41 Merc Fade-Away Convertible

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41 MERC FADE-AWAY Convertible

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1941 Mercury Convertible with full fadeaway fenders and chopped padded top. A Mystery Published Custom Car.

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Over the years I have come across a lot of Unidentified Custom Car photos in the early Custom Car Publications. Mystery Customs that appeared in just a single publication, and sometimes even in multiple magazines or booklets, but always lacking any info on the original builder or owners name. In this series of articles I will be showing some of these Mystery Published Custom Cars, and hopefully the extra publicity will lead to some more information on these cars.

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Original article from 2016, updated in April 2019.

The first “Published Mystery Custom” is an very nicely done 1941 Mercury Convertible with full fade away fenders, chopped windshield, padded top and somewhat odd looking Lincoln grille.
The first time I saw a picture of this car was on Pat Ganahl‘s “The American Custom Car” book. On page 24 of this book he shows this mercury Custom with taped headlights, windshield and race numbers on the side at one of the Russetta Timing Association events. It is unsure when this even took place, but most likely around 1950. Perhaps one of the contender lists would reveal an owners name for this 1941 Custom. Pat wrote in his book that the car was an Ford, but later I found more material showing that the car was actually Mercury based.

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Pat Ganahl writes this about the photo in his book: While customs were built more for style than peed, some did turn up at the dry lakes, where heavy weight wasn’t a hindrance and streamlining actually helped. This anonymous Postwar Ford with Lincoln grille, chopped padded top, and full fade-away’s was competing at Russetta Timing Association meet.

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The other place I have found photos of this Custom was in the 1951 edition of the Speed and Mileage Manual by Edgar Almquist. The first edition of this manual was published in 1947, but I’m not sure if this ’41 Mercury was already part of it then.

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The side view shown in the Almquist Manual shows the really fantastic Custom restyling of the car. The full fade away front fenders, the molded in rear fenders and shaving of all the trim. 
The second photo of the car shown in the Almquist manual gives us a better look at the low mounted Lincoln grille, the reshaped front section and the stock headlights rings. The Windshield was chopped, but very conservative, perhaps around 2 inches. The front bumper appears to be a 1942 Buick Special rear bumper with the guards moved closer together.

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The 1941 Mystery Lincoln looks to be a very nicely restyled Custom Car, most likely created by one of the top shops in the later part of the 1940’s or around 1950. The full fade-away fenders done this way, all molded to the body with nice leaded edges, was something both the Ayala’s as well as the Barris shops were well known for. The overall proportions are right on the money, and even though the Lincoln grille is now considered and odd choice, or perhaps better said not the most attractive, back in the mid/late1940’s they were used on more Customs and considered a high-end choice.

Around the late 1940’s a lot of full Customs were produced and there were not to many magazines out there that could or would published these cars. The owners and the Custom Builders did not take as many photos of their projects as we all would have liked. And even though this Custom Mercury did get published back then, there was no mentioning of the builder to help promote his business.

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In 2019 this photo of the Mercury was shared on Facebook. So far I have been unable to find out where the photo was taken and who shared it originally. If anybody knows more about the photo location, or who owns the photo, please let us know.

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Enlarged section of the photo shows that the car has 1948-50 California license plates when this photo was taken. Most likely with the unknown owner standing proudly next to the car. The Lincoln grille is considered an odd choice today, but back in the 1940’s it was used a lot.

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Colormelacquer shared a photos with us showing the same location of the photo above in 2019. Not too much has changed….

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From what I can see in the photos the newest parts used on the car are from 1947, Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps. So this version of the car could not have been created before 1947. The padded top has a nice flow on the back and a straight B-pillars, most likely the same upholstery shop did a full custom interior for the car as well.

Who knows more about this rather nice 1941 Mercury Convertible Custom with full fade-away fenders. Who was the original owner, and who built it. Hopefully one of our readers remembers this car from back then, or has seen more photos of it. If so, please let us know and send Rik an email here at the Custom Car Chronicle.

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Road Trip Custom Sightings

 

ROAD TRIP CUSTOM SIGHTINGS

 

David Conrad shared some neat pictures he took in the 60s and 70s. Interesting and sometimes abandoned Custom Cars he came across while on the road.



In July 2018 I shared a photo of an early 1940’s restyled 1940 Mercury ones owned by the mr. Williams and later owned by Marsh Baldwin. I was wondering what had happened to the restoration on the care when David Conrad shared a few photos of some old 60’s and 70’s road trips with including one of an Mercury that looked a bit similar. The picture David shared, of a greene padded topped Mercury at a car lot in San Diego in 1963, had a very similar very heavy chop, but it looked to be a ’39 and not the ’40 I was looking for. But the photo was very interesting, and the ’39 Mercury looked vaguely familiar, reminding me a bit at the James Etter ’39 Mercury restored in the late  1970’s, early 1980’s by Karl Jonasson. But I did not pay much attention to that at the time.

When David shared the photos he mentioned that he took some photos back in 1963 when he and a friend towed David’s 31 Model A pickup to San Diego to the Model A Restorers Club national meet. On the way they stopped at several locations and David took some photos of interesting cars he saw on their way.

David saw this 1940 Mercury with some Ayala Inspiration at the Easy Jack’s junk yard in Kansas in 1963. He always wondered what happened to it. Anybody knows?
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The rear shows an interesting Panoramic rear window treatment on the chopped canvas covered top, as well as ’48-49 Cadillac rear fenders molded into the body. I wonder if the car was ever finished and on the road, or if it was an abandoned project?
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David took this ’40 Ford convertible in the early 70s in a friends back yard. He has no idea what ever happened to it. This is in St Louis, mo.
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It appears to be an channeled ’40 Ford convertible with a much molded body that was done in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. Perhaps it evolved over the years.
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In November 2018, the photo David had shared of the 1963 San Diego was shared again on Facebook. Anthony White made a comment on it. “Tried to make a case for it being the James Etter car but that’s a long stretch”. Anthony’s comment brought me back to the original thought I had when looking at that picture, and I started to look into it a bit more. I had recently discussed the Etter Mercury with Henrik Forss, and things look like they are falling into place, and the car in the picture David took might be the Jim Etter Mercury. David mentioned this about the Green Mercury photo. “I saw this Merc. on a used car lot in 1963 in San Diego. It had real heavy green metalflake paint on it. Paint was very thick.”

David took this very neat picture of a green metalflake ’39 Mercury at an unknown used car lot in San Diego in 1963.
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In an old Swedish Wheels Magazine article on the ’39 Mercury that Karl restored it was mentioned that the car had a green metalflake paint job under the primer. It also showed that the rear had a ’41 Ford bumper mounted. When David took the photo in 1963, it looks like the Mercury had ’41 Ford bumpers and it also looks like the running boards were shortened, just as the Jim Etter Mercury has. We are now trying to see if we can get a better scan, or info from David if he can see on the original slide if the hood has the characteristic scoop on the side, and the louver’s cut in the hood. All other details on the San Diego Mercury seem to match with the Jim Etter Mercury…

The original scan from the color slide David shared is not very big, therefor the details are rather blurry. This is the best I could do blowing up the image to have a better look at the car. It does appear to have the hood side scoop… but because the scan is so blurry, that could be just shadow and an optical illusion.
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This is how the car looked that Karl got to restore in the late 1970’s. Notice all the similarities with the Green one David photographed.
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Part if the Wheels Magazine article showing some more details, including the ’41 Ford rear bumper.
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This is how most people will recognize the James Etter 1939 Mercury from the 1980’s. The heavy chop, the shortened running boards, and molded in headlights. Karl added the exhausts behind the running boards and the ’49 Plymouth bumper. The Barris Crest on the front fender is an replica added after Karl restored the car.
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To be continued…..










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A short drive in the Hirohata Mercury

 

A SPIN IN A CUSTOM CAR ICON

 

Hirohata Mercury owner Jim McNiel, asked me to jump in the passenger seat of his Mercury for a short drive. It put an instant HUGE smile on my face that lasted for days



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This article was original created in 2013, but with the passing of Jim McMiel on May 7, 2018 I thought it would be nice to put this article on Jim and driving the Hirohata Mercury back on top. RIP Jim McNiel.
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In 2010 the plan was developed to gather the very best historical custom cars, that were still around in the US, to be part of a special exhibition at the 2011 GNRS. I was invited to be one of the four organizers of this Customs Then & Now exhibition. The whole experience was mind boggling, something I will never, ever forget in my life. The “road” towards the event was special. In my mind’s eye, I could visualize the building getting filled with all the cars and people we invited from all over the US. When it was time to fly to California, a couple of days before the show, I had a hard time getting any sleep at night. Once arrived in Pomona, I saw the first historical custom cars that had already arrived. Cars like the Barris-built Dick Fowler 1938 Ford coupe, and several others, with more customs arriving every hour. I was in heaven.

On Thursday morning, set-up day before the show, I was walking from my hotel to the AHRF parking lot, towards the Fairplex building, when I spotted a long trailer with the side door opened a few inches. I immediately recognized the ice green color on the car inside: The Hirohata Mercury. So, I walked over and talked to the driver, to see if Jim McNiel was around as well. “They will be here any minute”, he said. And sure that was the case. It was really great to see Jim again, after we had met earlier at the Sacramento Autorama Mercury Gathering in 2009. We talked for a bit, and then he had to unload the car. He parked it in a nice spot at the parking lot, so I could take some photos.

Jim stepped back, and let me alone with the car for some time. I walked around it, followed every line on the car, took as many photos from every possible angle I could think of, and absorbed every little detail about this car. I had seen the iconic Hirohata Merc before in Sacramento, but seeing the car in natural light and being able to walk around it with nobody else to bump into, was an extremely nice and privileged experience.

CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-01-WThe extended front fenders and hood lip create a perfect balance for the long chopped roof line.
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The Hirohata Mercury is the Custom Car that comes to mind when somebody says the word Custom Car. At least it is to me, and I know this is the same for a lot of people. the Hirohate Merc is THE historic Custom Car icon. And the car was sitting there in front of me with nobody else around it. If I close my eyes I could hear Sam Barris and his team hammering away on the body. I could almost feel the excitement in the Barris Shop, when the car was finally assembled, and the team saw what they had created. I could almost see the huge smile on Bob Hirohata’s face, when he took it for the first spin around the block. I was in Custom Car Heaven before the show had started, and I did not even realize that – for me – the best thing that very day, still had to come.


CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-14-WThe rear 3/4 view shows show all the lines from the Buick Side trim, the chopped top, the curved side windows, custom made scoop and reshaped character line flow together .
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CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-03-WThe custom made parking lights add extra width to the front of the car. The hand made lip on the front wheel opening matches the one of the flush fitted fender skirt at the rear.
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Jim had made an appointment with a photographer from Sweden for a photo-shoot. Together they decided the best location for the shoot would be on the other side of area where we were standing. Then Jim asked me if I wanted to take a seat in the car, when he drove to the location…

Eh… Yes please!

Jim McNiel invited me to sit, and drive inside the Hirohata Mercury! Instant smile on my face. I made sure, I put my back-pack and try-pod extremely safely on the floor, in order not to damage anything, and carefully sat on the green and white tuck & roll front seat. Jim got in the car behead the steering wheel, and started the engine. It ran flawless, and the sound of the Cadillac engine was music to my ears. I looked around absorbing every little detail like the hand made laminated dash knobs, (which Bob Hirohate made himself, and which are still in place), the Von Dutch pin-striping on the dash is amazing, extremely fine and detailed, and weird above all. I also noticed the V-butted windshield, the chrome garnish around the windshield, the green hand made fuzzy rear view mirror “warmer” that Jim’s wife Sue, made so many years ago. The green and white headliner- which is still the original that the Carson Top Shop made in 1952, the slightly cracked Monterey steering wheel, and Jim holding it, slowly turning to maneuver the car thru the parking lot. It felt the car was floating, Jim drove slow and seemed to enjoy every second driving his baby.

I tried to imagine how it must have been driving this car back in the early 1950’s. The car probably just stopped traffic, and had people turn to take a second look when it was passing by back then.

CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-05-WNotice the relaxed position Jim has in the car. This photo also shows the slightly cracked -unrestored- Monterey Steering wheel. Jim added the bullet steering wheel center when he was unable to find the original accessory badge.
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CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-06-WEven Jim has a great smile on his face, and he can jump in the car and take it for a spin whenever he can.
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On the short trip on the parking lot, people turned their head when they heard the soft rumble from the Cadillac engine, realizing something special was driving by. And then the large eyes, and instant smile on the faces when they realized what they saw. An experience I will never forget, and the smile it caused on my face never disappeared throughout the duration of the show.

CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-13-WHere we can see the V-butted windshield, Sue’s hand-made mirror warmer, and the unrestored dash with the Von Dutch pin-striping.
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CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-08-WBob Hirohata also created the laminated knobs for the Appleton Spotlights.
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CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-07-WClose up of the intricate Von Dutch pin-striping “this is the City”. Notice the cracked off-white paint on the glove-box lid and dash. This is the original paint that was added in 1952.
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CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-12-WOriginal Carson Top Shop created headliner, and detail work round the curved side windows.
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When Jim parked his car, and we got out, I noticed one other detail I had never seen before on the car. I had never really seen the custom made dark green lucite piece, that Bob Hirohata made for the door garnish moldings. I noticed it, because the sun light made it look really fantastic when I opened the door to get out.
We drove the car for only a small distance, perhaps a little more than half a mile, but this was a trip inside the Hirohata Mercury… an unforgettable experience!

After making some more photos of the car at the new location, I thanked Jim for the unforgettable experience, and went to toward the main building. Jim and I were talking throughout the weekend, whenever we bumped into each other. He seamed to have a great time at the show.

CCC-Hirohata_Mercury-02-WMy own personal favorite angle of the Hirohata Mercury. This photo also shows the sectioned bumper guards at the front only covering the bottom part of the grill.
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I know the short drive was “only” at the parking lot of the GNRS, but to me it was more like a drive in early 1950’s Los Angles…. Very similar to these Photoshopped images I created shown below.










(This article is made possible by)

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George Barris at Work

 

GEORGE BARRIS at WORK

 

George Barris is known to the public more as the Barris Kustoms promoter, than as the Barris Custom Builder. He did however build many cars, and painted even more.


In this article we will concentrate on George at work from the early beginnings to around 1958. The work George Barris did in his hop shifted very much over the years. It all started in the early 1940’s, in his spare time after school, George started to hang out at local Sacramento, Ca. body shops, including Brown’s Body Shop and Harry Westergard’s back-yard shop. Here he swept floors and watched the masters at work absorbing every little detail these masters were doing. Harry Westergard noticed how eager George was and was happy to learn him all the fine details of the trade.

George had bought a 1936 Ford convertible and wanted to put in practice all the new techniques he had learned and visualize all the restyling ideas he had in his mind. George finished the car while working part time at the Harry Westergard shop. Westergard turned out to be the perfect teacher for George Barris. Harry had a real good feel for what was needed to make a car look better, longer, lower and more exclusive. George had this same feel for restyling cars, and with the guidance of Harry, George started very early on to create his own style, and own “rules” for what needed to be done to create great looking Custom Cars.

The ’36 Ford Convertible George had created from himself in the early 1940’s when he still lived in the Sacramento area. The work on the car was done by George with some guideline by Harry Westergard. Perhaps a little rough, but George would learn fast with experience after moving to Los Angeles.
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In 1942 Sam had joined the navy and had left for Los Angeles. George joined the Merchant Marine and moved to Los Angles to wait for further action and a ship he would serve on. In the meantime George would cruise the streets of Los Angeles, finding all the Hot Rod and Custom Car hot-spots and proudly show his just finished 1936 Ford. His car was a big hit, and especially the fact that George could open his doors with a push on a button, made a huge impact on the guys and girls. The push-button doors was something not seen yet in the LA area. (It is often mentioned that it was Harry Westergard who was the first to install them, and this must have been around the time George was working with Harry.)

George adapted the technique using Buick solenoid’s to pop the doors open. The buttons were hidden on the body and on the dash. George would be using this technique later on when he started to do customers cars. While still waiting for a ship (which would never come) George started to work at local body shops, including the Jones’s Body, Fender & Paint Shop. This was a regular body shop looking for good craftsman, since sever of its employees had joined the army and navy. George started out doing the regular body shop stuff, but slowly George introduced them into the Custom Car scene. They were very impressed with what George could do, and saw potential in it. They allowed George to promote the Custom Body Work and soon his work attracted more and more customers for the shop.

Snapshot taken at the Jones’s Body, Fender & Paint Shop on Florence and Main in Los Angeles. This was the shop were George started to work after arriving in LA, and where he introduced customizing and doing Custom Body Work. 
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In 1944 George was doing so much restyling at the Jones’s body shop, that he decided the time was right to start his own Custom Body Shop specialized in Custom Restyling. He found a suitable small shop space in Bell, California. George was working alone in the beginning, handling all the jobs needed, from suspension, to full body work, and paint. Over time some of his new friends started to help out at the body shop, when the work load became to big for George alone.When WWII ended his bother Sam returned from the navy, and visited George in Los Angeles.

George talked his brother into joining him in his body shop adventure. George trained Sam the trade of body man and Sam picked up very fast showing he was an natural in shaping metal, and more important having an eye for style as well. Together they could tackle any job, and with the two brothers now working together magic started to happen. George and Sam discussed every detail on the cars the worked on, George often made sketches of the ideas they came up with, and together they would transfer the designs into metal.

After spending shop hours working on customer cars the two bothers built restyled cars for themselves as well. To be used as daily transportation, and to promote the new Barris’s Custom Shop of course. After a bit of a hard start, things were slowly getting better and in 1946 a new larger shop was found in Compton, Ca. The new shop location and the good name the shop now had, made sure there was a work load at all time.

Barris Compton AveThe Barris Custom Shop Body & Fender Works on Compton Ave around 1947.
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There are relatively few photos of George doing the actual work, mainly because most of the shop photos were taken by George and he would be behind the camera, not in front. And most of the early photos taken at the Barris Shop that have surfaced so far have been taken by Marcia Campbell and Marcia was very good friends with Sam Barris, so most of the time she hung out at the Barris Shop and captured the work on the cars, was from Sam doing the work.




George’s life changing 1941 Buick
Around 1946-47 George found a 1941 Buick convertible which he slowly turned into a full custom with chopped windshield, full fade-away molded in fenders, Cadillac grille and padded Carson top, restyled just the way George loved it. George showed the Buick in January of 1948 at the first Hot Rod Exposition in Los Angeles. The Buick was the only Custom Car at the show and was a huge crowd pleaser winning the top award. The show gained a lot of attention to the Barris’s Custom Shop and their Kustom creations. At the show, George was introduced to Robert Petersen, which would later turn out to be a turning point. Robert would start his publishing company soon after the show and later produce most of the major Hot Rod and custom Car related magazines and books on the west coast. Their friendship turned out to be very important.

At the time the shop was still named Customs Shop with a “C” but the cars they restyled were already called Kustoms with a “K”. In may 1948 the new all round car magazine Road & Track showed a photo of George’s Buick in the magazine. The photo of the Buick was absolutely perfect showing the beauty of the car with its wonderful fade-away fenders, the Cadillac grille, shaved door handles and low padded top. The Kustoms Los Angeles plaque, which George had created for his own club also showed prominent in the photo. In the same issue of Road & Track George ran a 1/4 page ad using the same photo promoting the Barris’s Custom Shop work. Listed was; Body Streamlining, Roadster Channeling, Custom Painting, Push-button doors & windows and Tops lowered (Chopped). The ad, magazine article and showing the car at this important 1948 show really helped promote the Barris Shop name, and more an more customers were able to find the small shop. From then on George realized that building great cars was one things, but knowing how to promote them and the shop was just as important.

George in work cloth at the Compton Ave. Barris Custom shop getting a ticket for his ’41 Buick. Photo taken around 1948.
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After that George would start to spend more time, after shop hours, to start promoting the Barris name and Barris Shop. During the day George was the shop foreman, and Sam the lead body man. Friends were hired when needed, and as soon as the workload was increasing, employees were hired part and full time. But George would continue to perform work on the cars, from doing metal body work, to paint prep and those stunning organic full paint jobs. George loved to mix his own custom colors and paint the Barris creations in high quality mile deep paint jobs developing his own techniques to get the perfect result. Especially in the early years up to the mid 1950’s George was the lead painter at the shop.

Barris Bell ShopGeorge Barris and some of his friends and employees chopping the top of Larry Robbin’s 1948 Mercury.
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George working on the rolled door ends on Larry Robbin’ 1948 Mercury at the Barris Bell Shop around 1949.
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Double exposed photo of George doing some welding on Larry Robbin’s Mercury.
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George working on the new sheet metal cover to make the ’49 Cadillac grille fit the ’48 Mercury.
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The better known the Barris Shop became, the more client cars came into the shop, some for mild restyle work, but more and more for a complete Custom overhaul. Along the way it became evident the shop really benefited from a spokes person, somebody who promoted the Barris name, and the typical Barris style Custom Car. The new more constant flow of clients also demanded for somebody who would deal with the clients, new and old, in a more professional way. For George these new job function came as natural. George understood what it took to keep the focus on the Barris name, try to get as much exposure at the big and little Car Shows. And most important of all get the maximum name recognition from magazine exposure. From ads ran by the shop, but even more important magazine features and later how to articles on Barris Custom creations.

For once George Barris was on the other side of the camera for this How to Dechrome Your Car article in the 1954 Custom Cars Annual from Trend Books. This is a nice article showing George doing the work on an unidentified Mercury Custom.
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With George still at the shop doing “regular” shop work, he started to add more and more functions to his tasks, from taking photos from the work getting done in the shop, which could be used for future How To magazine articles, to starting his own local and state wide car club, organizing special events, car shows and providing magazines with complete car features, including photos and written word.


A few more published magazine photos of George at work on some Barris Customs. On the left George is molding in the headlights on Jack Brumbach’s 1942 Ford. Center photo George is fitting the rear bumper on the extended rear of Convert Michael’s 1949 Ford , and working on the grille surround of Frank Airheart’s 1951 Oldsmobile.
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George on the left, Sam on the right and two other guys, possibly one of them the client discussing ideas for this wild ’49 Mercury convertible Custom.
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George Barris at work sketching Custom Designs him and his brother Sam came up with. Sam played a huge roll in these early stages with his keen eye for Design. Together they were the golden team.
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George adding Cadillac rear fenders and taillights on an ’41 Buick.
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George shaping a new hood for a Hot Rod project at the Barris Shop.
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After the mid 1950’s the work load at the Barris shop became so big that it became harder and harder for George to find the time for actual shop work. But where possible he would love to come in and lock himself up in the paint booth to spend a weekend doing another stunning paint-job or experiment with new paint products. There were also cars that were special to George, and he tried to put in as much actual work as possible, one of those was the Kopper Kart, it would become an important Barris Promotional Custom that George traveled around all over the US.

 

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Others on George Barris at Work.

  • Jack Stewart was close friends with George from the late 1940’s. When Jack’s 1941 Ford had been sitting at the Ayala Shop, with most of the major work being done, it was George who asked Jack if he could finish the car for him. And so it happened. George Barris handled all the fine tuning on Jack’s Ford, including rounding the corners, reshaping the character line on the rear fenders and the taillight housings. (The taillights were created by Bob Hirohata). First George finished Jack’s Ford in white primer, so that Jack could start using the car. Later George finishes his work on the car with beautiful custom mixed metallic bronze paint job, which won Jack several awards.
  • Marcia Campbell had mentioned that when George was working in her ’49 Chevy convertible, George could not get the hood to fit right, after which he got very upset and damaged the hood with the hammer in frustration, the next day he got it right with a new hood replacing the damaged one. George did most of the work on here Chevy.
  • Nick Matranga “I have to salute George Barris for his patience with me. We shot so many sample color panels and let them dry and looked at them in the sun. In them days it was pure lacquer. We’d shoot the car and color sand it. And let it dry for a month. And color sand it again for the final rub out. George was a great painter, and he was careful not to put it on too wet.””George’s Greek aesthetics of color and form were amazing and unfailing, especially early on.”
  • Junior Conway has mentioned several times about George doing most of the paint work at the shop. Sam could also paint, but for George it came natural. Junior mentioned that George painted a lot of the cars at the shop, including some of the best known, like the Tom Hocker 1940 Ford, the 1955 Chevy Aztec, the Kopper Kart, and many more.

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George working in different stages on the Frank Monteleon’s 1941 Ford. Early staged working on the fade away fenders, middle shows George fine tuning the car and getting it ready for paint. And on the right is George Barris with Frank Monteleon during a TV news program about the show where Frank had just won an important award. George taking the opportunity to  advertise Barris on TV.
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George Barris working on the Chet Herberd Streamliner.
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George with the 55 Chevy pick up the Kopper Cart. George performed a lot of work on this car himself. Later he would tour the car all over the US, promoting the Barris Kustom Shop all over the US.
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We know that this is a staged photo of George “working” on the R & C Dream Truck. And that even the pink primer was added to the body just for the photo. Possibly for a cover shot, although it was never use as such. But we also do know that George was very much involved at the building of this iconic truck. George knew the importance of this project, and just needed to be part of it, personally.
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George Barris Custom Painter.

George Barris loved to mix his own color and paint cars. To see the creations he had made, or which were done by others at the Barris Shop was always special for him. The paint was always the cherry on top for him. And the Barris Shop became very well known for their special paint-jobs, especially in the early 1950’s. The first Custom Cars Annual from 1951 even wrote about this special Barris Paint method they had developed. Partly this method was really special, but it was also an early attempt to create some Barris Mystery by George… attracting more clients.

George wet sanding an late 30’s sedan.
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George applying some primer to the Tom Hocker 1940 Ford. George later painted the car Fushia Orchid, and a few years later in light blue.
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George painting the 4-door Mercury that had been completely restyled at the Barris hop for owner Jerry Reichman.
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George test fitting the grille surround on Chuck DeWitt’s 52 Ford Wagon. Photo shoot for June 1956 Motor Life magazine cover.
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George and his wife Shirley prepping Shirley’s ’58 Ford T-bird at night at the Barris Shop. The photo was staged, and part of a series made that night, but the work by George and Shirley continued after the needed shots were accomplished.
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Two photos taken around 1958 show George doing what he liked doing best in the shop around that time. Painting cars and mixing paint.
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George Barris promoting at the shows

Going to car shows often meant something different to George than it would for most of his friends. They would take their Custom Cars to the show to show of their beautiful cars, to try to win some awards, and meet with friends. For George it meant business as well. George realized after the first Hot Rod Show in 1948, where he had showed his 1941 Buick, that this was the place to attract new clients, or convince old clients into new projects. George always made sure the Barris Cars were well present and presented at the shows. Bringing all the past won trophies to enhance the beauty and quality of the Barris Customs. George started to wear his best suits to the show, to make an as good as possible impression on behalf of the Barris Shop. Handing out business cards, talking to people about the cars they had brought to the show it was all part of the job. Before and after show hours George would go back to the buildings to take photos of the cars for his own files, and for future magazine and book articles.

1950 Oakland Roadster showAt the Oakland Roadster Show held January 19-22, 1950 George made sure that he was photographed with the award winning Jesse Lopez Ford that was at the show as a Barris Custom. (even though the car was entirely built by Jesse and Sam Barris). It shows that in early 1950, George already knew the importance of promoting.
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During the 1950 Motorama show held in Shrine Convention Hall, 700 West 32nd Street in Los Angeles on November 16 through 19, George was really starting to promote the Barris Kustom Shop. In this photo George and his promoting crew, ll nicely dressed up with Barris card tags on thier cloth is posing with Jim Skonzakes’s ’49 Buick which was mostly done at the Barris Shop. David Zivot did an in depth article on this photo here on the CCC.
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The next years Motorama show was held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. George Barris created a full shop wall display at a show, with beautiful sparkling cardboard cut out BARRIS letters on the curtain behind the displayed cars. George is all dressed up to and ready to talk to potential new clients. Sam usually stayed in the background, but apparently was asked to help promote the shop at this show. A very rear photo of Sam Barris in suit.
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Next to promoting the Barris Shop at the car shows across the US, George also started to promote the Barris work in Hollywood. And with success, The Hirohata Mercury and the Fred Rowe Mercury, both starred in the Running Wild Movie created in the mid 1950’s. And it would be followed with many more movies Barris Cars would be used in. It ultimately lead Barris to move to North Hollywood to serve the movie industry better. But that is a completely different story.
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George Barris the photographer

George Barris had always taken snapshots of his cars, but did not really get started to this on a more regular base after he was introduced to Marcia Campbell. Marcia had several Barris Cars in the late 40’s and early 50’s. And she loved to hang out at the Barris shop where she because good friends with Sam Barris. Besides Custom Cars Marcia had another passion, photography, so she started to take photos of work done at the Barris Shop, Sam doing his magical metal work, but also of finished cars around the Barris Shop. She would come in a few days after she had taken the photos with nice large photo prints, giving those to the guys in the photo. George loved it and started to use these photos to help promote the Barris Shop. Marcia taught George how to take better photo and from then on George would always carry his camera on him and shoot everything he thought would come in handy at one time.

There are relatively very few photos from George Barris doing the work on the shop floor, compared to others at the Barris Shop, simply because most of the time it was George that was behind the camera, and if he was not, he was most likely directing the photographer to get the best shots. We can all be very grateful that George had the foresight to first take all these photos, and second document and hand on to them for all these years. In the the 1990’s George knew that the time was right to star sharing his story and material, and he created a series of books about the history of the Barris Kustom Shop, and shared many of his stories and photo material in these books.

Ralph Pool took the photos of the Hirohata Mercury and model miss Marilyn Bordeau for Hop Up magazine and captured George in this one taking the opportunity to shoot some photos for his own files of the set up as well.
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Another photo of George taking photos, or perhaps more likely a staged photo of George taking photos of the second version of the Larry Ernst Chevy. This shows how George took photos, but very rarely people were around actually taking picture of George taking picture. So the situation was staged to “capture” the moment.
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George took mostly very good care of the photos he took. From the moment he started to use his photos in publications he kept a record of all the negatives, prints and print proofs he made. Cutting out the proof sheets, taping them onto large paper boards, and marking them for future reference. All that was done after shop hours.
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Around 1960. George Barris photographing Bob Drake’s Studebaker Custom. Two of the photos George takes that day will be used Trend Books #181 Custom Car Show-Cars, a publication by George Barris.
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Later in the 1950’s promoting the Barris Kustom Shop would take more and more time and would keep him away from the shop floor more and more. But being the promoter of his own product, he needed to keep an eye out for the quality of the work, as well as the creativity standing for the Barris Kustom name. George was only such a great promoter for the Shop, because he knew what was going on in the shop, because he knew what could be done, and how it could be done. This only worked because he had the personal experience of all the work handled by the shop.

Up till around 1957 the combination of George as the shop foreman/promoter, and Sam as the lead body man in the shop had made sure Custom Car magic had happened. The combination of skills and ambition of both brothers turned out to be gold and the Barris name and the cars they created were everywhere. Around that time Sam had decided to move back to the Sacramento area, and semi retire from building Custom Cars. The Barris Kustom Shop would continue for many decades, and great things would still come out of the shop. But times had changed demanding different cars to be created. The unique magic of the two brothers working together, enhancing each other was gone.

From the early years George Barris started his own Custom Body Shop he instinctively knew what it would take to make the Barris name and Barris Kustom Shop a success. Because of his hard work and insight of capturing it all, documenting it all, we now have the right Custom Car history we can all enjoy. Because George did the actual work in the shop for many years, he knew how to document and promote all this in the best way possible. And perhaps he knew, or at least dreamed about it back in the 1940’s and 1950’s that one day all his hard work and the Barris legacy would make a difference in the world.












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Larry Watson Painted Hot Rods

 

WATSON PAINTED HOT RODS

 

Larry Watson is best know for his special paint on Custom Cars, but he also painted his fair share of Hot Rods during his long career.


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This article shows a selection of photos of Hot Rods painted by Larry Watson. Most of these photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo Archive. Special thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle.
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Most of the photos in the Larry Watson Personal Collection were taken of his beautiful paint work on Custom Cars, Bikes and boats. But these are also a few that show that Larry also did some fantastic paint work on Hot Rods. Unsure why there are relatively few Hot rod’s being painted by Larry. Most likely because he was most of all known as a Custom Car painter, and perhaps the local Hot Rodders thought he might not be interested in doing their Hot Rod, or perhaps thought he might be too expensive doing those fancy Custom Car paint jobs.

Still Larry did his share of Hot Rod painting and showed that he could do beautiful paint jobs on those as well. In this Custom Car Chronicle article we show you most of the Hot Rod photos from the Larry Watson Personal Collection, I have added a few photos from other collections, since they were slightly better quality, or were taken in color. Pleas feel free to place a comment if you know more about the cars showing on the photos. Because as always, they did not come with any info at all.

Larry took this snapshot of Bill DeCarr – on the left – and possibly the owner of this t-Touring with a mostly stock body. But the primer spots indicate that Bill did some work on it to get it straight for Larry to paint it. The car has wire wheels, and a dropped chrome axle…
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“Ye Old” Joe Barnett’s T-Touring with the finished Larry Watson paint job. The car looks a lot like the on in primer above, but some details are different, so it might be a different car all together. This T runs on black wheels, baby moons and big & Little white wall tires. The tall top is covered in white canvas, while the interior is upholstered in black.
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This T has a dropped, black painted dropped axle. The color combination of light metallic, or pearl blue with the white top and black interior and wheels works really well.
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Rear view shows the really nice rake on this T.
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Great photo of the Bill DeCarr/Watson 10116 Artesia Blvd. when it had still the Ed Schelhaas sign on the front. In this around 1960 photo we can see Jerry Fever’s nice ’29 Model A Roadster Hot Rod outside, a 1959 Ford inside the shop that just had a nice Larry Watson silver and candy blue paint job, and Terry Holloway’s 1957 Plymouth in the back behind the roadster.
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Close up of Jerry Fever’s 28-29 Model A full fender orange-red Hot Rod. The car has black wheels and baby moons, just as the T-Touring above.
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Jerry Fever had a good looking all dressed up flathead engine in his Model A with a three carb intake, and paint detailed Stromberg Carbs.
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Very nice Model T coupe with a wonderful Larry Watson paint job. The stance, the chrome wheels, the tires, the white interior and top they are a part of making this one a very stylish Hot Rod. The rear bumper was not installed, most likely still at the home of this very happy Hot Rodder.
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Unique vintage look was achieved with the non chopped top, traditional Watson paint, chrome and white details.
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I really like this photo of the primered T-Body in front of the Watson/DeCarr shop. Also notice the circular paint overspray on the bottom right. The photo below shows how that happened.
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Not the same T-Body as above, this one was hanging on the wall of the Larry Watson Museum, and shows how the circular paint over-spray in the photo above might have happened. Not sure where and when this photo was taken, but the flames are of Larry’s early 60’s style.
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This is the former and first AMBR Bill Niekamp’s 1929 Model A at the time it was owned by Delmer Brink. Larry Watson actually painted this car twice. First in a candy purple and later in a fading from front to rear candy red/maroon paint job which you can see here sitting in front of the Artesia Blvd Shop. The hood and grille are still missing in this photo. More on Delmer’s Hot Rad can be found in this CCC-Article.
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David C. Martins Model A Ford was restyled by Bill DeCarr at his Artesia Blvd Shop and later painted a beautiful Lime Gold by Larry Watson in the paint booth he rented behind Bill’s shop. The body was partly channeled over the frame and special rolled panels added below the body on the sides and at the rear. A ’32 Ford grille was sectioned to fit the lower body.
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Bill also installed an narrowed 1940 Ford dash and modified it to accept 5 round gauges before Larry painted it. More in David C. Martins Hot Rod can be seen in on this Custom Car Chronicle Article.
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Unidentified Tall Model T bucket in front of the Artesia Blvd shop. By now the Ed Schelhaas sign had been replaced with a Bill’s Shop sign. There are only primer photos of this car in the Watson Collection as far as I know. So I don even know if Larry ended up painting it, or if it was only in Bill DeCarr’s Shop.
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Jim Skonzakes on the right leaning against the special trailer he build for the “Kookie T” which had just been repainted by Larry Watson in pearl white and Red flames. This photo was also taken at the Artesia Blvd Shop.
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Beautiful pearl or fine metallic teal blue paintjob on this ’27 Chevy Coupe Rod.
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Larry choose a really unique classic looking color for this near stock bodies Hot Rod. The photos came with no info, so we have no idea who the owner is.
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Beautiful Candy purple paint job on this restyled T-Bucket for owner Gene Chan (thanks Marcus Edell). The contrasting white interior and gold rear tires look really well on the car.
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Candy Red painted traditional T-Bucket.
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Phil Kaelin’s 1932 Ford from the Larry Watson Collection. Sadly there was only a few black and white photos of this car in Larry’s Collection. The color inset photos come from the Wirths Custom Auto Collection and is used to show the amazing colors of the car). This front 3/4 photo shows that the body had been chopped and channeled over the frame. Note the double sided white wall tires up front.
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Willys mostly ended up as gassers and drag racers, but this one was done more as a Hot Rod with shin line big and little white wall tires on chrome reversed wheels. The fresh Larry Watson paint-job look a mile deep.
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Another car that most of the time was used for the race track was this American Bantam. But the owner of this car decided he want to Hot rod his Bantam. These cars always looked a bit odd with their unusual proportions and relatively small size. And this one with large – out of scale – tires makes it even look stranger. Larry Watson painted this one with many wonderful coats of Banana/peach yellow pearl.  This photo was taken at the Watson Downie Firestone Blvd shop.
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Rear 3/4 view of the Bantam. The Pearl paint-job looks really amazing. The unknown owner must have been very happy with the result.
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Woody Barber had two photos of this Larry Watston painted American Bantam in his collection. since these were a bit sharper than the photos Larry had in his collection I have added them to this article.
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Larry painted this 1929 Chevy panel in gunmetal gray, and covered it with vertical free hand airbrushed stripped flames for owner Ron Glusac. Typical styled for late 1960’s early 1970’s. This photo was taken at Larry’s Firestone Blvd shop.
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Few more Hot Rod photos from Larry’s paint-jobs fro Larry’s Personal Museum walls.
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(This article is made possible by)

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St Louis Mystery Custom

 

ST LOUIS MYSTERY CUSTOM

 

John Hellmuth shared these color slide of a Mystery Custom photographed in St Louis Missouri around 1955.  Has anybody seen it before?



John Hellmuth‎ came across these colors slides of a mystery Custom that was built in St Louis Missouri. According to John the photos were taken in the mid 1950’s. John’s brother Bob remembered the car, and how it was restyled by a local shop owner and his son. They both could not remember the shop’s name, or the guy who owned the shop, but they remembered the shop was located close to Calvary Cemetery in St Louis. Not too long after these photos were taken of the unfinished car the shop owner moved to Florida, and most likely took the car with them.

I hope that somebody from the St Louis area might remember this unique Custom with some inspiration hints from the Golden Sahara. Or perhaps the name of the body shop located close to Calvary Cemetery. We are trying to shed a light on this car, and find out what happened to it after the mid 1950’s. Was it ever completely finished?










About the Car

Its hard to identify the car and the parts used on it. But the main body looks to come from an 1950Buick. Most likely the hood was sectioned to make place for the 1954-55 wrap around windshield, and the top portion of the doors was cut off with the rear deck lowered and reshaped. The hood was pancaked, and a working scoop was added to it. The actual trunk looks to be made of a narrowed hood of unknown origin. The front fenders have been extended and heavy hoods were created over the sunken headlights. The grille and front bumper were borrowed from a 1955 Pontiac. The grille surround looks to come from a 1950 Buick. At the rear a pair of 1952 Lincoln taillights was used in reshaped and extended rear fenders. The rear bumper could perhaps be the top portion of an 1951 Lincoln Front bumper, but might come from something else as well, hard to tell.




The Dashboard could perhaps be based on a 1954 Buick dash (including the windshield) with the shape around the gauges reshaped and a second unit created for the passenger side of the car. The interior of the car looks to be the only part of the car that has not been finished. There is nothing behind the seat, and it also looks like there is no upholstery panels covering the door, nor below the dash.










Hopefully somebody will recognize the car, and can tell us a bit more about it, and its builder(s). We would also like to know more about the builder and shop close to Calvary Cemetery in St Louis. And if this shop created more interesting Customs for owners in the St Louis area. If you have any more info on this car, please Email Rik Hoving and let us know. We would love to share any more info with the Custom Car Chronicle readers.












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1947 Ford Mystery Barris Custom

 

1947 Ford MYSTERY BARRIS Custom

 

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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




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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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Background Mystery Custom

 

BACKGROUND MYSTERY CUSTOM

 

In the background of 2 early 1950s drag strip photos I spotted this unidentified Mystery Custom Convertible with Padded Top.



Most of the readers on the Custom Car Chronicle know that I love old photos showing car. And how I love to search the background of city views, cars shows, drag races etc to see if there are any Custom Cars hiding in the background. While I was browsing the online Revs Digital Library I accidentally came across a photo of a drag race I had not seen previously. Some of these large online photo collections use search terms to help you find what you are looking for. But often the search terms are not always added to the photos in a correct way. Making it near impossible to find certain photos that have been archived. None of the “make sense” search terms could have found this photo, and it was even filed under a completely wrong years (1980).

The photo was taken by William Hewitt and part of the William Hewitt Photograph Collection in the Revs Archives and alone his collection contains 21,240 photos. William Hewitt took mostly photos of road races from 1953 and up, but, judging his photo collection, he also was interested in land speed records, and apparently went to a few early/mid 1950’s drag races in California. In the first photo I found of William I spotted and padded topped custom in the background. BINGO… I zoomed in on the photos and noticed this really nice looking, most like ’40 Ford, convertible with heavy chop, padded top and Buick kind grille sitting next to the drag strip. It was a Custom I had never seen before. So I searched for more photos from this series, and  found a few more, but sadly one one other was taken at a similar angle and showed the same Custom Car in the background.

The full photo shows the ’40 Ford Coupe Hot Rod getting ready, or just starting its run on the dragstrip. Cars are parked next to the strip with the Custom all the way to the right.
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At first I thought that it looked very much like the Al Garcia 1939 Ford Convertible Restyled by Harry Westergard and Less Crane in the late 1940’s. But on closer inspection I don’t think it is the same car. First because the car in these photos has vent windows (’39 Ford, and also Al Garcia’s do not have vent windows) plus the hood line towards the custom grille is different. So I do not think I have seen this great looking Custom ever before, and hope somebody does recognize it.


The ’40 Ford has its door handles removed and some more body work done and was partly in primer.
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This is as large as I could get the Mystery Custom. To bad there is a pole in front of the car. The nose appears to be more round than a ’40 Ford nose. The hood appears to open up all the way to the Buick like grille with vertical bard. The windshield has a rather heavy chop with small side windows and angled B-pillars on the padded top. The front bumper could be a 46-48 Chevy unit.
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There is not much to go on when it comes to identifying other than what we see in these two photos. There is no date when the photo was taken (yes 1980 according the Revs site, but that is wrong). We can see that the Hot Rod photos in the first photo has 1951 California license plates. Those were used from 1951 to 1955, so anywhere in between those years these photos could have been taken. William started taking photos in 1953, and the newest car in the photos looks to be a ’53 Chevy. So the photo must have been taken between 1953-55, most likely at an airport strip that was used for drag racing from time to time. The car looks to be based on a 1940 Ford, but even that I’m not 100% sure. It looks like it has a 39 model hood, wheel openings raised, a Buick based  or styled after grille, 46-ish bumpers, heavy chop, padded top, Spotlights, and running boards removed. All very typical for an early to mid 1940’s created Custom.

The second photo I found with the same mystery Custom in the background shows a rather beaten up mid engine Model T Drag Racer as the photo focus point. I think I have seen the car before, but cannot identify it at this moment.
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The close up shows that the car had its running boards removed and a cover added to hide the frame. There is a line in the photo that looks like a possible side trim, which fooled me in the beginning, until I noticed the “trim” extended on the hood of the 53 Chevy parked next to it. The ’53 Chevy is also the newest car in both photos.
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I combined the two photos to create the most complete photo of this Mystery Custom.
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If anybody recognized this great looking Custom in the background of these two drag strip photos, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle so that we can add the information to this article. Thank you.









(This article is made possible by)






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1948 Giveaway Teardrop Trailer

 

1948 GIVEAWAY TRAILER

 

Besides being able to win a FREE Hot Rod at the very first Hot Rod Show in Los Angeles. You could also win a cool Teardrop Trailer in 1948.



Last night I was browsing a couple of books that I had not looked at for quite some time. One was about Trailer Travel in the US from the early days to the 1960’s. Interesting book with some nice pictures. Towards the end of the book my eyes spot the word “Hot Rod” in one of the pictures. I stopped flipping the pages and took a good look at the picture. I recognized the trailer to be rather similar to one my good friend Tim Kirkegaard uses behind his full Custom 1939 Mercury. And the sign taped to the trailer reads  Free! Win this Kenskill Kamper at the Hot Rod Show at the LA National Guard Armory Jan 23-24-25.

I guess the owner of the Kenskill company is on the right, handing over the papers for ownership of the Kustom Kamper to the new lucky owner on the left. The photo caption in the book reads: The proud new owner of a teardrop. Courtesy of Delmar Watson.


[divider]Close up of the sign taped on the trailer (Photo courtesy of Delmar Watson.)
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I knew that Tim’s trailer originated in 1947, so this photo must be from about the same time. I do not know the dates from all the early shows first hand, but I was thinking. Perhaps this photo was taken at the very first Hot Rod Show in 1948, the one where George Barris took his ’41 Buick Convertible to be the only Custom Car attending. I looked up the dates in my files, and yep, there was an ad for the 1948 Southern California Timing Association Hot Rod Exposition with the same dates as on the sign. I had never heard about this Teardrop Trailer being given away at this first show. I knew about the Hot Rod that was assembled at the show and at the end given away to a lucky ticket holder.

The Hot Rod magazine ad for the Hot Rod Exposition showed the same dates as on the trailer poster.
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I tried to find out more about this Giveaway Kenskill trailer, but so far no luck. Would be interesting to find out where it went to, if the lucky new owner was a Hot Rodder, or perhaps a Custom Car guy. Perhaps this Giveaway trailer might be the very same trailer my friend Tim bought many decades later. How neat would that be?

Kenskill magazine ad for the Kustom Kamper.
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Hot Rod Exposition 1948

The first annual Hot Rod Exposition was held in 1948 at the National Guard Armory in Los Angeles, California. The show was held on January 23, 24 and 25 in 1948. Around 55 000 people visited the show during the three days it was held. The photos we have seen from the event show a huge crowd, visualizing the HUGE success of the show. The show was organized by Wally Parks and the SCTA, and promoted by Robert E. Petersen. The very first Hot Rod Magazine was created as the program for the show, selling ads to whoever wanted to display as a vendor and hawking copies on the steps outside the Armory by its co-founder Robert E. Petersen.

The show featured the best designed and engineered cars belonging to members of SCTA. The show was originally called the SCTA Automotive Equipment Display and Hot Rod Exposition. The whole show was the idea of Robert E. Petersen, he wanted to arrange the show in order to raise money to build a dragstrip. The actual dragstrip was never built. During the three-day event a 1932 Ford was built and given away at the end of the show making it the very first Hot Rod door Prize. The first Hot Rod magazine does not mention anywhere that the Teardrop Trailer was also given away. So more than likely this was an initiative from the Kenskill company alone.

Huge crowds at the very first Hot Rod Show, the 1948 Hot Rod Exposition in the National Guard Armory at the Exposition Park in Los Angeles. The Show program is shown on the left.
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Celebrity Colleen Townsend poses with the giveaway 1932 Ford at the 1948 Hot Rod Exposition.
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Tim Kerkegaard’s 1939 Mercury with his Kenskill Kustom Kamper teardrop trailer. What a fine combination.
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Teardrop trailers are popular among traditional Hot Rodders and Custom Car enthusiasts all around the world.
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Close up of Tim’s Trailer. (the vertical tubs at the top are added to the trailer later and allow a seperate tent to be attached to the trailer)
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