1950 Sacramento Autorama

1950 SACRAMENTO AUTORAMA

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The Capitol City Auto Club, better known as the Thunderbolts organized a two day Auto Show in 1950. Held at a Sacramento Chevy dealer the show hosted 23 top class Customs and Hot Rods.

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Special thanks to Lawrence Fears.

The title of this article is 1950 Sacramento Autorama, which is not precisely accurate. But, many people refer to this small 1950 Auto show organized by the Capitol City Auto Club “Thunderbolts” as the first Sacramento Autorama. Hence the name of this article.

In 1950 Car Shows was still brand new. The first of these shows were held just two years earlier. The Sacramento Custom Car and Hot Rod scene was very active, a lot was going on, rod runs, street drag racing, and some of the countries leading Customizers had their shop in or around Sacramento. The Capitol City Auto Club better known as the “Thunderbolts” had a great number of high quality cars in their club. Harold “Baggy” Bagdasarian was one of the club members and president of the club. He was one of the leading forces in organizing this first Sacramento Auto Show.

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The club members just wanted to know who had the nicest car among them. What better way to find out during a Car Show. Plus they really wanted to show off their cars, and not just at the local hang out places, but at a nice indoor event. The Capitol Chevrolet Company dealership at 13th and K Streets in downtown Sacramento had the perfect space for the show the members had in mind. In total the club brought together 23 cars this first show. And among these 23 cars there were some top Customs and Rods. The cars displayed at the show represented the high quality, and creative minds of the Nor Cal car builders. Custom builders Harry Westergard, and Dick Bertolucci were well represented at the show. Of all the Customs, many had been based on convertibles and all had Hall of Oakland Padded Tops. According different sources the two day show drew between 500 and 1000 visitors.

The show was held on November 4th and 5th, 1950. Saturday from 3:00 P.M. until 10:00 PM and Sunday from 10:00 A.M. until 10:00 P.M. The admission was 60 cent. The story goes that the entrance had to be kept below a certain amount, because otherwise everything had to be done official and Federal Amusement Tax would have to be paid. This first show was not about making money, it was about having a good time for the attendees as well as the visitors.

There were two trophies awarded.  One for Best Custom Car and Leroy Semas won the Custom Class with his 1937 Chevy. Burton Davis won the Best Rod with his 1931 Ford Roadster.

Rod Dust newsletter dated November 1, 1950. This was the issue that mentions the first Sacramento Auto Show in 1950.

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Local newspaper from Friday November 3rd, 1950 announcing the Sacramento Auto Show.

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On the top right we can see Al Garcia Westergard restyled 1939 Ford,  #5 Lawrence Brocchini ‚Äô31 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails V-Windshield, Vern Haversack 1927 Model T with track nose with #11,  #1 Burton E. Davis 1931 Ford Roadster, and on the left is #19 Harold Casarang’s ‚Äė25 Model T. bottom right shows the #14 of Jack Odbert’s 36 Ford, behind it the engine and front of #15 Ronnie Brown’s ’32 Ford 5-window.

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Show overview

The nice thing about the Capitol Chevrolet dealer ship location is that there was a second floor, from where some nice overview photos could be taken. These overview photos show that this small show was jam-packed with the best of the best. Amazing padded topped Customs created by the countries leading Customizers. Harry Westergard and Dick Bertolucci. The photos taken at the two day show also show that the cars were actually moved around a bit during the weekend. Some cars were added, like the two ’32 Ford 5-window Hot Rod’s in the photo below. In some photos those two cars are missing.

The cars at the show were mostly local cars, but some came as far as Oakland. Hot Rod magazine devoted some space to the Sacramento Auto Show in the Januari 1951 issue. The feature included the beautiful overview photo (below) which showed the nation that Sacramento was packed with beautiful Custom Cars… just as well as Los Angeles, which was always much more represented in the early magazines.
I have been collecting photos and info on this show for many years, and all I have is included in this article. I know there is more out there, and hopefully we will be able to share more in the near future.

Overview of part of the Chevrolet Dealer Show illustrates the great number of Custom Cars invited to this show. A perfect balance.

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Same photo as above, now with numbers, perhaps somebody will be able to identify some more. We still need to know # A on the far left, # B on the top right center, and from car # C we know that that is Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury, but we do not have a show number. (The number – car – identification list is shown further down in the article)

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This overview photo was taken either earlier or late as the one above. The two ’32 Ford 5-windows are missing sitting behind the #14 Jack Odbert’s ’36 Ford.

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Custom Cars at the Show

The Custom Cars shows we have been able to identify were all top of the line, and are now mostly considered historical Customs. Created by Harry Westergard, Les Crane, and Dick Bertolucci. The Barris Brothers had already been moved south for a few years, so their work was not represented at this show. It is really remarkable that a great number of the Custom Car show entries are Convertibles with chopped padded tops, which were all created by C.A. Hall Auto Tops in Oakland, Ca.

Unknown number for Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury restyled by Harry Westergard and Les Crane. More on Butler’s ’40 Mercury can be seen in this CCC-Article.
#2 Custom 1946 Chevy Convertible Butler Rugard restyled by Harry Westergard. (Listed in the program as Bob Ghilotti)
A little more clear photo of Butler Rugard’s ’46 Chevy Convertible restyled by Harry Westergard. Harry used a set of the Jimmy Summers fade away fenders on this Custom.
#4 1948 Johnny Lehman Mercury Convertible with padded top restyled by Dick Bertolucci. Most likely the Hall padded top of Al Garcia Westergard restyled 1939 Ford is showing on the left of the photo.
Johnny Lehman’s Mercury seen from the back shows the ’49 Mercury bumpers and taillights. The top was done by Hall of Oakland. On the right we can see the ’37 Chevy Coupe from Leroy Semas. More on Johnny Lehman’s ’48 Mercury in this CCC-Article.
#4 Enlarged section of another photo shows another peak at the Johnny Lehman Mercury and behind that on the right showing a small portions of Mel Falconer’s 41 Lincoln.
#14 Jack Odbert 1936 Ford Convertible restyled by Harry Westergard with Hall Padded top. More on Jack’s Beautiful ’36 Ford in this CCC-Article.
#18 Mel Falconer /Bruce Glenn 1939 Ford Convertible restyled by Harry Westergard with a then new metal top replacing the Hall padded top that was on the car originally.
#21 Mel Falconer 1941 Lincoln with 1948 Cadillac rear fenders, 1949 Mercury bumpers. Restyled by Harry Westergard, and the car is supposed to be still around, anybody knows more about this?
#23 Leroy Semas 1937 Chevy restyled by Harry Westergard. Leroy was the winner of the big Custom Car trophy at the show. One of the two trophies awarded at the show. More on Leroy’s Harry Westergard Restyled Custom can be seen in this CCC-Article.
Interior of Leroy Semas his ’37 Chevy Coupe.

Cars in the show
According the the information we have been able to find 23 car were entered. 14 of them we have been able to identify, hopefully some of our readers can help name the others that were at this 1950 Sacramento Auto Show. From the 23 cars entered at least 8 were Customs, high end Customs. Below is a list of the cars and numbers we have been able to identify.

1 Burton E. Davis 1931 Ford Roadster
2 Butler Rugard / Bob Ghilotti 1946 Chevy Convertible
3 Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose
4 ?
5 Lawrence Brocchini 1931 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails V-Windshield
6 ?
7 Herk Vigienzone 1924 Model T Roadster
8 Rico Squalia 1924 T Roadster.
9 – 13 ?
14 Jack Odbert 1936 Ford Convertible
15 Ronnie Brown 1932 Ford 5-window
16 – 17 ?
18 Mel Falconer / Bruce Glenn 1939 Ford Convertible
19 Harold Casarang 1925 Model T
20 ?
21 Mel Falconer 1941 Lincoln
22 ?
23 Leroy Semas 1937 Chevy Coupe

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The Program
The 8 page, text only First annual Auto Show program generously donated by David E/ Zivot shown below, has a list of all the people and cars that planned to be at the show. Most of the numbers in the program correspond with the numbers we have seen in the show pictures, but apparently more cars were added to the show after the Program had been printed. The Program only lists 20 cars.

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In early 2020 David Zivot donated a 1950 Thunderbolts First Annual Auto Show Program. The 8 page program has a list of the cars and people that planned to have their car displayed at the event.

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The Hot Rods at the show

The Thunderbolts Auto Club had both Custom Car as well as Hot Rod oriented members. The Sacramento erea has been big on Custom Cars from the early beginnings, but Hot Rodding was very popular as well, and the Hot Rod and Race scene grew bigger every year. The show displayed some of the best Hot Rods and Race Cars in the wide area.

#1 Burton E. Davis 1931 Ford Roadster, the winner of the big Hot Rod award at the show.

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#3 Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose.

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A better look at the Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose.

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#5 Lawrence Brocchini ’31 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails V-Windshield.

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The actual number 5 sign from the 1950 Sacramento Thunderbolts Auto Show, used on Lawrence Brocchini’s Hot Rod.

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#5 Lawrence Brocchini’s ’31 Ford.

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#15 Ronnie Brown’s ’32 Ford channeled 5-window coupe showing off its kilmont brakes. On the left is Johnny Lehman #4 ’48 Mercury and on the right we see the Buick trim on the skirts of Jack Odbert’s  #14 1936 Ford Convertible

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#15 Ronnie Brown posing with his channeled ’32 Ford 5-window Coupe.

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#19 Harold Casarang Oakland Roadster club member took his ‚Äė25 Model T to the Sacramento Auto Show.
January 1951 Hot Rod Magazine article on the show.

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Sources and more information

  • Garage Magazine
  • Classic & Custom Magazine
  • Don Montgomery books

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Gerald Fassett Photo Collection

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Special Thanks to Gerald Fassett, David E. Zivot and Michelle M. Yiatras

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Gerald Fassett, an avid Custom Car enthusiast from Sacramento, California was very active in the local car scene from 1942 til the mid 1950’s. He owned two custom cars, of which one was restyled by Harry Westergard and Dick Bertolucci, both local Sacramento Custom Car builders. During this time Gerald took and collected photos of the Sacramento Custom Cars. The sad part is that Gerald mentioned the fact that a good many of the photos that he personally took, as well as some others that he had gathered during that period were lost or misplaced during a move he made many years ago.

But those photos that have survived from this collection are of extreme importance for the Custom Car History. Color photos and early versions of well known Custom Cars give us a look back in time we might have heard and read about. But because of this collection we can now also see.

The Gerald Fassett photo collection is now part of the David E. Zivot Collection and is shared together with stories told by Mr. Fassett to David E. Zivot with the Custom Car Chronicle.

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Part of the Gerald Fassett Collection. Such an historic document.

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Gerald Fassett 1934 Ford

Gerald’s first Custom Car was a 1934 Ford 5-window coupe. The car had the running boards removed, which was the big trend in the early to mid 1940’s. The fenders front and rear were modified where the running boards used to be mounted for a nice finished look. The frame was hidden with a special made cover. Modified tear drop skirts were added to the rear fenders and the suspension dropped a little. The hood sides were replaced with smooth units and the car was painted light green. Not visible in the photo shown below are an inset license plate in the trunk, filled cowl, and the dressed up flathead engine. This is the car Gerald drove when George Barris visited Sacramento in his 1941 Buick inlate 1947.

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What a great picture of Gerald’s 1934 Ford 5-window Coupe parked in the drive way of his home on Marysville Blvd, in Sacramento around 1947.

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Zoomed in on the car to be able to see some more details on the car.

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Don Clifford’s 1936 Ford 5-W Coupe mild Custom photographed in the early/mid 1940’s.

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Gerald Fassett 1947 Chevy Convertible

Gerald’s second Custom Car was a 1947 Chevy Convertible which was restyled by Harry Westergard. Gerald had seen an ad for the Jimmy Summers “Fender Extensions” kit in the 1948 Hot Rod magazine, and really liked the look on those. That along with a chopped padded top would create his dream custom. Harry Westergard mail-ordered a set of the Jimmy Summers fade away fenders. The fade away fenders were fine tuned by Harry and bolted to the doors and rear quarters. and aftermarket stainless steel rock shield was cut down so they would fit the rear fender and clear the fade away sections.

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1948 magazine ad for the Jimmy Summers Fender Extension.

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Westergard chopped the windshield frame, nosed and decked the car and added primer to all the fresh body work. Then Gerald drove it to have the padded topped made by Chavez interior and Top shop. The interior was done by a fellow named Marion Cottle right there in Sacramento. Marion Cottle did a lot of the restyled cars in the local Sacramento area.

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Beautiful higher point of view shows the Summers fade away fenders in primer. The photo was taken at Harry Westergard’s property. At the back of this photo Gerald write the padded top was done by Chavez.

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Gerald’s Chevy in front of Westergard‚Äôs shop on Watt Avenue. Notice the rather high stance, the single bar flipper hubcaps and the door handles still in place.

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In 1949 Gerald takes his Chevy to Dick Bertolucci who shaved the door handles, molded in the headlights, and did a final clean up of the whole body, before painting the car with a brilliant maroon lacquer paint job. Dick also removed the fog lights from the earlier version, and added brand new ’49 Chevy license plate frames to the ’47 bumpers. The Chevy was equipped with dual carbs, split exhaust manifold and custom mufflers, which he swapped with the owner of an green mild customized 1941 Chevy. Gerald also added a white Ford Crestline steering wheel to make the interior look absolutely perfect.

The color photo of Gerald’s Chevy, taken in 1949, was taken at 5671 Stockton Blvd. in Sacramento. The Mid-Century style building was created for a home improvement/lumber company. The classy style reminded Gerald of some of the buildings George Barris used as backdrop for the photos he had seen taken by George. He really liked how the buildings complemented the cars, and wanted to try the same thing. Mission succeed!

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Mid 1950’s color photo of Gerald Fassett’s 1947 Chevy beautifully painted by Dick Bertolucci. The car now has been lowered, the headlights frenched, the door handles removed, spotlight added and new ’55 Buick hubcaps added. What a beautiful Custom.

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The 1941 Chevy Gerald traded engines with.

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The back side of the photo of the 1940 Chevy.

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Harold Ohanesian 1940 Mercury

Harold ‚ÄúBuddy‚ÄĚ Ohanesian was from Sacramento and had his 1940 Mercury Convertible 4-door Sedan restyled around 1946-47 by Harry Westergard and Les Crane. The windshield on the Merc was chopped, rear fenders molded to the body, the hood smoothed and reshaped together with the grille opening and front fenders to make place for the 1946 Chevy grille.

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Photo taken around 1947 shows the car all complete, but still in primer. Notice that the 1940 Mercury taillights were mounted horizontal, and how the rear of the car had been reshaped with rounded corners on the shortened trunk.

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At the front a splash pan was added for the Chevy grille to sit on. The door handles and side trim were removed and body smoothed. At the back of the car some work had to be done to get the right look Harold was after. On the stock ‚Äô40 Mercury sedan convertibles the trunk area is rather tall and upright, sticking out over the top of the door line on the sides. To make that work with the padded top that was planned for the car the trunk was sectioned, and the top of the body line ‚Äúflattened‚ÄĚ out at the back creating a much nicer body shape. The trunk was also shaved and a set in license plate behind glass created.

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Photographed at the same locations around 1948 the car was now painted and already looked stunning.

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The stock bumpers were replaced with ’37 DeSoto units, teardrop skirts were added, the suspension was lowered, Appleton Spotlights were mounted and single bar flipper hubcaps added. We do not know which of the two builders did what on the car. The long padded top was created by the C.A. Hall Top Shop in Oakland, an 80+ mile drive from Sacramento. Harold drove the car around with all the body work done in primer before the car in this version was painted. At this moment we are not sure who painted the car in this early padded topped version. As far as we know the color was also maroon on this version.

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Zoomed in to see all the details.

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Later, around 1949 Harold wanted a new more updated look for his Mercury and took it to a young Dick Bertolucci who had just opened his body shop. Together they came up with several updating ideas including creating a lift off metal top for the car. They set out to a local junk yard to look for suitable tops to use. Since none of the tops they were able to find had the right shape they were looking for they took home the top of an 1946 Chrysler, which was a good start, but the back section did not work, so they found an 1941 Buick Fastback which gave up the back portion of the top. They also found an 1946 Oldsmobile rear window that would be a perfect fit for the new top.

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Wonderful rear quarter view color photo shows how tight the fit of metal lift off top is with an even gap all around. The early Bertolucci version of the car has small motor cycle taillights added to the ’46 Chevy bumpers.

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A lot of work went into combining all parts to work together. The windshield posts had to be adapted to make the metal top curve around the corners and have the right feel and dimensions on the sides. The rear of the top needed to flow perfect with the trunk section. All the work was done with nearly no lead, only in sections around the back of the top and towards the side window profile some lead was used, simply because the reinforcement metal did not allow for hammer welding. (The fact that the metal top fits as perfect today as it did back in 1949, shows the great craftsmanship of the young Dick Bertolucci back in 1949.)

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Ultra rare Color photo from around 1950-51 shows the stock chrome plated headlights on the car. It is truly amazing to see the original color on this car for the first time.

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Dick also added a molded in splash pan to the rear to fit the new ’46 Chevy bumpers, and the pan at the front was reshaped and fine tuned. The Mercury taillights were removed from the rear fenders, and small motor cycle taillights mounted on the bumper. Dick Bertolucci painted the car in wonderful maroon mixed from a Chevy color toned darker and gold powder (Venus Martin No. 9) added to it. The early version which can be seen in the two color photos from the Gerald Fassett Collection shows that the car still had the original chrome headlights. Later Dick would first paint those headlights body color, and then some time later mold them to the fenders. At that time he also changed the taillights with 1948 Ford taillights on custom made pods molded into the rear fenders. One of the most fantastic Custom Cars ever created and thanks to Gerald Fassett and David E. Zivot we can now see the car in its original 1951 color as well as pre metal top version. Such an amazing asset for the Custom Car History.

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Close up of the Mercury shows this stunning custom in all its glory.

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Bud Welch 1938 Chevy Convertible

Gerald has two photos of Bud Welch’s 1938 Chevy convertible in his collection. The car was one of the few known Customs that was restyled by Sacramento customizer Les Crane. Les Crane’s name has appeared many times in association with cars restyled by Harry Westergard. Like the Ohanesian Merc and the Budler Rugard 1940 Mercury, where Les Crane performed some of the work. But not too many cars are credited to just Les Crane.

Bud Welch’s 1938 Chevy was done completely at Les’ shop (as far as we have been able to find out) with the exception of the padded top which had been done by the Hall Top Shop in Oakland. Les chopped the windshield, filled the stock grille opening, and created a custom oval grille opening which was filled with what looks like a custom tubular horizontal bar grille. The headlights were sunk halfway into the molded in front fenders.

Bud Welch’s 1938 Chevy Convertible restyled by Les Crane on the Sacramento streets around 1948.

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The hood sides were filled in, or perhaps replaced with aftermarket smooth units. The body was cleaned up and with smoothed hood and deck lid and a set in license plate in the trunk. The rear fenders were smoothed, and a gas filler door added to the passenger rear fender, and 1940 Chevy taillights mounted low on the fenders, just above the ’37 DeSoto bumpers. The car had wide white walls and ripple disk hubcaps. Les Crane painted the car metallic green.

Gerald also had a photo of the car from a little later, possibly late 40’s, perhaps the early 1950’s. By then the car had changed a little. The ripple disk hubcaps were replaced by Sombrero hubcaps. The fender skirts were removed and a set of Spotlights had been added. (Although the photo Gerald took shows the car with the spotlights removed, but the holes still in the A-pillar)

Bud’s ’38 Chevy seen here with a big dent in the passenger side front fender, with the hood sides and the skirts removed and with Sombrero hubcaps. Perhaps the photo was taken at a local drag race, hence the removal of the extra parts.

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Leroy Semas 1938 Chevy

Gerald had one very nice clear picture of another Harry Westergard Masterpiece. The Leroy Semas 1938 Chevy Coupe. The photo Gerald took is very interesting because the stance of the car is a lot higher than any other photo I have seen on the car. Perhaps the suspension was altered for the race event, it does give the car a completely different look.

Leroy Semas’ 1938 Chevy restyled by Harry Westergard photographed at a local drag strip the CHP set up for them near Woodland. Check out the CCC article on Leroy’s Chevy for a full write up on this stunning Westergard Custom. (Also notice the cars in the background.)

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Do you have any historic Custom Car related photos you would like to share with the world. Photo’s that shed more light on the history of a certain Custom Car, or Custom Builder. Or just photos that have a special place in your heart, that come with a story, and you like to share that story. Then contact us here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to share the historic photos for you, and make an impact on the history of the Custom Car as we know it. Email Rik at the Custom Car Chronicle.

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Eldred Nelson 39 Ford

 

ELDRED NELSON 39 FORD

 

This unusual full size padded topped 1939 Ford Convertible was built by a young Campbell Ca student in 1949. He did all the work himself after school at his fathers shop. Eldred Nelson 39 Ford



Eldred Nelson built himself this very nicely done 1939 Ford convertible while he was at Campbell High in 1949 and 1950. The car is quite unusual because of its stock height padded top. We do not see to many of those on Custom Cars. The common practice was to have your windshield chopped a couple of inches, then the upholstery shop would tackle the lower padded top. But not for Eldred, he decided he like the top to be stock height, and enjoy the view from the windshield and side windows at full size.

Eldred’s father had a trucking company in Campbell California (Close to San Jose in Northern California). His father taught Eldred how to weld at age 13, and a few years later he bought himself a 1939 Ford convertible… and over a period of two years, 1949 and 1950, Eldred turned the Ford into his dream Custom.
He removed the running boards, added sections to the fenders both front and rear where the running boards used to mount to. Then he hand shaped a panel to fit under the main body that would cover the frame rails. The panel was flared into the both front and rear fenders. The two piece hood was welded solid, and all the trim and ornaments of the hood were shaved in the process. Only the hood belt line trim stayed in place, but was shortened about 50%.

ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-06Front photo shows the smoothed hood and use of 1940 Ford headlights and ’49 Plymouth bumpers.¬†
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At the back all the handles and emblems were also shaved, and a set of teardrop shape bubble skirts were mounted on the rear fenders. 2 1949 Plymouth front bumpers were used to replace the much thinner stock units. The new rubbed bumpers gave the car a nice long and low look. The stock headlights were replaced with 1940 Ford units, but at the rear the teardrop shaped taillights from the ’39 Ford remained. The suspension was modified to get the car a few inches lower to the ground. Eldred bought a set of Lyons aftermarket Custom¬†hubcaps and mounted them together with a set of black wall tires on the car.


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Eldred went kind of wild on the dashboard. He took out the complete center section and filled it with a smooth panel. He also welded the glove box door solid and smoothed out the complete dash, leaving only the two main gauges and the clock from the glove box door in place. Below the dash, in the center he created an extended panel that would house the controls he had removed when he smoothed the main dash. The whole dash unit looks now ultra smooth.¬†He did all the gas welding, filling and leading himself, after school at his fathers shop. Eldred¬†had¬†Quality Machine¬†in San Jose do¬†the all the engine work. He¬†mentioned¬†that¬†that was the lace¬†where all the local hot Rodder’s went for machine work.

With all the body work finished and everything smoothed Eldred painted the car in a nice light blue DuPont lacquer with the help of his father, and once finished he drove the car to C.A. Hall Auto Tops in Oakland for a complete custom upholstery and padded top. Eldred remembered he had to pay about $400.- for the complete upholstery job.

ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-tag

ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-07Eldred replaced the steering wheel with an 1948 Ford unit, and added a set of Spotlights.The C.A. Hall Auto Tops shop in Oakland California did the padded top and interior in very nice wide rolls.
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ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-03Eldred standing proud with his custom ’39 Ford Convertible. This photo gives a good look at the wide and soft rounded pleats on the door.
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ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-02The ’39 Ford dashboard was heavily customizing. The center console was removed and a smooth panel molded in place. The glove box door was also welded shut, and the whole unit was smoothed.
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Eldred met his future wife in the car and drove it to San Diego for their honeymoon in 1951, and in 2016 they are still together after 65 years. Eldred sold the car in 52 for $900. Then for $900 he bought an almost new 51 ford for his growing family. He remembers that the guy who bought it was from So Cal, but he was not sure where. He never saw the car again, and he has no idea what ever happened to it after that.


ccc-eldred-nelson-39-ford-hall-ca-mapEldred built his 1939 Ford while he lived in Campbell California (blue pin), close to San Jose.
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Special thanks to Pat Lash for sharing the story and photos and Andrew Figueroa for the scans.





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(This article is made possible by)

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C. A. Hall Tops

 

HALL TOPS

 

When you lived in Northern California, and wanted a custom upholstery job or padded top created for your car, then you most likely ended up having the work done at C.A. Hall Auto Tops in Oakland.

 

When it comes to Custom upholstery and padded tops in California there are only a few shop names that pop¬†up. The most popular shop¬†was the Carson Top Shop on Vermont Ave. Los Angles. Shop employee Glen Houser developed a non folding padded top for an 1930 Ford in 1935. It was the birth of the Carson top, however it was named that until much later. Another big upholstery shop name was¬†Gaylord who started a little later in the 1940’s in Lynwood, not to far from the Barris Custom Shop.¬†In the early 1940’s the padded tops became very popular among the Hot Rod and Custom Car crowd, and not only in Southern California. In North California, the city of Oakland to be precise, there was a guy named Calvin A. Hall who had a auto top and upholstery business since 1925. When the Hot Rodders and Custom guys found out about the special tops and tuck & roll interiors done in So California they wanted to have those done more locally as well.


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The Hall Top Shop came to the rescue an Calvin quickly figured out how to do the padded tops and create the interiors the guys wanted. And business was booming for the shop. The C.A. Hall Tops shop was responsible for most the the padded tops created in the Nor California era. The Nor Cal builders like Harry Westergard, Dick Bertolucci, Gene Winfield and early one also the Barris Brothers who sill lived in Sacramento in the early 1940’s all took their Customs to the Hall shop for a¬†padded top or¬†custom upholstery. Hall never advertised as much as the Carson Top Shop, Gaylord, Runyan and others did. We have only found a ¬†few Hall ads in some early 1950’s Hot rod show programs, but not in any of the magazines. This most likely is one of the main reasons the Hall shop name never became¬†as popular in the rest of the country / world as¬†Carson or Gaylord.

This¬†and the fact that Oakland was to far away for the So Cal based magazines to do an article on the Hall Shop is the reason that there is rather little known about the Hall Top Shop. As far as we have been able to find out, nobody has ever really interviewed Calvin A. Hall about his Top Shop, so all his information is most likely lost. Since the Hall name was not as important, it might have been left out in many magazine Hot Rod and Custom Car features as well. The shop did turn out really great work, and customers often came back for an update, or with a new car in need of a padded top or custom upholstery. For this article we have collected a number of cars with Hall Tops shop padded tops and interiors. Special thanks goes out to Ron Brooks, who owns a 1940 Chevy custom created in the late 1940’s with a real and very rare Hall top. Ron has been collecting info and material on the Hall Top Shop ever since he owns his Chevy. Ron has been so kind sharing a lot of his info and photos with the Custom Car Chronicle.

 

CCC-ca-hall-tops-40-chevy-brooks-03When Ron found¬†his 1940’s restyled 1940 Chevy it still had the original Hall top on it including a very rare C.A. Hall Auto Tops interior tag.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-40-chevy-brooks-02Fred Creller created the 1940 Chevy¬†in the late 1940’s and had the interior and padded top done by Hall. This photo is from 1950. (Ron Brooks collection)
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-40-chevy-brooks-01These photos showing the top a little better were taken in 1959. (Ron Brooks Collection)
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About the Hall Tops Shop.

Calvin A. Hall¬†was born on December 11, 1901 in Mink Creek, Idaho to Andrew G. and Martha Lavine (Olsen) Hall, his father was born in Denmark, his mother in Utah, USA. In the early 1900’s the family moved from Idoha to Oakland, California. Calvin graduated from high school in 1918 and after having had a few small jobs he started to learn the trade of creating auto tops at¬†Victory Auto Painting and Top Co., at 901 E. 14th st., Oakland, Calif.

In 1925 Calvin A. Hall started his own business C.A. Hall and was located at 72nd and E. 14th, Oakland. CA. creating car tops. The small shop moved in 1927 to 901 E. 14th St. Oakland, CA. (the same shop is currently in use by Earl Scheib Paint & Body shop).
During WWII the Hall shop relocated to 3208 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA. The shop would remain on this location till it closed somewhere in 1965. The building is still standing today. Calvin A. Hall was married and had three children, none of them took over the shop, so when Calvin retired for the upholstery business the shop was closed. Calvin A. Hall passed away on January 28, 1979 at the age of 77.

 

CCC-ca-hall-tops-38-lincoln-01This photo of this amazing 1938 Lincoln Custom with Hall padded top was found on the walls of the former Hall shop on San Pablo Ave. (Ron Brooks Collection)
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-38-lincoln-02Close up on the really well shaped and proportioned Hall padded top.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-38-lincoln-03We are not sure if Hall also updated the interior in the 1938 Lincoln, but more than likely he did the cover on the rear.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-36-ford-max-ferrisThe weather in Nor Cal is not ¬†always as sunny and warm as in So Cal, so often Hall was instructed to create the chopped padded tops for roadsters, with side separate window curtains¬†to make sure the driver and passengers would stay as warm as possible. This top and window flaps/curtains was created for Max Ferris’s Harry Westergard restyled 1936 Ford roadster.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-g-barris-36-01George Barris created this 1936 Ford convertible as his own personal driver when he was working at the Browns Body shop and Harry Westergard in Sacramento. The padded top on the car was done by Hall in Oakland in a dark material.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-g-barris-36-02Close up of the Hall padded top which has seen better days. After the car was finished and painted George Barris took his 36 Ford¬†to Hall’s shop who re-covered it with white material.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-38-chevy-01Harry Westergard restyled Pittsburg Ca resident Sal Cacciola’s 1938 Chevy convertible in his typical nose up narrow grille style. Sal took the car to Hall for the padded top. Inset is one of the very few ads Hall’s Top Shop ever ran.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-40-mercuryThis is another photo that was found in the old Hall shop building. It is an unidentified 1940 Mercury with unique exhaust tips true the rear fenders. Hall was responsible for the padded top.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-41-Buick-paul-01Pierre Paul was a Custom Car builder from Oakland Ca, and he had the interior and padded top of his own personal 1941 Buick created by Hall.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-al-serpa-46-ford-02Gene winfield had his shop in Modesto California, and also used the Hall Top Shop quite a bit for his customer cars. This 1946 Ford was restyled by Gene in 1949 for owner Al Serpa. The traditional styled padded top was done by Hall. This photo was taken in 1950.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-benny-furtado-48-ford-01Gene Winfield also restyled this 1948 Ford for owner Benny Furtado during the same period as he did Al Serpa’s 1946 Ford. However Hall created a different style padded top for Benny’s Ford with open rear¬†quarter windows. Creating a much more open and light feel inside the car.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-herb-cattani-42buick-02Herb Cattani’s Custom 1942 Buick also received an Hall padded top with open rear quarter windows, creating a wonderful shape.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-herb-cattani-42buick-01A rare look at one of the Hall interiors in¬†Herb Cattani’s 1942 Buick shows a lot of soft leather tuck and rolls creating a very luxurious feel.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-47-caddy-sestito-01Dick Bertolucci from Sacramento restyled this 1947 Cadillac convertible for Tony Sestito. When it was time for the padded top and new interior the car was driven to Oakland for the full Hall treatment in 1953-54.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-47-caddy-sestito-02The latest trend then was to add full width wrap around plexiglass rear windows to the padded top. So that is what Hall created for Tony’s 1947 Cadillac. Close up of the wrap around rear window courtesy of Rod & Custom magazine.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-35-ford-02Hall created the padded top on Sil Moyano’s 1935 Ford Phaeton. This photo comes from a feature on the car in a 1973 Street Rodder magazine, and we have no idea when the padded top was created, but more than likely this one dated back into the 1940’s.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-35-ford-01The interior was done with relatively narrow tuck & roll in black, and the white top was also upholstered in black on the inside.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-invoiceHall’s Auto Tops invoice from the 1950’s with another rare ad from an July 1951 issue of Motor sports World.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-ad-01This ad was used in one the Oakland Roadster Show programs and shows an panoramic rear window padded top Hall created for a stock bodied Buick.
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Warren Gonzales 1950 Ford Convertible

Possibly the best publicity the Hall Auto Tops shop had for their interior and top work was with Warren Gonzales’s 1950 Ford Convertible. The shop worked on two versions of the car. The first time in 1953-54 they did a complete interior, and traditional styled padded top. The second time a year later they added more to the interior, to keep up with the demand for winning show points, and they redid the padded top in the latest trend with cantilever (over-hanging) rear portion. The July 1956 issue of Car Craft magazine had two color photos of the car on the cover, and four pages for the feature inside. The feature showed many photos of both the top and the wild interior.


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CCC-ca-hall-tops-gonzales-ford-03Warren’s 1950 Ford convertible was first done in a more conservative way with a “regular” style padded top created by Hall Auto Tops. The photo on the left is from the 1954 Oakland Roadster Show, and the one on the right from the 1955 show. By then the car had been completely redone with a wild interior and complete new cantilever padded top.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-gonzales-interior-02The color photo of the Hall Auto Tops created interior in Warren’s Shoebox must have had a lot of impact. The interior was done in three tone leatherette, dark green, white and soft green. The same soft green was also used on the second version top.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-gonzales-interiorC.A. Hall created the interior for Warren’s Shoebox with the latest in luxury in mind. The create a custom made semi-circle rear seat, which is divided by a large Hi-Fi radio speaker. On both sides of the bench a refreshment bar has been incorporated. A console has been created on the floor to house a small upholstered TV set. The seats back are reshaped both front and rear and are upholstered in a bolt design with rolls and pleats. The dashboard has been made “crash proof’ by adding padding and upholstery on the whole unit. The center was cut out to make space for a 45 rpm record player. A radio and Hi-Fi speaker have been installed in a custom build center console underneath the dash extending the front bench. The carpets are dark blue green and outlined with white trim.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-collageA few more samples of car with C.A. Hall Auto Tops  padded tops and or interiors.
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CCC-ca-hall-tops-building-2016This is how the former C.A. Hall Tops Shop building at 3208 San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, California looks today in 2016. (Google maps image)
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As mentioned in this article the amount of information on the Hall Top’s is limited. We have tried to gather as much information as possible and added as many photos that would mattered the most for this article. As always we would love to hear from you if you have any additional information about the Hall Auto Tops shop, or any cars that had the interior or tops created by this shop. If you have more info, please let us know, email Rik. We would love to add more info to this article and share it with Custom Car enthusiast from all over the globe. Thank you.

 

Resources

  • Ron Brooks
  • Coachbuilt.com,¬†Mark Theobald
  • Barris Kustoms Technique books.







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Custom Interior Tags

 

INTERIOR TAGS

 

In the 1940’s and 1950’s some of the better know upholstery shop used small tags with their name or logo and address information mounted in the cars they upholstered. Let s take closer look at those tags.



We know that the couchbuilders, who build complete custom made bodies on exciting chassies usually had some sort of tag, or crest on the body with the company name, or logo. As a sort of business card, making sure the people who looked at the car would see who was responsible for such beautifull work. And of course hopefully some people who see the work and the tag/crest might end up a potential client.



The Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag

In the 1940’s some of the upholstery shops started to specialize in Custom and Hot Rod upholstery. Some of these shop also started to use small tags in the cars they had upholstered. One of the more famous shops was the the Houser’s Carson Padded Tops shop in Los Angeles. This shop created the famous Carson Padded tops, but also did full interiors and the tag they put in their cars is probably the most famous of these tags used by the custom and hot rod upholstery shops.

CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-carson-01An early Carson Top Shop magazine ad.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-07Wally Welch, owner of several early Custom Cars kept his blue tinted Houser’s carson Padded Tops tag in his photo album. Nobody knew if this one was ever used in one of his cars, or if it was he got as an extra. This photo shows the slight shadow on the text and illustration that the relieve etching creates. (from the Wally Welch Collection)
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The original tag the shop had made was a very small metal tag. These original tags look to have been etched on one side leaving everything except for the letters, the cars illustration and border as a relieve section of the metal plate. This relieved section was painted either with black or a dark blue color, I have even heard somebody mention ehad seen one done in dark red. The most common place for the Carson Top Shop tag was in the middle of the top, right in the center above the rear view mirror. There it was held in place with two small nails. Sometimes the center of the header was needed for one of the hold down brackets, then the tag was positioned next to the bracket. In all my research I have never seen any other location being used. I am not even sure if cars that only had the interiors done by the shop, and not one of their padded tops, recieved a tag. So thismight have strictly been a tag used for a padded top. Perhaps any of the readers could shed a light on this.


CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-04Another original tag in a bit worse condition comes from the Valley Custom Shop built sectioned 1940 Ford for Ralph Jilek. Tom Sewell restored the car and documented everything along the way. This photo shows the tagand its original nails that were used to mount the tag to the header on the Padded top.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-05These two photos show the tak on the original position. Left of the tak was the padded top mounting mechanism, so it was mounted to the right of that. Notice how the tag was bend slightly to folow the shape of the wood header. 
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In the early 1970’s the then owner of the Carson Top Shop was asked to restore an original Carson Padded Top. The work on the top was done, but then one thing was missing, the tag. None of the original tags could be found, so a new tag was created. Creating these tags asked for a minimal order of a lot. After the restoration project was finished some of these extra tags where given to friends, other where sold. These still can be found from time to time. The recreated tags are a bit different from the original once, small details in the size of the text. But the main difference is that the reproduction is silk screened on a metal plate, while the original was etched creating a relieved tag.


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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-03The three photos above show the replica of the Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag that was created in the early 1970’s. The center photo shows that the black was silk screened onto the metal plate, creating no relieve section as the original had. Many thanks to David E. Zivot for suplying this sample. The tags are 50 x 25 millimeters¬†in dimention (nearly two inches wide).
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-carson-03Jim Thompson used another replica Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag in his recenly finished 1936 Ford Custom Convertible.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-carson-04This photo shows the replica of the original interior tag on the bottom (almost two inches wide) and one done as key-fob that is three inches wide (thanks to Tom Nielson for the Key-fob). The large one is similar to what Jim Thomson used in his ’36 Ford, and is made out of aluminum silc screened in white and black.
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The first time I saw an photo of one of these Carson Top Shop interior tags waw when upholsterer Tom Sewell shared the restoration of the valley Custom Shop built sectioned 1940 Ford Convertible wit Carson Padded top and Carson interior with us. The restored interior has the tag located at the excact same spot it was put in by the Carson Top Shop in the early 1950’s.



The Hall of Oakland tag

The C.A. Hall Auto Tops shop did a lot of Padded tops and Custom Car and Hot Rod interiors in the bay area, and for other Northern California based car owners and shops. This shop used an oval etched tag. The only known sample of the original Hall tag we know of is in Ron Brook’s 1940 Chevy Convertible. Here the tag is also mounted on the front header of the padded top.


CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-hall-07The C.A. Hall Auto Tops tag is an etched oval shaped metal tag. (thanks to Ron Brooks for the photo)
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-hall-08The C.A. Hall Auto Tops tag mounted in Ron Brook’s 1940 Chevy Convertible.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-hall-06Hall’s Top Shop invoice¬†form¬†and magazine ad. Courtesy of Ron Brooks.¬†
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The Runyan tag

The recent restoration of the bob Pierson 1936 Ford learned us that the Runyans interior shop also had an interior tag. In this case two small tags were mounted on the seat side base covers. The South City Rod & Custom shop had these small tags recreated by Tony Parker who hand painted them. At this point we have no info on how these original Runyan Interior tags were produced.


CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-Runyan-08Tony Parker hand painted these small metal plates to recreate the original Runyan tags to go on the Bob Pierson 1936 Ford.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-Runyan-09These tags were mouned in a recessed setion of the tuck & roll panel covering the sides of the beach seat in the Bob Pierson 1936 Ford Coupe.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-Runyan-06 CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-Runyan-07One of the ads Runyan used showed the interior of the Bob Pierson 1936 Ford. 
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Gaylord’s Tops tag

We were unable to find a photo of an Gaylord’s interior tag. But according to Bill Gaylord the shop did use them. When Luke Karosi and Jeff Neppl interviewed Bill Gaylord for an full article on the history of the Gaylord interior for Kustoms Illustrated magazine. Bill mentioned the shop used such a tag, in fact people even came to the shop asking for the tag. even though they did not even have an Gaylord interior. The tags were given away to people like they were business cards. Sadly in non of the photos from the Bill Gaylord Collection this tag could be seen. And Bill also mentioned that non of them were left. We have no idea how these tags looked like, all we know is that the shop had them and used them on the cars they did.
If somebody out there has a photo of this tag, or perhaps even has an original one, please let us know. We would love to add a photo of one to this article.


CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-gaylord-01This was one of the Gaylord’s logos used in the magazines back in the 1950’s.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-gaylord-02The Gaylord’s Top business regular card showing Bill’s personal chopped and padded topped 1949 Mercury.
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CCC-custom-upholstery-tags-gaylord-03Some Gaylord ads used this skript type logo. But at this point we have no idea how the actual Gaylord’s interior tag looked like.
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There were of course several other major interior shops in the 1940’s and 1950’s But so far we have not been able to find any other interior tags from any of these shops. If any of you readers know of any other 1940’s, or 1950’s interior shop tag that was used in the car interiors, please let us know so that we can add it to his article. Email Rik Hoving
Thank you.

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