George Barris First Photo Location

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George Barris was known for taking photos of Custom Cars in beautiful special locations. Hollywood Park was his first special location back in 1947.

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Special thanks to David E. Zivot, Jesse Lopez and Gerald Fassett.

After seeing the color photo of George Barris’s 1941 Buick for the first time I was not only intrigued by the gorgeous Custom, but also with the Streamline Moderne building in the background. I had seen the building before in one other photo of the Buick and in a few other photos with other customs as well, but had never been able to find out what building or which location it was.

The new color photo showed a much larger portion of the building than any of the other photos I had seen so far. The search was on, the large round section and very horizontal shape of the windows did remind me about the horse track grand stand buildings as the one at Hollywood Park, but all the photos I was able to find at first showed the building after 1950, and it had a similar Basic shape but all the details were quite different. So I searched further, in the beginning I was not even sure the building was in the Los Angeles area, George had made the trip to Sacramento already, could perhaps these photos had been taken on that trip?

Two aerial photos showing the original building with the more horizontal feel on the top, and the after the 1949 fire rebuild version which had the same overall shapes, but less Art-Deco in design and taller overall.

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The 1947 color photo of George Barris’s 1941 Buick photographed in front of the original Hollywood Park Turf Club building. The photo that started the quest for the identification of the location.

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While searching for something else I came across an website with dome old photo’s taken at some 40’s horse track races. And one of them showed a building that looked very much like the one in the George Barris Buick photo, it was listed at 1940 Hollywood Park track in Lynwood California. I thought this must be a mistake, since the building did not even look close to how the Hollywood Park building looked in the photos I had of it. But when I find a more in depth search I found out that the Hollywood Park Horse track, run by the Turf Club, was originally built in 1938, and destroyed in a fire in 1949. Then rebuilt into the building I had seen in many 1950 and newer photos.

George Barris had his ‚Äė41 Buick photographed in front of the original Hollywood Park Turf Club building in 1947. Not sure if George took these photos, or if he had “hired” a photographer to do it for him. With that knowledge I was able to find a few more photos of the original building which had an absolutely stunning Streamline Moderne feel, very similar in style to the famous Pan Pacific Auditorium. And I can totally see why George Barris wanted to use the building and the garden as background for his Buick. It was only around 16 miles from the Barris Compton Ave shop, a very convenient distance, plus the whole complex was very easily accessible for the cars.

When I thought a bit more about this all, I realized the original Hollywood Park Turf Club building, pre 1949, is actually the very first George Barris Photo Location. A good backdrop George used more often to photograph, or have photograph cars the Barris Shop created. We are all familiar with the House, Lynwood Drive In, Lynwood city hall, mausoleum, the Edison Power plant, and now we can add one more location to this list. The very first one Hollywood Park Turf Club building. George used this location for his own Buick, John Vera (Johnny Zaro) 1941 Ford, and Jesse Lopez’s 1941 Ford… and perhaps we do not know about.

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George Barris 1941 Buick

George Barris took his just finished 1941 Buick padded topped convertible Custom to the Hollywood Park Turf Club complex somewhere in 1947 and either had photos taken of his car, or took them himself. One of the photos, a black and white one was used in the May 1948 issue of Road & Track and would instantly change everything for George and the Barris Shop.

Did the glamorous setting of the Hollywood park complex have anything to do with this… Hard to say, but I like to believe it did. George idea of setting his stunning car in this beautiful surrounding of the well designed garden, and beautiful Streamline Moderne building in the back helped with the complete glamour picture of it all. For more info on the George Barris 1941 Buick, check out the Article here on the CCC.

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The 1947 color photo from the Gerald Fassett Collection was the first photo we found showing a big enough portion of the building in the background to identify it as the Hollywood Park Turf Club building.

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The first time I noticed the building in the background was in the photo used in the May 1948 issue of Road and Track Magazine. The photo that really changed the career of the Young George Barris.

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The same photo of the Buick was also used in the Custom Cars 101 Trend book from 1951, but here the building in the background was cut off.

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Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford

Jesse Lopez confirmed that his ’41 Ford was photographed, just as George’s persona 1941 Buick at the Hollywood Park Turf Club complex. For many years I have been trying to find out more about the famous photo of Jesse standing in front of his Ford at the Turf Club Members Only building. I knew it had to be at some sort of race track, but non of the photos I was able to find matched the photos of Jesse and his Ford. Only recently I found out the original building, that was used as the backdrop for the Lopez photos, around 1948, is gone now, and most photos found are of the rebuild, and remodeled 1950 version of the Hollywood Park building. For a closer look at Jesse’s 1941 Ford, check out the Article here on the CCC.

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Several photos of the Jerry Lopez 1941 Ford that were taken at the Hollywood Park location were used in publications over the years. This one, published in a Petersen Publication from 1987 shows the most of the Turf Club in the back. The Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford photos were taken around 1948. This is location (B) as shown in the aerial photo below

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This is the best known photo of Jesse Lopez’s Ford at the Hollywood Park Turf Club photo location. I have searched for other photos with this background for years, but never was able to find it. Which makes sense because these Turf Club letters were all replaced with new ones in 1950.

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This photo of Jesse’s Ford was taken direct in front of the main entrance (A in de aerial photo below) which is not far from where George Barris’s Buick was photographed.

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John Vara / Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford

George Barris was responsible for most of the work on this radical 1941 Ford Convertible Custom. It was originally created for John Vara, but was sold to Johnny Zaro in the later part of the 1940’s. The car was brought to the Hollywood Park location for a photo shoot around 1948. I have found three published photos of the car at this locations so far. hopefully more will surface one day. For a closer look at the Vara/Zarro Ford, check out the Article here on the CCC.

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Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford, most likely still owned by the original owner John Vara, was also photographed in front of the Hollywood Park building around 1948.

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The car was parked at about the same location as the George Barris Buick, only the photographer was located at a bit different point of view.

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Location A, where George Barris’s Buick and John Vara’s Customs were photographed, and Location B is in front of the Turf Club sign we can see in the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford photos. This aerial photo was taken in the late 30’s when all the trees and shrubberies in front of the complex were still rather small.

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The Hollywood Park complex was designed by Arthur Froehlich (May 17, 1909 ‚Äď October 3, 1985), of the firm Arthur Froehlich & Associates. He was an architect from Beverly Hills, California, known for his mid-century supermarkets and racetracks. Froehlich was born in Los Angeles to a cattle and dairy farmer. He attended Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles and studied at UCLA. One of his first jobs was drafting plans for Santa Anita racetrack, which opened in 1934. He began his own firm in 1938, and became well known for his design of Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood, CA. (wikipedia)

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Announcing magazine/news paper ad from 1938

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Color photo from an 1941 program cover.

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The main entrance had a really beautifully Streamline Moderne design which reminds me a lot about the Pan Pacific Auditorium building.

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Mid 1940’s postcard. This image shows why George Barris liked this location so much. there was plenty of space to park the cars, the back round building had a nice natural base color and was beautifully shaped enhancing the cars. Plus the trees etc looked really good as well.

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Photo taken not too long after the building had been finished around 1938

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Los Angeles Public Library photos

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Los Angeles Public Library photos

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A selection of early Hollywood Park program covers all had nice illustrations or photos of the beautiful building.

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Disaster truck in 1949 when most of the grand stand building went up in flames.

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In 1950 the new building was finished, and not long after that George Barris used it as backdrop for several photos shoots again. Later in the mid 1950’s the huge parking lot was also used for several outdoor car shows, and many photos taken there also show the main building as backdrop.

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The Hollywood Park Building around 2000. In 2015 the complex was sadly demolished.

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The route from the Barris Compton Ave shop to the Hollywood Park Turf Club for the 1947 photo shoot with George’s Buick. Around a 16 mile trip.
(A) Hollywood Park Turf Club 3883 W Century Blvd, Inglewood

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The other famous Barris Photo shoot Locations

George Barris knew that building fantastic Custom Cars was the main business of the shop. Nut what made him and the Barris Shop really unique was that he understood there was more than just building the cars. He created the Kustoms Los Angeles club to keep his clients connected and have them come back to the shop with a next custom project. He also realized that the Shops specialties needed to be promoted. And one way to promote them is to create stunning photos of the shops creations.

He knew that the Barris Shop created Customs were standing out for the crowd already with the super smooth, organic shaped look and feel. But inspired by the magazine ads, and magazine features he realized he could enhance the looks of the Barris Custom by photographing them in an equally stunning setting. He found several locations, most of them close by the Barris Shops that could serve as backdrops, to make the cars look even more attractive and glamorous than they already were. The Hollywood Park Turf Club was the first glamour location he found around 1947 when the Barris Shop was starting to bloom. And several more special “Barris” locations would follow in the years after that. Below are the most popular of these Barris Photo Shoot Locations.

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(B) Edison plant 3395 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood, California

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(C) Angeles Abby 1515 E Compton Blvd, Compton, California

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(D) Barris The House 5199-5141 Abbott Rd South Gate, CA, California

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(E) Pan Pacific Auditorium 7600 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, California

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(F) Compton Drive-In 2111 E. Rosecrans Avenue, Compton, California

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(G) Lynwood City Hall 11330 Bullis Rd, Lynwood, California

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(A) Hollywood Park Turf Club 3883 W Century Blvd, Inglewood
(B) Edison plant 3395 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood
(C) Angeles Abby 1515 E Compton Blvd, Compton
(D) Barris The House 5199-5141 Abbott Rd South Gate, CA
(E) Pan Pacific Auditorium 7600 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles
(F) Compton Drive-In 2111 E. Rosecrans Avenue, Compton
(G) Lynwood City Hall 11330 Bullis Rd, Lynwood

(1) Barris Compton Ave Shop
(2) Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop

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Cliff Rackohn 1948 Mercury

 

RACKOHN 1948 Mercury

 

One of the more elegnat Customs to roll from the Barris Kustom Shop in during its hay days was the 1948 Mercury Restyled for Cliff Rackohn.



Before we start about this beautiful Barris Restyled Mercury I want to mention a few things about the name and the year of the car. In the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 1950’s Volume 2, the name of the owner of this Mercury is spelled Cliff Rockohn and the year of the Mercury is marked at 1947. In the April 1951 issue of Motor Trend Magazine, as well as the Trend book Custom Cars #101, there is a different spelling of the name Cliff Rackohn, in both the small article as well as in the For Sale ad, and the car is labeled as an 1948 model. I will keep the 1951 Motor Trend spelling of the name, as well as the year for the car to be the most accurate.

’48 Mercury Coupe restyled by the Barris brothers for owner Cliff Rackohn from South Los Angeles. This Mercury is one of the late 40’s, perhaps early 1950’s restyled cars at the Barris Shop that had its fair share of publicity, and one that survived on the Custom Car scene longer then most others created during the same period. Yet, the Mercury is not often mentioned in the more recent Custom Car publications.





So far I have not been able to find a date on when Cliff’s Mercury was first created. The first time it was published was in the Motor Trend issue from April in 1951. Meaning that the car had to be finished around two month prior, February ’51. Around this period the Barris Shop was extremely prolific and a lot of cars were created at the shop. Some were very well documents, others, like Cliff’s ’48, was not. A few elements, like all the molded body panels, the bumper guard taillight and most of all the not rounded top corners of the trunk and rear fenders indicate that the car might have been mostly built around 1948-49. After that it was more common to round off sharp corners.

Cliff was a member of the Kustom’s Los Angeles. This frontal photo shows the beautiful peak on the hood extending all the way down to the grille and how extremely well and elegant the ’48 Cadillac grille looked on this Mercury.
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The overall lines, the perfect speed-boat stance and wonderful long hood make this ’48 Mercury one very elegant Customs.
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The Barris shop created many ’41-48 Ford based Customs, but relatively few same year Mercury based Customs. And that while, as Cliff’s car clearly illustrates, the three inch longer front end of the Mercury’s lend themselves to the perfect tail-dragging Custom. the long nose does not only give the impression of having a more powerful motor, but the proportions, especially with a heavy chop, really benefit from the longer front end. How much the top was chopped is hard to tell, like usual the early publications were often far from accurate with their tech info. And numbers were often exaggerated to make the cars looks even more special.

According the Barris Technique book Cliff’s Mercury was chopped 4 inches in the front and 8 inches in the rear. MotorSport magazine and Trend Books Custom Cars #101¬† mention 6″ and 8″ and Car Craft magazine a full 8 inches. The chop is pretty heavy on the car, but 6 inch removed from the front might seem to be a little to much. But the difference from to more in the back does sound more accurate than the 4 inches difference from the Barris Book.

The chop on Cliff’s is beautifully proportioned, and reminds me a lot about he chop Sam Barris would later perform on Jerry Quesnel’s ’49 Mercury. With its distinctive forward rake on the B- Pillars and super smooth C-Pillars. Clearly an experiment by the Barris brothers who usually kept the B-pillars straight on their chops. The shape of the door frame and roof shape on Cliff’s Mercury remind me of some of the super smooth and flowing padded tops coming out of the Bill Gaylord shop. But just as on the Quesnell Merc, the rear quarter window front corners seem to have some trouble finding the right direction when looked at from certain angles. But I have to say that the forward pillars sure help with the speed-boat look, and make it look going fast, standing still.

Notice the mud-flap below the front fender.
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In 1951 Cliff entered his ’48 Mercury at the Montebello tent show. Together with Jack Stewart’s ’41 Ford, Jesse Lopez. 41 Ford, Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury, Snooky Janish 1941 Ford, Gil Ayala 1942 Ford and a fee more not in this photo the car formed the Custom Section at this unique show.
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Typical for the late 1940\s early 1950’s the Barris Brothers removed the running boards, and the door skin was extended down. The rear quarter panels was treated the same way. All four fenders were welded to the body, and the seam smoothed with lead for that desirable one piece look. The very busy stock Mercury grille was removed and the body panels reshaped for a much cleaner front. A more elegant and more expensive looking ’48 Cadillac grille was chosen to fit the new smoother front ,and it turned out to be the perfect look for the Mercury. The lower section of the front, which is separate on the 46-48 Mercury’s was molded to the new front end along with the splash pan. The front of the hood was extended down into the new section above the Cadillac grille and the Mercury peak on top of the hood was reshaped at the front to end in a point just above the Cadillac grille, making it look like the peak flows into the center vertical grille bar. This all leads to one of the best custom front-end designs created by the Barris Shop.

There was a small feature on the Mercury in the April 1951 issue of Motor Trend Magazine, showing two photos, including one with Cliff posing with the car.
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A closer look at the Motor Trend 1951 photos. A well dressed Cliff posing with his fantastic looking ’48 Mercury.
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And taken at the same location this nice higher point of view 3/4 look at the Mercury. Very nice angle photo showing the car in all its beauty.
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The headlight rings were molded into the front fenders for a smooth look and the headlights very slightly recessed. The door handles and all emblems were shaved and the side trim shortened on the hood, which was a typical Barris Trademark. At the back the splash-pan was molded to the body, just as on the front, and the taillights plus fender trim was shaved and all holes filled. The bumpers remained the stock units front and rear. But at the rear the Barris crew modified the bumper guards to accept some hand made laminated Lucite taillights. The finishing touch was a set of long 1941 FoMoCo fender skirts, a set of Appleton Spotlights, Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps on wide wall tires (6.00:16 ).

The information from the interior comes from the Motorsports magazine. The front seat was pirated from an 1942 Chevy, allowing to be seated 3 inches lower than stock, which was very welcome with the much lower top. The interior was upholstered in tan cowhide pleated and rolled. The headliner was done in grey imported English wool, and the floormat was made of deeply-piled green rug, which matched the lacquer dash trim. Which makes me wonder if the original color of the Mercury was perhaps green when Cliff Rackohn original owned it?

The car was offered for sale in the same April 1951 issue of Motor Trend magazine. The $6000 invested in the car to built is was a lot of money back then. Notice the spelling of the name Cliff Rackohn. Perhaps Cliff had signed up to go to the War in korea… like so many other guys in the Kustoms Los Angeles Club. Hopefully one day we will know.
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New owner in 1952

In the January 1952 issue of Motorsport magazine There was a two page + feature on the Mercury. According the article the car was then owned by Dave Clickman of Southern California. According the article the the car was chopped 6″ in the front and 8″ in the rear with new sheet metal added from the top of the trunk to the bottom of the rear window, creating a smooth transition. The frame was z-ed in the back and the front was dropped with a 2.5 inch dropped front end. The article also mentioned that the hood was chopped 5 inches, which would technically be a section job, but that is clearly not the car on this Mercury. And that all body panels are molded together and leaded to form one smooth body. It also mentioned that the skirts used once belonged to a ’48 Buick, another false “fact” since the skirts are ’41 Ford Mercury units.

The article mentioned that the car was painted 25 coats of Arctic Blue lacquer by Gram Brothers of West Los Angeles. The engine was rebuild by Ray Brown, a famous Hot Rodder. The Cylinders were bored to 3 5-16″ and a 1950 Mercury crankshaft of 4″ stroke was employed. The 275 Cubic Inch engine utilizes Jahns 3=ring racing pistons with high domes.¬† It had Edelbrock heads two carb intake with two 48 Stromberg carburetors.

January 1952 issue of Motorsport magazine. Scans provided by Jamie Barter.
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Beautiful rear 3/4 view from a higher point of view shows how gorgeous this Mercury was. From this angle the top works the best. The sharp top corners of the trunk might indicate that the majority of the work was already done on the car around 1948-49.
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The interior was done by Bill Gaylord in a tan colored leather, green carpets.
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This photo shows that by the time Dave Glickman owned the car the rear has been raised a few inches.
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This photo shows the bumper guard mounted taillights a bit better.
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When Dave Cickman owned the car the car ran 3T 609 1951 California plates.
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Dave drove the Ray Brown rebuilt flathead engine to a best time of 87.70. Not bad for a heavy leadsled.
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Third owner

In the August 1955 issue of Car Craft Magazine the Mercury was featured again. This time the car was even more on a forward rake, and the fender skirts have been removed. The owner by then was listed as John Logg of Hollywood, and the Mercury described as a 1947 year model. By now the car was dark maroon, and there is some color movie footage of the car at the 1957 Coachman Car Club high-Shool car show. After this we have not been able to find info on the car. Where it went, or what ever happened to it. If you know more, please let us know.

The Mercury was owned by John Logg when it was featured in the August 1955 issue of Car Craft Magazine. By then the rear had been raised, and the fender skirts removed for a completely new look.
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John Logg was a member of the “Streaking Deacons” and used their club tag on the front bumper.
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Screen shot of a color 8mm movie made at the Coachman Car Club Motorcade Car show in 1957. The footage was filmed by Bob Stephenson who was Coachman Club member, and it is so far the only color images we have of the car. By then it was painted a dark maroon.
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This was a slowly moving from left to right shot so thee screen shot was rather blurry. But still very interesting to see that the car was shown with its hood up, showing off the Ray Brown Flathead engine.
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So far this has been the last photo I have been able to find on the Rackohn Mercury. The car looks still very much like the original version, only it has a different stance, and by now the Sombrero hubcaps have been replaced by some more modern hubcaps 9possibly Olds Fiesta hubcapa. This photo was used in the Trend Book #143 Restyle your car published in 1957.
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Nick Matranga Mercury

 

NICK MATRANGA MERCURY

 

One of the most Iconic Custom Cars of all time the Barris Kustoms Restyled 1940 Mercury Coupe for Nick Matranga was short lived, but made a huge and lasting impact.



In the past we have shared the in-depth article on the life of Nick Matranga by Michelle M. Yiatras here on the Custom Car Chronicle. It now is time to focus on just the car. The Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury.

The Barris Customs created 1940 Mercury Coupe for Nick Matranga in 1950, is together with the 1951 Mercury created for Bob Hirohata in 1952, perhaps the most iconic traditional Custom Car ever created. If a dictionary would have a visual for the description Custom Car, then a picture if Nick’s and Bob’s Mercury’s would sum it all up. Nick’s 1940 Mercury coupe only excised for a little over a year, before it was destroyed in a car wreck. Because of when it was created, late 1950’s and the lack of all Custom Car publications, the trend setting and inspiring Custom was never part of a full magazine feature in the magazines. Yet the Matranga Mercury has inspired countless of Custom Car enthusiasts all over the world to build cars similar or inspired by this famous Custom Car icon. In 1951 Dan Post published a new edition of his Blue Book of Custom Restyling and included were several photos of the Nick Matranga mercury taken by Marcia Campbell. There was no written info on the car, not even a mentioning of the owner, only that it was created by Barris. These photos must have had a huge impact on the Custom Car community in 1951 and the following years.


Dan Post used no less than 5 photo’s of the Matranga Mercury in his 1951 edition of the Blue Book of Custom Restyling. Iconic photos of an Iconic Custom Car taken by Marcia Campbell. The Post book did mention the car was a Barris Custom, but nothing on Nick as the owner. Later these photos were used again in the Barris Kustom Technique books published in the 1990’s.
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I think it is save to say that no other Custom Car has been copied in clones, or near clones than the Matranga Mercury. The Custom Restyling the Barris Brothers brothers performed, at their Barris Custom Shop, on Nick’s Mercury is pure genius!

When Nick Matranga was still in High School, the John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles he started dreaming about the Custom Car he wanted to have. He loved the beautiful styling of the ’39 and ’40 Ford’s and Mercury’s with the wide and stylish grille and soft flowing lines of the fenders and body. Nick preferred the coupe body style and after comparing the Fords and the Mercury’s he decided that the longer roof of the Mercury, plus rear bench in the Mercury, compared to the jump seats in the back of¬† the Ford Coupes made the mercury more attractive to him. Also the fact that the longer wheelbase, and the softer body contours of the Mercury were much nicer than the same year Fords in his eyes. The overall shapes of the Mercury were very appealing to Nick, but that high hat top on the coupe looked so out of place on the very stylish lower portion of the Car.


No matter what angle you look at the Nick Matranga Mercury, everything always blends together and flows beautifully toward the back of the car. The use of the heavier ’46 Ford bumpers add a lot to the visual appeal of the car.
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Nick had seen several chopped 1940 Mercury Coupes on the streets of Los Angeles that had caught his eye. That looked much better than stock, still not as elegant as Nick envisioned for his own Custom, but he knew the ’40 Merc would be just right for him. From the Mercury Customs he knew some had been restyled at the Barris Shop on Compton Ave. including two nearly identical for Al Andril and Johnny Zara. And then there were a few others. But there were a few elements on all those Custom Coupes he saw that figured could be improved on. Around same time GM introduced the all new pillarless hard top models for Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac, and the beautiful window lines stunned Nick. He needed to do something with that on his dream custom.

Nick happened to be driving by a used car lot when he spotted a cherry low miles grey-green coupe. He drove his newly acquired Mercury straight to the Barris shop to start discussing the changes he had in mind. Before the bodywork on the Mercury was started the suspension was modified, with a dropped axle in the front and lowering blocks in the back, the rear of the frame was modified to accept the lowered rear axle, and the floor had to be modified with a raised drive shaft tunnel. Lowering the car at this stage made the work on the top easier. Now the top was better to reach, and more importantly the overall proportions when chopping the top could be seen much better than when the car had been left stock height. Very important since Nick’s Mercury would be all about flow, balance and proportions.

Fortunately there are at least two very clear side view images of the Matranga Mercury. Thanks to Marcia Campbell we can still enjoy the breathtaking side profile of the car. This one taken in late 1950 was first published in the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling in 1951. It must have inspired countless car enthusiasts. (Colorized black and white photo)
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The Chop

The chopped top on the Matranga Merc is what really sets this car apart from everything else restyled during the same period, or even decades later. According to some publications Sam worked over a year on the top, to get it just right. I think it just took a little over a year to get the whole car done. And we have to keep in mind that when these cars were created in the late 1940’s early 1950’s the cars were mostly the only form of transportation these guys had. And so was the case with Nick’s Mercury. So most of time during this year of construction, the car was most likely in partly primer on the road.

I have created an visual using the side view photo of the Matranga Mercury and a stock ’40 Mercury to illustrate what was done to get the top looking this good. After having chopped a few ’39-40 Mercury Coupes before, using mostly the original top metal, Sam used pre-shaped metal created by the California Metal Shaping company to create the unique looking top that makes this car such a big hit. Another key factor for the success of the chop on the Matranga Merc compared to other, is how Sam raised the top of the windshield around 1.5 inches up into the top. This allowed him to get the side profile low enough to be in balance with the rest of the car, and still have enough windshield space to make the car drive-able. If you compare this with the earlier Mercury’s from the Barris Shop, like the Andril and Zaro Merc, those had very small windshields, which were out of proportion with the side windows, and making it hard to drive the car in traffic.



After having discussed the style and looks Nick was after for his Mercury with both George and Sam Barris it was time to get started on the chop. Just as Sam had done previously on the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro Merc’s, he started the process with completely removing the B-pillars on the Merc. Then cut the rear of the top at the lower edge, and the A-pillars at the most straight section. Nick mentioned that the car was chopped 6 inches in the front (some publications mention 5 inches), the top of the windshield was raised into the top, perhaps a bit more than an inch, to make the windshield opening a little larger, and more in proportion with the side windows. This was something Sam had learned from chopping the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro 1940 Mercury’s. At the back they just let is sink in between the body until the side profile of the windows as well as the top look perfect to them. The graphic of the Mercury side views, further down this article, showing how the top was chopped, visualize how much more the rear of the top came down, compared to the front. During this time Sam removed the drip rails, for a more smooth look.

When the rear of the top came down so much, automatically the rear corner of the rear quarter window moved forward. Making the side window opening much shorter than on the stock Mercury. With no B-pillar in place this looked really stunning. While maneuvering the top of the car till the flow of the top was perfect, and enhanced the main body shape as well as rear fenders, Sam tacked it in place. Nick absolutely loved the new pillarless look and told Sam and George they had to come up with a solution to make this work somehow, since the B-pillars were not going back into the car.

This illustration shows how much impact the chop on the Matranga Mercury has on the looks of the ’40 Mercury. Image A) shows how the car, with all the other modifications would have looked if the top had not been chopped. Image B) shows the difference between the stock ’40 Mercury roof and the chopped Matranga top with ghost images and outlines. Image C) shows how the stock top was dropped, and rotated to create a lower in the rear roof line for more pleasing effects. It also shows that dropping the top resulted in the now much shorter quarter windows. (blue vertical lines) The image also shows how much the rear section of the top was reshaped for the best results, and how the stock location of the rear of the roof is now related to the flowing transition from top of the trunk to the actual roof. Image D) shows the finished Matranga Merc profile.
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At that Point George started to bend some steel bars to get a feel of what the best shape would be to replace the vertical B-Pillars on the Mercury. Eventually they came up with a beautiful radius on the B-pillar window channel that flew just right with the shape of the top, mimicked the front section of the door window channel and gave the car that spectacular continues flow front front to rear look and feel. The side window frames was created from 3/8 channel, welded, smoothed and eventually send out to be chrome plated. Its especially this new side window shape that really sets the car apart from everything else created around that time. It made the car look fresh, modern like the newest GM Hard-top models, but even more streamlining than those. It looked even better than Nick had ever hoped it would look. With the side window shape determent, Sam Barris set out to reshape the rear of the roof to fit the new window shape, as well as flow with the rest of the body.

After several tires they finally knew what to do to get it right, and pre-shaped panels were created at the California Metal Shaping company and welded in place. What is so unique about the shape of the rear of the top on Nick’s Mercury is the slight bulge at the back, just above the top of the rear window. Designed almost like if the people in the back needed to have sufficient head room as well. It is that bulge, which we also can see on the Jesse Lopez Ford, as well as a few other Barris Customs, that makes the overall flow of the Matranga Mercury work so well.

On Jesse Lopez Ford this shape was created because Jesse loved the shape of the Carson Topped ’41 Ford so much. So perhaps this idea for the roof shape was also the main inspiration on Nick’s Mercury. In any event, adding the slight bulge shape at the rear of the top helps keeping the roof look like a coupe and adding the needed “kick” for the eye when following the side window shape. Jesse had asked Sam to reduce the height of the rear window on his ’41 Ford, to be better in balance with the side windows. Sam really liked this and he did the same thing on Nick’s ’40 Mercury. He took a few inches out of the height of the rear window before he placed it back into the new lowered roof. This way the rear window fits much better in line with the side windows than the stock unit would have been.

Close up of the window channel the Barris Brothers created. for Nick’s Mercury. The new shape was totally unique, and enhanced the shape of the top, as well as the fenders and main body. After the Matranga mercury was destroyed in an accident in early or mid 1952, the Barris Brothers used the same shape of windows of the 1951 Mercury they created for Bob Hirothata.
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The roof of the stock ’40 Mercury is separated with a small strip of stainless steel, making the top look like a separate unit. On previous Custom Mercury’s like the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro Merc Sam already had¬† figured out hos much smoother the top looked if that strip was eliminated and the roof section was blended smooth with the turret panel. So that was also so done on Nick’s Mercury, and the blending was done with an even softer radius than the cars Sam had worked on before. The factory rounded top trunk corners helped the flow of the turret panel into the roof even more.

The rest of the body work on Nick’s Mercury was rather straight forward, and something the shop had performed multiple times on other customs cars. Like the nosing, decking and the molding of all four fender. But it perhaps never had looked so good as on Nick’s mercury, where it was balanced out with that super flowing top. Sam had to modify the hood latching mechanism in order to remove the hood ornament. Nick insisted of keeping the stock grille, and even the stock eyebrows mounted at the bottom of the hood front, just above the grille. He also wanted to keep the original heavy hooded chrome headlight bezels. He loved the design on those, and he was so right about that. Nothing would have looked more in place than these original elements. Sam did however shorten the side trim on the hood, which now starts at the center of the front wheel opening. This optically puts a bit more weight on the rear of the car.

To enhance the flowing lines of the top, Nick wanted to removed the taillights from the fender and mount them, just like Jesse Lopez had done before him, in the bumper guards. They chose to use a set of 1946 Ford bumpers for the car. These bumpers are a bit heavier in appearance than the stock Mercury units, giving the car a bit more weight, and the round shape with the small lip at the top really helps with the flow, front to rear. The stock ’46 Ford bumper guards have a beautiful art-deco shape and are absolutely perfect for creating bumper guard taillights. Jesse Lopez showed Nick how to create the taillights. The bumper guards were mounted in such a way that they flow with the lines of the trunk when looked from behind. The rear of the Stock 1939-40 Mercury kind of stops abrupt into this gap that is left between the body and bumpers. It makes the car look short. So to not loose the momentum of the flow from the top to the trunk Sam decided to use a gravel shield to fill the gap. He welded the gravel shield of an ’46 Ford, and molded it nicely into the body with a similar smooth radius as that was used on the rear fenders, making it look like it came from the factory that way. And integrated the rear bumper a d made it part of the overall design of the car


Two 1940 Mercury’s, the top one is the Johnny Zaro Mercury, and the bottom one the Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury. The Zaro Merc has a much more conservative chopped top. Very much styled along the lines of the original car, jts a few inches lower and slightly more streamlined with the rear portion of the top molded to the body to make it a one piece affair. The chopped top done like this gave the car a completely new more aggressive look and with a low stance the proportions looked a lot better than stock. To be able to get the side windows the right proportional size, the top needs to be chopped quite a bit, leaving the windshield very small. On the Matranga Merc this was fixed by raising the windshield up into the top. The rear portion of the Matranga mercury roof was shaped completely different from the Zaro Mercury, making it look much more modern.



To further enhance the flow of the car, Sam reworked a set of teardrop fender skirts to fit the mercury fender, that Nick had bought at one of the after market companies, to fit the mercury fenders. The door handles were removed to help clean up the sides of the car and again help with the flow, front to rear. To open the door Nick installed push buttons, that activated the solenoids to unlatch the doors, in the running boards, to open the doors from the outside. Inside he installed the buttons on the dash. The dash itself is a piece of art as well. Not really that much has been done to it, just cleaned up a little, and smoothed over completely before it was chrome plated. All the factory ribbed plastic components on the dash were copied in clear red Lucite another trick that Jesse Lopez helped Nick with. The red Lucite looked amazing mounted on the chrome plated dash.




Interior

The interior on Nick’s Mercury was upholstered by Bill Gaylord in dark maroon and ivory using DuPont Fabrilite. The maroon sections was outlined with ivory piping, and the all ivory headliner was a mix of rows of tuck and roll running length wise, outlined with maroon piping and plain ivory sections. The lengthwise design helping create more optical length inside. The carpet was done in dark maroon, and Bill made diamond shape floor-mats to protect the carpets. The section below the chrome plated dash was also fully upholstered in Bill Gaylord’s trademark diamond pattern upholstery. Nick bought a brand new 1950 Mercury Monteray steering wheels that Sam modified to fit the ’40 Steering column. Like most of the Customs created in this era Nick also had to have a set of S-552 Appleton Spotlights, were mounted at the Barris Shop. These Spotlights give the car the needed kick, or focus point at the front of the roof, all to help with the optical flow.¬† set of wide white wall tires were of course needed to help with the elegant lines of the car, and the most perfect hubcaps in the world, the Cadillac Sombrero’s were installed on the front wheels. Nick drove the car like this, in primer for a bit, before the next big decision needed to be made… color.

Carson MatrangaThis photo of the interior in Nick’s Mercury must have been taken early in 1950. If you look close then you can see that the dash is missing a few dash knobs as well as the radio, which are visible in the other photos of the interior. The simple horseshoe shape of upholstery on the bench seat looks very attractive with the ivory piping. There is no rear view mirror in the car when this photo was taken.
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This photo shows how the dashboard was now finished with the radio and the missing dash knobs in place. The red lucide panels must have looked spectacular on the chrome plated dash.
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Here we can see the specially made window frames, the chrome plated garnish molding, the beautiful Gaylord upholstery, including the diamond pattern on the panel below the dash, and that Nick had installed a rear view mirror by then. The ’50 Mercury Monteray steering wheel looks right at home in the decade older Merc.
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Taken at the 1951 National Roadster Show in Oakland shows how the B-Pillar section had a (rubber) trim section making sure the gap between the door frame and the rear quarter frame was covered in case of rain, or any other bad weather.
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Nick was not only looking for the very best in optical styling, he also wanted to have a powerful engine, that went as well as it sounded. Nick had an 1946 Mercury block modified by Phil Weiand. Who installed Weiand heads, intake and cam. Nick knew Phil very well and he gave Nick a good deal on the motor. Phil treated the engine with all the goodies and made it look really good and made sure it was reliable but also sounded really well.



1950 photos

Even though the Matranga Mercury was only around for a little over a year, there are still plenty of photos of the car. Showing how popular Nick’s car must have been at the time. To help identify the different photos and when they have been made we have split up this section of the article in 1950 photos, 1951 Photos and 1951-52 photos after Nick sold the car.

There are very few photos taken of the rear of the Mercury so these two photos from the Kurt McCormick Collection are very important. These two where taken with some time in between them. The one on the left shows the car without the rear view mirror. And the one on the right shows the car with the mirror installed and with the Kustoms Los Angeles plaque mounted below the rear bumper. These two photos are also giving use the best look at the chopped rear window, with its pleasing teardrop shapes. This last photo also show how nice the bumper guards follow the line of the trunk. Everything on Nick’s mercury was so well designed.
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Close up of the rear bumper in 1950 shows the bumper guard integrated taillights than Nick created with the help of Jesse Lopez. Notice the hole cut into the guard included the ribbed outer section of the stepped Art-Deco shape, and how that was reshaped into the Lucite.
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Nick had seen many of George Barris his beautiful organic paint jobs, using transparent toners, mixed with Venus Martin gold and bronze powders. So he knew George would do a find job on the car. Nick picked a 1941 Buick Titian Maroon as base color. The Titian  maroon base color was a bleeder, it showed somewhat what was underneath. In a similar way as later candy paints worked. George and Nick spend many hours mixing colors, based on the Buick color, adding black, adding gold powders and spraying it over different base colors. The end result of the paint job was a spectacular deep dark maroon with highlights enhanced with added gold powder and sections lower on the body that had more black showing thru the paint. All this was done in a away to enhance the shape of the body of the car. And according to those who have seen the car in person, the paint was spectacular.

After George had finished the paint the still fresh paint job was carefully color sanded with wet sand paper. The it was left alone for about a month. This way the paint had completely set, and all the paint thinners had evaporated and the paint completely shrunk.Then Nick and friends color sanded the paint once more and did a final rub-out for the most perfect paint finish.

Nick estimated he had about $1800.- invested in the car. And the Barris Bill alone could have been much higher if he had not helped out with the built all the time. Usually Nick would go to the Barris Shop after his regular day job, and there he would work on the car, either alone, prepping the car for the next day’s body work, or assisting Sam who was working on the car after shop hours as well. Nick credits Sam Barris for doing most of the work on his Mercury. And how it was a pleasure working with Sam who was a fantastic craftsman and knew exactly how to realize the ideas Nick had in his mind for the Mercury.

1950 snapshots taken at Nick’s girlfriends house.
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Nick Matranga’s trend setting 1940 Mercury Coupe Custom was Restyled mostly at the Barris Bell Shop and later finished Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood. Perhaps the very early work on the car was performed at the Compton Ave. shop, since the car was constructed over a one year period. Sadly so far no in progress photos of the Mercury have surfaced.

Possibly a local parking lot or perhaps high school outdoor car show shows Nick’s Mercury with 1950 license plates. Parked behind the Merc is George Barris’s personal 1942 Cadillac Convertible Custom.
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California Avenue South Gate photo shoot

Marcia Campbell took some of the most important Historic Custom Car photos that we know. Perhaps Dan Post hired her to do a series of photos of a few of the latest Barris Customs at the Hall of Justice located at California Avenue in South Gate. One of the cars included in this photo shoot was Nick Matranga’s ’40 Mercury. Perhaps the most famous series of photos taken from the Matranga Mercury were taken by Marcia Campbell during this photo-shoot. It are the photos taken at this photo-shoot that give us the impression that the paint on the car was not rubbed out completely, giving the paint on the car a sort of semi gloss feel. Perhaps its just an optical illusion, or it could be that George Barris understand the importance of Nick’s Car and insisted that it would be part of the photo-shoot for the Dan Post Blue book, despite the paint not having the desired high gloss. There was no antenna on the drivers front fender on the car when these photos were taken.

3/4 front view with the hall of Justice building in the background.
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Near perfect side view scanned from the original photo proof sheet taken from the original negatives by Marcia Campbell.
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Colorized black and white photo give somewhat an impression how the rear Matranga Merc might have looked in color.
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Nick posing proudly with his 1940 Mercury. Most likely this and the other pictures taken at this location by Marcia Campbell were taken not all that long after Nick’s Mercury was finished.
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Enlarged section of the front 3/4 photo shows the Mercury in all its beauty. Notice that there is no rear view mirror mounted yet, so these photos were taken shortly after the Mercury was done.
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1951 photos

If it hadn’t be for the Korean war, then Nick most likely would have never sold the car, at least not just one year after completion. Nick even had told David Zivot how he had plans to install an all new Cadillac OHV engine in the car. But instead Nick enlisted in the army, and left the car in his mothers Garage. George Barris was able to pick up the car in case he needed it for Custom Car shows, which he did for the 1951 Oakand Roadster Show (Feb, 1951), the Montebello Tent Show (and at the Hot Rod show in the LA Armory most likely in Jan ’51). At one point George Barris informed Nick’s mother that he had a buyer for the mercury, and after initial not wanting to let go of the car, Nick eventually agreed and the car was sold for $2500.- in September / October 1951.

1951 photo taken at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Lynwood shop. This high 3/4 front view shows how right Nick was in to keep the front of the car mostly stock, with only the hood cleaned up to enhance the beautiful Mercury shapes.
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Fremont High School photo shoot

Nick graduated from John C. Fremont High School And not long after that he started the work on his ’40 Mercury. In 1951 He went back to his old High School with his Custom Mercury for an set of historically important photos. We are not 100% sure about the photographer who took these photos at the High School, but most likely it was Marcia Campbell who took them. By then Nick had installed a radio antenna on the drivers side front fender.

The perfect dead on side view photo that has helped many enthusiast create their version of the famous Matranga Mercury. This is the one photo that really shows the beautful shaped roof line on Nick’s Mercury. Marcia Campbell was most likely the photographer.
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The front 3/4 view in front of the school shows that the car now has 1951 plates. From this angle it looks like the roof is flowing so smooth into the trunk area.
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Sadly I was unable to locate a copy of the complete photo taken from the rear 3/4, so we have to do with this zoomed in version.
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Perfection on wheels. Everything about the Matranga Mercury is just right, as this photo shows. The slight speed boat stance, the flow of all the body lines enhanced by the curved hard-top window trim.
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According an interview with Nick, the skirts used were 1941 Buick Skirts which were modified to fit the Mercury fenders. But more likely they used aftermarket skirts commonly used on 1939-40 Fords. The shape of the skirts flow perfectly with the Mercury body, enhancing all the restyled body lines on the car. This photo also shows the the door popper button activating the solenoid to open the the door located in the running board.
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The Shows

George Barris took Nick’s Mercury to the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show. Nick was in the army by then and could not make it to the show. Small funny detail is that the show card in the windshield of the Mercury, which was made by a sign painter at the show, had the name Matranga misspelled. (inset on the left)
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Nick’s Mercury also appeared at the Montebello California Tent Show held in 1951 at the Armory. Nick was already in the military by then, so somebody else had taken the car to the show for him. Parked next to Nick’s Merc is Snooky Janich ’41 Ford (in primer behind the merc) and the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford. Peaking just behind the Hop Up sign is the nose of the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford.
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The Mystery new owner
It has been written that a nineteen-year-old guy, named Stanley Hannenberg of Artesia, CA, purchased Nick’s Mercury. This is based on an Jun 8, 1952 news paper clipping (included in this article) in which is it listed that the car he drove (a 1939 Coupe) was wrecked on a rainy day January 7th, 1952 against a telephone pole.¬† The story very much sounds right with the info others have mentioned on how the Matranga Merc came to its end. But the dates on this article do not match the fact that the Matranga Mercury was photographed at an Pasadena event on March 30th, 1952, which was featured in the June 1952 Hot Rod Magazine, three month after it was possibly totaled. At this point we do not know for sure who was the new owner after Nick, and when exactly the car was wrecked and declared “totaled”, and scrapped with only the Appleton Spotlights remaining of the car. But it must have been after March 30th, 1952.



1951-1952 after Nick sold the car

The Falcons and the Gripers Hot Rod Clubs from Pasadena, California organized an Car Show and reliability run in one event on March 30th, 1952. An two page article about this event appeared in the June 1952 issue of Hot Rod magazine. This possibly is the latest event that the Matranga Merc ever entered, and the last time it was photographed. Besides having the one interior photo used in the Hot Rod magazine article, I also believe that a series of photos from the Danny Lares Collection showing the Matranga Mercury were taken at this event.

The flyer for the first Annual Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run held on March 30, 1952. This was most likely the last time the Matranga Mercury was entered in an event.
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Danny Lares had bought the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford around 1951, and more than likely Danny knew the new owner of the Matranga Mercury. Danny was a active member of the¬†Road Kings-Wilmington car club and possibly the new owner of the Matranga Merc was also a member of the Road Kings or perhaps a member of one of the other attending Long Beach car clubs. The snapshots from Danny’s photo album clearly show that the two cars and the two owners stayed close during this event. While there is no photo of Danny’s ’41 Ford in the Hot Rod magazine article, one of the photos shows that Danny was there at the event. Looking at all the details in the Hot Rod magazine article and compare them with Danny’s photos I think that most, if not all these photos were taken at the same event. The last event the Matranga Merc most likely was entered.

The two page Hot Rod magazine article from June 1952 showing the interior of the Mercury. In the photo on the far left (page 20) we can see Danny Lares on the far right collecting a trophy for his ’41 Ford. Who knows… perhaps the new owner of the Matranga Merc is also in this picture?
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One page of the Danny Lares photo album shows Danny’s ’41 Ford and the Matranga Mercury. The one photo with the number 30 painted on the door must have been taken at the reliability run.
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Cleaned up version of the photo taken at the Pasadena reliability run on March 30th, 1952. That must be the new owner behind the wheel of the Mercury.
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Sitting side by side the Matranga 1940 Mercury and the lopez ’41 Ford with 1952 tag’s on the 1951 License plates. Both cars are now owned by new owners. The Lopez ford is missing the fender skirt, possibly removed for the reliability run?
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What a line up, Glen Johnson ’37 Ford (which was the feature car for the event flyer, Danny Lares with his Jesse Lope ’41 Ford (that is Danny with the white cap) and the Matranga Mercury next to it. To bad the fence is blocking so much of the cars. But since this might be the last event the Matranga Mercury was entered I wanted to include it here anyway.
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The Merc parked next to the Danny Lares ’41 Ford.
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Enlarged section of the photo shows the ’52 tag on the ’51 California license plate. It also gives a good look at the ribbed GM or aftermarket rear view mirror that Nick added to the car.
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This photo was taken at the first annual Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run on March 30th, 1952, and was featured in the June 1952 Hot Rod Magazine. It might have been one of the last photos taken of the famed Matranga Merc.
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Changes to the Matranga Merc.
The Matranga Merc only excited for a little over a year, so it never underwent many changes, like some other famous Custom Cars had. The only things I have been able to notice that changed are the addition of a GM ribbed rear view mirror towards some where in 1950. And the addition of a driver side front fender mounted radio antenna in 1951. The photos that we have been able to find of the Mercury show that the car had two license plated in its life as Full Custom. The 62B 1 997 plate from 1950 and the 5N75907 plate from 1951, and the addition of the ’52 tag in late 1951, or early 1952. In some of the photos of Nick’s mercury it appears as if the paint was a semi gloss. Possibly these photos were taken shortly after the car had been finished, and the paint had not been rubbed out yet. But it could also be an optical illusion, nobody has been able to confirm the reason why the paint looks semi gloss in some photos.

Nick Matranga News Paper Article BarrisThis is the Jan 8, 1952 new paper article mentioning the accident which matches some details of the stories about the accident of the Matranga Mercury. But the year of the car is wrong, ’39, not 40, (which can happen in a none car related news paper). But the January 7, 1952¬† date of the accident does not match with the fact that the Matranga Merc was photographed at the Pasadena even on March 30th 1952. The mystery of Who was the owner of the ’40 Mercury after Nick Matranga continues…
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In the short life span of the Matranga Merc the car was photographed with two different license plates. These help us identify when the photos were taken. 62B1997 plate from 1950 and the 5N75907 plate from 1951, and on the right it shows the addition of the ’52 tag in late 1951, after Nick had sold the Mercury.
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Time frame Matranga Merc

  • 1949 late 1949 work started at the Barris Bell Shop, Los Angeles.
  • 1950 late 1950 the car was finished at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood.
  • 1950 November 16th thru 19th Nick Matranga enters his freshly finished Mercury at the Motorama, held in the convention hall at the L.A. Shrine auditorium.
  • 1951 January Nick Matranga enters the Matranga Merc at the Los Angeles Hot Rod show at the LA Armory.
  • 1951 The Dan Post Blue Book publishes 5 photo of Nick Matranga Mercury.
  • 1951 February (early) Nick deployed for boot camp and leaves the car at his mothers house.
  • 1951 February 20-25 George Barris enters the Matranga Merc at the Oakland Roadster Show.
  • 1951 Date unknown George Barris enters the Matranga Merc at the Montebello Armory Tent Show.
  • 1951 September – October George Barris sells the Mercury on behalf of Nick for $2800.- to¬†an new owner.
  • 1952 March 30th New owner enters the Matranga Merc in the Pasadena first annual Reliability run.
  • 1952 Date unknown the new owner wrecked the car hitting a telephone pole in the rain.
  • 1952 June Interior photo appears in the Pasadena Car Show coverage in Hot Rod Magazine.

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Barris Crest
I often was asked why the Matranga Mercury never had a Barris Crest. If the Matranga Mercury was such a famous Barris Custom, why do none of the known photos of the car show the Barris Crest on the cowl, or elsewhere? Was Nick Matranga perhaps not happy with the the work the Barris Shop did? That he did not want to promote the Barris Shop with a crest?
The answer to that question is very simple. During the very short live span of the Matranga Mercury late 1950 – June 1952, the Barris Crest had not yet been created. The Barris Crest was first used around late summer 1952. and by then the Matranga Mercury had already been wrecked and scrapped.

Just a few samples of many 1939-40 Mercury Coupe Customs that have been inspired by the Matranga Mercury, or were built as clone, or semi clone. The Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury is the most copied Custom Car design ever.
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Nick Matranga was born Nicholas Joseph Matranga, on April 21, 1930 in Los Angeles, CA, He passed away on March 27, 2010, in Torrance, CA.




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1947 Ford Mystery Barris Custom

 

1947 Ford MYSTERY BARRIS Custom

 

Nick Maneri from New Jersey was the owner of this 1947 Ford Custom for three years. The car was last seen in 1978. He would love to find out where it is today.



Nick Maneri from Norther New Jersey owned this 1947 Ford Custom from around 1966 till 1969. At the time custom cars like this were pretty much out of style in Northern New Jersey, or anywhere else for that matter. Most guys were in to the muscle cars, but Nick liked the custom and bought it. At the time he bought it it came with the information that it was originally from California and that the Barris Shop had something to do with it. It was not known how and when the car had gotten to New Jersey. Nick has been looking for the car’s whereabouts for years, and still hopes that the car is still around today. Perhaps hidden in a garage, or redone as Hot Rod/Street Rod.

When Nick’s son Nick (Jr) contacted me many years ago and send some photos of his fathers car with the question if I had seen it before… There was a¬† pictured in one of the Don Montgomery books. And even better it came with a little bit more information. The car was owned by Clyde Bengiola from New Jersey, and he had bought it as a damaged car, and that it was painted blue. In the book he mentioned that the car was originally built by Barris and had been shown in New York in 1951. No previous owners name was given. But there now was a little bit more information. When Clyde owned the car the car was still wearing fender skirts. Nick bought the car from Clyde in 1966.

This is, so far, the earliest photo we have of the car. Taken at the 1951 Indianapolis Custom Auto Show. The car still has California plates on it (1950 tag). A stunning looking custom that looks like it was done around 1948-49 at the Barris Shop. We hope to be able to find more photos of this car when it was still in California, and hope to be able to find info on the original owner who had the Barris Brothers restyle the car.
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Close up of the front shows the stock headlights, reshaped front body work to accept the ’48 Cadillac grille. Smooth aftermarket hubcaps on wide white wall tires. Shortened hood side trim, chopped windshield and small spotlights.
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Later we came across a color photo of the car on the cover of an 1953 Motorsport magazine, which proofed that the car had been blue before, as stated by Clyde. When I had the photos Nick had supplied on my website Custom Car enthusiast Barry Mazza recognized the photos from a car he saw several times on some of his road trips. The first time he saw it the car was owned by¬†Clyde Bengiola and he saw it at the Sip and Sup on rt 10. Clyde owned a¬† shop on 202. Some time later he saw it again when it was sitting at gas station in Riverdale, and once again on a used car lot in Wanaque, where he took one photo of the car. This must have been in the mid 1970’s. And the last time he saw it at a Gas station in Hacketstown while on his way to Pennsylvania, this was in 1978 and the car still looked good. So there is good hope the car is still around.

The October 1951 issue of Motorsport magazine had the ’47 Ford on the cover, in color showing the dark blue paint. These photos are most likely taken before the then owner was involved in an accident with the car. Bob Laurie was listed as the owner of the car.
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Photo shared on facebook by kustomrama was labeled as ’47 Mercury, but most likely this is the same car, a ’47 Ford and Richard Korkes had repaired the damage car for new owner Clyde Bengiola. (Note the same license plate as the photo below)
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Don Montgomery included this photo of the ’47 in his Authentic Hot Rod book. Clyde Bengiola supplied the photo and the information on the ’47 Ford he owned for some time. Clyde, from New Jersey had bought the car in damaged condition. It was a chopped padded top custom with skirts, a Cadillac grille and spotlights. It was midnight blue and had a 3/4 race flathead engine. The photo above shows the car after it was repared. Clyde also mentioned that the car was built by the Barris Bros. and was displayed in 1951 New York show. We can see that the car in the photo was repaired with Cadillac headlights. We cannot see if there was any rear quarter trim. Possibly the repair work was done by Richard Korkes.
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While I always keep an eye out for Lost Customs everywhere I do more research it took me many years before something new came up on the Mystery Barris ’47 Ford. My good friend Geoff Hacker had bought a wonderful photo collection with photos from the early 1950’s Indianapolis Auto Shows. And included were some really nice Custom Car photos. One of the photos, taken by the Frank Jones Studio in Indianapolis at the 1951 Indianapolis Custom Auto Show showed an early version of Nick Maneri’s 1947 Ford convertible with chopped padded top. The car still had its 1950 California license plates on the car. Sadly the photos did not come with any written information, so we still have no name of the then owner, nor any additional information of where the car came from in California. The great thing about this Indianapolis Custom Auto Show photo is that it proofs that the car originally came from California. A step closer to solve this mystery.

When Nick owned the car in 1966 the car had been in an accident damaging the rear. This is the reason why there is no rear quarter trim on the car. The ’54 Cadillac headlights were nicely molded into the front fenders. Not sure who did this work. Perhaps Korkes.
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By then the car is dressed up with a set of 1957 Plymouth cone hubcaps. And the stainless rock shield on the rear fender has been replaced with an black rubber unit.
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About the 1947 Ford

The car has a chopped windshield and chopped padded Carson Top. Nick still has the original Hauser’s Carson Top tag, which he took out of the car before he sold it. The front end was customized with an 1948 Cadillac grille. All fender were molded to the body with a rather small radius. The taillight pods were shaved and the stock taillights were moved down and frenched into panel under the deck lid, just above the rear bumper, and closer together. On the original version as how it came to the east coast the headlights were left stock, later a set of ’54 Cadillac headlights was molded into the front fenders. Originally the car had a race flathead, but by the time Nick owned the car he replaced it with an modified dual quad 283 Chevy engine. It still had the Ford transmission and Columbia overdrive rear end. The car was painted Metallic blue when Nick sold it in 1969, and the car only had 40,000 miles on the odometer.


Closer look at the rear shows the stock taillights in the panel below the trunk, and the smoothed trunk, the trunk corners were not rounded.
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A bit fussy photo, from Nick’s snapshot album.
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Time-frame on the 1947 Ford.

  • 1948 – 1950 Restyled at Barris for an unknown owner.
  • 1950 – 1953 Driven from California to New Jersey by unknown owner.¬† (Perhaps Bob Laurie who owned the car in 1953 bought it in Ca, and drove it to NJ) Around this time possibly some damage to the car was repaired by Richard Korkes
  • 1953 – 1966 Owned by Clyde Bengiola
  • 1966 – 1969 Owned by Nick Maneri
  • 1969 – 1978 owned by unknown owner(s)
  • 1978 – Last seen by Barry Mazza in Hacketstown NJ.

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Barry Mazza took a photo of the car while it was sitting on a used car lot in Wanaque, NJ in the mid 1970’s.
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The last time Nick saw his old Ford was in 1969 when it was sitting on a used car lot in Kinnelon NJ. Nick has been looking for the car for many years now, so far no luck. But the fast that Barry Mazza still saw it in 1978 and that the car was still looking good. This gives Nick hope that the car has been saved, and is still around today.  Perhaps further customized, or perhaps hot or street rodded. Hopefully somebody will recognize the car from these photos, and if you do, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle and email, and we will pass it on to Nick.




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Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford

 

JESSE LOPEZ 1941 FORD

 

Around 1947 innovative car enthusiast Jesse Lopez dreams up his ultimate Custom. Together with Sam Barris he creates what would become a true Custom Car Icon. The Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford.


The subtitle of this article “The Ultimate Taildragger”, might not be totally period correct. The word Taildragger given to a pre-1948 based Custom Car with the rear suspension significantly lower than the front, giving it an emerging from the water speed-boat stance was born much later than when the Jesse Lopez Ford was originally build. Still I like to use the “Ultimate Taildragger” title to describe the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford Coupe since the car can be seen as one of the most distinctive and earliest Custom Cars of its kind. The one that surely set the style. And today if somebody talks about a Taildragger Custom, it is the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford that comes to mind at first… most of the times.

We have already shared the amazing two part article on Jesse Lopez written by Michelle M. Yiatras here on the Custom Car Chronicle, that concentrated on the life of Jesse Lopez on the 1940’s and 1950’s. It included some stories on Jesse’s ’41 Ford. But now it is time to get up close to Jesse’s Personal trend setting Iconic ’41 Ford Custom, and share the car in all its beauty.

Before buying his ’41 Ford coupe Jesse had owned two Hot Rods, an A’ RPU with the pick up box removed, nicknamed “bucket”. A very fast rod. The other was an was an AV8 roadster and, the third car was a little more of the Custom kinds a ’36 2 door-sedan. Jesse was more a Hot Rod than a Custom Car guy, but he still wanted to have a full custom, just as some of his friends had. They were just more comfortable and great for picking up girls. At the time a lot of the Custom Cars were based on convertible and had beautiful styled padded tops. Jesse really liked the shape on the padded tops, but for his personal ride he wanted to have a coupe.

This is the oldest photo we have been able to find of the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford. Completed, but still in primer wearing the Single Bar Flipper Hubcaps.
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Jesse discussed his ideas he had for an ’41 Ford Custom with Sam Barris at the Barris Custom Shop on Compton Ave. Sam suggested Jesse should get a short door coupe, since those would create a much sleeker custom. Plus Sam had already chopped on of those short door coupes recently, (most likely the Snooky Janich ’41 Business Coupe, or perhaps Bill DeCarr’s ’41 Mercury, both short door coupes done very early at the Barris Shop.) so he knew how to tackle that for the best result, plus he thought the long door coupe would need much more work to look right. Jesse was not quite sure about the short door coupe’s lines, and really wanted to have a back seat for his ride. So he found a picture of an long door coupe and started to cut the top of the car on the photo with a pair of scissors and pasted it in place to where the car had the profile he had in his mind. He loved it, and the longer doors worked really well with his design.

He showed his taped together photo collage to Sam and told him this is what I want. Sam agreed and Jesse went on to look for the perfect base car, he found a very cherry ’41 Ford long door coupe. Work could start around 1947, Jesse was in his senior year of High-school, and Sam and Jesse made a deal for working on the car. As in most cases at the Barris Shop the customer was allowed to work on the cars themselves as well, under supervision of the Barris crew. This was to help save some money, and to speed up the process.

Jesse was a very handy guy so he could help a lot on the car. It was Sam Barris who did the initial body work, and Jesse worked from there. Jesse mentioned that only Sam Barris worked on the car, “George never touched it“. The car was lowered with a dropped front axle, and the rear of the frame was kicked up (channeled) to get it as low as Jesse wanted it. He ran stock springs an no shackles. The car drove very good, it was low and especially if he had passengers (car had a back seat) the car would hit the ground when they ran over a bump in the road. He later installed rubber stoppers at the low point of the frame. It still bumped, but it did not sound all wrong anymore.

Freshly painted photographed at the Barris Compton Ave shop. Amazing flowing lines make the car look ultra modern in 1948. Notice how low the car is showing just a small portion of the rear white wall tires.
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No matter what angle you look at Jesse’s Ford, the chopped top, as well as the rest of the car looks absolutely stunning.
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The next part to tackle was the chopped top. Jesse’s cut and pasted photo showed a very low profile, with a heavy chop. How much was cut from the pillars we don’t know exactly. Measurements published in the past and present vary from 4.5 to 6.5 inches, and also an 8 inch tall windshield has been mentioned. Whatever the amount of material was that they removed, it turned out to be just perfect for Jesse’s Coupe. Jesse wanted to have the rear of the roof to be shaped inspired by the Padded Tops he saw on most of the custom cars. They cut the top off going through rear window opening. They removed the B pillars and put them aside. Bumper jacks were used to spread the A pillars. After the windshield height was where Jesse wanted it, it was tacked in place. The top was allowed to settle until Jesse saw that Padded top shape. The B pillars were cut to fit and tacked in place.

The top was going to have a slight hump at the back, which would later become a Barris trademark. Jesse remembered that getting everything to work together was a real sonofabitch. At one point he decided to mock up the complete rear of the top in heavy chicken wire covered with masking paper and adding some primer to blend it in with the rest of the body. Then Jesse and Sam would stand back and checked to see if it looked right from all angles. Several tries were needed before Jesse was perfectly happy with it. At that time Sam had already lost his patience and let Jesse do the work on the mock up.

Jesse and Sam created a custom color for Jesse’s ’41 Ford based on a 1939 Plymouth green color (Vineyard Green). Toners where used to make it darker and deeper. Venus Martin number 9 gold powder was added for some extra sparkle.
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So far no actual color photos of Jesse’s Ford have surfaced, so This colorized black and white photo is the best alternative to give an impression how stunning the car must have looked in the late 1940’s.
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Now the shape needed to be repeated in metal, and that is were Sam Barris’s skills were needed. Sam shaped the ’41 Ford top till perfection and according Jesse’s mock up. The rear of the top metal was cut right across the rear window, the shape Jesse wanted dictated that the cuts needed to be made right there. They would worry about the rear window at a later point. Sam and Jesse hammer and dollied the crease out of the lower panel, below the rear window glass, and tipped the metal forward to meet with the top of the roof. Jesse used pieces of hacksaw blades with home made handles to cut slices in the lower top area and the upper rear body panel area. These two areas came together and the overlapping metal was removed. This resulted in the rear window being chopped a bit. The pie shapes that were open after reshaping the top using the slices sections were filled with metal pieces and everything was welded up solid.

Jesse mentioned that the smaller than stock back window was composed of a sheet of 1/4″ aircraft grade Plexiglas, that he got to bend and conform to the convex ellipse, because of complications cutting tempered glass.

The September 1949 issue of Motor Trend had a one page article on Jesse’s ’41 Ford, comparing it with photos of a stock Ford made the reader realize how much more beautiful the Custom Restyled version of Jesse is.
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The rear quarter windows were up next, and those turned out to be just as difficult to do than the top. When the top was chopped they had removed the drip rails and the door rear corners (sharp from the factory) looked odd, and did not blend well with any shape of the rear quarter windows. So the rear door corners were reshaped and rounded to flow with the shape of the top. At one point he completely filled in the quarter windows to figure out the best shape of the rear quarter windows. A lot of cutting, pie-cutting and welding was needed to get the frames in just the right flowing shape to follow the door windows, as well as the new roof lines. Remember that during the time this car was built it was Jesse’s only driver. So even during the chop process Jesse drove the car, without the top, the top partly chopped and sitting on nothing more than a wooden crate… wild!

When the new top finally had the perfect shape everything was hammer welded and leaded to get it perfectly smooth. Next up was sealing in the fenders. (later this would be called molding the fenders) hand shaped metal shapes were welded from the fenders to the body to give them a perfect radius and the desired one piece look. The running boards were removed, and the lower body panels were extended down with rolled metal to cover where the running boards used to be. All handles and emblems were removed and the holes filled. The two part hood was welded solid and a subtle peak added in the center.¬† The two part front fenders were also welded together for a smoother look, and the fender crease that used to run all the way to the front of the car was reshaped just in front of the wheel opening, very much like a ’46-48 Ford fender, but with a touch of Jesse’s own styling.

The Ansen’s catalog shows Jesse’s Jesse’s Ford in an illustration drag racing on the cover… this really happened. On the right is Jesse’s Ford used in a late 1940’s Barris Hot Rod magazine ad.
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The first version of Jesse’s ’41 Ford was also published in the Trend Book #101¬† Custom Cars published in 1951. Here it was mentioned the car was chopped 6/5 inches, but also that the car was channeled. 3 more photos of Jesse’s Ford were used thru-out the booklet.
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For a custom grille on his ’41 Ford, Jesse wanted to use one of the not even available ’48 Cadillac grilles. He had seen the new ’48 Cadillac’s in an advertisement or something like that. And he knew that that grille would be perfect for his car. He wrote a letter to Cadillac and told him about his plans for the grille and asked if he could get one for his ’41 Ford Custom being built at Barris. He mentioned his good friend’s father owned a local Cadillac dealer ship. Some time after that he gets notification that there was a package from Cadillac at his friends father Cadillac dealer. It was the new ’48 Cadillac grille, he got one from free.. no charge. The grille was perfect.

Sam and Jesse worked hard to get the grille to work with the ’41 Ford body lines. They decided that the lower section of vertical grille bars needed to be removed. The placing of the grille on the stock position of the front splash pan turned out to be to low. To get that grille in the correct relationship to the hood and headlights, they lifted/tilted the stock bumper brackets up. This raises the gravel shield around 2 inches higher than stock. The grille sits 1/4 inch above the gravel shield to make it look more factory, this all created the perfect location for the Cadillac Grille. Sam and Jesse used an aftermarket, blank center grille, replacement panel cut down to fit with the Cadillac grille, and molded it in place.

There is only one snapshot showing Jesse’s Ford with the Blower set up and removed hood. The way he drove it at the drag races. The rear of the car is in primer in this photo, some small body work was done before another paint job was added.
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The lower pan below the bumper was modified and to help cool the engine Jesse installed an extra air-inlet created from an refrigerator drip pan. The headlights were molded in with the addition of an extra lip, slightly recessing the headlights. The taillights were removed from the rear fenders to enhance the ultra smooth look. The stock ’41 Ford bumpers were replaced with more elegant and bulbous ’46 Ford units. The rear bumper guards were modified to accept custom made clear red Lucite shaped lenses as taillights. Jesse was the first to build this type of taillights into the bumper guards, ‚ÄúI was good at doing plastic work and I got the bright idea to set them in the indentation of the bumper guard, about 1 3/4‚ÄĚ x 3 3/4‚ÄĚ, a small light fit into the back of the guard. I made the plastic formed and recessed to the shape with 1/8‚ÄĚ grooves cut inside with a triangle file to reflect. It‚Äôs easier working with plastic than metal.‚ÄĚ

With all the work done on the car it was sprayed with several coats of dark gray primer. This is how Jesse drove it around for a while. The car had wide white wall tires, single bar flipper hubcaps and beauty rings, and a set of wired and working Appleton Spotlights installed. Even in primer Jesse’s car looked stunning. The car remained in primer all the time he was at basic training because he was driving it back and forth routinely from LA to Fort Roberts. When it came to choose a color for the Ford, Jesse did not want to use what “everybody” else was doing, dark maroon based on GM-Buick colors. Jesse really wanted a light color for the car, his personal favorite was a pale yellow, which would have made the car really stand out between all those dark color painted customs. But in the end he decided to go dark anyway, dark green.

Some of Jesse’s friends in booth camp posing with the ’41 Ford. All the guys loved that car. In 1949 Jesse replaced the Single Bar Flipper hubcaps with Cadillac Sombrero units.
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This snapshot taken at Camp Roberts really shows the beautiful shape of the top and rear quarter windows.
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The first color used on the 41 Ford is a custom mix, but it is based on a 1939 Plymouth green color (Vineyard Green) nitro lacquer. Toners where used to make it darker and deeper. Venus Martin number 9 gold powder was also added. They used a motorcycle tank for test shots of the paint. The tank’s curvatures shows how the paint would look on the car. All the paint that was mixed was used on the car, and no extra paint was made for possible future touch ups. They figured if they scratch the paint, or worse, it was easier to repaint the whole car…. in a different color. The first paint-job was sprayed by Sam Barris. Over the relatively short time Jesse owned the car it was repainted a few times. Always in shades of dark, or darker greens. A later color was based on ‚Äô47 Chrysler Adante green Rinshed-Mason again with with fine metallic gold Venus Martin powder highlights, M & H in LA mixed the paint.

‚ÄúThe lacquer paint back then didn‚Äôt hold up like today‚Äôs. The streets were really bad back then and we‚Äôd get chips in the paint and running boards. I was a painter so instead of spotting it I went ahead and repainted the car and refined the color in nicer shades of green/metallic. I gave it the final paint job, a nicer lighter shade of the dark green with more gold flakes, I actually liked that paint color the best. Everything was experimental then, nothing was concrete, always wanting to improve, and they were constantly making things better.‚ÄĚ

The car was complete built at the Compton Avenue Barris Shop. The shop was basically a two car garage, but longer. But most of the time the work on the car was performed outside, the weather was always good.

Some small, but very nice photos of Jesse’s Ford appeared in the October 1951 issue of Popular Science. Among the photos used is a nice photo showing Jesse using the “hidden” button the the rocker panels used to activate the door opener.
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Jesse lopez posing with his 1941 Ford in 1949.
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1950 Oakland Roadster Show

Jesse Lopez entered his ’41 Ford in several car shows over the time he owned the car. He also drove it all the way to Oakland to enter the car in the first annual Roadster Show. One of the shows that would turn out to be very Custom Car orientated. Jesse’s Ford was a huge success at the show with a crowd around it all weekend long.


1950 Oakland Roadster showJesse’s 1941 Ford at the 1950 Oakland Roadster Show.
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1950 Oakland Roadster showJesse was a proud member of the Kustoms Los Angeles, and he ran KLA brass plaques both front and rear. This photo was taken during set-up day.
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The interior of Jesse’s Ford was done by Carson Top Shop, and according to Jesse it was done a bit crude. It had 1.5 inch or perhaps wider pleats done in white and green. Jesse smoothed the dash and had it completely chrome plated. He had followed a class how to work with Lucite, when the product was introduced. There he had learned how to shape and glued the material, and during the build of his Ford he realized the material would be perfect for use on his – and later other – Custom Cars. To cut the material they used to drill holes close to each other and cut it apart with a hand saw. Then files and sand paper where used to smooth everything and finally it was polished. Jesse had removed the stock plastic dash panels and hand shaped new units in transparent green Lucite. He also replaced all the factory dash and shifter knobs with hand made units created from green Lucite. This made the interior of Jesse’s Ford look very modern and totally unique.

The new ultra smooth body lines looks fantastic on Jesse’s Ford and it was a big hit in 1948. Everywhere he went it was a crowd pleaser. When he went for a burger, or whatever, there was always a crowd around the car. Jesse’s ’41 Ford was a trend setting Custom that had a lot of first in the field going on. It was as far as we know the first long door coupe that got chopped, had the first bumper guard taillights of this kind, had the first rolled over running boards, and Lucite elements in the interior.

1950 Oakland Roadster showJesse’s Ford parked next to Joe Urritta’s Barris built 1941 Ford convertible at the show.
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Jesse whad his ’41 Ford at the first Oakland Roadster Show in 1950. In the top photo Jesse is standing with Miss CA. holding the trophy he just won with the car.
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Jesse was really into driving fast so the stock engine was replaced by an a 3/8 by 3/8 stroker 59A. Under the hood, it was all business. No polished/chromed anything. During the week he had two Stromberg 97’s on a Edelbrock low boy intake and Edelbrock heads. The heads were also Edelbrock, with headers. The headers had bungs in them so that he could open them at the races.

Jesse also created a set up with a McCullough blower that he used on the car for drag racing. The car was too heavy and low to race, but he wanted to race it so he put the charger on it, and ran it without the hood. Lincoln Zephyr gears in the transmission with the blower. They all used Lincoln gear boxes back then. Jesse also had to have a special made big radiator because it ran so hot, 4‚ÄĚ core and 4‚ÄĚ tank. One carburetor off a Buick Roadmaster with a large venturi to let more air in, Fritz figured that out. He built the motors for most of the LA guys back then.

1950 Oakland Roadster showThe Appleton 112‚Äôs were wired and worked, the spot handles were green Lucite to match the Lucite on the Chrome plated dash. The doors kicked open by buttons hidden under the rocker. Notice the used look of the frame covers, that is because the car was Jesse’s daily driver. Shortly before the Oakland show Jesse replaced the stock steering wheel with a Mercury Monteray Steering wheel.
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Close up of the bumper guard taillights Jesse created for his ’41 Ford. Notice how the Lucite was not only used on the most extended shape of the Art-Deco shaped guard, but also on the side pieces with the tops nicely rounded. This is how several of the early bumper guard taillights were done. This photo also shows the light fixture Jesse created above the license plate.
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When Jesse got drafted he still would drive the car to boot-camp. But after a while he gave the car to his brother Memo. But his brother was not such a good driver, he was not really into cars and found the chopped windows to small to drive safely. So he asked George Barris to find a buyer for the car. Jesse was send overseas to Korea and Japan and Danny Lares showed interest in the car and ended up buying it.

The 1941 Ford was Jesse’s only real custom car. He later owned a 1951 Cadillac that he rebuild as a 1952, with really nice paint as a mild custom, a 1956 Ford Pick-up mildly restyled with his own mix of Candy Red Paint. And a brand new 1958 Ford Thunderbird that he took right of the dealer’s lot to the Barris Shop for a new paint-job in Candy Red Paint mixed from his own formula. George Barris was so impressed with this paint that he bought the confidential mix. But that was it. Jesse was to busy with customer cars to do cars for him-self. Jesse now owns a 1957 T-Bird which is mildly customized with new rear wheel openings matching the front openings, painted in his favorite pale yellow, the color he really wanted to paint his 1941 Ford in as well.

Despite being an early Custom Car, the Jesse Lopez Ford did receive quite a bit of magazine recognition in the early days both Jesse’s as well as Danny’s version. Motor Trend as well as Dan Post featured the car on a full page. Later Dan post used several other photos of the car in newer editions of his Blue Book of Custom Restyling. George Barris also used several photos of the Lopez car (from before and after Jesse owned it) in various How To or Custom Detail articles in the magazines he wrote for.



1951 Danny Lares the New Owner

Danny Lares, an active member of the Road Kings-Wilmington car club, bought the Jesse Lopez ’41Ford coupe for $2300.- in 1951. Danny drove and showed the car from 1951 till 1957, winning numerous awards on the Southern California car show circuit. Danny sold the car in ’57 for $500 to a man named Stan Crabtree from San Pedro. Sadly, shortly after buying the car, the third owner of the car, Stan wrapped it around a tree and ended the life of the Jesse Lopez-41 Ford. As far as we know the remains were wrecked, and nothing of the car was saved.

(Jesse was felt really sick when he got home and heard what happened to his old car. He was always a very carefully driver, even though he drove the car fast. He never had one single scratch on it. And how could the new owner just total it.)

 


1951 photo at the Barris Shop shows the Jack Stewart ’41 Ford next to Jesse’s Ford. Unique is that the belt line trim is missing for Jesse’s car completely. Possibly the car had just been sold to Danny Lares and it had been freshly repainted?
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Ultimate Custom Car photo shows the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford, then owned by Danny Lares (Road Kings plaque) parked next to the Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury. Notice that the Ford is lacking fender skirts and is dressed up with a Cadillac Sombrero hubcap at the rear in this photo.
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Parked next to Nick Matranga’s ’40 Mercury at another outdoor car show. Danny added the Road Kings plaque on the front and rear of the car.
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Rear quarter view at an outdoor Car Show shows how fantastic the chopped top and molded (sealed) rear fenders look. The lack of body mounted taillights really help with the smooth look.
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Danny Lares in his Road Kings car club jacket standing against the ’41 Ford was taken around 1952.
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Minor Changes

Danny Lares kept the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford mostly the same during the years he owned the car. There are however a few small changed that were made to the car which always helps us identify the time hen the photos were taken. Especially identifying the car when it was owned by Jesse, or by Danny. The first thing that was changes was the length of the hood side trim. Originally the piece of hood side trim on the car was very short, later a larger section was installed that ran almost to the center of the wheel opening. And some time later a Barris Crest was added to both sides of the car on the cowl. It is really amazing that in a time, the mid 1950’s, when it was so common to make new changes to your Custom Car every few month to gain points at the car show, Danny decided to leave the Jesse Lopez Ford design for what it was. Not make any changes but the few mentioned before. The design was perfect, and fortunately Danny realized that, its what he loved about the car.

Looks like Danny Lares is getting ready to race the ’41 Ford. That is Danny behind the car. Notice the numbers painted on the rear quarter window.
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Photo taken at the Los Angeles Hamilton High School car show. Year unknown, but photos from this event appeared in the December 1954 issue of R&C magazine. That is Danny with the checkered hat cleaning the engine bay.
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Danny receiving another trophy for the ’41 at an unknown car show.
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One thing that has always wondered me is that the car has no rounded trunk corners. The flow of the door line, door windows and rear quarter windows is so right on this car. Jesse and Sam might have spend a lot of time on it, but it all has been worth it.
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Low angle side profile photo with the newly added Barris crested to the cowl. This photo shows that the car might be even lower now than when Jesse owned it.
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Possibly when the Barris Crest were added to the car a “deal” was made that the car also would have the Kustoms Los Angeles plaque added again. George Barris was a businessman and wanted to promote the Barris Shop and Kustoms Los Angeles club as much as possible.
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Thrifty drug store parking lot car show photo from 1954. This photo shows how the chopped rear window fits just right and has the perfect size for the chopped top.
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Unknown outdoor Car Show in 1955. This is one of the very few photos showing a bit of the engine on the ’41 Ford. Notice how many award Danny Lares had won with the car. at least 7 years after it was first created the car still was a head turner.
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Close up of the photo shows the two carburetors. It also shows the slightly recessed headlights, and beautifully molded metal around the ’48 Cadillac grille.
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Beautiful model posing with the ’41 showing of some more trophies. Notice the perfect flow of all the panels with sharp reflections.
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Close up gives us a good look at the custom ’41 Ford front fenders with the extra lip Jesse designed.
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The ’41 Ford at another parking lot photo. This time the show was held in early 1956. Parked next to Danny is the famous ’49 Mercury created by the Ayala’s for Louis Bettancourt and later redone by Barris for Johnny Zupan. Next to that is the Barris Kustoms restyled ’41 Ford for Frank Monteleon.
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Photo taken at the same show as the one above, but from another angle. This photo is dated March 1956. (shared by Paul Kelly)
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This nice lower angle photo taken at Bacon Ford shows the extra air intake Jesse added to the car really well. Also take a look at the super sharp reflections in the glossy paint.
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Closer look at the refrigerator drip pan air intake under the front bumper. Also good visable in this photo are the slightly recessed headlights.
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Small changes over the years that help identify who owned the car and about when the photos were taken.

  • A) Short hood side trim and single bar flipper hubcaps, pre 1949. Owned by Jesse Lopez.
  • B) Short hood trim, Cadillac Sombrero’s, Pre around 1951. Mostly owned by Jesse Lopez.
  • C) Addition of the longer hood trim Post 1951. Owned by Danny Lares.
  • D) Addition of the Barris crest to the cowl, around 1953. Owned by Danny Lares.
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These two photos show perhaps the best what Jesse Lopez meant with a top shaped after the Carson Padded tops he liked so much. Uniquely shaped, and the lines on this car are still considered to be as perfect as they can be.
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The Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford has been a trend setter from the moment it was finished. Jesse and Sam Barris had created the ultimate ’41 Ford coupe using the much harder to chop (according to Sam Barris) long door coupe. The longer doors and side windows created that the chopped coupe looked a mile long, especially with the new roof shaped designed by Jesse based on what he liked from watching chopped padded top convertibles. The combination of the heavy chop with the speed boat stance, heavy lowering of the frame, created an almost cartoonish effect perfectly balanced. The car was an instant hit when Jesse started cruising the streets of Los Angeles. Many photos of the car have appeared in numerous publications of the years and have since then inspired many builders around the globe to create taildragging Customs.


Danny Lares later ran the Lions drag strip track, worked at LADS (Lions Associated Drag Strip) timing association from 1955-65 as tech timer and official starter flagman, and was a founding member of Road Kings Car Club Long Beach. He passed away in 2003.

Danny Lares’s nephew George Lares is now the care taker of the Danny Lares Collection.

Special thanks to:
Jesse Lopez, David E. Zivot, Michelle M. Yiatras, Trace Edwards, George Lares and Jerry Daman.









(This article is made possible by)






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Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford

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Originally created for John Vara by George Barris. This radical full fade away fendered 1941 Ford padded topped Convertible is best known as the Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford.

Johnny Zaro is a well know name in the Custom Car world, his two Barris brothers restyled¬†Custom Cars¬†had a huge impact on the Custom Car world. Johnny’s Custom Cars have been well featured in the magazines and books back then, and in more recent year. Both Customs, a 1940 Mercury Coupe, and a 1941 Ford Convertible have miraculously survived all these years and have been fully restored by their new caretakers a number of years ago.¬†They now can be enjoyed for many more decades by enthusiast from all over the world. We will be featuring both these Zaro Custom Cars here on the Custom Car Chronicle, especially since both cars have played a big part in the history of the Custom Car.¬†This article is about Johnny’s second full Custom Car, “The MERC of ZARO” 1941 Ford Convertible full Custom, one of the wildest, of not the¬†wildest early Barris Custom.

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Robert Ruiz shared this photo of the ’41 Ford still¬†in progress. This is the earliest photo of the John Vara, Johnny Zaro Ford that we have come across, and was still owned by John Vara when this snapshot¬†was taken. According to Robert Ruiz, the writing on the back of the photo says “1948? Elmer’s muffler shop. It was my friends dad’s shop in L.A. 139 E.Manchester blvd.”

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This full Custom 1941 Ford Convertible is known as the Johnny Zaro Custom, since his name has been attached to it since 1948, and this is how the car was featured in the magazines and books ever since. But the car was actually built as a finished Custom Car for John Vara. Usually a historic Custom Car is named by its original owner (if known) but in this case the car is named by its second owner, Johnny Zaro, The Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford.

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First Version

George Barris built this 1941 Ford convertible-based custom for John Vara¬†in around 1947 perhaps early 1948. Most of the work on the car was done by George Barris. George had created his own personal 1941 Buick with full fade away fenders, and for John’s Ford they wanted to go even more extreme. Full fade away fenders on a channeled body with raised front fenders creating a totally unique look. Where most of the Barris Customs from this era had at least some sort of shiny trim on the body, John’s 41 Ford was free of any exterior trim or handles, apart from the chrome plated grille bars.

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1952 Ford Times magazine showed this photo of the Ford and named it the Barris-Vara car.

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According the 1951 issue of Motor Trend magazine the car was channeled 8 inches over the frame which was modified with a straight rear crossmember allowing the rear to drop another extra 3 inches. The front axle was replaced with a dropped unit to get the front nice and low with a slight speed boat stance. To be able to steer the wheels after the channeling, the front fenders were raised to about an inch under the hood line. The bottom section of the hood sides were cut off completely and the the hood was welded to the raised front fenders. At the rear the fenders were welded to the body and using sheet metal the sharp edge was rounded with a nice radius. The trunk was shaved and combined with the molded in rear fenders the rear of the car looked super smooth.

With the new much higher position of the front fenders George set out to hand shape some sheet metal to form the full fade away fenders, creating a smooth line from the front fender’s¬†all the way to the rear fenders. With the sides all level, not showing the front edge of the rear fenders, like how it was done on the stock ’42-48 Buicks. This created an unique smooth looks for the sides. The molded-in shape of the rear fenders was repeated on the fade away fender as well as the fender to hood lines. Creating one smooth flow from front to rear. George decided to create a smaller hood opening, leaving the front portions of the hood with the front fenders. Another innovative idea helping with the overall smooth feel of the car. The headlights were frenched with molded in bezels.

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Take at the same location as the image above. This is how the car looked like in its first version back in 1948. Notice that this version of the car, most likely still owned by John Vara had a license plate on the front as well. (Colorized black and white photo.)

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From an early (late 40’s) Power &¬† Customizing Manual.

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When creating the full fade away fenders the bottom door line, which was on top of the running board on the stock Ford, was now all the way at the bottom of the body. The lower portions of the new body line was rounded inwards to give the lower edge of the car a nice finished look. To accentuate the long fade away fenders George Barris installed a set of his favorite long 1941 Ford/Mercury fender skirts.

A new grille opening was created and three 1948 Pontiac grille bars were modified to get the same width and installed into the new opening. A ’46 Ford gravel pan was installed at the front at the stock location compared to the fenders. A ’46 Ford bumper was installed and the new location made the front of the car looks far less low than it actually was. One a bit of a design flaw (in my eyes) is that the Pontiac grille bars appear to be dipping down a bit in the center, conflicting with the front bumper, which appears to be pointing up slightly in the center.

At the rear George created the very popular ‚Äď at the time ‚Äď in-set¬†license plate. A beautiful shaped opening with the license plate installed from inside the trunk, behind a piece of glass. A ’46 Ford splash pan was molded to the body. With all the body work smoothed George had created a super slick new body, and he did not want to add a set of taillights to it to ruin the overall shape. So he installed two tiny motorcycle taillights on each side of the ’46 Ford bumper guards. The windshield was chopped a few inches. According the early magazines it was chopped 4.5 inches, but I feel it could have been a bit less than that.

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Gene Winfield took this photo of the car after Johnny Zaro had bought it. By now the license plate on the front has been removed and curb feelers have been installed to keep the ultra smooth body sides from scraping the high Los Angeles curbs. Beautiful angle shows the real beauty of Johnny’s Ford.

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George Barris painted the finished car ¬†with¬†paint based on DuPont Polychromatic Maroon. George custom mixed it and added Venus Martin gold powder into the last layers for some extra sparkle. When the car was done it was send to Louis Chavez for the padded top. As for the interior there is some controversy about who created that. The ’51 Motor Trend magazine feature list Chavez as the shop who did the interior, the Barris book¬†and the Custom Cars Annual interview with Johnny Zaro from 2012¬†mentioned Bill Hilborn as the upholstery guy. The¬†interior was¬†done in red and white leatherette¬†and had a special shaped¬†rear bench with a small bar incorporated.¬†The carpet on the floor was wine colored.

The car was detailed with wide white wall tires, chrome beauty rings with full moon hubcaps and a set of Appleton Spotlights. During the final stages of the built Johnny Zaro had seen the car at the Barris Shop several times while being there with his ’40 Mercury. Johnny had fallen in love with the car and made a deal with the Ford owner John Vara. John ended up with Johnny’s 1940 Mercury Coupe, plus an extra $300.- and Johnny Zaro ended up with the freshly finished ’41 Ford. Johnny had to trow in the extra $300.- just because his ’40 Merc was a bit more rough around the edges than the Ford. But that did not really matter to much, Johnny Loved his new ’41 Ford. (In at least one early  publication (Ford Times Feb. 1951) the car is listed as the John Vara Ford.)

At the time Johnny was trading the car with the additional $300.- payment he did not have the money for it. He was in his very early 20’s at the time and not making all that much money yet. He loaned the money from his mother, but she also did not have enough. So Johnny and his mother went over to Seaboard Finance Co. in Huntington Park, and he borrowed the money from them. Later when he had trouble paying them back the company confiscated the car. The owner of the Soaboard Co. actually took the car home and drove it. Eventually Johnny got the car back.

In the interview that Justin Kudolla had with Johnny Zaro, Johnny mentioned that he remembered that one day when he was over at the Barris show¬†he saw how¬†George was trying to fit the fadeaway fender on one of the side of the car and the metal did not work with him the way it was supposed to do. George¬†got really frustrated. “He got madder than heck and he took a pick hammer and started punching holes in the fender! He was really upset!”¬†When Johnny visited the shop¬†the next day, George was welding the thing up, brazing it back together, and grinding down.

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Another Gene Winfield photo of the car taken on a trip into the mountains. Another beautiful angle showing the beauty of the super smooth and molded body lines. Kustoms Los Angeles plaque,¬†curb feelers¬†mounted on the fender skirts and the super small motorcycle teardrop chrome plated taillights. Notice that the hood corners are not rounded on Johnny’s Ford.

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Johnny added some personal touches to the car shortly after he had bought it. The dashboard was cleaned up, the base chrome plated and he created hand shaped wine colored red lucite panels to replace the stock plastic panels on the dash. Johnny also added some wine red lights on the dash that illuminated when the doors popped open. The Appleton Spotlights that had been added were customized with hand shaped laminated red lucite handles.

The doors on Johnny’s Ford are operated by solenoid pop-ups. The buttons were hidden under the doors on the outside and push buttons on the dash to open them from the inside. These buttons were only on the drivers side of the dash. Done especially so that the ladies could not open the doors on their own. Johnny also reworked the hood and trunk to have them hydraulic¬†operated. from switches on the dash.

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Small updates
Like most of the Custom Car owners, Johnny also made a few minor changes to his Ford along the way. Updates with newer parts that have become available since the car was first finished, or perhaps inspired by other fresh custom Cars. Johnny replaced the moon hubcaps with the smooth beauty rings (most likely a Calnervar product) with a set of Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps. And the small teardrop shaped motorcycle taillights positioned next to the rear bumper guards had to make place for a set of bumper guard taillights. Handmade by, or supervised/inspired by Jesse Lopez into the 1946 Ford bumper guards. A beautiful art-deco shaped cut out was made and laminated clear red lucite was shaped similar to fill the hole.

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New bumper guard taillights and Sombrero hubcaps. Johnny needed special wood boards to enter the drive way at home without scraping the exhaust. Johnny’s car was low, very low.

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The mildly updated¬†version of Johnny Zaro’s Ford¬†was featured in Motor Trend December 1949. (Still looking for a better scan of this article… anybody? )

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Johnny Zaro with his ’41 Ford. Unlike a lot of other owners of padded topped Customs, Johnny liked to take off the top and cruise around topless in the beautiful SoCal summers.

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Johnny’s Ford at the Barris Compton Ave Shop in 1949.¬†

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George Barris used Johnny Zaro’s ’41 Ford in several of the Barris Magazine ads, as well as promotional photos at early Car shows. Shown here are two late 1940’s magazine and show program ads.
We are fortunate to have two color slides showing the original deep maroon color added by George Barris. This photo and the one below were taken after Johnny had installed the Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps.

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A look at the two tone interior. 

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The early version of the Ford used a 1948 Mercury steering wheel. This photo shows how nice the interior was done and also shows (if you look carefully) that Johnny added the letters “KUSTOM” on an angle to the red lucite dash panel. Also¬†visible¬†are the hand made laminated red lucite¬†Appleton Spotlight handles.

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Another top view shows the beautiful round and wide read pleats in the interior, as well as the special shaped rear bench.

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This photo is really nice, showing Johnny’s ’41 Ford and the ’40 mercury coupe, owned by his friends Al Andril. Al’s Mercury was very similar to his own Merc that he traded for the ’41 Ford.

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Tokay Beige Version

After some time Johnny wanted to make some more changes to the car and do a new paint job. A¬†new more modern grille for the car was created from a 1949 Pontiac grille. In the Motor Trend July 1951 feature, as well as in the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 1950′ Volume 3 is written that the grille was made up from ’49 Pontiac and Studebaker part, but as far as I can tell the grille is just a narrowed ’49 Pontiac, with the stock Pontiac grille bars below the top bar. The bottom bar is also a narrowed (center bulge removed) bar from a ’49 Pontiac. The grille never fitted very well, sitting lower on the passenger side than the drivers side. The ’48 Mercury steering wheel made place for a new Ford Crestline¬†steering wheel, and an accessory bar was added in between the front bumper guards. The George Barris suggested to paint the car in Tokay Beige which ‚Äď according to Johnny Zaro ‚Äď was a slight¬†pinkish tan. He mentioned that the color looked great at night, but during the day not so much.

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The new light paint and heavier grille gave the car a completely new look.
Parked at Johnny’s home with the new tokay beige paint. the grille was made from a narrowed and welded together ’49 Pontiac grille. The vertical grille bars are stock ’49 Pontiac and the lower bar sitting on the molded gravel pan is also from the Pontiac and narrowed the same amount, deleting the stock center bulge. Notice how the gap above the grille is much wider on the passenger side than the driver side.¬†

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Johnny drove the Ford around in Tokay Beige or for some time, and then decided to go back to maroon again. He liked the color much better on the first version. So George Barris custom mixed another batch of Maroon including the Venus Martin gold powder. Another plus effect of the new dark paint was that the bit poor fitting grille looked a lot better, with the dark paint hiding the slight gap above the grille on the passenger side. The new darker paint changed the look of the car again. But the new grille still made sure the car was more up to date than with the old three bar grille.

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Barris Bell Shop
Johnny’s Ford with the new Maroon paint on it at the Barris Bell Shop.

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The Zaro Ford was not only a great looking Custom Car, it also performer pretty well. Johhny Zaro mentioned in his Kuddola interview that the car hauled ass as well. When the car was first built it had the a regular V-8 engine, But later Johnny got a 3 and 5/16th bore, Weiand heads, a Spalding ignition, Howards cam, and an Edelbrock manifold. The new updated engine really went! In 1951 George Barris wanted to take my car up to the Oakland Roadster Show and offered to drive the car there himself. Johnny told him “No, not unless you put the car on a trailer and take it up there.” Johnny didn’t want to put any miles on the new engine, he just had the full engine put in the car. So, he ended up bringing a trailer and he took it up there. Johnny took a plane and flew to Oakland and after the show he drove the car back home to Los Angles, very carefully.

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George Barris took Johnny’s Ford to the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show. The trophies displayed with the car show that the car was well liked.

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Another unique color photos was taken by Walter Wyss at the ’51 Oakland Roadster Show. George Barris kneeling on the right, Jack Stewart hanging over the drivers side fender, Johnny Zaro polishing the hood and an unknown friend on the left.
Johnny’s Ford at another (unknown) show. Notice the large sign on the hood of the car.

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Johnny and Fay Zaro on their honeymoon with Johnny’s ’41 Ford nicely dressed up for the occasion.

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Johnny’s Ford was featured in color on the cover of the July 1951 issue of Motor Trend magazine. Inside was a one page feature on the car with photos taken by none other than Marcia Campbell.
Marcia Campbell loved to show the cars at full profile, giving a very good impression of the overall look of the car. I can’t help but wonder if a slight angle on the B-pilla of the padded top might have helped the overall flow of the car even more.

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Cover image of the Motor Trend Magazine. “Merc of Zaro” is not a far-fetched pun. John Zaro’s striking convertible is powered by a highly-tuned Mercury engine. The car’s attractiveness is completed here by beautiful June Burroughs of Glen Ellen, Illinois, pleasantly clad in a swim suit by Rose Marie Reid and accompanied by Bill Evans of Los Angeles Photo by C.A. Peterson.

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Fay, Johnny’s future wife, posing with the Ford.

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Selling the car

George Barris introduced Johnny’s future wife Fay to Johnny around 1951. He would cruise with Fay oat night on the little alleys, since cruising the main roads would attract to many cops who loved to ticket him for being to low, loud or whatever they could think off. When Fay and Johnny decided to get married Johnny decided to let go of the Ford, to be able to pay for a new house. He put the car up for sale on the D&B Auto Sales car lot¬†in Hollywoon. The lot was specialized in selling Hot Rods and Custom Cars. The Ford had not been on the lot¬†for¬†24 hours, when¬†it was stolen off of the lot. After some time the FBI called Johnny to mention they had found the car in Kingman, Arizona. The FBI was involved since it had become a¬†federal offense once the car got across the California border. Johnny and his soon to be father-in-law went down there. Turned out¬†a couple guys from Boston had¬†stolen the car, and they got stranded in Arizona when they ruined the motor. They¬†towed the car it back home to Marywood California. Johnny pulled the damaged engine and¬†put another full engine in it.

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Johhny’s Ford at the D&B Auto Sales on Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood. According to Johnny the car was not even on the lot for 24 hours when it got stolen.

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In 1952 a guy from Lincoln, Nebraska bought the car. The guy was still in college and after a while he send Johnny a letter that the car was doing fine, but that he tried to take it to college one day. But after everybody at school was all over the car he decided he could not use it as daily transportation anymore. Next thing we know was that in the August 1952 issue of Motor Trend magazine, Springer Jones of  Mitchell, Nebraska put up an For Sale ad.  The asking price was $2345 or best offer. We are not sure if Springer Jones was the guy who bought it from Johnny, since Johnny could not remember his name anymore.

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Ad from the august 1952 issue of Motor Trend magazine shows the Zaro Ford For Sale by new owner Springer Jones from Mitchell, Nebraska. 

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Updated by Russ Erlinger

From 1952 to 1953 at least one other person has owned the Ford, since in 1953 Russ Erlinger of Belleville, Illinois buys the Ford from an unknown person in Wyoming. This unknown person most likely bought it from Springer Jones. Russ used the car and at one point while him and his wife were driving the car he was involved in an accident. According the stories the car rolled over .

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The owner mentioned that he bought the car in 1953 off of used car lot in Illinois. He wrecked it like the photos show in 1954. And then rebuilt it. He told Kevin Fritz in 2019, that when he flipped it. His wife ended up inside the roof sliding down the road in the top. She did not get hurt. The padded top saved her.

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Over the years Russ restored the car, and made some small updates. The mot obvious updates are a set of¬†1949 Plymouth bumpers replacing the ’46 Ford units. He also added bumper guard taillights in a set of ’49 Plymouth guards. He raplced the Sombrero hubcaps with a set of ’53 Cadillac hubcaps, replaced the long ’41 fender skirts with shorter 46-48 units. It looks like he replaced the front axle with a slightly wider unit. Perhaps he used a 46-48 axle, which is a bit wider than the ’41 unit, or a more modern update. Russ also added an new grille opening underneath the bumper. It looks like he used a Studebaker pan for this, but its hard to tell. Most likely the new grille opening helps cooling the engine. in 2017 Russ still own the car and shows it to the public at local car shows from time to time. And the car still draws a crown where ever it goes.

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The Plymouth bumpers, ’53 Cadillac hubcaps changed the look of the car, but it still overall looks very much like how it looked back in the early 1950’s.

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The dash and possibly the¬†steering wheel have not changed since the early 1950’s. The chrome plated dash with clear red lucite is still all there, and so are the hand made Appleton Spotlight handles and even the “KUSTOM” chrome letters on the center of the dash.

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Close up at the front shows the addition of the ’49 Pontiac parking lights to the Pontiac grille, as well as the new grille opening below the ’49 Plymouth front bumper. The close up photo also shows that the passenger side of the grille is still not fitting the opening as well as the drivers side.

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At the rear¬†Russ Erlinger also added a ’49 Plymouth bumper, and created a set of bumper guard taillights into the Plymouth bumper guards. It appears that the rare long ’41 Ford/Mercury fender skirt have been replaced by the shorter 46-48 skirts during the restoration. To bad about the pinstriping, personally I feel the car would look far better without that.
The Johnny Zaro 1940 Mercury Coupe and 1941 Ford Convertible reunited. Both photos show the new grille opening below the ’49 Plymouth bumper, both added in the car latest restoration by Russ Erlinger,¬†really well.

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Johnny Zaro Ford also appeared in the Dan Post Books,¬†Motor Trend¬†magazine and the¬†Custom Cars Trend Book No. 101¬†back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.¬†The early publications of these photos of the ’41 Ford has played a huge roll in the development of the Custom Car. Several customs cars from all over the US have been influenced by the Johnny Zaro Ford. Well know Customs as the Jack Stewart¬†’41¬†Ford, and the Joe Urritta ’41 Ford have styling elements very similar to this car. It is a real blessing that the original car has survived, been fully restored¬†and can be seen at out door cars shows from time to time. But I do hope that in the future, possibly owned by a new caretaker, the car will be backdated to how it looked back in 1951. Dark maroon paint, ’46 Ford bumpers, Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps, and no pinstriping.

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1941 Ford Mystery Convertible

 

1941 FORD MYSTERY CONVERTIBLE

 

1941 Ford Convertible with chopped padded top, solid grille insert used in Eastern Auto Supply advertising. A 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 Ford Convertible Custom.

The first time I saw a picture of this ’41 Ford Convertible with chopped padded top was in the Custom Cars annual from 1959. The Ford, a typical mid, late 1940’s Custom looked a bit out of place in the ’59 Annual. But it was part of an article about George Barris King of the Kustomizers, and used to illustrate the many years George Barris has been Custom Restyling cars. Some time after I had seen the front 3/4 photo of the car I bought a couple of early Motor Trend magazines. In one of them, the November 1949 issue, there was an half page ad from Eastern Auto Supply. In the ad there was a small photo of an ’41 Ford photographed from the front, with a solid grille panel used to illustrate the California Custom Accessories grille panels. I recognised the primer spots on the windshield frame and the background in the photo and knew it had to be the same car, taken at the same location as that of the ’59 Annual.

Over the years I have come across many more Eastern Auto Supply ads that use the same photos of the ’41, Also Barris Kustom used the same front view photo in their Hollywood Kustom Accessories catalogue. I also recognised the car ¬†on the Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop wall when I did an CCC-Article on that some time ago. But sadly that has been all I have been able to find out about the car. I still have no name of an owner, any dates when it was built, and what happened to the car.


A front 3/4 view photo of the 1941 Ford convertible custom was used in the Trend Book 175 Custom Cars 1959 Annual. It was used as part of an story on George Barris. The caption mentioned pushbutton doors, but the car actually has door handles!
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The first time I have seen a photo of the Ford¬†being used in the Eastern Auto Supply ad was in Feb 1948.¬†This means that the car was most likely built around late 1947. When the photos were taken the windshield had just been chopped and the work had been covered in primer.¬†The car had a straight pillar padded top. Other modifications were 1946 Ford bumpers, solid grille insert bolted in place (not molded), ’41 Ford/Merc fender skirts. Lowered suspension, shortened side trim on the hood. Chrome rock shield on the rear fenders, radio antenna, Appleton Spotlights, and single bar flipper hubcaps and beauty rings on wide white wall tires. Another indication this was an early custom is that there are no splash pans added to the car. A lot of the Custom accessories used on the car could have come from the Eastern Auto Supply Company, and possibly this car might have been a display case for Barris and Eastern in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. Interestingly the price of the solid grille panel for the ’41 Ford was $9.95 in 1948, the first time I have been able to find its listing, and it was still the same price in 1956, the last time I saw it listed.

Eastern Auto Supply Accessories catalogue from 1949.
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Eastern Auto Supply ad with the ’41 Ford from the November 1949 issue of Motor Trend magazine. The ad was place on the inside of the front cover.
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The ’41 Ford front image was used in early Hot Rod magazine ads as well. 1948 Hot Rod magazine ad on the top right, the large full page ad is from Hot Rod magazine in 1949. Perhaps¬†this particular ’41 Ford was used as inspiration for the drawing¬†0f the ’41Ford on the cover of the ’49 Eastern catalog, which was later stylised and used as California Custom logo (Eastern Auto Supply was renamed California Custom in the mid¬†1950’s).
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The last sample of the ’41 Ford being used in the Eastern Auto Auto Accessories catalog I have been able to find was in the yellow paper printed 1956 catalog.¬†The price in 1956 was still $9.95, the same price as the first listing in 1948.
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Barris Customs creation

One thing we know about this ’41 Ford Custom Convertible is that it was restyled by Barris at the old Compton Ave shop. The front 3/4 photo of the car was used in the 1959 Trend Books Custom Cars Annual in a story on King of Kustomizers George “Kustom” Barris. Sadly the photo caption in the article¬†did not mention the owners name, or any other info that could lead to anymore info on this car. The same photo, as used in the CC ’59 article, was also used on the inspiration wall in the Barris Kustoms Atlantic Blvd shop in the early 1950’s. The way it was used looks like the photo was part of an display, perhaps used at some early Custom Car shows.


The Barris Hollywood Kustoms Accessories catalog from around 1953-54 carries a lot of products from the Eastern Auto Supply company, including the ’41 Ford Kustom Grille¬†Solid Grille Panel, and it could be ordered in primer (how it was used on the ’41 Ford in the sample picture) or chrome plated. The Barris Shop charged $3.- more for the item than Eastern did!
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Inside the Atlantic Blvd Barris Kustoms Shop a photo of the ’41 was pinned on the wall. It is the same photo that was later used in the Custom Cars annual from 1959. And the same photo as we show below.
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The photo of the Barris Customs created ’41 Ford with chopped padded top, and a series of Eastern aftermarket accessories. The photo was taken at an unknown location that has been used several times for Barris Customs photo shoots. Since the front end photo taken of this ’41 Ford was used in an Hot Rod Magazine in early 1948, these¬†photo of the ’41 Ford most likely were taken in late 1947.
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Close up shows the freshly chopped and still in primer windshield frame of the car. It also looks if the Eastern center grille insert is a different color, possibly the primer it came in from the store, and that the insert has been bolted in place, not molded in, like a lot of them done by the bigger Custom Shops were done.
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Since there are primer spots on the windshield from where the A-Pillars were cut and reshaped it might be possible that the Ford is still in its original factory color… a light color, but which one? Or possibly the car had already been repainted a custom color when the side trim was shortened? Hopefully one day we will know.
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Hopefully one of our¬†readers knows more about this Barris Customs created ’41 Ford Convertible. Who was the owner? what happened to the car. If you have more info, or additional photos of this Custom, please email Rik Hoving here at the Custom Car Chronicle. Any information would be very welcome so that we can solve another Mystery Custom.

Thank you




(This article is made possible by)



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Harold Larsen 41 Ford

 

HAROLD LARSEN 41 FORD

 

Harold Larsen 41 Ford restyled by the Barris Shop around 1947. Ralph Adams owned it in the early 1950s then it went to the East Coast. Is it still around today?



One of the fun things about collecting old Custom Car photos, info and scanned images and archiving all of that is that in a lot of cases at one point the puzzle pieces are falling in place. Sometimes completely from the birth of a custom car to a full restoration, or at least an other known end point. But in most cases puzzle pieces from the cars journey in time and in place while it changed hands over time. Its fun to come across photos and recognize a car in the back ground, or just find a photo of the car in an unusual place, or a photo that has been forgotten for many years. This article is about such a case. A very nicely done, rather mild, yet wild looking 1941 Ford Convertible created by the Barris Custom shop at their Compton Avenue shop during 1946-48.

This journey started with just one picture from the Bart Bartoni Collection shared in the Don Montgomery Authentic Hot Rods book (published in 1994). This¬†snapshot was taken in front of the Barris Compton Ave shop with the building in the back ground, also showing the front end of George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac Convertible Custom. The ’41 Ford in the photo has 1948 plates. The car looks really fantastic with a heavy chopped windshield, flowing padded top, filled center grille, perfect stance with wide whites, Cadillac sombrero’s and fender skirts and Appleton Spotlight. A perfect late 40’s Barris Custom. But the Montgomery book photo caption did not tell us anything about the car. No name of the owner, nothing.

ccc-barris-harold-larsen-41-ford-01The first photo I came across of this car was in the Don Montgomery book. Bart Baroni Collection photo shows this beautiful early style 1941 Ford parked in front of the Barris Shop.
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The Ford was beautifully restyled by the Barris Custom Shop, and besides its radical look, due to the heavy chop and flowing padded top it is a rather mild Custom.

  • Chopped windshield
  • Padded top with flowing lines, most likely done by Gaylords
  • Center grille filler piece molded in place
  • Hood made one piece and smoothed
  • Hood side trim shortened
  • Fender skirts
  • nosed and decked
  • Rear fenders not molded in, but new rear splash pan is molded to the fenders
  • Taillights removed, holes filled
  • Bumper guard taillights from clear red lucite.
  • Appleton Spotlights
  • Lowered with slight speed boat stance, wide whites and Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps.
  • Paint (unknown at this point)

Unlike some other ’41 Fords restyled during the same period, Harold’s Ford still had stock headlights, stock fender trim, no molded in fenders, and stock running boards.

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Around 5 year later I received¬†a message from Tony mr X38 from Australia who came across three great photos on the Ford Barn Message Board. A guy asked if anybody remembers his old 1941 Ford. I recognized the car immediately from the Montgomery book, and contacted the guy (Ralph Sacramento) by email. Ralph got back to me with three nice scans of the only photos he has of his old Custom… fantastic. And to make it even better he has a bit more information about the car.

Ralph Adams traded the car with Bob Ruble in late 1951 and owned it for about two years. Bob Ruble had bought the car around 1950 from Harold Larsen who had the car built at the Barris Shop. As far as Ralph remembers Bob Ruble never did any work on the car, so when he got it in 1951 it was just as how it looked when the Barris Shop had finished it. With one small exception, the cowl mounted antenna was replaced with a newer type and mounted on top of the drivers front fender. The holes were filled in with plugs, but not welded. Bob was from South Gate, California, and a few years older than Ralph, they both went to South Gate High School.

ccc-barris-harold-larsen-41-ford-02Possibly the Ford when owned by Bob Rubble. The poor quality photo copied photo makes it hard to id the car 100%. But Bob knew Jack Stewart, who’s white primered ’41 Ford is parked in the street (inset photo), and all other elements seam to fit as well. Only the rock shields are hard to see, and if the original photo hopefully will surface one day, it might show us if this is actually the same car, or a similar styled convertible.
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The next photo that I came across possibly showing the car is from the Jack Stewart Collection. It shows Jack’s 1941 Ford Coupe parking in front of a house with the Bob Larsen ’41 Ford in the drive way. I asked Jack about the photo and the ’41 convertible¬†in the photo, but he could not remember where the photo was taken, nor the name of the guy who owned the car. The photo is actually a rather poor photo copy and the detail is not really to good. The only think I cannot positively id is the rock shield on the rear fenders. It might be there, but perhaps not. All other details and info seam to match. The photo with Jack Stewart Ford in white primer was taken in 1951,¬†at that time the convertible was owned by Bob Ruble. Sadly both Jack and Bob have passed, and so far nobody else has been been able to provide any more info about this photo.

ccc-barris-harold-larsen-41-ford-05This and the next two photos were taken in 1952, when Ralph Adams owned the car. The photos were taken at the Angeles Abbey, a famous location where George Barris also shot a lot of cars. This side profile shows the really great proportions of the car. Notice the two studs where the antenna used to be on the cowl. 
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A photo of the car might also have been used by the Barris Shop to promote their business at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show. You can read more about that in THIS CCC-article.
When Bob Rubble was starting a family in 1951 he decided he needed to have a better family car. Ralph had a cherry well done 1937 Ford humpback sedan and traded the car with Bob for the’41 Convertible. During the time Bob had the car he never did any cosmetic work on the car other than replacing¬†the hubcaps with¬†ripple disks¬†when the Caddy Sombrero hubcaps¬†were missing¬†one day. He did however install a built engine in the car with a Columbia rear axle, panhard rod, etc. He even took it to the Orange County Airport Dargs one day, but with only poor success. According to Ralph the engine put out so much torque that it twisted the U-joint apart. The car was just too heavy. Ralph later sold the car to some guys from the east coast who drove the car to the east coast. That was the last he ever heard about it.

ccc-barris-harold-larsen-41-ford-04Rear quarter view shows the long ’41 fender skirts, the smoothed, not molded in rear fenders, the molded in later model splash pan and bumper guard taillights. The flow of the Padded top indicates this was the work of Bill Gaylord. George Barris and Bill Gaylord had designed a better flowing top for the 41-48 Ford/Mercury’s together.
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ccc-barris-harold-larsen-41-ford-03With the stock headlights most of the trim and stock running boards still in place the car has a really nice mid 1940’s look and feel. The photo was taken in 1952 though.
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A little while ago I was checking something else and came across a photo I took at the Barris Shop a couple of years ago. I asked George Barris about the ’41 Ford in the photo, but he could not remember where he took the photo, nor who owned it. The photo did not have any writing on it. Upon close inspection The car in this photo might actually be the Harold Larsen ’41 Ford, and that might have been the reason why George took the photo. There was another photo of the same car, a frontal shot that shows a little more about the back ground and it is clearly not California, there is snow and everything else looks East Coast. So more than likely this is the same car after it had migrated to the East Coast. The basic car is still the same, but the headlights have been frenched, the door handles shaved and the stainless rock shields removed. All sound pretty much like an update by a new owner. I’am¬†not 100% sure it is the same car though. Especially since the Barris Shop created several similar styled ’41 Ford convertibles in the late 1940’s it could very well be another car, but at this moment everything does look like it is the same car.

ccc-41-ford-george-barris-photo-01The last possible photo of the car was taken by George Barris on an unknown location. This could very well be the car on the East Coast with the new owner. Now with molded in headlights removed door handles and rock shield. The hubcaps were similar to those installed by Ralph in 1952. (this photo was photographed on an angle and therefor is slightly distorted.)
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Perhaps the photo of the car together with the Jack Stewart Ford, and the last one from the East Coast might be two different cars, perhaps its wishful thinking they are all the same car. Hopefully in time I will be able to find out. No matter what, Harold Larsen’s ’41 Ford is one stunning early restyled Barris Custom. The big question now is what ever happened to this car after it went East. Did it survive, was it perhaps further updated over the years, or perhaps still sitting in somebody’s garage, shed…. Or is it long gone. Hopefully one of our readers will recognize the car or anything about the story, and can shed some more light on this so that we can add all the puzzle pieces. If you know more about this beautiful ’41 Barris Ford Convertible, and know what happened to it after 1953, then please email Rik so that we can update this article with the latest info.




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Barris Compton Ave Shop

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BARRIS COMPTON SHOP

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George and Sam Barris worked out of this small shop on Compton Avenue in Los Angeles for 3 years. In those years, they created Custom Car Magic, and established themselves as the top Custom Restylers in the USA.

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The Barris Shop at Atlantic Blvd in Lynwood (used from 1950 to 1961) was the most famous and most prolific Barris Shops of them all. But the small shop at 7674 Compton Avenue in Los Angeles where the Barris Shop was located from 1946 to 1949 might have been the most important. It was at this shop that the what we now cal typical Barris style was developed. It was in this shop that George Barris created his live changing 1941 Buick convertible. It was in this shop that the first magazine featured cars were created that would put the Barris Customs name on the map all around the USA. Everything that happened at this shop made sure there would be a future for the Barris Custom Shop. A future in which the Barris name became synonym for anything Custom. Lets take a closer look at this small Los Angeles shop, that changed so much for us Custom Car enthusiasts

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A mildly updated¬†1941 Chevy is sitting in the drive way of the shop. Next to it sits¬†an in progress of getting chopped 1939 Mercury Coupe. The car is the¬†Jim Kierstead’s 1939 Mercury¬†possibly the first 39-40 Mercury coupes getting¬†chopped by Sam Barris. Notice the Pete and Carl names on the Brake shop sign next door. These two names only show in two¬†photos, in all other photos it appears the name Carl has been removed.

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Barris Compton Ave
Not the best quality photo, but it is interesting since is shows how the drive way was used to work on cars, with the top being removed of the car on the right. Notice the 1941 Cadillac bumper on the Ford Convertible on the far left.

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George Barris opened his first body shop in 1944. The small shop was located in Bell, California. In 1946, after his brother Sam Barris had joined George in shop, they found a new, a bit larger location on Compton Avenue, just a few blocks away from their old place in Bell. The new shop was located in a building with two garages. The owner of the building used half of it for his own Brake shop, and rented the other half to George Barris. The garage could house at least 4 cars, and the parking space in front and behind the shop allowed for a few more cars to be parked and worked on. We know that the majority of the work on the car was done on the car sitting outside the shop.Painting of the cars was however done inside, although there was no real spray booth. When a car was painted the floor would be watered down, to prevent the dust to fly into the wet paint during painting. Despite these poor painting conditions, it is know that George Barris was very picky about his paint jobs and these hand rubbed paint-jobs he did were looking really amazing.

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This photo of the shop was actually taken earlier that the one on top, the “Complete Custom Work” and list of the shops specialties had not been painted on the building section between the two doors. The car in the photo is Johnny Zaro’s 1940 Mercury getting worked on.¬†

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According the Motor Trend issue this primered and mildly restyled Buick belonged to Sam Barris.ÔĽŅ

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Clean 1940 Ford convertible with chopped windshield, padded top, lowered and skirts, later model Ford bumpers and closed center grille. Typical Custom for around 1947-48.

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The Compton Avenue shop was the building ground for many famous, trend setting and iconic Custom Cars. To name a few in no particular order:

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Brothers George and Sam were very productive at this shop, They were both very young and spend a lot of time at the shop. By the time George had finished his 1941 Buick the style for the shop was sort of set, and the customers started to come in to the shop for the Barris look. But at the same time there was still a lot of experimentation to find the right way of doing things and making each car look better. Judging from the surviving photos it seamed like every car that came out of the Compton Avenue shop looked fresh with new ideas, yet sill very recognizable as a Barris Kustom. It is truly remarkable that that such a great number of really great looking Custom cars have been created in such a small shop. Of course we have to keep in mind that due to the mostly great weather, the whole parking space around the shop was basically shop as well.

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In progress Mopar Custom Convertible with chopped padded top parked on Compton Ave in front of the shop. Two more project cars are parked in the drive way. I noticed that in most of the photos there seams not to be much business going on at Pete’s Brake shop.ÔĽŅ

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George Barris was sort of into Hot Rod Racing for a little while as well. Here we can see George and a few of his buddies with George’s flamed track-roadster in front of the shop.

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Sam Barris driving a ¬†lowered¬†1929 Model A Ford wit 32 Ford grille and late 30’s molded in v-windshield. The license plate on the sedan parked in the driveway on the left of the photo looks to be from 1946.ÔĽŅ

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George and Sam allowed the car owners to work on their own cars at the shop¬†during the whole process of Custom restyling as well. This way the owner could save some money if they did the¬†disassembling, sanding and other “easy” work themselves. For George and Sam this was convenient as well since they could then concentrate on the fun stuff or creating, and could handle more customer cars at the same time.

The shop was called Barris’s Custom Shop. What is really special about this is that the word Custom in the name is still spelled with a “C”. We know that George already started to write the word Custom with a “K” Kustom from the mid 1940’s.¬†But still the shop name would be Custom Shop for at least most of the time the shop stayed in¬†the Compton Ave. building. He would refer to the cars the shop created as Kustom Automobiles with a “K”, but the name Kustoms would not be officially connected to the name Barris as in the shop name until 1949, or 1950

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I really love this photo of a 1947 Ford convertible with padded top in front of the shop. Interesting to see how the white wall tires set it off against the black wall tires of the other cars in the photo. The car itself is not a Barris creation though, but was created by a guy who also worked for the Barris shop. Amazingly this beautiful custom survived and a full feature of the restored car can be seen in Kustoms Illustrated #46. 

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Possibly an in progress photo of Sam Barris’s 1940 Mercury personal Custom parked in front of the shop.

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1937-38 Ford with long Nash grille, chopped windshield, padded top and running boards removed. The black wall tires show that this must be early, 1946-47 most likely.

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The sign on the front of the building has quite a lot of writing on it. The main sign above the door reads: in bold letters BARRIS CUSTOM SHOP and on the left side of this the name SAM and on the right the name GEORGE. Below that in even bolder letters. BODY & FENDER WORKS. Below that in a bit smaller letters … AUTO PAINTING … The 7674 number is painted on the bottom far left side of the building, just above the door.

The section between the two doors has been added at a later date and reads.
COMPLETE CUSTOM WORK, below that in smaller letters; – CUSTOM PAINTING, PLATE-INSET, -CHOPPED TOPS, BODY MOLDING.
And diagonal; ROADSTERS CHANNELED on the top and PUSH BUTTON DOORS on the bottom.

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Beautiful 1938 Ford sedan with heavy chop, Packard Clipper grille and smoothed body. Another typical early Barris Custom shows once again that not only coupes and convertibles were used for the full custom treatment.

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Bob Creasman payed the shop a visit with his chopped 1940 Ford coupe. Notice the frame work next to the shop, most likely used to lift engines from the cars. 

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This is a really great photo of the Compton Avenue shop with a lot of Barris cars parked in front of the shop and all the guys posing for the photos. I¬†have never been able to find out the occasion for this photo. Perhaps they were gathering to go on a trip, or perhaps celebrating something. On the far left, we can see George Barris sitting on the front fender of his 1941 Buick, and parked next to it is Dick Fowler’s 1938 Ford Coupe.

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Sadly there is only one photo, that we are aware of, that was taken inside the Compton Ave shop. And it does not show much. We can see some custom hubcaps hanging from the wall.

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The backside of the shop

At the backside of the shop there was a large empty lot. In several photos we can see multiple project parked in that section. Possibly just waiting next in line to be brought closer to the shop to be worked on. Possibly the owners temporarily ran out out of money and the project were just parked there. On the backside there was also a drive way that allowed you to access the rear located parking and the rear door of the shop. The garage door that opened to the E77th street belonged to the Brake shop and was not used by the Barris shop

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Jesse Lopez on the Barris Compton Avenue Shop
The Compton Avenue shop was basically a two car garage, but longer, and if you really tried you could put four cars in it. But most of the time the work was performed outside, weather was always good. Sometimes they had up to ten cars in the “backyard of the shop. Projects they worked on and stalled projects of customers that ran out of cash. Nobody complaint about the amount of cars in the backyard and parked on the street. There was always a crowd. Next door to the shop was a brake shop. The guy who owned it owned the whole building George Barris rented the shop space from him.

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George Barris behind the word “Rod” on the white model A-Roadster. Often a lot of the guys hung out at the shop after work and in the weekends.¬†

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Al Andril’s 1940 Mercury during the construction. Friend Al Andril and Johnny Zaro wanted to have near identical Custom mercury Coupes. Al’s Coupe was done first. Noticed how messy the parking space behind the shop is. Notice the Rex Liquor Store on the other side of Compton Ave.

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This photo taken from East 77th street towards Compton Ave gives us a really good view of the shop from the back. On the right, behind the front end of John Vara/Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford convertible we can see the opened rear garage door of the shop. As far as we know the whole section on the left of the building was the brake shop and was not in use by Barris Shop. Parked on E. 77th street are a freshly finished Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford, Sam Barris’s 1940 Mercury convertible. Parked behind the shop is John Vara/Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford convertible, and a few in progress projects including a 1934-35¬†Terraplane or Hudson, a¬†very unusual car to customize.

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This photo was taken from behind the shop facing towards E. 77th street. On the right we can see the headlight of John Vara/Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford, parked in the street are Sam Barris his 1940 Mercury and in front of him Jesse Lopez his 1941 Ford. The car on the left is a heavily restyled 1936 Ford coupe.ÔĽŅ

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Wild restyled 1936 Ford coupe sitting on the lot behind the shop. Behind the Ford we can see what appears to be a 1941 Buick very similar to the one George had. However this cannot be George his Buick, since it does not have fade away fenders, and this photo was taken after Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford had been finished so this photo was taken in 1948 or later. George’s Buick had full fade away fenders since 1947.¬†The Rex¬†Liquor¬†Store on the other side of Compton Ave can be seen on the far left side of the photo.ÔĽŅ

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Advertising and business card

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Business card for the Compton Avenue Shop showed an image of George Barris his personal 1941 Buick.ÔĽŅ

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George used the same photo as he used on the Barris Business Card of his 1941 Buick for an 1948 magazine ad. Notice how he specifically mentions that the car was in a Hot Rod Show.

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Most likely this was the first ad George Barris used for the Compton Ave shop. No photo was used and the Shop name was written incorrect. The ad appeared in the very first issue of Hot Rod magazine in January 1948.

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Two photo ads for the the Compton Avenue shop as used in various Motor Trend magazines. Notice how the Kustom Automobiles on the top is written with a K, while the name is Barris’s Custom Shop. On the left John Vera/Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford was used, and on the right a photo of Jesse Lopez was used to advertise the Custom style of the Barris Shop.ÔĽŅ

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Check from August 19, 1949 with with the Barris Custom Shop address with a “C”.

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Barris’s Kustoms with a “K” ?

George Barris started to write the word Customs with a “K” Kustoms, in the early to mid 1940’s. The cars he created he¬†would call Kustom Automobiles. But on the shop wall of the Compton Avenue shop the name was Barris’s Custom Shop, and as we can see on the check from August 1949 we can see that the official address was also listed as Barris Custom Shop. There is one photo of the Compton Avenue Shop that shows the name with a “K”, but all I have is a small poor resolution scan of this photo, and on there it looks like either the “K” for Kustoms was written on the photo, or it was done rather quick on the show wall sign. In all other photos I have seen of the shop Customs is written with a C. The Barris Shop was officially renamed Barris Kustoms after the move to the new Atlantic Blvd shop

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The only photo that shows the Compton Ave shop with the work Kustom with a “K”. But the “K” looks a bit crooked, so it could be added to the photo by George later in the 1950’s. Or perhaps the “K” was painted on the shop wall by one of the guys and not an official sign writer, hence thee crooked look.ÔĽŅ

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The shop Address

For everybody who has been able to visit the former Barris shops in Los Angeles and Lynwood they all know how the shops location relate to each other, but for those who have never been able to visit the former shops I have created this map to show where the shops are located.
The Barris Shop had 4 different addresses before it moved to its last North Hollywood location in 1961. From the first shop in Bell, Ca we have not been able to find an actual address. If anybody of our readers know the actual address of this first shop George Barris had in 1944, please let us know.

  • 1944 – 1946 ‚Äď George Barris first shop in Bell (The shop was most likely named: Barris Custom Shop in Bell, but we do not have an address)
  • 1946 – 1949 ‚Äď Barris Customs 7674 Compton Avenue, Los Angeles.
  • 1949 – 1950 ‚Äď Kustom Automobiles 4120 1/2 E. Florence Avenue, Bell.
  • 1950 – 1960 ‚Äď Barris Kustoms 11054 Atlantic Blvd, Lynwood
  • 1960 – 1961 ‚Äď Barris Kustom City 11054 Atlantic Blvd, Lynwood

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The 6774 Compton Avenue shop building that Barris used from 1946 to 1949 is still standing in 2016. The overall shape of the building has not changed much, and even the sign pole on the corner of Compton and E 77th street is still standing. It looks like the building was expanded backwards were the Barris shop¬†used to be. (Google maps image)ÔĽŅ

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Luke Karosi (Kustoms Illustrated Magazine) took this photo of the former Barris Compton Ave shop building in 2013. ¬†The Compton Ave street has been widened since the 1940’s and the drive way of the shop has been consequentially narrowed.

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Luke Karosi also tried to capture the names that were written in the wet concrete side walk¬†on the side at the shop, but they are rather vague, and do not show up to well. The big letters read “Kustom” (below the water) and the inset photo shows Bill O (most likely Bill Ortega, who later changed his name to Bill DeCarr) and Sam Barris. It is¬†dated 1-27-48.ÔĽŅ

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