Westergard classic 36 Ford

CLASSIC WESTERGARD FORD

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One of the finest Harry Westergard build early style custom cars is Jack Odbert’s 1936 Ford convertible.

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Original article from 2013, updated with Color Photo in July, 2020.

When I was about 20 years, I first saw a photo of Jack Odbert 1936 Ford convertible in the Best Hot Rods booklet (published by Facett Books in 1952). I totally fell in love with this one photo, that was shown in the chapter: “Album of Best Hot Rods”. The car reminded me of the bright yellow and white 1936 Ford, that Possies Hot Rod shop had built in the early 1980’s. The Best Hot Rods booklet listed Jack Odbert from Sacramento, California as the owner. But the name of the builder was not mentioned.

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1952 photo of Jack’s 1936, shows the wonderful speedboat stance of the car. It also shows how all the custom elements on the front of the car work together to create an unique classic look.

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Many years later I found a copy of the 1957 Trend Books Custom Cars annual, and in this there was a small article called: “Remember when”. In this article, two more photos of this stunning 1936 Ford convertible were shown. The car had been build by the Granddaddy of Early Customizing: Harry Westergard. Something I had already assumed, but now it was confirmed. This 1957 Annual showed a dead on front and rear photo. Both new photos showed this was a very well designed, and grafted 1936 Ford Custom Car.

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The 1941 Oldsmobile bumpers have a lot more body than the original Ford bumpers. These new bumpers fit close to the body, and the stock cut out at the center fits the LaSalle grille perfectly. The long over-riders give the front extra height.

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The Oldsmobile rear bumpers are perfect for the back as well where the heavy end sections flow well with the Fords fenders. The chrome surround on the set in license plate help with the classic feel of the car.

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Recently, perhaps a year or so ago, I came across a copy of the July 1984 issue of Classic & Custom magazine. This magazine has a two page article on Harry Westergard, and shows a few photos of the custom cars he created. And two of the photos show Jack’s 1936 Ford indoors. One nice front 3/4 view, and one partly shot from high up, inside a car dealer showroom in Sacramento, where a small Hot Rod and Custom Car show was held.

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Overview photo of the Sacramento Chevrolet dealer showroom. In 1950 there was a small Custom car and Hot Rod show, and in this photo we can already see 4 or 5 padded topped customs. At least three of them can be identified as Westergard Customs.

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As far as we have found out, there has never been a real proper feature done on Jack Odbert’s ’36 Ford, not back in the day, and not recently. In fact I have never even seen any other photos of the car, other than the ones shown here in this article. We have not been able to get in contact with anybody who knows what ever happened with the car, or knew Jack Odbert or his car. To me Jack’s Ford is one of the best ever Harry Westergard customs. The classic thin, high nose, padded topped convertible, looks so much more classic, and expensive than the original Ford it was based on, ever looked.

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Bryan Rusk shared this snapshot of the ’36 Ford Cabriolet from the Donovan Welch Collection. 

We also do not know exactly when the car was built. Some of the looks indicate the car might have been just after WWII. The earliest photo we have seen of it is however from 1950, when it was photographed at a local Chevrolet dealer showroom car show in Sacramento. The newest parts we can find on the car, are from 1947.

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This photo was also taken at the Sacramento Chevrolet dealer. It shows the car with 1950 black letters on yellow plates. It also appears that the skirts have been decorated with 1941 Buick trim pieces. Note that the small diameter spotlights are pointing forward.

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Garry Odbert shared this wonderful color slide of the Jack Odbert 1936 Ford. The photo was taken at the Sacramento Autorama. Possibly in the 1954, or 1955. Look at the color!

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Lets take a closer look at the customizing Harry Westergard performed on this car.
Larry chopped the windshield frame, and had a padded top made for it. Most likely done by the Hall Top Shop. Harry removed the stock grille, reshaped the opening to accept a 1937 LaSalle grille. The grille looks like it was made for the car. Even the bull nose, and chrome trim on top of the hood looks so perfect with the grille. Harry added some unidentified – longer than stock – headlights, and modeled them half way into the front fenders. This in combination with the tall, and narrow LaSalle rille, gave the illusion that the hood is now much higher than it originally was.

New smooth hood sides replace the original louvered units. The former small grilles on the horn openings in the front fender were reshaped to accept 1947 Ford parking lights. The stock bumpers were replaced by 1941 Oldsmobile units. These bumpers have a wonderful Art Deco look, and the thick end sections fit the Ford fenders perfectly. Harry kept the tall bumper guards which fit perfectly with the LaSalle grille up front.

At the back, the stock taillights were removed, and replaced with what appear to be low mounted 1946-48 Ford units, or perhaps 1940 Chevy units. The rear panels below the trunk were modified to accept a set in license plate, which was detailed with a chrome plated surround. This surround echoes the shape of the mail slot window in the padded top. The suspension was lowered bit for the perfect ride height, and set of black wall tires were detailed with Sombrero look alike, after market hubcaps.
Harry added spotlights, but smaller than the regular Appleton S-122 or S-522’s. He also shaved all the handles from the body, and most likely installed electric door openings.

We now know that the color of the car was an ultra brilliant gold metallic. Hopefully this article will generate some more talks about this car, and hopefully some of the older enthusiasts know more about it. If we do find out more, we will add it to this article.

Resources and more info
Best Hot Rods, Facett Books 1952
Custom Cars annual 1957, Trend Books
Classic & Custom magazine, July 1984

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3+

1950 Sacramento Autorama

1950 SACRAMENTO AUTORAMA

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

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Special thanks to Lawrence Fears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the top right we can see Al Garcia Westergard restyled 1939 Ford,  #5 Lawrence Brocchini ’31 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails V-Windshield, Vern Haversack 1927 Model T with track nose with #11,  #1 Burton E. Davis 1931 Ford Roadster, and on the left is #19 Harold Casarang’s ‘25 Model T. bottom right shows the #14 of Jack Odbert’s 36 Ford, behind it the engine and front of #15 Ronnie Brown’s ’32 Ford 5-window.

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Show overview

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

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

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

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

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

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Custom Cars at the Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Hot Rods at the show

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

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

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#3 Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose.

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

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

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

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#5 Lawrence Brocchini’s ’31 Ford.

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

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

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#19 Harold Casarang Oakland Roadster club member took his ‘25 Model T to the Sacramento Auto Show.
January 1951 Hot Rod Magazine article on the show.

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Sources and more information

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

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Gerald Fassett Photo Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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Gerald Fassett 1934 Ford

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

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

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

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

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Gerald Fassett 1947 Chevy Convertible

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

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1948 magazine ad for the Jimmy Summers Fender Extension.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 1941 Chevy Gerald traded engines with.

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The back side of the photo of the 1940 Chevy.

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Harold Ohanesian 1940 Mercury

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

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

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At the front a splash pan was added for the Chevy grille to sit on. The door handles and side trim were removed and body smoothed. At the back of the car some work had to be done to get the right look Harold was after. On the stock ’40 Mercury sedan convertibles the trunk area is rather tall and upright, sticking out over the top of the door line on the sides. To make that work with the padded top that was planned for the car the trunk was sectioned, and the top of the body line “flattened” out at the back creating a much nicer body shape. The trunk was also shaved and a set in license plate behind glass created.

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

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

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Zoomed in to see all the details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bud Welch 1938 Chevy Convertible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leroy Semas 1938 Chevy

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

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

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

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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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Santa Monica 36 Ford 5 Window

36 FORD 5 WINDOW

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Beautifully styled 1936 Ford 5 window Coupe from the Santa Monica area. Created around 1940 and a total mystery.

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I appreciate Customized Cars from all era’s and brands, and each era, en perhaps even each brand, and model produced that one car that does something special with you. Your personal favorite of that time, or model. The 1936 Ford in this article is my personal favorite Custom from the late 1930’s, early 1940’s… when it comes to coupes. There are many others from this time I love, but this one is special. To me this car has helped shape and define the looks of the Custom Car. Improving of the appearance of the restyled car. Overall the early Custom Car period from the late 1930’s till the mid 1940’s is very interesting to me, since the Custom Cars created during this period are so pure, and so creative.

The first time I saw a picture of this so fine ’36 Ford 5-window coupe was in a book called Custom Cars & Lead Sleds from Timothy Remus, published in 1990. I showed a rather large picture of the car and I fell totally in love with the styling of the car. Later I found that Dean Batchelor who had photographed the car in the early 1940’s had used it in several of his stories on early Custom Cars. And the first time he had used it was in the May 1953 issue of Rod & Custom

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The photo of the mystery 1936 Ford 5 window Coupe that Dean Batchelor took in the very early 1940’s.

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The Car looked absolutely perfect to me, with its medium chopped top, removed running boards, ribbed cover to hide the frame rails, reworked fenders with stainless rock shields on the rear fenders. Teardrop shaped skirts, Single bar flipper hubcaps, and that really well done narrowed stock ’36 Ford grille with additional grilles added to the lower front fenders. Smooth hood sides and a two tone paint job. It looked so much more classy and perfectly balanced to me than the stock ’36 Ford it was started with.

At one point Dean Batchelor mentioned that the car had been restyled by Santa Monica Body Works, but in later articles he mentioned he had no idea who owned the car, nor who created it. And even though I have done a lot of research on the car and talked to a lot of people about it, I also do not have any leads on any more information on it. I did however find another photos of the car, once that most likely a little older than the one Dean took. And it shows the car a bit more from the front. Dean mentioned that he took the photo in the early 1940’s in Santa Monica on Pico, close to Ocean Ave. And he remembered that car was gray, or silver gray with maroon

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In the May 1953 issue of Rod & Custom magazine Dean Batchelor showed the photo of the ’36 Ford photographed in Santa Monica for the first time (as far as I know) Here he mentioned that the Santa Monica Body Works did the work on the car. In later articles where he used the same photo, he mentioned that he had no idea who did the body work on the car.

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About the Ford

I think this ’36 Ford Custom is extremely inspiring. It is very typical for the era, creative, no nonsense restyling for a car that most likely was used on  daily base. The car was lowered, but not as much as later in the 1940’s or 1950’s. The roads back then were not as good as today, and these cars did see a lot of road use. The chop is perfectly balanced when you compare it to the rest of the body and the higher stance. The front end of the car is what makes it really special.

The grille is one of the best on any 1936 Fords ever done. It looks like a simple narrowed unit until you start comparing. The top radius is larger than on a stock grille. Most likely the whole outer trim piece is hand made, and the body panel surrounding it hand made to flow nicely into the grille and smooth hood sides. Most likely the hood sides are some early aftermarket products from possibly Eastern Auto Supply Comp. That company started very early and created a lot of parts for the early Custom Car enthusiast

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Close up showing the really nicely done narrowed  grille and to side grilles mounted nicely alongside the main grille. Another very popular accessory in that period was the amber colored fog lights. Notice how the license plate frame had broken of on one site of the 1940 license plate.

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To ensure the engine would stay cool during the warm California drives and the lack of cooling from the solid hood sides, two new very elegantly shaped grilles were added just below the headlights in the front fenders. with only the two photos of the car we have it is not possible to identify if these lower grilles were hand made, or came from another car and made to fit the ’36 Ford. My guess, especially judging the new main grille surround, is that the lower grilles were hand made. The new narrow grille and smooth hood sides give the front of the car a much longer and taller look and feel. According the book “Forever Fords” by Lorin Sorensen, the two side grilles used on the car are shortened Lincoln-Zephyr grilles. (thank you David Giller for this info)

Another aftermarket part possibly is the ribbed cover used to hide the frame rails after the running boards had been removed. I have seen this same set up on at least one other ’36 Ford, and possibly on more. This includes the stainless steel rock shield on the front of the rear fenders. The lower section of the back of the front fenders were nicely reshaped  and the whole restyling of this created a much more sporty feel for the Ford

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A close up of the two tone paint job, and how nice the separation line follows the body lines.

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Close up showing the ribbed frame cover, reshaped front fender lower edge and stainless steel rock shield for the rear fenders.

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The top was chopped less than 3 inches I think. In these early days I have seen some chops with angled back windshield and rear window to make up for the height difference. But in this case the top looks to have been stretched to meet the new location of the pillars. keeping the proportions of the top similar to stock, just lower, more dramatic.

The car has a set of small diameter single bar flipper ribbed hubcaps. The ribbed section of the hubcaps ties the ribs on the frame covers as well as the grilles together, creating a overall theme for the car. Unusual for the Custom are the use of stock bumpers, even back in the early 1940’s it was rather common to upgrade on bumpers, or use more stylish units, but not on this car. and I have to say that the dip in the stock front fender looks really good with the narrowed grille. The door handles are also left in place, which was done a lot back then, since the solenoid openers had not found their way into the Custom Car scene yet

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This ’36 Ford Coupe uses the same ribbed frame cover and stainless rock shield, making me believe these are aftermarket parts. The ribbed cover could also have an LaSalle heritage, but aftermarket is my first choice.

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The only other photo I have ever come across shows the car a little more from the front so that we can see the narrow grille and lower grilles a bit Better. (I found a very small picture of a negative on an expired ebay auction many year ago, and was able to track down the owner who kindly shared a nice scan of the photo with us.)

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As the close up photos show the detail work on the car looks to have been done really well. All work looks very straight, and professionally done. I especially like the unusual two tone paint job. And hoe the separation line is wrapping around the windshield pillar. Typical for the era is the single spotlight mounted on the drivers A-Pillar

In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s there were more people who could have done the work on this car. But one name that pops up in my head when I look at the grilles on this ’36 Ford is George DuVall. He created beautiful grilles for some of the most trend setting Customs. Could he have had a hand in the restyling of this ’36 Ford 5 window Coupe? The restyled Ford also has a look we later associate with Harry Westergard. I hope one day we will find out. Hopefully in the near future somebody will recognize the car and be able to shed some more light on the cars history who the owner was, who build it, and what happened to it. The two photos used in the article is all we have ever seen on this car. If you know more, please send us an email, we would love to share more about this cars history here on the Custom Car Chronicle

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For the Rodder’s Journal issue 33 I did a series of Colorized Custom Car photos, this ’36 Ford was one of them. So now we have a bit of a feeling how the car might have looked in color back in 1940.

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Leroy Semas 37 Chevy

 

LEROY SEMAS 37 CHEVY

 

In the late 1940’s Harry Westergard creates what appears to be a mildly restyled 1937 Chevy. But on closer inspection it turns out there is a lot more going on on Leroy Semas his 1937 Chevy Coupe.



In one of the Don Montgomery books there are a couple of photos of an extremely low 1937 Chevy un-chopped 3-window coupe with beautifully integrated Packard grille. When I first spotted those photos in the book I was hooked immediately. I soon learned that none other than Harry Westergard had restyled the car for Thunderbolts member Leroy Semas. The car had that typical Westergard look with small high nose, and low in the back. Many years later I found out that at one point, in the early 1950’s the Chevy had been chopped by Riley Collins of Riley’s Custom Shop in Chico, California.



Restyled by Harry Westergard

Harry Westergard restyled Leroy’s ’37 Chevy 5-window coupe by filling in the rear quarter windows for a sleeker look. Harry then went to work at the body sides completely removing the factory molded in character line and belt-line for an ultra smooth body. The character line on the lower edge of the hood was also modified to fit the new smooth body sides. He also removed the running boards and created filler panels to cover the frame and molded those into the body The filler panel Harry created almost looks like a belly pan with the lower parts rolled under, a very nice touch. The front and rear fenders were molded to the body and extended down where the running boards had been and nicely rolled under.

Original version with the rear quarter windows filled, the belt line and character lines at the belt line completely removed. A typical Harry Westergard Custom. This photo shows the wonderful reshaped lower edge of the front fenders really well.
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The new much lower and further from the grille location of the headlights looks very good on the Chevy. It shows that Harry Westergard was not only a gifted craftsman but an excellent designer as well.
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The looks of the Chevy changed dramatically, for the better in my eyes with the removal of the running boards and reshaping of the front fenders.
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The rear fenders were also molded to the body, enhancing the new super smooth look. And at the leading edge of the rear fenders Harry added a a stainless or chrome plated guard to protected the paint. A set of Buick teardrop fender skirts was adapted to fit the Chevy

Harry modified the front sheet metal to accept an 1939-40 Packard grille, the stock hood sides were replaced with smooth units and the center strip of the hood was removed. Teardrop shape headlights were sunken into the front fenders at a much lower than stock location. The headlights now flow really nice with the cowl and door  character line. A very nice design detail. At the back Harry created a set in license plate mounted low in the trunk, just about the ’37 DeSoto bumper. All the handles were removed and a set of Appleton Spotlights were installed.

Interior with the Chevy Butterfly steering wheel and chrome plated glove box door. The upholstery looks very nicely done, sadly we do not know who was responsible for it at this moment.
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Harry Westergard Style at its best. Notice the beautiful stance of the car with nose high up. The ’37 DeSoto bumpers have ’49 Chevy license plate frames added.
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Wide white wall tires with Cadillac Sombrero’s were installed and the car was lowered a lot. Most likely the rear of the frame had to be z-ed and the drive shaft tunnel raised to get the car this low. The interior photos show that the car was not channeled. Most likely the car was painted a deep maroon, but we are not 100% sure about the exact color. The interior was upholstered in two tone tuck & roll, the steering wheel replaced with a 1950 Chevy Butterfly unit and the dash was detailed with a chrome plated glove box door.

From what we know Leroy drove the car a lot, possibly it was his only car, It might not have been easy with a car this low on the late 1940’s early 1950’s roads. Leroy went to the Bonneville races with the car in 1949 and 1950. He also entered his car at several shows including the first Sacramento Autorama (Held at Capitol Chevrolet, before it was named Autorama) where he was awarded with the Best Custom award. At one point in 1950 Harry Westergard modified the hood side with a single row of louvers, most likely the engine ran a little too hot.

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Beautiful rear angle photo shows how super smooth the ’37 Chevy is with the belt-line and character-lines removed and the rear fenders molded in. The taillights could be 1940 Chevy units.
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Lawrence Brocchini (Lawrence Fears’ uncle) owned this ’31 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails. This photo from 1950 shows it hitched to Leroy Semas’ Chevy custom, possibly in preparation for their trip to Bonneville. (Rodders Journal info)
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A good look at the molded in and rolled under pan Harry Westergard made to cover the frames after the running boards had been removed. (stillrunners)
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The stock steering wheel was replaced by with an 1950 Chevrolet Butterfly Steering Wheel. This picture gives us a good look at the nice tuck & roll upholstery. (stillrunners)
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Leroy’s Chevy appeared in one of the snapshot taken at one of the club rod runs around 1950. (stillrunners)
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Photo taken a Thunderbolts Auto Show at the Capitol Chevrolet Company showroom. (This was basically the first Sacramento Autorama) Most likely the engine got a little too hot with the solid hood sides, so a single row of Louvers had been added before the show.
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Chopped by Riley Collins

In the early 1950’s Leroy took the Chevy over to Riley Collins in Chico, California to have him chop the top on his car. The young Riley Collins handled the job beautifully, he took few inches out of the top and got it all back in place with the perfect balance. The chop was performed at Ray Orput’s home, where Riley Collins learned how to do body work from Ray. He added the primer to the top and the car went back to Leroy. At some point the straight six engine was replaced with an Oldmobile V8 with hydro, a job done by Leroys friend Lawrence Brocchini. In the mid 1950’s Lawrence Brocchini bought the Chevy, which was still partly in primer from Leroy and he owned the car till around 1958. Around 1955 Dick bertolucci re-painted the car in his signature deep maroon. And according the rumors the car is still around today, last seen painted green. Anybody recognized it and knows more about Leroy’s ’37 Chevy current whereabouts? Please let us know.

Special thanks to Kent Collins, Riley Collins son, who recently found and shared three photos of his father chopping the top on the Leroy Semas 1937 Chevy.

Riley Collins on the Left with Ray Orput standing next to him with Leroy’s Chevy with the chop in progress.
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Ray Orput in the car and Kent Collins was not sure who the guy on the barrel is. Perhaps the car owner Leroy Semas, anybody recognized the guy on the right?
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Ray Orput is sitting in the Chevy while Riley Collins sits on the barrel besides the car. (Kent Collins info)
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The chop all finished, but still in primer and new smooth aftermarket hubcaps replace the Sombrero hubcaps Westergard had originally installed. (stillrunners)
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Leroy Semas posing with his ’37 Westergard Chevy around 1952 after Riley Collins had chopped the top.
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Close up showing the curved filler panel below the body that covered the frame rails after the running boards had been removed. Notice the primer spots from the Riley Collins performed chop, and overall the car looks to be in need of a new paint-job.
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Lawrence Brocchini owned the Chevy Coupe when it was photographed here at an mid 1950’s Sacramento Autorama. Notice that the Appleton Spotlights are missing for the car. After a fender bender the front end had to be rebuild and a set of ’40 Chevy headlights was installed. Dick Bertolucci repainted the car his signature maroon after it was chopped.
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Close up of the sign showing that Bertolucci painted this version of the Chevy.
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Jim Roten, who was close friend with Riley Collins remembers the Leroy Semas ’37 Chevy very well. This is his story he shared with the Custom Car Chronicle after looking at the in progress photos of Riley Collins chopping the top on the car.

“This car made a huge impression on me at age 14 as it was the very first custom that I actually saw in person. The time was 1949-51. It was often seen parked on weekends at the Shell gasoline station within the old triangle at Main Street and Broadway in Chico, California. I knew nothing of its history. Always assumed that it was one of Westergard’s cars.

These are youthful images of Riley Collins and Ray Orput as late teenagers or in their early ’20s. I didn’t even meet Riley until two or three years later. Ray was a skilled body and fender man at Volpato’s Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in Chico. Riley worked as a lineman for the electrical utility company and during off hours learned bodywork from Ray. The location for the photos appears to the small wooden garage behind Ray Orput’s home. A lot of significant work emerged from there including Ron Zimmerman’s ’54 Ford Skyliner and the rear of Ray Cress’ ’56 Mercury before the owner had the car completed by Collins. A friendly but fierce rivalry emerged out of the Collins/Orput relationship which ultimately produced an amazing number of highly recognized Northern California custom cars. It was prolific.

And don’t forget, those were the days of acetylene torches, hammer welding and lead… no MIG, TIG or Bondo!”

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Special thanks to Kent Collins and Lawrence Fears




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Customs at Milnes Richfield Station

 

NORM MILNES RICHFIELD Station

 

In the mid 1940’s The Thunderbolts Car Club of Sacramento used the Norm Milnes Richfield Station as their hangout. Some historical important Custom Cars were photographed at this location.



The birth of Custom Restyling took place in California, in Southern California to be more precise. Exact dates for when this happened, or even what city this took place have never been documented. And we will most likely never be able to pin-point down, other than it happened in Southern California, possibly even at different locations at similar moments around Los Angeles. The form of Custom Restyling, as we discuss it here on the Custom Car Chronicle, started in the early 1930’s and developed over the years. It also migrated soon after that, first mostly in California, the Bay Area around San Fransisco as well as around Sacramento soon became hot beds of Custom restyling, later followed by other States as well.





Sacramento, Northern California was particular important for the Custom Restyling as we know it. Metal genius and early Customizer Harry Westergard was from Sacramento, Duck Bertolucci and also Sam and George Barris lived there. Les Crane, another early Custom Restyler was from that area so there must have been something good in the Sacramento area water.

After WWII, in late 1945, several Sacramento area Hot Rodders and Custom Car guys including Harry Westergard, Norm Milne and Butler Rugard formed a new car club The Capotol Auto Club, nicke named Thunderbolts. They held meetings at Harry Westergards place, and later the Richfield Gas Station of member Norm Milne (and his brother) would be the clubs headquarters, and hangout. The gas Station was located at Broadway and 25th in Sacramento, not to far from where Harry Westergard then worked from. Norm Milne personal Custom was a 1938 Ford Convertible Sedan Custom that was restyled by Harry Westergard in the early 1940’s. Norm was one of the very few guys who had a camera, and took some pictures of the club-members cars from time to time. Without his photo nearly none of this important part of the Custom History might never have been documented, at least not photographic.

Norm Milne 1938 Ford on the right and Gene Garrett’s 1940 Ford on the left at the Richfield Gas Station that was owned by Norm Milne and his brother.
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Norm Milne 1938 Ford

Norm Milne’s 1936 Ford was a very early Custom, started in 1940, when Norm drove it to Los Angeles to have a chopped Carson Top installed. The Carson top Shop handled it all, including the chop of the windshield and the cutting and refitting of all side windows. Most likely the metal work was done by the Jarret Metal Works next door to the Carson Top Shop.

Some time after returning to Sacramento Norm had his friend Harry Westergard do the rest of the restyling. Harry reshaped the front of the hood and grille surround to make the 1940 La Salle grille fit the Ford. The Hood-sides louvres were filled and the sides are now completely smooth. The hood ornament shaved and the stock headlights rings were replaced with chrome plated aftermarket sealed beam headlights. At the back Harry set in the license plate behind glass, a very popular technique at the time. The car was lowered and a set of teardrop fender skirts added. The door handles remained on the car, and so where the running boards. Harry installed a set of bumpers, possibly from a Graham with custom bumper guards to make the Ford looks a bit more robust. The only two photos we know that exist of the car show it with the front sheet metal still in primer.

Norm Milne’s 1938 Ford Sedan Convertible with the front body work done by Harry Westergard still in primer. Parked in front of his Richfield station. This photo, as well as most others in this article was taken in 1947. Notice how the front bumper had three bumper guards? That is Gene Garrett’s ’40 Ford in the background on the left. Both cars had black wall tires.
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Cropped section of the leading photo shows Norm’s Ford parked inside the gas station. It is a very small photo, but as far as we know there are only two photos of this Harry Westergard Custom ever published.
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Gene Garrett 1940 Ford

We know Gene Garrett best of the ’36 Ford Convertible Custom Harry Westergard did for him around 1942-43. But Gene owned at least one more Custom later on. In 1947 he drove a 1940 Ford Convertible with chopped padded top. According the stories Gene, did just as his friend Norm, drive his car to Los Angeles where he took it the Carson Top Shop to have then chop the windshield and add the white padded top. We only have very limited photo material of this car, but as far as we can see in the photos the running boards were removed, the hood was shaved, made one piece and smoothed. The side trim was removed and at the back the trunk was shaved and a set in license plate was added to the lower end of the trunk. De Soto Bumpers were installed and the car had black wall tires in 1947.

Parked at the Richfield Gas Station looking good with is nicely shaped chopped padded top. I wonder which convertible or roadster sedan car is parked behind Gene’s Ford. It does not show up in any of the other photos taken at the Gas Station.
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The rear end of Gene’s 40 Ford shows in the photo of Norm Milne. This enlarged section shows the ’37 DeStoto bumpers as well as the set in plate in the trunk. It also gives us a good look at the odd three bumper guards on Norm’s ’38 Ford. I have no idea why that was done, and why it had two different units placed close on the passenger side, and only one on the drivers side? 
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Since photos of the Gene Gerrett 1940 Ford are so rare I have also included this snapshot of Gene racing the dray lakes. (Photo comes from the Don Montomery books Leroy Semas Collection)
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Mel Falconer 1939 Ford

We are fortunate that we have several Harry Westergard created Custom Cars still among us. At least 6 of them are still around, some completely restored, others in the process of it, or at least in good hands. One of them is the Mel Falconer’s 1939 Ford , that was later owned by Bruce Glenn when it became more popular in the 1950’s. There is one photo of the Westergard Restyled ’39 Ford taken at the Richfield Gas Station in 1947 that shows the car with its original chopped padded top. Later Harry would create a lift off metal top based on a ’38 Ford top which is still with the car today.

Originally restyled in the early 1940’s to what we see in the photo here, wonderful metal work on the nose of the car to be able to use the 1940 Packard grille that was chopped to get the right height. The headlights were replaced by painted ’40 Ford units, the bumpers replaced by ’37 DeSoto units and at the back Harry had set in the license plate behind glass, and later he would mold in the trunk completely. Mel’s ’39 Ford Custom is the only Custom in this series of photos, taken around 1947, that has white wall tires installed. Around 1947 the tires manufacturers were starting to produce white wall tires again. Its production had been stopped completely during WWII when the rubber was needed for the war. During the previous years only black wall tires were available, and during the war those were rationed as well.

Mel Falkoner’s Harry Westergard ’39 Ford looked stunning at the Richfield Gas Station. To bad the hubcaps was missing when this photo was taken.
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When I zoomed in on the back of the car I noticed a damaged teardrop shape skirt on Mel’s 39 Ford, and peaking just behind it is Gene Garrett’s ’40 Ford.
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George Barris 1941 Buick

Around 1947 George Barris was starting to establish a name as Custom Car builder in Los Angeles. He had moved from Sacramento to Los Angeles in 1943, and he still had many of his car-friends back in Sacramento. When he had finished his personal 1941 Buick Custom with full fade-away fenders he was very eager to show his Nor-Cal friends how far he has gotten as a Custom Car builder. He drove his Buick from LA to Sacramento to meet up with his friends at Norm’s Richfield Gas Station. We are not sure if George was able to show his personal Custom Buick to his master Harry Westergard during this trip. There are some photos of George with his Buick and some of his friends, but Harry Westergard is not in any of those photos.

George also used his Buick for long distance drives. This photo was taken in front of the Elmer Howard’s Body – Fender & Top Shop in Sacramento. The building on the right is Norm Milne’s Richfield station.
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This photo of George his Buick was taken facing away from the Richfield Station, to the right, just outside this photo is Elmer Howard’s Body Shop.
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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.
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Another one of the friends, this time a little closer. Jack Odberg kneeling, George Barris standing, Buddy Ohanesian kneeling, Bruce Glenn standing, Norm Milne and Mel Falconer both kneeling.
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Norm Milne in the center with his trusty camera, which he always had with him according the stories. On the left of the photo is Butler Rugard and on the right the master himself. Harry Westergard.
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Location of Norm Milne’s Richfield Gas Station at the corner of 25th and Broadway in Sacramento, California.
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Harry Westergard is always credited for creating the typical Westergard style Custom in the 1940’s. Basically a ’36 Ford-ish Roadster with a speed boat stance, chopped windshield white padded top smooth hood sides, De Soto Bumpers and a 1940 LaSalle grille. This image might not have been based on an actual car Harry Westergard has actually created, but more likely on an painting by Artist Robert Williams. Norm Milne‘s 1938 Ford is, as far as we know the only Custom Harry Westergard created that actually used the LaSalle Grille, as can be seen in this article. Harry more frequently used the Packard Clipper grilles.

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Background Mystery Custom

 

BACKGROUND MYSTERY CUSTOM

 

In the background of 2 early 1950s drag strip photos I spotted this unidentified Mystery Custom Convertible with Padded Top.



Most of the readers on the Custom Car Chronicle know that I love old photos showing car. And how I love to search the background of city views, cars shows, drag races etc to see if there are any Custom Cars hiding in the background. While I was browsing the online Revs Digital Library I accidentally came across a photo of a drag race I had not seen previously. Some of these large online photo collections use search terms to help you find what you are looking for. But often the search terms are not always added to the photos in a correct way. Making it near impossible to find certain photos that have been archived. None of the “make sense” search terms could have found this photo, and it was even filed under a completely wrong years (1980).

The photo was taken by William Hewitt and part of the William Hewitt Photograph Collection in the Revs Archives and alone his collection contains 21,240 photos. William Hewitt took mostly photos of road races from 1953 and up, but, judging his photo collection, he also was interested in land speed records, and apparently went to a few early/mid 1950’s drag races in California. In the first photo I found of William I spotted and padded topped custom in the background. BINGO… I zoomed in on the photos and noticed this really nice looking, most like ’40 Ford, convertible with heavy chop, padded top and Buick kind grille sitting next to the drag strip. It was a Custom I had never seen before. So I searched for more photos from this series, and  found a few more, but sadly one one other was taken at a similar angle and showed the same Custom Car in the background.

The full photo shows the ’40 Ford Coupe Hot Rod getting ready, or just starting its run on the dragstrip. Cars are parked next to the strip with the Custom all the way to the right.
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At first I thought that it looked very much like the Al Garcia 1939 Ford Convertible Restyled by Harry Westergard and Less Crane in the late 1940’s. But on closer inspection I don’t think it is the same car. First because the car in these photos has vent windows (’39 Ford, and also Al Garcia’s do not have vent windows) plus the hood line towards the custom grille is different. So I do not think I have seen this great looking Custom ever before, and hope somebody does recognize it.


The ’40 Ford has its door handles removed and some more body work done and was partly in primer.
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This is as large as I could get the Mystery Custom. To bad there is a pole in front of the car. The nose appears to be more round than a ’40 Ford nose. The hood appears to open up all the way to the Buick like grille with vertical bard. The windshield has a rather heavy chop with small side windows and angled B-pillars on the padded top. The front bumper could be a 46-48 Chevy unit.
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There is not much to go on when it comes to identifying other than what we see in these two photos. There is no date when the photo was taken (yes 1980 according the Revs site, but that is wrong). We can see that the Hot Rod photos in the first photo has 1951 California license plates. Those were used from 1951 to 1955, so anywhere in between those years these photos could have been taken. William started taking photos in 1953, and the newest car in the photos looks to be a ’53 Chevy. So the photo must have been taken between 1953-55, most likely at an airport strip that was used for drag racing from time to time. The car looks to be based on a 1940 Ford, but even that I’m not 100% sure. It looks like it has a 39 model hood, wheel openings raised, a Buick based  or styled after grille, 46-ish bumpers, heavy chop, padded top, Spotlights, and running boards removed. All very typical for an early to mid 1940’s created Custom.

The second photo I found with the same mystery Custom in the background shows a rather beaten up mid engine Model T Drag Racer as the photo focus point. I think I have seen the car before, but cannot identify it at this moment.
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The close up shows that the car had its running boards removed and a cover added to hide the frame. There is a line in the photo that looks like a possible side trim, which fooled me in the beginning, until I noticed the “trim” extended on the hood of the 53 Chevy parked next to it. The ’53 Chevy is also the newest car in both photos.
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I combined the two photos to create the most complete photo of this Mystery Custom.
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If anybody recognized this great looking Custom in the background of these two drag strip photos, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle so that we can add the information to this article. Thank you.









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Custom Grilles Vertical

 

CUSTOM GRILLES VERTICAL

 

Since the very early beginnings of Custom Restyling the grille has played a huge part in the overall design. Pioneer Customizers designed their own grilles, later swapped or modified grilles were the rage. Lets take a look at the early, vertical Custom Car grilles.



One of the key factors of Custom Restyling was, and still is, to hide the actual origin of the car, and make a car appear to be a more exotic car. The exclusive brand cars from the 1930’s – when custom restyling really took off – were Cadillac, LaSalle and Packard Duesenberg and a few others. These cars all had tall, Art Deco styled grilles and hoods, visualizing Class, Elegance, and Power. These were all wonderful designed grilles and from the very early days of custom restyling these particular grilles from the Cadillac’s, La Salle’s and Packards became the number one choice of many Customizer, or at least an important inspiration source.

Our journey in this case does starts actually before these higher-end car grilles were adapted to lower-end cars. The first Custom grilles to be used on Customized, restyled cars, were mostly hand made instead of adapting grilles from the more expensive brand cars. In the early 1930’s when car Customizing started time was relatively cheap compared to more modern times. Cheap labour made it possible for the custom restylers to create completely hand crafted details like grilles to set the restyled automobiles completely apart. The price of having those hand made grilles chrome plated was also far from what we are used to today.



Early Custom grilles

People like Frank Kurtis, George Duvall and later shops like Coachcraft designed unique grilles for their restyled cars. Grilles that required heavy modified stock or swapped grille parts, but more often complete scratch built units. Created from brass, or metal, with beautiful Art Deco styling crafted by skilled craftsman, completely smoothed before send out to be perfectly chrome plated. New grilles that made any regular automobile look like and exclusive top model and changed the overall appearance. One of the better samples of this is the multiple bar grille George DuVall designed for the SoCalif Plating 1935 Ford shop delivery car.

ccc-frank-kurtis-grilles-01Frank Kurtis created several custom built cars in the early 1930’s. Here are three samples with all hand made grilles Frank did.
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ccc-atlas-grilles-1933Frank Kurtis also did a 1931 Dodge panel for Atlas Chromium Plating company. He used a 1933 Ford grille to make it looks more modern, and streamlined. The all chrome plated grille on the race car is stunning as well.
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ccc-duvall-grille-01-1933Another pioneer when it comes to Custom Grilles was George DuVall. George worked for the Leonard DeBell’s So Calif. Plating Company and designed many special parts. Including some exclusive custom grilles for the So Calif. Plating Co. shop trucks. This one, created by George DuVall was on an 1932 Ford Roadster So Calif Plating Co. Pick up and was photographed in 1933.
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ccc-duvall-grille-so-cal-plating-1936Perhaps George DuVall’s most popular grille he designed was on the 1935 Ford So Calif. Plating Co shop truck. All hand made from plated brass.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-duvall-01George DuVall dod several designs for the grille on the SoCalif Plating ’35 Ford, and used similar ideas for other designs as well. These designs were created around 1935.
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Custom Grilles in Early Publications


Dan Post Publications

The first and most popular publications on Custom Cars were created by Dan Post. In his Custom restyling manuals, which he started in 1944, he described how you could restyle your car by updating or changing the grille of your car. Over the years he added more and more material to the subject of grilles and added a lot of photo samples in the Master Custom-Restyling Manual (1947) and later Blue Book of Custom restyling (1949-52). These early publications must have played a big role in the style and development of Customizing in general and of course also grille restyling in particular.

ccc-dan-post-grilles-01-1944From its first publication in 1944, Dan Post has been writing about custom restyled grilles. And which factory grilles could best be used for your car.
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ccc-dan-post-grilles-02-1944Special attention was payed by Dan Post to the ’38 Ford type grilles and how they could best be restyled.
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Edgar Almquist Publications

Edgar Almquist Styling manuals from around 1946-48 are another very important source for the Custom restylers in the 1940’s. When there were no regular magazines available yet it were these manuals that could be mail ordered or bought from the local speed and custom shop that brought the very welcome inspiration.


ccc-almquist-grilles-01-1946Edgar Almquist wrote a lot about restyling grilles in his 1946 Restyling Manual. He showed several cars with custom grilles and used simple drawings to illustrate his ideas.
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ccc-almquist-grilles-02-1946


ccc-almquist-grilles-03-1946

ccc-almquist-grilles-illustration-1946The Illustrations in the Almquist manual are easy to understand, and show how much impact these grille chances can have. Illustration #9 shows what happens when the grille is changed from vertical to horizontal. We will get back to that in part two on Custom Grilles, here on the CCC.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-car-adsThe most popular grilles the pioneer customizers liked to use.  1937-40 LaSalle’s, 1939-40 Nash, And 1942-48 Packard grilles.
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The Aftermarket

Another way to create the more appealing smaller, taller grille was to incorporate a so called “winter-grille“. Designed to keep the engine at temperature during the winter period. One of the companies that created these winter-grilles was Pines Winterfront Co. Today these are very high sought after aftermarket products.
Other aftermarket companies as Eastern and Cal Custom started to design and produce special narrow grille kits to personalize your car in a more bolt-on type of way. Especially for the backyard customizers. Products like this were available from the late 1930’s.

ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-eastern-49Eastern Custom catalog from 1949 offer several components to create custom vertical grilles.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-eastern-49-02’39-41 Ford options. The aftermarket catalog show that the Fords were the most popular cars to customize. Those were the cars the aftermarket made the most custom restyling parts for.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-pines-wintergrilleThe Pines Winterfront Co. in Chicago created special winter-grilles for some model cars in the 1930’s. These special grille, reduced the open section of the factory stock grille, and could even be close more manually to keep the engine hot in the color winter. One of their products was this winter-grille for the 1936 Ford. Early Customizers used the outer part of this set up to create Custom grille surrounds. 
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Narrowed stock grilles

In the late 1930’s another trend was started. Factory stock grilles from lower-end cars were modified, restyled to make them look more attractive. Modified to make them work better with the restyled cars. When modifying these stock grilles the builder was inspired by the high-end car grilles. Grilles were narrowed by adding sheet metal to the sides, or new inserts were fabricated. creating much more streamlined grilles. These narrower grilles had of course one big disadvantage… Cooling of the engine. Often special below the bumper scoops, or side grilles needed to be created to prevent the engine from overheating.

A fantastic sample is the Santa Monica ’36 Ford 5-window coupe. The unknown customizer narrowed the top section of a stock ’36 ford grille sin such a way, that the top was now as narrow as the bottom section of the grille. The grille sides body panels were extended to match the narrowed grille. The top corners of the grille were radiuses, making the whole set up much more pleasing to the eye. The result was a completely vertical shaped grille, that still looked very much like a ’36 Ford grille, just more elegant. Two small elegantly styled “wing” grilles were created in the front fenders, to help cool the engine. The new grille set up fitted perfectly with the art deco look and feel of the rest of the custom restyling on this car. This one really is a stunning sample of early customizing.

CCC-36-ford-5-window-1941-02Santa Monica ’36 Ford 5-window coupe. Beautifully styled grille based on the stock ’36 Ford grille. The main ’36 Ford grille was narrowed at the top, the top corners rounded with a larger than stock radius and new stainless trim. The side of the grille was filled in with shaped sheet metal. To make sure the engine would be cooled enough two small “wing grilles” were created in the same style as the main grille and added to the front fenders. Most likely special “tunnel’s to guide the air to the engine were added underneath the fenders. This photo was taken in Santa Monica in 1940.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-de-rosa-48Frank DeRosa with his 1936 Ford convertible with beautiful narrowed grille and sunken GM headlights in 1948. 
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-09Bill Grader from Seattle created this great looking Roadster in Cadillac Cypress Green. He filled the grille sides more than some others leaving a very small opening, thus creating an optical very tall front of the car. This color photo shows the car in the early 1950’s after the original DeSoto bumpers had been replaced by ’49 Plymouth units. 
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-macminn-37fordEarly 1937 Ford sedan convertible custom with a narrowed grille. The sides of the stock grille are covered and a new vertical stainless trim piece was added to give the new smaller grille a nice finished look. Interesting to see the new belt line side trim to cover the grille side panels.
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Custom Made Grilles

In the early years of Custom restyling it was perhaps a bit more common to create all custom made grilles than it was later on. A few key factors played a big role for this. First of all, the custom restyles liked to be totally unique. And creating an custom made grille allowed for complete freedom in design. The low hourly rates and low prices for chrome plating also played a huge part. In cases like the cars created by Frank Kurtis and George DuVall (which can be seen above) the creativity an showing what could be done by the companies the cars/grilles were created for played a big roll. There complete custom grilles were more like an advertisement for what they could do for their customers. The result was extremely wonderful grilles working very well with the rest of the designs of the restyled cars.

CCC-Solomon-Wong-40Ford-01-70Coachcraft created a custom grille from chrome plated round bar for the 1940 Ford based Roadster for James Wong in 1940. The stock ’40 Ford grille insert was replaced by the new unit, and the side grilles were filled in. Later the filled in sections were replaced with louvered units once again, to help cool the more powerful engine then.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-08Another early Custom with all hand made grille was this 1936 Ford 5-Window Coupe restyled by Howard Fall for Tommy Jamieson. The front end of the car was replaced with that from an 1938 Ford, and the whole grille area was redone with a hand made chrome plated insert. Most likely this set up caused some heating problems since in the late 1940’s early 1950’s several holes were cut in the grille surround, allowing for some extra air to the engine.
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CCC-george-barris-36-ford-coupe-01George Barris personal 1936 Ford coupe might have used one of the Pines winter-grille surrounds to create this custom grille opening.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-011936 Ford with a new grille cover with smaller vertical with round top and bottom grille opening, nicely molded to the front fenders. A new grille was created from what appears to be flat bar surround and round bars inside the opening. The whole unit was chrome plated for a nice finished look.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-37-chevy-011937 Chevy with Custom created grille opening. Possibly the bars using in the new opening come from a 1939 Nash. The new much narrower oval shaped grille changes the look of the Chevy completely.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-jimmy-summersJimmy Summers created a custom grille for his personal channeled 1940 Mercury with sectioned hood. The grille was created from flat bar stock and has been shaped to roughly resemble a Buick grille.
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In the early 1940’s customizers started to use the more exclusive car brand grilles like the afore mentioned Cadillac, La Salle and Packard grilles. They were taken from junk yards, or perhaps sometimes straight from the car dealers and adapted to smaller, cheaper lower-end-models from Ford, Chevy, Buick, etc. The grille designs from these high end brands were often of much nicer design, added much mored style, or length and height to these lower-end-models. And of coarse the idea of up-scaling the lower class cars played a roll in all this as well. And above all these nicely designed grilles just look so awesome in these restyled cars.




Packard Grilles

The Packard Clipper was introduced in April 1941, the car came with a wonderful Art-Deco styled narrow grill devised in two halts with small horizontal grille bars. This grille was an instant hit among the early customizers. This grille ended up on many restyled cars, and in many different ways. Larger model types as the Packard Super used larger, and most of all wider grilles with a similar design, but then with vertical grille bars. It was a bit more tricky to get these larger grilles to work with the customized cars, but especially 37-38 Chevies and 39-40 Fords looked very well with these larger grilles. The samples below illustrate that there were/are many ways to install one of these Packard grilles. Some are placed as high as possible, others simply start at the bottom of the grille opening and end a few inches below the hood opening.



ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-westergard-01

Harry Westergard used a Packard grille on Gene Garrett’s ’36 Ford convertible built in the early 1940’s (1943 photo). The rather low position might perhaps indicate this was one of the first Packard grilles he used on the Customs he created. 
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-westergard-simonsHarry Westergard loved to use Packard Clipper grilles. This one he added to Max Ferris’s 1936 Ford Roadster. Harry created a beautiful filler panel, molded it to the front fenders and made the Packard grille fit like it came like it from the factory.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-westergard-salHarry also added a Packard Clipper grille to Sal Cacciola’s 1938 Chevy convertible. The Packard grille works extremely well on this car, where the hood starts at the flat spot of the top of the grille. As it always belonged on this car. 
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CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-09The Barris brothers reshaped the front of the hood, and hood sides to make the Packard Clipper grille work on Dick Fowler’s 1938 Ford Coupe around 1946-47. The new grille made the ’38 Ford look much taller than stock, and more exclusive. 
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-40-ford-01The 1940 Ford customs usually had stock grilles, or perhaps the sides filled in. The use of a Packard Clipper grille like on this chopped and padded topped convertible was rather rare, but looks surprisingly good. A lot of work was needed to the hood and side panels tao make it all work and look perfect.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-02Interesting photo from the Howard Gribble shows how a Packard Clipper grille surrounds was added to the center of a stock ’36 Ford grille, on this ’36 Ford. The center bars were removed from the stock grille so that the Packard grille could fit inside. Typical backyard restyling, to make your “average” Ford look like a more expensive car.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-37-chevy-semasHarry Westergard used a larger Packard Super grille on Leroy Semas’s 1938 Chevy Coupe. Another really great sample of how to integrate thes grilles the best way. Harry Westergard was a great craftsman, and he was exceptionally skilled in using more exclusive grilles to make lower end car look at their very best.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-bertolucci-38-chevyDick Bertolucci used a larger Packard grille on his personal 1938 Chevy Coupe in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. Dick still has the car today, and has been working on it in the last couple of years to restore it back to how it looked in the early 1950’s. The Packard Super grille is wider than the more common clipper grille, but suited the wider front of the ’38 Chevy very good. Dick had to reshape the side panels and hood a lot to make it wall look like it came this way.
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La Salle Grilles

The Cadillac La Salle grilles from 1937 to 1940 are the ones that were used the most on Custom Car. The ’37 and ’38 models had a slightly more square look, while the ’39 and ’40 units were extreme round with pointy shaped ends. The older models were a little easier to adapt to other cars, and fitted perfectly to the front of a ’36 Ford. one of the more popular cars to customized in the mid 1940’s. The ’39 and ’40 models came in several divergent versions, and were pretty hard to install right. Especially since the angle of the grille on the cars they were matted to, were different than that from the stock LaSalle, resulting in misaligning grille bars. When installed the right way the ’39’40 LaSalle grilles are the top of the line in custom grilles.

ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-07Harry Westergard installed an 1937 La Salle grille on Jack Odbert’s 1936 Ford Convertible. Notice how the lower edge of the top portion of the grille sits level with the bottom of the hood. Details like this make a grille installment like this look like how it was always meant to look.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-caloriAnd of course we cannot forget the use of the LaSall grille on Jack Calori’s 1936 Ford. The what we know as typical Westergard look was created by Herb Renau in Long Beach in the later part of the 1940’s. Herb hand shaped the surround and fitted the 1939 LaSalle grille the best way possible. Stock ’39-40 LaSalles have a much more upright grille position than the 36 Ford has, so it was/is not an easy grille to adapt. 
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-westergard-38Harry Westergard loved to use Packard grilles, but he also used a few LaSalle grilles on the cars he restyled. For Norm Milne he reshape the hood and hood sides, and created a new grille surround to be able to use 1940 LaSalle grille on his ’38 Ford.
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Nash Grilles

Custom pioneers as Harry WestergardGeorge BarrisDick Bertolucci and others started to experiment with other grilles on their customs. Grilles that usually had a more vertical feel than the stock grilles of the cars they were restyling. Grilles from a 1939 -’40 Nash for instance was another very popular grille. Not really a more exclusive or expensive feel, but it just looked right on many other cars.  Both year grilles had similar styling, very narrow, tall with horizontal grille bars. The ’39 model was a a bit more robust, with heavier and fewer grille bars than the 1940 model. One thing that made the Nash grille a little harder to adapt in a good way to other car, was that the nose of the Nash was angled forward towards the top. If the Nash grille was adapted to other cars that had an angled backwards front of the car, the horizontal grille bars appeared to angle down in the new position. Later pioneer restyles found they could flip the grille upside down to prevent this problem.

ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-03Frank Sandaval’s 1936 Ford shows a flipped upside down 1939 Nash grille in a hand shaped none molded surround. What makes the Nash grille on this car really stand out is the us of a modified ’36 Ford grille surround trim. Mid 1940’s photo fro the Howard Gribble Collection.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-04Oregon base ’36 Ford Phaeton custom also uses an 1939 Nash grille, but the owner opted to use the grille in the stock position. 1942 photo.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-05Close up reveals that by using the ’39 Nash grille in the stock way, the grille bars are not flowing with the Ford lines. This is cause by the forward angle of the grille on Nash cars, while the Ford have a slight leaned back grille. The Nash grilles work better upside down.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-g-barrisGeorge Barris used a 1940 Nash grille inside a custom created grille opening on his personal 1936 Ford Convertible. George molded the new grille surround solid with the fenders for an ever smoother look.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-36-ford-06Bob Gill’s 1936 Ford uses a 1940 Nash grille in a custom grille opening. This grille also has slightly dropped grille bars, indicating it was not flipped upside down. Interesting to see in this photo is the extra air scoop added below the bumper to make sure the grille would be cooled after the hood sides were filled, and the grille opening was drastically reduced with the new custom grille. Bob was good friend with Jack Calori.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-37-chevy-021940 Nash grille installed in a new front section on this otherwise mildly restyled 1937-38 Chevy sedan. The narrow grille makes the front of the car look very tall, and the hood a “mile” long.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-kippwinward36fordPossibly one of the best ever installed Nash grilles is done by Kipp Winward who used an upside down 1939 Nash grille in his ’36 Ford 5-window Coupe. The photo of the car was taken in 2016, when the car was mostly finished on the outside. 
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Modified grilles

Other methods to customize grilles was to modify their appearance. The aftermarket had produced partly cover panel that would be bolted on. And you could create panels yourself that covered up parts of the stock grille, to make them look longer, narrower, or just shorter. ’38 and 39 Fords used stamped metal grilles with only a small plated trim ring as extra decoration. These were grilles that could easily be modified without having to replete the grille. It was very popular to cover up the top portion on this type of car, which gave the car a new look. Many ’40 Fords used special cover plates to cover up the side louvres, and the ’41 Fords looked stunning when the center grille was replaced with a smooth filler piece. And it was even better if these filler panels were not just bolted on, but actually welded, and blended in with the rest of the body, for a much smoother look. With the newer car models after WWII customizers started to experiment with other brand grilles as well. Grilles that tarted to make the cars look wider.


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Very popular modification of 1938 and ’39 Ford was to fill in the top portion of the louvered grille section on the hood sides. It changed the look of the car, but unlike the earlier style of creating Tall small grille it made the front appear to be lower than stock.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-41-ford-011941 Ford with filled in center section. A very popular treatment especially after the aftermarket companies made filler panels for this available. The owner of this Custom took it a step further and molded in the panel for a ultra smooth look. The car also appears to have an sort of air-scoop below the bumper for extra cooling. The Ford side grille have been remained.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-40-ford-02A 1939 Buick grille was used in a heavily reshaped front end on Jim Chapkis’ 1940 Ford Coupe. Going more towards the modern, wider and lower horizontal look.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-ed-jaquesThe Valley Custom Shop in Burbank California was known for their exquisite craftsmanship and attention to details. For Ed Jacque they created a really wonderful horizontal bar grille insert to fit a stock 1941 Ford grille opening. 
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-ferhuson-36The Montrose Body Shop created this stunning looking all custom grille for Gene Ferguson’s 1936 Ford coupe. The grille design shows how the Customizing style is changing from vertical grilles towards the modern look of horizontal grilles.
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ccc-custom-grilles-vertical-collage-01A few more samples of Custom Vertical grilles.
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And even more variations of the Vertical grille.

The new cars that had low and wide new lines were introduced and became available. The tall grilled cars from before the war were still popular for some time, but for those who could get their hands on the newer model cars to restyle, low and wide was the way to go for grille designs. In part two we will take a closer look at the horizontal grilles in Custom Restyling. Stay tuned….

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Neferteri Part Two

 

NEFERTERI part Two

 

Larry Pointer, our Forrest Gump of the Conquistadors Car Club, marvels at Europe’s Golden Age of the coach built automobile, and influences that would ripple across the Atlantic Pond. From carrossieres to customizers, the distance is not so very far.



Larry Pointer found himself a survivor of Y2K, retired, a widower, and a more or less empty nester.  He needed a project.  In this series, he shares his passion for all things “Streamline Moderne”, and how it all turned into a 13-year labor of love, to create “Neferteri“, his custom Diamond T truck.

By Larry Pointer with Rik Hoving

Streamline Moderne. In looking at Jack Juratovic‘s paintings titled Road & Track, November 1935, those images of the Milwaukee’s Hiawatha racing with the best of motor cars just define “streamline moderne“.  Motion by design.  Progress.  And yes, Hope.

Hope for better times. America in 1935 was a nation half a decade into the Great Depression. Cities of soup kitchens and “Hey, Buddy, have you got a dime?”

CCC-neferteri-part-two-Great-DepressionThe Great Depression, is search of better times.
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In the Grapes of Wrath bread basket turned Dust Bowl, bitter fruits indeed. Streams of jalopies looking nothing like streamline moderne were streaming out across the forbidding desert, laden with children and precious possessions salvaged from foreclosures, following the sunset to California, the land of milk and honey Promise.

Lucky were the youth signed up with FDR’s public works programs; the Civilian Conservation Corps, repairing and re-building America, its infrastructure, its National Parks. Sending money earned with sinew and sweat back home, in promise of better times, “a chicken in every pot”.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-Jack-Juratovic-The-Race“Road & Track, November 1935, a painting by Jack Juratovic.
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In looking at Jack Juratovic’s paintings, and especially the one with the coach built Packard, we can’t but be impressed with just how Exotic it looks. A motor car like no other. Custom built. As in the exclusive shops of the European Continent. The pioneer coach builders, the “carrossieres”.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Today, we still can see the best of those one-off customs for the rich and famous, restored to their former grace and beauty or better, at Concours d’Elegance gatherings. At Pebble Beach each August. My own “Forrest Gump” connection to that ascot world would be much more humble, a bucket list visit to the Pebble Beach resort and golf course. Not in August when the classics rolled over the grass, but There, just to stroll around and imagine what I’d seen in after-the-fact magazines.

My wife Dotti began to chuckle. “What?” I asked, coming out of my reverie of ecstasies missed. “Here I am,” she beamed, “walking over Pebble Beach lawns in my Walmart shoes.”

CCC-neferteri-part-two-baker-Reinhart-dansJosephine Baker, Django Reinhart, the Lindy Hop and the Charleston.
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Sifting through images of the exquisite streamline moderne coach-built motor cars, it is a wonder so many have survived. Untold numbers were destroyed in the blitzkrieg of WWII. Others were sacrificed to the scrap drives to supply the War efforts. What comes through is that those of the privileged class, traveling in style on the Continent, were not stricken so much by the Great Depression that dragged America down. The night life flourished in Paris. Those who would drive up, or be driven up, to the cabaret night clubs and dance halls, could celebrate in lavish style, entertained by the exotic dancer Josephine Baker, or to dance the light fantastic to the Gypsy Swing of Django Reinhart.

But it would be those custom made automobiles, custom made to individual taste by the exclusive coach builders, “carrossieres”, that would live to be celebrated long after those who “owned” them would slip away in the mists of time.

That swoopy Packard in Jack Juratovic’s painting mirrors the best of the carrossieres of Europe, deep into the decade of the Thirties. I could find a Delage, built by Letourneur and Marchand that had very similar lines. Figoni and Falaschi coachbuilt a 1937 Talbot Lago in that style. And a variety of Bugatti’s of the 57 base model from the same era compare well.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-letourneur-et-marchand-delageLetourneur et Marchand Delage.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-cars-of-the-Jazz-Age-02A few more xamples of manufacturer cars of the Jazz Age.
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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It is fun to pick out the similarities among the European coach built cars of that Jazz Age. They were found with a variety of badges, chassis from such makes as Alpha Romeo, Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Hispano-Suiza, Talbot Lago, even marque’s of American manufacturers, especially Duesenberg. The demands of high roller customers who wanted not just to “keep up with the Joneses”, but to out-Jones the Joneses, could explain repeating shapes and forms.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-westergard-mercHarry Westergard created this 1940 Mercury for Butler Rugard in the early 1940’s.
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Back in America, we can look at the 1940 Mercury built by Harry Westergard and see in its styling, especially in the shape of the hood nose, definite echoes of those very European styling cues. This car was invited to be shown at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concourse, among the few “seminal” customs of the traditional era deemed significant enough for such an unprecedented inclusion amongst the recognized classics.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-similar-noseSimilar style nosed as on the Westergard Merc can be found on these Coachbuilt cars.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-saoutchikSaoutchik created this 1948 Cadillac in black and purple, and the brilliant blue 1949 Delahaye 175 S.
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In studying the works of individual coach builders, there are recognizable distinctive signature shapes that can be identified. Saoutchik, especially, stands out, whether the base car was a Delahaye, or a later model Cadillac.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-vanvooren-BugattiAchille Van Vooren Bugatti for the Shah of Iran.
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But when the nation of France chose to honor the future Shah of Iran in 1939 on the occasion of his pending wedding, the Bugatti that was chosen first was delivered not to one of the most well remembered builders, but to Achille Van Vooren. The design executed by the Van Vooren coach builders, was based on that of Figoni and Falaschi, and originally meant for a Delahaye chassis. This car, today can be seen in the Peterson Museum, after narrowly escaping being scrapped in the aftermath of the collapse of the Shah’s regime. It has been considered among the very best examples extant of the coach built motor cars of the Continent.

Who were those guys, the carrossieres, or in Italy the carrozzerias? Coachbuild.com offers The Chachbuilders Encyclopedia, a biographical list of 104 coach builders. Ettore and son Jean Bugatti were designers in their own right. Others came up through the trade guilds that were rooted in the carriage and coach building industry of hay burning horsepower. Horsepower, and motor car racing, came to be a huge attraction and, with wins at Le Mans or the Mille Miglia, unequalled marketing power for the competing auto manufacturers. It was common practice, though, for construction of the car bodies to be contracted out to those in the coach building guilds.

CCC-Barris-Europe-Snapshot-08George Barris made this photo at one of the several coachbuilt shops he visited on his european trip in 1951. The photo shows a wooden buck that was used to shape the new bodies
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The basic body shapes were formed of hardwood, such as ash. Metal skins were hand formed. From the aircraft industry came pneumatic planishing tools, and the “English wheel”. Metal for fenders and various compound curves shapes also were hand formed over wooden bucks, to assure the three-dimensional results held true to the designer’s vision. Today, such masters as Marcel Delay and sons Luc and Marc carry on coach building, with time-honored practices and tooling that has stood the tests of time. Ron Covell not only offers enlightening magazine articles, but he and several other craftsmen put on workshops where those skills can be learned and developed.



CCC-neferteri-part-two-figoni-1938-delahayeFigoni and Falaschi  1938 Delahaye.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-figoni-1939-DelahayeFigoni and Falaschi  1939 Delahaye.
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One of the most influential…and perhaps my own favorite…of those early master craftsmen, is Guiseppi Figoni, the designing force behind the Figoni and Falaschi coachwork. Figoni’s fascination with aircraft design following WWI led to aerodynamic elliptical shapes and “enclosed tear drop shaped fenders, which he called ‘enveloppantes.’” Those pontoon fenders, or in today’s street rodder speak, “fat fenders”, directly derive from the “wheel pants” of the streamline moderne airplanes. Out of the Figoni and Falaschi stable came Bugattis, Delages, Delahayes; “chassis-coachwork ensembles” in nitrocellulose lacquers a mile deep. These were long, low, swoopy cars with raked back windshields, flush frenched headlights, skirted fenders and “fluid grace and inherent motion”. Their “windswept designs” could blow your hair back, just standing still.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-Letourneur-and-Marchand1932 Duesenberg by Letourneur and Marchand.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-Kellner-32-Bugatti1932 Kellner bodied Bugatti
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My own inspiration followed the “I want to see it all” view. Earlier models from the end of the Roaring Twenties and into the Thirties also caught my eye. A Duesenberg by Letourneur and Marchand in the greater Paris area especially stood out. This was before fenders were skirted, or car trunks were integrated into the car body. But it was long and low, and just oozed of power. A Kellner bodied Bugatti of that early period also got my heart racing, as did the model 46 offered by Bugatti from 1929-1933.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-46-bugatti-29-33Kellner bodied Bugatti model 46 from 1929 – 1933.
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-saoutchik-bucciali1932 Bucciali with body by Saoutchik.
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The one to stop the heart of any “chop and channel” enthusiast of the hot rod fraternity has to be the 1932 Bucciali with body by Saoutchik.
Out of Molsheim in the German Alsace a 1932 Maybach Zeppelin bodied by Hermann Spohn runs a close second in my album of dream cars of that era. No flammable dirigible there, and no lead Zeppelin, either.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-32-Spohn-Maybach1932 Maybach Zeppelin bodied by Hermann Spohn
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Then came the street rod to end all street rods. The Mercedes 540. A streamline dream.

Designs that flowed out in body lines and curved contours.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-Mercedes-37-540The Mercedes 540
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More recently, in 1952 Touring created a body sheath for a wine red Alpha Romero 6C roadster. Those Alpha Romeo roadsters put any hot rod into their rear view.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-38-alpha-romeo-6CAlpha Romero 6C roadster
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CCC-neferteri-part-two-Duesenberg-Graber1934 Duesenberg Model J re-bodied around 1937 by Graber with an wonderful convertible body. These photos show the car with its new black and dark blue colors.
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But to close this Streamline Moderne page in my memory book, I have to share images of a Duesenberg bodied by Herman Graber in Switzerland. This American icon, coach-built by Graber, and painted THE color combination, wine and red orange, would inspire my drawing of Neferteri, my own streamline moderne dream.

CCC-neferteri-part-two-neferteri-sketchOriginally the Graber Duesenberg J was painted wine and orange-red. My Diamond T Neferteri was based on the cars design, and colors.
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Next time, from Duesenbergs on the Continent to Duesenbergs back on home ground, and automotive design inspirations this side of the Pond. We’ll pack our bags with Howard “Dutch” Darrin and Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, and see what lay in store for me to closer to home (and my beer budget).

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