Barris 1940 Ford Chopped Coupe

 

1940 FORD CHOPPED COUPE

 

In 2007 I first spotted this oddly styled 1940 Ford Coupe with a beautiful heavy chopped top and Barris Crest. It turned out to be another original Mystery Barris Custom.



Around 2007 I came across an 1940 Ford Coupe with heavy chop, DeSoto Bumper, and very ugly forward rake and Barris Crests on ebay. The seller claimed the car was built at the Barris Kustom Shop and that it was found in a chicken ranch in Yucaipa, CA. The more I looked at the small photos on this ebay auction the more details I noticed that made me feel that this could very well be a real Barris Custom. One that for sure came in the hands of perhaps not the right person to “restore” it. The car had a very much rock&billy 80’s Kustom identity crisis theme going on.

Big & Little white wall tires with Radar wheels, a very much out of place rake, going opposite directions with the really pleasing lines on the leaned back windshield and flowing chop. ’37 DeSoto bumpers with the stock bumper guards (rare) black paint and an overload of bright red pin-striping. But if you looked past all those odd out of place stuff, you could see a really well done, heavy chopped top, with all the elements of an late 40’s early 50’s Custom Car. With that in mind I looked at my Barris Photo Archive and soon found some photos of what must be the same car in progress at the Barris shop around 1950-51. Several photos of the heavily chopped 1940 Ford Coupe appear in the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s volume 1.

This was the first photo I saw of the car around 2007. I noticed the smooth flowing chop, shaved drip rails, rounded door tops, and Barris Crests.
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Barris 40 Ford chopped topThe April 1950 issue of Motor Trend magazine showed this early stage photo of the 1940 Ford Coupe. All the details match with the later photos.
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Ralph Manok working on the Ford at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood. The photos show him installing pre-shaped metal panels to form the sail-panels. The Barris shop used California Metal Shaping for this a lot, it saved them a lot of time, and the work was a lot cleaner this way. Notice that the trunk corners are not rounded.
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The book showed¬† 6 in progress photos of this very same car at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood, were Ralph Manok works on the C-Pillars installing pre-formed panels created by California Metal Shaping, and leading around the rear quarter windows. All the details on the car in these photos are identical to the black painted car offered for sale on eBay in 2007. The Barris book did not mention an owner name, or if the car was finished or not, no info. Later I also noticed that the same car was sitting outside the shop, next to the abandoned sectioned 1951 Ford Victoria. By now the car’s body work looked to have been all finished and it had been covered in a dark primer. But there were bumpers or another details. It can be seen in several photos taken by the Life Magazine photographer visiting the Barris Shop around 1952. And it also shows up in a photo of two girls from Texas in a ’32 Ford Roadster parked in front of the shop. The Texas license plate is from 1953.

Later I came across one more photo of a heavily chopped ’40 Ford coupe with a leaned back windshield that I think is the same car in a very early stage. That photo was used on the April 1950 issue of Motor Trend magazine, and was possibly taken at the Barris Bell Shop, prior to moving to the Atlantic Blvd. shop in Lynwood. Also the Motor Trend magazine did not mention a name of the owner of the car.

Leading the rear quarter windows, and making sure the whole shape of the top flows well after the chop, removal of the drip-rail, rounding the door top corner and installing the custom shaped sail panels.
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The last photo of the ’40 Ford taken by George Barris showed the car in the paint area at the Barris Shop, getting ready for a fresh coat of primer after all the body work was done. This photo shows the molded in fenders, front and rear, the shaved trim and handles, the removal of the taillights and of course the heavy smooth chopped top.
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With the several photos showing the car sitting next to the Barris Shop in primer, along side with the abandoned sectioned 1951 Ford Victoria, and the Mystery 1941-48 Ford Coupe, it sure looks like the ’40 Ford in this story suffered the same fate, the owner might have ran out of money, or lost interest in the project, perhaps he left for Korea? The unfinished car was eventually pulled out of the shop, and set aside waiting for a possible buyer? In photos taken at the Barris shop after 1953, the Mystery 41-48 Ford can still be seen, but the sectioned Victoria, and the heavy chopped ’40 Ford are gone now. According the George Barris the Victoria was eventually wrecked, but nobody never mentioned the chopped ’40 Ford Coupe. So it looks like either the original owner eventually picked it up, or it found a new owner.

The big questions are

  • Who was the original owner of this ’40 Ford Coupe that took it to the Barris Shop for a Full Custom make-over?
  • What were the original plans for the car other than the molded fenders, the heavy chop, and the shaved taillights that we can see in the photos?
  • Was it ever finished after it left the Barris Shop around 1953-54?
  • Who found it in the chicken ranch barn in Yucaipa, CA. When was this, and how did it look then?


The ’40 Ford then showed up in a series of photos taken at the Barris Shop done for Life Magazine around 1952. This photo shows the Ford parked next to the Barris shop with the Chet Herbert’s “Beast” Bonneville streamliner in the front on a trailer. The Streamliner was at the Barris Shop to get a new body. The ’40 Ford is now in primer with all the body work completed as far as we can tell.
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A peak on the ’40 Ford thru the windows of the abandoned ’51 Ford Victoria.
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A look from behind shows that the drivers side bumper guard sits on an odd angle. Perhaps it had been hit while the car sat outside?
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Close up of the molded fenders on the ’40 Ford. The unfinished Victoria that was later wrecked according to George Barris is sitting behind the ’40 Ford.
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When this car was originally built in the 1950 – 1952 period, the Barris Kustom Shop was at their absolute peak when it came to Custom Car creativity, style as well as productivity. Around this time some of the very best Barris Customs were created. Think about the Matranga 1940 Mercury, Snooky Janich 1941 Ford,¬†Jack Brumbach 1942 Ford, Jerry Quesnel’s ’49 Mercury, the Sam Barris ’49 Mercury. During the time this ’40 Ford was in the Barris shop George Barris finished the famous ‘1941 Ford that the Ayala’s had done for Jack Stewart. All these cars must have had an impact on the owner of the ‘1940 Ford, and with the radical chop the Barris crew did on his Coupe they must have had some spectacular plans to finish the car.

At this time, with the information we have we can only speculate about the original plans for the car. The chop done on the car is more extreme and streamlined than the one the Barris Shop later did on Tom Hocker’s 1940 Ford Coupe. My guess is that the plan was to get the car dropped very low to the ground, similar to the ride height of for instance the Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury. The bumpers would probably have been more heavier than the ’37 DeSoto bumpers the car later got. More something like 1946-48 Ford bumpers, or even more modern. The taillights were shaved of the rear fenders, that were molded into the body for that ultra smooth look. And more than likely they would have planned some bumper guard taillights for the car. Those were the big hit at the time. Wide white walls and perhaps the always popular Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps and a dark organic paint-job… I hope one day we will find out more about the original plans for this mystery 1940 Barris Custom.

In the foreground some guys are working on Frank Sonzogni’s 1950 Mercury, Sam Barris leaning against the building while tapping water for the wet sand on Frank’s Mercury. All the way on the right is the mystery 41-48 Ford sitting in front of the Barris Shop building. In the background we can see the ’40 Ford in primer, sitting next to the abandoned ’51 Ford Victoria.
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This is a small portion of a photo taken from two girls from Texas who drove their ’32 Ford Roadster to the Barris Shop for a make over. The ’32 has ’53 Texas license plates when this photo was taken. The ’40 Ford can be seen still sitting in the same place behind the small 11052 Atlantic Blvd building. On all later photos the car is gone.
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Resurrection

To me it looks like after the car had been found a new owner planned to rebuild the car as an early style Custom. A fully detailed flathead engine was installed. A set of original ’37 DeSoto ribbed bumpers, complete with original bumper guards was found and installed. Possibly to lower the car to a nice speed boat stance, perhaps with wide whites, fender skirts… The interior was kept mostly stock, stock dash, stock steering wheel. Everything so far fitted an early Custom Car theme. Possibly the project then was sold and somebody who decided to Hot Rod the car, perhaps making it look more “interesting” to be able to make a quick buck on it… The Barris crests on the car are most likely reproductions, but they sure helped me look into the history of this car.

I have no idea when or where the work on this version of the car was done, but I would love to know. I first saw the “finished” version of the ’40 Ford around 2007, when it was offered for Sale in California. In 2009 the car was auctioned at the Scottsdale Barrett-Jackson event, the car is now part of a private collection. The new owner has put wide white wall tires with single bar flipper hubcaps on the car and adjusted the stance to make it look at least a little more to how it was originally intended.

This was the first photo I saw of the car around 2007. All I could think about was “What were they thinking when they put that beautiful Custom body on a rake with the Radar wheels and out of place pin-striping”.
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The back was even worse with bold striping on the trunk, and even the top, and how about the spider web… But look at those smooth sail panels.
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Close up of the small side window opening and working vent window.
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I came across this side view some time after the ebay auction had ended, I have no idea if the car sold then or not. My first reaction when I saw this photo was to cover the wheels/tires and bottom with my hands to see the beautiful profile on the body…. WOW.
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Here is the information provided at the Barrett Jackson Auction in Scottsdale 2009

Auction Scottsdale 2009
Reserve NO RESERVE
Status Sold ($84,700.00)

Year 1940
Make FORD
Model DELUXE
Style 2 DOOR HOT ROD COUPE

Lot #1238 – A 1940 Ford chopped coupe that was found in a chicken ranch barn in Yucaipa, CA. It was restored to preserve the Kustom features of the find including shaved drip rails and door handles, frenched head and tail lights, leaded molded fenders and 6 -7″ chop from the original Ford lines. Chromed Radir single ribbed wheels were added with chromed De Soto bumpers. Powered by a rebuilt Ford Flathead with original speed equipment and Offenhauser heads, Eddie Meyer custom intake, LaSalle 3-speed transmission and Lincoln brakes. The paint and striping was done by E-Dog of Riverside and interior by Kiwi Kustoms also of Riverside. Along the way of this project, the find was documented and authenticated by George Barris as a part of Barris Industries permanent collection. Not a copy. An original one-of-a-kind.

VIN 5259754
Exterior Color BLACK PEARL
Interior Color BLACK/WHITE
Cylinders 8
Engine Size 223
Transmission 3-SPEED MANUAL

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The pictures from the Barrett Jackson Auction were a little better and showed really well how bad the forward rake really looked on this car. It also showed that when the car was rebuilt the smooth rear fenders were butchered to install a set of frenched ’39 Ford teardrop taillights. Both the front and rear ’37 DeSoto bumpers have their original (behind the bumper) bumper guards.
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The stock 1940 Ford Dash was smoothed and painted gloss black and just as the exterior covered with bold red striping. The steering wheel and column are stock 1940 Ford units. The interior is done in black and white tuck&roll with black carpets.
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Fully dressed Flathead engine, and of course plenty of bold red striping on the firewall.
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The front 3/4 view photo from the Barrett Jackson auction was the best photo I had seen of the car. It made me decide to do a quick Digital Restyling image how the car could have looked when it had been finished in 1951-52.
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This is the last photo we have seen of the car, with new white wall tires, single bar flipper hubcaps and a bit better stance at the new owners private collection.
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How it could have been?

Thinking about all the possibility the owner had when this car was first created at the Barris Shop around 1951 I decided to Digital Restyled one of the Barrett Jackson photos to get a feel of how the car could have looked when it had been finished. I gave the car a dark blue new paint-job, added heavier 1946 Ford bumpers, wide white wall tires with Sombrero hubcaps. I modified the forward rake to a more appropriate Speed-Boat Stance, added teardrop fender skirts, Appleton Spotlights and a chrome trim from an ’39 Ford around the windshield. I think a version similar to this styling could have been the goal of the original owner, as well as the team at the Barris Shop. Hopefully we one day see a new owner go this direction with this car.

Digital Restyled photo: I gave the car  a better, nice speed-boat stance, wide white wall tires and Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps,  1946 Ford bumpers, Appleton Spotlights, skirts and removal of the red pin-striping.
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I hope that we will be able to shed some more light on this Mystery Barris Kustom Shop created 1940 Ford Custom Coupe in the future. Hopefully we will find somebody who knows where it went from 1954 till when it showed up again around 2007. And perhaps somebody knows what happened to this car after it was sold in 2009. If anybody can tell us more on this Mystery 1940 Ford, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to know, and share it here in this article. Thank you.




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A Day at the Barris Shop

 

A DAY AT THE BARRIS SHOP

 

The August 1953 issue of Rod and Custom magazine  had a beautiful feature on a day at the Barris Kustom Shop. Lets take a closer look at this and see some never before published photos.



I was born in 1967, in the Netherlands, far away from where most of the Custom Car History originated. I’m way to young to have been able to walk around in the famous Custom shops from the 1940’s and 1950’s, my favorite Custom Restyling period. When I came across some old R&C magazines at an Dutch Classic Car show decades ago I was in 7th heaven. Many years later I came across some of the early Hop Up and R&C magazines, one being the 4th issue of R&C, August 1953, one of my all time favorite R&C magazines. This issue had an whopping 6 page article on an Saturday at the Barris Shop as part of the new Barris Korner series.

It was for me the first time I was able to get a better view of how the Barris Shop looked like, and worked, and how it must have been for the guys back then to work at this shop, or hang out there on a Saturday afternoon. The lead-photo of the article, taken across the street from the Barris shop is one of my all time favorite photos taken at the Barris Atlantic Blvd shop. To me it is pure magic, and I have always hoped that one day some more, or at least better photos would surface of this photo, or photos taken the same day.

The openings photo from the August 1953 R&C article. What a sight! This photo alone must have had an impact on a lot of people back in 1953, and really ever since. The Barris Kustom Shop, where all the Custom Car magic took place.
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Unpublished photos.

In December 2017 my good friend and CCC contributor Tom Nielsen, mentioned he had a few more photos taken at the Barris Shop, and was wondering if I could tell him a bit more about these photos. It turned out that Tom had several photos from this same Saturday photo shoot with George Barris as that was used in the August 1953 issue of R&C. But Tom’s photos had never before been published. They must have been outtakes. The photos Tom has in his collection are copies from copies from the original photos, and at this point it is impossible to find out where they originally came from. But we know that they were all taken with George Barris his camera, most by George himself, and others, where we can see George in, were taken by somebody at the shop.

One of the guys fooling around in the driveway. I wonder if George was standing on the roof of the building across the shop, or perhaps he used a ladder?
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My new all time favorite Barris Shop photo is this one, from ground level showing the fantastic Customs lined up in front of the shop, and the rest of the activities going on.
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Close up of the photo shows: from left to right Mystery parked in-progress Ford, Dick Meyer 1953 Ford, Snooky Janich 1941 Ford, Jerry Reichman 1950 Mercury 4-door, Dale Marchall 1950 Mercury, Jim Collins / Don Vaughn 1947 Buick, Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy.
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Sam Barris showing how an Barris Accessory Hot Rod fender would be mounted on his Model A roadster. The majority of cars done at the Barris Shop were Customs, but they were also very capable to do Hot Rods, as this and several other photos taken this day show.
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I really love this photo as well, not only because it shows three fantastic Barris cars, but also since it shows the corner across the street from the Barris shop, where an other iconic photo was taken which we have used for another CCC-Article. Dale Marchall is mounting his Kustoms Los Angeles brass tag to his in progress mild 1950 Mercury Custom. Behind it is Jim Collins 1947 Buick (formerly owned by Don Vaughn), and next to that is the Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy.
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In the R&C article we can read that Sam Barris (left) and George (right) are discussing plans for the Chet Herbert Bonneville Streamliner with Harry Lewis. Harry was hired by Barris to design and help create race cars at the Barris shop. This never before published photo was taken from a slightly different angle than the photo that ended up in the R&C article.
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Dicky Meyers is prepping this Model A on ’32 Ford rails Hot Rod for paint in a corner of the original building. Very interesting how they use news paper to tape off the engine bay preventing over-spray. The wheels and tires were covered by old rags. Notice the meters on the wall behind the car.
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1949-50 Lincoln coupe mildly restyled stopping at the Barris shop, possibly for a quotation on repairing the damaged front, and possibly further restyling?
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The R&C article describes a bit how a typical Saturday at the Barris shop looks like, at least part of it. We have heard stories from some people that the info in this article(s) is mostly correct, but very often they leave out the part that later at night they all went out to some of the famous places to hang out, go to dances, trying to hook up with the girls. have the most fun possible. According to some chasing the girls and trying to get them impressed with their automobile was one very important reasons for having a Custom Car.



Published photos

The article is done really nice and literary walks us true the shop as if the reader was to visit the shop himself. Starting outside the shop then going on to the drive way, or parking area, and then into the shop, the office first, then the work places int he original building and then on to the former Filbar Furniture building Barris had added to the shop not long before these photos were taken. The only thing that could have made this already perfect article would have been with a floor plan drawing…. I have thought about creating one, but at this moment I have not enough information to actually do one that I know is accurate enough.

The 6 page article in the August 1953 issue of Rod & Custom magazine. One of the very best Barris Kustom Korner articles, and this article alone must have boost sales on the magazine enormous.
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More stories on Saturdays at the Barris Shop
Jack Stewart was good friends with George Barris and spend a lot of time at the Barris Kustom Shop at Atlantic Blvd. George Barris finished his mostly Ayala restyled 1941 Ford in 1951. Jack mentioned that George loved to paint cars, and very often used the more quite weekends to stay at the shop mixing paint and spraying the many coats of lacquer to get the deep lustrous paint jobs the Barris Shop was so well known for. George painted Jack’s ’41 Ford during the weekend as well. Jack brought his car over on Friday, and when he showed up at the shop on Monday it was all done and looking amazing. Which, according to Jack was somewhat amazing, since the paint booth at this Atlantic Blvd shop was far from ideal with a dirty dusty floor. Jack always mentioned to George he might as well paint the cars outside. But George was still able to turn out amazing paint jobs at this shop.

In the early days of the Barris Shop, George was single (just as jack) and he would be at the shop most of the time 7 days a week. But especially the Saturdays were very busy at the shop. The Saturday all the car owners were off from their regular job, and would go over to the Barris shop to help out with their cars at the shop. The more work the owner could do on their own cars, the lower the bills would be.

Tommy Thornburg polishing the Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy. Parked next to is is the old Don Vaughn 1947 Buick, and peaking out over the rear of the top is an Henry J Custom. If we only could see this picture in color…
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Nick Matranga on the left discussing the options how to fix the damage done to the rear of the Snooky Janich 1941 Ford.
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Jim Collins from Gardena, California had recently bought the beautiful Barris restyled 1947 Buick convertible with Gaylord padded top from original owner Don Vaughn.In this photo Jim is cleaning the car, and we can see the back of Dale Marchall’s 1950 Mercury with custom taillight pods and primer painted sitting next to it.
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Bob Lund 50 MercuryFrank Sonzogni working on Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury. In the background we can see the model A roadster getting ready for paint, and outside we can see a small portion of Jerry Reichman’s in progress 1950 Mercury 4-door.
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Jack also remembers many Saturdays he spend at the Barris shop with a lot of the guys from the original Kustoms Los Angeles club. The shop was a hangout place for the club, and everybody got together there, hang out for some time and then would go out together that Saturday night. Jack had good memories hanging out at the Barris shop with his good friend Doug Anderson (aka dog face) who owned a Custom 1939 Ford convertible with chopped padded top. And Jack Cordkill who owned a 1938 Ford Chopped Coupe, Dick Fowler was also a guy that Jack hung out with when he turned up at the Barris shop. Dick also owned a chopped 1938 Ford coupe, the one with the Packard grille, that Kurt McCormick now owns. Jack was also good with Bill Ortega who worked at the Barris shop part time and as well as at the parts department at an Lincoln Mercury dealer.

The Saturdays were always a lot of fun, where everybody helped on the projects, getting cars ready to hit the road on Saturday night, or prep them for a show the next day. Jack had very good memories about him and George driving George his cars to the parties, Jack never drunk much, so he usually ended up driving George his cars back home early in the mornings on Sunday. But this was perhaps a year or two before these photos were taken. During that time Jack also hung out with Marcia Campbell who hung out at the Barris Shop on Saturdays during the 1950-51 period. Jack remembered that Marcia was very well accepted at the shop by everybody. It was still very unusual for a girl to hang out at a Custom shop, but she fitted right in with the rest of the clan. Marcia always had here camera on hand, and shot a lot of photos at the shop and took the guys to nice locations to take photos, which she would develop and print, and then brought them over as a gift for the owner (and a copy for George Barris) the next Saturday.

Jack mentioned that the guys hanging out at the shop on Saturday were mostly the same guys each week, mostly pretty much the local guys, but when there was going to be a special event, or a special show, then Kustoms of Los Angeles club members from all around would gather at the Barris shop to drive to the event together. Jack proudly mentioned that very often he was leading the parade, just because his windshield had been cut into the roof a few inches, allowing him to see the stop lights. The rest would then just follow along.


Tommy Thornburg who owned a Barris restyled 1947 Studebaker Custom Convertible can be seen here cleaning the Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy. Perhaps Tommy’s Studebaker had not been finished at this point, or perhaps he agreed to take the Ernst Chevy to the show for Barris. Larry Ernst was from Ohio, and was most likely not in California when this picture was taken.
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Jim Collins cleaning his 1947 Buick Custom at the Barris shop to have it all Tip-Top for the show the next day.
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A low angle view of Dale Marchall mounting the Kustoms Los Angles tag to his 1950 Mercury, getting the car ready for the Pasadena show the next day. The old Don Vaughn Buick is sitting behind it.
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Sam Barris (left) and George (right) with Harry Lewis taking about the plans for the body on the Chet Herbert Streamliner, which will be created at the Barris Shop.
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Bob Johnson aka “Jocko” sanding the freshly applied primer on the rear fenders of Mr petersen’s 1952 Cadillac convertible. The car would later be painted Metallic Fuchsia Orchid.
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Frank Sonzogni working on the grille on Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury using a 1951 Frazer grille bar, later three 1951 DeSoto grille bars would be added to this as well.
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1929 model A roadster on ’32 Ford frames getting ready for a new paint job. Old rags were used to cover up the tires while Dicky Meyers is cleaning the body.
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George Barris often used 1/25 scale plastic promo-model cars to give a quick impression of how a car could look. This helped him as well as the client in making decisions on the modifications, as well as on the colors. In this photo George shows some new paint on an Oldsmobile model for Jack Nethercutt’s 1952 Oldsmobile that looks to be almost ready for paint.
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Sam Barris putting together a brand new 1953 Cadillac Coupe deVille that had been just painted off-white at the paint booth at the back of the Barris shop.
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Different angle of Nick Matranga talking to Snooky Janich (named “Little” in the R&C article) to see how they can fix the dent in the trunk that happened the day before. Notice that the Snooky Ford had already been outfitted with the ’39 Chevy taillights by then. The R&C article stated that the Barris Shop always kept the paint formula of all the cars they painted. But as far as I know, in case of damage, they usually decided it was time for a complete new paint job.
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Lloyd Jensen working on a sectioned and turned convertible Henry J, seen here figuring out how to make the Kaiser taillights to work with the Henry J rear fenders. This car came from Iowa to have the Barris shop perform their magic. Not sure if I have ever seen the finished car. The Henry J was sitting just outside of the furniture building entrance.
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Ralph Manok working on a scoop set into the Cadillac front fender that was added to this 1941 Buick that came all the way from Ohio. We are still trying to find out who was the owner of this car, and what ever happened to it.
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John Manok working on the chopped top of Earl Wilson’s 1947 Studebaker four-door that later would be known as the Grecian.
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Frank Sonzogni is a full time motorcycle officer during the day, and is working part time at night and in the weekends at the Barris Shop. In his spare time Frank is working on his personal  car, a 1950 Mercury which he can be seen working on in this photo. Sanding away on the freshly leaded chopped top.
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George Barris posing with a Jaguar Xk120 which he is Restyling as his own personal driver.
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Sam Barris talking to the owner of the ’29 Model A Roadster about using the new Barris Aftermarket Accessory Hot Rod cycle fenders.
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Dating the photos
So far we have not been able to confirm the date of the Saturday these photos have been taken. None of the photos have a date on it as far as we know.¬† The Barris Korner article featuring these Spend a Saturday at the Kustom Shop photos was published in August 1953, which means the photos and text must have been submitted at least two month prior to this, and more likely even longer. Most likely the photos were taken in the first couple of month of 1953. There is one more hint about a possible date given in the R&C article, which mentioned that the next day, Sunday, there was going to be a car show held in nearby Pasadena. All the cars were cleaned and detailed for this show. So far I have not been able to find out what this show was for sure, but a good chance is that this was the Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run held on Sunday April 19, 1953. The 1952 Pasadena Auto Show (the first annual the previous year) had some high end Customs and Rods attending, plus it had a two page article in Hot Rod Magazine. So this could very well be the show the guys were preparing for on Saturday. (More info and photos on the ’52 show can be found in the CCC-Nick Matranga article.) If it was indeed this show, then the Saturday these pictures were taken was April 18, 1953. But I’m not 100% sure.

Flyer for the 1953 Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run.
(Courtesy of Bob Rhoades / Renegades Car club.)
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Special thanks to Tom Nielsen.




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Barris Shop Wall

 

BARRIS SHOP WALL

 

Spence Murray¬†Took a photo in the early 1950’s of a corner at the Barris Shop that has intrigued me ever since.¬†Its time to do some heavy Custom Car Archeology to find out what the Barris guys displayed on this Shop Wall.

 
 
When I saw The Barris Story¬†by Spencer Murray in the May 1953 issue of Hop Up¬†magazine for the first time, there was one photo that intrigued me more than all the other photo’s in the article. The whole article is absolutely great, and the photos shown are fabulous, but this one photo show¬†Sam Barris with his brother George Barris behind a¬†desk in a corner of the Barris Atlantic Avenue Shop. Why¬†did this photo intrigued me so much?¬†I have always been a great fan of the custom creations from the Barris shop, especialy from the early days, late 1940’s and early 1950 and this particular photo is from that era. Usually we see photos of the cars, or perhaps from the guys working on the cars.

But we rarely see the things that inspire the great customizers to build the custom cars we have admired since they were built. This photo was the first time I had a close look at the Barris Shop corner with all kinds of goodies displayed on the wall of this corner in the Barris Shop. Material that George and Sam, or perhaps somebody else in the shop thought would be nice to display on the wall for others to see. Photos of Customs that had been built by the Barris Shop, possibly to inspire future customers, trophies that were won with the cars build at the shop. All kind of material that must have been put there to motivate the guys at the shop, to inspire them to create more and better cars. Or just to remember them how popular the Barris Kustom Creations already were as could be seen¬†in the many magazine publications even in the early 1950’s.

Since I first saw this picture (Photo 1), I have been saving every photo I could find of this part of the Barris shop, taken in the early 1950’s, hoping to find more information to figure out what was on those walls. There is still quite a bit of material I can see that I’m unable to identify during my Custom Car Archeology search trip.¬†Perhaps this article will lead to some unseen photos, or perhaps somebody else will be abel to recognize the things¬†I have missed.

 

CCC-barris-shop-wall-photo-1-nThis is the photo from the Hop Up Magazine that started my hunt to find more photos showing this part of the Barris Shop, to find out what inspired George, Sam and the others at the shop. The photo was most likely taken by Spencer Murray who wrote the story and was taken either in late 1952, or early 1953. The car in the picture is the 1952 Olsmobile of Jack Nethercutt. 
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This corner of the shop is in front of the building, towards the Atlantic Blvd. The wall¬†behind the trophy case is a storage room which can only be accessed from the outside. The walls from this storage space are not all the way to the top, so it also severs as an “attic” to store even more stuff at.
 

CCC-barris-shop-wall-shop-drawingThis illustration shows where the photos were taken in the Barris Shop. At the front of the show there is a door into the shop, next to it the window with the round corners and then there is the storage space which can only be accessed from the outside door. The white pyramid shape inside shows the point from where the photos were taken. The drawing is NOT to scale.
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Shop Wall Photo 2

Photo number 2 is from the Marcia Campbell collection and shows Marcia Campbell in a staged photo wrenching on his model A Hot Rod. This photo was taken in late 1950 at the Barris Shop and gives a nice look at the Shop Wall in the background and how Barris had posted some magazine articles on the wall. We can also see a two show signs from the 1950 Oakland Roadster show and a big clock on the back wall.
 
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Photo 2 section A Рmagazine pages

  1. Road & Track May 1948 article on George his personal 1941 Buick.
  2. Motor Trend May 1950 Custom Chevys
  3. Motor Trend September 1949 article on Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford
  4. Hot Rod magazine on Al Andril and Johnny Zaro 1940 Mercury’s

 
Photo 2 section B
The two had painted signs/cards hanging from the wall are from the 1950 Oakland Roadster Show. Obviously two of the barris Kustom Shop creations that were shown at this historic Hot Rod and Custom Car show. One of the is for the car with number 411, so far we have not been able to find out for which car this number was for. The 1950 Oakland Roadster Show program does not list all the cars at the show, and the 411 numbered car is amongst those not listed. But the cars on the top right is most likely the one made for the 1947 Buick of Ben Mario, which is listed as the 211 car in the program. Since the two signs are together it could of course be possible that the 211 number in the program, which was printed ahead of the car show, was later at the actual car show changed into 411 for unknown reasons, but we are not sure about this.
 
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Shop Wall Photo 3

 
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Section 3-C
Here we can see two posters of as far as I can tell from the 1951 Hot Rod and Motor Sport Show held at the Los Angeles National Guard Armory. At this show a Jaguar XK-120 was given away at a lucky person from the public. I could not find an good image of the actual poster hanging from the shop wall, but the This was the show that the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford debuted.
 
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Section 3-D
Section D shows a board nailed to the corner of the back wall. The 6 photo’s placed on the board we have been able to identify, we are not¬†sure what the small cards are underneath the photo’s But possibly this is a display board that was taken to early car shows that showed some of the Barris Customs. And the cards are a short description of the cars. The two cards at the top of this board are possibly Car show display cards as well. But so far we have not been able to identify from which show the Hot Rod and Custom Car display cards might have come from, nor to which car they belonged. In none of the photos we have so far we can actually read what is on these signs. In a few other photos this part D shows even better so we have included those in the image below. The cars on this Display board are all from the late 1940’s.
 

CCC-barris-shop-wall-photo-3-exp-DFrom left to right: unknown 1934 Ford chopped coupe, Johnny Zaro 1940 Mercury, Unknown 1941 Ford convertible with padded top, Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford, Al Andril 1940 Ford, Var Martin 1941 Buick Coupe.
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Section 3-E
Section E on the wall looks to be a selection of photos of some of the Barris Kustoms created cars that where photographed by Marcia Campbell. At least most of the photos we have been able to identify were taken by Marcia, and we know that Marcia always gave away the photos. So perhaps this was the place where George and Sam pinned these photos to the wall.
 

CCC-barris-shop-wall-photo-3-exp-EWe have also noticed that this section changed quite a bit over time. The photos we have been able to identify in this set are the three on the left which are of the Sam Barris 1949 Mercury, the two on the bottom in the middle which is the Joe Urritta 1941 Ford, and one photo of Carl Abajian’s 1949 Chevy, and possibly one photo of Ben Mario’s 1947 Buick, but the last one is not sure.
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Shop Wall Photo 4

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Section 4-E
This most likely is the Hot Rod and Sport Car show poster from 1951 as can also be seen in the photo number 3-C
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Section 4-F
This looks to be another poster, so far I have not been able to identify this item. In photo number 2 we can see only a small corner of this poster and it looks like the top word ends with the letter “MA” which could be Motorama, or Autorama. But so far I have not been able to find anything that looks anything similar to these images.
 
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Section 4-G
Another Custom Car show card. We can read the “CUSTOM DIVISION” and “ENTRY No A-14. the “contestant is a small ribbon hanging from the shelves and does not seam to be part of the show card. The image below shows the same sign cropped from two different photo, and in one we can read the owners name a little better. This card could read “Don Vaughn” most likely for his 1947 Buick convertible. The lower line on the car most likely reads “KUSTOMS OF LOS ANGELES”. SO far I have not been able to find out from which particular show this car is from.
 
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Section 4-H
Section H on this photo shows two photos of the Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford that was originally created for John Vara, but bought by Johnny before it was finished. Both photos show the car in its early version with the first version grille and smooth moon disk hubcaps.
 
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Section 4-I
Hanging below the Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford photos are a few samples of a Barris Kustoms Product called “Grand Prix Louvers. This was a product the Barris Kustom Shop sold thru their mail order business. Lows of chrome plated or bare metal louvres that people could mount on their cars, or weld in existing panels.
 
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Section 4-G
Hanging from the side of the Desk is a clipboard with the Barris Order Form /Invoice paper with George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac image on the top right corner. Possibly this clipboard contained all the order forms from the cars that were in the shop at the moment. And the Barris Shop employees could see what needed to be done on the project they were assigned to.
 
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Shop Wall Photo 5

This photo of the secretary, desk, part of the wall and front window is actually an older photo than the photos we have seen previously in this article. The wall and the desk are a lot cleaner, indicating that this photo must have been taking not all that long after the Barrises moved into the Atlantic Blvd shop. On the wall on the right there are a few what appear to be newspaper or magazine clippings about medical issues. a Dig magazine cover. The Barris Kustoms Lynwood Calif. board with the round ends is most likely something left over from an early indoor car show.  So far we have not been able to find out where it was used, but we do know that it stayed in that same position for quite some time.
 

CCC-barris-shop-wall-photo-5This early photo also shows that the two separate desks are in a different order now, than in the article lead photo where the small desk which is now in the corner is located on the outside.
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CCC-barris-shop-wall-photo-5-expThis is the felt pennant hanging in the corner rotated to have a better look.
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CCC-1950-Hot-Rod-Show-felt-pennantMick Ellis identified the felt pennant from 1950 hanging in the corner of the shop. He send us a picture of the 1950 Los Angeles Hot Rod Show felt pennant from his personal collection. Thanks Mick.
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Shop Wall Photo 6

George Barris working on adding a set of Cadillac rear fenders to a Buick convertible. This photo gives us a look at the back wall towards the corner. Lower on the wall there are all kinds of tools hanging from hooks in the wall.
 

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CCC-barris-shop-wall-photo-6-expOn the left is a 1951 Oakland roadster show poster, the two in the center I have no idea, it appears to read Motorcade, but so far I have not been able to identify it. The two poster on the right are from the 1951 Hot Rod and motor Sport Show which have been mentioned in the previous photos. The Hot Rod Show banner is another item we are not sure of where it comes from.
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Shop Wall Photo 7

Another photo of the shop shows the work on Jack¬†Nethercutt’s Oldsmobile progressing. The grille surround has been roughed in, and the new very clever headlight design was roughed in on the passenger side and not yet started on the drivers side. The wall shows nothing new, only from a different perspective. And we can see that the back wall of the storage space also has what looks like a couple of car club plaques on it.
 

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CCC-barris-shop-wall-photo-8-detailEnlarged section of the wall shows the Custom Car photos in the background really well, but does not really give much info on the photos on the side (back of the storage room). From the plaques on the right I can only identify the top right one which is an Kustoms of Los Angeles Plaque. And David E. Zivot identified a second one. A very early Los Angeles Car Club called Century Los Angeles.
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CCC-barris-shop-wall-plaques-01Kustoms of Los Angeles and Century Los Angeles plaques.
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The photo below¬†is a enlarged section of the openings photo. It shows the kind of messy desks filled with all kinds of stuff including trophies papers and on the right side a series of model cars. We know that George uses model cars, possibly Promo models he got from the car dealers, to show his clients what he had in mind for customizing and paint colors. On the top it seams like there are a series of drawings/sketches pinned to the wall. Sadly there is no photo showing section any better.¬†Would be very interesting to see these a little better. What we can also see is a large Jaguar script European size license plate. George and Sam are most likely posing for the photo, not sure what Sam is holding. I’m also not sure who the shop dog is, below Sam’s feet.

 

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Enlarged section shows the design sketches high on the front wall of the building. Sadly the photo is to grainy and dark to really make out what is on the illustrations.
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CCC-barris-shop-wall-photo-6These two photos from the Life Magazine photo-shoot are a bit funny. On the photo on the left where George Barris is dialing a number on the telephone the case with trophies shows¬†a nudie calendar in the middle, and when George is “talking” to somebody on the phone in the photo on the right the calendar has been removed!
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The shop in earlier years



Upon closer inspection of some of the Marcia Campbell photos of Sam Barris and Jerry Quesnel chopping the top on Jerry’s 1949 Mercury we found one photo that showed this section of the shop in 1951. Apparently the (trophy) shelf had not been put up against the wall in front of the shop yet. A lot of photos, possibly a lot of them taken by Marcia Campbell, ¬†had been stuck to this section of the shop wall. Sadly the photo is in focus on the Mercury (obviously) and not very much in focus on the back ground. But we still can make out some of the photos, and it appears that some, perhaps all the photos were later reused in other parts of the shop. The photo also shows the door at the front of the shop, next to the oval window, and how the section of the wall on the right of the door was also used to display more magazine articles or photos of custom cars, or cars that might have inspired the guys at the shop. Hopefully one day we will be able to get some more sharper photos from this period as well.

CCC-barris-shop-wall-1951-01Photo taken in 1951, showing the front wall of the shop and the wall to which later the trophy shelf was put against.
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I have tried to identify as many things in the background of these photos as possible. But especially the photos and the magazine articles are either hard to see, or hard to identify. I do not have all the large page magazines from the late 1940’s and 1950-52.¬†I do hope that there are more photos of this section of the Barris shop made in the early 1950’s and hopeully one day will be shared. If you do recognize more of the material on the shop wall’s that I missed, please Email Rik and let me know. I would love to add the info to this article.There are a few more photos from the early 1950’s showing this part of the Barris shop that I know about, but non really show anything more than the once used in this article.

I visited the old Barris shop in 2011, and the building is still there. The current owner has a desk in the same spot as the Barris brothers had, only the small section next to the storage space is now turned into a small office with a new wall and door. The original window an door are still in the same location.

 
 
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