1937 Ford Customs

 

1937 FORD CUSTOMS

 

The 1937 Ford, along with the 1938 models were often considered the Ugly Ducklings from the FoMoCo. Yet they still were Customized, and with great success.



The 1937 Fords were introduced on November 6, 1936. Responsible for the designs was not Ford stylist Bob Gregorie, who was busy working on the new Lincoln Zephyr’s but rather the Briggs Manufacturing Company staff. This team worked under the leadership of John Tjaarda. the Briggs crew included Alex Tremulis, Bob Koto, and Phil Wright, all car stylists of considerable stature. Yet they team designed a series of models for the 1937 year that a lot of people consider (together with the ’38 Fords) as the most ugly Fords ever created.

One of the reasons the car was not very much loved for its looks might have been caused by a proportional issue. Henry Ford, personally ordered that the car’s overall length needed to be reduced from 182.75 inches to 179.5. Which might not sound like a lot, but can be seen as the same difference from a Ford to more classy looking Mercury. The shortening from its early concepts was enough to make most of the models look a bit stubby, and not as elegant as the original designs proposals had looked like.

The 1937 Ford came in a large selection of models, and they all looked great.
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Despite the fact that the ’37 Ford was considered not to be very attractive, the cars were still being custom restyled. Mildly restyled, with dress up accessories, or a bit more elaborate with chopped windshields and padded tops on the convertible models. The narrow and pointy grilles and molded in headlights of the ’37 Ford gave the car an sort of instant Custom Looks. So much that these cars did not really need a whole lot to already look more attractive. Lowering the suspension and chopping the windshields perhaps brought back the proportions the original designers had been looking for.

I have been collecting photos of Custom Restyled 1937 Fords for many years. This “Ugly Duckling” has a special place in my heart. In those years collecting photos I have found out that most of the Custom Restyled ’37 Ford were mild Customs, and unlike other year Fords, most were not treated with the full Custom treatments. There are a few exceptions, like the Glen Johnson Coupe, but in general the ’37 Fords were moderately restyled, just because that fits these cars so well. Most were Custom Restyled in the 1940’s and unlike other year Fords very few were treated as Custom Cars in the 1950’s.

In the research for this article I have also come across a lot of photos of old ’37 Fords as race cars back in the 1940’s, a lot of the ’37 Ford ended up being wrecked in races. Probably more so than any other year Fords.



1937 Ford Convertible Customs

Judging the amount of photos of Custom Restyled ’37 Ford’s I have come across I would say that the ’37 Ford Convertibles is the body style that was mostly restyled. Which makes sense since most of the Custom restyling on these cars was done back in the 1940’s, and at the time it was relatively easy and cheap to have your convertible chopped and an padded top build at the same top shop. At least it was much easier and cheaper than a Coupe of sedan. The convertibles were very popular in California, due to the year round great weather. If you moderately lowered the ’37 Ford convertible, added white wall tires, skirts in the back and a low chopped Padded Top with sloping profile I think the end result came close or even better enhanced the original design ideas from the team at FoMoCo.

Earl Bruce standing proud with his beautifully restyled ’37 Ford Convertible. ’41 Ford bumpers, chopped padded top, solid hood sides, early style single bar flipper hubcaps, skirts, wide whites, and a matching suit.
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Snapshot taken during WWII shows two lovely ladies posing with a chopped dark padded topped convertible with single bar ripple disk hubcaps, DeSoto Bumpers, Skirts, Spotlight(s) and chrome plated aftermarket sealed beam headlights.
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Very similar ’37 Convertible as above, with the same Custom Restyling, except this time the car was outfitted with a light colored padded top.
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Halliday family customized 1937 Ford convertible with mildly chopped windshield, padded top, wide white wall tires, single bar flipper hubcaps, single Appleton Spotlights  and 1937 DeSoto bumpers and exteneded headlights.
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This photo was taken in 1940 and shows a chopped ’37 Convertible with smooth hood sides, skirts, dual Appleton Spotlights, lowered suspension and custom hubcaps on wide white wall tires.
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Late 1930’s or early 1940’s photo by Dean Batchelor.
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Edward “Eddie” Littlefield was 23 years old when he owned this chopped, padded topped Ford in 1940. The photo was taken in Bend, Oregon where Edward lived. Ed had purchased the car from Ray Brothers Ford in the Fernando Valley, California at the corner of Van Nuys and Chandler Boulevards. Some accessories that came with the deal included the radio antenna, the OEM Ford spot light that cost $15.75 installed, Fog lights, a Silver finish Radiator shield to keep the heat in in the cool Oregon weather at $1.25, rear fender shields (we call them skirts) at $8.50 a pair, installed, a rear trunk rack at $7.50 and aftermarket wheel discs. Sadly the car was did not live long as a Custom. Eddie and his bud were making one of their L.A. to Bend trips and Ed got tired so his buddy slid behind the wheel while Ed was getting some shut-eye. The unthinkable happened and the driver fell asleep while the car left the road and destroyed itself. Luckily they both escaped alive. (from the www.ahrf.com)
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Dave Riddle shared some photos of his grandfather’s ’37 Chopped padded topped ’37 Ford convertible with smooth hood sides.
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Dave grandfather posing with his Custom Restyled ’37 Ford with 1940 Oldsmobile bumpers.
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Ford called this long topped Convertible the Club Cabriolet. Although most customs are based on the shorter top Convertible Cabriolet, these long topped car look really great with a chopped padded top, as this early 1940’s sample shows.
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1937 Ford mixed with an early Auburn Speedster for the ultimate Boat-Tail Custom.
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Around 1937 France Coachbuilder Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin moved to Los Angeles and the first car he created in Los Angeles was this beautiful ’37 Ford Roadster base on a Model 78 Deluxe.
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The Sedan convertibles and Phaeton models of the ’37 Ford were also seen a lot as mild and a little wilder Custom Cars. The cars were much more roomy than the ‘convertibles, so they were ideal if you drove around with friends, or even if you had a family. Just like with the regular convertible the chopped windshield and padded top option was the number one choice, judging the vintage photos. If restyled well, with the right proportions, as in lowered suspension, chopped windshield and padded top with nice round rear quarter corners these four door convertible sedans had a certain classic high end look, which was very desirable in the late 30’s early 1940’s. up to the mid 1940’s.

Unidentified ’37 Ford sedan convertible with chopped windshield, removed running boards with modified front fenders, custom made frame filler panel, stainless steel rock shields on the rear fenders, smooth hood-sides, wide whites and ripple disk hubcaps. Most likely a matching padded top was left home before going to the dry lakes where this photo was taken. Interestingly it looks like the car had a single pin-stripe at the beltline, something not commonly seen on early Customs.
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Steve Box took these two photos of a nicely done ’37 Ford Convertible Sedan in California in the late 1940’s. The car did not have a chopped windshield, but was outfitted with a non folding Padded top. It also had teardrop fender skirts (that were slightly to small to cover the ’37 wheel openings., smooth hood sides, ’37 DeSoto bumpers, Appleton Spotlights, smooth hood sides, lowered stance and sealed beam headlights. The taillights appear to be low mounted ’38-39 Ford teardrop units, or perhaps he just mounted complete ’38 Ford rear fenders.
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Very Classic and beautiful Custom Restyled 1937 Ford Phaeton most likely done in the late 1930’s, perhaps early 1940’s. It features a slightly lower stance, chopped windshield, with padded top, custom side trim, possibly from a ’38 Ford. small diameter single bar flipper hubcaps, fender skirts and white wall tires.
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’37 Ford Convertible Sedan owned by a Pasadena Ford dealer’s son photographed in 1940. At first I thought it might have been a later version of the photo above, but the shape of the padded top and the location of the side trim is different. This is a very nice ’37 Ford Custom though. with the chopped padded top, DeSoto bumpers, added  side trim, smooth hood sides and removal of the running boards.
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This ’37 Ford, photographed with 1940 California plates is the same car as the photo above. But this time it has a narrowed stock grille with the sides filled in. Interesting to see the new belt line side trim has been extended compared to the photo above to cover the grille side panels.
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1937 Sedan Convertible with chopped windshield, removed running boards with an Hollywood accessory kit to cover the holes and gaps left by the running boards.
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I came across this photo online many years ago. It was mentioned it was an ’40 Custom with chopped Carson top. Have not seen it since. I hope it got fixed, and hopefully the big and little tires were replaced with regular size tires for a more Custom feel how it most likely looked in the 1940’s.
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1937 Ford Coupes

Unlike the convertible ’37 Fords, most restyled ’37 Coupes remained un-chopped and were restyled only mildly, there are of course a few exceptions to this. I’m not sure why this was, perhaps most owners mildly restyled their ’37 Ford Coupes just to make them less “ugly”. And then obviously would not go all the way.  Previous year Fords were more often chopped and further customized, same goes with later years. I think it really is a shame not more ’37 Ford Coupes went with the full Custom treatment. With a proper chop I think these ’37 Ford could have looks very nice as full custom. Both in the 1940’s as well as in the 1950’s, then perhaps with more restyling going than the decade before.

1937 Ford Coupe transformed to pick up truck for the race track. The fenders were modified with new headlights at the front and extensions at the rear to match the longer bed. Smooth hood sides and and early Cal Custom ’37 Ford accessory hood trim piece. The car was originally Customized in 1938.
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Mildly dressed up ’37 Ford Club Coupe. The club coupe had longer sedan doors and therefor longer cabin and shorter trunk. This one looks nice with the white wall tires and early small diameter single bar flipper hubcaps.
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Regular ’37 Ford Coupe with lowered suspension with a bit more taken out of the rear. My guess is that it normally has a set of fender skirts installed to hide the stock rear hubcaps. On the front is has Custom hubcaps and solid hood sides.
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Regular Coupe with the running boards removed and an Hollywood Aftermarket kit to fill the holes.
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From the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling comes this unfinished chopped Coupe with the running board removed and the grille cut down till the bottom of the hood sides. The hood sided have been welded to the hood and the top portion, above the grille was filled in with new sheet metal, giving the hood an almost ’39 Ford look. The California License plate is from ’48-’50.
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This photo is from up in the mid 1950’s and showds an restyled, or perhaps better said dressed up ’37 Ford Coupe. Extended headlights with eyebrow rings, ’49 Plymouth bumpers, Running board trim made from ’56 Ford side trim material, custom side trim and a two, or perhaps three tone paint job.
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Glen Johnson 1937 Ford Coupe

One of the wilder Custom Cars based on the ’37 Ford was Glen Johnson’s ’37 Ford Coupe. Glenn was inspired to built the car when his friend Carl Gratz had bought a custom 1936 Ford 5-window coupe that used to belong to Tommy Jamiesson and Bob Campbell, with body work by Howard Fall. Glenn wanted to built something similar and used a 1937 Ford coupe as a base.

Glenn started to work on his car around 1947. He chopped the top 4 inches front and a little more in the back to give it a better flow. The panel between the trunk and rood was stretched to compensate for the now shorter top, and the A-pillars were leaned back a little. The running boards were removed and the body channeled over the frame until the bottom of the body sat level with the bottom of the frame. The front and rear fenders were raised and re positioned to compensate for the body drop and molded to the main body. New hood sides were fabricated to fill the now much smaller openings. Pieces of the original panels were combined with new shaped panels to form a single unit filling in the original top portion of the grille. This unit was later welded to the cowl. At the front Glenn heavily modified a 1947 Cadillac grille to fit the new lines of the car. The stock headlights were replaced with 1940 Ford units and a 1941 Cadillac front bumper was installed. At the rear a split bumper of a 1946 DeSoto was installed 46-48 Ford taillights were mounted on the splash pan just below the DeSoto rear bumper.

When the car was almost finished it caught fire and he lost most of the interior, and perhaps even more important all the lead worked. Glenn moved to Glendale and redid the car while he lived there. Glenn worked on the car from 1947 till 1951 using only primitive tools in his own garage and backyard and eventually finished it in ruby maroon. The car was in several magazines including the Restyle your car booklet from 1952, and the most important on the cover and with a long feature story in Hot Rod magazine of April 1952.

Early stages of the Glenn Johnson ’37 Ford Coupe.
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Glenn Johnson’s ’37 Ford coupe on the left sitting next to the car that inspired Glenn to start his. Glenn’s friend Carl Gratz had bought this early reatyled 1936 Ford 5-window coupe that used to belong to Tommy Jamieson and Bob Campbell. By now Glenn had mostly finished his coupe, which was in primer and awaiting final assembly.
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When Glenn was finished with his Coupe around 1951, the car did not look much like the ’37 Ford he started with anymore. The raised fenders, Cadillac grille, bumper and ’40 Ford headlights had completely transformed the cars looks.
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The car is now completely restored and part of the Joe Bortz Collection.
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Hank Heimbach owns this chopped ’37 Ford Coupe with filled grille surround and Packard Clipper grille, removed running boards and DeSoto bumpers. All the work on it was done the old fashion way Hank mentioned, so it more than likely started out as a Custom in the 1940’s. Sadly there are no old photos to proof it.
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1937 Ford Sedans

From all the 1937 Ford models (with the Woodies left out) the two and four door sedan models are the least often Custom Restyled. I have come across only a handful of snapshots showing the sedan’s Custom Restyled. Even less than cars from previous and later years.


The photo was taken in the later part of the 1930’s and the ’37 Ford sedan was already fully customized. Chopped and turned long roof coupe, smooth hood sides, removed running boards etc. More on this Mystery Custom car be found HERE.
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Late 1940’s photographed mildly restyled (dressed Up) ’37 Ford 4-door sedan with Appleton Spotlight(s), accessory bumper guards and single bar flipper hubcaps. Notice the square mirrors, very popular item for some time.
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A little fuzzy, but I could not resist to share this late 40’s color photo of this mildly restyled ’37 Ford sedan in this article. Wide whites, single bar flipper hubcaps, 48 Ford bumpers, smooth hood-sides, small spotlights, chrome plated sealed beam headlights and a nice dark red paint job. Love the owners outfit as well.
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Carl Kasprzyk used a ’37 Ford Sedan as the base for his Custom Restyled Show Car in the early 1960’s. The car was recently “found”.




Present day created Custom 1937 Fords

The 1937 Ford has gained a bit more popularity of the last few decades, but more as Hot Rod and Street Rod than as Custom Car. When I researched this article and did a google search for ’37 Ford or ’37 Ford Custom, it was chocking to see how few actual Custom Cars showed up in the search. And most that show up are based on modern fiberglass based cars, which have nothing to do with the Custom Cars we talk about here on the Custom Car Chronicle. Fortunately there are a few exceptions. Rick Dore used a ’37 Ford Coupe for a car he build for James Hetfield, and there are a few others that are currently in the works with an more traditional Custom feel. So hopefully more will follow. I think that these ‘s37 Ford Ugly Ducklings” can look very good as a nice period perfect 40’s Custom.

Rick Dore used a ’37 Ford Coupe as  base for his “The Crimson Ghost” Custom version created for James Hetfield. This one has a lot of body work going on including chopped hard-topped roof, reshaped fenders and molded in coke bottle shaped running boards, custom grille and head and taillights.
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I spotted this ’37 Convertible parked outside at the 2013 GNRS. Lowered, chopped windshield with chopped folding top, skirts, white walls with single bar hubcaps, custom side trim and rock shield on the rear fenders. Very much Custom styling, but the missing hood sides and louvred hood give it a somewhat Hot Rodded look.
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This one is actually a Photoshopped image. The car is a nice mildly customized ’37 Ford with wide walls and Sombrero hubcaps, skirts and the right stance, but I digitally added the chopped windshield and top, just to show how nice these cars can look.
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A few more Custom Restyled ’37 Ford snapshots, showing that even though the ’37 might not have been as popular as its predecessor, the ’36 Ford, it was still used as a Custom Base, both mild and wild.
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Carson Style 36 Ford

CARSON STYLE 36 FORD

David E Zivot wanted a California Top 1936 Ford Roadster Custom. Restyled in line with how the cars were built shortly after WWII. He was able to create this stunning example of the Carson Style Custom.


Š by Michelle M. Yiatras
Timechanic ™
(Original article from June 2011)


Carson Style

Like Clark Gable might have felt before the War started (joyfully married, with an Oscar) and after it ended (drinking with reckless abandon), when a fellow parked his stock roadster to enlist in the Good Fight, he returned with a heightened perspective. Although he may have made the ultimate sacrifices (a limb, a spouse, a brother or uncle), he didn’t sacrifice style. These designs were stirring deep inside and reverberated in many post-War customs that matriculated from the college of WW2. Upright men and women returned to shepherd a more dignified era.

Eddie Martinez at his workbench in the summer of 2011.
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Eddie Martinez is a funny old guy, and he was a funny young guy. When he was six and his Mama told him to put the scrap boot on the beans, he thought she meant in the pot instead of in the coal stove for fuel. So that night they had “frijoles a la zapata”. When you see him today (June 2011) in his mid-70’s shuffling like Tim Conway and sore arms wrapped in gauze like the Mummy, a lot of it is for dramatic effect. He wants you to feel a little sorry for him because he knows he’s a little annoying. Eddie (Darryl Starbird’s National Rod & Custom Car HoF) has been multi-awarded for his quick draw with the sewing machine. Eddie was always the go to when you wanted upholstery or a correct Carson style top.

Eddie’s business card from back in the early 1950’s.
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He furnished a myriad range including from his first ’40 Ford (Car Craft front page & Long Beach Best Upholstery) in the mid-50’s, Barris’ ’29 Ford Model A roadster “Emperor”, Ed Roth’s “Outlaw” & “Beatnik Bandit”, Larry Watson’s ’57 Cadillac Eldorado, Stone-Woods-Cook ’41 Willys Gasser, Dan Houck’s ’46 Ford convertible, to the Duncan Emmons Merc. So when the day arrived for Eddie to pass the torch over to custom and hot rod upholsterer, David Martinez (no relation), of Martinez Industries, there was definitely some fireworks. Eddie shuffled one way across David’s shop and out the door muttering, “I guess I’ll just go kill myself,” from the side of his mouth, and then shuffled back through with, “I forgot something.”

David Martinez at his Martines Industries shop.
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Martinez Industries was at the time the ’36 Ford was built, located in Gardena, CA. (now located in Palm Springs, CA.) David Martinez, supplanted from Indiana, is mid-30’s and yet has the sensibilities of a post-WW2 timer. Usually he’s at his bench or in the car’s trenches applying his reet pleats to the tune of Artie Shaw, Jack Benny, or Dragnet, echoing Philco radio shows, not Eminem. He’s clad in vintage coveralls and has an earnest eye and handshake. It’s no wonder that he and David Zivot would become fast friends.

John & Virginia Wolf  at El Mirage dry lakes in 1949.
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David Zivot acquired the stock 1936 Ford roadster from AHRF Pioneer, John Wolf of Sherman Oaks, CA. David & I visited John and Virginia several times at their original So-Cal home, surrounded by magnolia trees and hummingbirds, they’ve lived in since they first got married in 1950. They are vigorous and feisty in their late-70’s and regularly attend V8 Club treks. They still look as youthful as they did at the dry lakes when they began courting in 1948. John got the car from Ray Brown (another AHRF Pioneer). Together they built the ’46 Mercury V8 flathead displacing a 3 3/8” bore and 4” stroke, J & E forged pistons, Winfield SU-1A cam, block letter Edelbrock heads, Super-Dual intake, a pair of Chandler-Groves mixers, ’39 trans with Lincoln Zephyr gear set, terminating in a ’40 Ford rear end with 3:54 cogs.
All of which Zivot freshened up mechanically and made reliable as a daily driver.

Ray Brown and Bud M. (photo courtesy AHRF).
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Before any miles could be racked up, the car was invited to be part of the GNRS 2011 special display “Customs Then and Now”, as representative of an immediate pre-War/post-War California custom. Although the car was stock when David Zivot acquired it, the goal was always an authentic as possible, chopped, black lacquered, tear drop skirted, rolled and pleated, solid hood sided, Carson top padded, boulevard runner.

Restoration work, turning the Stock ’36 Ford Roadster into an 1940’s Custom Car.
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Zivot always admired what was once known as a “California Top”, “Which has its genesis in the 1920’s, when middle to upper income owners wanted a smooth, unbroken, contour on their flashy roadsters and cabriolets. This look necessitated that the top be a non-folding, removable as a unit affair, that set the look of these so equipped cars apart from others on the street. The popularity of this style of top reached its apogee in the immediate pre-War period, interrupted by the Second World War, and continued to be popular into the early 50’s. Some of the more renown and accomplished makers of these tops were Hall, Gaylord, Switzer-Fraizer, and of course Carson-Hauser. After diligent research, Eddie Martinez was one of the only craftsmen left who could make the top accurately, with the proper materials and profile.

Building the padded top frame with the just right shape for the ’36 Ford.
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Building the headliner first so that it can be easily worked on before the outside covering is added. The the frame gets covered with straps that will hold the padding.
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With all the straps added the padding is applied and shaped. 
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Padding is followed by the outside canvas beautifully stitched.
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Nearly finished car in dark gray primer, black wall tires with Single Bar Flipper Hubcaps and the finished padded top. Just like how they looked back in the early-mid 1940’s.
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After the body was painted super gloss black David Martinez created the two tone interior with nice wide and rounded 40’s style Rolled & pleated.
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This may well probably be Eddie’s last Carson top, and elderly illnesses interfered with him finishing this top he initiated. So David Martinez, proprietor of the metal fabrication and custom upholstery shop, was enlisted. He was the driving force in completing this Carson style top in a reasonable time, and it wouldn’t have happened if not for his intervention and assistance. You’ll recognize his work on Bugs’ ’35 Ford coupe “Ruby Deluxe”, Ralph Whitworth’s ’16 Ford Model T bucket “Trojan”, Piero De Luca’s ’31 Ford Model A coupe “Live Wire”, Von Franco’s ’22 Ford Model T roadster “Lightening Bug”, and Kurt McCormick’s ’41 Cadillac convertible “Westergard Custom”, among others. The venerable Kennedy Brothers of Pomona, CA, did the preliminary suspension work to bring the car closer to earth, filled the deck and door handles, and chopped the windshield down to a manageable height. The black lacquer job was the finale work of Zivot and Alan Brunson.

Rick Lefeldt ’36 Ford Roadster from 1946.
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David Zivot is unrelenting, “The Rick Lefeldt ’36 Ford Roadster built in 1946 in Modesto, CA, was a strong influence on the ’41-46 War Years style I was after. As Don Montgomery referred to it in Authentic Hot Rods, ‘This was a very desirable car.’ To build a traditional style car and stay true to the tradition is a distinction difficult to obtain and not always accomplished. The distinction is between proper customization and over customization. There are sins and omissions that are allowable and can be overlooked. However, base coat/clear coat paint is a cardinal sin, and the particular color one chooses to paint their car ought to mirror the photographic evidence of the period. No amount of Hail Mary’s can absolve these. Yet, I didn’t nail it 100%. This car was built to a standard rather than an ideal.”
Driving this car, or any type of vintage vehicle, in a modern town like Las Vegas (or Los Angeles), represents something that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like trying to resuscitate the Rat Pack. “Especially one composed with American historical veracity,” Zivot is wistful, “The audience doesn’t get the references.”






GNRS 2011 Customs Then & Now

The 62nd annual Grand National Roadster Show (aka the Oakland Roadster Show), January 28-30 at the Fairplex in Pomona, CA, Building #9, featured 75 of the most significant historical custom cars in an exclusive indoor display, “Customs: Then & Now”, as the theme for this year. Rik Hoving was one of the organizers of this part of the event, contributing his tremendous graphic design and photojournalist skills to the array. Rounding up in attendance the likes of master builders George Barris, Jack Stewart, Dean Jeffries, Blackie G, Jesse Lopez, Hershel Conway, Gene Winfield, Greg Sharp, among others, including himself, to light up the room. The cars were dazzling jewels in the constellation of customs, the Frank Kurtis Tommmy Lee 37 Ford Speedster, Harry Westergard 32 Ford Roadster, Bob Hirohata 51 Merc, Kurt McCormick 41 Buick Roadmaster, Glenn Johnson 37 Ford Roadster, Mox Miller 58 Chevy Impala, Larry Watson 58 Ford T-Bird, Mark Morton 54 Merc, so many the room was sparkling.



Overview photo of Building N0. 9 at the 2011 GNRS Customs Then & Now exhibit.
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Organizing administrator, Axle Idzardi, invited David Zivot to display his 1936 Ford roadster with the custom Carson top to represent an accurate pre-War/post-War early custom of the WW2 influenced era. Besides diligently photographing all the exhibited cars for publication reviews and archives of the Show, Rik spent weeks in advance of the Show designing and constructing the brilliant and radiant graphic signage that graced the stages. The first thing one noticed was the two large banners that were in the front of Building # Nine. Those were huge photos, with the Show logo on them. He also created 24 ceiling hanging banners, 36” X 60”. All 24 were double-sided, specially selected by Rik to complement on one side an original Business Card, and on the other side one of the cars in the room. On Sunday afternoon the banners were auctioned as collectibles and the proceeds went to charity.


These Show events don’t manifest with a magic wand. We’re always grateful and astonished at the magnum opus as a result of marvelous effort in this case by Axle Idzardi and Rik Hoving. We trust they keep their cars in the race.

The ’36 Ford banners.
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David Martinez posing withe the ’36 Ford at the GNRS 2011.
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At the GNRS Customs Then & Now in 2011.
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Side view shows the really wonderful shape of the Eddie Martinez designed padded top. 
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TECH SPEC

Original Owner: David & Louis Zivot (car has been sold to new owner)
Occupation: Historian
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Designer: David Zivot
Engine Builder: David Z
Year: 1936
Make: Ford Roadster
Color: Tuxedo Black
Paint Type: Lacquer
Painter: Jeff Savage & Alan Brunson
Engine: 1947 284 cid Mercury, br 3 3/8” x str 4”; J & E forged pistons; Winfield SU-1A cam
Trans: 1939 Ford with Lincoln Zephyr gears
Exhaust: Cast iron Fenton with dual Porter mufflers
Intake/Carb: Original Edelbrock Super-Dual with 94 type carbs
Ignition: Modified Ford crab type
Rear End: 1940 Ford banjo 3:54 final drive
Suspension: Stock Ford transverse leaf
Brakes: 1940 Ford juice
Wheels: Original 1940 Ford steelies
Tires: 600 x 16 Firestone
Seats: 1936 Ford Coupe
Upholstery: Rolled & pleated Carson style; designed by David Z; laid out & executed by David Martinez Industries
Dashboard: Stock chromed
Steering Column: Stock column with 1937 Ford box
Gauges: Stock
Headlights: Stock
Taillights: Stock
Horn: Original Garvin air horns
Steering Wheel: 1936 Ford banjo
Body: 1940 Buick skirts; 1940 Olds bumpers; 1940’s Eastern Auto Accessory solid hood sides; Original 1940’s accessory bull nose; knobs all original 1930-40’s Bakelite

Michelle created this Carson Top Shop based car show sign for the 1936 Ford.
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1936 Ford Roadster Early Style Custom

Š by David E. Zivot
Timechanic ™



The ‘36 Ford roadster was never a plentiful commodity. Very seldom seen today, they were uncommonly encountered even during the 1940’s and 50’s. When featured in car oriented publications during those decades, the terms “rare”, “scarce”, and “not often found” were applied. Talking with fellows who are old enough to know (80+), ’36 Ford roadsters were coveted and well used whether hopped-up, warmed over, or customized. They say “well used” because rolling stock being hard to come by during the War years, and a couple years after, they drove the hell out of ‘em. Especially since they were light, easy to maintain, and thrifty. But most of all they were girl-grabbers. Stylish and sporty, and when lowered, smoothed, and customized, even more so.

Notice that the car’s stance is rather “high”, just as they were back in the 1940’s.
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I’d had a ’36 rag top in my past, but it was largely junk. My desire to have a really solid and straight one was complicated by the unfortunate fact that most of what you will find in the world today are not too far removed from the earlier one I had. I was close to giving up the chase when I was informed that a real hot rod guy by the name of Johnny Wolf might sell his. Now John Wolf is no ordinary early Ford V8 guy, and his roadster was no ordinary early V8. John has a long history of dry lakes, street, and Bonneville hi-speed runs. His hand at building flatheads that pour on the coals is equally legendary. So this roadster of his looks River Rouge stock on the outside. Under the hood is one of John’s Mercury flathead motors circa 1946, built by him and Ray Brown. Yes, that Ray Brown. The car was owned by Ray before selling it to John. Considering this remarkable pedigree, and that the car had this very hot flathead, I made the deal.

The round shape of the padded top flows nice with the shape of the trunk of the Ford.
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The 1940’s Eastern Auto Accessory solid hood sides make the car look so smooth.
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Now stock high-hat height Fords are not my way. So it was time for lowering all around, chopped windshield, solid hood sides, tear drop skirts, bullnose, streamline bumpers. A shave here and a shave there, and of course black nitro lacquer. The only other thing to do was the ultimate Los Angeles golden era touch. A Carson padded top. I mean Carson, because I wouldn’t have one that wasn’t as accurate and as clinically exact to the product that Glen Hauser was turning out from 1938-46. I wanted the type and profile seen just before WW2 and was in vogue until about 1947. It would only make sense to have a complementary 1940’s Carson style interior as well, right?

David Zivot studied countless old photos to capture the right mid 1940’s Carson Top Shop interior look. David Martinez was able to make it look a perfect as possible.
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This is a real Ford roadster that is set up the way they were done in California during the period 1940-47. From the City of Los Angeles proper, east to Pasadena, south to San Diego, heading west to Santa Monica, or north to Santa Barbara, this was the most desirable custom ride of the time, and represents the high end of that restyling. This particular approach is the most traditional, and yet timeless in its taste and appeal. ’36 Ford roadsters were few and far between even during the 40’s and 50’s, and were much sought after. Finding one of this caliber is even more improbable when considering the former ownership.

The two owners prior to me, Ray Brown and Johnny Wolf, both of whom are extremely well known and respected original California hot rodders, engine-chassis builders, racers, and inductees to the American Hot Rod Foundation. Ray Brown owned and drove this roadster regularly, then sold it to John Wolf, who also drove and maintained it impeccably. The built Mercury flathead motor and drive train are a result of their efforts. Anyone who knows these guys or does the research will attest to their skills at engine building and putting together old Ford roadsters. Ray Brown’s ’32 Ford roadster currently resides at the Peterson Museum (they paid $135,000 for it in 1999, valued at $350,000 today).

Michelle posing with the Ford.
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Other legendary talent had a hand in this car. Eddie Martinez built his final authentic Carson style padded top for this roadster, accurate in every detail and line. He had the expert assistance and quality workmanship of David Martinez, also a Carson top and upholstery specialist. David Martinez Industries was responsible for the exact replication of a 1940’s Carson or Gaylord interior, down to the proper carpet and contrasting binding. Plus a spot-on set of side curtains. As for the subject of California tops, they were also a very fashionable (and practical) addition to touring cars, phaetons, roadsters, and runabouts, in the U.S. during approximately the same period. It’s interesting that a motorist could acquire one through expensive coach maker and dealer sources, as well as do-it-yourself kits that the owner could assemble and install himself. I have seen evidence of these on all makes from Packard to Model T. Some appearing to be a facsimile of a folding top, while others look like later Carson style so-called padded top. Because of their construction, very few have survived for historical inspection. However they can readily be seen in the background scenes of silent films shot in sunny Southern California, featuring Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, and others.

David Martinez was also responsible for the spot-on set of side curtains for the chopped Ford.
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1940 Oldsmobile bumpers, Firestone 600 x 16 white wall tires, Hollywood flipper disc hubcaps with beauty rings on black painted ’40 Ford wheels.
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The short list of period approved modifications done, with attention to period essentials, and were considered must haves in the 40’s: lowered (pre-War) stance, chopped windshield and posts, removable padded top with headliner complementing upholstery, solid hood sides, bull nose grill, ’40 Olds bumpers, centered plate mount, smoothed deck and doors, ’40 Ford 16” rims with Firestone wide whites, Hollywood flipper disc hubcaps, ’40 Buick teardrop fender skirts, teardrop accessory sealed beam headlights. Hand rubbed black lacquer of course. Interior modifications and upgrades of the era include: ’36 Ford three-window coupe seat and seat frame (backrest lifts up for access to trunk area), chromed dash, banjo steering wheel. The two-tone rolled and pleated upholstery is done in the correct fashion of individually hand stuffed pleats and rolls with correct form and contour. Chassis, engine, and driveline highlights: ’40 Ford steering, original Ed “Axle” Stewart dago’ed (dropped) axle, tube aircraft type shocks front and rear, ’41 Ford dropped spindles and hydraulic brakes, ’40 rear end with 3:54 gears, ’39 Ford heavy duty 3 speed trans with early 26 tooth Zephyr gears. ’46 Mercury V8 flathead engine as built by Ray Brown and John Wolf to their usual specs: 284 cid, 3 3/8 bore, 4” stroke, J & E forged pistons, Winfield SU-1A cam, NOS early original block letter Edelbrock heads and early NOS Edelbrock super-dual intake manifold with a pair of NOS Holley 2110 carburetors. Ignition 59A 12127 crab style distributor. Original Fenton cast iron headers flowing into 22” Smitty’s. NOS original ’36 Ford radiator. The grill is perfect. Car runs very fast and strong, handles and drives well. This car was a low miles Ford, and retains all its original sheet metal and components that it was delivered with.


This roadster, was chosen from a very select number nationwide to participate in a limited gathering of famous, influential, or otherwise iconic customs, in a separate Building #9 at the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show at the Fairplex in Pomona. This exhibit known as “Customs Then & Now”, organized by Axel Idzardi, Rik Hoving, Jeff Neppl and Luke Karosi, displayed these representative historic customs from the early 1940’s up to the 60’s.


I was able to get the result I wanted. Thanks to Jason & Joe Kennedy (chop & lowering), Eddie Martinez, David Martinez (top & interior), Alan & Carl Brunson (paint), Michelley, & lots of design and wrench work by myself. Bart Bartoni’s 1946 photograph of Rick Lefeldt’s epoch ’36 was a spectre of inspiration.







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The Carson Top Shop Part 2

 

CARSON TOP SHOP part 2

 

The Carson Top Shop changed the scene in the 1940’s with their Padded Top design. Towards the 1950’s and up they excelled in state of the art full custom interiors.



In PART ONE of the Carson Top Shop story we concentrated mainly on the importance of the Carson Top Shop and their creation of the Padded top’s. How they had influenced the looks of the Custom Car scene in Southern California, and later in the rest of the US.

In part two we will concentrate on the other activity that was very important at the Carson Top Shop, creating custom made interiors. In fact creating custom interiors together with creating replacement soft tops was the main business for the shop until they developed the padded top, which became so popular in the 1940’s. After the popularity of the Carson Padded tops had slowed down a bit towards the end of the 1940’s and early 1950’s the shop started to spend some more time promoting the padded tops and other items for the very popular, at the time, Sports Cars.

The demand for the padded top slowly declined in the early 1950’s and towards the mid 1950’s fewer and fewer where done. The main focus for the shop from then on became interiors once again. Some of the top Custom Car builders, including Barris liked to send their cars to the Carson Top Shop. They did really great work, enhancing the looks of the Custom Cars, and from what we have heard they always delivered on time. Especially the last thing was often important since a lot of the Custom Cars were finished to debut at a specific car show, and the interior was usually one of the last things that needed to be done on the cars.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-campbell-01The Carson Top Shop did the upholstery on Marcia Campbell’s Barris Kustoms built 1942 Ford in 1950. Off white and tan were used and the carpets are a darker shade. The panels and seat centers are done in tuck&roll style and the separate feet panels have a diamond pattern, which was very popular for the lower sections and kick panels then.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-campbell-02Around 6 years later the same ’42 Ford coupe still had the same door panels, but it looks like the carpets have been replaced by some new units. This photo gives us a good look at how early 1950’s tuck&roll panels looked like, nice and round. Notice that an interior door handles has been added to the car in the meantime. Perhaps Marcia already installed those after having been trapped inside when the batteries had died, and there was no way to open the doors manually.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-larry-ernstBeautiful wide rolls in the Barris Kustoms created Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy. 
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-mg-armrest-adBesides leading the market in doing chopped padded tops for Customs and Hot Rods, Carson also did a lot of tops for Sports Cars. They offered padded tops for MG’s and Jaguars as standard items and could of course make a top for any Sports Custom at their shop. This Carson Top Shop ad also advertised the Custom Arm Rests and Custom carpets, mail order products.
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Hirohata Mercury

One of the very few original Carson Top Shop upholstered interiors that is still around and well documented is the interior the shop created for Bob Hirohata’s ’51 Mercury. When Jim McNiel bought the Hirohata Mercury in 1959-’60, the original interior was still in the car. It was worn already and after Jim had the car on the road for some time and from years of storage the interior was beyond repair when Jim started his restoration in the 1990’s. It most likely could have been restored and saved, but the white sections of the interior had yellowed so much over the years it just looked so much out of place with the new paint and fresh chrome. Instead Eddie Martinez, who was also doing this type interior in the 1950’s was asked to replicate it. But not the headliner. The original Carson Top Shop created headliner had always stayed out of direct sunlight and was still in very good shape. So that is the one original Carson piece that remains in the car after the restoration. There is also some material in the truck which is still original, but according the stories the trunk was mostly upholstered by Bill Gaylord. When the Hirohata Merc was nearly finished it was a rush to get the car ready to debut at the Petersen Motorama show in 1952. Carson would not be able to get the complete interior done, so Bill Gaylord was asked to do the trunk.


We are making upholstery and seat covers for the man who wants the best, and who wants something original.



The upholstery design of the Hirohata Mercury was rather traditional, especially compared with the wild exterior design. Three colors, dark green, a lighter grayish green and off white were the colors that were used. The one thing that really stood out, but was something that had been done before, were the length wise tuck&roll sections in the headliner. Those really made the car look big on the inside. And this is also something we have seen being used a lot after the Hirohata Merc had been published.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-hirohata-011952 photos of the Hirohata Mercury showing the wonderful three tone Carson Top Shop interior. The kick panels under the dash were done by Bill Gaylord, since a deadline needed to be made for the cars debut at the Petersen Motorama. The length-wise running pleats on the headliner make the car look much longer inside. A very clever design element.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-hirohata-02Sadly the seats and side panels were in the bad shape to be restored. Eddie Martinez redid most of the interior with the help of the original interior panelsto make sure everything is just as how it was done back in 1952.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-hirohata-03The great thing about the Hirohata mercury is that the original Carson Top Shop headliner is still in the car, and still looking very good. 
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Using different materials

In the early years most of the interior work had been done with Leatherette or Naugahyde, a plastic substitute for leather, material that looked very close to real leather, but was machine produced and much cheaper. The Carson Top shop had also worked a lot with leather on original car interior redo work as well as for customs. But back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Plastic was the magic word. A little later in the early 1950’s we see that the Carson Shop was using some different material in their upholstery. The did a lot of custom interiors using Frieze and Velour materials which had a nice soft matt appearance and combined them with the semi glossy leatherette material. (Frieze — a pile surface of uncut loops or of patterned cut and uncut loops.) The combination had a really nice classic, upscale look. Also very popular was the woven material with gold or silver metallic thread woven into it. One of the cars they used this metallic fabric in was the Louis Bettancourt ’49 Mercury. Later they also started using Boucle material in combination with leatherette. (Boucle — a fabric of uneven yarn that has an uneven knobby effect)

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-bettancourt-01Louis Bettancourt in his Carson Top Shop upholstered ’49 Mercury. Glen Houser used off white naugahyde and wine colored fabric with gold metallic thread woven into it for a great glistering look. The fabric panels were button tufted with white buttons and finished with white piping. Notice that the foot protection carpets are off white and with the popular diamond pattern.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-bettancourt-02The headliner in Louis car used the same material. The sides were done in the wine colored fabric with white piping and the center portion had lengthwise pleats. The whole look was very luxurious. 
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New Shop on Crenshaw

With less tops needed to be done the old shop on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles had become to big and the shop moved to 4717 South Crenshaw in 1954. The shop did continue to build the Padded Tops when they were requested, but by now the shop did not advertise the tops anymore. From the mid 1950’s they created several two part padded tops. The one they did for Bill Carr’s ’55 Chevy “the Aztec” was most likely the best known and most popular of this kind. The rear portion of the top looked very similar to an original padded top. But at the B-Pillars the top was split and usually a metal or chrome plated section was added. The front piece could very easily be removed and you could drive the car with an open top above the front eat, but still have the rear covered up.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-crenshaw-shopThe Carson Top Shop on 4717 South Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles around 1955.
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Liberace 1954 Cadillac

Liberace’s Cadillac had a full Custom interior designed by Bob Houser of the Carson Top Shop. Sam Barris also did some work on the car at the Barris Kustom Shop, but we cannot really call this one a Custom. The interior is also far from the full Custom interiors we are used to see from the Carson Top Shop. But the Music themed interior they created for Liberace was a big crowd pleaser, and it got the Carson shop a lot of ink. Which was well needed now the famous Padded Tops were not produced in the large numbers the shop was used.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-liberaces-03The Cadillac was barely customized, but the very unique interior, especially for that time made it a real crowd pleaser.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-liberaces-01The Carson Top Shop basically only created the new upholstery for the seats and some of the side panel details. But the fine tuck&roll on the door side panels is Cadillac Factory upholstery.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-liberaces-02

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-liberaces-04One of the many positive write ups about the Carson Top Shop created Music them interior in Liberace’s Cadillac.
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Ed Sloan 1953 Plymouth

The Barris shop created a really unique Custom Car for Ed Sloan out of an 1953 Plymout. A very unusual car to start with, but as usual the Barris crew knew exactly what to do to make this one look very good. When the car was almost done and painted in a two tone green it was up to the Carson Top Shop to enhance the unique exterior of the car. The shop created a really wonderful interior using Green Mohair button tufted with lime colored tuck&roll Naugahyde. The green mohair was tufted with white buttons and outlines with white piping. On the headliner they also used a Brocade cloth to outline the Naugahyde tuck & roll sections.


CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-ed-sloan-02George Barris and Ed Sloan.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-02Photo taken at the Barris shop shows how the seat base was chrome plated, and how the seats and door panels were upholstered in button tufted green mohair and lime tuck&roll Naugahyde panels. 
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-01Close up of the headliner shows how the tuck&roll sections are outlined with Brocade cloth piping, which cave the headliner a really unique look.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-ed-sloan-01The photo is faded, but it still shows that this car must have been really stunning inside and out.
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Jim Skonzakes Golden Sahara

One of the most elaborate full custom interiors the Carson Top Shop ever created was for Jim Skonzakes 1953 Lincoln based Golden Sahara. The car was created by the Barris Shop and when it came to the interior they teamed up with Carson to create a totally unique never before seen interior. The two shops joined efforts to create the totally home made dash, the rear wrap around seats and the cooling unit that also severed as mini bar.The Carson Top shop choice gold colored Boucle cloth white Naugahyde and off white carpets. The colors matched the white paint and coper plated details perfectly. The completed interior also include a TV, Tape Recorder, Radio, Telephone and Loudspeaker system.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-sahara-01Birds-eye view shows the wrap around seats in the back with the mini bar cooler unit in the center of the rer seat. The front seat backs had special racks to store the glasses.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-sahara-02Close up of the special glasses Jim used to display with the Golden Sahara.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-sahara-03This great color slide shows really well how elaborate the Carson Top Shop work was on the Golden Sahara interior. Gold colored Boucle cloth white white Naugahyde.
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Bill Carr 1955 Chevy the Aztec

The Carson Top shop created the full interior and the two part padded top for Bill DeCarr’ ’55 Chevy named “The Aztec”. They used a really beautiful copper colored frieze material combined with white naugahyde. The copper frieze on the seats and door panels was button tufted with white buttons and the naugahyde was added with horizontal rolls. The top portion of the dash was padded and covered with tuck&roll.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-aztec-01The top portion of the dash was padded and upholstered in white tuck&roll naugahyde. Even the sunvisors were fully upholstered with tuck& roll.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-aztec-02Rare photo showing the beautiful upholstery on the inside of the two part padded top.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-aztec-03Model Kipp De Mott shows that the interior is not just beautiful, but also very comfortable. The Aztec is still around today, completely restored by Barry Mazza and Bob Nitty. The interior was completely gone when they found the car, and they had a hard time to find photos showing all the details, and then finding the right material to recreate it as accurate as possible.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-rc-replace-01

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-rc-replace-02The July ’55 issue of Rod 7 Custom Magazine had a massive  almost 7 page article on how to replace a convertible top told by Glenn Houser from the Carson Top Shop.  It showed how you could replace a soft top by yourself. But of course Carson hoped the extra attention would draw new clients for this work to his shop, and it most likely did create some new business.
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The last Carson Padded top

In 1965 the last Carson Padded top was produced. For the Ford Custom Car Caravan several Ford cars were customized by the famous Custom Builders of the time. And for one of them, the Ford Galaxy, that Bill Cushenberry created on a 1963 Ford Galaxie Convertible, the Carson shop created a two part padded top. It would be the very last real Carson Top Shop padded top they created. There was no demand for such tops anymore, and the fine-grained white canvas that the shop used for the tops was no longer produced.



CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-last-carson-topBill Cushenberry created the 1963 Ford Galaxy “Astro” which would later get the  very last Carson Padded Top. 
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-last-carson-top-02The last padded top the Carson Top Shop created was the two part top they created from the mid 1950’s and up. This photo shows the Ford with the front section removed.
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Around this time the shops main business was installing vinyl tops for local car dealers and individual customers. They still did some soft tops, interior work and Tonneau covers, but the hay-days were over. Glen Houser passed away in ’69 and left the business to his son Robert (Rob) Houser.

In the early 1970’s Rob Houser was asked to restore an original Carson Top Shop Padded Top. Apperentley Rob was able to find some of the old canvas material and was able to create the top. But then one thing was still missing, the tag. None of the original tags could be found, the shop had not been using them for years, and if there had any left they were gone by now. The owner of the top really wanted to have and Carson Top Shop tag on the top, so they had some new tags created.  The company who did them asked for a minimal order, which was quite a lot. After the restoration project was finished some of these extra tags where given to friends, other where sold. These ’70s tags still can be found from time to time. The recreated tags are a bit different from the original ones. 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.

Carson Top ShopThe 1970′ reproduced Carson Top Shop tag.
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The shop is now gone for several decades, but the Carson name and its influence in the Custom Car scene are far from gone. In the last couple of years we see a blooming interest in the recreation of traditional styled padded tops. Not just tops that look a bit like the original tops, not people study the old techniques, the old photos and recreate the tops with the same style, technique and if at all possible same material as in the 1950’s and ’50’s.



The Case for Custom Upholstery. Motor Trend,April 1953

Motor Trend’s Robert L. Behme interviewed Glen Houser in early 1953 for his series of on-the-spot interviews of men in the custom car field. This story was published in the April 1953 issue of Motor Trend Magazine.


CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-MT-april-53-start


SCENE: Carson Top Shop, Los Angeles, California. Bob Behme has just entered, and Glen leaves his workbench, wiping his hands on his coveralls, as he greets Bob.

GLEN: Hello, Bob. What brings you here today?

BOB: Glen, I’m here today, because MOTOR TREND is running a series of interviews with the men in the custom automobile field. Along with Dale Runyan, you are one of the leaders in the custom top and upholstery, field. I’d like to ask you a few questions which I hope will give some of our readers enough information to know what to expect both in price and workmanship when they order custom upholstery.

GLEN: That’s’ fine with me. Fire away.

BOB: A good beginning would probably be seat covers. The first thing I think of when upholstery is mentioned is seat covers. Are ready-made seat covers a good deal?

GLEN: That’s’ hardly the right way to ask the question, Bob. Ready-made seat covers fill a definite need, but they are like anything that is ready-made. They are made for a normal car – and no car is normal. Each seat is, different. Because of this, ready-made seat covers are bound to have a few discrepancies. Another thing – there are only a few fabrics to choose from, and there are only a few designs to buy. That is why guys like me are in business. We create something just a little more nearly perfect – something just a little different. We are not catering to the man who wants to save a few pennies. We can’t do that and stay in business. Instead, we are making upholstery and seat covers for the man who wants the best, and who wants something original.

 

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-MT-april-53-03To illustrate the article several samples were used. This one shows the seat and kick paneld the Carson Tops Shop created for the Bob Hirohata Mercury.
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BOB: I see your point, Glen, and I stand corrected. Suppose I change my tack and ask you about fabrics best suited to custom seat covers?

GLEN: These are a good many, Bob, but to name a few – Saran, Lederan, and Firestone’s Velon are all good. Fabrics for custom seat covers come in any color, and in many plaids and designs. They’d cost about $35 or $45 installed.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-matranga-mercFor Nick Matranga’s Barris Kustoms built  ’40 Mercury they used maroon and off white with wonderful wide rolls and an unique pattern on the doors. The white piping around the seats and dark colored carpets make the interior really special.
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BOB: Okay. Let’s switch to a discussion of tops. Take that beat-up hard top of mine that’s lounging outside. Can that be covered with fabric?

GLEN: Yes, and as you probably know, a lot of car owners are doing that very thing. A hardtop can be covered with the same material used on convertible tops. It comes in blue, green, tan, maroon, and white. If your car is a late model, the fabric can go on right over the metal top without any holes.

BOB: How do you do this?

GLEN: The chrome moldings around the windows and doors are removed, and after the material is sewn together, it is stretched over the roof and tucked under these areas. Once it fits snugly, the molding is put back into place. This holds the top in place. On the earlier cars, the ’36, ’37, and ’38 models, there often is no such molding, and we must drill a few holes to fasten the fabric on with metal screws. On a late car, the fabric could be removed without a mark, but with the earlier cars, the screw holes must be filled with lead if the top is ever removed. The cost for a fabric top would run between $125 and $175, depending upon the car.

BOB: You just can’t talk about tops very long until the conversation naturally seems to drift to the Carson Top. They are now made for all cars, aren’t they?

GLEN: Yes, they are. Carson Tops are now available for many of the foreign cars, including the Jaguar and the MG, – as well as for our own American-made automobiles.

BOB: When you make a Carson Top you use all new parts, don’t you?

GLEN: Almost all new, Bob. Everything is new except the front bow. The top is fastened to the body by two bolts in the rear, and by the original convertible bow on the windshield. The Carson Top is formed over a framework of metal bows and the bows are welded to the convertible bow in the front. The framework is covered with several layers of jute, fabric, cotton, and stuffing. The outside material is normally of a convertible top sports material. We cover all buttons with a flap and roll.

BOB: Don’t such tops offer a choice of rear window designs?

GLEN: Yes, they do. They can be purchased with either the standard opening type of window in either plastic or glass, or in the popular Coupe de Ville in heavy or light-weight plastic..

BOB: Hey, just a minute. By Coupe de Ville, do you mean the wrap-around windows?

GLEN: That’s just the style I mean. It is known by many names -Riviera, Coupe de Ville, or wrap-around. The price of a Carson Top depends on the style of windows and the style of interior upholstery. A top with the open style windows and a plain interior starts at $200 for any car over a ’42 with the exception of the foreign cars. American autos older than ’42’s usually run about $175. ’36 and ’37 coupes are smaller and cost only $155.

BOB: I know the Carson Top is not a folding top. Is it difficult to remove?

GLEN: No. It’s almost as easy to deal with as a folding top. You can install a hoist in the garage rafters and lift the top, or two people can easily pick it off the car and store it against the garage wall.

BOB: Folding tops are still pretty popular. I presume the remarks you made about the ready-made seat covers applies to a ready-made top too.

GLEN: Yes, they do. A fellow can save money by purchasing a ready-made top for about $40, but he can never get the fit of a custom top. After a convertible has been driven for a few months, the bows begin to warp. A top has to be made for the bows to fit snugly and to look really good.

BOB: Attractiveness is not the only advantage of a custom top is it?

GLEN: No The customer is usually a craftsman. He takes pride in putting on extras which make his product last longer, as well as look better. All fasteners would be covered with a flap and the edges would be rolled. Wearing points would probably be covered with extra layers of fabric. Prices start at $65, and given proper care such a top should last a good long time.

BOB: Ah, there you’ve come up with a moot point! Just what is proper care?

GLEN: First of all, a convertible should be kept in a garage, out of the sun at all times when it is not in use. If the-top is moist it should be dried thoroughly before it is folded. When it is washed it should never be washed with anything stronger than white Ivory soap. The top should be brushed regularly, and after one year it should be coated.

BOB: What sort of coating do you recommend?

GLEN: There are many good products The one we use here is called Seal-it. We like it because it is a dye which can be used to color the top fabric any shade the owner chooses It is water repellent yet it never seems to make the fabric hard or shiny.

BOB: The folding top is not upholstered but both the hard tops and the Carson Tops have upholstered head linings don’t they?

GLEN: Yes they are usually upholstered in either a welting or a piping.

BOB: Hold on a minute Glen. Set me straight, will you? I know that welting is the small fold that goes along the creases, but tell me what is this piping?

GLEN: Pipings are large tucks on the seats and side panels and head lining which are stuffed to give a series of half-circle rolls. Most- of the time, head linings are piped in a two-tone effect – say an all-over white fabric with a few rolls of green for accent. This is really a nice effect, but it seems to look best on customs. It doesn’t come off on a stock car. A stock looks best with either a single tone piping or the more sedate welting.

BOB: Just how much work does an upholsterer get into when he installs a new head lining?

GLEN: He gets into quite a lot of work. It is a very difficult task to perform properly. The standard lining is removed and heavy 3/8-inch steel bows are installed across the inside of the roof. The upholsterer then makes a pattern of the inside of the roof and begins making the lining on his bench. Wires are put through each of the folds or pipes on the back. When the top is completed on the bench, it is taken to the car and the wires are strung through the bows. This is important because the use of the bows and wires keeps the lining tight and snug. The job should cost about $75 if welting is used and about $125 if the top is piped.

BOB: It seems as if the pipe and roll on seats and tops are becoming very popular. What is the most popular size of piping?

GLEN: At the moment – here in the West, anyway – the small two-inch pipe with a fairly large ‘horseshoe’ roll coming around the edges of the seats down to the floor is most popular. The small piping seems to look best and because it is tightly sewn, it seems to wear better than the larger piping.

BOB: When upholstering the seats, you completely rebuild them, don’t you?

GLEN: That’s right. We remove the upholstery and restyle it along the customer’s designs. The exterior is sewn on a bench, then, placed on the seat frame and padded to give roundness and softness. Prices should start about $250 if side panels and kick panels are included.

BOB: Can a fellow get this done for less if he has only the seats upholstered?

GLEN: Sure, he could have the seats upholstered for about $175, but he wouldn’t really be saving money. Sooner or later he will want the door panels and the kick panels covered, and it will be another $90 to $100. If he has this done along with the seats, the upholsterer can cut all the material from one bolt with a greater saving in fabric and labor, and he can pass this saving along to the customer.


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BOB: Is there much demand for padded dashes now?

GLEN: There is not as much demand for them as there was. It seems to be going out of style slowly, although we have recently done several ‘Kaiser’, type crash rolls. The upper half of the dash is padded with a heavy, soft ‘crash roll,’ while the lower area is chromed. This is quite striking. Some sports-type cars look good with a completely upholstered dash. A partial dash would cost about $35. Chroming shouldn’t run over $15 or $20.

BOB: Is a completely upholstered dash limited only to sports-type cars?

GLEN: No, but it’s a tricky thing to design. It should be limited to cars with a rather plain dash design. The late model Fords and Chevys take to it rather well. Most foreign cars look good. The toughest part of padding a foreign car is the work involved in removing and replacing the instruments. On either the American or foreign cars, it would run between $35 and $50.

BOB: Many fellows like the advantage of an arm rest in either the front or rear seat. Do you recommend a fixed or removable arm rest?

GLEN: I recommend the removable arm rest for two reasons, Bob. First, it is easier to construct, and thus is less expensive, and second, the removable arm rest can be upholstered without causing bulges and wrinkles. The arm rests are built of wood and upholstered in fabric. The fabric usually matches the seats—if the seats are a pipe and roll, then the arm is identical. This would cost about $25 or $30 plain.

BOB: What do you mean by ‘plain’?

GLEN: All arm rests are hollow. They can be used for storage, but many fellows are converting their arm rests into a bar. To do this, the top is hinged and inside padded. A bar arm rest costs about $50. If the arm rest extends down to the floor, as many do, it would probably cost about $75. Rear seat arm rests cost the same as those for the front.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-MT-april-53-02The Custom removable arm rest the Carson Top Shop produced. This was one of the products you could order by mail in the color of your choice.
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BOB: Are tire covers limited to older American cars and popular foreign makes?

GLEN: Oh, no. Many owners who have installed continental kits are changing from the metal tire cover to sports fabric because it gives a more sporty look. The cover should cost about $12.

BOB: At this point it seems natural to turn to tonneau covers. They are very adaptable, aren’t they? I wouldn’t consider them limited to smaller sports cars.

GLEN: Tonneau covers improve the looks of almost any convertible. But more than that, they offer protection against the elements when the top is down. There are many variations of the tonneau cover. First, there is the ‘full’ tonneau. This fits from the back, the rear seat, up over the windshield and down, to snap around the sides. It protects the upholstery from the sun and moisture. The second design — perhaps the most popular — starts at the back seat and ends at the windshield. With the windows rolled up, it offers good protection from the dew, and with the exception of the open windshield, it is excellent protection from the sun’s rays. The third design is a half tonneau. It merely covers’ the rear seat. The full tonneau costs about $50. The second type, ending at the windshield, costs about $37, and the half-tonneau should cost about $27.

BOB: This should sum up the upholstery interview pretty well, shouldn’t it, Glen?

GLEN: I think so. This should be enough information so that anyone can know how to get his money’s worth. One important point, however, is that custom upholstery and top work result in a handmade product. The quality and taste of that product depend upon the man who does the work. Before buying seats, tops, or any work, it is best that the prospective purchaser inspect the upholsterer’s past work. There are many top-notch men in the business, but there are also a few ‘rag pickers’ who do not care about quality. If the car owner will pick his workman with care, the upholstery or top should leave nothing to be desired in appearance, and should last a long, long time.”



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References and more info

  • Blue Book of Custom Restyling, book Dan Post
  • Speed and Power Handbook, booklet 1947-49
  • Motor Trend, magazine April, 1953
  • Rod & Custom, magazine July, 1955
  • Street Rodder, magazine, April, 1989
  • Rod & Custom, magazine August, 1991 (The Carson Top Story by Greg Sharp)
  • The American Custom Car, book Pat Ganahl 2001
  • The Big Book of Barris, book 2002
  • Barris Kustom Techniques of the 1950’s, books
  • Rodders Journal, magazine issue 12
  • Coachbuilt.com, website

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Got To PART ONE of the story on the Carson Top Shop.






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Bonneville via Custom

 

BONNEVILLE via CUSTOM

 

In 1953 Car Craft editor Dick Day joined Chuch DeWitt on his trip in his Barris Custom 1950 Ford convertible to the Bonneville Speed Trials. Custom Car Road-Trip, Bonneville via Custom.


Taking  a long road trip in a full Custom Car has always been something special. We know that most of the Custom Cars – up to the rise of the major car shows in the mid ’50’s – were often used for daily transport, and also for the longer trips. I have heard personal stories of Jim Skonzakes who took his ’41 Ford convertible and ’49 Buick full customs on trips all across the US and several times from Dayton Ohio to Los Angeles. Jim also drove the Jack Stewart Ford from Los Angeles to his home in Dayton. Jimmy Summers drove his full Custom 1940 Mercury all over the place together with his friend Doane Spencer in his famous 1932 Ford Roadster. We have heard about Marcia Campbell driving here ’42 Ford Coupe long distances, and many more stories that were told about these long full Custom Car road trips back in the ’40’s and ’50’s. Great stories about these guys and girls driving their dream cars, enjoying the cars in their natural habitat. Sadly only very few of these stories were  published back in the time these trips happened. The most famous road-trip story in a full Custom Car must have been the Kross Kountry trip in the Hirohata Mercury as it was published in the October ’53 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine. This published stories most likely inspired many young guy to go on similar road trips with their friends and Custom Cars.

One other published Road-trip story in a full custom that made an impact, but is often overlooked these days was in the December ’53 issue of Car Craft Magazine. Car Craft Associate Editor Dick Day documented a road trip he took with Chuck DeWitt and a friend in Chuck’s Barris Kustoms created 1950 Ford convertible from Los Angeles to the ’53 Bonneville Speed-Trials. A 1600 miles round trip documented in 6 pages, with some nice on-the-road photos of Chuck DeWitt’s beautiful Fuschia-Orchid-Metallic painted Carson topped convertible.

Chuck DeWitt’s 1950 Ford Convertible was restyled at the Barris Shop in ’52-early ’53. According the Barris Kustoms Technique book Chuck had already replaced the stock Ford engine with a hopped up Mercury unit and he had driven the car up to 118 mph before he took it to the Barris brothers for the full Custom treatment. Chopped windshield, ’53 Pontiac taillights in modified wind-splits, custom grille surround, typical Barris built grille, custom side trim using ’52 Buick and ’53 Olds component, a beautiful deep organic purple paint job and a white perfectly shaped padded top by the Carson Top Shop.



The Car Craft Article

CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-car-craft-articleThe December 1953 issue of Car Craft Magazine 6 page article on the trip from Los Angeles to Bonneville in the Barris Kustom Shop built Chuck DeWitt 1950 Ford full Custom.
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Bonneville via custom

– Transcript of the December 1953 Car Craft magazine article –

By Dick Day

What happens when you take a radical customized car away from it weekly mooring at the local drive-in, and head it out onto the open highway for a sixteen-hundered mile trip? These weremy personal thoughts as I slid into the plush interior of Chuck deWitt’s beautifully restyled ’59 Ford convertible and departed for the Bonneville National Speed Trials.

As I sat wondering what experience lay in store for use, considering the car’s roadability, comfort and the reception it would receive from the neighboring states, CHuck began relating some of the car’s technical points. The body itself has undergone some very extensive alterations by the Barris Custom Shop of Lynwood, California. The top has been  chopped three and three-quarter inches and replaced with a beautiful white padded Carson type lid. Inside, the little jewel is one mass of soft airfoam, covered with black and white rolled and pleated leatherette upholstering, which at the time was providing itself most comfortable. A quick overall summery of the car could be it has the distinction of being one of the “Ten Best Customs in the Country”.


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Our first stop for gas proved to be a ritual that was to follow us throughout the entire trip. It was the question and answer routine that every radical custom owner goes through with the average gas station attendant and his assistants. It runs like this: “Where’s the gas filler spout? How come you got it positioned in the trunk? How do you get inside without door handles? What color paint do you call this? The most pointed comment of all referred to the ground clearance, which was four-and-a-half inches all the way around, “What happens when you drive over a piece of gravel?” Once back on the highway again, we checked out the added weight necessitated by the trip and figured that the already taxed suspension was supporting approximately seven hundred punds. This included the passengers, as limited amount of camera and clothing gear and thirty gallons of gasoline. A third of this weight was towards the rear of the car. Chuck has installed in the rear deck compartment a thirteen gallon auxiliary tank for just such trips as this. When combined with the stock tank’s petrol capacity, the car is able to travel an average of Five-hundred miles without stopping for gas. This for non-stop purpose works out wonderfully, but for a car that has been drastically lowered, the extra pounds of the gas added to the rear of the car, can spell the difference between a comfortable ride and one that feels as though the body was bolted to the rear axle.

CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-trip-03Chuck De Witt’s Ford at one of the stops during the trip.
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We negotiated about every type of road surface conceivable, except possibly one of a muddy nature (thanks, but no thanks). The car responded differently with each one. On a smooth surface the car’s response to bottoming was nil, but herex as larger amount of rocking and pitching from side to side was encountered at speeds in excess of fifty miles per hour. This action could be suppressed considerably, in Chuck’s case, by installing a sway bar at the rear of the car to counteract the radical side sway ad spring twisting action. On a tar-strip road the car averaged out a ride nearly equal to that of any standard production model.

A twisty mountainous road, for approximately thirty-five miles, was under construction and proved one of the most interesting roadability tests of the entire trip. The surface was of a granite gravel substance, just about ready to receive its asphalt top coating. To add a little incentive to the whole bit, a highway construction truck pulled in behind us at the summit. To stay in front of him we had to average a good fifty-five miles an hour or otherwise we’d be forced to eat dust from his rear wheels. Rocks being trown back could easily have damaged the paint on the front of the car. Strangely as it may seem, this was the smoothest ride of the whole trip, but jst a bit clamorous. Small rocks and gravel were bounding off the underneath side of the car like bullets. When we reached the floor of the canyon and the pavement once more, we stopped to examine the lower edge of the body for damages. No dents were visible, but Chuck now owned to of the most beautiful sandblasted rear fender skirts that I had ever seen. The gravel had obliterated all paint from the lower leading edge of each fender skirt.

At this point of the trip we should have realized that all had done too well, for from her on the highway was simulated obstacle course for the custom’s suspension. The ride that we had been enjoying without any aches and pains for the last four or five hundred miles went sour. The road pattern went something like this: sharp turns with wrong cambers, straight stretches had tapers from the middle of the road down to the shoulder that made us think we were running on the outside of an amusement park motordrome. Then to test Chuck’s driving skill without the price of a nickel, every fifteen or twenty feet a small knoll or slight pocket would appear for either the left of the right side of the car to go skimming over or dive into. By placing one hand up against the headliner, the left leg around the steering column and stuffing the right foot into the heater I could retain my position without too much hassle. We didn’t mind this too much because we knew it could have been worse. I could have lost the freedoms of my right arm which would have been cut off our supply of cigarettes and matches!

At Bonneville the car attracted almost as much attention as the famous 256 mph Kenz streamliner. It also gave many out of state spectators their first opportunity to see a radically customized car in the flesh.

The return trip home was repetitious of the first eight hundered miles, except for a slipping fan belt that necessitated repairs shade tree style. From this point it was only a matter of hours ’til we were rolling into Los Angeles and the cross-country trip in one of America’s outstanding restyled custom cars was coming to an end. The big question was “did the custom fail for roadability?”

This writer interpretation could be summarized possibly like this: the roadability and comfort depended largely on the condition of the road and at what speed we were traveling. This particular cars’s handling qualities were below average because drastic sacrifices were made on the front and rear suspension units to lower it to the desired level. At the same time comfort was destined to suffer from the fact that the car bottomed easier. Lately there have been some revised devices for lowering a car to a maximum degree without sacrificing handling qualities, and bottoming troubles have proved practically nil. In the near future Car Craft will feature these stories in a step-by-step version of ho they were performed.

The question, “did the car meet with any reception”? is fairly east to answer. I ‘ve never until now, found anything that would attract the attention of a die-hard gambler at a hot die table, nor anything to sway the one arm bandit friend to pear away from a triple plum, but DeWitt’s Ford had ’em falling out the doors from one end of Nevada to the other.

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CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-trip-02They made it to the Bonneville Salt Flats for the 1953 Speed Trials.
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CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-trip-barris-spreadThe Barris Kustom technique book shared this really great photo of Chuck driving the Ford in Las Vegas watched by a young kid on the side walk. Who knows seeing Chuck’s deep purple custom might have changed this kid forever…
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CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-trip-06Dick Day and Chuck made many photos of the Ford during the road-trip, some of them were used in Dick Day’s published article. This side view shows the low stance of the car and the beautiful shape of the Carson Top Shop created padded top.
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CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-via-custom-color-rhkFrom my own personal collection comes this rather faded and discolored photo taken at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1953. The deep purple paint must have looked absolutely stunning on the white salt.
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CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-via-custom-color02-rhkRear quarter view shows some of the people at the event taking special notice of Chuck’s Custom Ford. Notice the location of the antenna on the rear splash pan.
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CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-via-custom-color-trjThis is one of the best color photos of the Chuck DeWitt’s Ford that we know about. It was also taken at the ’53 Speed Trial event at Bonneville. It shows that the car sure made an impact with several photographers.
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Chuck’s Ford next to the Barris Kustom Auto bodies Chat Herbert “Beast” lakester.
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CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-trip-07Several more glamour photos were also taken to accompany the road-trip photos in the article. Some made it to the final cut, others not. This low angle front view gives us a great look at the well designed front end on Chuck’s Ford with the molded in round tube grille opening and unique Barris grille. Notice the Southern California letters in the windshield, a typical trend in the 1940’s and early 1950’s when the car owners proudly listed the school they were at, or went to. 
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CCC-chuck-dewitt-bonneville-trip-05Barris created the stunning looking rear of Chuck’s Ford using 1953 Pontiac taillights set into extended and reshaped wind-spilts. Both front and rear bumpers are 1951 Ford an use Kaiser overriders. The rear units were modified with exhaust tips in the bullets.
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I wish there were many more articles published like this Bonneville trip and the one of the Hirohata Mercury Cross Country trip to Indianapolis. Road trips in the 1940’s and early 1950’s with Custom Cars. Road trips with many snapshots taken during the trip. Snapshots from people admiring the cars along the trip, snapshots taken from the car capturing the experience these guys had back then. And of course the stories about the trip itself. If you have ever been on a long road trip in a Custom Car, or know about some of the old guys who took trips like this back in the 40’s or 50’s. Please let us know. We would love to hear them, and share them here on the Custom Car Chronicle in our Road-Trip section.

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Resources and more info

  • Car Craft, Magazine December 1953
  • Barris Kustoms Techniques of the 50’s, Book volume 2, 1996

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Neil Emory 1937 Dodge

 

Neil Emory 1937 Dodge

 

In the late 1930s early 1940s a young Neil Emory created a stunning Custom out of a 1937 Dodge Convertible Coupe. It was his very first Custom, many more great Customs would follow…



As a young teenager Neil Emory created all kinds of jobs to make some extra money. One of these jobs was detailing cars at the Warner Brothers studio. Neil got permission to get in the special VIP parking places and ask the owners of these fine automobiles if he could clean detail and gas up their cars. The business went really well for Neil, so well he had to ask a friend to help him out.

CCC-stock-1937-dodge-01A stock 1937 Dodge Convertible Coupe similar to what Neil Emory started with in 1939. Its not an ugly car to start with, but with Neil’s eye for style an balance he was able to create a stunning Custom out of it.
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CCC-neil-emory-37-dodge-03Lowered headlights, smoothed hood and hood sides, ripple disk hubcaps on wide white wall tires, teardrop fender skirts and a beautifully shaped Padded Top.
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Neil Emory’s first Custom

One of the cars he was detailing was a 1937 Dodge Convertible Coupe. The car belonged to a Director at Warner Brothers, Lloyd Bacon’s daughter. The car was a gift for here 21th birthday. Around 6 moth later the daughter got married and Neil was able to buy the car for $600. Neil was just 15 years old when she got married this was 1938, perhaps early 1939 the exact dates are unsure. It was Neil’s first car.


CCC-neil-emory-37-dodge-01I really love this rear 3/4 photo of Neil’s Dodge. It shows the wonderful shapes of the car and gives us a great feel of how it must have been driving such a great looking car on the Californian streets in the early 1940’s.
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Not long after that Neil Emory started another business, lowering cars. He started to produce shackles of different lengths and he would make appointments with customers to be at a service station where Neil would take his tools with his 1937 Dodge and lower the customers car on the spot. Of course he had lowered his own Dodge with his own shackles as well, which was good for rolling advertisement. He also installed some aftermarket ripple disk hubcaps with beauty-rings on a set of wide white wall tires. Around this time Neil Emory and a couple of buddies also ran a gas station where he started to tinkered with cars for his friends and teachers.

Neil was able to do more work on his Dodge in shop class during high school, here he was able to use the much better school tools than what he had himself. Here he shaved the trunk and added the double set-in license plates behind glass. The right one for a Throttle Stompers club plaque and the one on the left for the license plate.

CCC-neil-emory-37-dodge-02Close up of the smoothed rear of the car with the double set-in glass covered license plates, the 1938 Ford teardrop taillights and the Buick teardrop shaped fender skirt that could be mounted becuase Neil had removed the bead around the Dodge rear fender wheel opening.
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Neil removed the lip around the rear fender wheel opening so that he could mount the Buick skirts. He also removed the stock taillights and replaced them with teardrop shaped 1938 Ford units.  The bumpers both front and rear are stock with an accessory center bumper guard added. The headlight stances were removed from the grille sides, and new once created to fit on the fenders. This allowed Neil to drop the headlights nice and low, which made the car look lower, and he grille taller. He created smooth hood sides and removed the hood ornament and trim for a much smoother look.

Neil had Burbank Auto Body chop the windshield and then drove the car to the Carson Top Shop to have a perfectly shaped Padded Top created for the Dodge. The shape of the top is really fantastic and folows the shape of the rear of the body really well. The side window opening that the Carson Top Shop created is also very nice with a wonderful flow on the rear top corners, but more flowing than most of the tops we have seen from the Carson Shop. Neil also created a set of roll down side windows in a frame, to fit the new padded top for the car. He ended up painting the car a solid supper glossy black lacquer. Neil married in 1942, and before their son Gary Emory was born he sold the Dodge and replaced it with an 1936 Ford 3-window coupe in late 1942. They never saw the Dodge again after that, and nobody seams to remember what ever happened to the car.

CCC-neil-emory-37-dodge-04Side view shows the really nice profile of the Carson Top, and especially the window shape. This side view photo shows the side window with frame in the rolled down position.
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CCC-neil-emory-37-dodge-05This photo really shows the beauty of this car very well. It also shows the side windows with the frames in the rolled up position. The stance and the fact the door handles are still in place are all styling elements from the early 1940’s.
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Dean Batchelor

It was Neil Emory’s first Custom Car that he created. Later in 1948 Neil and Clayton Jensen would open the Valley Custom Shop in Burbank and would write history with their finely designed and crafted Custom Cars. Neil’s 1937 Dodge already showed his great sense for style and balance very early on. Fortunately some nice photos have survived of the car. Neil’s good friend Dean Batchelor always had his camera handy and shot every car he liked, and also took several photos of Neil’s Dodge in the early 1940’s. As far as we know only four photos remain of Neil’s Dodge and all these photos were taken by Dean Batchelor.

CCC-neil-emory-37-dodge-RC-01In the very first issue of Rod and Customs magazine, May 1953 Dean Batchelor did a three page article on Pre-War Customs, he used two of the photos he had taken of his friends Neil Emory’s 1937 Dodge.
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Dean used four of the photos he took of Neil’s Dodge in several publications, starting with the premier issue of Rod and Custom magazine, May 1953. This very first issue was named Rod and Customs, the second issue the title was renamed Rod and Custom. Dean would create several articles on Pre-War Customs and liked to use Neil’s Dodge as a good sample of the early style Customs. Most likely another good reason to use this car as a sample was to show that not every early custom was based on a FoMoCo or GM based car. Only four of Dean’s photos show the dodge, but Gary Emory hopes to one day find some more photos of his fathers first custom. Ron Kellogg now owns the Dean Batchelor enormous photo collection… time will tell if more photos of this historic custom will surface… we sure hope so.


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Barter Collection 40 Merc

 

BARTER COLLECTION 40 MERC

 

Jamie Barter recently added these four old photos of an 1940 Mercury Convertible Custom to his Collection.

 
Jamie Barter loves early style Hot Rod and Custom Car, and has been collecting old photos for many years. Fortunately for us, he loves to share these photos. He is not, like some collectors, keeping them in private files, but he scans the originals and shares them with as many people as possible. Just sharing the things he loves, knowing other people will enjoy them as much as he does, and sometimes to see if somebody else knows more about the subject of the photo. We have recently added a CCC-SECTION for Jamie’s Photo Collection and we will be sharing some more of his collection in the near future.
 
 
Lets take a closer look at the four photos Jamie recently added to his collection.
At first glance these photos have a very much late 1940’s feel, but when I took a closer look I noticed that the License plate on the Mercury was the 1952-55 Style. I could not make out the actual date from the scans so I asked Jamie if he could see it on the original photo. 1953! was his reply. Not really what we both expected, we both had the feeling it was more like 1948. So it appears that this Custom Mercury was already kind of outdated when these snapshots were taken.

So far we also have not been able to identify the car, it is a pretty “generic” Custom with no real details that set it apart from others making it rather hard to identify. The only two items I can see that might help are the 1940 Chevy taillights and the license plate protection bar. The padded top looks to be in a style that the Carson Top Shop was best known for, a little more boxy than what Gaylord or others would do. Most likely made on the special jig the Carson Shop was using for these tops. All the work looks to be done several prior to when these photos where taken, most likely in the mid 1940’s judging the style of the restyling.

CCC-jpb-1940-merc-convert-03This rear 3/4 view is my personal favorite since we cannot see that the hood is actual missing in this photo.
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CCC-jpb-1940-merc-convert-01The taillights used on the Mercury appear to originate from a 1940 Chevy, not a taillight that was used a lot. But they do look good. The license plate guard is another unit that is not seen a lot, and is one more thing that makes me believe this is an older custom. The 1937 DeSoto ribbed bumper is a classic touch, that suits any 1940 Mercury really well.
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CCC-jpb-1940-merc-convert-02The interior photo is sadly a bit blurry, but we still can make out the Ford accessory steering wheel, the Appleton Spotlight handles and a pretty plain upholstery, another indication that this is an older Custom. 
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CCC-jpb-1940-merc-convert-04The last photo, the front 3/4 shot shows that the car was driving around with no hood and no grille. We can only speculate why this was done. Perhaps the owner was a racer, perhaps the “old” engine was overheated a lot. We can see a two carb intake, and some chrome goodies on the engine. The left on door handles and the well used character are more signs of the age of this Custom.
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Thank you Jamie for sharing these great photos with us, and hopefully somebody on the CCC will recognize the car, and can shed some more light on the history of it. We all would love to know more about it, who owned it originally, who restyled it, and where were the photos taken? If you know anything, please leave a comment, or email Rik.
 
 
 
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Mystery Barris 49 Merc

 

MYSTERY BARRIS 49 MERC

 

This typical 1980’s styled Custom 1949 Mercury convertible is part of the Henry Ford Museum. With its replica Barris crest and typical late 80s custom styling elements it looks very much like it was built during the custom car revival of the 1980’s… but is it?



This article was updated with new information on June 16, 2015. Scroll down to below the Henry Ford Museum logo to find the update information.


Original from June 10, 2015
Recently I have received some new information about this 1949 Mercury Convertible that is part of the Henry Ford Museum that indicate this might be an original 1950’s Barris Kustoms created car. Steve Tansy send us a few photos of the Mystery Barris 49 Merc, when he started to restore the car. As well as a bit of the story as he knows it. Right now I have not been able to trace the car’s complete history, and I’m not 100% sure it is an original Barris Kustoms created car with Carson Padded Top and interior. However all the signs we have seen and heard so far look like it really is an original Barris Custom from the early 1950’s. Hopefully with the help of this article we will be able to get in touch with people who might know a bit more about the history, and how it got from the West Coast to the East Coast of the US.


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This is the story as we know it so far.

Bob Larivee owned an 1941 Ford long door coupe with full fade away fenders which was originally owned by Don Reid of Salinas in the early 1950’s. He traded this Ford to Dr. Barry David in Detroit in 1985, and part of the trade was an unrestored 1949 Mercury convertible with padded top. Barry found this car in Hemmings in 1981. He purchased it from a gentleman in Hartford, Connecticut.Pete Marriott of Lake Orion, Mi. Did the majority of the work on the initial restoration. Barry stripped the paint and took the car apart but “Big Pete” did the metal work. After the car was in primer Bob came along with the 1941 Ford and a deal was made. After Bob brought the 1949 Mercury convertible home he removed the Barris Kustom crests and Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag that was on the header of the padded top for his own personal collection. Steve Tansy was then asked to do a full rebuilt/restoration on the Mercury. Bob never mentioned, back in 1985, that he had removed the barris crests and interior tag, and at the time there was no other information about the car available. It was just a nice chopped Mercury convertible in need of restoration.


CCC-ford-museum-49-mercury-01This is how the Mercury looked when Steve started the restoration in the 1980’s. Barry David already installed a more “modern” interior that was going to be back dated at a later point.
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CCC-ford-museum-49-mercury-02Taillight openings on the rear fender look similar to what was used on the Louis Betancourt Mercury created by the Ayala brothers. 
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The original grille that came with the car was to far gone to be used. According the Steve he took the easy way out and installed a corvette grille. The car was painted dark blue metallic with light blue white pinstriped scallops. In a typical way for the era. A set of replica Barris Crests was added to the car at a later point. After the restoration was completed Bob offered it to be displayed at the Henry Ford Museum, and later he sold the car to the Museum, and today it is still part of their collection. At the museum the car is listed as a Barris Kustom Industries creation, with Carson Padded top, but as far as we know this info was added based on the fact the car came with the replica Barris Crests. The way the car looks after the restoration makes it look like any typical 1980’s lead-sled, and does not really representative the tru Barris Kustoms/Carson Top Shop look and feel.

CCC-ford-museum-49-mercury-03The one piece front end during the restoration.
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CCC-ford-museum-49-mercury-13The Mercury at the Henry Ford Museum. (internet photo)
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A few weeks ago Bob Larivee visited Steve an they started to talk about the old 1949 Mercury they had restored back in the 1980’s. Then Bob mentioned that when he got the car he had removed the Barris crests from the front fenders and the Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag from the padded top. And that he had saved them all these years, in fact he had framed them with a photo of the Merc taken before it went to the Museum. This was the first time Steve heard about this, and it got him thinking. Using the CCC-article on Identifying the Barris Crests and the CCC-Article on the Interior tags we where able to identify the removed crests and tag as original items.


CCC-ford-museum-49-mercury-05The two original Barris crests and Houser’s Carson Padded Tops interior tag Bob had saved from the car when he bought it in 1985 are framed and hanging on the wall in his home.
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CCC-ford-museum-49-mercury-06Original Barris Kustom crest taken from the 1949 Mercury convertible in 1985.
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CCC-ford-museum-49-mercury-07Original Houser’s Carson Padded Tops tag taken from the 1949 Mercury convertible in 1985.
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CCC-ford-museum-49-mercury-15The April 1989 issue of Rod & Custom showed a few photos of the Mercury and mentioned the Barris history as well. Interesting is that it also mentioned the Frazier grille… and to bad that a similar grille was not used in the restoration. Probably would have looked really nice. 
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This is as far as the story goes. So far nobody has been able to find any old photos of this car, how it looked before the new interior was put in the car, before the red oxide primer, or how it looked when it was freshly done. We also have not been able to find out who original owned the car. We would really like to find out more about the history on this car. Ken Gross, organizer of the Pebble Beach Concours has showed an interest in this Mercury for the event in August 2015.

If any of the CCC readers know anything more about this possible early 1950’s Barris Kustoms built Mercury, please let us know.  Email Rik


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Information about the Mercury as it is listed by the Henry For Museum

  • Object Name: Automobile
  • Object Type: Objects
  • Date Made: 1949
  • Summary: Long, low, and well rounded, stock 1949–51 Mercurys became the favorite cars of 1950s customizers. When lowered even more and smoothed out by filling body seams with lead, these Mercs were called “lead sleds.” This car shows many early customizing techniques. It was updated in the 1960s with sparkly Metalflake paint and blue “scallops.”
    Creator: Barris Kustom Industries | Carson Top Shop | Ford Motor Company. Lincoln-Mercury Division
    Place of Creation: United States, California, North Hollywood | United States, California, Los Angeles | United States, Michigan, Dearborn
    Creator Notes: Manufactured by the Lincoln Mercury Division of Ford Motor Company with customization by Barris Kustom Industries of North Hollywood, California. Carson Top Shop in Los Angeles, California made the convertible top.

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Update June 16, 2015

After publishing the story on this mystery Barris 1949 Mercury that is being displayed in the Henry Ford Museum, we have gathered a bit more information about the car. And it looks like we have located two photos of the car from the early 1950’s. We are not 100% sure these two old photos are in fact the same car as in this article, but more than likely they are.


The things we now know about the Mercury

When Barry David bought the car back in 1981 the car came with a grille that was made up from Henry J end bar/parking lights and a center created from a 1953 Dodge grille. Sadly non of the photos Barry has showed the grille. When the car was sold to Bob Larivee the grille, which was in very bad state, went with it, but it is unknown what ever happened to it. In any event it never made it back onto the car. Barry confirmed that the grill shown in the low angle photo from the 1953 photo is identical to the one that came with the car when he bought it. The grille was stored with other parts in the trunk of the car at that time. According to Barry there where provisions for a floating grill arrangement inside the grille opening.


CCC-mystery-49-mercury-1981-01This is pretty much the way the car looked when Barry bought it in 1981. Barry did put the bumper guards back on the car when he took this snapshot.
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CCC-mystery-49-mercury-1981-02Couple more snapshots from the early stages of the restoration. The photo on the lower left corner shows the custom taillight opening.
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CCC-mystery-49-mercury-1981-03Another snapshot gives us a look at the bare metal body and the lead that was used to blend the new taillights into the body.
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Barry David bought the Mercury from Chris Carrier. Chris told Barry that he purchased the Mercury from the original owner, a Hartford native in the late 1970’s. Barry also remembered that George Barris had told him the story in the early 1980’s that the original customer, who took the Mercury to the Barris shop, was in the service and had the custom work done in two stages. When he was discharged and the final work was done, George said the owner left for home “some place in the east.” George wanted to do a feature article on the car but only got a few pictures before the owner left town.

When Barry owned the car in the early 1980’s he stripped the car to bare metal and while doing so he found out that the car was custom painted twice. Once in a purple with a lot of toner, and a bit later in a Buick maroon. The car was original a champaign color when it had left the factory. Barry also mentioned that the original crests were still on the fenders and the Hauser Carson Top header tag was in a paper envelope. The holes for the tag were in the header bar of the parts left of the original top. During the initial stages of the restoration Barry got in touch with George Barris to ask about the history of the car, since it had Barris crests on the front fenders. Back then George did remember the car and could tell Barry that the Barris Kustom Shop painted the car purple in 1952 and after they had chopped the windshield and when the Carson Top Shop had done the top they repainted it in a Buick Maroon in 1953. Barry mentioned that George told him all this before he even had seen the colors Barry had found when stripping the car. So he knew then his Mercury Custom Convertible was genuine. George remembered a few more things about the car back in the 1980’s before he ever laid eyes on it, all accurate.

Barry also mentioned that with the help of George they were able to locate one photo of the Mercury used in an Barris Korner article in the may 1954 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine. According to George, back then, he thought that was the only photo of it that was ever published. Sadly he could not remember the name of the owner.

CCC-r-and-c-may-1954-mercury-taillightThe May 1954 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine shows the right rear fender of the car. It shows the Barris Shop created taillight openings and taillight lens. The bushes in the background looks like the this photo was taken at the Compton Drive-In theatre. The same location as the other photo was taken… possibly during the same photo-shoot?
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The R&C article was about exhaust outlets, and the once on the Mercury were not on the car anymore when Barry got it in 1981. Barry mentioned the car had stock bumpers all around with an extra horizontal bar in between the bumper guards on the front. Although these parts were all stored in the trunk. But the taillight openings and even the actual taillights that where on the car in 1981 are the exact units that show in the R&C photo. Those taillights were made from frenched steel rod in a new opening low on the rear fender, below the stock location. The original lenses were in the trunk. They were made from fluorescent lighting panels and were dyed red. The bulbs were hung on a piece of scrap strap metal. Barry also mentioned that when they stripped the paint there wasn’t a single lead or braze crack in the entire car! Sam Barris did great custom work!


CCC-barris-museum-mercury-1953-01This photo (cropped) will appear in the Photography of George Barris book. The photo was taken in 1952-53 at the Compton Drive-In. It shows the Henry J grille, the shortened side trim, location of the Barris crest, round hood corners and frenched headlights.
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When Barry told me about the Henry J grille that car with the car originally, my head was spinning and I knew I had seen something similar. And I remembered where. In the new, not yet published (at the time of this writing) book on the Photography of George barris there is a chapter on models with cars. And in this chapter there was a photo of a 1949-50 Mercury convertible I had never seen before. The photo is taken in 1952-53 and it shows an unchopped Mercury convertible with all the body mods we can see in the mercury from the Museum, as well as a grille based on Henry J end parts. Sadly the center point is not visible., but the rounded hood corners, the extended headlights, the molded grille shell, shortened side trim location of the Barris Crest, everything is identical to the Museum Mercury. And the dates also corresponded with the story George Barris had told Barry about the two paint jobs and that the car was chopped after they had painted it purple first. So more than likely the car in the photo is painted purple.

Brett Barris created the book in which this photo will appear, so I asked him if he had come across more on this car. Sadly it looks like there was just this one photo taken, or at least saved. Brett showed the photo to George, but sadly he could not remember it anymore now, and also could not remember the stories he had told Barry in the early 1980’s.



CCC-mystery-49-mercury-barry-david-03Snapshots from the initial restoration by Barry David and Pete Marriott.
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CCC-mystery-49-mercury-barry-david-02Two very dark and faded polaroid snapshots show the Mercury in primer, not to long before it changed hands and Bob Larivee became the new caretaker.
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The things we still don’t know about the Mercury

So we have come pretty far with identifying this 1949 Mercury, but what we do not know is who was the original owner of the car. The guy was was in the service and stationed in California, and later moved back home to Hartford.

Barry David also mentioned that the reason why the car looks like like it does today, and not like how it was looking back in 1953 was because Bob Laravee thought that the original colors were not bright enough for the kids that attended his shows so they brightened it up. Steve Tansey did a great job finishing the car but it would have been much better done in the original maroon without the scallops.





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Time frame what we do know.

  • 1952 Mercury was customizing and painted purple at the Barris Kustom Shop.
  • 1953 the windshield was chopped and the car repainted Buick Marroon at the Barris shop and the Carson Top Shop created the padded top (not sure about the interior)
  • 1953-54, original owner was stationed in California and after he was discharged from the service he went back home to Hartford.
  • Late 1970’s Chris Carrier from Connecticut discovers the car, and buys it from the original owner.
  • 1981 Mercury showed up for sale in Hemmings, located in Hartford, Connecticut
  • 1981 Barry David buys the car to restore it to it former Barris glory.
  • 1981 – 1985 Barry David and Pete Marriott did the majority of the restoration.
  • 1985 Bob Larivee makes a deal with Barry to trade a 1941 Ford Custom for the 1949 Mercury.
  • 1985 Steve Tansy is commissioned to restore the Mercury for Bob Larivee. Bob wants the car a bit brighter and more “modern” than how Barry wanted to restore the car.
  • Around 1988 till now, Mercury goes on loan to the Henry Ford Museum. Later the Museum buys the car from Bob Larivee.

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Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury part I

 

THE DICK PAGE STORIES

 

One of my all time favorite custom cars is the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury convertible. A car Jimmy built for himself as a daily drive in 1946. Jimmy drove his Mercury all over the place. Together with his good friend Doane Spencer, who drove his well known 1932 Ford Roadster, with modified DuVall windshield, Jimmy had done the body work on. These two cars must have turn many heads while driving together.



Jimmy Summers was a very talented body man. Besides that he had a great eye for flowing lines, and details as well; a rare combination. Jimmy did most of his custom work in the 1940’s, before the major magazines where around. Because of that, most of his cars were never “properly” published in the magazines back then. Dan Post did use photos of some of his cars, including this 1940 Mercury in his Californian Custom Cars, and his Blue book of Custom Restyling books. But we can clearly state that Jimmy never got the recognition he deserved back then.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Red_01This photo from the Summers family albums was taken in 1946, with Jimmy and his first wife standing in front of the Mercury. This great color photo shows the deep maroon color, and tan Carson Padded Top. It also shows that Jimmy used only white wall tires on the front. They were still rare, shortly after WWII. Hubcaps on this first version of the car are baby moons with trim rings.
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Fortunately for us, Summer’s amazing simple, and stylish 1940 Mercury is still among us. The car was believed to have disappear in South America, and only very few knew it still existed. The Rodder’s Journal did a one page article on the “discovery” of the car in an unknown US location with photos and text by Donn Lowe. Don was, at the time, working on the Harry Bradley designed 1940 Mercury “Afterglow”, that was inspired by Jimmy’s Mercury. Don had done a lot of research on Jimmy’s Merc, got in contact with his family, which ultimately led him to find out the car was still around. And best of all, not even too far from his Oregon home. Now we all know the car is in the safe hands of Dick Page.

Another great thing is that there are quite a few photos of the car, when it was first built – painted maroon, then later in metallic green. Some have been shown before in some publications, others have rarely been published, but will be shown here – and in the next two articles based around Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.


This series of articles is created together with the car owner Dick Page.
Dick Page was good fiends with the second owner of the car Tex Roberts. And Dick is sharing some of his amazing stories Tex shared with him about the car.



The Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury tales.

as told by Dick Page

USAF Col. J, F. “Tex” Roberts bought the 40 mercury from Jimmy Summers in 1950. Many years later Tex retired to Lakewood Washington bringing the famous Mercury with him, and that’s where I first met him.
The year was 1964, he walked into my custom body & paint shop and proceeded to tell me what I was doing wrong…! I liked him right away. Some will say he was a loud mouth bragger… and that’s true. He would denied it of course saying: “It ain’t bragg’n if it’s fact”. There were a lot of facts in his tool box.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_01Tex Roberts with the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury somewhere in South America. This photo shows the Lyon aftermarket hubcaps on wide white wall tires all around. By now the car has been repainted 1947 Buick Green.
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Ever heard of a panhard rod to control side sway? They used to be called Roberts bars, after Tex developed them for early sprint cars. Tex was the smartest man I ever met, and the biggest character by far… He built the fastest drag race and stockcar motors in the area, and made sure everybody with ears knew it. He knew everybody, He called Stu Hilborne at home, and had him dig out the wood patterns from under a bench, and cast me a set of streetable injectors for my Ardun…see what I mean?
The first time I went to Tex’s home shop at the Lakewood country club, sitting next to a white primerd XK 120 Jag roadster (which I could care less about) I was shocked to find the Jimmy Summers, immediately recognizable, 1940 Mercury convertible, parked outside. Covered by a canvas tarp that was past its prime. Tex was just as shocked to find, that a twenty-two year old from Tacoma knew of the car, and some of its history.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_02Another photo taken at the same location shows the wonderful shaped rear of the Mercury. All four fenders were raised when the body was dropped over the frame. Especially the way Jimmy remounted the rear fenders to follow the belt-line and trunk shows what a gifted craftsman and designer Jimmy was.
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The car had been changed some over the years. The headlights were frenched, the door handles removed, and all four fenders where molded to the body. Tex re-upholstered the car in black & white (himself) but that handmade grill was a dead giveaway. It was (’41 GM) ruby maroon for the second time. I was unaware that it had been (’47 Buick) Sherwood green when Tex bought it from Jimmy.
After buying the car, the USAF shipped it around the world, which led to rumors that the car was lost in So. America.
Tex told me that while in south America, he encountered a washed out section of dirt ‘road’.
He was able to obtain help from local men, who cut down small trees, made polls, and carried the car over the breach….wow!


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_03Another rear angle view shows the perfect fit and finish of this Mercury. Also interesting, is to see the car with the custom made side windows/frames in the up position.
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I think the later modifications on the car were done by Jimmy and Tex in late ’53, after he returned to California. Tex’s wife, who was a wonderful and supportive lady, told me of spending many hours at Jimmy’s shop, while Tex and Jimmy worked on the car, sometimes she would sit outside and knit baby clothes.

It always bothered me that this wonderful and historic car was sitting under a tarp, so when I was having a shop building put up at my home, and when it began to snow I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I called my friend Sonny Barrett, and asked him to meet me at Tex’s with his race car trailer, and we we told Tex the Merc was coming in from the cold! We placed the car in the center of the slab, and the shop was built around it.
I did some repairs on it where the tarp pitted the trunk lid. Tex installed a Columbia two speed rear end, and we did some other minor work. When Tex wanted me to trim away the lower edge of the body to install chrome side pipes from a van, I refused to alter the car and Tex took it home. We remained good friends. Tex was having some health problems, and I was going to his shop and doing some rough-out for his finish work on port & polish heads.
Tex stripped the car to bare metal avoiding the few leaded areas. He added the hooded mount on the trunk for his SCTA club plaque (the road runners I think). He also added the quad exhaust pipes in the rear pan.

CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_05This photo was probably taken from the garage roof top and gives a nice view on the plain interior. It also shows the custom made dash inserts. The dash panels were made from light oak wood to go with the color of the rest of the interior.
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Then …Tex died…. Not wanting to act like a vulture, I waited awhile before asking to buy the Merc. When I went to visit his family the car was gone! sold!!
I was crushed. It took me years to find it. The owner was Jerry Jacobs in nearby Puyallup Wa. probably the nicest man on the planet. I traded a ’32 ford tub project (I had 31k in) straight across car for car. Jerry wanted me to work on the ’32, but I had major back problems off and on for ten years. (I had back surgery in 2010)
Jerry moved to Arizona, and I lost track of him for a few years. He came to see me in 2010, and wanted to undo the trade and take the Merc back with him to Arizona.
He wanted to have a Chevy motor./auto trans. installed, and a bright red paint job to make a nice cruzer for him and his wife to enjoy… I wanted to help him get a car to enjoy. I knew my good friend Larry Andren was taking his ’40 Ford to hot august nights the next day to sell.
I suggested Jerry should check out the ’40, and if he liked it, I would buy it for him and take back the ’32 tub project.
Thats what we did… Later Larry bought the ’32 from me.
Jerry Jacobs later sent me wonderful old 1947 to ’53 vintage 8×10 photos of the car, including one with my friend Tex. Those all came with the Mercury when he bought it after Tex had passed away. Some of these can be seen in this article, other will follow in part two which will go more about the car and how it was built.

Go to part two of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.
Go to part three of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.

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Paul Bragg 1950 Ford Convertible

 

PAUL BRAGG 1950 FORD CONVERTIBLE

 

Paul Bragg’s perfect eye for Custom Restyling makes him able to do any Custom job needed, including creating a perfectly styled removable Carson style Padded Top.



Paul Bragg has been building custom cars for many decades. He is world-wide known for his fantastic metal working skills and excellent taste in Custom Car design. Paul combines his metal working skills with an very good eye for proportions, lines and style. Allowing him to modify virtually anything he feels is needed for the perfect custom. We will devote several articles on Paul, and the wonderful Custom Cars he creates. This article will cover the creation of a chopped convertible windshield and the frame construction for a removable padded top.

Paul did not do all the work on this car. In fact the main customizing was already done when the project came to Paul. Bill Reasoner did the majority of custom work on this 1950 Ford convertible in the early 1990’s. It includes extended front fenders with frenched headlights. Mercury grille opening with a 1959 Chrysler Imperial grille, rounded hood openings, molded splash mans front and rear, Mercury taillights with reshaped wind-split.

Lets take a look how Paul chopped the windshield, and created the removable padded top structure and window moldings.


CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-01This is how Paul received the Ford. Customized, but with the stock height windshield and a stock foldable soft top.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-02First oder of the day was disassemble and take out the interior, the windshield, windshield trim and rubber and remove the soft top completely. 
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-03The original wood header bar from the soft top was the only thing Paul kept on the car. This would be used on the padded top later as well. The header bar was secured with factory pins and this was a proven system, so why change it.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-04Next step was to grind down the paint where the the windshield frames were going to be cut for the chop Masking tape marks how much Paul will remove from the windshield posts.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-05The cuts are made, the material removed and the top portion rest on the bottom portion to check it all out. Obviously the vent windows need to be chopped as well..
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-06To make sure everything lines up correctly it is needed to make a few relieve cuts on the lower and top portion of the A-Pillar. The top portion of the A-Pillar can be moved out slightly, and the bottom portion of the A-Pillare can be moved inward a little so that the top and bottom fit together perfectly again. This photo shows the completely welded and metal finished A-Pillars. Paul has also cut down the vent windows, and is working on the door window trim. Templates are made to make sure the left and right side are even.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-07With the windshield and side window frames chopped it was time to get the shape of the lower edge of the padded top to fit the side glass trim perfectly. Paul made an plywood template to make sure both sides would be exactly the same. Then he carfully created the frame from U-Channel. 
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-08Here Paul is test fitting the new window trim and checking if the look and feel is what he had in mind.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-09This next step is really crucial. If at all possible take the car outside to a space where you can walk around the car and be able to step back and look at the car from every angle. It is now time to figure out the actual shape of the padded top. Using some scrap wood and a thin strip of metal Paul shaped the outside contour of the padded top. He screws down the metal strip to the front header, and to the – in this case two – temporarily wood pieces. With this metal strip in the right shape it is time for Paul to start bending the tubing for the bows. As you can see there is enough space between the side window frames and the U-Channel of the top. This is to allows upholstery and weather material to be used.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-10The metal strip is the guide line for bending and cutting down the side to side bows, make sure both sides are the same, check and recheck, then spot-weld them the the U-Channel frame.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-11Paul created his own release mechanism for the top. a main pin hold secure in place with a spring loaded pin. To make sure it works Paul sketched his plan.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-12TThe top frame work is now mostly done, this photo shoes one of the pints to hold down the top to the body. The top is turned upside down in this photo.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-13Another look at the top shows the hand shaped metal panels for the rear portion of the top. These panels make sure the upholstery will not sag over time.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-14The finished frame work back on the car for a final check. At this time it is really important to check the shape over and over again from each and every angle possible. If you want to change it, this is the time. Once its off to the upholstery you cannot change it anymore without spending a lot of money.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-15Glass templates are created.
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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-16And the stainless window trim is cut to size and test fitted.
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Now it was time to get the top upholstered. The car was send out to Rick Simmons who did a fantastic job on the padded top and stitching the interior for the ’50 Ford convertible as well. The top has a wonderful original Carson or Gaylord top feeling to is. The stitching on it is really fantastic.


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CCC-paul-bragg-50-ford-conv-19From all angles the top Paul and Rick created looks really amazing. The top flows perfectly thanks to the carefully shaped metal strip and top bows Paul created.
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The car was later finished in a wonderful metallic champaign color.


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The Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury part III

 

SUMMERS MERC CURRENT CONDITION

 

This is the third and last part of the series on the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury. In this last article we will show you how the car looked when Dick Page acquired it, and how it looks today, October, 2013.
With special thanks to Dick Page for all his help on these three articles.


By Dick Page


CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-12This photo of the black primered Mercury, sitting on jack stands, was taken in Jerry’s warehouse on the day Dick Page bought it, and took it home. This photo shows the fiberglass 1940 fender skirts that were put on the car by Jerry. The original Buick units were missing. If you look carefully, you can see the double exhausts exiting from the bottom of the roll pan.
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In part one of this series, we told you about a 22 year old Dick Page seeing the Jimmy Summers Mercury for the first time in his live, at Tex Roberts house in 1964. Dick Page was shocked. Such an important car, sitting outside under a tarp, instead of safely sitting in a warm garage, not affected by the elements. Right there Dick decided to transport the Mercury to his brand new garage, thus making sure the car would be saved for the future.

When Dick Page first saw that Mercury it appeared to have the same look as he knew from several publications. But upon close inspection he noticed all the extra work that was done by Jimmy Summers in 1953 and in later years by Tex Roberts. The changes from the version we are familiar with, included molded fenders, molded in headlights. Molded in and smoothed hood peak, trunk mounted club plaque surround which was molded in, shaved door handles, and a few other changes. All this work was done with excellent craftsmanship in metal and lead, and can be considered as just mild updates from the original 1946 version. But for the restoration Dick decided that the car should go back to this 1946 version. So these extra elements will have to go.

Dick Page took the Jimmy Summers Mercury home in 1970. At the time he was building his new home shop, and the car was parked in it to ensure it was save, dry, and well protected. During the mid 1970’s, Tex Roberts came and picked up the Mercury several times. He would work on the car in his own race car shop. Each time he was done with the car, he brought it back to Dick Page. Until the car left the car for the very last time. Tex wanted to add the Columbia two speed rear, and add all new brake lines. But Tex passed away while the car was in his shop.  And once again the Mercury was left in his shop. It was still in black primer guide coat when it was bought by Jerry Jacobs. As far as Dick can tell Jerry never worked on the car, or had work done on it by somebody else.


CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-13Over the years, several custom car fans have searched for the Jimmy Summers Mercury, hoping they would find a lead that will end up in finding this custom car icon. This half page article, trying to generate leads that would lead to find the car, was ran in an early 1980’s rod magazine. Dick Page saw the ad, but never told the people looking for it, the car was sitting in his basement in relatively perfect condition.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-RC-PosterIn August 1990 Rod & Custom magazine listed their Top 20 all-time Rods & Customs in a large centerfold poster. The list was conducted by Pat Ganahl, and the number one custom car on the list was…. the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury. On the poster Jimmy’s Mercury was positioned below the Doane Spencer 1932 Ford… Close together like the real cars were a lot in the 1940’s.
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The whereabouts of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury, have always been a kind of ‘Worlds Best Held Secret’, for many decades. Few insiders knew the car was still around, and in relatively good condition. Even less people knew who owned the car, or in which state it was. But the insiders were asked not to talk about it, until the time was right.

The time was right in 2005, when the Rodder’s Journal did a one page article on the Jimmy Summers Mercury in issue #28. The article included photos that Donn Lowe had taken at Dick Pages basement, while researching the Summers Mercury for a project he was working on. Pat Ganahl was responsible for the story. This was the first time the public could read about the car, and how it had survived. It however did not tell the current owners name.

CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-TRJThe one page article in the Rodder’s Journals #28.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-11Another photo taken in Jerry’s warehouse the day Dick picked it up.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-01 The Mercury was temporary stored at Dick’s friend Denny Halls place when this photo was taken. The Carson top structure is all there, but the original padding is long gone. This photo shows the reshaped rear wheel openings.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-N-04This photo shows the molded in front and rear fenders, as well as the shaved door handles.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-N-02The two photos above give us a better look at the original top bows and wire mesh created by the Carson Top Shop.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-N-05The photo above shows the raised floor, the reshaped inner fender panels that made sure there was enough travel room for the rear wheels and the inboard gas filler. The photo also gives us a nice look at the front of the top.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-07The molded in club plaque surround, and two holes drilled into the trunk for mounting the plaque.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-10Here we can see the amount the body was dropped over the frame.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-03The black primer was removed from the front fenders/headlight section to take a closer look at how the headlights were molded in back in 1953.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-04Inside the headlight Dick found some old paint. The dark blue paint is actual black primer, on top of that several coats of the second time the car was painted ruby maroon.  When Dick saw the car the first time the car was in white primer which can also be seen here.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-05Dick had some help removing the molded in headlights.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-06The back side reveals a round shaped tube and hand shaped sheet metal to fill the large hole on the original fender opening.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-N-03Work in progress. Removing the lead from the molded headlights, as well as the molded in and smoothed hood peak to get all this to 1946 specs. Notice how nice the hand made grille opening is finished. And if you look good you can see the high position of the frame rails on the right of the grille opening. This photo also shows that the bumper mounts on the frame needed to be lowered to make them line up with the holes in the fenders.
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Different paint colors on the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury

  • 1946 Jimmy Summers build the car and paints it 1941 GM Ruby Maroon
  • 1947 Jimmy repainted the car in Sherwood Green a 1947 Buick color
  • 1953 Jimmy updated the car for Tex Roberts. Most likely he repainted it in Ruby Maroon again that time
  • We know the car was maroon for a secant time, but the exact year it was repainted is unsure.
  • Tex Roberts stripped the car back to bare metal and added white primer to protect the body metal from the elements. Not sure when this was done, but by 1964, when Dick saw it for the first time the car was in primer.
  • Early 1970’s Dick paints the car in black primer, which is still on the car today.

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Go to part one of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.
Go to part two of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.


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Sources and more info:

  • Dan Post Blue book of Custom Restyling
  • Popular Mechanics, May 1947
  • Rod & Custom magazine, August 1990
  • The Rodder’s Journal, Issue #28

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