De Rosa Golden Piranha

 

GOLDEN PIRANHA

 

De Rosa and Son Customs create an uniquely restyled 1966 Buick Riviera with styling cues from the 50’s and 60’s.



The first time I saw a photo of this Custom was in 1983, when Chrome & Flames magazine had one small photo in an announcement for an upcoming show article. I was a young kid back then just starting to find my way into Custom Cars. I had no idea what I was looking at, I could not figure out if this was an ’50s custom, or modern, all I knew I really liked it. I hoped the magazine would do a full feature on the car in an upcoming issue, but they never did. I had to wait several years before I was able to find out more about this car. When I bought a copy of the Hot Rod magazine Custom Cars from 1983, around 1986. In there was a two page black and white feature on the “Golden Piranha” a 1966 Buick Riviera customized by Frank DeRosa and his son.

CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-02-WThis is the first photo I saw of the Golden Piranha… before I knew what is was, or who built it, 1982.
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The team at De Rosa and Son Customs worked nearly two years on the project. They started with a low mileage 1966 Buick Riviera, which was sectioned 5 inches and chopped 4 inched. The top was reshaped to reassemble an typical 1950’s Padded style top for this late 1960’s car. An typical 80’s feature was the sunroof in the padded style top. The front fenders were extended and reshaped with rounded front edges. The hood was peaked with an heavy peak and V-ed at the front to match the 1951 Mercury grille. Another not so obvious restyling on this car, but it works really well. The lower grille opening was reshaped to match the front of the hood and warped under as a roll pan. No bumpers were used on the Buick. Small square headlights were set in hand shaped pods which were covered with a chrome plated wire mesh to sort of match the Mercury grille.

The wheel opening at the front was reshaped and flared, at the back the team hand made a flush fitting skirt to fit the reshaped rear wheel opening. A working air duct to cool the rear brakes was installed in front of the rear wheel opening. At the rear the fenders were extended in a similar way as what was done on the front. The trunk lid was extended and a spare tire cover was created using an old motorcycle fender molded into the trunk. New openings for the taillights were created and filled with left over 1950 Mercury grille sections. The lower pan was rolled under just as was done on the front. The suspension was modified and a set of full hydraulics was installed. This allowed Frank De Rosa to cruise the car low over the pavement and drive at regular height on the freeway.

CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-01-WThis photo of the Buick in primer was taken of the shop wall of Franks shop. Not the best quality, but all we could find from the early stages.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-03-W1983 Petersens Custom Cars series created by Hot Rod magazine.
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With all the body work complete the car was ready for paint. Frank choose an unique candy apple lime gold for the color. He crushed glass to add sparkle to an under-base and followed with many coats of special mixed candy lime gold. According to Frank there is no silver or gold under-base as most of these type of paint jobs required. But how he did it is still a secret. Frank used the original 1966 Buick side trim as inspiration for the graphics on the side of the car. This was done in a slightly lighter shade of gold and outlines in red and orange striping.

To finish of this 1950’s /1960’s styling combinations the team added white wall tires and restyled a set of four bar hubcaps. Frank enjoyed the car for a couple of years and sold it in the mid 1980’s to Bob Bowen.

CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-07-WIn the December 1982 issue of Classic and Custom magazine the Golden Piranha was featured with another De Rosa custom, “The Shark” The two cars were featured in full color on two pages. The photo above and four below come from this article.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-11-WA good view at the custom spare tire cover made from a motorcycle fender. Nice to see the taillights glow behind the 1950 Mercury grille teeth.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-12-WThe working scoop at the leading edge of the flared rear wheel opening.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-08-WThe interior was upholstered in gold colored velour and button-tufted with white buttons and outlined in white beading.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-06-WThis great photo was taken by Paul Kelly from Australia. He visited and 1990’s Paso Robles event to find himself amazed by the Golden Piranha.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-13-WThe Buick is still around, and in relatively good shape. It used to be part of the Blackie Gejeian collection in Fresno where this photo was taken.
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2018 Update

In the spring of 2018 the Golden Piranha find its way back to the DeRosa Family. Together with Frank’s 1951 Mercury four door Custom the Golden Piranha was delivered at the De Rosa Body Shop in Pittsburg, Ca. For the first time in decades Frank DeRosa was able to see his most favorite Custom Creations in person again.

Frank De Rosa in the center, with son Frank JR and daughter Regina next to him with the Golden Piranha and the ’51 Merc at the DeRosa Body Shop April, 2018.
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Fresh out of the Blackie Gejeian warehouse, ready to be cleaned and detailed.
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FOR SALE In June 2018 the DeRosa family decided that both the ’51 Mercury and the Golden Piranha needed to find a new home, so that the cars could be displayed at car shows and events again, and enjoyed by Custom Car enthusiast. If you are seriously interested in owning this DeRosa Custom Car Icon, a Historic Custom Car, then please Contact the DeRosa family at: 925-439-5115.
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Resources and more info

  • Chrome & Flames,¬†European magazine 1982
  • Classic & Custom, magazine December 1982
  • Hot Rod magazine, Petersens Custom Cars series, 1983
  • Custom Car Photo Archive, De Rosa Customs
  • FOR SALE¬† Contact the DeRosa family at: 925-439-5115.


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Kermit Hanson 1957 Buick

THE SNATCH WAGON

Larry Watson added three tone crab-style flames to the mildly customized Kermit Hanson 1957 Buick and created a new trend with it.

 
[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos of Kermit Hanson’s 1957¬†Buick Custom. A¬†large selection¬†of¬†these¬†photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the¬†Larry Watson section¬†on the CCC-Site. Or on the¬†Custom Car Photo Archive. Special thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle.[/box_light]
 
Kermit Hanson, Bellflower High School class mate from Larry Watson mildly customized his new 1957 Buick Hardtop Coupe. The BUICK letters were removed from the hood and the holes filled for a smooth look. The bar was removed from the grille for a much cleaner appearance. At the back the trunk was shaved of its Buick emblem and everything smoothed before the hood and trunk was repainted in 1957 Buick garnet red. Kermit added Oldsmobile Fiesta hubcaps on red wheels. He also lowered the car a bit all around, but more in the front to create a nice forward rake which was just getting popular in early 1957. To make the car look even lower he added a set of dummy lake pipes.
 

CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-02Great photo of Kermit Hanson’s Buick taken at the Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills. A popular place for a Custom Car photo shoot. This and the other photos are possibly taken by James Potter and prints given to Larry for his Personal Collection.
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Kermit asked if his friend Larry Watson could add some flames to his Buick. So one day Kermit took the Buick to Larry’s home where Larry taped off the crab claw style flames on the hood, the roof, top of the fender, front and rear quarters and on the trunk. The sides show the more classic crab claw style, while the top sections of the car have more longer licks. Larry then sprayed the flames in metallic gold and highlighted them in bright red. After the masking paper¬†and tape was removed Larry pin-striped the flames with a heavy white outline.
 

CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-01Close up of the flames on the hood show the downward pointed licks on the front of the hood. This photo also shows that the fades from gold to red in the flames is rather abrupt.
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CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-04Close up of the flames on the trunk. Larry added an upside down heart shaped opening in the flames. Notice how bold the white pin stripe is.
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In the past post flames painted on cars started at the front of the car, at the bottom of the hood, the front of the fender etc. But Larry experimented with free standing flames. The flames on the top of the fenders and on the front and rear quarters behind the wheel well’s are the more traditional style. But the flames¬†created¬†on the hood and trunk are starting without touching the borders. On the hood the licks of the flames are all around pointing down wards on the front of the hood. But on the trunk Larry incorporated a nice teardrop shape at the bottom, around the trunk lock. And inside this shape he created an upside down heart shape.
 
CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-05Black and white photo from Larry’s Collection shows the wild flames covering the tops of the fenders and hood. It also shows the flames on both sides of the hood are identical.
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CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-06After some time Kermit asked Larry to add the name ‘Snatch Wagon” to add to the Buick rear quarters.¬†
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Before Larry added the name to the Buick he showed Kermit what he had in mind for it He sketched a wild cartoon of a breasted box with legs and the name “Snatch Wagon”. Larry hold on to the sketch all these years.
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CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-07Close up of the finished artwork on the Buick.
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CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-09The flames on the rear are a lot less than on the front. We can also see that the rear of the top has not been flamed.
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CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-11In one photo¬†from the¬†Ina Mae Overman Collection¬†we can see¬†Kermit’s Buick in the background. The photo is probably taken in late 1957 or early 1958. Kermit added Spotlights, and he also added some pin-striping to¬†the center of the hood, and possible other places as well.
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CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-10Kermit’s Buick was featured in several late 1950’s magazines.¬†Here is the cover of the November 1957 issue of Car Craft magazine which showed the front end of the Buick.
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CCC-watson-kermit-hanson-buick-12Kermit’s Buick had a full page in the October 1957 issue of Rod & Custom magazine as part of the ’57’s Under The Torch article. The car was photographed in front of “The House”, a popular George Barris location.
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Kermit’s Buick, as well as a few other cars flamed by Larry Watson showed that you did not need to have major body work done to your car to make them stand out, win prices at the car shows, and even get the car in the magazines and on the cover.
 
 
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1960 Buick Custom Cinnamon

 

1960 BUICK CUSTOM CINNAMON

 

Hubert Harness restyled his 1960 Buick in his home garage. The end result looks like it came straight from the 1960′ in a time machine.



[dropcap]In[/dropcap] the late 1980’s Hubert Harness from Kansas wanted to build his ultimate custom car. Something ’60’s, something unique, not based on anything he had seen before, but something that could have been built back in the 1960’s. He started with a car that was in rather good condition so he did not have to spend a lot of time to fix rust and dents but could basically start customizing right away. Hubert did no make any design sketches or anything like that, he just studied the cars lines and those “told” him what needed to be done. The car was planned to be a mild custom, not chopped top or any other major body would would be needed. Just a lot of fine tuning and additions to improve the already very nice body lines on these huge Buicks.



ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-02The painted body color of the lower portion of the rear bumper gives the rear a much more elegant look.
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ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-071930’s headlight buckets were used to reshape the rear fenders. In those pods four 1959 Cadillac taillights were tunneled. Notice the 8 small diameter exhaust tips.
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Hub started at the back where he created new rear fender ends with tunneled 1959 Cadillac taillights, two on each side. He used an early 1930’s headlight bucket to which he added large diameter tubing to tunnel the Cadillac lights. This bullet shaped rear fender would end up being the theme for the rest of the car. Everywhere you look this bullet theme comes back again. Something that really binds the car together. The stock chrome lower rear bumper parts where de-chromed so that the stock top portion of the bumper gives the rear a much more refined look. Another theme that can be found on the car are subtile scoops. The first one Hub created was in front of the taillights where the stock body contour was capped off and an opening created, scoop number one! The next scoop was added on the top just above the top of the C-Pillars. The scoop was given the same shape as the once on the rear quarter panels. The third¬†scoop was added on the hood. Here the stock center shape of the hood was cut off and the front section was flipped upside down to create a very elegant scoop. In the center of the opening a small chrome plated bullet was added.



ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-01The custom hood scoop and pancaked hood are well designed modifications. The improve the lines of the car, but might go unnoticed due to be very subtile.
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ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-03Polished panels under the hood give a hint of the fully detailed and chromed Buick engine. 
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ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-05Close up of the hand made headlight buckets that enhance the shape of the front of the car. Each headlight was of course detailed with a small chrome bullet. 
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The headlights were treated to a similar style as what Hub had done at the back, but here he had to hand shape metal to create the look he was looking for. Four headlights were sunken deeply into large diameter tubing which was welded in the new hand shaped pods. The front bumper was cleaned up the same what as the back with the lower section de-chromed leaving just the top thin portion in chrome.¬†The hood was “pancaked” at the front¬†which means that the front portion of the hood was welded to the fenders, and a new smaller hood opening, with rounded corners was created. This restyling leaved the front much cleaner than stock.


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The complete body was smoothed, and all the emblems and handles were removed as was the horizontal side trim on the lower quarters. Hub wanted his Buick to have some Buick trademark portholes. For this he used aircraft strut tubing which has a wonderful shape. He cut small sections at an 45 degree angle and welded four of those in a row in to holes cut into the front quarter panels. The way he welded them into the fender leaves each porthole with a small lip and each connects to the one next to it. Hub made it look like it should have come from the factory this way. Later he added a chrome small diameter bullet in each of the openings. The stock vertical curved grille was removed and replaced with a new base Hub created from a 1958 Ford grille mesh cut to fit the Buick opening. On this mesh he added 25 chrome plated bullets. The car was lowered all the same amount all around and customized chrome reverse wheels were added. Each wheel has a body color painted center capped off with an old Cal-Custom spider cap.



ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-11The “Buick port holes” on the front quarter panels created from aircraft tubing. The inside of each hole is detailed with a chrome bullet. The lip around the holes give it a¬†factory feel.
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ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-04The extremely well detailed Buick Nail-Head V-8 engine with six carburetors. 
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The body work was now finished and it was time to start working on the interior. Hub removed the top portion of the stock dash and used 5 chrome bullets to house a set of Stewart Warner gauges. The center large bullet is actually a dummy spotlights, and the smaller units are taillight housings, Harry Davidson accessory units. Each gauge bod was dressed up with yet another chrome bullet. The steering wheel was replaced with an 1961 Oldsmobile unit to which a chrome bullet was added in the center. The seats were replaced with Chevrolet Super Sport buckets. Hub did most of the work on the car himself in his garage at home. For the upholstery he went to Scott Downing who did an wonderful job sticking with the theme and upholstering everything in white leatherette with period perfect small pleats and white piping. The center sections were upholstered in button tufted copper colored velour. The windows and doors were all replaced with electric controlled units so that the interior door panels could be as clean as possible. However Hub did ad chrome bullets to keep with the theme. The floors were covered in white carpet, not very practical, but it looks extremely good.



ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-06Top portion of the dash was removed and Stewart Warner gauges were set in chrome bullets. Steering wheel is 1961 Oldsmobile.
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ccc-hub-harness-60-buick-09Four Chevy Grand Sports bucket seats are nicely detailed. Notice the chrome bullets on the side panels.
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The paint work on Hub’s Buick is the other things he decided not to do himself. All the prep work was done in his garage , but when it came time to cover his wonderful body work in Corvette Russet Poly, he asked the help from Justin Fields who did an amazing job. Once the car was put back together Hub nick named the car “Cinnamon” and Hub could start to enjoy it. The car sees a lot of road when Hub travels all over to show the car at local and not so local car shows. The car was finished in the late 1980’s but still looks amazing today.
Most of the photos in this article where taken in the 1990’s by David Myers.

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1950 Buick Digital Restyling

1950 BUICK DIGITAL RESTYLING

In 2011 I created several digital styling studies for Dan Christensen in Denmark. Dan’s plan was to built a classic restyled 1950 Buick with wonderful styling.

Before the digital restyling process begun, Dan and I talked about his dream car. We looking at other cars or elements from cars that he liked. And he listed all the things he wanted, and did not wanted to see in his own dream custom. I would create several views of his Buick with the restyling done digitally to visualize the final car. This way Dan had a visual guidance when it came time to start the building of his car. I starting with a side view to get the most important aspect of this car, the chop as good as possible and to figure out what needed to be done on the real car to recreate this.

The 1950 Buicks are not the easiest cars to get right when chopping. In this case we wanted to create the ultimate chop with the best possible profile. The window trim and stainless would have to be heavily modified or made from scratch for the best effect. Once the chop was finalized and approved on, a few versions with other customizing elements were created.
Once the side view customizing was agreed on, a front 3/4 view was created.This view would show the new grille and headlights treatment.

Sadly some time after the front 3/4 views were done, the project came to an halt. Some time later, Dan decided to sell the project car and move on with other things.
With all the Digital Restyling finished we figured it would be nice to show them here. And perhaps somebody else will get inspired by them.

ccc-dan-50buick-side-01-wThe first photo shows the stock 1950 Buick Dan had bought for the project.

 

ccc-dan-50buick-side-02-wFirst things to do was to get the stance of the car right, removed the emblems and handles etc. Then the chop was handled. At the rear a set of 1951 Cadillac taillights are fitted to the modified rear fenders. The typical Cadillac tail fin was not used which resulted in a much smoother flow.

 

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The final side view

ccc-dan-50buick-side-03-wThe final approved side view. The rear fenders were reshaped more. 1949 Cadillac taillights were used and they flow better with the shape of the trunk than the 1951 models we used in an earlier version.  The rear fender character line was moved up about an inch to meet with the bottom of the taillight. The lower back portion of the rear fender was extended and set at an angle to flow better with the taillights and the rest of the car.

 

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The front 3/4 view of Dan’s Buick that we would use for the Digital Restyling.

 

ccc-dan-50buick-front-02-wThe first step was to get the car lowered as we did on the side view. The unwanted trim was removed and the rear fenders were modified to match the side view (with 1951 Cadillac taillights). Dan wanted to have stock headlight rings for a classic look, but with frenched lights. The Grille teeth were extended and the front bumper was replaced by a reshaped rear bumper from the same year Buick. Resulting in a much cleaner look. I actually liked this front the best.

 

ccc-dan-50buick-front-03-wNext was getting the top chopped in the same way as the side view. On this version the rear bumper used on the front was reshaped at the center with the guards removed for an ultimate smooth look.

 

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The final front 3/4 view

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The final front 3/4 view shows the use of a 1953 Buick grille and the modified rear bumper used below it.



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Herb Ogden’s Buick Color Photos

THE HERB OGDEN BUICK

This perfect proportioned 1941 Buick convertible, was originally built by the Pisano brothers in the 1940’s. These color photos are taken in the late 1950’s. They show the car after it was redone by the Barris Kustom Shop, the owner was Herb Ogden.

All 5 color photos are from the Herb Ogden Collection, they show his 1941 Buick was it looked in the later part of the 1950’s. The Pisano brothers built the car in the 1940’s. As far as we know, for themselves. Later in the mid 1950’s, new owner Herb Ogden, took the car to the Barris shop for an update. Fortunately the ’40’s look and feel from the original customizing, was left mostly intact. The Pisano’s chopped the windshield around 3.5 inches, and had a Padded top created. The padded top on the car in the photos, was done by Gaylord’s, and is shaped absolutely perfect with flowing lines, making the car look a mile long. The original version of the car also included a set of teardrop fender skirts.

When Herb took the car to the Barris shop, the tail dragging look was out of fashion, and he wanted the car updated. The skirts were removed, and a set of 1955 Buick hubcaps installed, which changed the look instantly. Barris replaced the stock Buick bumper guards with 1949 Chevy units. Then they created hand shaped laminated lucite taillights to fit holes cut in the Chevy Guards. The drive train was updated with an 1955 Cadillac engine and rear axle. To cool the powerful engine, 6 rows of louvers were cut in the top of the hood. The headlights were frenched, but its unsure when this was done and who did this. The Barris shop was responsible for repainting the car in a really wonderful Burnt Orange color.

Fortunately, this great looking custom is still with us today. In the mid 1980’s, Barry Mazza bought the remains of the Buick. He restored it, together with Joe Gentiempo, Rusty Yacyanick and Bob Eckstandt. They restored the Buick in such a way, they felt ¬†the car most likely would have looked, when the Pisano brothers owned it. After enjoying the gorgeous late 1940’s styled version of this custom for some years, Barry decided to let go of the Buick. A decision he still regrets today. The car is currently in the very good hands of Barris Collector, Kurt McCormick. This restoration Barry Mazza and friends performed in the 1980s, is material for another article for the near future. But lets first take a look at these wonderful color photos from the herb Ogden collection.

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CCC-Herb-Ogden-Color-06The photo above show the tribute frame Herb Ogden, made for his old 1941 Buick. A nice wood framed base, showing some of the color photos, his original 1956 Californian License plate, his Kustom’s Los Angels plaque (Herb had two, on bronze and one in Aluminum which is on his display frame. Some old Businescars, Barris crests and the original Appleton spotlights that were used on his Buick.
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John Bozio 1953 Buick shown to the public again

REMEMBERING ITS IMPACT

John Bozio from East Hartford, Connecticut started customizing his Buick in the early sixties. He used some brand new car parts back then including the oval 1960 Plymouth steering wheel and Plymouth and T-bird interior components. John never finished the car after he had started to redo the car. He sold it and eventually Red McCormick bought it and put it back together in black primer. The car was offered for sale at the 1979 Hersey Swap Meet.

Bengt Sj√∂berg of Tibro, Sweden had been looking for a custom from the US for some time and his ‘special US eyes’ told him the Bozio Buick would be prefect. Bengt bought the car in 1979 at and had it shipped to his home in Sweden.

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Bengt Sjöberg with his Bozio Buick at the 2013 Jokers show

Here he pulled the Buick apart and started a complete restoration.¬†Bengt showed the car at several Swedish shows in the early/mid 1980’s. Where ever Bengt brought his Buick the car was a big hit. A lot of car guys in Scandinavia that laid eyes on this car were lost to custom cars forever, including our own CCC contributor Per Webb, who photographed the car in 1983. A lot of people still remember the impact this car had on them. This Buick ¬†inspired people to built their own custom cars as well.

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Per Webb took this photo of the Bozio Buick in 1983

After showing the car for some years, Bengt put it in his garage and did not show it to the public anymore. The car was still in perfect condition, but there was no interest or time to share it. Until the car was invited at the 2013 Jokers Car show in Tidaholm, Sweden. Here the car was one of the highlights of the show held June 7-8 Р2013. Wolf Christiansson had been looking forward to see the Buick again after so many year. According to Wolf it was the highlight of the year for him.

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