017. Hopefully somebody else will be able to continue the quest of recreating Miss Elegance.

This is the last known photo of the Mis Ellegance, not sure when it was taken, but the plates on it are pre-1956. At the time this photo was taken, after Joe had sold it, the paint was in very bad shape, but other than that, it looks to be still complete.
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Special thanks to Bruce Heather







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41 Chevy 3-Window

 

41 CHEVY 3-WINDOW Mystery Custom

 

1941 Chevy Coupe with chopped turned 3-window top, 1946 Chevy grille and complete smoothed body. Another Mystery Published Custom Car.



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Over the years I have come across a lot of Unidentified Custom Car photos in the early Custom Car Publications. Mystery Customs that appeared in just a single publication, and sometimes even in multiple magazines or booklets, but always laking any info on the original builder or owners name. In this series of articles I will be showing some of these Mystery Published Custom Cars, and hopefully the extra publicity will lead to some more information on these cars.
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1941 Chevy 3-window Coupe Custom.

The first time I saw a picture of this ’41 Chevy Custom was possibly the last published photo of the Custom. It was in the Barris Kustoms Technique of the 50’s Volume 2 book published in 1996. On page 13 there is a great photo taken at the Barris Compton Avenue shop showing this Chevy with white wall tires, listed as a ’42 Chevy – which it might be, instead of a ’41 – parking in front of the Barris shop with a ’41 Ford convertible Custom in the driveway. The photo caption mentioned that some work on the car was done at the Barris Shop… which is very plausible. The car really has this beautiful early Barris look and feel. There is no mentioning about the owners name in the Barris book.

Later when I found an original copy of the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling published in 1951, I spotted another photo of what I think is the same Chevy. The photo in the Dan Post book showed the car with a nice profile photo parked in front of an used car dealer when it had black wall tires. There was no photo caption in the Dan Post book. Later I found out that the same photo was also part of the first time the Blue book was published in 1949.

From the 1946 Custom Styling Manual published by Edgar Almquist.
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From the 1947 published Speed and Mileage Manual published by Edgar Almquist.
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It turned out that the more photos I found of the car, the further I went back in time with the publications I found it in. I bought a Speed and Mileage Manual by Edgar Almquist first published in 1947. It had a single photo of the Chevy, a nice front 3/4 view and in the photo the car had white wall tires, and the paint looked to be a bit lighter than in the Barris Book photo.  The same photo was also used in Custom Styling Manual and Custom Streamlining published by Edgar Almquist in 1946. In this earliest published photo the car was listed as a ’41 Chevy, but no builder or owner name was mentioned.

In 1947 Dan Post published his California Custom Car Photo Album booklet. The Chevy was shown in the booklet with no less than 5 photos. 4 of these photos show the car with white wall tires, and one with black wall tires. A side view photo was used on the cover, a front 3/4 view with the car in a lighter color on the back cover, and three more on one page inside the booklet. None of these photos had any photo captions, nor photo credits.


The front and back cover of the 1947 published Dan Post California Custom Car Photo Album booklet used two photos of the Chevy.
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Dan Post devoted 3 photos of the Chevy on a full page in his ’47 published California Custom Car Photo Album booklet. I think that all these three photos, which have the background cut off, were taken at the Barris Compton Avenue shop.
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The photo shown on the cover of the Dan Post California Custom Car Photo Album shows the full side view of the car taken in front of the Barris Compton Ave shop. The photo is taken the same day, with the ’41 Ford Convertible peaking in above the Chevy hood, as the one shown in the Barris Techniques book. Wish a bit more of the back ground was shown in this photo, most likely taken in 1946.
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This is the only rear view photo I have been able to find. It shows how the trunk was shortened at least a foot at the top, the fenders are molded and blended into the body, and the rear window looks to have been cut down and made into a three piece unit (possibly Cadillac rear window cut down?) The rear bumper looks to be a ’46 Chevy unit.
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On the back cover of the Dan Post California Custom Car Photo Album this photo of what I think is the Chevy was used. It shows the car with black wall tires, and a lighter paint job. But otherwise identical to the darker colored photos. The photo looks to be a collage of the car cut from the background and pasted into the palm tree nice building photo.
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The only other photo I have found of the car so far comes from the internet in the very early years. I have no idea where it came from, but it shows the car in the dark paint, with white walls parked next to what I think is an early version of the Var Martin’s 1941 Buick with full fade-away fenders Custom restyled by the Barris Shop.



The Chevy

The Chevy is a really beautiful restyled 3-window Coupe. Unsure if the car tarted out as a ’41 or 42 model. The top was chopped with a really beautiful flow on the rear of the top. It looks like the rear of the top is still located in the stock position, not moved forward like we see a lot in more preset day builds. This allowed the builder to create a really beautiful flowing line on the top. The rear quarter windows are filled in for an ultimate smooth look. Filing in quarter windows of 5-window coupes, and even on sedans was a very popular Restyling technique used in the early days, the mid 1940’s. In the early days the most commonly Custom restyled Custom Cars, especially in California, where it all started, were based on convertibles and received chopped padded tops originally designed by the Carson Top Shop. These tops had the rear quarter windows filled in and a super smooth flow at the rear of the top. I think that a lot of early Custom Restyler’s liked this look, and when they chopped a coupe body filling in the rear quarter windows seamed a natural for them to obtain this favorable look. Later this filled quarter window look was reused on the twin ’48 Chevy’s restyled by Barris for the High-School Confidential movie in 1957-58.

The rear window was either replaced by a three piece Cadillac unit, or home made. Plus it was cut down in the chopping process, unlike what was more common later on to just lay it forward to match the new roof shape, but kept its original height. The new small “mailslot”  rear window is perhaps another inspiration things fro the popular Padded tops, which mostly had very small rear windows as well.

This profile photo of the  Chevy was first shown in the Dan Post Blue book in 1949. It shows the car with black wall tires and dark paint in front of an unknown Used Car Lot. Not sure when the photo was taken.
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Photo from the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s book. The photo caption in the book is: Also photographed outside the Compton Avenue shop was this ’42 Chevy coupe which had its top chopped, the door posts kicked forward, and the rear side window blanked. The running boards were molded as were the headlights. Notice that the hood was shaved and had its side trim removed and that we’d installed flat, extended fender skirts. The grille was from a ’46 Chevy.
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The fenders were welded to the body and flared into the body for that beautiful one piece molded look. All the trim and handles were shaved and the hood was relieved of its center strip and side scoops. The  front end was modified to accept a brand new at the time of the build ’46 Chevy grille and the bumpers front and rear were replaced with ’46 Chevy units. At the back the trunk was shortened at the top, not sure why this was done. The stock taillights were used and everything was smoothed. The car had tear drop shaped fender skirts added, and used smooth aftermarket hubcaps with beauty rings.

The car looks and feels like an early Barris Restyled car, the Barris Technique book mentioned it was done, or at least partly done at the Barris Shop. This is the only written info we have on the car, and since it was photographed in front of the Barris Shop around 1946, it is most likely a Barris Created Custom, but who was the owner? and what happened to the car. Also when was the car the lighter color, before the dark paint, or after? and what about the white walls versus the black walls Which one was earlier?

The Chevy Coupe parked next to what I think is an early version of the Var Martin Barris Restyled ’41 Buick. What a fantastic sight to see these two chopped 3-window coupe early Customs sitting side by side. Unusual for these early customs, (around 46-47, and possibly both restyled by Barris) is that both customs have no Appleton Spotlights installed.
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Quite a view photos of this car have been published, and most of them in early publications, but none of those I have found shed any light on the history of this car. If any of the CCC readers knows anything more about this Mystery Published Custom Chevy, please email Rik at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to know more about this early Custom Car, and be able to put a name to this well published Custom.







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41 Chevy 4 Door

 

41 CHEVY 4 DOOR

 

Two snapshot of a really nicely done 1941 Chevy 4 door restyled in the mid 1940s.



I think it was around 2010 when I bought a few snapshots with some mild early customs restyled California cars at an eBay auction. One of them was a bit fuzzy side view of a nicely done 1941 Chevy four door sedan. This photo was the only one that had a name written on it. Jay Foreman was written in blue on the bottom of the photo border. I assume that Jay is the guy in the photo, and most likely the owner of that nice early/mid 1940’s restyled Chevy. No other info was given with the photos when I bought them, so I do not know where in California this photo was taken, not when. But judging the things I can see in the photo I assume that the photo was taken in the early to mid 1940’s. Black Wall Tires with single bar flippers most likely mean somewhere between 1942 and 46. The position of the Appleton Spotlight with the glass towards the back was something that was done more in Northern California than in the South.


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ccc-1941-chevy-4-door-40s-photo-05Jay Foreman proudly standing with his cool Chevy.
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A couple of years later I found another photo of the same car at another eBay auction. This time from a different seller, and when the snapshot came in the mail, I knew for sure that it was the same car, taken in the same location. What are the odds. This second photo shows the Chevy from the front 3/4 and Jay was not in the picture this time. This photo shows how nice the car really is. It also shows that the car was fitted with two Appleton Spotlights, and not one as could have very well be the case judging the side view snapshot.

The more I studied the photo the more I liked the car. And even though it is mildly restyled, there still had to be done a substantial amount of work to get it to look this good. The hood and side trim were removed, all four door handles were shaved, holes filled and everything smoothed. The front of the hood was smoothed and the hood ornament was removed. The car was lowered a bit and most likely an early 1940’s Cadillac fender skirt was modified to for the Chevy fenders. The car was dressed up with a set of single bar flipper hubcaps with beauty rings, front and rear, Dual Spotlights and Dual antennas mounted on the cowl and bend to flow better with the windshield of the car. The car was painted in a light color. The first snapshot with the guy in the photo shows that he must have been really proud of the car. And I sure can understand why. It looks really good.

ccc-1941-chevy-4-door-40s-photo-01The second photo of the Chevy is actually a really nice photo showing the car from the front 3/4. it really shows how super nice this car is. Smoothed hood and shaved doors really make this car look very cool.
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ccc-1941-chevy-4-door-40s-photo-02Close up of the front shows the cowl mounted and bend antenna, the pointed forward Appleton Spotlights, the ripple disk flipper hubcaps and beauty ring and the smoothed hood side, and accessory bumper ends.
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ccc-1941-chevy-4-door-40s-photo-03Close up of the rear shows the smooth doors, and the Cadillac fender skirts.
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I think these photos are really interesting, since they show that in the early/mid 1940’s people were customizing four door cars, and they even went as far as removing the door handles for that ultimate smooth look. A technique that was much more common to do in the later parts of the 1940’s and early 1950’s, especially on four doors. I would love to find out more about this car, and the owner. Hopefully somebody will recognize Jay Forman’s name, or perhaps the location

Both photos are 5.25 x 3.5 Inch (130 x 90 mm)

ccc-1941-chevy-4-door-40s-illustrationA Stock 1941 Chevy four door from an 1941 advertising print.
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