De Rosa Golden Piranha

 

GOLDEN PIRANHA

 

De Rosa and Son Customs create an uniquely restyled 1966 Buick Riviera with styling cues from the 50’s and 60’s.



The first time I saw a photo of this Custom was in 1983, when Chrome & Flames magazine had one small photo in an announcement for an upcoming show article. I was a young kid back then just starting to find my way into Custom Cars. I had no idea what I was looking at, I could not figure out if this was an ’50s custom, or modern, all I knew I really liked it. I hoped the magazine would do a full feature on the car in an upcoming issue, but they never did. I had to wait several years before I was able to find out more about this car. When I bought a copy of the Hot Rod magazine Custom Cars from 1983, around 1986. In there was a two page black and white feature on the “Golden Piranha” a 1966 Buick Riviera customized by Frank DeRosa and his son.

CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-02-WThis is the first photo I saw of the Golden Piranha… before I knew what is was, or who built it, 1982.
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The team at De Rosa and Son Customs worked nearly two years on the project. They started with a low mileage 1966 Buick Riviera, which was sectioned 5 inches and chopped 4 inched. The top was reshaped to reassemble an typical 1950’s Padded style top for this late 1960’s car. An typical 80’s feature was the sunroof in the padded style top. The front fenders were extended and reshaped with rounded front edges. The hood was peaked with an heavy peak and V-ed at the front to match the 1951 Mercury grille. Another not so obvious restyling on this car, but it works really well. The lower grille opening was reshaped to match the front of the hood and warped under as a roll pan. No bumpers were used on the Buick. Small square headlights were set in hand shaped pods which were covered with a chrome plated wire mesh to sort of match the Mercury grille.

The wheel opening at the front was reshaped and flared, at the back the team hand made a flush fitting skirt to fit the reshaped rear wheel opening. A working air duct to cool the rear brakes was installed in front of the rear wheel opening. At the rear the fenders were extended in a similar way as what was done on the front. The trunk lid was extended and a spare tire cover was created using an old motorcycle fender molded into the trunk. New openings for the taillights were created and filled with left over 1950 Mercury grille sections. The lower pan was rolled under just as was done on the front. The suspension was modified and a set of full hydraulics was installed. This allowed Frank De Rosa to cruise the car low over the pavement and drive at regular height on the freeway.

CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-01-WThis photo of the Buick in primer was taken of the shop wall of Franks shop. Not the best quality, but all we could find from the early stages.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-03-W1983 Petersens Custom Cars series created by Hot Rod magazine.
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With all the body work complete the car was ready for paint. Frank choose an unique candy apple lime gold for the color. He crushed glass to add sparkle to an under-base and followed with many coats of special mixed candy lime gold. According to Frank there is no silver or gold under-base as most of these type of paint jobs required. But how he did it is still a secret. Frank used the original 1966 Buick side trim as inspiration for the graphics on the side of the car. This was done in a slightly lighter shade of gold and outlines in red and orange striping.

To finish of this 1950’s /1960’s styling combinations the team added white wall tires and restyled a set of four bar hubcaps. Frank enjoyed the car for a couple of years and sold it in the mid 1980’s to Bob Bowen.

CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-07-WIn the December 1982 issue of Classic and Custom magazine the Golden Piranha was featured with another De Rosa custom, “The Shark” The two cars were featured in full color on two pages. The photo above and four below come from this article.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-11-WA good view at the custom spare tire cover made from a motorcycle fender. Nice to see the taillights glow behind the 1950 Mercury grille teeth.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-12-WThe working scoop at the leading edge of the flared rear wheel opening.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-08-WThe interior was upholstered in gold colored velour and button-tufted with white buttons and outlined in white beading.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-06-WThis great photo was taken by Paul Kelly from Australia. He visited and 1990’s Paso Robles event to find himself amazed by the Golden Piranha.
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CCC-de-rosa-golden-piranha-13-WThe Buick is still around, and in relatively good shape. It used to be part of the Blackie Gejeian collection in Fresno where this photo was taken.
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2018 Update

In the spring of 2018 the Golden Piranha find its way back to the DeRosa Family. Together with Frank’s 1951 Mercury four door Custom the Golden Piranha was delivered at the De Rosa Body Shop in Pittsburg, Ca. For the first time in decades Frank DeRosa was able to see his most favorite Custom Creations in person again.

Frank De Rosa in the center, with son Frank JR and daughter Regina next to him with the Golden Piranha and the ’51 Merc at the DeRosa Body Shop April, 2018.
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Fresh out of the Blackie Gejeian warehouse, ready to be cleaned and detailed.
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FOR SALE In June 2018 the DeRosa family decided that both the ’51 Mercury and the Golden Piranha needed to find a new home, so that the cars could be displayed at car shows and events again, and enjoyed by Custom Car enthusiast. If you are seriously interested in owning this DeRosa Custom Car Icon, a Historic Custom Car, then please Contact the DeRosa family at: 925-439-5115.
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Resources and more info

  • Chrome & Flames, European magazine 1982
  • Classic & Custom, magazine December 1982
  • Hot Rod magazine, Petersens Custom Cars series, 1983
  • Custom Car Photo Archive, De Rosa Customs
  • FOR SALE  Contact the DeRosa family at: 925-439-5115.


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De Rosa Chopped 41 Caddy

 

88 YEARS AND STILL AT IT

 

Frank De Rosa has been building Custom Cars since the 1940’s and today, August, 2015, at age 88 Frank is still at it. Lets check out his latest creation. A wonderful 1941 Cadillac Series 61 which he chopped together with his son Frank Jr.

 
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Frank De Rosa has been restyling cars in the Pittsburg, CA area since the mid-1940s. Together with his son Frank Jr they run a restoration and Custom Shop in Pittsburg, CA. The father-son team has over 100 years of building between them. Frank is mostly known for his very creative and outside the box thinking creations from the 1970’s and 1980’s. In the 1970s, they were part of the Northern California car builders that brought back customs. Although the De Rosa’s had never really left it!

At age 88, Frank is still doing what he loves best, creating custom cars, and the 1941 Cadillac in this article shows that he is still more than capable to do a super job on it. Perfectly balanced chop which of course could be done with the many years of experience of both Frank and Frank Jr. The 1941 Cadillac Series 61 in this article was done for a customer. But the car is for Sale as it is. Lets take a closer look at the De Rosa Chopped 41 Caddy.

Call Frank at 925-439-5115 or visit their Pittsburg shop at 1090 Harbor Street, for more info.
Frank De Rosa Custom Cars

 
CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-00Where is all begins. The body has been stripped from all the trim, glass, rubber and the interior completely removed. Frank is starting to take measurements to figure out where to make the cuts.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-01A lot of thinking goes into chopping one of these Fleetline bodies, and Frank makes sure all the cut marks are exactly where he wants them to be.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-02Marking the pie-cutsthat will be removed to make sure the top can be moved forwards and the B-Pillar be angled into its new position.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-03Pie-cuts are also marked on the inside of the C-Pillar.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-04And then… its time to make the first cuts. Together with Frank Jr (on the left) they are cutting the top at the marks Frank had previously made on the body.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-05With a section already removed from the C-Pillar Frank is making more measurements to make sure it will all line up after the top has been dropped.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-06The top is now dropped into its new position and the fine tuning of the pillars can start. Frank Jr is holding the door post, while Frank Sr is figuring out the best way to cut the B-Pillar for the most perfect flow.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-07Great photo of Frank cutting a piece of shaped metal for the chopped top.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-08All the main body work on the top has now been done, and its time to start on the details, like filling the trip holes and creating a new molded in drip rail.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-09All body work on the top has now been done, and the main body has been put in primer. Notice also that the rear door corners have been rounded.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-10A nice detail is the rounded top corner of the door. Frank chose to round the corner less than the window shape, making the B-Pillar a very interesting shape.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-11The trunk had to be pie-cut sectioned to make the new shape of the chopped top flow with the rest of the body.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-15First time out of the shop shows the wonderfully shaped body on the non dropped frame.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-14Great flow of the trunk towards the top.
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CCC-de-rosa-chopped-41-cadillac-13Can you imagine how this car will look with a nice drop of the suspension and a wonderful dark organic paint job?
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For more info on this 1941 Cadillac or any other work that the De Rosa Custom Shop does. Call Frank 925-439-5115 or visit the De Rosa Custom Shop in Pittsburg, Ca. at 1090 Harbor Street.

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Sal Cacciola Westergard Chevy

 

SAL CACCIOLA WESTERGARD CHEVY

 

This great looking 1938 Chevy Custom Convertible was built by Harry Westergard in the late 1940’s for Sal Cacciola from Pittsburg CA.



In 2009 James Bauwer send me some photos of an interesting grave stone he came across one day. The photos he emailed me showed a very nicely customized 1938 Chevy apperently once owned by John Sal Cacciola who passed away in June 1950. It was the first time I heard about this car or the owner, I had no idea about its famous origins.

Three years later Ron Brooks send me a couple of 1940’s custom car photos and included were two photos of a 1938 Chevy convertible. I recognized it immediately and knew it had to be the same car as on the grace stone. Now I was intrigued. The only thing Ron knew about the car was that the photos came from the Pittsburg, CA. area.
With this new material of this car and knowing were Sal had lived, I had a feeling the car could have been built by legendary customizer Harry Westergard. But at this time this remained only an hunch.



CCC-sal-cacciola-38-chevy-04Frank DeRosa shared these three small snapshot he had of Sal’s 1938 Chevy with the CCC.
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I contacted Gina DeRosa (daughter of famous Custom Car builder Frank DeRosa) since I knew they came from that part of California. I asked if she could see if here father, Frank, could identify the car. A day later Gina confirmed my initial thoughts that this was indeed a Harry Westergard original. Frank DeRosa immediately recognized it as his old friends Sal Cacciola‘s 1938 Chevy.

CCC-Sal_Cacciola_1938 Chevy01This was the first photo Ron Brooks shared and that got the whole identification process going. What an amazing photo.
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Frank De Rosa mentioned: In 1946 Sal took his 1938 Chevy Convertibleto Harry Westergard to have him built a unique custom in his well knows teardrop style. Harry modified the hood to accept a Packard grille, he made solid and smooth hood sides. A particular nice touch was when Westergard molded a set of 1940 Chevy headlights into the fenders which now visually extends the cowl/door character line all the way up to the grille.
Westergard chopped the windshield and had Hall Tops of Oakland CA. create the padded top. Westergard installed the spotlights, the foglights and a set of 1941 Oldmobile bumpers which he apparently liked very much since he used them on several of his customs. The spare tire cover was repositioned, placed a bit lower and at a slightly steeper angle to flow better with the rear of the car.


CCC-Sal_Cacciola_1938 Chevy02Profile photo shows the beautiful lines of the Chevy. The Chevy headlight line beautifully matches the Chevy character line on the cowl. Creating an optical fade away feel.
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CCC-Sal_Cacciola_1938 Chevy03 The Tombstone photo James Bauwer send me in 2009 that shows Sal’s really great looking Chevy. At that point I thought it was a 1937 model. It was clear to me that not to long after that photo of Sal with his Custom Convertible he must have passed away.
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CCC-sal-cacciola-38-chevy-05Sal’s Chevy as part of a collage in Frank De Rosa’s workshop. 
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Friends and competitors
The sad story is that the owner of the car died in another custom car – a 1946 Cadillac – on June 25th 1950, while driving the Santa Cruz mountains. Frank DeRosa knew Sal very well, they where friends (and competed in creating the best looking custom in the area). Frank was at Sal’s funeral in 1950.

We have no idea what happened to Franks wonderful Chevy since then. Sal’s family is looking to find the car, or more information about its current whereabouts. We have been in contact with the family, and sadly there is not much more known about the Chevy than what has been written in this article. Still we hope that one day they will be able to find some more photos of the car in the family photo albums. Or even better find out what ever happened to this wonderful Harry Westergard restyled 1938 Chevy.



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