Eldon Gibson’s 1940 Oldsmobile

“The Boulevardier”

By David E. Zivot

This is a most intriguing and nicely turned out custom. I first noticed it on an old Dean Batchelor California streets 1941-42 poster in my collection, as well as an early, in fact the very first issue of Rods & Customs from May 1953. Both featured fantastic photographs by Dean, a member in good standing of the “Throttle Stompers” out of Burbank. This 1940 Oldsmobile “C” body 4-door Torpedo parked languidly at the curb really stood out as a fine example of pre-War craftsmanship.

The May 1953 issue of Rod & Custom magazine showed the two photos of Eldon Gibson’s 1940 Oldsmobile for the first time.

When invoking the term “pre-War”, I mean any and all tasteful restyles that were accomplished from let’s say 1935 to August 1945, when hostilities ceased. Not just those built or modified before February of 1942. I make this point as the nature and style of this modified Oldsmobile was not uncommon during the latter half of those ten years. Especially from 1940, when most major auto manufacturers were now providing some very smooth, well-proportioned, and shall I say streamlined examples.


Dodge and DeSoto convertibles for 1940, of course the ’40 Fords and Mercuries, ’41 Buick and Cadillac, ’41 Ford, ’42 Chevy, were popular, and suited for properly thought out restyling. Even some Zephyr and Continental models, also including some Packard and Nash, were also modified with good results. Restyling and modifying, although less common, and in some instances restricted during the War years, was still being pursued, particularly on the West Coast.

Eldon Gibson’s Boulevardier at the curb in Burbank, CA, would have been just as at home at the curb in Manhattan, NY

It is this specific ’40 Oldsmobile 90 series of Eldon Gibson’s that I find appealing. I don’t know for certain if Mr. Gibson purchased it new, or perhaps he was the second owner, that got it at a substantial discount, owing to the purported fire damage that may have affected the interior and roof area, prompting the subsequent cut top and other minor but esthetic modifications. It could also be highly probable that whatever fire damage occurred might have only affected the bargain price, leaving plenty of dough for Eldon to proceed with the remodel he always had in mind. He may have been an employee at Modern Motors in Glendale, where the Olds was sold new. Or perhaps a friend tipped him off as to the car’s availability and later arranged for the work to be done at the dealership body and paint dept. This is mostly conjecture, of course.

Subtle and sophisticated.

What remains is that this near new Oldsmobile “Custom Cruiser” (official GM nomenclature for this model) ended up in the hands of one or more very skilled body and fender men that had the expertise and eye for a symmetrical and properly proportioned cut down top. The car has what Rik Hoving rightly defines as “balance”. In addition the difficult to accomplish top, which has the A-pillar leaned back, rear sail panels also slightly leaned forward, and I’m betting mostly metal finished with the minimum use of lead. A nominal all around lowering is evident, partial shaving of the hood, center strip and mascot, leaving only the Olds coat-of-arms intact. There might be evidence of the drip rails having been shaved, although difficult to determine from the few and extremely poor photographs that are available for examination. The rear deck was shaved, as were the chrome wind splits from the top of the headlight nacelles, chrome or polished stainless rear fender gravel shields have replaced the molded rubber ones. These and the tear drop fender skirts (same as ’40 Buick) were actually available direct from the dealer, as were the deluxe front grille guard and single driver’s side Lorraine spot. Even the notorious “Hollywood Flipper” hubcaps were offered in some of the more progressive dealer accessory displays. When this car was done, there were no restrictions on white wall tires, yet Eldon wisely stayed with black walls. Lastly, the only other minor mod would be the removal of the OLDS lettering from the grille. One would presume that the diecast front license plate frame proclaimed: “Modern Motors Burbank”.

Close up of the front.


Most commentary on this Oldsmobile have averred that the paint scheme was a stock dark blue/medium blue two-tone. I once had a discussion with Neil Emory, whose notable restyled Dodge ragtop was also featured in the earlier mentioned Batchelor poster, about the Oldsmobile. He remembered the car while attending Burbank High, and definitely recalled a two-tone dark and medium green paint job. There was another fellow residing in the Glendale-Burbank area that told me some fifteen years ago that the car still existed, and that he laid eyes upon it at that time. He relayed that the current owner told him that he “will keep it forever, and don’t inquire if it’s for sale”. Be that as it may, Eldon Gibson’s pre-War custom Olds will forever remain on my short list of favorites.

Beautiful stock 1940 Olds 90 series with dealer added skirts
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Motorama Vérité

 

MOTORAMA VÉRITÉ

 

Jim Skonzakes (aka Jim Street) displayed his award winning 1949 Buick at the 1950 Petersen Motorama show, and was captured in a great photo by the crew from Hot Rod magazine. David E. Zivot takes us by the hand to explore this unique moment in time.

By David E. Zivot


This image, more so perhaps than any other, succinctly and pointedly portrays the mind, the mood, the time and place, the very ethos of a now long past and certainly more pure and unattenuated period. Not posed or set up, it has no special lighting, art school angles, or affectations, not a cliché in sight. It is simply an example of an early expression of the Barris mystique captured during a fleeting moment in time. Brother Sam, largely responsible for the materially tangible product, which in this case is the ’49 Buick Roadmaster they built for James Skonzakes, and the not so material but equally tangible style and flair naturally emanating from brother George. Some call it élan, others showmanship, or perhaps less politely, promoter.


CCC-barris-motorama-skonzakes-01The photo taken by the Hot Rod Magazine photographer captures the moment perfect. George attention goes to the “new media” TV-camera just outside of this photo. The others concentrate on the magazine photographer. The KTLA lighting guy on the right of the photo makes sure the camera will be able to capture it all.
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This wonderful photograph requires some context.
The setting: Shrine Auditorium Convention Hall, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 18, 1950. The third day of the Petersen sponsored “Motorama”. The press, and more impressively, the local Channel 5 television station KTLA, is covering the event live for the “City at Night” program. George is well aware of the opportunity. He gathers a couple of his pals who happen to be in close proximity, walks over to the guy with the microphone, and informs him that he and his television viewers would be well advised to cover the top trophy winning and latest advanced restyling by Barris Kustom Automobiles.

The cameras will be there momentarily. The crew is initially lighting the scene. The spectators’ attention is on George, Jack Stewart with his doll, and an unidentified with his doll. George, ignoring the press photographer from Hot Rod Magazine, is clearly focused on the TV cameras hurriedly being readied. At that very moment this photo was snapped.


CCC-barris-motorama-skonzakes-02From left to right; George Barris, unidentified girl, Jack Stewart, unidentified guy and another unidentified girl. All have the Motorama participant ribbon on their jackets, George is holding a stack of Barris Business cards, and one secured just above the ribbon to make sure the Barris name gets the best possible exposure.
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The detail and elements are classic. George casually basks in the spotlight, casting a self-assurance and confidence born of an inherent sense of esthetics and presentation that with few exceptions would rarely fail him, especially in the early years. Well turned out, as it was common then, in light grey flannel with matching grey suede bucks, “Motorama” participant/exhibitor ribbon, and of course a hand full of business cards to be shuffled and dealt. The others hardly showing signs of diffidence, appear to have indulged in a few Miller High Life as evidenced by the bottles at George’s feet. Most of the guys including, George, Jesse Lopez, and Nick Matranga didn’t imbibe in the brew or the smoke.


CCC-barris-motorama-skonzakes-04The brand new, unpainted and un polished Kustoms Los Angles plaque was temporarily affixed to Jim’s Buick using some some twine.
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The ubiquitous gathering of trophies with no apparent concern for scratched lacquer finish are present. The majority of these are earlier awards from the preceding five years, there will be more. The more publicly acceptable magazine, Motor Trend, is present, which had featured Barris previously. More Barris business cards are arrayed on the hood. The Kustoms Los Angeles plaque is hastily affixed with twine to the front bumper. Velvet curtains frame the curled Barris Kustoms sign pointing out the features of the Buick. Cigarette butts and refuse are strewn about by the young crowd, indicating that some things haven’t changed.


CCC-barris-motorama-skonzakes-03The girls attention goes to the Hot Rod Magazine photographer, while the trophies are set op to show up best by the TV-camera. Barris Business cards with George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac are placed in front of the trophies.
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Those times, like all others, are ephemeral. It is useful to reexamine them when they present themselves like this. Authentic and unpretentious, it tends toward a deeper appreciation of the history and what we endeavor in preserving and building customs in the traditional way in our own era. We have only our own time. The terms original and genuine apply to the kids as well as the cars of the past.

CCC-barris-motorama-skonzakes-05The litter on the floor.
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Identifying the Barris Crests

IDENTIFYING THE BARRIS CRESTS

Preliminary Examination and Detailed Comparison Study of the Barris Kustom Coat of Arms Badge.

 
[box_light]We recently did an article on the Custom Car Icon, the Barris Crest here on the CCC. Sharing all the information we have been gathering about these Crest in the past years. After reading the article CCC-Member and Custom Car and Hot Rod aficionado David E.Zivot compiled a Identifying the Barris Crests article based on his personal collection of Barris Crest. David has been so kind to share this information with us.[/box_light]

 

By David E. Zivot
 
I think it is important because so many fakes are being offered for sale on the internet, eBay, etc, that it would be beneficial to discern between vintage originals and modern remakes. As Rik Hoving so ably discussed, in the feature article on these iconic medallions of distinction, the exact date of introduction might be lost, 1952 being the most probable. To whom the original design ought to be credited, as well as the details of the heraldic design, and its meaning and significance to the Barris family name, I will leave to further research.

I will limit the scope of this exam to a detailed comparison between known original Barris issue pieces, and the newly made or reproductions currently available. This will serve to assist those who are seeking to obtain original examples, and wish to be informed about what to look for. I have deliberately made no reference to exact measurements of the original examples, so as to deter any potential counterfeiters from reproducing a “better” fake. As the original 1950’s issue pieces are quite rare and desirable today, be very cautious when considering a purchase.
 
 

  • Example A – Original early production 1952-58. No manufacturers mark, non-magnetic base metal, high quality finish overall, finely serrated thumbscrew-threaded post attachment.
  • Example B – Early K. McCormick reproduction. Very nice quality overall, correct spacing of mounting studs.
  • Example C – Current modern reproduction as offered by Barris and other vendors. No maker. Lower quality non-magnetic base metal, non-original spacing of threaded attachment post, thumbscrews of inferior quality.
  • Example BAC – Here we can examine the finer points.

 
CCC-barris-crest-identify-aOriginal early production 1952-58. No manufacturers mark, non-magnetic base metal, high quality finish overall, finely serrated thumbscrew-threaded post attachment.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-bEarly K. McCormick reproduction. Very nice quality overall, correct spacing of mounting studs.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-cCurrent modern reproduction as offered by Barris and other vendors. No maker. Lower quality non-magnetic base metal, non-original spacing of threaded attachment post, thumbscrews of inferior quality.
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  1. Original is slightly thicker in construction.
  2. Crest of shield where “Barris Kustom” wording is has very fine almost indiscernible pebbling in background. Copies are deeply and coarsely pebbled.
  3. Cloisonné colors on original are quite distinct. The blue at upper left is lighter and somewhat pearlescent in color. The red sections are also slightly lighter in shade and no pebble background is seen beneath the translucent red. The green on white horizontal stripes at lower right show the most difference. The green has a semi-transparent effect with very fine horizontal lines showing through from the base metal. The small gold dots on the white lines are very tiny on the original. Also note that the gold plating or “wash” on the originals is lighter in shade and more matte in finish.
  4. The “Barris” and “Kustom” lettering on the originals are thicker, in higher relief, and closer together than the remakes. One can also detect the slight differences in the lions, and the swords on the blue section. Also the formation of the green and white horizontal stripes is quite different on the remakes.
    I hope this has been of interest, and perhaps some assistance in helping to identify the authentic Barris Kustom badge, from the merely derivative and counterfeit.

 
CCC-barris-crest-identify-hammersThe original crest “A” has smaller dots as handle of the sword, than both resproductions.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-lion-aThe top right lion on the original crest “A” shows a differnt rear claw than the other two, which have a seperate “nail”. The front claws on the original appear to be crisper overall.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-lion-bAlso on the bottom lion the lion seams to be a bit more crisp on the original “A”, and the top front claw looks to be slightly fatter than on the other two. Overall small differences between the original and the two replicas.
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CCC-barris-crest-identify-green-whiteThe dots in the white section on the original crest “A” are a lot smaller than on the two replicas. The surface beneeth the green section on the original “A” appears to have very thin horizontal stripes for extra reflection.
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Addendum:

  • Example D – Original example of the mid-1960’s badge. Those I have encountered have no mounting studs, and show evidence of having been affixed with some kind of adhesive.

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George Barris 1942 Cadillac

 

GEORGE BARRIS 1942 CADILLAC

 

This Cadillac Convertible Custom with well proportioned Padded Top was a mystery Barris Custom Car for many years. We now know it was one of George Barris his personal rides in the late 1940’s early 1950’s.



CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-02[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he first time I came across this Cadillac Convertible, was when I saw a picture of an old Barris Kustom Business Card. It was many years ago and at the time I thought it was an 1947 Cadillac. In the years folowed I tried to find out more about this car used on the Business Card, but I was unable to find much more on the car. It was not until I did an article on a photo of the Nick Matranga at the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show, that I was able to shed some light on this “mystery Custom Cadillac. On this Matranga photo there was a wall with a photo display behind the car, photos of Barris Kustom creations. When Pat Ganahl send me a high res version of this photo I was able to identify most of these cars. One of the photos showed a 1946-47 Cadillac Convertible with Padded Top. I was rather sure it must have been the same car as on the Business Card. I browsed my files on Barris Customs and found two photos of Custom Cars that showed a 1947 Cadillac convertible with chopped padded top in the back ground… possibly the same car. But I still had no information on the car.


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This very fuzzy enlarged section shows the photo of the Cadillac that was used on the display behind Nick Matranga’s 1940 Mercury at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show. The complete photo with the Barris Kustoms photos displayed on the wall can be seen below. The Cadillac photo is the second one from the left. Most likely this photo of the Cadillac was taken by Marcia Campbell, who took many photos of the early Barris Customs.
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In 2009 Palle Johansen and me went on a research trip for the Jack Stewart Ford. Jack had invited us to see his friend Junior Conway at his famous paint shop. On this visit Junior showed me some old photos he had in his collection, and one of the photos showed this chopped 1947 Cadillac with Padded Top. This was the first real good photo I found of this car. When I came back home I went back to doing research for the article on the Matranga photo. I contacted my friend David Zivot in Las Vegas. David is a early Custom Car and Hot Rod enthusiast, who has great knowledge about the early days of Customizing. Together with his girl friend Michelle they have interviewed and researched many of the old timers. I asked David if he knew anything about this chopped 1947 Cadillac Custom. David was not sure, he thought he had seen or heard about it, but would ask some of his friends including Jesse Lopez and Bart Bartoni.


CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-00The Junior Conway photo was the first photo I saw showing the Cadillac really well. The car is parked in front of the Barris Compton Ave. shop and is partly in primer in this photo.
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CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-businessAt least 4 different Barris Kustom Automobile business cards used the 1942 Cadillac side view image. The first one on the top left is from the Bell shop.
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CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-11The Barris Kustom Automobiles Shop invoice paper also used the Cadillac in the logo. This invoice was used for many years, and I have seen samples of it being used up to 1955, but perhaps it was even used after that. (thanks to Per Webb for scanning the invoice from his personal collection)
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In the meantime I had found a few more Barris Business Cards that showed the same Cadillac side view photo. I also found out that the Barris Kustom Shop invoice paper used the same car. So this car must have been important for the Barris Shop, could it have been owned by one of the employees or friends of Sam or George. But how could it be that this great looking Custom was never featured or even mentioned in the magazines back in the 1940’s early 1950’s, not in the series of Barris books?




The things I had found out so far:

  • The car was used on at least 4 different Barris Shop Business Cards. One for the old Bell shop, and three for the Atlantic Blvd shop.
  • The car was used on the Barris Shop invoice paper up to at least 1955.
  • One of the photos (with the Harold Larsen 1941 Ford convertible) shows the car in front of the Compton Ave shop.
  • A photo of the car was used to promote the Barris Shop at the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show.
  • The Barris Kustom Shop had a joint ad with Gaylords Kustom Padded tops in the November 1949 issue of Motor Trend using a picture of this Cadillac.

 

Then David Zivot came back with some great information about the car and its history. Information we had crossed our mind many time, but now we knew for sure from the people who where there when this car was driving the streets of LA.


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Hello Rik

As to the mystery of the ’46 Cadillac custom that nobody seems to put an owner to, I can offer the following. After conversations with both Bart Bartoni and Jesse Lopez, their concurring opinion is that the car was built and owned by George Barris. Jesse Lopez asked George about the car directly showing him a photograph at the same time. George said it was “his ’42 Cadillac”. Jesse thinks that it was the car George had after his ’41 Buick. While there are very few pictures showing the side of the car that are not blurry or in shadow, I now believe it is a ’42, because of the visible flair at the bottom of the door that can barely be seen in the photographs we know. 1946 & ’47 did not have that feature. The grill, as I have mentioned before, is definitely not a ’46, but a modified ’47, in my opinion. This coupled with the fact that the ’42 Cadillac would be a much cheaper buy for George in the late 40’s, a ’46 or ‘7 would have a higher blue book (resale) value. This is not the definitive answer, however barring any further evidence I think it’s safe conjecture.

Your Friend,
~David

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CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-05George his Cadillac was used in the joint Barris Kustom Automobiles and Gaylords Kustom Padded Tops ad in the November 1949 issue of Motor Trend. This photo shows very well how elegant the car was.
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Around the same time I was working on a three part article for Kustoms Illustrated about the history of Bill Gaylord. Luke Karosi and Jeff Neppl interviewed Bill about his upholstery and Customizing years back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. During this interview Bill mentioned that Bill’s personal 1949 Mercury convertible with padded top had custom work, including the chopped windshield, done by George Barris. And that this work was done in exchange of a padded top he had created for George his personal 1942 Cadillac. And to make this even better, Bill had a photo in his collection showing George his Cadillac in front of the Gaylord’s Shop. It was an amazing rear 3/4 shot of the car showing the work done on the rear fenders and how the taillights were incorporated in the bumper guards. Bill also identified the car as an 1942 Cadillac to which George had added 1947 fenders, grille and bumpers.

 



CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-01The photo from Bill Gaylord’s collection of George Barris his Cadillac. I cropped the photo above, so that we can take a better look at the car. Molded rear fenders with the taillights removed. The ends of the bumper guard bullets were cut off and hand shaped taillight lenses installed to make some very elegant bumper guard taillights.
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CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-09The complete photo from Bill Gaylord shows the Caddy parked in from of Bill’s hop, with some cars inside, and a few outside, possibly all waiting for Bill’s magical touch. We can also see the Ben Mario Buick with Cadillac rear fenders parked on the street.
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The mystery unraveled… After many years of searching we finally knew for sure this was George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac Convertible. The only thing we still have to figure out is why was the car never featured, not mentioned in the Barris Books as George his personal car. We have tried to find out more about this, but so far without much efforts.

The car was a rather simple custom car with just the right amount of Custom touches to make it extremely elegant. The just right chopped windshield and perfectly shaped Gaylord Padded Top make this car stunning. George also removed most of the trim on the body, except for the horizontal fender side trim, which helped make the car look even longer. The smooth trunk looks amazing with the shape of the padded top and the sharp edged tear drop shaped molded in rear fenders. The late Jack Stewart mentioned in one of our conversations that he thought George his Cadillac was a deep maroon, but he was not 100% sure. Later Jesse Lopez confirmed to David Zivot that the Cadillac was indeed maroon. Jesse then also mentioned that the Cadillac was bought and customized shortly after George had sold his trend setting 1941 Buick Convertible.

The Cadillac at the Barris Bell Shop.
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Jesse remembered that he and George took the Cadillac out cruising on many nice LA nights. And that the girls really loved the Cadillac. Or as Jesse put it, the “skirts” loved it and they inevitably got the skirts. Jesse mentioned that Bill Gaylord did an extremely nice job on the padded top, and he also did the interior for the Cadillac, but George was not to happy with the last one and eventually had Carson redo the interior.

We would love to see more photos of George his Cadillac. We know that there is at least one more photo of this car, the one on display at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show, a photo possibly taken by Marcia Campbell. And more than likely there are more taken at this same photo session. But where are these photos now?

 


CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-07This photo from the Bart Bartoni Collection shows a Cadillac chopped convertible behind the Harold Larsen’s 1941 Ford parked in front of the Compton Ave shop. Most likely George his Caddy.
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CCC-george-barris-42-cadillac-08This photo used in an R&C magazine article on the Carson Top Shop by Greg Sharp shows the Cadillac in the back round as well. The photo was taken in 1951.
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The George Barris 1942 Cadillac must have been a great sight on the streets of LA in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. The Cadillac was modified to look like a 1947 model and looked very new when it first hit the roads all customized in 1949. These Cadillacs are already very long from the factory, and with the lowered stance, the chopped windshield and the mile long padded top this car must have looked amazing. It makes me wonder why we have seen so few from this car, especially in the Barris books, but also in the early magazines like Trend books and the first Custom Car Annuals. It also makes me wonder why we have seen so few of this year Cadillac done as full Custom. My good friend Palle Johansen was very inspired by this Cadillac and found himself a 1947 Cadillac Convertible to built his own version of late 1940’s styled Custom, based on George Barris his personal ride. You can see more on Palle’s Cadillac in the four part Road-trip to Sweden in the summer of 2014 CCC-Article. And see for your self how beautiful these cars are done as Custom.


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Hopefully this article about George his Cadillac will generate some more info, or even better, some new never before seen photos. If you have or know about more photos of George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac Custom, please let us know. If we find out more, we will share the updates with you, here on the Custom Car Chronicle.


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The Wayne Detroit Custom Shop?

WAYNE DETROIT CUSTOM SHOP

The Wayne Auto Customs Works Inc. from Detroit, Michigan, who knows more about this shop?

 
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e always love it when people show up with those rare Custom Car related items, or with information about a Custom Car, or Custom Shop we have never seen or heard about.
David Zivot is one of those people who always comes up with some neat Custom Car historic info, goodies, and cars. David donated an old matchbook cover that he came across in one of his many quests. The cover is from a company called The Wayne Auto Custom Works Inc. a company from Detroit Michigan. David had never heard about this Custom Shop, and neither have we. We have asked around, but so far nobody could share any more information on this Custom Shop.

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The matchbook cover is the only thing we have ever seen of this shop before, but apparently the shop was big enough, or at least have money enough to spend it on creating this custom made matchbook cover. The front of the cover is done in a darker red with printing in silver and black. The backside had a lit of the companies specialties printed in black. The matchbook cover was produced by the Diamond Match Co. N.Y.C.
The matchbook cover sample we have was never Folded, nor had the striking patch attached to it. So it looks like it was also used as a business card or so. It looks to have been produced in the later 1940’s or early 1950’s.

CCC_the-wayne-custom-match-02The front and backside of the matchbook shown side by side.
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The front side shows
The Wayne Auto Custom Works Inc.
44 – 60 Brady
DETROIT, Mich.
Telephone
COlumbia 2900-1

 

The backside reads
For
Auto Body Rebuilding
Auto Painting
Upholstery
Collision Work
Estimates
Inspections
Call COlumbia 2900

 
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The big question is, who knows more about this Custom Shop from Detroit? Was it a Custom shop as we know it like the once from Barris, Ayala etc. Or was it perhaps more like a couchbuilder like Coachcraft? What kind of Custom Cars did they create, how many, and for how long? Hopefully we can find out more about the Wayne Auto Custom Works.

If you have any rare, unique, or just nice Custom Car related objects, that you would like to know more about, or would like to share with other Custom Car enthusiast. Please let us know. We would love to include them here on the Custom Car Chronicle.

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