1950 Sacramento Autorama

1950 SACRAMENTO AUTORAMA

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

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Special thanks to Lawrence Fears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Show overview

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

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

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

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

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

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Custom Cars at the Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Hot Rods at the show

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

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

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#3 Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose.

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

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

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

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#5 Lawrence Brocchini’s ’31 Ford.

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

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

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

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Sources and more information

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

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2+

Gerald Fassett Photo Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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Gerald Fassett 1934 Ford

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

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

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

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

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Gerald Fassett 1947 Chevy Convertible

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

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1948 magazine ad for the Jimmy Summers Fender Extension.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 1941 Chevy Gerald traded engines with.

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The back side of the photo of the 1940 Chevy.

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Harold Ohanesian 1940 Mercury

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

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

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

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

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

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Zoomed in to see all the details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bud Welch 1938 Chevy Convertible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leroy Semas 1938 Chevy

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

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

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

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3+

Bertolucci 1948 Mercury

 

BERTOLUCCI 1948 MERCURY

 

Jim Roten’s photos of his friend’s Ron Zimmerman’s 1948 Mercury identified as the Dick Bertolucci built Johnny Lehman 1948 Mercury.



In 2008 I came across the amazing Jim Roten Photo Collection. A collection of mostly mid to late 1950’s custom Car photos. Amongst all these photos there where a couple of photos that looked to be older. Three of them showed¬†an¬†1946-48 Mercury convertible with padded top in a typical late 1940’s or early 1950’s style. At the time I tried to get in touch with Jim, to ask him about his amazing photo collection, but in particular the photos of this 1946 Mercury.¬†Other than Jim giving me permission to ad his collection to the Custom Car Photo Archive Jim did not really mention much about his collection.

It is now 2014, and I have been in conatact with Jim, with the help of his son Mike. And Jim is sharing a lot of information about the photos he took in the 1950’s,¬†as well as other great stories from way back when. So I asked Jim about the story behind the 1946-48 Mercury in his collection. It turned out that the Mercury convertible belonge to a close¬†friend of Jim’s, Ron Zimmerman. Ron¬†bought the car in 1954.¬†And¬†perhaps even more important was the fact that Jim mentioned that Ron had never been able to find out much more on the cars history, other than that it was build by Dick Bertolicci in the late 1940’s.

CCC-johnny-Lehman-48-merc-bertolucci-01A young Dick Bertolucci in 1949 in front of his shop with the in progress 1948 Mercury owned by Johnny Lehman. (Photo courtesy of Garage Magazine)
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Johnny Lehman

I already had created a list of cars and builders that could help me identify this Mercury several years earlyer, and one of the cars on this list was Johnny Lehman’s 1948 Mercury build by Dick Bertolucci. Not having enough info or photos to make a positive identification back the, the new information provided by Jim, directly from the 1954 owner Ron Zimmerman gave me enough input to be able to finally do a positive ID on the three photos in the Jim Roten Collection.

The Mercury was build in 1949 by Dick Bertolucci for owner Johnny Lehman and was shows in the early 1950’s Sacramento area as well as being used on the roads as Johnny regular ride. This story on the CCC is not complete, since we have been unable to find much info on the car before and after Ron owned it. But we hope this article will help find some more info on this cars early years, as well as what happened to it after Ron Zimmerman sold it. If any of the readers knows anything more about this car,¬†please let us know, we would love to add your story to the article.

CCC-johnny-Lehman-48-merc-bertolucci-03Johnny’s Mercury at an early 1950’s Sacramento Car Dealer show. 1949 Mercury bumpers and taillights were used to update the 1948 Mercury. They work really well on the car.¬†(Photo courtesy of the¬†Don Montgomery books)
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CCC-johnny-Lehman-48-merc-bertolucci-02The Bertolucci 1948 Mercury¬†the same early 1950’s Sacramento show as above.¬†(Photo courtesy of the¬†Don Montgomery books)
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CCC-johnny-Lehman-48-merc-bertolucci-04Most likely the padded top was produced by Hall in Oakland. A lot of Nor Cal Custom used Hall for their padded tops. (Photo courtesy of Garage Magazine)
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The Ron Zimmerman years

Ron¬†Zimmerman now lives in¬†Shingletown, in the northeast of Weed, California. He was 18 years old when he purchased the Bertolucci 1948 Mercury in finished condition in 1954. Ron and Jim Roten were¬†seniors at Chico High School.¬†Ron bought the car for a¬†man by the name of Smiley, from Sacramento, Ca.¬†At this time we are not sure if Smiley and Johnny Lehman are the same person, perhaps they are, perhaps Smiley was already a new owner after Johnny. Smiley did mention when Ron bought the car that the car was originally¬†built by Bertolucci in Sacramento in the late 1940’s.

CCC-ron-zimmerman-bertolucci-roten-01Jim took the three photos of Ron’s Mercury in front of Ron’s¬†house in Chico, California in 1955. Sadly the photos have been faded and cracked badly, but we still can see the super straight body work and perfect reflections.
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CCC-ron-zimmerman-bertolucci-roten-02The headlights were frenched, the¬†fenders molded to the body and the windshield was chopped mildly. The lowered stance was absolutely perfect and the wide white wall tires, Cadillac Sombrero’s and Appleton Spotlights are all so perfect for the time the car was originally build.¬†
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According to Jim and Ron, the workmanship on that car was spectacular. Bertolucci had chopped the windshield, molded in the fenders front and rear nosed the hood and decked the trunk, lowered the car all around. The fender trim pieces were removed and all holes filled and at the front the parking lights were removed for a much cleaner look. Dick also molded the headlights rings to the fenders, installed 1949 Mercury taillights and modified a set of 1949 Mercury bumpers to fit the 1948 Mercury. The 1949 Mercury bumpers wrap around the fenders more than the original bumpers giving the cr a much more modern look.

The bodywork was arrow straight.¬†it was¬†finished in flawless black lacquer.¬†The interior was done in red and white naugahyde with dark red carpets. The dash was chromed as were the garnish rails.¬†The car¬†had a perfect stance…. and the just “right look”.¬†It had a 3/4 race Mercury 59AB flat head engine with three carburetors, a hot cam, aluminum heads, and headers.¬†According to Jim Ron’s¬†1948 Mercury was an absolutely stunning car. One of¬†Jim’s¬†all-time favorites. Ron drove it as regular transportation for a year or two before¬†trading it for a 1954 Ford Sunliner in late 1955.


CCC-ron-zimmerman-bertolucci-roten-03Sadly this photo is really badly weathered, but we can see the great stance of the car. The 1949 Mercury bumpers are a perfect touch for the car. 
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Ron has no idea what ever happened to his 1948 Mercury, and if it has survived all these years, or is long gone. Jim Roten mentioned that Ron’s ’48 Mercury went through several owners after Ron traded it. These new owners seriously abused the car. The last time Jim saw the Mercury was in 1958. By then, the car was in a very sad state of disrepair. If you have any more info on this car, please let us know.

Ross has been digging thru numerous old year books and is sharing all the car pictures he can find. Some photos, and memories in those books are really amazing. He found this photo of the old Bertolucci Mercury in the 1956 Chico High yearbook. The photo caption in the year book mentioned that the new owners of the Mercury had abused the Bertolucci car and you can see that in the yearbook shot it has a primed repair spot. It surely shows the beginning of the deterioration. Sad… Hopefully it surveilled. (Thanks for digging these up and sharing them Ross.)
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Ohanesian Merc – details

 

OHANESIAN MERC DETAILS

 

One of my personal all time favorite custom cars, The Harry Westergard/Less Crane/Dick Bertolucci-built 1940 Mercury Convertible Sedan. Lets take a look at the details that make this car so special.


[dropcap]Harold[/dropcap] “Buddy” Ohanesian from Sacramento, California bought a rare 1940 Mercury Sedan Convertible in 1945, shortly after he returned from service. Not long after that he took the car to Harry Westergard for some Custom Restyling. Harry worked together with Less Crane on reshaping the front end of the Mercury to adapt and 1946 Chevy grille. They also chopped the windshield frame¬†and added 1937 DeSoto bumpers.¬†A little later Hall of Oakland created a padded top for the car. In 1949 Harold took the car to Dick Bertolucci who was by then just 19 years old, but already very well known in the area for his excellent body work. Harold wanted Dick to create a lift off metal top to replace the worn out padded top. This resulted in one of the most stylish Custom Cars of all time. In the next few years a few more changes would be made and eventually the car put in storage and restored back to its former glory in the early 1970’s. In the 1990’s the car found a new owner in the late Ed Hagerty who had the car completely restored. It was this version I saw at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Mercury Gathering. And it was at this show I talked to Dick Bertolucci about the details on the Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian Mercury.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-earlyA small photo of Ed Ohanesian’s 1940 Mercury appeared in the August 148 issue of¬†Hot Rod Magazine. This is the first version that we know of. Harry Westergard and Less Crane worked on this version with the ’46 Chevy grille, chopped windshield, molded fenders and 1937 DeSoto bumpers.
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CCC-1940-mercury-brochure-sedan-conIllustrations of the Mercury Convertible Sedan from the 1940 sales brochure. 
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-dick-02An photo of the later version shows the car with the metal top at Dick Bertolucci’s shop. This¬†version shows bumper mounted taillights and no bumper exhaust tips yet.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-colorizedColorized photo shows the car in 1951, still with the bumper mounted taillights. This side view shows the absolutely wonderful shape of the top and how well balanced the whole car is with the perfect stance and overall flow. 
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-70sThe Ohanesian Mercury was restored in the 1970’s when the car was owned by¬†Louie Martin and Dennis Nash.
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Being part of the organization of the Mercury Gathering at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama I was able to walk the buildings during the two set up days. During on of these days I met Dick Bertolucci. When we put to gather¬†the list of Mercury’s that would be part of the Gathering, there were a few that stood out for me a little more than the rest of the invited cars. Cars like the Sam Barris mercury, the Hirohata Mercury, the Ralph Test Mercury, and the Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian Mercury. I was actually walking towards the building when the Mercury arrived, I was super thrilled to see this car for the very first time in person, and not only that, but also hear and see it drive by. What a sight!



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-16The Ohanesian Mercury when it arrived at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Mercury gathering. The first time I saw this car in person…¬†
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After the car had been parked inside the building I checked it out from top to bottom for at least an hour. I took photos, stood back and looked at the car from all angles. I was lucky that the car was one of the first arrivals for that part of the show floor. So now I was able to walk around it and view it undisturbed from a distance. I had studied photos of the car for a long time, but that sure does not compare to looking at the car in person and being able to walk around it. The next day I was again walking around the Ohanesian mercury, when I spotted an older man in an electrical cart surround by some family members or friends. The man got out of his cart and walked over to the Ohanesian Merc. Stepped over the cord that had been put up by now, so I knew the guy must be familiar with the car and I thought he must be Dick Bertolucci.

When¬†I walked over and asked if he was mr Bertolucci. He sure was and shacked my hand. “Wow you have nice warm hands, please hold my hands, since I have these ice cold hands” was Dick’s response. And he really had¬†very cold hands.¬†We bonded right away.¬†I told him who I was and that I had just done the colorized Cover of the Rodders Journal, which he really liked.¬†That was the perfect opening for a conversation about the Mercury. And Dick was very enthusiastic to tell everything about the car, like it was the first time he ever told the story, but I knew he must have told it a hundred times or more before.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-12Dick Bertolucci posing with the Buddy Ohanesian 1940 Mercury at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Mercury Gathering.
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He explained to me that Harry Westergard and Less Crane worked on the car before he did. Larry and Less had created the new grille opening, extended the hood and reshaped the front of the front fenders, and installed the 46 Chevy grille including the molded in splash pan and installed 1937 DeSoto bumpers. They also chopped the windshield and reworked the rear of the car where he had cut of the top portion of the very high from the factory Phaeton back end. To be able to do this they had to shortened the trunk. Dick mentioned that the first version of the car had no top, but that Harold, the car owner drove the car to Oakland to have Hall create a padded top for the car. I wish we could show you a photo of this version of the car with padded top, but so far we have not been able to locate on. Hopefully in the future we will be able to add one to this article.



CCC-1940-mercury-sedan-convertible-02The photo above and below show the huge difference the Dick Bertolucci created top made on the overall appearance of the 1940 Mercury sedan convertible.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-13To make the new metal top work well with the rest of the body, Dick removed a large section of the rear of the body. This way the belt-line could be continued all the way to the rear of the car, where it slightly moved down, following the curvature of the body. An 1946 Oldsmobile rear window was used.
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Dick continued that Harrold brought the mercury to his Dick Bertolucci Body and fender shop in 1949. The padded top had seen better days and was really worn out. So Harold wanted a lift of metal top, and asked if Dick could create it. Dicke metnioned that he was only 19 years old then, but had been doing a lot of body work already and people came especially to him for good quality and stylish custom work. Dick found a 1946 Chrysler four door wrecked car with a perfect top, which he thought would be the perfect shape for the Mercury. After he had cut off the top and placed it on the Mercury he found it to be to long. The front end needed to be shortened and the rear needed some reshaping for which he used the rear of the top from a 1941 Buick. For the front of the top he made many cuts and reshaped the metal to fit the windshield frame. While doing this he realized he needed to do something different on the A-Pillars since installing the top on top of the windshield would not work well with the side profile on the car.

He took a good look at how the padded top had been created and noticed how the sides of the top actually fold over the ends of the A-Pillars and thus allow for a heavier side profile of the top. To be able to do this on the metal top, Dick cut a round section from the top of the A-Pillars, this allowed him to fold the metal top over on the sides and make it flow nice with the A-pillars, in a similar what as the padded top had done. Now he was able to heave the nice heavy, but in balance top for the Mercury. Most of this work was done by hammer welding. Not something Dick was very used to at the time, but he had noticed all the other work done on the car by Harry and Less was hammer welded as well, so he thought he should just continue the technique for the top where possible.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-01The rear of the body was angled forward slightly to match the new lines of the top, the trunk was shortened from the top to fit the new lowered rear of the body. The way Dick handles the continuing belt-line, compared to the new trunk line is so wonderful, it makes it look like it came from the factory (but then better) this way.
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At the back Dick needed to modify the body work previously done by Harry and Less. The work done was fine for the padded top, but for the metal top the lines just needed to be a bit more straight and in line with the rest of the car. Dick wanted the top and how it was mounted on the body to look like something that could have come from the factory that way. So a lot of time was spend on the back. Making pie-cuts to reshape the rear and make it flow perfectly with the new shape of the top. The lower edge of the new top was made ridged with a welded in frame work to ensure the best possible fit. The only problem was that these sections could later not be metal finished due to the frame work. So that was the only section Dick had to use lead for fine tuning. Dick found that a rear window from a 1946 Oldsmobile was a perfect fit for the top. It flows really nice with the rest of the lines of the car. Another tricky section was how the top needed to be smaller at the top to fit flush with the side window frame and line up with the windshield frame, but go wider all the way at the bottom on the back to fit flush with the wider section of the belt line. Dick spend a lot of time shaping the edges of the top to make everything look factory finished.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-08Another look at how Dick Bertolucci handles the panel lines on the top and the trunk. Work of Art.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-02A detail that is often overlooked at the Ohanesian Mercury is the way Dick Bertolucci reshaped the top corners of the A-Pillars. Below is a photo showing the stock A-Pillars and how the top ends flat with the top of the windshield. But on the Ohanesian Ford to top section is cut of with a radius. This allowed Dick to have more height at the top when viewed from the side, and the side windows could be made smaller in height, which enhanced the low profile of the car. 
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CCC-1940-mercury-sedan-convertible-03Stock A-Pillar shows flat top corner.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-03This photo gives us a nice view of the interior upholstery and headliner. But it also shows how Dick gently widened the top towards the rear and towards the belt-line. This was needed to make sure the rear of the top fitted flush with the main body. (see also photo below)
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-06The flowing lines from the lower edge of the trunk to the center of the top is absolutely perfect. It also flows so nice with the molded rear fenders and Buick Skirts. This side view also shows the matching shapes and lines on the molded splash-pan and taillight pods.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-10The original dip behind the doors for the convertible top was extended towards the rear of the body to optically follow the belt-line all around the car. This photo shows all the work that was needed to make sure the top would match the chopped side window frames as well as fit to the main body. It also shows the molded fenders.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-07Close up of the later 1946 Ford taillights that were set on hand made pods. The pods echo the shape of the splash pan. The molded in fenders and splash pan create very smooth body lines. Notice the exhaust tips in the Chevy rear bumper. Dick mentioned that he had not done those, if he had, he would have modified the tops to follow the shape of the bumper.
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Dick was also responsible for the set in the license plate, and the addition of 1946 Chevy bumper to replace the 1937 DeSoto units. To make the Chevy bumpers fit, he had to reshape the molded in splash pans Harry and Less had created earlier. The interior was updated with a 1941 Cadillac dashboard and steering wheel. The headlights were dechromed and primered to be painted body color. Dick painted the car in wonderful maroon mixed from Chevy color toned darker and gold powder (Venus Martin No. 9). Buddy drove the car around like this until 1952. Then Dick got the car back in his shop for a repaint and while at it he changed the motor cycle bumper mounted taillights for 1946 Ford taillights in home made pods molded onto the fenders. These new pods were shaped to fit the Ford taillights, but also to look similar to the side view of the rear molded in splash pan. At this time it was also decided to mold in the previously painted stock headlights.

Dick mentioned that he did not remember who did the bumper exhaust tips.¬†But he assured me that it was not him who had done those.¬†Since he would have re-contoured the tips to follow the bumper shape, which would have looked much nicer he said. Dick mentioned that he was still very proud at how well balanced the removable to came out on Harold’s mercury and how he was able to balance the whole car so well, with the perfect ride height and window size, top shape and height combination.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-04Dick also created the set in license plate at the lower part of the trunk. The license plate sits behind glass and is installed from underneath the trunk lid.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-05The dashboard is still the 1941 Cadillac dash that was installed into the car when it was customized in the late 1940’s. But the steering wheel has been replaced with a 1947 Cadillac unit at a later date. The interior was upholstered by¬†Ron Lago in the 1970’s.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-09Another update from the 1970’s restoration is the chrome plated removable B-Pillars. Those were painted body color on the original version of the car.
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It was amazing to be able to walk around the Mercury with the creator of this fantastic Custom Car and see him point out all the details. And the really amazing thing is that in 2009, 60 years after the majority of the custom work was done, the whole car looked still absolutely stunning. And the fit and finish of the metal top was top quality with an even gap all around.



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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-15The two photos above show the difference in A-pillars very well. If the A-pillars would have remained the stock shape then the side windows would have been one to two inches taller. and the roof very thin. Now everything is nicely balanced and in good proportions. Notice the work that needed to be done for the grille to fit and how more finished the front looks with the molded in splash pan.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-14Close up of the front shows the work that was needed to make the 1946 Chevy grille fit the 1940 Mercury front fenders and hood. Both front fenders and hood had to be extended forward and reshaped. A later edition of the car had molded in stock Mercury headlights. 
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There is a lot more to tell about the Ohanesian Mercury, and we probably will do… in another future CCC-Article, but for this article I wanted to high-light all the body details that make this Custom Car Icon so special. Take a look at the photos in this article of the Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian Mercury, see how well balanced the car it, how a perfect ride height works wonders and how good a four door sedan body can make just the perfect custom.

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(This article is made possible by)

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RIP Ed Rincon

RIP ED RINCON

We are sad to report that we lost another Custom Car guy, Edward Rincon from Sacramento at age 79.

 
Chip Chipman informed us that another Custom Car guy has left us. Ed Rincon from Sacramento, worked as a paint-mixer for his own company as well as for Dick Bertolucci. He had amongst many other cars and bikes an 1951 Mercury that was mildly customized by Harry Westergard and later finished by Dick Bertolucci.

Our deepest condolences go out to Ed’s family and friends.
 

Click HERE to visit the online obituary

 
CCC-ed-rincon-51-merc-02Ed’s 1951 Mercury with body work by Harry Westergard¬†(photo courtesy of Garage magazine).
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CCC-jim-roten-indoorshow-01-WEd’s Mercury finished by Dick Bertolucci at the ’56 Sacramento Autorama.¬†
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CCC-ed-rincon-32-Ford-01One of Ed’s cars in later years. 1932 Ford Sedan (photo courtesy of HotRodHotline.com)
 
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The Mark Murray Collection: Buddy Ohanesian Mercury

WESTERGARD BERTOLUCCI MERCURY ON THE SALT

We have been sharing some fine examples of the Mark Murray Collection before. This time you can see four snapshots taken most likely at an early 1950’s Bonneville event. The exact year is unknown, since no dates were printed on the photos, but our guess is 1951.

Mark’s amazing collection of photos used to belong to his grandfather, who took photos of the cars he saw on the street and at some car shows and car lots and races, while he lived in Long Beach Ca in the 1940‚Ä≤s and 1950‚Ä≤s. The car in all four photos is the Buddy Ohanesian 1940 Mercury, built by Harry Westergard and Dick Bertolucci. This custom car is seen by many as one of the best, if not THE best custom car ever built. The snapshot taken by Mark’s grandfather, shows the car parked in the spectator area behind the cord.

It really is amazing to see the car sits so low, knowing that they had to drive at least a day to get from Sacramento where Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian lived, to the Salt Flats. The photos show the car in the early Bertolucci version with the motor cycle taillights and the painted but still separated headlights. So we know these are taken prior the 1952 Bertolucci updates which included 1947 Ford taillights into custom made tops and molded in headlights among other things. We will save all the gorgeous details on the Ohanesian Mercury for an planned in depth article.

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