George Barris First Photo Location

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George Barris was known for taking photos of Custom Cars in beautiful special locations. Hollywood Park was his first special location back in 1947.

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Special thanks to David E. Zivot, Jesse Lopez and Gerald Fassett.

After seeing the color photo of George Barris’s 1941 Buick for the first time I was not only intrigued by the gorgeous Custom, but also with the Streamline Moderne building in the background. I had seen the building before in one other photo of the Buick and in a few other photos with other customs as well, but had never been able to find out what building or which location it was.

The new color photo showed a much larger portion of the building than any of the other photos I had seen so far. The search was on, the large round section and very horizontal shape of the windows did remind me about the horse track grand stand buildings as the one at Hollywood Park, but all the photos I was able to find at first showed the building after 1950, and it had a similar Basic shape but all the details were quite different. So I searched further, in the beginning I was not even sure the building was in the Los Angeles area, George had made the trip to Sacramento already, could perhaps these photos had been taken on that trip?

Two aerial photos showing the original building with the more horizontal feel on the top, and the after the 1949 fire rebuild version which had the same overall shapes, but less Art-Deco in design and taller overall.

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The 1947 color photo of George Barris’s 1941 Buick photographed in front of the original Hollywood Park Turf Club building. The photo that started the quest for the identification of the location.

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While searching for something else I came across an website with dome old photo’s taken at some 40’s horse track races. And one of them showed a building that looked very much like the one in the George Barris Buick photo, it was listed at 1940 Hollywood Park track in Lynwood California. I thought this must be a mistake, since the building did not even look close to how the Hollywood Park building looked in the photos I had of it. But when I find a more in depth search I found out that the Hollywood Park Horse track, run by the Turf Club, was originally built in 1938, and destroyed in a fire in 1949. Then rebuilt into the building I had seen in many 1950 and newer photos.

George Barris had his ‘41 Buick photographed in front of the original Hollywood Park Turf Club building in 1947. Not sure if George took these photos, or if he had “hired” a photographer to do it for him. With that knowledge I was able to find a few more photos of the original building which had an absolutely stunning Streamline Moderne feel, very similar in style to the famous Pan Pacific Auditorium. And I can totally see why George Barris wanted to use the building and the garden as background for his Buick. It was only around 16 miles from the Barris Compton Ave shop, a very convenient distance, plus the whole complex was very easily accessible for the cars.

When I thought a bit more about this all, I realized the original Hollywood Park Turf Club building, pre 1949, is actually the very first George Barris Photo Location. A good backdrop George used more often to photograph, or have photograph cars the Barris Shop created. We are all familiar with the House, Lynwood Drive In, Lynwood city hall, mausoleum, the Edison Power plant, and now we can add one more location to this list. The very first one Hollywood Park Turf Club building. George used this location for his own Buick, John Vera (Johnny Zaro) 1941 Ford, and Jesse Lopez’s 1941 Ford… and perhaps we do not know about.

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George Barris 1941 Buick

George Barris took his just finished 1941 Buick padded topped convertible Custom to the Hollywood Park Turf Club complex somewhere in 1947 and either had photos taken of his car, or took them himself. One of the photos, a black and white one was used in the May 1948 issue of Road & Track and would instantly change everything for George and the Barris Shop.

Did the glamorous setting of the Hollywood park complex have anything to do with this… Hard to say, but I like to believe it did. George idea of setting his stunning car in this beautiful surrounding of the well designed garden, and beautiful Streamline Moderne building in the back helped with the complete glamour picture of it all. For more info on the George Barris 1941 Buick, check out the Article here on the CCC.

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The 1947 color photo from the Gerald Fassett Collection was the first photo we found showing a big enough portion of the building in the background to identify it as the Hollywood Park Turf Club building.

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The first time I noticed the building in the background was in the photo used in the May 1948 issue of Road and Track Magazine. The photo that really changed the career of the Young George Barris.

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The same photo of the Buick was also used in the Custom Cars 101 Trend book from 1951, but here the building in the background was cut off.

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Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford

Jesse Lopez confirmed that his ’41 Ford was photographed, just as George’s persona 1941 Buick at the Hollywood Park Turf Club complex. For many years I have been trying to find out more about the famous photo of Jesse standing in front of his Ford at the Turf Club Members Only building. I knew it had to be at some sort of race track, but non of the photos I was able to find matched the photos of Jesse and his Ford. Only recently I found out the original building, that was used as the backdrop for the Lopez photos, around 1948, is gone now, and most photos found are of the rebuild, and remodeled 1950 version of the Hollywood Park building. For a closer look at Jesse’s 1941 Ford, check out the Article here on the CCC.

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Several photos of the Jerry Lopez 1941 Ford that were taken at the Hollywood Park location were used in publications over the years. This one, published in a Petersen Publication from 1987 shows the most of the Turf Club in the back. The Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford photos were taken around 1948. This is location (B) as shown in the aerial photo below

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This is the best known photo of Jesse Lopez’s Ford at the Hollywood Park Turf Club photo location. I have searched for other photos with this background for years, but never was able to find it. Which makes sense because these Turf Club letters were all replaced with new ones in 1950.

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This photo of Jesse’s Ford was taken direct in front of the main entrance (A in de aerial photo below) which is not far from where George Barris’s Buick was photographed.

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John Vara / Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford

George Barris was responsible for most of the work on this radical 1941 Ford Convertible Custom. It was originally created for John Vara, but was sold to Johnny Zaro in the later part of the 1940’s. The car was brought to the Hollywood Park location for a photo shoot around 1948. I have found three published photos of the car at this locations so far. hopefully more will surface one day. For a closer look at the Vara/Zarro Ford, check out the Article here on the CCC.

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Johnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford, most likely still owned by the original owner John Vara, was also photographed in front of the Hollywood Park building around 1948.

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The car was parked at about the same location as the George Barris Buick, only the photographer was located at a bit different point of view.

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Location A, where George Barris’s Buick and John Vara’s Customs were photographed, and Location B is in front of the Turf Club sign we can see in the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford photos. This aerial photo was taken in the late 30’s when all the trees and shrubberies in front of the complex were still rather small.

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The Hollywood Park complex was designed by Arthur Froehlich (May 17, 1909 – October 3, 1985), of the firm Arthur Froehlich & Associates. He was an architect from Beverly Hills, California, known for his mid-century supermarkets and racetracks. Froehlich was born in Los Angeles to a cattle and dairy farmer. He attended Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles and studied at UCLA. One of his first jobs was drafting plans for Santa Anita racetrack, which opened in 1934. He began his own firm in 1938, and became well known for his design of Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood, CA. (wikipedia)

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Announcing magazine/news paper ad from 1938

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Color photo from an 1941 program cover.

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The main entrance had a really beautifully Streamline Moderne design which reminds me a lot about the Pan Pacific Auditorium building.

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Mid 1940’s postcard. This image shows why George Barris liked this location so much. there was plenty of space to park the cars, the back round building had a nice natural base color and was beautifully shaped enhancing the cars. Plus the trees etc looked really good as well.

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Photo taken not too long after the building had been finished around 1938

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Los Angeles Public Library photos

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Los Angeles Public Library photos

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A selection of early Hollywood Park program covers all had nice illustrations or photos of the beautiful building.

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Disaster truck in 1949 when most of the grand stand building went up in flames.

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In 1950 the new building was finished, and not long after that George Barris used it as backdrop for several photos shoots again. Later in the mid 1950’s the huge parking lot was also used for several outdoor car shows, and many photos taken there also show the main building as backdrop.

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The Hollywood Park Building around 2000. In 2015 the complex was sadly demolished.

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The route from the Barris Compton Ave shop to the Hollywood Park Turf Club for the 1947 photo shoot with George’s Buick. Around a 16 mile trip.
(A) Hollywood Park Turf Club 3883 W Century Blvd, Inglewood

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The other famous Barris Photo shoot Locations

George Barris knew that building fantastic Custom Cars was the main business of the shop. Nut what made him and the Barris Shop really unique was that he understood there was more than just building the cars. He created the Kustoms Los Angeles club to keep his clients connected and have them come back to the shop with a next custom project. He also realized that the Shops specialties needed to be promoted. And one way to promote them is to create stunning photos of the shops creations.

He knew that the Barris Shop created Customs were standing out for the crowd already with the super smooth, organic shaped look and feel. But inspired by the magazine ads, and magazine features he realized he could enhance the looks of the Barris Custom by photographing them in an equally stunning setting. He found several locations, most of them close by the Barris Shops that could serve as backdrops, to make the cars look even more attractive and glamorous than they already were. The Hollywood Park Turf Club was the first glamour location he found around 1947 when the Barris Shop was starting to bloom. And several more special “Barris” locations would follow in the years after that. Below are the most popular of these Barris Photo Shoot Locations.

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(B) Edison plant 3395 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood, California

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(C) Angeles Abby 1515 E Compton Blvd, Compton, California

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(D) Barris The House 5199-5141 Abbott Rd South Gate, CA, California

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(E) Pan Pacific Auditorium 7600 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, California

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(F) Compton Drive-In 2111 E. Rosecrans Avenue, Compton, California

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(G) Lynwood City Hall 11330 Bullis Rd, Lynwood, California

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(A) Hollywood Park Turf Club 3883 W Century Blvd, Inglewood
(B) Edison plant 3395 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood
(C) Angeles Abby 1515 E Compton Blvd, Compton
(D) Barris The House 5199-5141 Abbott Rd South Gate, CA
(E) Pan Pacific Auditorium 7600 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles
(F) Compton Drive-In 2111 E. Rosecrans Avenue, Compton
(G) Lynwood City Hall 11330 Bullis Rd, Lynwood

(1) Barris Compton Ave Shop
(2) Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop

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George Barris Buick Sacramento Trip

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At the end of 1947 George Barris makes a trip from Los Angeles to Sacramento in his freshly finished 1941 Buick Kustom.

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George Barris grew up with his older brother Sam at their aunt and uncle Edith and John Barakaris in Roseville, the largest city in Placer County, in the metropolitan area of Sacramento. As a kid George and Sam started to work on car and it soon became a life long lasting, love affair with customizing cars. When George and Sam grew older they started looking for small jobs and a way to learn how to work on car. The found Harry Westergard and at least George started to spend a lot of his spare time helping out, and working for Harry Westergard.

George wanted to learn everything he could about customizing, and Harry was willing to show him the things he knew. George built his first Custom, a 1936 Ford Cabriolet mostly while working part time at Harry Westargard’s. Working with Harry Westergard meant also that he got to meet a lot of local guys into customizing, Custom Car owners and clients of Harry Westergard. He started to make a lot of car friends in Sacramento during this time. Sam Barris had enlisted in the Navy and had left to Los Angeles to sail out. Not long after that George took his Custom ’36 Ford and left for Los Angeles around 1943-44. George was never drafted, and started to work at several LA body shops, and soon started his own shop.

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George’s ’36 Ford Cabriolet photographed in 1943 in Sacramento. George built it while working part time with Harry Westergard, who created the car parked behind George’s Ford for Gene Garrett. Not long after this photo was taken George moved to Los Angeles.

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After the war had ended Sam returned to Roseville, but started to miss his little brother, so he went to LA to visit George. Not long after that George talked Sam into joining him to create his dream Custom Shop. Sam agreed and in 1946 Sam and George would open Barris’s Custom Shop on Compton Ave. In the meantime George drove his ’36 Ford Cabriolet, and later a ’36 Coupe all around Los Angeles. Around late 1946 George finds an used ’41 Buick Roadmaster Convertible with some body damage.

Over the next few months/year George turns this Buick into a Custom creation that would become the turning point of his career. In late 1947 the Buick is all finished. It came out absolutely gorgeous with its full fade-away fenders, 1942 Cadillac grille, super low and long padded top, and glowing, dark golden maroon paint. George is extremely proud of the Custom Buick, and wants to show it to his old buddies in Sacramento… showing what he has up to the last few years.

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George’s Buick almost finished. The car is completely painted but still had the original ’41 Buick front bumper which he soon would replace with a 1946 Oldsmobile bumper.

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In late 1947, November, or perhaps early December, George drives his Custom Buick from Los Angeles to Sacramento nearly 400 miles up north. A pretty iconic trip, perhaps not so much at the time, since all these Custom Cars back then were built as drivers. While in Sacramento George visits an old friend, Gerald Fassett, to show him his Buick. The most significant thing about this visit is that George personally gave Gerald a color photo of his recently completed masterpiece 1941 Buick.

Gerald held on to this color photo for almost seventy-two years, and in 2019 Sondre and Olav Kvipt visit Mr. Fassett and share this unique color photo from 1947. 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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After George had finished his new Custom he wanted to show it to his old Sacramento friends. Left to right Willis Schraeder, Jack Odberg, George Barris, Buddy Ohanesian, Bruce Glenn, Norm Milne and Mel Falconer. The friends were pretty impressed with George’s new Custom ride. The photo was taken in late 1947, but we do not have an exact date.

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Another photo, a bit closer with the same guys, but without Willis Schraeder

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George Barris, just 22 years old leaning on his ’41 Buick.

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Over the years several photos have surfaced of this 1947 trip from Los Angeles to Sacramento. The one thing a bit odd about these photos is that some of them show the car with black wall tires, while others show them with white wall tires. We know that when George visited Gerald Fassett – it was in November or December 1947 – the car had white wall tires. The color photo George gave Mr. Fassett also shows the car with white wall tires. This color photo was taken at the Hollywood Park Horse Race Track, right in front of the Turf Club. Jesse Lopez confirmed the location, his own ’41 Ford was also photographed at this location. The beautiful Art-Deco building in the background was destroyed in a fire in 1949, and rebuild that same year with a different design.

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George’s Buick parked in front of Elmer Howard’s Body – Fender & Top Shop in Roseville, close to Sacramento.

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Possibly George went to Sacramento on another trip, earlier than November, December 1947 as well. When the car had the new Olds bumper, but still the early black wall tires. None of the photos showing the car with black wall tires have any indication of when these photos were taken, as far we know. This is a bit of a mystery so far. Hopefully one day we might find out more about this.

Some of these Sacramento trip photos showing George’s ’41 Buick parked in front of Elmer Howard’s Body – Fender & Top Shop in Roseville where George and Sam grew up. We have not been able to find out what George’s relation to this body shop was. If he worked there, knew the owner – Elmer Howard – or perhaps one of his friends worked there, so they meet at that shop with the other friends.

Another interesting question is if George visited his old master Harry Westergard on these trips. Did he show Harry his 1941 Buick, and if he did what was Harry’s response to the car? Harry Westergard passed away in the mid 1950’s, and George Barris a few years ago, so I doubt if we ever will find out. But who knows, perhaps somebody will read this article an remember anything more about George’s trip to Sacramento in 1947.

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Gerald Fassett

Gerald Fassett, a car guy that had Harry Westergard and Dick Bertolucci restyle his 1947 Chevy Convertible. Westergard chopped the windshield and mail-ordered a set of Jimmy Summers fade-away fenders. later Dick Bertolucci would paint it deep maroon lacquer paint job. At the time George Barris had visited the guys in Sacramento Geralds Chevy had the windshield chopped, the Jimmy Summers fade-away fenders installed, but it was far from done. Before having the Chevy Gerald owned ’34 Ford 5/W coupe, removed running boards, with an inset license plate, filled cowl, and solid hood sides, powered by a hot flathead. We will get back to Gerald’s Chevy in another article.

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Scan of the original color photo that George Barris gave to Gerald Fassett in late 1947. The original photo has lost a bit of its color, and faded a little over the years, but is in remarkable condition for an 72 year old color photo. What an amazing find.

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The color photograph of George’s Buick was given to him personally by George when they all met up at a local Stan’s drive-in, when George visited the Sacramento area. During this visit Gerald took several photos of George’s Buick, which he fortunately for us also kept. Stan’s Drive-In Restaurant was located on the corner of 16th & K street. It was the most popular local hang out and the place to be seen if you had a hot car in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s. (Its all gone now)

George Barris sitting in his Buick at Stan’s Drive In Restaurant on 16th and K Street in Sacramento in late November, early December 1947. (The heavily scratched scanned original photo has been digitally restored)

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David asked Gerald about some of the fellows in the photograph of George’s Buick in front of Elmer Howard’s body shop in Roseville. Gerald answered “I don’t recall that body shop… I knew most of those guys… Odberg, Ohanesian, Norm Milne, Mel Falconer…, but I don’t remember Bruce Glenn… and I also don’t know why the tires on George’s Buick are blackwalls there… and whitewalls at Stan’s and in the color photo.

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Fantastic photo showing the super smooth rear of George’s Buick. On the far left we can see the ’37 Ford that was in the works by Harry Westergard at the time. (The heavily scratched scanned original photo has been digitally restored)

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Gerald, being an ex school teacher has always been very interested in history and that is one of the reasons he still has all the photos from back when he was very active in the Sacramento Custom Car Scene. When David Zivot asked Gerald what sort of reaction do you remember from people on the street around Stan’s…and some of the other motorist’s when George’s big Buick was on display and driving around the area: Gerald Fassett responded. “Well I can tell you (Laughs as he remembers) It really made an impression on me… I can tell you that for sure… The other custom guys were just knocked out by the car.” (People would stop and look…Some gathered around… There were approving “honks” from cars passing by…”

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The long shadows in the photo indicate these were taken late in the afternoon. The ’37 Harry Westergard Ford in the background.(The heavily scratched scanned original photo has been digitally restored)

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Zoomed in we can see the reflections on George’s Buick a little better. Overall extremely nice, but they also confirm the stories we have heard about some of the fade- away panels from these early Customs looked fantastic but were perhaps not completely straight.

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Zoomed in on the Harry Westergard 1937 Ford. Gerald could not remember the guys name, but we are working on it, hopefully we can add it to the article at a later time. This photo especially shows how thin the top is over the windshield header, and makes me wonder if perhaps the top was a metal lift of top instead of a Padded top?

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Gerald could not remember much about the ’37 Ford convertible in the background of two of the photos taken at Stan’s. “I can’t remember the owner’s name… Westergard did the work. Harry Westergard worked on that car at his little shop at his home on Watt Ave. The car was in a local Sacramento car show sponsored by the club I was in (Capitol City Thunderbolts) held at Capitol Chevrolet dealer… It was called “Autorama”.

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Collage of the original photos from the original Gerald Fassett Collection, the color photo is 5 x 7 inches and the three black and white photos measure 3.5 x 5 inches. Now part of the David E. Zivot Collection.

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Stan’s around 1953.

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Barris Maroon

The slightly faded color photo of George Barris’s 1941 Buick from 1947 is an amazing find. We have seen very few color photos showing the famous George Barris mixed colors. In the past we have done an article about these early color photos, and always hoped more will show up. Well this one is the absolute top of the bill. This George Barris Custom mixed maroon painted ’41 Buick is the car that really started the career of the Barris Shop. George has always mentioned how he mixed Venus Martin gold and bronze powders into his paint on his early paint jobs, and now we can get an actual look at how that looked on one of the first cars he used it on.

David E. Zivot has always been fascinated by the George Barris Maroon paint, and was ecstatic when he got in contact with Gerald Fassett and learned more about this unique color photo of the Barris Buick. David had heard a lot about this color talking to people such as Nick Matranga, Jack Stewart, Jesse Lopez and others who where all there to see these colors being done by George Barris in the later part of the 1940’s.

David asked me to see if the original photo could be digitally cleaned up and restored so that the real colors could be seen. With that result he had some prints made and sent those over to Jesse Lopez for him to take a look and see what he thought of the color, and how close it came to the original George Barris Maroon. The printed photos are one thing, creating those same digital photos for this article is another thing. Different profiles in different browsers, different computer and smartphone screens will all generate slightly different shades. But with the printed version and the info from Jesse Lopez, David will be able to match the original George Barris golden maroon as close as possible.

Jesse Lopez verified in detail that the maroon, as it appears in the adjusted Fassett color photo David sent him, is exactly how he remembers it, in every nuance

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Trying to capture the original colors as best as possible I enhanced the photo in Photoshop. I also added a small section of background to the right side of the photo and restored the cut off rear bumper.

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The Hollywood Park main stand building and Turf Club as it looked around 1947, before the whole structure burned down in 1949.
(Postcard image)

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The Hollywood Park building in the late 1930’s, very early 1940’s.

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David has been on the phone with Jesse about the Buick Color photo and this is what Jesse shared with him.

David. “Got a hold of Jesse Lopez…Had a very nice conversation about various custom/restyling subjects…I asked him to look at the color photo of George’s Buick from late ’47-early ’48 and to give me his recollections. We talked about George’s and Sam’s “maroons” and what was the general approach concerning the base colors, toners, metallic powders, etc. I made a comment that George probably did not pay to much attention to formulas or measurements, and really just mixed it how they wanted for that particular project, and that the color and hue, as well as the amount and exact color of gold could vary. Staying within certain parameters of course.

Jesse said that’s exactly right… They would “throw in” an amount of powder, spray it out on a test piece (usually something with nice curves like an old motorcycle fuel tank), see what it looked like on a sunny day, and sometimes making the maroon lighter or darker, depending on what the mood was.

Jesse verified that most all the paint jobs coming out of the Barris shop at that time were not formulaic, and not much importance was put to writing anything down or keeping track of how the last one was done. This conforms to what I had always assumed.

Jesse also mentioned that the paint was purchased and mixed at the R&M paint dealer located at Florence and Huntington Park. This paint store was pretty much the only one used by the Barris shop in the beginning.

Jesse mentioned that he went with George, Sam, and others, on a few trips up to Sacramento and Roseville… He rode with Sam in his ’40. He did not attend the trip that Gerald Fassett took photos of at Stan’s and can’t remember anything about it.”

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The Details

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(Specified by DEZ)
The color photo also gives a really great look at some of the details on the Buick. The beauty rings on George’s Buick appear to be those manufactured by Controla, they were called “Cromdisc“. Controla was known for the high quality of their accessories during the period. Their beauty rings for GM automobiles were first class, well-made with excellent chrome finish. Available in both 15″ and 16″ Buick rims. George’s Buick appears to have the 16” wheel

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Zoomed in on the front end of George’s Buick.

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Cromdisc’s from Controla is what George used on his 1941 Buick. David E. Zivot has been able to find an NOS set of these unique smooth beauty rings.

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Another very nice detail we can see in this photo is the grille. George Barris made clever use of two 1942 Cadillac grilles on his Buick. Sourced from Los Angeles area wrecking yards, or a local Cadillac dealer’s parts dept, or a combination of both. The grille in the early white primer version of George’s still unfinished Buick clearly shows unfilled ends, and a not so nice fit to the surrounding sheet metal.

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The white primer version shows the unfinished ends of the grille bars.

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The modifications consisted of taking two full length horizontal bars (first and second from bottom), adding them, as well as four full-length vertical bars (third and fourth from each end), and then trimming off the vertical bars where they protruded from the top and bottom horizontal bars. He left all vertical bars in matte argent silver. All horizontal bar ends appear to be filled nicely in the final version. All in all a gorgeous grille. For a complete story on George Barris’s 1941 Buick, check out our feature article on the Custom Car Chronicle.

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Close up of the finished grille shows that all 5 horizontal bars on the flat side pieces are even, and have nice slight rounded ends. Compare that with the photo of the stock 1942 Cadillac grille below. It shows how much work George Barris had to do to create the grille on his Buick.

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Stock 1942 Cadillac grille. Only 3 of the horizontal bars could be used for what George had in mind for his Buick.

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On the stock ’42 Cadillac grille only the second from the top horizontal bar has its ends rounded and nicely finished.

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

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Jim Skonzakes 1949 Buick

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Most people know Jim Skonzakes aka Jim Street from his Golden Sahara. But before that he owned several very nice Customs, including this 1949 Buick Roadmaster.

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Jim Skonzakes grew up in Dayton Ohio, far away from sunny California where the Custom Car style was born. This did not prevent a young Jim Skonzakes to fall in love with Custom Cars, and spend every spare moment he had on creating his dream Custom Cars. In 1954 that lead to the creation of the world famous Golden Sahara.

Jim’s parents owned a chain of launders shops in and around Dayton Ohio, which ensured a steady flow of money in the family. This allowed Jim to make road trips out to California to experience the fantastic Custom Car Scene, of which he had heard about from friend who had visit CA., in person. He absorbed all he could on the many trips he made to Los Angeles and other places. He quickly made friends there and found out about the Barris brothers, and the magical Custom Car Shops they had in the later part of the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

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One of Jim’s everyday drivers in the later part of the 1940’s was this nicely restyled 1941 Ford. He used this car to drive back and forth to California several times.

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In the later part of the 1940’s Jim owned an chopped and restyled 1941 Ford convertible, restyled in the typical California style. A style which he had studied on his trips to SoCal. Jim had been doing most the work on his own cars himself, including paint. At this time he also had a chopped ’39 Lincoln Zephyr, painted super glossy black (Sadly Jim was not able to locate any photos of this Custom, hopefully one day they will surface). Both of his Customs were drivers and he used them to make the trips to sunny California. The ’41 convertible in the summers and when it was a bit colder in Ohio he took the chopped ’39 Lincoln for another trip from Dayton, Ohio, to Los Angeles California.

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Earliest photo of the Jim Skonzakes ’49 Buick, still in progress. Photo was taken in 1950, possibly at the Santa Ana Drag Strip. The car’s top had already been created at this time, but was not installed. The hood still needed work at the bottom. When the photo was taken the car was painted with white primer, just as the Jack Stewart Ford behind it. Interestingly Jim would buy the Jack Stewart Ford a year or so after this photo was taken.

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During the many hours in his car on the around 2300 Miles trip, he started planning his next Custom, based on a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible. In Los Angeles he discussed his plans with George Barris at the Barris Shop, and they made an agreement that Jim would rent some space at the Barris Shop so that he could work on the car himself, and at the same time have the option of having one or more of the Barris employees to help him out.

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Close up of the Buick. This white primer version shows off the beautiful fender skirt that Sam Barris crafted for the car. The guy with the hat all the way on the right is possible Jim.

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For Jim is was crucial that the Buick would be a very stylish Custom, not over the top, or with a load of extras add-ons he saw back home on Ohio’s Custom Cars. It needed to be something the GM designers could have dreamed up when first designing the car. With that in mind he asked Sam Barris if he could be hired to do the main metal work. Jim liked Sam very much, and loved his sense of style and had witnessed his amazing skills for metal work. Jim also hired Stan Getz who also worked for the Barris shop and together with Sam he would do most of the work on the car.

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Jim’s Buick at the first Petersen Motorama Show held in 1950 at the Shrine Convention Hall in Los Angeles, California. Jim was not present when this photo was taken, but George Barris was, and so was Jack Stewart, and other unknown guy with a Barris tag on his jacket, and two lovely girls. Notice how at these very early car shows, the trophies as well as other publicity material was displayed on the cars.

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Color photo taken by Jim on one of his trips from California to Dayton Ohio an around 2300 Mile (± 3700 KM) trip. Jim had protected the paint on the rear fenders with 1951 Oakland Roadster Posters. (Color photo was developed on April 17, 1951)

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They started with the suspension, ensuring a proper stance, before they could lay out the rest of the custom restyling. At the rear, the frame was C’d, so the rear axle would clear the frame. With the suspension work out of the way, Sam started the body work with the windshield frame, which he chopped 3 inches. The idea was to create a removable hard top for the car that made the car look just as good with or without the top. Not a padded top, that most convertibles had in those days, Jim liked those as well, but wanted something more exclusive for this Buick.

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1950 Indianapolis Auto Show. Jim Showed his just completely finished Buick, leaving a big impression with the east coast crowd.

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This photo gives a good look at how nice the rear window glass flowed with the chopped Cadillac top.

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Beautiful restyling, everything was done to make the car look better, not just different.

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In 1951 Jim took his Buick to the Indianapolis show again, the car had no changes since last year, except for many more miles being driven. Jim taped a Barris Business card to the vent window, a common thing to do back then, to advertise the body shop who had created the cars.

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Detail of the door showing the push button door opener that was installed on the rocker panel on both sides of the car, as well as the Barris Business card on the vent window.

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A similar Barris Kustom Automobiles business card as Jim used on his Buick. (from the Tom Hocker Collection)

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Chopping these GM convertible windshields is not as easy as many other cars from this age. The whole A-pillar is covered with stainless steel, which needs to be cut, reshaped and refitted. But Sam was an excellent metal man and after doing the inner structure of the A-pillar, he worked his magic on the stainless steel bright-work, as well as the vent windows.

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A friend of Jim took this photo of Jim with his just finished Buick in Dayton Ohio at the Carillon Park, a popular hang out place for car guys, back in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.

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With the windshield chopped to the right height Jim found a 1950 Cadillac fast back that would be used to create the custom removable hard-top top for the Buick. Jim never cared for the very heavy C-pillars on the stock ’49 Buick HT’s so together with Sam he designed the new c-pillar and rear window that would work with the new lower top, and looked nice, light and elegant.

When I asked Jim about the rear glass used in the car, and if it was perhaps made of plexiglass like so many rear windows on customs in those years, he mentioned that there was NO plexiglass on the Buick. They used real glass for it. But Jim could not remember from which car they had pirated the rear glass they used, but glass it was for sure. With the metal top all shaped they needed to add all the side window channels, which were created from reshaped units Jim had found and cut off junked cars at the nearby junk yard.

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The rear fenders of the Buick were removed and replaced with 1949 Cadillac units that Jim found at the Junk yard on a wrecked car with frontal damage. They needed a bit of reshaping to fit the Buick body which Sam Barris did, and he also molded them into the body, for the desired smoothed look. Also the rear bumper from the Cadillac was used, making the Buick appear much like a more exclusive Cadillac, and many people later would actually think Jim’s Custom was based on a Cadillac.

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Photo taken at the Dayton Ohio Carillon Park shows Jim’s Buick without the top during a summer cruise. The low stance, Custom Toothed grille, Cadillac rear fenders and chopped windshield all make this one outstanding Custom that made a huge impact on the Ohio Car enthusiasts. (Color photo developed Oct. 5, 1951)

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Sam modified some fender skirts to fit the Cadillac rear fenders. The new skirts are level with the bottom line of the rear fenders, creating a much nicer flow of the rear of the body into the bumper. All small design elements Jim and Sam agreed on would improve the cars looks. A new grille was made using the top bar of a 1950 Oldsmobile 98, in which Jim wanted to install some “heavy teeth”, for a bit more aggressive look. He Liked the shape of the new 1950 Buick teeth, but they required to be cut down at the bottom to fit the new opening. A lot of work, but the end result was spectacular.

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Eddie Martinez did the beautiful interior in Jim’s Buick, including the home made wrap around rear bench. The upholstery was done in black and beige, with white piping.

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Jim kept the Buick front bumper, as well as the stock bumper guards, they were very nice in shape and complemented all the rest of the customizing very well, so those were left in place. The headlight rings were welded to the fenders, and the headlights slightly frenched into them. The side trim of the Buick was replaced with the 1949 Cadillac unit. Sam installed a set of Appleton S-552 spotlights, and wide whitewall tires and Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps complete the finishing touches on Jim’s Buick.

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The dash board and garnish molding was painted black, just as the top, and the main gauge cluster and the glove box were chrome plated

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A better look at the home made wrap around rear bench. and the very wide, white piping that Eddie Martinez used.

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Shortly after the car was painted Jim drove it back to Los Angeles to have Eddie Martinez do a complete Custom interior with special hand made wrap around rear bench. Eddie upholstered the car in black with beige off set with shite piping. With the interior finished Jim entered the Buick in the 1950 Motorama show held in November 1950, and later several other shows on the east coast. Jim really enjoyed the Buick, it not only looked fantastic, but also drove like a dream. He drove it like this until around 1952, when Jim decided it was time for an update on the Buick using a few new parts to keep the car up to date.

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Jack Stewart ’41 Ford shortly after Jim bought, and drove to Dayton Ohio, parked next to his ’49 Buick at a local park in 1951.

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The car was primered in white and Jim would drive around for some time. This version shows in one photo taken at the Santa Ana drags. Soon after that photo was taken Jim drove the car back to Dayton, where he finished the work on the Buick. He extending the lower edge of the Buick hood, where it was indented to follow the original Buick grille. In the process Jim modified the stock molding on the Buick hood (which followed the stock Buick grille surround) and did not fit with the Olds grille bar at all. Jim decided to reshape the hood molding and let it flow to a center-point just above the new grille surround. The rest of the hood’s nose was completely smoothed. Now with all the body work finished Jim picked a Tokay Beige color for the main body and black for the top, and painted the car himself.

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The Buick at an 1951 East Coast Car Show, parked next to it is the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford Jim had just bought from Jack Stewart and driven from Los Angeles to Dayton Ohio. Two amazing Customs parked side by side.

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Jim’s daily drivers were always Custom Cars, so his ’49 Buick was no exception to that. Jim took this photo in February 1951, and this photo gives us a really great look at the flow of the rear window from the trunk to the top.
(Color photo was developed on Feb 1, 1951)

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Version Two

Jim made a few changes, including the addition of 1952 Cadillac taillights, which added even more style to the already classic lines of the car. Jim also adapted the same year Cadillac rear bumper that came with bumper tip exhaust holes, Perfect for his Buick. Jim repainting the body in his own mix of very deep purple, with a metallic lavender top, mixed in his favorite RM lacquer. He took the car on many road trips in this version and later when Jim’s other Barris project car, the Golden Sahara was finished, he sold the Buick. Sadly Jim has no idea what happened to the car, he has been on many hunts for it, when somebody mentioned he might have seen the car. But so far no luck. Hard to believe that such a wonderful trend setting Custom just disappeared.

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The 1952 make over of the Buick included new ’52 Cadillac taillights, rear bumper and a new deep-dark purple paint job with metallic lavender top. Jim mixed his own colors and painted the Buick himself.

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The front of the Buick remained the same in the make over. The new dark paint shows off the custom made peek on the front of the hood really well.

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The new taller ’52 Cadillac taillights and more stylish bumpers really fitted the rear of the car very well. Jim always loved how the Cadillac bumper tip exhaust holes looked on his car.

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The Second version of Jim’s Buick at an unidentified , most likely Ohio Car show around 1952.

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Jim’s Custom Buick has been very important in the history of the Custom Car. The 1949 Buick was finished in late 1950, very early for such a new car done as a full Custom. The Buick had an very unusual light color in an era that most Custom Cars were painted deep, dark organic colors. The light color was even more special because the Buick was already a very big car, and the light color made it stand out and looking even taller.

The main thing way this Buick Custom had such an impact was that Jim showed it both on the West as well as on the East Coast. Advertising the original Custom Look from California on the East Coast and with doing that must have inspired many young guys to create new Custom Cars. Jim had always been fascinated by California, and everything that came from there. But due to his family business he was “stuck” to Ohio. So he tried to create his own little California in Dayton, using his all California Styled Custom Cars. And hoped his friends would start building cars inspired by his California Styled Customs.

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Chopped 1949 – 51 Mercury Convertibles

 

CHOPPED 49-51 MERCURY Convertibles

 

A trip in time back to the late 1940s and early 1950s when the first of the 1949 – 51 Mercury Convertibles were Customized with chopped padded tops.



The 1949-51 Mercury has made a huge mark on the Custom Car scene ever since the first model rolled out of the Factories in late 1948. The body style was so familiar to the Custom Car enthusiast, with just the perfect proportion of heavy body below the belt-line, and relatively small windows all around. These cars did not need much to make them look perfect in the eye of the Custom Car enthusiast. But to make them look absolutely perfect, a few inches taken out of the top height would do absolute magic to these cars.

Ever since custom builders started to chop tops to improve on the looks of the cars, the convertible models were among the first to get the lower top treatment. Especially in California, where the weather was mostly good all year round, the convertible cars were very popular. And Upholstery shops were specializing in adding padded tops to cars with chopped windshield. A trend that was started by the Carson top Shop where Glen Houser developed the first padded top “Carson Top”  in 1935.

Just like with most other brand and specific year cars before, the first “victims” of chopping the top on the ’49 Mercury, were the, much easier to chop, convertibles. Especially if the working folded top, were to be replaced by a removable padded top, the chop process could be realized in a matter of days. In this article we are going to take a look at the ’49-51 Mercury convertible customs that were chopped early on when these cars were still very new. We have already created an article around what could be the First Chopped Mercury Coupe here on the CCC, and now its time to concentrate on the convertibles. This is not (yet) a quest to find the timeline of the first chopped 49-51 Mercury convertibles, just a gathering of those we are familiar with, and hopefully more info will come from this article, to possibly create an more accurate time line.

1949 Mercury convertible from the original sales brochure.
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Bill Gaylord 1949 Mercury

Bill Gaylord was one of the very first to chop the top on a 1949 Mercury. This car was Bill’s personal driver. The story on Bill’s ’49 Mercury started in early 1949. Bill had a very nicely done ’42 Mercury convertible with front sheet metal from a ’47 Mercury. It was a really nice late 1940’s style custom with chopped windshield shaved handles, nosed, decked and one of Bill’s nicely flowing padded tops. Bill took his ’42 Mercury custom to a local Mercury dealer and traded it for a brand new ’49 Mercury convertible. The Mercury dealership put the ’42 in their best spot in front of the showroom and it sold very fast. Soon after that they asked if Bill could do another one for them and sell it the same way. He created another custom, with a George Cerny chopped windshield. It also was sold very fast.

In the meantime Bill was also planning the customizing on his new ’49 Mercury. At the same time George Barris came over to Bill’s shop, asking Bill if he could create a long low padded top for George’s personal ’42 Cadillac (with ’47 fenders and bumpers). Sure I can do that Bill mentioned. If you chop the windshield on my ’49 Merc, french the headlights and remove the emblems… deal! So Bill created the long and smooth padded top for George Barris his’42 Cadillac, while George was busy chopping the windshield of Bill’s new ’49 Mercury.


This photo showing the windshield already chopped by George Barris, and the top skeleton made by Bill. But the padding still had to be done. 1949 tags on the license plates.
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George also removed the hood emblems, peaked the hood and molded the grille surround to the front fenders. The trunk was shaved and the suspension was lowered. George extended the bottom of a set of ’49 Mercury accessory fender skirts and when all the work was done the car was painted a lime green color. All this was done in 1949, and most likely Bill Gaylord’s ’49 Mercury was he very first ’49 Mercury convertible that was ever chopped. After George was done with his part, Bill Gaylord reworked the door side windows with curved rear corners, and crafted the frame for the padded top.

Bill’s ’49 Mercury at an unidentified indoor car show in 1949, perhaps early 1950.
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Bill styled the top in a similar way as he was used to on the pre-1948 cars he had done so many times. Meaning the padded top sides would start right after the door jamb, created “filled” in quarter windows and a very long looking padded top. This style of top Bill did for his own Mercury is one of the very few like it. Later Padded tops created by Bill and other shops were created with rear quarter windows, to “lighten” up the rear of the padded top, as well as to add rear viability for the driver. What is also very unique on Bill Gaylord’s Mercury padded top is how it flows at the back. Because the rear quarter windows were filled in, the down arc could start almost at the back of the doors and gently falls back. Creating an almost fastback flow.

1950 Bell High yearbook ad for Gaylord Kustom Tops. The picture shows how extremely long and flowing the padded top is on this ’49 Merc is with the quarter windows “filled”. (Shared by Ross from 46-64 HighSchool Yearbooks. )
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Two different style Padded Tops

Besides the no quarter window padded top as first created by Bill Gaylord I have found that there are two styles of padded tops that were create for the 49-51 Mercury. Which is very similar to what was created for previous model cars. One style top had a rather upright rear of the top, where the rear of the top basically follows the same shape as the rear quarter window shape. These more traditional styled tops have a much longer look, where the top portion of the top is horizontal for a large part of the car before it falls down toward the catwalk. These tops have a a similar shape, or feel as a four door 49-51 Mercury metal roof. One characteristic element for these tops is that the “C-Pillar” of these tops have a rather uniform width from bottom to top.

The second style has the rear of the top flowing much more gently from around the back of the doors, or a little more toward the back with a very gently curve towards the catwalk. The shape of these padded tops feels much more lake the regular Mercury Coupe metal tops. The “C-Pillar” of these tops have a much wider section at the bottom than at the top which results from the more flowing top line.

At this point I’m not sure if any of these two styles were typical for a certain Top Shop. Like on the 41-48 Fords we know that the Carson Top Shop had special jigs created to produce the padded tops off the cars. These tops had a much more upright back of the top, than those created by Bill Gaylord for the same car where Bill created lower rear bows. But I’m not sure if the Carson Top Shop ever created jigs for the 49-51 Mercury. There is one photo taken inside the Carson Top Shop that shows an unidentified ’50 Mercury with the padded top frame constructed. Judging the frame work this top would be the second category, with the more flowing lines. It also looks that some of the padded tops, both styles have different length rear quarter windows. Some of the customs appear to have shortened quarter windows, creating wider “C-pillars”.

Carson Top ShopUnidentified 1950-51 Mercury at the Carson Top Shop with the padded top frame ready to be upholstered. By the looks of it, this will be the more flowing type of padded top.
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The More Upright tops

Unidentified 1949 Mercurys

We have no idea how many ’49 Mercury Convertibles were done with chopped padded tops, but there must have been several. Some made the magazines, but we know from experience that most of the Custom Cars created never made the magazines. We would love to find out more about these unidentified Mercury’s, who owned them, who created them? And what happened to them. The two Mercurys below are very mild customs, one has most of the stock emblems and trim and stock hubcaps, with the only major change the chopped windshield and matching padded top. The one below it is slightly more restyled with frenched headlights and shaved emblems, but it still e very conservative Custom.

Typical Street Customs for the very early 1950’s. Practical as every day cars with the benefits of the good looks of the chopped windshield and padded tops. Both cars had similar styled padded top with the stock rear quarter windows chopped in place, and the top reshaped to follow the side window contours. This resulted in a less streamlined/flowing top than the one Bill Gaylord had created on his personal Mercury. The shape of these type of padded tops looks a lot like the 4-door Mercury tops.

Unidentified 1949 Mercury was published in the Trend Book No. 101 Custom Cars from July 1951. It was a mostly stock 1949 Mercury convertible, with mildly chop windshield and padded top. The car had 1951 License plates.
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A very similar restyled mercury appeared in one of Don Montgomery books. The only difference between this one, and the one above it are the molded in headlights, modified side trim and ’51 Mercury fender skirts. This photo was taken in 1952-53.
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Johnny Hagen 1950 Mercury

Johnny’s 1950 Mercury was also a rather conservative Custom, with a mild 2.5 inch chopped top and matching padded top made by the American Top Shop in Lynwood California. The car was featured in the October 1951 issue of Hop Up Magazine with 1951 license plates.

Johnny Hagen’s Mercury was lowered just the right amount in balance with the mildly chopped windshield. The handles and emblems were shaved for a cleaner look. The American Top Shop also created a full cover behind the rear seat for topless driving.
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The Padded Top on Johnny’s Mercury was perfectly proportioned and shaped around the rear quarter windows.
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Sam Dibitonto 1949 Mercury

According a full feature on Sam Dibitonto’s 1949 Mercury in the R&C of December 1953, Sam bought a totaled ’49 Mercury  when the car was just a few month old. He started working on the car, and instead of actually chopping the windshield, he laid back the whole unit, making the side profile of the car lower, as if it was chopped. A matching padded top as added. The photo below shows the car in its early version with regular rear fenders, and ’48 Cadillac grille added. When the car was featured in the  R&C issue in 1953, Sam had added 1951 Cadillac rear fenders.

Early version of Sam’s Mercury shows the stock rear quarter panels still in place. The dog leg had already been removed from the doors though. The windshield on the Mercury was not actually reduced in height by removing a horizontal piece (chop) but rather by laying it back resulting in a lower side profile similar to a regular chopped top, but with the “benefits” of a more streamlined shape.
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1953 Version of Sam’s Mercury shows the addition of the ’51 Cadillac rear fenders. The padded tops flows very nice. The rear window flap has been removed in these photos.
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Bob Lund 1950 Mercury

Bob Lund took his 1950 Mercury convertible to the Barris Kustoms Shop in Lynwood, California. The team at Barris created a stunning, very elegant and well balanced Custom for Bob. The windshield of Bob’s Mercury was chopped, but only mildly, 2, perhaps 3 inches.  The car was taken to the Carson Top Shop who create a very nicely traditional shaped padded top for the car. It appears that the rear quarter window on Bob’s Mercury has been shortened a few inches, creating a slightly wider C-pillar. But since there is now profile picture this is hard to proof.

Bob Lund 50 MercuryBob Lund trying to leave the Barris Shop in his beautiful padded topped ’50 Mercury with ’51 rear quarters. This photo shows how upright the rear of the roof it, and how they are almost the same angle as the rear angle of the rear quarter windows. Giving the car a nice late 40’s looks and feel.
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Bob Lund 50 MercuryBob Lund’s Mercury with Carson Top Shop padded top with the side windows closed. A sight we do not often see.
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Fred Row 1951 Mercury

Fred Row’s Beautiful 1951 Mercury was created around 1953, and the long padded top was created at the Carson Top Shop.

Carson Top Shop Fred Rowe



The More Flowing tops

Al Glickman 1949 Mercury

Al and Gill Ayala created this 1948 Mercury Convertible for Al Glickman at Gil’s Auto Body Works in East Los Angeles. The Ayala Custom was featured in Hop Up magazine of May 1953. The really interesting thing about the padded top on Al’s Mercury is that the flow of the top is right in between what Bil Gaylord created on his personal ’49 Mercury, and the later versions with rear quarter panels. The top was created by Chavez and unlike most of the padded tops with rear quarter windows retaining, the outside shape of the top is not following the shape of the side windows, but rather flows like the top of a coupe, resulting in a wonderful flowing padded top.

Al Gickman 1949 Mercury with padded top was a very classic looking Ayala Custom with unique styling.
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This side profile of Al’s Mercury shows the nice flowing lines of the outside shape of the Chavez created padded top. It shows that towards the top of the “C-Pillar” the width is reducing due to the flowing shape of the top. The shape of the side window opening is dictated by the cut down stock Mercury rear quarter window frame.
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Carl Johnson chopped Mercurys

Body man Carl Johnson created several chopped 49-51 Mercury’s in the early 1950’s. A 1949 Mercury with an Eddie Martinez padded top as his own personal driver, and a 1950 convertible for Bill Verna. The ’49 Merc was done prior the ’50 he did for Bill, and there are photos from Bill’s mercury with 1951 California License plates.

Carl Johnson in his personal 1949 Mercury convertible with padded top. The stance on the car is rather high, typical for the every day used customs from the late 40’s early 1950’s.
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The 1950 Mercury of Bill Verna restyled by Carl Johanson with a padded top by Eddie Martinez. Notice the lipped front fender.
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Eddie Martinez did the padded top on Bill Verna’s 1950 Mercury. The windshield was chopped more than most others and it looks like the shape of the rear quarter window was made more flowing before the padded top was created.
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Ralph Testa 1950 Mercury

Barris Kustoms created the beautiful restyled 1950 Mercury for Ralph Testa in the early 1950’s. We are not sure when it was created but the car was published for the first time in the July 1952 issue of Hop Up Magazine. And the first confirmed date on the finished mercury is from the 1952 National Roadster Show which was held from Feb 19-24, 1952 in Oakland California. Most likely the car was restyled in late 1951.

The windshield on Ralph’s Mercury was chopped 3 inches and the padded top with beautiful flowing rear section was created by the Carson Top Shop.
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This wonderful rotogravure printed photo was the openings photo of the three pages feature article on the Ralph Testa Mercury in the July 1952 Hop Up magazine.
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(this article is sponsored by)

ccc-sponsor-ad-customs-by-flash-w
 
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What happened to Panoramic Ford

 

WHAT HAPPENED to PANORAMIC FORD

 

One of the Custom Car Icons the Buster Litton Panoramic Ford has been lost for many decades. Perhaps this new info will lead to the answer to what happened to the Panoramic Ford.



With the help of Rob Radcliffe who interviewed Buster Litton and Don Schaedel, original and second owner of the car, about the Barris/Cerny restyled 1949 Panoramic Ford, we have created a two part article here on the CCC in 2015. With all the unique information Rob and me had gathered we were able to get an accurate history on this Iconic ’49 Ford Hard Top written down. We shared some never before seen material that was shared by Buster Litton and Don Schaedel, and were able to trace the history of the car back to 1957.

The Panormic Ford when Buster Litton owned the car.
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In 1957 Don Shaedel, who had owned the car since the early summer of 1954, traded the Hard-topped Ford for a sectioned Shoebox and never sees his beloved custom again. Despite all the efforts we have not been able to find any trace of the cars after 1957… until September 24th 2018.  That day I received an email from Claudia, who had seen the articles on the Buster Litton on the Custom Car Chronicle and clearly remembers the car from 1960-62 time frame.

At that time Claudia was 12-14 years old she new this guy named Darrel Wienkuaf  (Update correct spelling is: Daryl Weinkauf) from Pipestone, Minnesota. Claudia was friends wit Daryl brother Curtis, and she remembered the car here friends older brother had from 1960 till around 1962. She remembered the details on the car clearly, since she really liked it, and remembered the Barris Crest still being on the car, and the hard-topped roof. She has no idea what happened to the car after 1962.

I have tried to find out more about Darrel Wienkuaf (as Claudia spelled it) but perhaps it is spelled Weinkauf (which very much sounds like a German name) from Pipestone, Minnesota. But so far I have found nothing. So I hope that perhaps some of our readers know people from that erea, or perhaps know more about a possible car scene in Pipestone, Minnesota or surrounding area in the early 1960’s. Hopefully we can come up with some more info on the Panoramic Ford being owned by Darrel from 1960-62, and possibly what happened to the car after that.

The Panoramic Ford when Don Schaedel’s owned it parked on the drive way at his home in Lynnwood, Ca.
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Update October 02, 2018

Larry Pointer did some digging after reading this article, and this is what he came up with.

Daryl Eugene Weinkauf, born 29 July, 1938. Son of Arnold and Hazel, living in Sweet, Pipestone County, Minnesota in 1940, He was listed in the census as about l year old, with a brother, William age 2 1/2. I fount a South Dakota marriage for Darryl and I believe a Janice… 18, September, 1958, in Hughes, Pierre County South Dakota. BUT, a divorce in California from a spouse Janice J., 28 December 1984, San Bernadino.
The Find-A-Grave website listed his death, 27 May, 2015, age 76. He is buried in the Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside County, Califorinia.

On the Panoramic lead, I found Daryl E Weinkauf on the Camp Pendelton, CA US Marines muster rolls from July 1956 through January 1958. This puts him in California at about the time he could have seen that Panoramic Ford, and then purchased it and took it back to his parents’ home in Pipestone, by the time that your source Claudia would have seen it there.

 

On Instagram Joe Bronco did some digging as well.

Joe was able to get in touch with the son of Curtis Weinkauf, the boyfriend Claudia mentioned. The son talked to his father Curtis to ask about the car, and he could not remember much about it at this moment he for sure did not know what happened to the car after his brother sold it. But he would ask as around some more, perhaps some other family members might know more about it. Curtis mentioned that the time frame might be slightly off. So hopefully we will get more input on that as well. At this moment he thought there were no photos of the car, but they will be looking. Hopefully some family snapshot might show it.
Lets keep our fingers crossed.

 



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Timeframe on the Panoramic Ford

  • 1950-1951 first owner Allen Anderson takes his 1949 Ford Coupe to the Barris Kustom shop to have them build a full custom out of the car. Allen requests the top to be chopped and turned into a hard-top style.
  • 1951 the Barris Kustom Shop, most likely Sam Barris, create one of the best looking chops ever done, on Allen’s Shoebox. They also install one of the 1951 Studebaker front fenders
  • 1952 Buster Litton buys the unfinished project from Allen Anderson.
  • 1952 Buster hires the Barris shop to finish the started work on the car an has them create the custom grille.
  • 1952 Buster brings the car home after the Baris shop has finished the work and painted the car with primer.
  • 1953 Buster takes the car to George And Carl Cerny’s shop to have them restyle the rear of the car to match the work on the front.
  • 1953 painted in a wonderfull deep coco rust lacquer by Doug Anderson, who worked at the Cerny shop.
  • 1954 adding Ford accessory bumper gards up front and modified Kaiser bar with exhaust thru the bullets on the rear bumper.
  • 1954 adding Barris crests.
  • 1954 February, winning awards at the Motorama and National Roadster Show.
  • 1954 May-June selling/trading the car to Don Schaedel. Don gives Buster his mildly customized 1951 Mercury Convertible in trade for the Ford plus some cash.
  • 1954 Don removes the front Ford Accessory bumper guards since he felt they where to tall for the car.
  • 1957 Don trades the Panoramic Ford for a sectioned Shoebox Ford, and looses track of the Panoramic Ford soon after that.
  • 1957 – 1960 We have no info on where the car was during these years.
  • 1960 – 1962 Daryl Weinkauf from Pipestone, Minnesota owned the car.
  • 1962 and up We have no info on the cars wear-about after 1962

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If anybody knows anything more about Darrel Wienkuaf or Darrel WeinKauf from Pipestone, Minnesota. Or does know anything about a car scene from this area in the early 1960’s. Please let us know. We would love to get in touch with people who know more about the Panoramic Ford during this period, and possibly find out what happened to it. Please Email Rik if you can help us with the search from this long lost Iconic Custom Car. Thank you.





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1947-48 Buick Gaylord Tops

 

1947-48 BUICK GAYLORD TOPS

 

Bill Gaylord created a couple of stunning looking super long chopped padded tops for 1947-48 Buicks that completely transformed the looks of those cars. A closer look.



I was browsing thru some old photos to get some inspiration for a Digital Restyling project I was working on when I noticed the really long padded top, and especially the long rear quarters on the Buick in the opening photo from the Bill Gaylord Collection. It made me think of the Ben Mario and Don Vaughn Buick’s that were restyled at the Barris Kustom Shop, and both had similar shaped, but with panoramic rear window, Gaylord padded tops. It also reminded me of the padded top Bill Gaylord did on George Barris his personal 1942 Cadillac, which had the same huge rear compartment that he covered with full length padded top with beautiful flowing shapes.




Bill Gaylord was a true artist when it came to smooth flowing shaped padded tops, and there was a reason that the Barris Shop took many of their streamlined Customs to Gaylord, instead of the Carson Top Shop. Carson was known for their slightly more boxy padded tops, very nice, and perfect on certain type of Customs. But when it came to the mid to late 1940’s GM cars, like the ’47-48 Buick’s in this article, the Gaylord Kustom Tops shop was THE place to go to.

Stock 1947-48 Buick Convertible at the Gaylord Kustom Top Shop, possibly waiting to get the windshield chopped and a full padded top done. This photo shows the car with the stock folding top, and how the car original has a rear quarter window. Which makes the full length padded top look so special on these. The car is not the same one I think as the one below, notice the spotlight on the stock one, and non on the one chopped below. That is Bill’s personal chopped ’49 Merc behind the Buick.
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Chopped windshield, super sleek Gaylord padded top, lowered suspension and smoothed hood. All that is needed to make this Buick look super nice, and a mile long. I wonder if the owner perhaps saved up to have more work done at a later stage, as in shaved door handles, frenched headlights…
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Close up of the chopped padded Gaylord top. Perfectly shaped, with beautiful flow of the rear of the top and the just right angle of the B-Pillar.
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This is such a great photo showing Bill Gaylord’s personal ’49 Mercury with the chopped top still in progress, Ben Mario’s Barris restyled ’47 Buick with none buffed paint, or perhaps primer? with the top still at stock height, and Bill Gaylord’s personal ’41 Ford with super low padded top behind it.
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Close up of Ben Mario’s Buick from the photo above.
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Different photo, taken the same day as the one above shows the satin finish of the paint job on Ben Mario’s Buick. The guy all the way on the right looks a lot as a young George Barris.
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Ben Mario’s ’47 Buick was restyled at the Barris shop as a none chopped custom at first. The custom interior was done by Bill Gaylord. This photo of the car was taken later when the paint was completely polished, and a cover was added over the rear seat.
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Later the windshield was chopped on Ben Mario’s Buick and Bill Gaylord created a beautiful super long padded top with panoramic rear window.
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Ben Mario’s 1948 Buick photo that looks to be taken at the Hot Rod Show at the Los Angeles Armory, most likely in Jan 1950. Notice that the sign behind the car reads Barris Kustom Shop Bell. In March 1950 the Barris Shop moved to the new Lynwood Location.
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Barris and Gaylord advertised combined in Motor Trend magazine and the Ben Mario Buick was used to illustrate Bill’s Interior Skill’s and the Barris Shop’s body work and design skills. Sadly Bill Gaylord went into the military right when the magazine with this ad hit the newsstand, so there was nobody at the shop to welcome any new customers responding to the ad.
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Don Vaughn’s Barris  Restyled ’47 Buick. Notice the very round shape of the rear of the side window opening. Very different that the light colored Buick at the start of this article.
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Don Vaughn’s ’47 Buick might was very similar styled as Ben Mario’s Buick. And there are some stories around that mention the the Mario and Vaughn Buick’s are the same car. So far we have not been able to find any evidence for that, but the resemblance sure is remarkable.
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Close up of the Gaylord Panoramic rear window he added to the chopped padded top. The glass was made from shaped plexiglass.
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The flow of the top into the trunk is so nice on these Gaylord tops. They enhance all the Barris Restyled elements very well.
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This possibly is the Ben Mario or Don Vaughn Barris / Gaylord restyled 1948 Buick. The photo was taken quite a few years ago, and we do not know where it is, or who owns it. But the rumor is it is the original Barris Restyled Buick with the Gaylord created padded top frame in place. The one odd thing about the car in the photo is that it shows a door handle in place, which was shaved on both the Mario, and Vaughn Buick. Hopefully the future will bring more info on this mystery.
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The Japan – How to build a Custom

 

HOW TO BUILD A CUSTOM The Japan

 

The Barris built 1952 Mercury hardtop known as The JAPAN was featured in a series of step-by-step stories on building a custom. The three and a half month restyling project resulted in a beautiful TOP TEN mild custom.


By Tom Nielsen



By 1955 the custom car craze had spread across the nation. Many “would be” customizers had been reading magazines like Rod and Custom , Car Craft, Hot Rod and others where they were getting ideas for building their own customs. However, many of these young customizers lacked the opportunity or resources to take their cars to a well-known custom shop like Barris Kustoms in California.


1952 Mercury from the original sales brochure.
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George Barris took the Mercury to his favorite location, the house on Abbott road, not too far from the Barris Kustom Shop for a photo-shoot.
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The 1955 “How to Build a Custom” series in Car Craft magazine by George Barris provided photos and instructions on performing some of the “basics” of building a very desirable mild custom. Granted there had been lots of “how to articles” in the magazines before on various and assorted modifications. What was special about “How to Build a Custom” was that it took the reader through the process of restyling from beginning to the finished car in an eight-part monthly series.

The ’52 Mercury hardtop was owned by Tom Jeffries and he brought it to the Barris brothers for the customizing in 1954. Car Craft magazine first shows the car in a story titled “Installing Side Trim” in the August 1954 issue. The story mentions that Tom Jeffries Mercury will be featured in a complete step-by-step form from the time it rolled into the shop until it is driven out in all its glory. The pictures in the story show an almost completed car with the Barris emblem on the front fender.



Car Craft had been planning to do a “how to do it” custom series and probably reached out to George Barris. The ’52 to ’54 Fords were becoming popular for customizers at the time of the articles. George Barris in Volume 1 Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s said, “The ’52-’54 Fords and Mercurys quickly became popular cars to customize and we chopped a number of them.” This one would be a mild custom but represented a model of a car that was currently popular in 1954-5 when the articles were published. It was interesting to note that the first magazine article in the series mentioned that this body style was similar to Mercury’s ’52 to ’54 and ’52 to ’54 Fords as well. It was important to show that these modifications were applicable to a wide range of cars. The series of articles featured many modifications such as shaving the door handles, removing trim, frenching the head and taillights, smoothing bumpers, etc. that could be done on any make of car.

In writing the “step-by-step” articles for Car Craft George Barris stresses how much money the reader could save by doing the work themselves. In the final story he mentions that the custom work took 3 ½ months at a cost of $1300. He goes on to say that $800 of that total was in labor which you could save if you did the work yourself.




I had to laugh when he mentions that frenching the headlights at a shop would be a $20 to $25 job, but you could save that if you did it on your own. However, in 1955 twenty-five dollars was a chunk of money for some young guys!

Style wise the modifications to Tom Jeffries’ Mercury were tasteful, fresh, and unique for that era. The taillights from a ’51 Fraser seem to fit the top of the rear fenders perfectly, while the ’54 Olds side trim turns down and mimics the dividers in the 1952 only, three-piece rear window. The air scoops added to the hood and rear quarter panels were a nice touch. The smoothed rear bumper with exhaust tips complements the pleasing ¾ rear view. I always liked the photo used at the beginning of part 4 with that same view.

I also think the’54 Chrysler hubcaps, which hadn’t been used a lot on customs in this era, were a good choice. The grille bar restyling along with the molded opening and painted lower bumper make an understated, very clean look. Along with the modified scoop and frenched headlights the front end restyling shows very well on the May 1955 Car Craft cover and in the April 1955 feature, “The Japan”.

One of the most dramatic changes to the car were the addition of the ’52-53 Lincoln grille teeth (These teeth are sort of “hidden” below the bumper on the stock Lincoln) in the smoothed grille opening. This created a much more aggressive front end on the car.
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Stock 1952 Mercury front 3/4 view from the original Sales Brochure.
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The color pictures of the eighteen coat lacquer job look outstanding. Copper rust metallic and gold bronze metallic were the colors selected by Barris and the owner. Although, it wasn’t until part three of the series before the readers finally got to see it in color on the cover. That picture doesn’t really show how outstanding the two tone paint job really was.
Sometime later the Mercury was selected as “Ten of the Best” by Car Craft magazine. The owner was listed as Tom Jeffries and his $1500 custom. However, when the feature on “The Japan” was printed the owner was listed as Nobby Miyakawa. Maybe he purchased the car shortly after it was finished from Tom Jeffries?

The crew at the Barris Shop painted the Mercury in what George Barris described as Copper-Rust Metallic and Golden-Bronze Metallic. This is one of the two color photos I have ever seen on this car.
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The ’52 Mercury “the JAPAN” was also part of the Barris Display at the 1954 Petersen Motor Revue & Motorama at the Pan Pacific Auditorium.
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There is no way of knowing how many cars were restyled using the information and techniques shared by the Barris Kustom shop in these articles. My guess is that the series was very informative to both other shops and to the “do it yourself” customizers working at home. I tend to think that a number of cars were modified using some of the techniques shown in the Car Craft step-by-step customizing series.

I don’t have any information on Nobby Miyakawa and how long he owned the car. As I mentioned earlier the owner was listed as Tom Jeffries when the series began, so at some point Nobby became the owner and must have been the inspiration for the Mercury’s name, “The Japan”.

The April 1955 issue of Car Craft Magazine had a full four page feature on the Mercury. And on the following spread the first installment on the Her’s How: Building a Custom article was started with another 4 pages.
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The second spread of the feature article, and the two spreads introducing the How To article starting with frenched headlights.
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August 1954 Car Craft issue showed how the side trim was created.
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A few of the covers of Car Craft magazines that had parts of the How To features of the Mercury.
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The May 1955 issue of Car Craft showed the front section of the Mercury in color on the cover.
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The biggest question though is perhaps what happened to the beautiful ’52 Merc known as “The Japan”? It wasn’t seen in the magazines much after 1956, it just disappeared? Maybe one of the readers knows more about where “The Japan” Mercury ended up?

Epilogue: I have long been a fan of this particular ’52 Mercury custom and the series on it in Car Craft about its construction. I want to thank Rik Hoving for preparing a file of information and pictures on the Jeffries/ Miyakawa custom car which I used to write this story.









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Jack Stewart Ford White Primer

 

JACK STEWART FORD WHITE PRIMER

 

In 1950 George Barris painted the Jack Stewart Ford in white primer after he had fine tuned the Ayala restyled coupe. In 2018, 68 years later, the car is back in white primer, and almost ready to hit the road.


On August 19, 2018, me and my 13 year old son were leaving the house early for our first real roadtrip together. We planned to visit my good friend Palle Johansen in Denmark, a good 6 hour trip, and visit the German city Hamburg on the way back the following day. Palle Johansen and I have been friends for many years, and the friendship intensified when Palle decided to become the new caretaker of the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford. An iconic Custom Car Restyled originally by Gil and Al Ayala in the late 1940’s and fine tuned and painted by Jack’s friend George Barris in 1950-1951.

It had been a few years since I had visited Palle, so I was looking very much to see him again, and Abe was really looking forward to meet him for the first time. Palle had been working on his ‘1947 Cadillac Custom Convertible mostly in the last couple of years, but the project was sort of halted due to some paint issues, and the Jack Stewart Ford had been on the backburner most of the time he worked on the Cadillac.

After our 6 plus hours drive up North, from the Netherlands to Denmark we had arrived in Palle’s home town and driving up to his block, when I was about to turn the last corner I told my son that he should look out for the white house at the end of the street… And when we did turn the corner, instead of seeing the white house we saw the light reflecting white paint of the Jack Stewart Ford parked in front of Palle’s white house… An HUGE smile grew instantly on our faces…. ( One that would last the entire visit )





We drove to the end of the street, and saw the white ghost Jack Stewart’s white primered ’41 Ford in all its glory…. I had not expected to see the car being parked on the road. I knew it had been painted white primer some time ago, but I had no idea Palle and his team had “secretly” put it back together again and made in road worthy. This was an amazing surprise for me, and of course for my son who, for the first time in his life, was looking at an original Custom Car from the 1950’s that had been created by the top shops of the time… And the car that had been the lead character in the book his father created a number of years ago… And which owner, builder an all other connected names had been mentioned frequently in the house, and where he had witnessed all the steps leading to the printed Jack Stewart Ford Book. And now he saw the car in the flesh.

The view we saw when driving up to Palle’s house… the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford in white primer, with temporary Danish License plates.
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White primer

When Jack Stewart had brought the completely Restyled, yet still unfinished ’41 Ford from the Ayala Shop in East Los Angeles to the Barris Shop in Lynwood in 1950 he asked George if he could try to get the car done for him in time for the annual Easter event at Balboa Island. A very popular event for young guys and girls, dancing and partying the long weekend. George worked hard, fine tuning the work the Ayala’s had done previously, rounding corners, reshaping fender lines, crafting taillights and pods for the to sit in etc.

But in the end George did not have enough time to actually paint the car, so he ended up painting the car in white primer, and that was how Jack took it to the Balboa Easter Weekend… And it looked really amazing in the bright white primer. Several photos of this version of the car were made back then, survived and were using in multiple publications since then. Quite possibly Jack owned and drove his Restyled Ford wearing white primer longer than when George Barris eventually painted the car in a copper bronze color.

Jack Stewart with his freshly white primer painted 1941 Ford in June 1950 at the Santa Ana Drags. This is how Jack drove it for a few month.
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It had always been Palle’s intention to go the same route when he was going to restore the car to how it originally looked. Do the complete restoration, and finish it in white primer, then drive it around for some time, before eventually pant it copper bronze. It was a common thing to do back the, have all the body work done on your car, add primer, and then drive it around for some time letting all the body work settle, and get all the bugs, if there where any come out and fix. At one time they, not sure who was first, really liked the idea of the white, or later color tinted primer. And by painting your car in primer first, have it on the road, and even in some shows you could later do the complete debut thrills all over when the car got completely painted. Double fun!

My son Abe shortly after he got out of the car and was ready to check out the Jack Stewart Ford in person.
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Smiling from ear to ear. There is still a lot to do, notice the cuts and uneven surface on the inside of the door jamb.
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The white primer on the car right now is however not yet the final primer. It was added to finally cover the bare metal, keeping it from rusting, and make it a bit easier to see what still needs to be done to the body to get it ready for final paint. And the white primer has made it very obvious that there is still a lot that needs to be done.

The plan for now is to get the car ready for the Danish version of the DMV inspection. Hence the grille opening and A-pillar mounted parking lights. Both will be removed again after the car has been approved for the road. Then when the car can be driven on the road legally the plan is to tackle all the issues still left, body work fine tuning as well as mechanical work. And while doing that, the car can still be driven around and enjoyed.

After checking out the car a bit, Palle said… “are you guys in for a short drive?”…. Oh yeah… we are. The car is not road legal, so we could only stay on the block he said. The Cadillac Flathead engine also needs some more work done to become reliable, and get a new air-cleaner than can be hooked up to the special carburetor allowing the air-cleaner to be mounted on the side, since there is no space for it on top with the channeled body and new low hood. But it runs, and the car can be driven.

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This was only the second time the Jack Stewart Ford was driven since the restoration got started. Man, what an experience.
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The white primer, chrome and the green tinted glass was the perfect mix. Notice the small turn signals that were added to the lower A-Pillars, where the Appleton Spotlights should be. This is needed to get the needed paper work to make the car road legal. With the papers in hand the Appleton’s will be replacing the lights later.
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When the car was originally Restyled the techniques used and demands for perfection were a bit different from today’s standards. The Custom Cars back then looked absolutely amazing, but most of them were r created to be looked underneath, inside behind panels, or shown with opened hood or trunk. Modifications as rounded corners looked perfect from the outside, but when you opened the trunk you would see that George Barris, in this case, used only sheet metal to fill in the body panel to create the new rounded corner, but there was no work done to make it looks factory finished on the inside, with a beautiful lip, like we are so used at today.

The idea is to keep most of the “flaws” on the car, make it look amazing from the outside, and in the cockpit, but retain the kind of rough around the edges standard quality custom work from the early 1950’s.

The flow of the fade away fenders and top are perfect… the white primer shows that off so much more than how I saw it last time.. in bare metal.
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The Stance still needs to be adjusted a bit… a little higher in the front, for that perfect speed-boat stance.
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The Bob Hirohata hand made taillights contrasted with the white primer. The white primer also revealed that the drivers side front fenders must have had some impact back in 1954 when the car hit a train. And it was never really fixed right, making the sides slightly out of shape. So some metal work will have to be done there to make the front fenders flow nice into the fade away door sections.
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Palle and I talked a lot about the car the day we arrived, he had driven it into his under the house garage / man-cave so we could check out all the details, while discussing the,details and remembering the good times we had when we were researching the car in the US in 2010. The next morning Palle had some appointments early in the morning, and would be back after a few hours. During that time I walked around the Ford, took pictures inside and out, took some measurements and most of all sat inside the car, behind the Mercury Monteray steering wheel and tried to visualize how it must have been for Jack and later Jim Skonzakes, to drive around in this car, driving around in the streets of Los Angeles, California, and Jim later i Dayton Ohio. Or ultimately how it must have been for Jim Skonzakes to buy the car from Jack, with the help from George Barris and then drive it in a couple of days from LA to Dayton. It was an amazing feeling sitting inside the car, knowing its history, siting on the same vinyl tuck & roll upholstered seats as Jack, Jim and later Bob Drake had done back in time.

After Palle had driven the car in the garage for the night it was my turn to sit in it… smiling… Good to be back “home” in the car. I would spend a lot of time just sitting there the net morning… day dreaming, and remembering Jack, and Jim…
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A view from the rear seat. The headliner and seats are still the originals from 1951.
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The vent windows now work perfectly with all new rubber.
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More rough work on the door jamb where some of the lead had to be removed to be able to get the doors aligned again. The dash and garnish panels were painted in 2013 by David Martinez / Billy Crewl in time to be shown at the 2013 GNRS. The interior panels are the original units from 1951, semi restored.
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The white primer makes all the rough body work stand out extra good. Some of it will stay, since it was like this when the car was originally finished. On the other hand, some will be smoothed, since multiple layers of primer and paint back then must have helped smooth out the body work in 1951.
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Parked in Palle’s garage… and getting the replica 1951 California License plate mounted. Really looking forward to the next phase on this project… registration, then slowly fixing the body and other things to get it on the road to enjoy.
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The Appleton S-522 Spotlights are patiently waiting to be remounted on the car again… soon I hope.
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Dreaming of going on another Road Trip with Palle Johansen… Now with the primer white Jack Stewart Ford. Reliving the times Jack Stewart, Jim Skonzakes and Bob Drake, all known previous owners had shared with us with huge smiles on their face.


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Barris Display Wall Pan-Pacific Auditorium

 

BARRIS DISPLAY WALL

 

The Barris Kustom Shop had a special wall Barris Shop display at the Petersen Motorama Shows held at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. From 1951 till 1955 these Barris Shop Wall Displays were among the highlights of the event.



Petersen Publishing had a lot of experience with promoting their publications and they used their knowledge to help promote that would be come a series of most influential Hot Rod and Custom Car shows on the West Coast, and possibly in the whole USA in the early to mid 1950′. The show ran from 1950 till 1955, originally names the Petersen Motorama show, but in 1954 the name was changed to Motor Revue & Motorama due to the Motorama name now being used by General Motors for their futuristic new car show events. George Barris already worked with the Petersen Publishing people for some of their publications supplying Custom Car content. As soon as George heard about the plans for the Motorama shows he knew instinctively that these shows would become a huge success. Both locally, as well as nationally when they were covered in the Petersen publications.

George also understood that these shows were not only to show off a series of beautiful Custom Cars to the public. These shows were much more than just that. These shows were ideal to help promote the Barris name, and to draw attention from possible new customers. Potential customers needed to have somebody to speak to at these shows, so George would be there at all time, and if he had to step out, there were other employees who could show of the cars on display, and talk about possible future projects. Besides handing out actual business cards at these events George Barris understood that the cars on display were even more an business card for the Barris Shop. So from early on the Barris team tried to display their latest, and very best customs, presented the best way possible, with trophies, etc. From the 1951 Peterson event George had a special Wall Display for the Barris Shop. These wall displays drew a lot of people during the multi day event. Only in 1953 the Barris Shop did not have a full wall to be used as Shop display.

Creating displays like this for large events was not something new in 1950, it had been done by the big car brands at car shows for many years. But it might have been something new for a Custom Car Shop to promote its business like this at Car Shows. George Barris had a great sense for promoting his business, and these Barris Wall Displays at the Motorama are a perfect sample of this.





1951 MOTORAMA

In 1951 the Petersen Motorama Event moved from the LA Shrine Convention Hall to the beautiful Art-Deco Pan-Pacific Auditorium building. The first show was very well promoted, and a huge success, learned from the first show the second event at the new locations became an even bigger show. From this first Pan Pacific Auditorium held show there are very few known photos, and only one photo we know about, shows the very first Barris Wall display. Only one Barris Custom can be seen in this photo, the Larry Ernst Chevy, with George and Sam standing next to it. At this moment we are not aware if any other Barris Customs were part of this display, or if there was just the Ernst Chevy. If any of our readers has any more details about this, please let us know. The 1951 Petersen Motorama event was held from November 7th till the 11th.

1951 Motorama Program and floor plan. Sadly the Barris Shop was not listed in the incomplete list of vendors/participants, so we have, so far, not been able to find out where the Barris display was at the show.
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The only photo we have come across from a Barris Display at the 1951 Petersen Motorama Show is this photo of the all suited up Sam and George Barris standing proudly with the Larry Ernst Chevy in front of  a curtain covered wall with beautiful Art-Deco BARRIS letters.
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1952 MOTORAMA

The display wall at the 1952 Petersen Motorama was the largest of them all. At least with the greatest number of cars displayed at the wall. For this year Barris Kustoms had teamed up with the Carson Top Shop, and both their names were on the huge curtain covered back wall. 6 recently completed Barris Customs were on display in the joint display space. The 1952 show was also the first time Barris Kustom displayed their cars with their brand new Barris Crest mounted on the front fender. From this year on many of the cars on display had small plants separating the display area from the visitor path. The green plants gave the show a very special feeling. The 1952 Petersen Motorama event was held from November 10th till the 16th.

The Barris / Carson display at the show included some of the very best and recently finished customs. From left to right we can see Tommy Thornburgh’s 1947 Studebaker, Robert La Briola’s 1949 Oldsmobile, Dan Landon’s 1949 Chevy, Jack Brumbach’s 1942 Ford, Don Vaughn’s 1947 Buick and barely visible in this photo at the end of the line-up was Bob Hirohata’s 1951 Mercury.
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Tommy Thornburgh’s unusual 1947 Studebaker convertible was sitting on the far left side of the Barris Kustoms Display wall. The car was painted ice blue with a dark blue Carson Padded Top.
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Robert La Briola 1949 Oldsmobile in lime gold was a relatively mild custom, but it was exceptionally restyled for a beautiful, almost European feel.
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This photo taken by Andy Southard shows the huge Carson letters on the curtain covered wall above Dan Landon’s Chevy. In the center of the display the Barris team had displayed some of the trophies won by the cars on display, and set up a small table with business cards for the potential new customers.
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Dan Landon was a member of George Barris’s Kustoms Los Angles Club as the brass tag on the front bumper shows.
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Jack Brumbach‘s 1942 Ford came all the way from San Fransisco.
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Don Vaughn’s 1947 Buick in a deep purple must have looked stunning with its white top, plus it was parked next to the light colored, sea foam green Hirohata Merc Don came all the way from Port Orchard, Washington (But perhaps the car was still in Ca, after it had just been finished).
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The last Barris Custom of the Display wall all the way to the right was the just-in-time finished 1951 Mercury for Bob Hirohata.
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1953 MOTORAMA

At the 1953 Petersen Motorama event at the Pan Pacific Auditorium the Barris Shop did not have a wall presentation. I have not been able to find out why the hop did not have their annual wall display this year, perhaps they applied for it too late. Instead the Barris Shop displayed a number of cars spread out over the building, with the Sam Barris 1950 Buick, which was just finished in time for the how on a center stage display. The Barris name, created from gold glitter cardboard most likely for the previous years was used on the single car display of the 1947 Studebaker “the Grecian”. The 1953 Petersen Motorama was held from October 26th till November 1th.

Overview photo shows the Sam Barris 1950 Buick on the center display allowing the audience to walk around it and view it from every angle. In the background is the ’47 Grecian with the “Barris” name on the curtain behind it.
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The Grecian ’47 Studebaker had been recently finished at the Barris Shop, and there had not been enough time to do the interior. So it the car was displayed with white cardboard taped to the inside of the windows. Interesting is that the dot on the “i” on the Barris name is missing. The fact that the “Belond” sign in the background seems to be made of similar glitter card-board might indicate that this part of the displays was organized by the Petersen crew.
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1954 MOTOR REVUE & Motorama

The Petersen Show was renamed Motor Revue & Motorama for the 1954 year. This was done to make sure people would not confuse it for the GM Motorama. At the ’54 Barris Shop Wall Display the Barris crew displayed 5 new Barris Customs, plus the Golden Sahara was displayed on a huge turn table just in front to the wall. Making this one of the most spectacular Barris Show displayed in history. George Barris had just started his Kustom Of America, which evolved from the Kustoms Los Angeles Car Club. A lot of attention to the new nation wide club was paid at this event and besides the “Barris” script in gold glitter card board, a huge Barris Crest, there was now also a huge sign for the KUSTOMS of America done in gold glitter cardboard on the curtain covered back wall. The 1954 event was held from November 5 till November 14th.

Overview of the Barris Display wall at the 1954 Petersen Motor Revue & Motoramat at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. From left to right we can see the following Barris Customs; Dave Bugarin 1951 Mercury, Chuck DeWitt 1952 Ford wagon, Roy Dobb’s Simca/60, Nobby Miyakawa’s 1953 Mercury HT “The Japan” and Ed Sloan’s 1953 Plymouth Belvedere all the way on the right only showing its front fender and hood.
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Close up of the Barris letters, the Barris Crest and the KUSTOMS of America cardboard glitter signs.
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Barry Mazza shared this photo taken from the opposite side, showing the Chuck DeWitt wagon and the Dobb’s Simca. Most likely the well dressed lady and men in the picture were helping Barris to promote both the body shop as well as the Kustoms Of America club at the event.
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Another snapshot from the Barry Mazza Collection is rather blurry, but since only very few photos of this event and the Barris Wall have surfaced I like to show it here anyway. Can you imagine being able to walk around the Golden Sahara I, and then look in the other direction and see the wall full of other amazing Barris Custom creations.
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The Barris crew sure knew how to draw attention, with the Golden Sahara as highlight on the turntable and the long Display wall behind it. Custom Car Golden Years.
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The 1954 event is the first one we have been able to find color photos from. Ina May Overman, who owned a Valley Custom Shop ’52 Lincoln custom, which was also at the event, took a series of beautiful color slides, including this one of the Golden Sahara I with part of the Barris Display wall in the background. So now we know that this year the Barris Shop had a dark blue curtain as backdrop.
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The point of view in Ina May’s photo was the Golden Sahara.
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Walter Wyss took this photo of George Barris talking to Jim Skonzakes about details on Jim’s just finished Golden Sahara. This photo illustrates how these shows meant business for shop owners as George Barris.
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The Dave Bugarin 1951 Mercury was just finished in time for the 1955 Petersen show. It was put on display all the way to the left side of the designated wall and was lacking the Appleton Spotlights which would be installed shortly after the show.
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Danny Lares, the new owner of the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford took this snapshot of the Dave Bugarin Mercury at the event.
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Chuck DeWitt, who used to have a beautiful well known Barris Kustom restyled Shoebox Ford convertible with chopped padded top had his latest Barris restyled car on display at the event A much milder ’52 Ford wagon in beautiful green with burnt orange.
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Interesting detail showing one of the woman of the Barris crew promoting the Barris shop and the Kustoms of America Car club in front of Chuck’s Wagon.
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A very unusual car for Barris to display at the event was the Roy Dobb’s Simca/60 that was slightly restyled and fitted with a flathead V-8. I guess that Barris was aiming at a new group of clients who would have the show restyle the more and more popular Sports Cars.
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Nobby Miyakawa’s 1953 Mercury HT “The Japan” was the subject in several How Two magazine articles written by George Barris.
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At the 1954 Petersen Show George Barris paid a lot of attention to promote his newly formed Kustoms of America Club. Several signs were set up at the Barris Shop Wall display, as well as a desk where you could sign up and fill out your application for the club.
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Barris even had Miss Kustoms of America hand out flyers and business cards at the show. In this photo from the Danny Lares Collection we can see here with a stack of flyers that look to be a reprint of the special Rod & Custom magazine ad George Barris ran (inset picture).
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1955 International MOTOR REVUE

The last year the Petersen event was held it had changed name ones again. It was now names the International Motor Revue, and the location was held again at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. 4 Barris Kustom creations were displayed in front of a red curtain covered Barris Display wall. Dave Bugarin’s 1951 Mercury was displayed at the wall for the second year in a row. This time it can be seen with the Appleton Spotlights installed.

From left to right are; Buddy Alcorn’s 1950 Mercury, Frank Monteleon’s 1941 Ford, Dick Jackson / Ronnie Dragoo 1954 Mercury and Dave Bugarin’s 1951 Mercury. The Kustoms of America sign is again up on the wall, but the signs on the floor and table where you could sign up used at the ’54 show are now missing.
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Buddy Alcorn’s 1950 Mercury was originally restyled for an unknown owner by the Ayala brothers, but later bought by Buddy and delivered at the Barris Shop for a complete make over. They finished it just in time for the 1955 Petersen International Motor Revue. Sadly the overview photo is the only one we know about showing the Alcorn Mercury at this event.
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Dick “Peep” Jackson / Ronnie Dragoo’s 1954 Mercury looked really amazing in Colonial White with “Sam Bronze” in front of the red curtains. The green plans and wood planters looked so great at these show. They might be in the way of showing the cars completely, but the overall effect was very classic and stylish. Andy Southard captured this show in some amazing color slides.
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Frontal view of the Jackson / Magoo Mercury.
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Frank Monteleon brought his super wild ’41 Ford Convertible to be displayed at the Barris Wall Display. The ’41 Ford was updated with later model Oldsmobile fenders which gave the car a much more modern look. The bright pink paint with white top must have drawn a lot of attention at the show.
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The top on Frank’s ’41 Ford was constructed from a ’38 Ford sedan top. Notice the beautiful detailed Midget that was done by the Barris Shop as well. 
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Dave Bugarin’s deep blue ’51 Mercury really stood out a lot better with the red curtains behind it at this ’55 show than with the blue curtains of the previous year. When this photo was taken the midget had been moved to be displayed with Dave’s Mercury.
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Mercury Perfection.
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Close ups of the glitter card-board signs on the 1955 Display Wall.
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As far as we have been able to find out the Barris Display walls only happened at the Petersen Motorama events. Of course the Barris Kustom Shop and the cars entered by this show were at many other Car Show’s around the US, but possibly never all situated together as we have seen in this article. If you have any more information about these 1950-55 Petersen Motorama events, and specifically to the Barris Displays, please let us know. We are looking to find more photos of these events, as well as personal stories, of people who attended these event. Please send the Custom Car Chronicle and email if you have more input.






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George Barris at Work

 

GEORGE BARRIS at WORK

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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Others on George Barris at Work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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












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