Dan Landon First Car

 

DAN LANDON FIRST CAR

 

A found snapshot of Dan Landon and his 1949 Chevy put more than a¬†huge smile on my face…



In the decades that I have been researching the history of Custom Cars, and been searching for Custom Car related photos I have come across numerous spectacular photos. Both in printed material as well as originals. And then so every now and then, out of all those amazing photos, you come across one single¬†photo that for some reason really hits you. Just that happened when I recently received an email from Thomas Taylor including a small, low res scan of a snapshot showing Dan Landon next to his famous Ayala/Barris 1949 Chevy Custom. Thomas¬†mentioned that he had found the photo posted¬†on the Landon family’s ancestry page and that is was titled ‘Dan and his first car‘.

I have always enjoyed snapshots of customs cars… perhaps even better than staged photos, just because they show the cars in their natural environment. It makes it easier for those who have not been around those cars in the 1940’s and 1950’s to see and feel how it really was. This snapshot with Dan Landon next to his Chevy is just that, a wonderful snapshot showing any ordinary day with Dan and a friend. Perhaps they were getting ready to go to a car show, or had jut returned from one. Or perhaps they were about to go out for a cruise to a local drive in, or a weekend out into the mountains with the rest of the Kustoms Los Angeles club members like they did freaquently. Who know… Its just nice to day dream about the setting of the photo.

But one thing that really grabbed me about this photo is the title the person who posted gave the photo… “Dan and his first car”. Dan is no longer with us, he passed away in 2010, so we cannot ask him about this photo, or the fact if the Chevy was indeed his very first car. I’m not even sure if it really was his first car, perhaps it was, but since he was born in 1931, he was at least 18¬†years old when his Chevy rolled from the factory. Its unknown if he bought the car brand new, or used. But all that does not really matter to much for this.

The idea of this young guy in his early 20’s owning a stunning 1949 Chevy custom created by some of the top custom shops of the time. The idea that this was his first car, and that 60 plus years later people are going wild over a snapshot they find online. People who are still discussing a car that¬†Dan owned in the early 1950’s in all its details. Analyzing what all had been done to the car, getting inspired by it to create their own personal restyled car.



ccc-dan-landon-chevy-first-car-photoThe photo that was shared on the Landon family¬†ancestry web page. ‘Dan and his first car’. Of course not realizing that this very snapshot would be shared all over the world over 60 years later!
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At the time when Dan had the Chevy built, he most likely just wanted to have a¬†great looking custom car, just as his friends. A car he could use to pick up girls, cruise the drive-ins, and show at the major California Car shows. Getting your car featured in the magazines was a HUGE bonus, but dreaming your car would inspire people decades after the car was first built… I do not think Dan had ever thought about that. ¬†I have never met or talked to Dan Landon when he was still alive, so I do not know if he stayed in touch with the scene. But I sure do hope that he was aware how much this car means to the Custom Car world. How much impact it had back then, he most likely knew that, but also how much is still means today, and how many people still get a huge smile on their face if they look at picture of this Chevy.
Not bad for His First Car.

Thank you Thomas Taylor for sharing this great snapshot.

If you want to see more photos of Dan’s breathtaking 1949 Chevy Custom, then check out this CCC-Article we did some time ago.


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52 Chevy The Lone Star Deluxe

THE LONE STAR DELUXE

Sam Navarro set out to create his first ever Custom Car. Inspired by the Larry Ernst and Leon Welmas Chevies he created the wonderful 1952 Chevy The Lone Star Deluxe.


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In 2009 Sam Navarro’s life was calming down after some turbulent years and he decided it was time for him to start his first Custom Car. At first he was not quite sure what car he wanted to start with, but when¬†Richard Donham “Burl” from Los CoChinos car club¬†offered a decent looking in progress¬†1952 Chevy Styleline Deluxe for sale he decided to pull the trigger and this would be his Custom Car Project for the next couple of years. Sam realized the¬†49-52 Chevies have great potential as classic¬†looking Custom, no matter which body style you choose. There where plenty of historic samples that would provide the much needed inspiration for his project. After looking at hundreds of photos of the 1949-52 Chevies of the past and the present. From those he picked two to be his favorite, and the style seen in those two cars was going to reflect¬†in¬†his own Custom. The two inspiration cars were; The Barris Customs created Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy Hard Top (first version), and the 1952¬†Chevy¬†Convertible created for Leo Welmas.

CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-inspirationInspiration for Sam’s 1952 Chevy custom came from many 1950’s restyled Chevy’s, but two of those stood out and became the main inspiration for the Lone Star Deluxe. The Barris created Larry Ernst Hard-Top and the Leon Welmas convertible. Both subtle yet well designed classic customs.
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What Sam liked so much about these two classic Chevy Customs was that both had major body modifications, yet both were still very subtle in their overall appearance. That was exactly what Sam had in mind for his own Custom. The end result he was looking for would be subtle, something that would not “Stand Out” in the car show per say. He was rather looking for a car that people would pass, and then turn back to see why this car was looking so good. Then realizing all the details and delicate¬†body modifications that were done to the car to create the “just right” effect. Before Sam actually started to work on his car he discussed all options with his friends, making sure he would make the right decisions in the the style and feel he was looking for.

CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-front-01No matter from which angle you look at Sam’s Chevy it always looks good. The way the grill was peaked to match the modified hood, the way the wheels/hubcaps with the wheel openings accentuated by the Packard trim…
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-rear-01The rear fenders/quarter panels were extended 3 inches to make the 1954 Packard taillights work with the Chevy body at their best. 
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-side-02The ’51 Packard side trim was places so that the spear would optical flow with the peak on the rear fenders from the Packard taillights. The extended down flush fitting fender skirt help with the overall flow of the car.
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Sam and some of the CoChinos club members started the work with taking the body completely back to bare metal to make sure the base was at its best. Work started with replacing the rusted areas with new patch panels including the floor¬†and then it was time for the more fun stuff….¬†the customizing. Sam had collected some parts that he wanted to use on his dream customs. 1951 Packard side trim, 1954 Oldsmobile grill, 1954 Packard taillights, 1953 Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps, 1952 Ford headlights, 1950 Pontiac rear bumper, Firestone wide white wall tires, etc.

First on the agenda was to get the car at the desired ride height. Sam wanted his car to be low and about level, typical for the look of the early 1950’s customs. Chassis Engineering products were used for the independent front suspension¬†as well as the springs in the back. A Gambino Notch Kit was used at the back to get the car as low as Sam wanted it to be. They also installed two¬†air shocks and a compressor, allowing for a slightly higher stance for¬†highway speeds and when family and friends take place in the back seats.¬†When the car sat right it was time to graft the Packard taillights in. Club-mebers¬†Ivan¬†and¬†Adrian extended the rear fenders about 3 inches and shaped new sheet metal to make the Packard taillights flow with the Chevy fenders. The 1952 Ford¬†headlights were welded to the front fenders. The door and trunk handles were shaved and the hood was made into one piece. The splash-pan front and rear was reshaped and extended where needed. The front bumper was replaced with a¬†“California Seamless” Chevy unit, and the rear bumper was replaced with an¬†1950 Pontiac bumper¬†which wrapped around the extended rear fenders much nicer as the stock Chevy unit.

CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-dash-03The dash was cleaned up and the gauges replaced with new classic instrument units.
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-dash-02The dash was painted in the same color as the body, only the light color was covered with gloss clear on the dash, while a flat clear was used on the main body
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-dash-01A better look at the off-white with red needles instruments. 
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Then it was time to get really serious and start with the Chop. Sam wanted to have a really smooth chop, not overdone, just very elegant, complementing the great lines of the car. He also wanted to keep the top and rear quarter windows full length, and the catwalk the original size.¬†Sam handed the car over to the capable hands of Sean Ornduff of¬†Ornduff Craftsmanship¬†in¬†Tomball, Texas for the chop and fine tuning of all the body work. Sean chopped the top approximately 3 3/4″ in the front around¬†4″ in rear. The front was measured, but the rear was just cut down till it looked just right. A lot of time was spend on the flow of the rear of the top and how the rear window fits both the shape of the new top as well as to the belt-line trim. The B-pillars were leaned forward slightly for the right effect.¬†¬†Sean also created the new grill opening from shaped metal, and modified the 1954 Oldsmobile grill bar to flow with the grill opening shape and to make it fit just perfect.

CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-interior-01The stock seats and panels were redone in a simple black marine vinyl.¬†The plan was to redo it in a more classic 1950’s style after a while
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The idea was to have the car on the road semi finished for some time and then fine tune everything for an ultimate early 1950’s paint job. So the body work on the main body was semi-fine tuned by Sean. The top was completely body worked and then the whole car prepped for paint. Sam was very impressed with Sean’s work and attention to detail and style. So he let Sean decide on the colors for the Chevy. ¬†Sean picked a beautiful medium blue metallic for the top and tinted primer for the main body. The top was clear coated gloss, but the main body¬†was¬†coated with flat clear for a really special look. Sean also took care of modifying all the stainless trim on the car including modifying the Packard trim.¬†Sam wanted to have all the glass on his Chevy to be real glass, so extra care was taken at all the window openings. The stainless trim was painstakingly modified to work with the new lower windows, the garnish moldings were reshaped to fit.¬†Sean made sure that the door and¬†rear quarter windows are fully functional.

The original plan was to drive the car like this for a couple of years, so Sam did not want to go all wild on the interior either. The stock interior remained in the car, but was redone¬†in¬†marine vinyl. The interior¬†was just perfect for the driver the car has been for the past 5 years. But the plan always was to go for an really nice two tone typical early 1950’s interior eventually.¬†

CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-interior-03The whole interior and trunk was insulated. But so far Sam had never gotten around to actually do the upholstery of the trunk.
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When the whole car was put back together Sam could step back, and look at his dream Custom. Everything worked just the way he had envisioned it all his time spending doing research and careful planning had paid off. There was only one small thing¬†not quite right. When the car was first put together Sam used a set of 1957 Cadillac hubcaps which he liked very much. But they just seam to be a bit to busy, and not in style with the rest of the car.¬†When he later replaced them with a set of smooth 1953 Caddy units it all felt in place.¬†Sam’s 1952 Chevy had excactly that right classic early/mid 1950’s Californian Custom Car feeling he had been looking for. The amazing thing about Sam’s Chevy is that it looks good no matter from what angle you look at it. The low stance combined with extended front and rear fenders and ultra smooth chopped top make this car look so long and sleek.¬†Sam was extremely happy with the end result…. Especially since this was his first ever Custom he created. Mission accomplished!

CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-firstThe first version of Sam’s¬†The Lone Star Deluxe used a set of 1957 Cadillac hubcaps… nice, but to new and busy looking for the smooth 1954 style he was looking for. So he replaced them for 1953 Cadillac hubcaps.
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-side-01The smooth, restraint chop is perfect in balance with the rest of the body and the amount of lowering. The balance between the front and rear side glass is also as good as it gets.
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-rear-02Especially the rear quarter view of Sam’s car give the impression of going 50 miles an hour standing still.¬†
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-front-02A better look at how the Oldsmobile grill was v-ed to match the hood. Notice the delicate round corners on the front of the hood.
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1952 Chevrolet Styleline Deluxe
‚ÄstThe Lone Star Deluxe¬†‚Äď

Body Modifications:

  • Chop- Approximately 3 3/4″ front and 4″ in rear by Sean Ornduff of Ornduff Craftsmanship, new window seals and felts installed.
  • All windows are real glass, and fully¬†functional with garnish moldings installed.
  • Tail lights- Rear quarter panels were extended roughly 3″ and the metal was shaped to fit
    ’54 Packard Tail Lights. Started by Ivan and Adrian from Los CoChinos Car Club and finished by Sean Ornduff.
  • New splash pan was installed to accommodate the extension.
  • Fender skirts were extended to fit flush to body at the bottom.
  • Doors shaved.
  • Modified ‘51 Packard side trim (Ornduff)
  • 1952 Ford headlights molded to the fenders.
  • Front bumper is new “California Seamless” Chevy unit.
  • ’50 Pontiac rear bumper with modified ’49 Chevy license plate guard.
  • Oldsmobile floating grill bar shortened, peaked and lenses for turn signals installed. (Ornduff)
  • Hood peaked with one off grill opening by Sean Ornduff.
  • Floor, trunk and roof have been insulated “Road Kill” insulation similar to Dynamat.
  • ’52 Deluxe steering wheel.
  • New chrome tilt steering column.
  • Upholstery- Stock interior was redone with marine vinyl about 5 years ago, it is in decent driver shape but I was planning to have it all redone after paint. More of a ride in comfort during build situation. (There is not a headliner in the car, it’s been insulated and I have all of the hanger rods.)


Paint:

  • Roof has been body worked and painted 100% by Sean Ornduff.
  • Body has been lightly body worked and has a flat primer with flat clear over it.


Drivetrain:

  • Motor- 305 Small block Chevrolet out of a 1986 Monte Carlo (rebuilt with under 2500 miles on it)
  • Transmission- Turbo 350 (rebuilt with under 2500 miles on it) Chassis Engineering Transmission Mount
  • Rear end- 308 ratio out of a 1969 Camaro.


Suspension:

  • Front: Chassis Engineering independent front suspension with disc brakes purchased new and installed with motor and trans.
  • Rear: Chassis Engineering “Lowrider Springs” with two air shocks and compressor for highway speeds and when passengers are in the back seats or heavy weight in the trunk.
  • Step Notch: Gambino Notch Kit.
  • Wiring: New “EZ Wire” harness installed by White Wall Garage in October 2015.
  • Vintage Air 2nd Generation unit with Air Condition, Heat and Defrost installed by White Wall Garage in April 2015.
  • Gauge Cluster- New Classic Instruments.
  • Tires- New Firestone 670/15.
  • New Optima Battery.
  • Mustang gas tank with new sending unit.


CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-early-02The early stages. On the left is how the car looked when Sam bought it. On the right shows the car after Sam owned it for some time, and the work on it was progressing bit by bit. The 1951 Pontiac rear bumper was the latest addition. 
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-progress-01Installation of the Packard taillights and the first coats of primer allowing the car to be a driver before the chop was tackled.
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-progress-02Suspension and drive-train work progress on the Chevy.
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-progress-s-01Sean’s work on the C-Pillar and rear of the top to make sure everything flows right.
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-progress-s-02Canting the B-Pillars forward in-progress.
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CCC-sam-navarro-52-chevy-progress-s-03More work done on the B-Pillars, lengthening of the rear quarter window still needs to be done in this photo.
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Riley Collins 55 Chevy Cameo

RILEY COLLINS 55 CHEVY

In the later part of the 1950’s Riley Collins Custom Shop in¬†Chico California created some outstanding Custom Cars. Jim Roten designed many of them, including Riley’s personal 1955 Chevy Cameo shop truck.

 
[dropcap]Riley[/dropcap] Collins built this 1955 Chevy Cameo pick up truck for himself. And like a most of his other project cars his good friend Jim Roten was responsible for the the design. Mike Roten, Jim’s son shared one quick sketch Jim made in late 1958 for Riley’s Truck. It showed the use of 1958 Edsel taillights Caddy styled bumper ends and possible plans for full fender skirts. The Skirts and the Caddy bumper ends did not make it to the final version of the truck. But the whole rear fender / taillight treatment Jim designed sure did.
 
CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-09Jim Roten created this, and possibly a few more design sketches for the Riley Collin’s 1955 Chevy Cameo truck.¬†
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CCC-riley-collins-truck-01-jim-rotenThis is the earliest photo we have of Riley’s shop truck. Mostly stock with some of the bright work removed and the headlight treatment started.
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CCC-riley-collins-truck-09-jim-rotenTest fitting the Chrysler headlight in the opened up front fender.
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CCC-riley-collins-truck-02-jim-rotenAn early photo shows the work that was needed to install the 1958 Chrysler Imperial headlights. It also shows that at this point there were no plans for the Oldmobile grille surround/bumper set up yet, hence the metal work below the headlights.
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Riley started the truck with dropping the car 3 inches front using a dropped axle and the same amount at rear using a different set up for the springs, to get the perfect ride height. Jim had designed the car with a set of lake pipes, so Riley knew those would optical drop the car even further. All the stainless trim and door handles were shaved and the holes filled and smoothed for an nice smooth look. The doors are now operated using an electrical push button system.The front fenders were reshaped to accept a set of quad headlights taken from a 1958 Chrysler Imperial. The hood corners were rounded and now flow nicely into the shape of the Chevy headlights.
 
CCC-riley-collins-truck-06-jim-rotenThe early version finished in primer. The hood corners had not been rounded at this time.
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CCC-riley-collins-truck-03-jim-rotenBirds eye point of view shows the front end restyling on the truck. Spotlights have now also been added.
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CCC-riley-collins-truck-05-jim-rotenNotice how smooth the transition fro the Olds grille surround to the body is. I particular like the shape just underneath the hood and how it flows into the grille surround and headlights. This is very well designed and very well grafted restyling. Kudos to the Riley Collins and Jim Roten team.
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The whole grille unit was removed and an 1956 Olds front bumper/grille surround was installed. Riley hand made the body surround around this unit from round rod and sheet metal. The new front end changed the looks of the truck completely and gave it a very elegant appearance.

Another typical Jim Rotan design feature is the hand made grille. We have seen several of those in other Jim Rotan design sketches. (take a look at the¬†CCC-Article¬†on some of Jim Roten’s Custom Car designs sketches) Most of the grille was made from round rod, bend to shaped and welded into a single unit. Combined with two 1955 Buick bumper bullets¬†¬†before it was smoothed and send out to be plated. The new grille was place on to of a sheet of perforated chrome plated metal.
 
CCC-riley-collins-truck-07-jim-rotenRiley Collins standing with his 1955 Chevy Cameo.
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CCC-riley-collins-truck-08-jim-rotenSome fine tuning was done on the body work and Riley had the grille roughed in, still in need of smoothing and plating. The perforated metal sheet back section is still missing when Jim took this photo at Riley Collins Body shop.
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CCC-riley-collins-55-chevy-truck-01The finished truck at the Sacramento Autorama show, just after the car was finished in pearl white, and Jim Roten had taped the scallops with 1/4 inch tape and Riley Collins painted them withe 3-part candy red lacquer. (photo courtesy of Kent Collins)
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CCC-riley-collins-55-chevy-truck-02Great side view in front of the California National Guard building shows the nice flow of the candy red scallops. (photo courtesy of Kent Collins)
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CCC-riley-collins-55-chevy-truck-03A good look at the front of the truck with the hand made grille and very nicely done scallops which enhance the body styling Wheels are reversed chrome units with color detailed hubcaps added. (photo courtesy of Kent Collins)
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At the back Riley set out to duplicate Jim’s sketch as close as possible. He extended the fenders at the top with a hooded section. He later would fill this section with a very fine wire mesh insert. Below that he reshaped the rear fender and the tailgate to accept 1958 Edsel taillights flipped from side to side so that the downward section is now at the sides of the car and not towards the middle¬†as they are on the stock Edsel’s. The whole tailgate unit was completely reshaped and the shape of the rear quarter panels was extended onto the tailgate, and followed the shape of the Edsel taillights. The stock 1955 Chevy rear bumper-ettes were modified with round exhaust tips at the bottom. The non chrome center section was reshaped with a round rod license plate cover in the middle.
 
CCC-riley-collins-55-chevy-truck-04A lot of work went into the back of the truck as well where the flipped 1958 Edsel taillights are the center piece. Notice the roof insert in contrasting red. (photo courtesy of Kent Collins)
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CCC-riley-collins-55-chevy-truck-05Rer 3/4 view of Riley Collins 1955 Chevy Cameo. Not shown in these photos is the special made tonneau cover. (photo courtesy of Kent Collins)
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With all the body work completed Riley primered the body work and drove it around for a bit before he would paint it “mother of pearl” white with candy red accents. The interior was done in white naugahide with red inserts. Jim Roten mentioned that the engine compartment looked as good as the exterior. It had a 265 Chevy small block equipped with a Duntov cam, solid lifters, multiple carburetion, Corvette valve covers, headers, and glasspack mufflers. And it sounded as good as it looked. Even the front fender liners were chromed plated. Basically a ’56 Corvette engine in a truck! In those days few customs had hot engines, but this one did.

Riley sold his truck in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. And we have no idea what happened to it after that. Does anybody have a clue where this one is today? Or what happened to it?

CCC-riley-collins-55-chevy-truck-06An other paint job shows a different design for the scallops and all white around the grille surround. (photo courtesy of the Barris Collection)
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CCC-jim-roten-illustrations-19This version of the Riley Collins Shop Truck was featured in the Custom Show-Cars Trend book 181 from 1959.
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Special thanks to Jim and Mike Roten and Kent Collins for sharing the photos for this article.
 
 
 

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Memo Ortega Stories Part Sixteen

PART 16

Back to the 1970’s and into the 1980’s, Memo flashbacks to when he met his future wife, paints a T-Bucket and Customizes his friends 1977 Chevy Step-Side.

 
[box_light]Memo Ortega is a well known name in the SoCal Custom Car and LowRider Scene, but perhaps not as well known as it should be. Memo has been working on custom cars and Low Riders since the early 1950’s. He became good friends with Custom Car Icon Gil Ayala, and in the late 1950’s he even bought Gil’s famous 1942-46 Ford Coupe as a persona driver. Today, in 2014, 80 years young, Memo is still chopping tops, and any other custom car work you can think of from, his garage work-shop. Check out more of the¬†Memo Ortega Stories¬†in the¬†Memo Ortega Files¬†on the CCC[/box_light]

 

By Memo Ortega
 

Rainbow Gardens Flashback

I came across¬†an online photo where they are having some dinner at the Rainbow Gardens, Thats where me and the guys were cruzin on a Sat nite, and meet Terry’s friends cruzin in their¬†’57¬†Chevy hardtop.¬†We followed them to Montclair where we met Terry at her house. We were in my custom painted Olds¬†that day. Owner of the ’57¬†Chevy¬†was Carmen, the girl sitting on my Olds front fender in one of the photos in Part TEN¬†of my stories.) The girls were always cruzin with her. Anyway, one of the girls was Terry’s sister. ¬†When we got to there house in Montclair, we stopped in front and Terry came out, we introduced ourselves, and to the other gals. We got to talking, and having a lot of fun. Terry told us, you guys better leave before my dad comes home, or we might get in trouble, its already after ten.

Right when she tells us this,¬†here comes a car up to the house, it was their¬†dad!¬†She told us pleace don’t take off right now, then he is¬†gonna think the worst of you guys and us.¬†¬†So we started sweating balls, oh shit we got them in trouble now… and so are we. he drove in the driveway, and came out of his car, a ’51 chevy hardtop with a continetal tire on the back. He headed toward us, let me tell you, he was a big heavy cowboy wearing a big cowboy hat!¬†First thing he tells us why dont you guys come in, an talk to the girls inside.¬†Terry tells us… “yes you guys better come in”.¬†Well this¬†all turned out real good. Thats how I¬†met Terry, to which I’m still married today.
 
CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-06I saw this picture on the net, with this diner party at the Rainbow Gardens, and had to think about the day I met my future wife Terry.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-22Inside of the Rainbow Gardens before the crowds got in. It was a magical place for us back then. (Courtesy of Pomona Public Library http://content.cdlib.org)
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The Rainbow Gardens in the ’50’s and 60’s in Pomona, Ca was a very popular place for everyone that wanted to go have a good time dancing on Saturday nites. The place had always some popular bands or orchestras performing there, and they always drew big crowds. Singers like¬†Perez Prado, who¬†had some bad songs on the radio charts at the time.¬†Me and the guys always cruzed by there checking out the wandas. Then there was El Monte Legion Stadium, another of my favorite¬†popular place to go for Rock &¬†Roll music. I¬†mean popular in El Monte Ca, with Art Laboe heading the shows with such greats as; Don and Dewey, Robert and Johnny,¬†Ritchie Valens, Johnny and Joe to name just a few. To me those were the places to go. The famous Art Laboe is still on the radio with his oldies but goodies music after all these years how cool is that!. Great¬†Flashback¬†memories from back then.

 

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El Monte Legion Stadium with Art Laboe and¬†Jerry Lee Lewis, outside of the building, announcement poster and one of Art Laboe’s records.
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1937 Chevy fender art
When Memo send me some photos of a trike he was working on in October 2014, I spotted something green and round in the background. It looked like a fender sitting next to the garage. So I asked Memo what it was… “Oh that!¬†thats my old passenger front fender of my ’37 Chevy from when it was green with seaweed flames.¬†I took the¬†fender off since it was rough, and had some minor damage. I had found a better one and since I was going to repaint it, I used the better one. I put the old one next to the garage and it has been there ever since.¬†
Some guys even have tried to buy it from me, but I¬†never sold it. I just¬†like it where it is.”
 
CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-01The 1937 Chevy front fender in 2014, retired next to the garage.
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CCC-memo-ortega-part-twelve-11-wAnd this is how it used to look.
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¬†Carl Cole’s T-Bucket

In part 15 of the Memo Ortega Stories we followed Memo’s GMC pick up all the way until he sold the car in the 1990’s, but there is a lot more to tell from the 1970’s and early 1980’s. So lets get back in time and let Memo tell some more great memories.

A little latter on the ’70’s the T¬†buckets got to be the rage. I met a guy named¬†Carl Cole he was a hard core drag racing fan. He came over and asked me if II¬†would cherry out his T-Bucket and give it custom paint job. He had¬†found out about me from Mike Evans that I did a lot of paint jobs.¬†I¬†said, yes sure I will paint¬† your T-Bucket , and make something real nice for you. He dropped his T-Bucket¬†body off an¬†I¬†cherried the body, primmed it, and gave it a nice custom paint job.¬†When I¬†was done, I¬†took it over to his house we laid the body on his lawn, he came out to take a close look. He was so happy the way I painted the body. Some time later he finished the car and whosed me how it came together. The T came out really nice and the paint did look really great on it.
 
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-03Carl Cole’s finished T-Bucket looked touch with the Daisy wheels and white coated exhaust. Typical Hot Rod for the time, it came out real nice, and Carl was happy.
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Well all these¬†years have gone by, and¬†I¬†recently¬†saw the T again. Carls gave me a call to come over to his house and there is was, right there in his garage.¬†Some sections still have my old paint job on it.¬†Carl is redoing the car againg and it is gonna be awesome when its done. Carl asked me if I was interested in doing the new paint on it… I told him to give me some time to think about it… we will see.¬†Latter on when its finished¬†I¬†will hope¬†I¬†can get some photos for¬†the CCC.
 
CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-04The day I saw Carl and his old T-Bucket again in his garage. The car had been updated a lot over the years. and was used to race. But Carl plans to bring it back to how it used to look.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-05Thats me and Carl checking out the T-Bucket body. the fiberglas still looked good after all these years. I was happy to see some of the old paint was still there.
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Richard Mendez ’77 Chevy

 
In the last episode on my stories I mentioned than while I was working on my GMC Truck, Richard Mendez asked me to do his ’77 Chevy Step-Side. I actually did his car before I continued working on my GMC, so lets get on to Richards Truck.
Richard Mendez came by with his ’77¬†Chevy Stepside, he wanted me to chop the top at first, but said he had more ideas for it that would come later. So we went over what he wanted done on his Stepside besides the chop. Custom tail-gate, shaved, and custom headlights.¬†But I had to start with the chop. He left the truck and I¬†started working on the top. It took me a while to get it right, I had to split the top to get the pillars to line up. ¬†When I¬†was done with the top , we took it over to Bobs in Ontario Ca for the glass work. They did a great job on cutting the glass to fit the smaller window opening.
 
CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-07Making the first cuts on Robert’s truck, here you can see how much the pillars angle and what it will take to get them to line up later.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-12A few of the in progress photos show me cutting the doors, the top in halves, working on the roll pan and the car after it got back from the glass guys.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-18Love this picture of Richard…¬†No turning back now. See the lemon on the hood, I love eating lemons fresh from our lemon tree. I ate them all the time, with or without salt. The one on the hood did not last long after the photo was taken.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-11Tried my shot at taking some fancy Art photos. It also shows the extra length I had to add to the top of the doors to get them line up again.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-13Some of the hard work just needs to be captured in a photo. Here I cut the top in half to make sure I could line up the pillars. My 37 in the background.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-17After the top was done, Richard took the car to the glass guy, who did a great job. He then took it back to me for more work. Here Richard starts sanding the body and soon I would be changing the headlights.
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A little while after the glass work was done Richard¬†brought the car¬†back to me, for more custom work. I was impressed with the way the truck looked with all the glass work done. Next I¬†shaved the door handles and emblems off. I then moved on to the back of the bed where I¬†installed a louverd rear panel on the tailgate. I also rolled a panel bellow the tailgate to give it a cool look on the back. In the center of the new rolled pan I created a recessed section for a sunken license plate. Up in front we had the hood louvered and ¬†I¬†installed a ’59¬†Chevy¬†Impala rear bumper with its lower panals an small bumper guards, richard brougth me a set of¬†61¬†Chrysler¬†quad headlites for the front. He wanted the quad lites slitly canted and upside down.¬†So I filled in the holes from the stock headlights and¬†I¬†did the¬†headlights just¬†the way he wanted them.¬†He was real happy with his truck.¬†Latter on¬†Richard¬†painted the truck a dark blue metallic. Richard is a true die hard street cruzer in my book.

CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-08Richard wanted to use 1961 Chrysler headlights, so I took out the stock units, shaped a filler panel, and figured out the angle of the lights Richard liked best. By now we had the hood louvered and in primer.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-09The front bumper has been replace with a 1959 Chevy rear bumper by now and I’m working on the installations of the 1961 Chrysler headlights.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-15At the back I installed a roll pan to which I added a recessed panel for the license plate.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-16This is how it left me, chop was all done with glass installed, shaved doors, louvered hood, bumper change and ’61 headlights. Then Richard took over from there. That is Dukie in front of the truck. One smart dog that was with us for 16.yrs
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-19Richard added the 1970 Mustang taillights into the smoothed rear fenders.He painted the car ins a great looking metallic blue. It came out really nice.
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CCC-memo-ortega-stories-16-21The finished truck, Richard was a very happy man, he loved his “Evil Ways” 1977 Chevy Step-Side Truck.
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Go to part Seventeen.
Go to part 15.

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Outlined 54 Chevy

OUTLINED 54 CHEVY

This nice mildly customized 1954 Chevy is credited with a Larry Watson outline paint job in candy red and white pearl.

 

A while ago I came across this very nice color slide on eBay. It was an late 1950’s, or perhaps early 1960’s color slide showing a nice model with lavender bikini posing in front of an 1954 Chevy Bel-Air. The photo was offered with no specific information about the model, the car, or where it was taken. The car had a nice red paint job with white outlines and scallops. In the back of my mind I knew that I had seen this car before. But at the moment I could not remember where. A couple of month later I came across another photo of this same car. The photo, or negative¬†was again offered for sale on eBay and came with no info what so ever. I recognized the car and the model and filed it with the color slide image in my archives. I did not think about these two photos for some time, until I was looking for something else and was browsing my copy of Restyle Your Car by James E. Potter, Trend Book Booklet from 1961. On page 107 I found a photo of this very same 1954 Chevy Bel Air photographed at an indoor show.

 

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Black and white negative is part of the Zeke Carrillo Collection.
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The photo caption credited Larry Watson for the candy red paint with pearl white outlines. But it did not mention the owner now builder’s names. But it was great to finally have a little more information about this car. After I had read the paint was done by Larry Watson I of course searched the Larry Watson Personal Collection for more info, but nothing, no scans of photos from this car. I also searched for any signs of this car on the Larry Watson Museum walls… and again, nothing. So is this a Larry Watson painted car after all? or was the info given in the Restyle Your Car booklet perhaps incorrect. One thing that I noticed is that the white outline was not outlined with pin-striping. Something Larry usually did.

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Does anybody have any more info on this great looking 1954 Chevy Bel Air Custom. Was it indeed a Larry Watson painted Custom? Or was somebody else responsible for this one. In any event, I think it is a really nice looking Custom with its modified grille opening, Mercury headlights, shaved trim and handles, white tuck & roll interior and Custom Bumpers. I would love to see some more photos of this one, to see how the rear of the car looked like. I hope somebody will recognize it, or perhaps have some more photos of it to share.

Update 1:
Howard Gribble shared his memories about this 1954 Chevy with us. “When I was in high school in the early ’60s we occasionally skipped classes and and headed out for a cruise of the famous custom shops. On one such expedition we stopped at the upholstery shop of Eddie Martinez. This car was in the shop and many years later I read somewhere that it was Mr. Martinez’s personal car. I might add that we were warmly received and our inquires were answered as if we were serious customers — which we were not, considering that we had pooled our quarters to buy the gas to get there!”

 

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Walter Leeman 53 Chevy

LEEMAN 53 CHEVY

This ’53 Chevy’s striking color combination,¬†perfect lines and Traditional Custom Car looks stood out in 1983 when it was built, and it still does today.

 
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n our series on 80’s and 90’s Custom Car Icons, we would like to share¬†Walter Leeman’s¬†1953 Chevy. I consider¬†Walter’s Chevy an Icon, a personal feeling perhaps, but this Chevy has played an important part in my Custom Car schooling. Walter’s Chevy has played an important role in the way people looked at Custom Cars in the mid 1980’s up to the mid 1990’s.
I first saw Walter’s Chevy when I opened the October 1985 issue of Hot Rod magazine at bookstore in the city I was studying at the time. Walter’s Chevy was part of the Gray Baskerville Cars! Cars! Cars! the summer of ’85 article. Only two relatively small photos of alters Chevy appeared in the magazine of which one had the center spine going thru the rear fenders. But the car’s looks and the color choice made an really big impact on me, the car was absolutely perfect. Back then there was not much Custom Car related info available for me, so I decided to¬†buy¬†the magazine just for those two photos. Many years later I got in contact with Walter thru my website, the Custom Car Photo Archive and Walter shared some more info an photos of his Chevy with me.

CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-hrmThis is how I first saw Walter’s Chevy in the October 1985 issue of Hot Rod Magazine. These two photos and few words by Gray Baskerville made a HUGE impression on me.
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Building the Chevy

CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-01The ’53 Chevy in the wrecking yard, the way Walter found it in the early 1980’s.
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In the early 1980’s Walter¬†went on a few business trips with his wife and came across this small, out of the way wrecking yard. It was there when he spotted a 1953 Chevy Hardtop, and started to day dream about his version of the Moonglow. Walter had never done any major bodywork, but he figured since the car was from a wrecking yard and he only paid $250.- for it, that¬†even if he failed it was not a big loss, and he could go back and find another project car. But it turned out he was a natural customizer.

 
CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-02After taking the car back home Walter started by striping the car and taping the sections to remove from the posts.
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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-03And off came the top, there is no way back now. Thats the ’54 Chevy four door donor car in the back. Walter used the engine and several other pieces from it for his ’53 Chevy.
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Walter had always loved Custom Cars, he grew up around the Ayala and Barris shop, so he knew how a good Custom should look like. Later Walter spend a lot of time striping cars, and doing many paint jobs including scallops and flames. Everything would come in very handy in the early 1980’s when he set out to built his own dream custom. Walter was¬†living in a small town in the Colorado mountains and did not have a garage at the time, so most of the work on the car had to be done outside in his yard, as we can see in the progress photos. It would take Walter 8 month working on and off on the Chevy to finish it.

CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-04This photo illustrates how Walter had to work on his car due to the fact he did not have a garage at the time he built the car. This sure did not prevent him from creating a striking Custom.
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Walter started by cutting off the top and cutting 3.5 inches of the pillars. One of the things he did not like on some of these 43-54 Chopped Chevys was the dip they had on the rear window to top. So Walter made enough relieve cuts on the rear of the roof to make the metal flow at the same angle as the rear window glass. Not easy, but Water succeeded in creating a very pleasant flow of the rear window into the top as well as the trunk. He removed the ’53 grille and replaced it with an ’54 Chevy unit which he had found at a wrecking yard.¬†He¬†molded the surround to the 1953 body, modified the grille bar with ‚Äô74 Comet parking lights at the ends and added 15 ’54 Chevy grille teeth. The front splash-pan was reshaped at the ends and molded to the body. The headlights were molded to the front fender and ’53 Ford headlight rims used to tunnel the headlights. The two part hood was welded and peaked in the center. At the back Walter reshaped the rear fenders to accept a set of ’53 Chrysler taillights, which look amazingly well on the car, and the splash pan was molded to the body, just as he did in the front. All body emblems and handles were removed and the whole body smoothed and primered. Walter modified a set of Chevy fender skirts, extending them on the bottom to sit level with the lower edge of the rear fender.

CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-07Two Polaroids show the cuts Walter had to make to get the now much lower top to flow perfect with the rear window.
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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-06Molded in headlight rings and ’54 Chevy grille surround. This photo shows that it needed quite a bit of work to make it look just right. Walter did well for his first Custom body project.
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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-05The ’53 Chrysler taillights require some slicing and dicing to be able to fit right onto the ’53 Chevy rear fenders.
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Walter used a ’54 Chevy parts car for the front clip and 6 cyl motor and three speed stick Some other parts were also used from this ’53 Chevy. So far all the work was done by Walter, outside in his yard. But now it was time for paint he asked¬†Ram Auto Body in Hotchkiss to do thefinal paint work on the car. Walter had chosen ’79 Pontiac Piedmont Green Metallic for the main body and white for the top and rear fender side trim insert. Once the car came back Walter installed a one pice California front bumper with a ’49 Chevy license plate guard . The rear bumper is the stock ’53 Chevy unit, but Walter replaced the bumper guards with ’54 Chevy units. The only other job on the car that Walter felt not comfortable with was the upholstery, which was done by¬†Fosters of Grand Junction.

 

The finished Chevy

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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-09The¬†‚Äô74 Comet parking lights look amazing well inside the molded ’54 Chevy grille shell. The ’49 Chevy license plate overrider is the perfect finishing touch on the one piece California front bumper.
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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-08The ’53 Chrysler taillights look like they always belonged on this ’53 Chevy. The¬†’54 Chevy bumper guards and overrider look perfect as well.
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The finishing touch was a set of ’53 Cadillac hubcaps with were detailed with ‚Äô53 Ford truck grille teeth added. Walter had to use something on the center of the hubcaps because it¬†would not fit the Chevy wheel. The dust cap over the outer bearing hit the hub cap so he eventually came up with the chrome egg shaped bullet from Legs Panty Hose packaging¬†which gave him the room he¬†needed. Remember this is 1983, and there was no aftermarket chrome bullets available back then. The centers of the hubcaps were painted body color. It is like this how the car was photographed for the 1985 issue of Hot Rod magazine which I saw and fell in love with. Walter drove the car all over, to shows thru-out the US, including many KKOA events. Its at events like this that Walter’s Chevy started to spread the word of how a great Custom Car should look like. Walters¬†Chevy has inspired many others car owners to built similar styled Customs.¬†Some time Later, after a trip to Ohio Walter decided it was time for an mechanical update. He¬†pulled the 6 cyl and three speed stick and put in a SB Chevy with¬†a 360 turbo and a ’57 Chevy rear end¬†in the car, and it was ready for more road trips.¬†The fact that Walter drove his Custom all over helped a lot as well.

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Sadly Walter did not have any close up shots of his Chevy. Here we can see the customized ’53 Cadillac hubcaps. Three ’53 Ford grille teeth and a chrome bullet from a Legg’s pantyhose packaging (see below) were used for better looks and to make the hubcap fit the Chevy wheels.
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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-11This dark snapshot shows that all the extra work on the rear of the top Walter did to his Chevy really payed off. His rear window fits absolutely perfect with a great flow.
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The Second version

In 1993, after about ten years of being used on the road¬†the paint started to show its age, the huge amount of rock chips just could not be touched up again. So Walter decided it was time for a new paint job. This time the main body was painted in a three stage Nissan off white pearl paint. And the top and rear quarter inset panel was painted metallic teal/green. The new paint job gave the car a completely different look. Walter really loved it, perhaps even better than the first colors. Many more road trips and car shows followed. After a couple of more years on the road the road rash on the front of the car decided Walter to add some well designed flames to cover up the chipped paint. Walter designed, taped, painted and striped the flames himself. Some time after the new flames Walter decided it was time for something new. He sold the ’53 Chevy to be able to work on a 1940 Ford Coupe. The car had 125 K on it when he sold it… a well traveled Traditional Custom that inspired any people all over the country to built their own Custom.

CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-15The new color combination gives the car a completely different look It makes the car look bigger as well. Walter liked these colors better than the first combination from 1983.
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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-19After some heavy road use Walter decided to cover up the rock chips with a set of very elegant long lick flames.
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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-mag-01Walter’s Chevy was featured in the August¬†’85 issue of Street Rodder magazine.
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CCC-walter-leeman-53-chevy-20The Chevy was also shown on the cover (not inside) of the Swedish magazine Start & Speed from 1986, as well as on the cover of Lowrider Arte magazine from 1998 with Richard Crawford’s artwork of the second version of the Chevy.
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After Walter sold the car the Chevy has been repainted at least once. The last time we saw it it was painted two tone mauve with scallops covering the front of the car.

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Larry Watson 57 Chevys

WATSON 57 CHEVY

Larry Watson painted many ’57 Chevy’s in his career, some mild, others wild. It sure shows that these “restorers cars” look amazing with a custom paint job and a nice forward rake.

 
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he ’57 Chevy has never really been a very popular canvas for the Custom Car builder. Only very few of them ever made it into a full Custom Car, perhaps a bit more were mildly customized. Especially back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Today the ’57 Chevy is one of the top cars to restore to factory stock specs, you see them as street machines and only rarely as mild Custom Car. Which is rally a shame, since these photos show they make excellent mild customs.

Larry Watson painted dozens of ’57 Chevy’s in his career. All types, four-door, two door sedan’s, Hard -Tops and Nomads. His Personal Photo Collection shows a large amount of this years’ Chevy’s that were painted with his special paint, or detailed with scallops. Especially in the early years Larry painted a lot of them with all sorts of scallops, some to hide shaved handles, perhaps others to cover runs in the paint, or just to make the car look better. It is interesting to see the different paint styles Larry developed over the years. In the early years Larry would add different style of scallops, and later in the early 1960’s he would paint the whole car in one or two colors, usually pearls or candy’s with the top or side trim inserts in a different color. Later he added metal flake and cob webbing to his pallet.
Lets take a look at some of the ’57 Chevy’s larry Custom Painted.

[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos painted 1957 Chevy’s by Larry Watson. All 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.[/box_light]

 

CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-16We are not sure if Larry painted this ’57 Chevy two-door sedan, but it is parked in front of Larry’s¬†1016 E Artesia Shop where he was from 1957 till 1957. Great looking mild custom with a slight forward rake, full lake pipes and three bar spinner hubcaps on medium white wall tires.
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Two photos of an ’57 Hardtop, with some elegant Larry Watson scallop/flames. The body appears to be completely stock with all the handles and emblems still in place. The scallops were most likely added when the car was brand new, the scallops look to be very early scallop/flame combinations Watson was experimenting with. The hubcaps are ’57 Plymouth Fury¬†units.

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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-12Another ’57 Hardtop shows completely different scallops with only a hint of flames in some of the scallops. Heavy outlined in white with dark faded point. Again a completely stock body with four bar lancer hubcaps a slight drop and accessory bumper guards. Photographed at the same location as above. Apparently this back alley location was close to where Watson worked at the time. There are several more photos taken at this location in his Collection.
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-13This time a light colored all stock Hardtop. The only customizing done to it is with the 1954 Chevy grille, lowering, four bar lancer hubcaps, lake pipes, spotlights and of course the dark to light tip Watson scallops.
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-08Here Larry is adding some dark red fades to silver scallops on a 1957 Chevy. Unfortunately there are no other photos of this car in the collection. So we are unable to show you how the end product looked like. [divider]
 
CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-06Another early scallop job was done in gold with heavy white pin-striped outlines. The car has been nosed, and probably decked as well. And the emblems where shaved of the side of the car. It is amazing how many of these ’57 Chevy’s Larry painted with similar styled but all different scallops.
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-15This ’57 Chevy in pale yellow with¬†silver top and silver to dark red scallops has been in a few magazine, but none of them listed the owners name. This photo was most likely taken by Jim Potter and a print of it became part of the Watson Personal Collection. The four bar hubcaps with painted details create¬†a nice contrast with the pale yellow body.
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-02There are a few photos of this unidentified supper black 1957 Chevy with nice pale yellow (perhaps white) to orange scallops in the Larry Watson Collection. Its shows how nice the scallops on the side flow with the body and the trim. Judging the style of the scallops these where done in the early 1957-58 period when Larry scalloped a lot of cars with similar styled Scallops. The car is nicely lowered and optically even more with the use of the lake pipes. It has nice size white wall tires with Oldsmobile three bar hubcaps. Not visible in these photos is the Renegades club plaque in the rear window.

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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-14A sedan with shaved handles and emblems is prepped and ready for a Watson paintjob. As far as I can tell there are not finished photos of this particular Chevy in the collection. So we are unable to tell you which color Larry chose for this one.
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-07There are also several four door ’57 Chevy ‘s painted by Larry. This bright red one with Lancer four bar hubcaps was photographed at Bill Ortega’s shop at Artesia Blvd.
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-18Another four-door was painted in a dark cobalt/purple blue candy with a lavender pearl top. The car runs baby moon hubcaps on chrome wheel and has a nice slight forward rake.
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This great looking lavender pearl and Candy grape ’57 Chevy painted by Larry is yet another proof that these cars look so good as mild Custom Car. This unidentified car is really mild, even all the trim is left on the car. Custom Hubcaps, thin white wall tires, a slight stance adjustment and a fantastic Larry Watson paint job is all this car needed.
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Two late afternoon photos of this unidentified 1’57 Chevy at the Larry Watson Rosecrans Blvd shop in 1959. Larry painted this mildly customized (removed emblems) 1957 Chevy Sedan in pearl white and added light blue pear panels outlined in dark candy blue to highlight¬†the character lines of the Chevy. This created a really wild effect which must have turned a lot of heads at shows and on the road. The car has wide white walls with Custom three bar spinners and full lake pipes, dummy spotlights,¬†lowered stance and an all white interior.

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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-10Bright candy yellow over pearl white sedan owned by Dallas Eichstadt, looks stunning. Larry outlined the top and around the windows in pearl white as well as some nice shaped scallop outlines around the wheel openings. Forward (California) rake stance and color detailed four bar lancer hubcaps of medium wide white wall tires. Larry painted this Chevy in April 1960 for $210.-
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-03Amazing looking ice blue green pearl pant job with a candy emerald green top on this forward raked sedan. The car belonged to CCC-Meber Steve (peawee1)
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-04This candy green with metal flake silver top and rear quarter side trim insert section was done in the mid 1960’s. Both cars on top have narrow white walls with chrome reverse wheels.
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-22Wild looking ’57 Chevy Nomad in medium candy teal blue with silver and blue cob-webbed below the side trim. The body is shaved of all its trim and handles and the car is set on an amazine rake with red and white narrow line tires with chrome reverse wheels with baby moon hubcaps.
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CCC-larry-watson-57-chevy-21Bright candy red with pink roof inserts ’57 Nomad parked in front of the Larry Watson Firestone Blvd shop. Hydraulic front suspension gets the front really low. Before Larry painted this one the car was shaved of most of its trim and handles for an ultimate clean look. The Watson sign in the background is the best one ever.
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Barris 1949 Chevy Convertible

CLASSIC BARRIS 1949 CHEVY

This classic, conservative restyled 1949 Chevy convertible was the first convertible ever to be customized at the Barris shop. Custom Car photographer Marcia Campbell was the original owner.

 

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The story on Marcia‚Äôs chopped 1949 Chevrolet convertible might be a little controversial here and there. In several custom car publications, including several of the Barris books, there are two “nearly” identical 1949 Chevy customs mentioned and shown. One known as the Carl Abajian Chevy and the other as the Marcia Campbell/Bill Chuck Chevy. The fact is these two 1949 Chevy convertibles are the same car. Barris originally built this Chevy for Marcia Campbell in 1949.
Sadly the only photos shown so far are from the later two versions. We have not been able to find any photos of this Chevy when it was first finished for Marcia. Hopefully one day some photos of the car taken in 1949-50 will show up.
The photos shown in this article are from the period the car was owned by Carl Abajian from 1950 till 1952, and the Bill Chuck version from 1953. From the information we have gathered the Bill Chuck version was very close to the way Marcia had it built at Barris.

The story about the Chevy
Marcia bought the Chevy brand-new, and was the first person in California who bought a 1949 Chevy convertible. Son after she bought it she dropped it off at the Barris shop. Together with a list of things she wanted modified/improved.
The Barris shop did a really nice job on this car. It is very subtle and typical of the customs built in the late 1940s. Nothing on the car was overdone, or out of place. The car’s main focus points are the wonderfully shaped padded top, which was the work of the Gaylord Tops, shaped according to Barris’ instructions, and the raised and extended rear fenders.

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Let’s start at the front. The hood was de-chromed and welded into one-piece, the hood corners were not rounded. Barris thought the stock sharp corners would fit better with the new modified grille. A 1949 Cadillac grille was modified to for the Chevy. The center horizontal grille bar end pieces were reshaped fit the Chevy fenders. The stock headlights were frenched into the front fenders, and a new splash pan was created to fit the new grille and the new bumper. The bumper was made using a 1949 Buick unit that was cut, reshaped and welded into one piece. It had a perfect fit to the body and new grille. The side trim was also removed from the body, but the chrome trim piece above the belt-line and on the rockers were left in place to give the body a more streamlined effect.

CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy1-WSide view gives a good look at the longer and higher rear fenders. The profile of the padded Gaylord top is absolutely perfect.

 
George and Marcia were not happy with the flow of the stock rear fenders because they did not match the shape of the trunk. So it was decided: the rear fenders needed to be reshaped. A power hammer was used to create new panels for the rear fenders. The end-result was 4 inches longer fenders and 10 inches higher at the rear, and level at the bottom. 1950 Chrysler taillights were fitted low on the reshaped rear fenders. The stock rear bumper was replaced with a much more elegant-looking 1949 Oldsmobile rear bumper. While reshaping the rear fenders, the gas filler neck was rerouted to the trunk and the gas door was filled in.

The windshield frame was chopped 3 inches, and then the car was sent to Gaylord with the message that Barris wanted a really smooth flowing top, with some very elegantly shaped B-pillars for the Chevy. The Gaylord shop did a wonderful job on the top. Its shape and flow is absolutely perfect, the top corner radius on the side window opening and angle of the B-pillar is very elegant and complements the shapes of the body. Gaylord was also responsible for the interior upholstery. They used turquoise blue and white naugahyde in horseshoe shape seats with tuck and roll panels. The dashboard was painted in two tones, regal blue metallic and blue mist, and a set of custom chrome dash knobs was used to finish off the interior.

CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy3-W1953 license plate on the Bill Chuck version of the car.

 

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A close up of the front shows the modified grille end-pieces and the frenched headlights.

 

CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy5-WInterior was done by Gaylords. (photo from the Barris DVD)

 
During the customizing in the shop, George Barris badly damaged the hood on Marcia‚Äôs Chevy. George was working on one side of the hood ‚Äď while welding the two half’s together ‚Äď and the other side kept popping up. In a moment of totally frustrating, George hammered hard on the hood… to hard! The hammer not only left a deep dent in the hood, but bounced off and cracked the windshield. Marcia was in tears and George went out and bought a new hood and windshield the next day.

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Carl Abajian
Marcia owned the Chevy only for about a year. She then traded the car with Carl Abajian for his unfinished 1942 Ford coupe, another Barris custom.
When Carl Abajian owned the car he had Barris repaint it in a dark deep royal blue. Carl’s version of this Chevy was featured in Motor Trend magazine, Dan Post Blue books and a few smaller photos in several other magazines in the early 1950’s.

CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy4-WCarl Abajian (left) with “Smiley” are posing with the freshly redone Chevy at the Barris Shop.

 
CCC-MarciaCampbellChevy7-WPhoto above shows the Carl Abajian version of the Chevy in the Dan Post Blue book. Incidentally these photos were taken by Marcia Campbell.
 

The Chevy received a full write up article in the September 1953 issue of Hop Up magazine.¬† The article tells a story of the car being owned by Bill Chuck. The car was powder blue again when it was photographed for this 1953 feature. Apparently the car was repainted in powder blue after Carl sold it to Bill. The heading on the Hop Up 1953 article ‚Äúconfirms‚ÄĚ the car being redone again. ‚ÄúFirst ‚Äė49 Chevy Convertible Delivered in California has been customized, customized and re-customized many times.‚ÄĚ After this the car disappeared, and we have not been able to find a trace of the car.
 
Reference and more info

  • Dan Post, Blue book of Custom Restyling
  • Custom Cars, Trend Book No. 101
  • Hop Up magazine, September 1953
  • Rodder’s Journal, Number 51, Marcia Campbell article
  • Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s Volume 1 and 2

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[box_light]Marcia Campbell was a well known, published, automotive photographer who took many, now very famous, custom car photos in the early 1950’s. To find out more about here work and here cars check out the Marcia Campbell Section on the Custom Car Chronicle.[/box_light]

 

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Lady in Distress!

THE FAMOUS MADAME FI FI

 DISTRESS
1. great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble.
2. a state of extreme necessity or misfortune.

By  Tom Nielsen……a true story!

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The year was 1966 and I was winding my way North on Seattle’s Aurora Avenue.  I was just coming around Green Lake.  Suddenly, my eye caught a very shapely, familiar figure in the lot of a Texaco station. As I got closer I knew that I was going to have to stop and check this out!

Parking my car on a side street, I quickly walked over to the parking area in front of the station‚Äôs lube bay.¬† Yes, my eyes had not deceived me!¬† I was now standing beside the famous Madame Fi Fi.¬† She was an iconic ‚Äúshow queen‚ÄĚ that I had last admired four years earlier at the 1962 Seattle World‚Äôs Fair!

However, what I was seeing now was the end of the line for this once glamorous, flashy, lady.  To think that I had lusted after her at so many shows in the late fifties and early sixties!

John Buchan and before him, Curtis Shuck, had created such a unique custom creation! The radical ’56 Chev was always in the winner’s circle at car shows!  Don Burlingame, the third owner, had upgraded Fi Fi for the 1962 World’s Fair Futurama.

After Burlingame sold Madame Fi Fi, it had been passed through a number of owners.¬† What I was looking at now showed that she was in a ‚Äúsad state of affairs‚ÄĚ.

This historic Seattle show car was being sold off in pieces!   The signature rocket- ship seats were already gone!  Under the reverse opening hood was a gaping hole where a highly chromed, six-carbed Chrysler hemi had once resided!  The ’56 Chevrolet body still wore its last raspberry metalflake paint job by the talented Ray Wilson.  However, it was chipped, cracked, and scratched revealing some of the previous custom paint jobs underneath.

Looking over what was left of this 1961 Car Craft magazine ‚ÄúTop Ten Custom‚ÄĚ, I was thinking about making an offer for the car.¬† The price was reasonable enough and several years ago I would have loved to own her.

 

CCC-MadamFIFI-Nielsen-Col-01WBefore the chopped top and fins were added; Northgate Mall in N. Seattle 1959.

But, 1966 was not the best time to buy an aging, radical custom and bring it back to life.¬† The car show era that had spawned this full custom ‚Äô56 Bel Air hardtop had ended.¬† Newer cars and factory ‚Äúmuscle cars‚ÄĚ were all the rage in the later sixties.¬† Young car guys at that time wanted a lowered new car or a performance car.

 

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Fi Fi in front of one of the first Nordstrom stores at Northgate Mall 1961.

I guess that I was no different from them either. Besides I had no place to store the car, as I was still in college.  So, after spending some more time looking at what had been my favorite car show car I slowly walked away.
Feeling pretty sad about how this glamorous custom’s glory days had ended, I got into my car to go home.  I remember glancing back at Madame Fi Fi one more time, before merging into traffic on the busy Aurora Avenue.  I felt sure that it was the last time I would ever see her!

CCC-MadamFIFI-CC-Feb61-01WCar Craft photo from the 1961 ‚ÄúTop Ten Customs Issue‚ÄĚ

 

CCC-MadamFIFI-Internet-01W1962 Seattle World‚Äôs Fair ‚ÄúFuturama‚ÄĚ (internet photo)

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