Balboa Beach Rendezvous Ballroom

 

BALBOA BEACH Rendezvous Ballroom

 

From 1948 till 1951 the Kustoms Los Angles Car Club would cruise down to Balboa Beach for Easter Ballweek. Free Custom Car show on the parking lot, and the guys dancing at the Rendezvous Ballroom.



In the later part of the 1940’ George Barris started to organize special events for his friends at the Kustoms Los Angeles Club. Around Easter George would rent a parking lot across the street from a Associated service staion for a week. The parking lot was across the street from the famous Randezvous Ballroom in Balboa. Around this time all the kids had vacation and everybody was in for a good party, including the guys and their girl friends from the Kustoms Los Angeles Club. Most of them would gather at the Barris Shop, first the Compton Ave, Later the one in Bell, and in 1950 the one on Atlantic Blvd. They would then drive in convoy to the Balboa Peninsula.

Along the way people would park their cars just to be able to watch all these beautiful speed boat stanced Customs float by. When they reached Balbo they would parade the cars on the streets of Balboa, cruising up and down to ejoy the huge crowds. Some people remember that there were some aoo to even 150 Custom Cars and Hot Rods to take part of this event. Later all the Kustoms Los Angeles members parked their car in the parking lot that George had rented. And they would stay there for the week. Drawing many visitiors who would walk up and down the parking lot looking at the wonderful cars in the free parking lot show. While the main event took place around Easter, the venue was so attractive for the guys in the club that special trips to Balboa for the weekend were organised several times a year.

Around 1949-50 George Barris would be driving his ’42 Cadillac convertible with Gaylord top to the Balboa event.
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While some of the guys came for the party, drinking bears and having a good time, others came for the dance events at the Rendezvous Ballroom, and of course to chase the girls. According to those who have been to this event it was very spectacular, so its amazing that not more photos have surfaced from these special events. Its almost like it was a no camera zone during these Easter weeks. I hope that with some more coverage here on the Custom Car Chronicle we will be able to gather some more material our readers remember more about this event, have heard more stories, or even have seen some photos from the Barris Parking Lot, or the guy cruising the streets of Balboa.

The July, 1953 issue sped four pages on the Balboa Easter activities. However the article did not mention the Barris rented parking lot, nor did it show any photos taken of the Kustoms Los Angeles parked there. The article included an set free from the background photo of the Hirohata Mercury, but it is hard to tell if the photo was actually taken at Balboa Beach, or used from somewhere else. The RC article is the only article we have found featuring the spectacular Balboa Easter event.
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From the R&C article shows a number of cars at the Associated Gas Station. Hot Rods, Stock and the one in the middle next to the gas pumps looks to be a padded topped with panoramic rear window late ’40’s Custom.
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Hot Rods at the Associated gas station.
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Mildy customized with a nice speed boat stance ’41 Ford short door Coupe cruising at the peninsula.
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One of the drive ins at the peninsula which drew a crowd all night long during the Easter festivities.
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From Wikipedia
The Rendezvous Ballroom was a large dance hall built in 1928, located on the beach of Balboa Peninsula in Southern California, United States. The 1920s were the heyday of public dancing to the music of popular bands and orchestras, and large ballrooms were built in most urban areas, and even on Catalina Island, 26 miles off the California coast.

No expense was spared in the construction of the ballroom, which was a city block long, and half a block wide. It featured reinforced concrete walls, a “floating” hard wood floor and a tile roof. After a fire in 1935 the ballroom was rebuilt with an arched roof supported by sectional girders of wood in a cross pattern, the same as used in the nearby blimp hangers for the Marine Corps.

The Rendezvous Ballroom caught fire again in 1966, and was never rebuilt. The site now has beachfront condominiums.

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I have collected some of the stories that have been told about the trips to Balboa beach, trying to sketch the event as best as possible without any photos taken from these events.

The stories

From Jesse Lopez

Founding members of the 1948 KUSTOMS LOS ANGELES club; George Barris coined the phrase “Kustoms”, Kustoms stood by itself; Sam Barris, Nick Matranga, Bill Ortega, Oren and Loren Breeland, Oren’s mom took care of the boys, Gordo, Fuzzy, Don Nassar, Carl Abajian, Richard Carter, Johnny Zaro, Al Andril, Buzzy. Jack “Fat Boy” Stewart, Paul “Snooky” Janich, Dick “Peep” Jackson, Hershel “Junior” Conway, Bill Taylor were a few years younger and came later, a different era. “Bob Hirohata’s nickname was “Walrus”. He came later, but I was pretty tight with him, he sort of idolized me, very proper Japanese, polite and smart. The guys would all greet me ‘Esele!’”

Jesse Lopez and his ’41 Ford which he created together with Sam Barris.
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It was the history making of hot rods and customs. In 1948-51 the whole gang, Johnny Zaro, Al Andril, Bill DeCarr, Dick Carter, Carl Abajian, George and Sam Barris, Nick Matranga, Jack Stewart and Jesse would getaway in their customs on the holidays to Crestline and Lake Arrowhead by Big Bear Mountain. “Hundreds would watch us drive up in the ’40 Mercs, ’41 Fords, ’41 Merc, ’41 Buick, ’42 Ford coupe, and ’42 Cad. They’d be waiting for us. It was a spectacle!” They would also caravan to the legendary Balboa Beach Rendezvous Ballroom. Together with other custom guys they would caravan in their cars to Balboa Beach and gather in the parking lot that George had rented near by the swingin’ “Rendezvous Ballroom”. These impromptu shows of some of the most fantastic, iconic, and beautiful customs would attract huge crowds. The guys would have a whale of a time drinking, dancing, and chasing skirts. Apparently they did this at least three or four times a year. By 1951 it was off to Korea, and it was all over. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if somebody had photos of any of these gatherings?

“I wouldn’t dance, I watched my car. George would dance the jitterbug though. He could really slap leather. We’d get there late, like ten p.m. We were busy working on our cars all day, and Balboa was an hour out to get there. Looking sharp in our aviator jackets, Kirk Douglas spotted us one night. He was just getting started and he looked so familiar. He was friendly. He wore elevator shoes. If I could get someone to watch the car I’d go into the big ballroom. George always went in.”

The Trade Winds in Inglewood also had jitterbug contests on Tuesday nights. All the guys would go to see Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Prima, the same crowd as the Balboa. “My friend Pete Werrlein shined Mickey Cohen’s shoes. Later Pete got the rights to Mickey’s story.” Pegged pants rolled twice and thick crepe wedged shoes were the So Cal style. Sacramento boys wore their pants pegged and straight down, so the So Cal boys did that too. All the fads; flat top and peroxide hair, t-shirts (undergarments weren’t acceptable in public), pegged Levi’s, tiny waistlines, started as So Cal beach style. (courtesy of Michelle M. Yiatras)



From Nick Matranga

The clubs didn’t exist after we got back from the Korean War, no meetings because there was no more real custom cars. George might have given some plaques away, but they didn’t run ‘Kustom’s’. Formed the club when George had the plaques made for us guys who had the cars, from 1948 to the early 50’s.
Don Henchman, Bob Ruble, Richard Carter, Johnny Zaro, Al Andril, Oren Breeland, Bill Ortega, Paul Janich, Shorty Brown, Harold Larson, Carl Abajian, Jack Stewart, Vard Martin, Les Callahan, Nick, Sam, George, and myself. They voted me in as President.

Nick Matranga and his Barris Kustoms restyled 1940 Mercury.
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We’d meet and go to Balboa, Crestline, or the Big Bear Mountains. We weren’t kids anymore, we were young men with responsibilities. We’d just plan get-togethers. No official club. Dick Fowler was a squirrel, just weird, he never fit into our clique, he belonged to Fox Florence gang. Not a nice-looking car. Dick Fowler ’38 Ford coupe was a very early Sam and George Barris effort, about 1946-47, when they first came down from San Francisco/Sacramento. I knew him pretty good, he hung out at the Barris shop even before I got there because he lived by the shop. It wasn’t a real custom, not a nice chop, just changed the Packard grill, and kept it kinda black.



From Jack Stewart

There were always a bunch of custom guys hanging out at the Barris shop. Saturday nights were especially famous at the shop. And after working on their cars and talking custom cars, the guys went out to have a good time at a dance, drive-in or party. “We’d get there late, like ten P.M., because we worked late at the shop and Balboa was an hour out to get there. Looking sharp in our aviator jackets with pegged pants rolled twice, and thick crepe wedged shoes was the So Cal style.”

In 1950 George Barris rushes to get Jack Stewart’s 1941 Ford ready for a couple of coats of white primer so that Jack can drive his car to the Balboa Easter Event. Most of Jack’s restyling was done by the Ayala’s But Jack had his friend George Barris do the fine tuning.
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Jack’s good friend Doug Anderson (AKA Dog Face) owned a Barris-built 1939 Ford convertible with a padded top. Jack Gordkil, who helped Jack on his car, owned a chopped 1938 Ford coupe, and another 1938 Ford coupe with Packard grille was owned by another friend, Dick Fowler. This last car has been recovered and is going to be restored as well. Jack also hung out a lot with Bill DeCarr, who built his own 1941 Mercury coupe with fade away fenders in his spare time at the Barris’ Compton Avenue shop. And with Johnny Zaro, who first had his 1940 Mercury and later his 1941 Ford, which was customized similar to Jack’s car, except Johnny’s was a convertible.

With these and other guys, they would get together with their custom Mercurys, Fords and Cadillacs for the holidays and drive together to places like Crestline and Lake Arrowhead, by Big Bear Mountain. They also caravanned to the legendary Balboa Beach Rendezvous Ballroom. “When driving together, people would stop their cars, step out at the roadside, and watch us drive by. Sometimes, hundreds of people where watching us drive by. It must have been a wonderful sight with our rumbling speed boat stance cars floating by.”

This photo of Johnny Zaro’s ’41 Ford with Johnny polishing his car, Jack Stewart leaning on the fender and George Barris kneeling in front of the car was not actually taken at the balboa event. But it sure looks like it could have been. guys drinking a bear, having a good time, getting the cars all ready for the show and then go out for a dance till the morning.
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Jack and George loved to go out, dans and have a few drinks. Jack drank, but not to much, he was never into that. But George drank a bit more, although never a drunk. The used to drive up with all the guys from the LA Kustoms club to go to a dans. They where all driving along, but the closer they cae to the dans the more pretty girls they saw on the streets. They would pop open the doors with the poppers, and in went the girls. Later when they would arrive at the dans the angry boy friends would wait for them. And there was an occasional fight over the girls. But in the end they just all wanted to have a dance and a good time. There was a lot of girl chasing, but the car Jack got from George Barris after the 41 Ford was much more a girl magnet than his Ford. The fact that it was a convertible played a roll in that, but also the fact that Jack modified the front seet so that he could lift it up and slide it back so it would touch the back seat. This way there was a huge amount of space in the front, and although the girls always say that Jack was really bad
 but please don’t quit. Jack made out a lot in that car, he kept it for a few years, then bought his MG.




From Jeff Neppl

Jeff owns a 1950 Mercury Custom that was very much styled after the cars built by Sam Barris and the Ayala’s in 1950-51. His car is the last Mercury that Dick Dean would chop. Besides owning this stunning Custom Jeff is a die-hard early Custom Car enthusiast. Living in So California he tires to drive his Mercury as much as possible and loves to cruise to the Custom Car historic places. Photo locations used for the magazine articles from the 50’s, Vintage show locations, and places his Custom Car hero’s visited often, like in this case Balboa Beach. Every year around Easter Jeff tries to make it out to Balboa and day dreams about the good old days. Thinking about the stories his hero’ have shared with him. Guys like Jerry Quesnel, Jack Stewart and others. “Ballweek is what it was called and it was HUGE”.

“Balboa is my favorite beach to go to and everytime I’m down there I just think of all the kustoms that used to cruise around there.”

Jeff’s Mercury at Balbo, it is still a great place to go to.
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Jeff Neppl loves to cruise his perfect 1950 Mercury to the historic Custom Car locations in and around Los Angles. Here Jeff parked his Merc in front of what used to be the Rendezvous Ballroom building. After it was destroyed in a fire in 1966 the location was used for condo’s and apartments, but the building was named the Rendezvous.
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Jeff talked to Jack Stewart about Ballweek; “He was telling me about his ’41 and told me a lot about Balboa. It wasn’t really a cars how, they would just go down there to dance and party for easter. George would rent a parking lot and they would park all the KUSTOMS there and it would kind of turn into a show. Jack said him and George were some of the best dancers there.”

Jeff Neppl standing next to the plaque at the exact location of the Rendezvous Ballroom used to be. This is where Jack Stewart and the Barris gang would caravan all the Customs to from Lynwood every easter to go dancing at the Ballroom. This was Jack’s favorite place to cruise, from what he told Jeff. Jeff’s wearing his new Jack Stewart shirt. Always thinking about custom history!
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A better look at the plaque.
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Some random scenes from gatherings in Balboa in the late 1940’s.
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Dancing at the Rendezvous Ballroom. 
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Zeppelin aerial photo shows the huge parking lot on the beach just behind the Rendezvous Ballroom place.
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Compare this photo that Jeff Neppl took of his ’50 Mercury with the aerial view above. Jeff’s Merc is parked at the parking lot on the bach and behind the Merc you can see the pier.
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Aerial view from the 1940’s shows the Rendezvous Ballroom building in blue, the huge parking lot right on the beach, the Kustom Los Angeles parking lot George Barris rented in green, and the Associated Service station that we can see in the R&C article in red next to the parking lot.
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A closer view of the Associated Service station, the parking lot George Barris rented, now filled with car in front of the “Blue Room” building, and a corner of the Rendezvous Ballroom on the lower right. (Photo from the mid 1940’s, thanks Jeff.)
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Interesting photo from the early 1950’s shows the Ballroom in the far left top with a sign for the upcoming Easter event. Just behind the large building on the left is the parking lot George Barris rented (not visable in this photo) and behind the palm trees on the corner of the street is the Associated service station.
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If you have any stories of your own about the Rendezvous Ballroom, or about the Kustoms Los Angeles, or the special club meetings and trips they made together, and you would like to share them with us. Then please email Rik Hoving here at the Custom Custom Car Chronicle so that we can add them to this article, or share it elsewhere on the site. Thank you.





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Sam Barris Chopping Merc Album 2

 

CHOPPING MERC ALBUM part 2

 

In part one we have showed the full pages of the Photo album that Marcia Campbell put together for Sam Barris. An album showing Sam chopping a 1949 Mercury. Now lets take a closer look at the photos.



The photo album Marcia Campbell put together of photos she took of Sam Barris chopping the top of Jerry Quesnel’s ’49 Mercury is not only wonderful to look at. It is also very important for the history of the Custom Car. It is as far as we know the first time that the chopping of the king of all cars to be customized, the 1949 Mercury Coupe gets a chopped top. The album captured Sam Barris most likely cutting one of these cars for the very first time. As far as I have been able to research it Sam worked on Jerry’s Mercury and his own Mercury just days, perhaps a few weeks apart. And according those who where there at the time (including the late Jack Stewart) Jerry Quesnel’s Merc was done first, in primer. And more than likely Sam’s got the full paint and finish treatment the first, since Sam had plans to have a finished car at the Oakland Roadster Show in February 20-25, 1951.

The photos show that Sam Barris had a completely different approach to chopping the top of Jerry’s Mercury than we have today. Possibly the way Sam chopped the top on this Mercury was based on what he was used to do on the pre ’48 Ford’s and Chevy’s. We know that the Barris Kustom Shop was using pre-shaped panels created by California Metal Shaping for restyling panels including fade away fenders. It is unsure why Sam did not use this technique to chop the top on Jerry’s Mercury. But instead choose to use lead to fill the dip from the rear window to the rest of the roof.

Sam chopped Jerry’s Mercury with a completely reshaped and forward angled B-pillar. Before I had seen these Marcia Campbell photos of Sam working on the B-pillars I always thought that possibly Sam had used an extra set of door frames to create the forward angle on the B-pillar. Using a set of front corners flipped from side to side. But the photos in this series actually show that Sam cut and welded the original door frames in such a way that they looked a lot like the front corners. We come back to that in the next part.

The earliest photo included in the Marcia Campbell created album is this rear view of Jerry Quesnel’s ’49 Mercury with the distinctive bumper guard taillights and antenna location. The body work needed for the shaving of the trunk and the removal of the taillights from the rear fenders had already been done prior and was covered in primer. On the left we can see the Jesse lopez 1941 Ford in the drive way of the Barris Shop, perhaps the car had already been sold to Danny Lares by then. The Barris “small office” building is in front of Jerry’s Merc.
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The roof cut off completely, and so are the door tops. Material has been removed from the A-pillars and the roof put back on to check if the right amount had been removed. Notice that the door handle already had been removed by then, and the car was already lowered. The last helped getting the chop proportions just right. Early stages of the chop work was done outside where there was more space to move the top around. Notice that there were no braces added inside the car!
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Taken around same moment as the previous photo but then from the rear. This photo shows that the rear window surrounding metal has been cut from the roof, and lower corners. The top portion of the rear quarter windows  and the whole top section of the B-Pillar have been removed at the drip rail.
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Sam removing some material below the corners of the rear window to allow the rear window to lay forward. The whole section around the rear window was cut loose, except the center section. The top is just resting on the lower portions of the C-pillar. the top would in fact be mounted higher than what we see in this photo. Wonder who’s ’40 Ford that was in the background. 
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Removing material from the lower C-pillars, also to be able to lay the rear window forward to flow with the rest of the top.
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The car is now moved inside the shop. Most likely the A-Pillars had been tacked in place by now, and the flow of the top was figured out. To be able to flow the bulbous rear section of the roof into the much lower rear window Sam made a relieve cut on the round edges of the top, on both sides at the height of the B-Pillar. The rear portions was pushed up and the cut now had a v-shape. Sam is welding a spacer piece of metal into the v-shape section in this photo. The helper makes sure the center of the top is not sagging during the process. 
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Large diameter tubing (possibly an old exhaust) was set inside to hold the top in the right position while Sam had tacked the rear of the top and the rear window section together. Sam is seen hammer welding the seem in this photo.
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The center section of the top to rear window already has been welded completely. am is now working towards the sides. It is amazing to see that Sam only used a few small wedge pieces of metal to create the top.
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Here the filler pieces have been added to create a solid C-pillar. Notice the low spot from the top towards the rear window. 
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This photo shows the cut in the roof sides needed to move the rear section of the top up. After the rear was moved up the cut had become pie-cut shaped. The filler piece that Sam welded in place makes sure the shape stays the way it needs to be. Time to cut off the -B-pillar lower section to allow it to lay forward.
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The previously removed top sections of the rear quarter windows have the front section cut off and the rear section was cut at the back to make it fit to the top with the new much lower profile.
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Same thing was done on the drivers side, here we can see that the B-pillar section of the rear quarter window tops now has been tacked to the top as well. To allow for the angled forward B-Pillars the window opening top section had to be streched. This photo shows how much metal needs to be added.
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Sam had to make several cuts into the B-pillars to be able to get them to angle forward as much as he and Jerry wanted. The plan was to mimic the shape of the front corners of the window frames, very much like some GM cars from the mid/late 1940’s.
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The filler piece in the rear quarter window tops and C-Pillar have been created and the relieve cut on the roof sides has been welded. It is amazing that the shape of the rear quarter window was created without having the door tops in place.
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The A-pillars have been welded, and a relieve cut has been added to the front lower corder of the window opening. This had to be done to get the top of the door frame in line with the new angle of the A-pillar. When a section is removed in a cone shaped object and the top section dropped the sides will need to be set at a slightly steeper angle to make it all work. 
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Starting to put back the top section of the door window frame. But the rear portion has to wait a little, next up is adding lead to the body work of the top.
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Time to add some lead to make everything smooth again. Using no replacement shaped metal section to create the smooth curves needed for this shop made it necessary to ad heavy layers of lead in some placed. Especially above the rear window. In this photo Sam is adding lead to mold the rear window surround to the turret panel.
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The whole rear quarter window and its surround was covered with lead.
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The lead in the process of being filed, shaved and sanded. Notice that the passenger door window frame still had to be done when Marcia took this photo.
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Sam sitting on the package tray shaving the lead above the rear window in shape.
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Next Jerry’s Mercury was taken outside again for more shaping and sanding. Marcia Campbell took this photo of Sam filing the freshly applied lead from the C-Pillars.  In the back ground we can see the passenger door of the Jack Stewart’s 1941 Ford. That Jack’s Ford shows up in this photo is actually really important to date this series of photos.
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Here Sam is sanding the lead filler smooth for the next step, primer. Notice how the C-pillar is still missing from the door in the lower left corner of the photo. In the background we can see the Jack Stewart Ford again. 
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Dating the 1949 Mercury Chop

We do not know exactly when Marcia Campbell took the photos of Sam Barris chopping the Jerry Quesnel ’49 Mercury, we also do not know when she created the album for Sam. The Album, nor any of the photos inside show a date. But with careful examining the photos in the album we have narrowed the time frame when these photos were taken down to around a few weeks. Timing these photos is important since there still is the question of who chopped the iconic ’49 Mercury Coupe for the very first time.

One of the first photos in the album shows Jerry’s Mercury before it was chopped with 1951 California License plates. Still these photos could have been taken in the later part of 1950, when the ’51 plates had come available. But on closer inspection of the photos I spotted two photos that showed the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford in the back ground. And in one photo I could clearly see that the interior had been installed. I have been involved in the research of the Jack Stewart Ford to help the restoration, and for my book on that car. I know that Jack entered his ’41 Ford when it was almost finished at the 1951 Hot Rod and Motor Sports Show held from Jan 25-28, 1951 at the Los Angeles National AGuard Armory. The interior was the only thing that had not been done, and the windows on the car were white-out to hide that from viewers. But in the photos Marcia had taken of Sam chopping the top on Jerry’s mercury there was an interior, so I knew these photos had to be taken after January 28, 1951.

The Jack Stewart 1941 Ford with white out windows to hide the fact the car did not have an interior at the January 25-29, 1951 Hot Rod and Motor Sport Show in Los Angeles.
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In the top right corner of Marcia’s photo we can see Jack’s 41 Ford in the background. The photo shows the car with an interior, meaning the photo must have been taken after Jan 28, 1951.
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We know that Sam chopped Jerry’s Mercury and his own ’49 Mercury around the same time, according to people who were there at the time days or perhaps weeks apart, but that Jerry’s was done first and finished in white primer first. We also know that Sam Barris entered his ’49 Mercury completely restyled and painted (sans interior) at the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show, which was held from February 20-25, 1951. Which leaves the time frame for these Marcia Campbell album photos from January 29 till around February 19, 1951. A very short period for sure. But we know the Barris shop was capable of tackling a full custom job in a matter of weeks. The famous Hirohata Mercury was restyled completely in just 6 weeks!




Details

Wanted to enlarge a few sections of the photo of Jerry’s Mercury before it got chopped. This photo shows a few nice details that might not show up to well on the original size of the images in this article.

Here we can see the hand made clear red lucite taillights in the rear bumper guards really well. It also show the cars unique location of the bumper mounted antenna, plus most likely a heavily distorted mirror image of Marcia Campbell snapping the picture on the bottom right side in the bumper.
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The same photo also shows two parked cars mirrored in the rear bumper. The one of the right looks to be a ’40 Ford, possibly the same one as we can see in a few other photos. The one on the left could possibly be the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford.
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The story continues in PART 3






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Rounded Corners on Customs

 

ROUNDED CORNERS ON CUSTOMS

 

Molded body lines, fine tuned with rounded corners on the hood, doors and trunk make a Custom really smooth. When did this trend started?



Rounded corners on Custom Cars is something that I always thought had been done since the very early beginnings of Customizing. The rounded corners fit so well on the smooth look of many customs. But in fact rounding door, hood and trunk corners is something that started at a later date several years after chopping tops became a “standard”. Like with most things in the early history of the Custom Cars, there is not much written down, or documented very well. So it is very hard to tell when exactly the first top was chopped, the first grille was narrowed or when the first corners where rounded to make a car look better, more streamlined, more exclusive.

It was not until I did my research on the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford that I realized that rounding the corners on custom cars started to get really popular until around 1950-51. And I have to say that that kind of made me wonder about this. Especially since the popular car to Customize, the 39-40 Mercury coupes and convertibles came with factory rounded corners in 1939 and 1940. Everybody could see how the rounded top trunk corners on these cars looked so good, and make everything flow really nice. The Ford cars of the same year, and both cars after 1940 never had the trunk corners rounded from the factory. That would have made the cars more expensive, more metal was needed to stamp those, plus the dies would have been more complex.

ccc-rounded-corners-39-mercuryThe 1939 Mercury came with factory rounded top trunk corners, which looked really stunning on the car. The ’40 Mercury convertible and coupe still had the same rounded corners, and but for the all new ’41 models this feature was deleted from the design.
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ccc-rounded-corners-36-fordThe ’36 Ford 3-window coupe has a nice round shape on the door tops. The 5-window coupe (as well as the sedans) had a square top corner. Although the top corners on the 36 Fords rarely get rounded due to the body lines around the window openings, I think that the shape of the 3-window coupe doors (and similar styled cars) has played a roll in the rounding of door corners on customs.
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From my research I came to the conclusion that the rounding of corners on custom cars started around the mid 1940’s. In the early years not all the corners were rounded like we know from more recent built customs. The rounded corners started on California Custom Cars with metal tops, sedan’s or 5-window coupes that were chopped and had the drip rails shaved. The new smooth top shape looked really great and made the car flow much nicer than with the drip rails and stock height tops. But the square top corner of the doors interfered with the flow.

This problem was not evident on the 3-window coupe models, like the 35′-35 Fords. These cars had nice rounded door top frames, flowing nice with the rear of the tops. Even after chopping these 3-window coupes the flow looked good, and was even better. To make the sedan and 5-window coups look better after the top had been chopped and the drip rails had been shaved they started to round the door top corners, and make then flow much better with the new top shape.

CCC-1938-ford-sedan-barrisChopped 1938 Ford Sedan at the Barris Compton Ave shop around 1948 shows shaved drip rails, molded fenders and a small radius rounded door top corner.
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CCC-barris-dick-fowler-38-ford-16The dick Fowler 1938 Ford Coupe was created in 1946-47. the Barris shop shaved the drip rails, and to make the doors flow better with the new roof shape they rounded the rear corners. Almost in a similar way to that on the ’35-36 Ford three window coupes.
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ccc-rounded-corners-40-fordsTop photo was taken most likely in the mid 1940’s It shows an early version of the Bob Creasman 1940 Ford coupe with chopped top and filled quarter windows. The car still has the front section of the drip rail, which ends shortly behind the door top corner. The door top corner is not rounded (from the Carl Johnson collection). The bottom photo was taken in 1947 (Bart Bartoni Collection) of another 40 Ford with a similar chop and 3-window treatment. On this car the drip rails have been completely removed and the top door corners are rounded, to make the door line flow better with the shape of the top.
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In the early days when the corners were rounded, this was pure an optical modification. The original square corner was cut to a nice radius, then a filler piece was hand shaped and welded to the body, smoothed and painted. The original square rain cutters inside the trunk remained factory stock. In the last few decades the need for more finished work has been developed, and now-days when corners are rounded the original cutters inside are reshaped to match the new corners, to make the whole modification like how it came from the Factory, perhaps even better than that.

One other inspiration source for the rounded corners on Customs might have come from the Pick Up Truck. Pick Up Truck cabins in the 1930’s were very square, for obvious reasons. And in the early 1930’s the door corners were, just as on the passenger cars, mostly square. But from 1935 the corners on the doors of these truck were often rounded giving the square cabins a nicer and softer, more designed look. Perhaps this was potted by some of the pioneer Customizers. (Thanks to Ian Cross for pointing this out)




41-48 Ford – Mercury rounded corners

Some of the famous all smooth custom cars from the 1940’s surprisingly did not have rounded trunk corners.



The rounding of trunk and hood corners on customs started a few years later, around 1950. It was somewhere in 1950 when Jack Stewart took his unfinished Ayala built ’41 Ford to George Barris to finish. The Ayala’s had done most of the work on the car, including full fade-aways and rounding the door top corners after the top had been chopped, and the drip rails shaved. But all the corners on the hand made hood and the trunk were still unmodified with square corners. One of the things George did on this car was rounding all the corners in such a way that everything flows much nicer with the rest of the molded in body. I’m not sure if this was the first car that had all the corners rounded, but it sure if one of the first.


ccc-rounded-corners-stewart-ford-ayalaThis photo was taken early 1950 of the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford coupe at the Ayala shop. The roof had been re-chopped and full fade away fenders added to the channeled body. But as this photo shows the trunk corners are still square.
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ccc-rounded-corners-stewart-ford-barrisLater in 1950 George Barris took over the work on Jack Stewart’s 1941 Ford and id all the finishing body work including all rounded corners. The car was finished in white primer for the 1950 Balboa Easter weekend party.
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ccc-rounded-corners-stewart-ford-detail-02In all the old photos the rounded corners on Jack’s Ford look really great, but when Palle Johansen bought the Ford and started its restoration we were able to take a closer look at the work. The rounding of the corners was done rather crude, it looked great from the outside, but once the trunk and hood were opened it showed that the work was done only cosmetic, typical for a lot of work on the customs cars in the early 1950’s.
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The rear corners of the hood and cowl were also rounded. The bare metal photos show how “primitive” and “crude” this modification was done. But with the hood closed, nobody would ever know.
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The work done on the door tops was done nicer than the trunk and hood corners. Obviously this work would how considerably more than the other corners. These bare metal photos show that lead filler and heavy paint hided the rough body work.
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CCC-jack-stewart-rip-01The flowing lines accentuated by the rounded corners on the Jack Stewart Ford photographed in 1951.
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Rounding corners helps with the flow of the lines on a custom car. In case of Custom cars with a lot of body panels molded in and smoothed, like the Jack Stewart Ford and the Louis Bettancourt Mercury, any sharp corner distracts from the overall flow. The rounded corners are much easier on the eyes, and often help with the flow of the top into the cowl and trunk era of the cars.

I’m not sure if the decision from FoMoCo to not ad rounded corners to the 1941 and up Mercury’s (as well as the Ford models) was a financial reason, or something else. The rounded top trunk corners on the ’39 and ’40 Mercury’s must have cost more metal, larger dies, and overall higher production costs.

1950 Oakland Roadster showOne of those famous Customs that perhaps should have had rounded trunk corners is the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford. Created in 1947-48 by Jesse and Sam Barris it never had rounded corners, even though every other body panel had been molded and smoothed.
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ccc-rounded-corners-snooky-41-ford-40sBarris created the “Snooky” Janich Ford around 1948-49, and at the time the door tops were rounded, but the trunk top corners were still straight, as how they came from the factory, as this 1949 photo shows.
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ccc-rounded-corners-snooky-41-ford-00This photo of the Snooky Janich Ford was taken at the Barris Atlantic Blvd shop around 1951, by then the trunk top corners have been rounded.
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ccc-rounded-corners-snooky-41-ford-01The work on the rounded corners on the Snooky Janich Ford looks similar to the work done on the Jack Stewart Ford, kind of rough, but looking good from the outside.
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ccc-rounded-corners-snooky-41-ford-02The door top corners of Snooky’s Ford were rounded when the top was chopped the first time around. With the drip rails shaved a factory stock square corner would have looked totally out of place here. During restoration it became evident that the work looked good with the doors closed, but the inside needed work to look more finished.
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ccc-rounded-corners-campbell-devall-42-fordMarcia Campbell’s 1942 Ford was built by the Barris shop around 1949, and finished in 1950. Everything molded in, shaved drip rails, rounded, with large radius door top corners, but square trunk corners. The color photo was taken in 1950. Later the car was owned by Ann DeValle and repainted Sierra Gold (top photo), the trunk corners were not changed.
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ccc-rounded-corners-decarr-41-mercBill DeCarr’s 1941 Mercury is another sample of the super smooth all molded in look. The car was created at the Barris Compton Ave shop around 1948-49. Even though everything is molded in, the drip rails shaved and the door top rounded, the trunk corner remain stock.
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CCC-barris-jack-brumback-42-ford-03 Jack Brumbach’s 1942 Ford was most likely done around 1950-51.  The October 1951 issue of Popular Science showed some in progress photos of this car, and the finished car was showed at the 1952 Petersen Motorama. The car had rounded door corners with shaved drip rails, but the trunk corners were not rounded. (This photo was taken a little later after the car had the rear raised and skirts removed.)
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Ayala Body ShopThe Wally Welch 1941 Ford is getting the fenders molded in at Gil Ayala’s Auto Body works. The license plate tag reads 1950. While the new body mods will smooth out the complete body lines the the trunk corners are not rounded, which would have helped the flow even more.
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ccc-rounded-corners-tormey-41-mercBob Tormey’s 1941 Mercury shor door coupe was chopped and restyled by the Barris shop in the early 1950’s. Bob, who was from Yakima, Washington requested the drip rails to remain on the car (most likely do to the weather conditions in WA). The door tops were not rounded, since the straight line works perfect with the drip rails, but the trunk corners were rounded.
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1949-51 Mercury

Today we are so used to seeing rounded corners on the hoods and trunks of the 1949 Mercury Customs that we feel it has always been like this. But it has not, in the early years of custom restyling the ’49-51 Mercury most of the cars had a lot of work done, chopped top, grille changes etc, but the corners of the hood and trunks remained square. It was not until around 1952 when rounding the corners on these Mercury’s became “common practice”.

On the 49-51 mercury’s it is always a bit tricky to round the rear corners of the hood. Because this will help with the overall flow, but at the same time it also adds an extra separation line in case the whole back edge is removed from the trunk and welded to the cowl and front fender. Or the top and bottom sections will have an extra triangle shaped piece. But still in most cases the rounded corners still look better, and more integrated than the stock hood backs. And another plus is that there is less rubbing of the hood against the fender tops when the hood it opened. (a sample of this can be seen on the Lucky 7 Customs created bronze Mercury at the end of the article)

ccc-rounded-corners-quesnel-49-mercOne of the first chopped 49-51 Merc Coupes is the Jerry Quesnel’s 1949 Mercury chopped by Sam Barris and Jerry. The car had shaved drip rails, leaned forward b-pillars with rounded door top corners. The grille surround was molded in, but the hood and trunk corners were not rounded. Most of the work was done in early 1951.
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ccc-rounded-corners-sam-barris-49-mercSam Barris’s personal 1949 Mercury was chopped around the same time as Jerry Quesnel’s. It was finished (sans interior) at the Feb 1951 Oakland Roadster show. The car had straight B-Pillars, shaved drip rails, rounded door top corners and a molded grille shell, but the hood and trunk corners remained stock.
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ccc-rounded-corners-sam-barris-49-merc-02A later owner of the Sam Barris Mercury decided to add rounded corners to the hood… and those were brought back to stock specs during the complete restoration at the Brizio shop for new owner John Mumford.
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ccc-rounded-corners-sam-barris-49-merc-03The restored Sam Barris Mercury at the 2009 Mercury Gathering at the Sacramento Autorama. Rounded door tops, square trunk corners.
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Louis Bettancourt Mercury
One of the most impressive cases of rounding corners must be on the Ayala built Louis Bettancourt 1949 Mercury. We are not sure when the Ayala’s started the work on the car and performed all the molded in and rounded corners. But the car debut at the 1952 Motorama show. More than likely the car was already started around 1950-51. The whole car was molded, and all the seams were welded and filled in, even the beltline and the window surrounds were molded in. Any sharp edge, or corner on this car would have looked so much out of place, so the Ayala’s rounded all the corners on it.

They decided to use a very large radius for all the corners. Very unique on this car is the way the rear hood and top trunk corners are rounded. By using the large and flowing radius here, the new lines help with the flow of the chopped top. It makes the eye flow much easier from the lower body into the roof. At the rear this rounded corner help integrate the rear window better.


ccc-rounded-corners-bettancourt-49-merc-03Louis Bettancourt Mercury finished in lime gold by the Ayala’s. Notice how every panel was welded and molded in, no sharp edge to be detected. Everything flows together, looks clean and smooth. Even the bottom rear door corders were rounded.
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ccc-rounded-corners-bettancourt-49-merc-02Popular Mechanics April 1953 had an article about Customizing cars and showed this Louis Bettancourt’s ’49 Mercury with explaining words what had been done to the car. Apparently it was not completely clear to the lay-out artist what all corners rounded meant. 
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ccc-rounded-corners-bettancourt-49-merc-01This front photo of the later Barris version of the Bettancourt Mercury shows the large radius of the front hood corners and how well they flow with the grille opening, the fender shape and headlights. Custom Merc perfection.
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ccc-rounded-corners-larry-ernst-51-chevyThe Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy was restyled by the Barris shop in 1951, and even though a 49-50 Mercury grille surround was molded in place, the hood corners remained straight on its first version. Some time after the car was finished and shown the car came back to the shop for a remake. At this time the hood corners were rounded to make the front end flow much better.
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ccc-rounded-corners-larry-ernst-51-chevy-02George Barris captured the process of rounding the corners on the Larry Ernst Chevy. These photos show that the work was done much nicer than the work done earlier on cars as the Jack Stewart and Snooky Janish Fords. The finished work looked almost factory stock. 
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The Bob Hirohata 1951 Mercury was restyled by the Barris Shop, and somewhat similar to the Ayala restyled Bettancourt Mercury most everything on this car was molded and shaved. Barris took this car a step further by reshaping the side contours and extending the hood and creating a completely new grille opening. To make everything work even better on this car all corners were rounded as well. Barris even rounded all the bottom corners on the doors on this Mercury and might have been the first to do so.

ccc-rounded-corners-hirohata-merc-frontThe new extended lip corners on the hood were rounded and both on the hood and front sheep metal the finishing work was done very well. 
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ccc-rounded-corners-hirohata-merc-rear-01This rear quarter photo shows the large radius of the trunk rounded corners, helping with the flow of the car and make everything look smoother.
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ccc-rounded-corners-hirohata-merc-rear-02The work on the trunk corners was done a little less perfect than the hood corners. Possibly somebody else did the work, possibly the deadline of the 1952 Motorama show (for the cars debut) interfered with more fine tuning. Notice how the lip on the top corner was rounded, which was more than on older work the shop did, but the drip rail inside was not altered to follow the new shape. 
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ccc-rounded-corners-barris-price-listThe Barris price list from around 1953 lists rounding corners for $15.- ea. And 3 hours work.
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After 1952 rounding corners became more or less the rule on most customs. From mild to wild rounding corners was on of the to do things on the list. The rounding of the corners makes a custom really stand out from the factory car. To be able to round corners it often means that body panels need to be welded solid for that very desirable one piece look. And then any sharp corners would be out of place. We are now so much used to the round corners on Custom Cars, that is sometimes hard to imagine the early cars did not have them, specially when the rage was molding and smoothing everything.


ccc-rounded-corners-lucky-7-merc-rearA really great sample of how much we are used to the rounded corners look on the ’49-51 Mercury is this 1951 Mercury built by Lucky7 Customs for George Garza. Everything on this car flows together beautifully helped by all the rounded corners, and reshaped panel lines. Especially nice is the way the rear hood corners were cut and rounded, and help with the flow of the roof into the lower body. The front edge and corners of the trunk were also completely reshaped to flow with the new roof shape.
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ccc-rounded-corners-radcliffe-fordRob Radcliffe of King Kustoms rounded all the corners on his 1950 Ford Custom. These in progress photos give us a good insight of how great this looks, and how much more detailed these are done than the work done back in the early 1950’s. Perfect panel gaps and rounded corners like these make a car look so good.
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Every time I create another Custom Car history article I realize how many photos of historic custom cars there are that come from the Barris Shop. It is really amazing how many photos George Barris took, requested to take, or collected. And hoe many of those have been shared and published. And how incredibly important this has been for capturing the early days of Customizing. A big thanks to the Barris Shop and George Barris, without them Custom Car history would not have been the same.

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Thrifty Parking-lot Show

 

TRIFTY PARKING-LOT SHOW

 

In May 1954 the Lords Car Club organized a free one day outdoor Car Show at the Thrifty Drug Store in Los Angeles. The Customs they gathered for this event was the best of the best.



One of the most incredible photos of the Golden Age of Custom cars must be the birds eye view photo taken in 1954 at the Thrifty drug store in Los Angeles. This single photo shows no less than 12 top rate Custom Cars and four more Hot Rods parked together at a free outdoor show. The photo was professionally taken from the roof of the Thrifty drug store on Rodeo Rd and LA Brea on May 14, 1954. All the cars are as good as Crystal clear and sharp, and we are able to see them from an angle we usually don’t see.

The first time I saw this photo was in an Hot Rod magazine July 1989, but only very little could be seen because the lay-out artist had covered all the cars with captions and other inset photos. Fortunately for use more people must have noticed the photo and notified the R&C team about this. In the December 1989 issue of R& C they published a nice large black and white print of this amazing photos and identified most of the cars in the photo. Later I came across the same photo on the back cover of the 1955 Custom Cars annual… but there it was also partly covered and rather small.

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-colorizedFor the Rodder’s Journal #33 I created a series of colorized old black and white photos of Custom Cars, the piece the resistance was this overview photo of the outdoor car show at the Thrifty drug store parking lot in 1954. It took me nearly a month to add all the color to this intense photo.
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When I started working on a series of colorized photos for the Rodder’s Journal back in 2006 this parking lot photo came to my attention again. How great would it be to see this old black and white photo in color?! I discussed the possibilities with the RJ team, and they provided the high res scan made from the Greg Sharp Collection photo. To be able to see this photo in high res with all the details on my computer screen was a real treat. It took me a while to figure out all the colors on the car and had some help from Greg Sharp and a few other people who remembered the cars from back in the early 1950’s.

We do not know much about the show other than the things we can see in the photos and the amazing thing that over the years information was shared that at least two of the trophies give at this show survived. One for the Chuck DeWitt Shoebox by Barris and the other for Jack Stewart’s MG restyled by George Cerny. We also know that the Lords Car Club from Wilmington, Ca hosted the show and that the Thrifty Drug Store was the sponsor of this one day free in cooperation with the NHRA show. In our research we have not been able to come up with any kind of advertising or promotional material for this show. But looking at the high quality cars at the show the information for it must have been spread well.
Lets take a closer look at the cars that were at the show with cropped images from the original photo, and with the information we have gathered on the show. Some of the cars are hidden quite a bit by other cars so we used some other photos to show them a little better.



Identifying the cars on the parking lot

In the right row from top to bottom:


CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-earl-bruceEarl Bruce’s 1940 Ford coupe
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-fuzzy-luscariFuzzy Luscari’s 1940 Ford pickup
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-bob-mcneilBob McNeil’s black Chuck Porter-built 1932 Ford three window coupe
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-29-roadsterUnidentified 1929 Ford highboy
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-pere-bantaJack Pere and Lou Banta’s red track nose model T Ford
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-hirohataBob Hirohata Barris built 1951 Mercury. Click HERE if you want to read more articles on the Hirohata Mercury
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-ray-moreRay More’s 1952 Ford which would later get a wonderful Larry Watson paint job in maroon and gold outlines
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jay-johnstonJay Johnston’s cream and orange version of his 1949 Ford
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-bettancourtKaiser bumper over rider and front section of the Louis Bettancourt 1949 Mercury restyled by the Ayala brothers and later redone by Barris.
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Right row from top to bottom:

 

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-thornburgh-02Tommy Thornburgh’s 1947 Studebaker convertible built by Barris.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-don-carroll-02Don Carroll’s 1949 Ford convertible built by Gaylord.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jack-nethercutt-02Jack Nethercutt’s Barris built 1952 Oldsmobile. (inset color photo from the Jack Nethercutt collection)
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-buster-litton-02Buster Litton – Don Schaedel Barris Kustoms / Cerny built 1949 Ford “Panoramic Ford”. Click HERE if you want to read more about the Buster Litton Panoramic Ford.
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Chuck DeWitt’s Barris built 1950 Ford convertible

The Chuck DeWitt 1959 Ford was awarded with a first place award at the Thrifty parking lot show. We only know this because James Washburn was given a box of trophies by a friend one day. His friend had bought the trophies at a Garage sale in Richmond Ca. for a buck a piece. His friend did not have a use for them, but remembered James asking him that whenever he would come across old car related stuff as trophies etc and the price was right to get them for him. He went over with a box with trophies, James was not home so he left the box on his porch, and he forgot about them. It took James two month to find out who had given them to him. By then his friend could not really answer any of James questions about what else there was at the garage sale.

The only thing he did remember was that the garage sale was held by family members who’s grandfather had passed away and the attic was cleaned. Included in the box was at least one other trophy that had the name Chuck DeWitt engraved. So most likely all the trophies from this garage sale once belonged to Chuck and were the trophies won with his purple Barris Restyled 1950 Ford convertible with padded top. In the box there was also a trophy from this May 1954 Thrifty Drug Store Parking Lot Show… making us believe that Chuck won first place with his Shoebox at this show. We have tried to find out if the grandfather in the garage sale might have been Chuck deWitt, but so far we have been unable to verify this. Or perhaps the car was once sold to a new owner and the trophies went with the car?

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-chuck-dewittChuck DeWitt’s 1950 Ford convertible by Barris. Click HERE if you want to read more on the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford Coupe.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-dewitt-trophy-02The trophy from James Washburn’s collection and an inset photo of Chuck’s Ford taken at a different outdoor show.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-dewitt-trophy-03Close up of the photo-etched tag on the trophy. Los Angeles County, Auto Show Saturday May – 15 1954 Sponsored by Thrifty Los Angeles Rodeo Rd. andLA Brea. In Cooperation with NHRA “Dedicated to Sadety”.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jesse-lopezJesse Lopez 1941 Ford Coupe created by Jesse and Sam Barris, when this photo was taken the car was owned by Danny Lares. After Danny had bought the car he had Barris add longer pieces of hood side trim and the Barris Crest.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-53-fordThe last car in this row is an unidentified mild customized 1953 Ford coupe. I have colorized it dark blue in the color photo, but I have no idea if that was the cars actual color.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-sportscustomAll the way on the top of the photo parked at the curb I spotted this unidentified Sports Custom. 
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The other side of the parking lot

Most of the focus on the Thrifty Drug Store 1954 Parking lot show has always been on the photo taken of the right side of the parking lot. This was the section were all the famous cars were parked. But the photographer also took at least two photo facing the other side of the parking lot at the event. And this allows us to see that the show was held at most of the side section on the Rodeo side of the complex. This photo also shows that the Lords of Wilmington Car Club, who hosted the car show, had a small booth set up in the center of the event section of the lot. This section of the parking lot has the “less famous” cars on display. Although there is a nice, unidentified, early 1940’s Chevy convertible with chopped padded top and a Barris Custom Merc on that side. Also the Shadoff Special Streamliner can be seen under the “Free” sign, the Drifters 1935 Ford with open hood and open drivers door in the middle of the photo.

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-other-side-01The first photo from the “other side” was most likely taken earlier on the day. At least one car that we can see in the other photo is missing, and it also seems to be a little less crowded.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-other-side-02This photo looks to be taken a little later on the day. Some more people are looking at the cars and what is very interesting is the lower section of the Shrifty sign on the top left part of the photo. The Dark colored Mercury in the center of the photo next to the Lords club booth appears to be Dale Marchall’s 1950 Mercury restyled by the Barris Shop.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-dale-marshallDale Marshall 1950 Mercury by Barris Kustoms.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-lords-car-club-02The Lords Car Club of Wilmington, Ca hosted the event which was sponsored by the Thrifty Drug Store. In this photo of the booth we can see several of the trophies to be given away at the end of the event, and some kind of magazines, or perhaps flyers. 
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-bannerSadly the two part banner is flipped over half way. But we think that the banner said “Free Auto Show Today”.
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Jack Stewart MG

When I visited Jack Stewart together with my friend Palle Johansen on the Jack Stewart Research trip in 2010 I photographed some of the trophies he still had from his 1941 Ford, his MG and his 32 Ford. Some of the trophies that belonged to his 1941 Ford were photographed in details, but the others not. Later when I wrote the Jack Stewart Ford book and wen I looked over the photos a bit better I noticed that one of the trophies that I did not shot in detail was from the Thrifty Car show. I recognized it from the Chuck DeWitt trophies. When we visited Jack for the last time in 2013 I asked him about the trophy and if it was perhaps from the MG. Jack could not really remember much from the show, but when I told him a little about the Thrifty parking lot Show he mentioned that he must have been there with the MG. The trophy is engraphed with “2nd”, but Sadly he could not remember anything else about it. Non of the photos taken at the event show Jack’s MG, although there are two MG’s visible in the “other side” photos, and a section in between the two photos is not covered in any of the photos.

CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jack-stewart-01Jack’s MG custom restyled by George Cerny and the trophy Jack had saved all these years. Click HERE if you want to read more about the Jack Stewart MG.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-jack-stewart-02I digitally stretched the etched tag from Jack Stewart’s trophy to give us a better look at it.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-mapThe location of the Thrifty store where the Car Show was held in May 1954.
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-stillMovie still from a drive thru Los Angeles in 1954 shows the Thrifty store and sign from Rodeo Rd. (Thank you Rob Radcliffe)
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CCC-54-thrifty-parking-lot-show-current-locationThis image from Google maps shows that the corner of Rodeo Drive and LA Brea is still a shopping area. At the former Thrifty drugstore there now is a Rite Aid Pharmacy. But the Thrifty sign structure on the corner is still there today.
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There are many amazing things about this one day free outdoor car show. The few photos that have surfaced of the show, the fact that two of the unknown number of trophies given out survived. And above all the amount of high-end Custom Cars gathered for this event. Can you imagine how it must have looked when the show was started, or even better ended, when all these amazing custom cars were started and driven from the lot, to cruise the LA streets on the way home. That must have been one amazing sight.



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Reunited Trophies

 

REUNITED TROPHIES

 

Jack Stewart won several trophies with the Ayala-Barris created Jack Stewart 1941 Ford. Jack hold on to a few of those trophies, and wanted them to be reunited with the Jack Stewart Ford when it was being restored. Sounds simple…

 
The Jack Stewart Ford, created by the Ayala and Barris shop was finished in 1951. Jack won several trophies with the car in the relatively short period he owned the finished car. Some of them can be seen in one of the most famous photos of Jack and his 1941 Ford. When Palle Johansen and me visited Jack Stewart in 2010 during the Jack Stewart Ford Research Trip, Jack surprised us by showing us the trophies he had kept all these years. Including the one he was holding in the 1951 photo taken of Jack in front of his Ford during the Hot Rod Motor Sport Show. After a long day with Jack, talking about how the car was created and all other related, and none related stories, gathering as much info as we could, Jack mentioned to Palle, that if he was ready with the restoration of his Ford he could have all the trophies that belonged with the car. Jack loved the idea of the trophies being reunited with the Jack Stewart Ford.

CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-02Jack posing in front of his 1941 Ford at the 1952 Hot Rod Show. The trophy Jack is holding was given to Palle Johansen in 2013.
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CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-10 Jack picking up the trophy from the top of the cupboard where he kept he trophies. And the far right, just above his head is the big trophy he won in 1951.
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CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-08Jack Stewart explaining to Palle that one of those trophies was made by George Barris and how he saved it from the Barris shop after the fire.
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CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-03Jack posing with the Barris Trophy he saved from the Barris Shop fire. (photo by Craig Wise)
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CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-01Photos of three of the trophies that were used in the Jack Stewart Ford book. Palle already had the one on the right, I have the one on the left in my collection, but the big one was still with Jack.
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In 2012 Palle had worked hard to get the car restored to a bare metal stage. The original plan was to have the car completely restored, but the time was just not right, and besides that when the paint was removed from the Jack Stewart Ford, the bare metal and all the lead work by the Ayala’s and Barris looked to good not to be shown. So the new plan was to ship the car to the US where it would be displayed in bare metal, but otherwise as much completed as possible, at the 2013 Grand National Roadster Show. At this show the car and Jack, as well as another previous owner, Bob Drake would be reunited with the car. It was also the place where my Jack Stewart Ford book would be available with Jack and Bob signing books at the show.
 
Jack surprised us once again to bring two trophies to the show, one for Palle to keep, and one for me. During the show Palle mentioned that the car would be back in the US as soon as it was completely restored. Jack mentioned that when the car was completely done hopefully the next year, Palle could get the big trophy, the Kustoms Los Angeles plaque and a few other items. Jack liked the idea to hand them over in person with the completed car in front of him.
 

CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-11Rik Hoving, Jack Stewart, Bob Drake and Palle Johansen. Palle is holding the famous photo trophy, which was displayed with the car at the 2013 GNRS.
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Due to a busy work schedule and some damage done to the car during its first trip to the US, the car was not finished for the next GNRS in 2014. Sadly Jack Stewart passed away in August that year, and he would never see the finished Jack Stewart Ford, and would obviously also not have the pleasure of handing over the trophies he had kept all these years to reunite them with the Jack Stewart Ford. I think we all had looked forward to that moment of showing Jack the restored Ford again, and Jack to hand over the trophies.

Some time after Jack had passed away we heard that unexpectedly everything owned by Jack Stewart would not go to Jack’s wife (who was aware of the trophies and the plans), but rather to Jack’s daughter, who we did not know. She also was not aware of the fact that Jack had promised the trophies to Palle. Jack’s close friend Craig Wise had been our internet connection with Jack from the beginning, and he has become a good friend with us as well. Craig suggested Palle needed to act fast to make sure the trophies would not end up being sold, or worse. Letters were written, deals where made, and eventually after a long time Craig was able to get the trophies home with him. And get them ready to ship them to Denmark to be reunited with the Jack Stewart Ford.
 

CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-07Craig Wise send Palle this photo shortly after he was able to retrieve all the trophies from the Jack Stewart estate.
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On September the second, 2015 the mailman delivered the box with trophies at Palle’s home in Denmark. And the trophies are now once again close to the Jack Stewart Ford, and will always remain with the Jack Stewart Ford. The box included the bog trophy winning the Sweepstake award at the 1951 Hot Rod show, the original Kustoms Los Angeles plaque, a So Gate Ram-Rods plaque, one of Jack’s Auto Butcher’s plaque, a trophy Jack won with his MG in 1954 and one more trophy from a smaller show which Jack won with his 1941 Ford. Palle will make some photos of the trophies with the Jack Stewart Ford when he gets the car out of storage to finish the restoration… hopefully later this year. When he does, we will include them in this article.

CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-05 Safe in Denmark at Palle Johansen workshop.
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CCC-jack-stewart-trophys-denmark-04And the trophies and plaques sitting on the hood of Palle’s 1947 Cadillac Convertible custom.
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Many thanks go out to Craig Wise for his help to get the trophies in the right place again.

 
 
 

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Motorama Vérité

 

MOTORAMA VÉRITÉ

 

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

By David E. Zivot


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


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

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


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


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


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

CCC-barris-motorama-skonzakes-05The litter on the floor.
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Celebrating the Life of Jack Stewart

JACK STEWART MEMORIAL

Celebrating the Life of Jack Stewart Memorial party for friends of Jack Stewart.

 

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Saturday November 1, 2014

The Holiday Inn La Mirada
14299 Firestone Blvd
La Mirada, CA 91302

Time: 11-3
Luncheon & No Host Bar

Casual Dress
There will be designated parking for Street Rods

 

RSVP is required for attending
Please reply with number of people to Sally Bollen Stewart or Call 562 866 2506
By October 20th

If you know any of Jack’s friends who many not received this invitation please pass it along to them. Thank you

 

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George Barris 1942 Cadillac

 

GEORGE BARRIS 1942 CADILLAC

 

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



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


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


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




The things I had found out so far:

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

 

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


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Hello Rik

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

Your Friend,
~David

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

 



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

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

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

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

 


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


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


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RIP Jack Stewart – August 7, 2014

RIP JACK STEWART

August 7, 2014, Jack Stewart passed away after being in the hospital for some time with heart problems. His passing comes as a shock to many who had the privilege to meet this fine man who loved life…

 
In early April 2014 I heard Jack had been hospitalized with heart failure, but according to his wife Sally he was already doing better, and Jack was getting stronger again. In May that year Jack and Sally went up to the Santa Maria Show where Jack had been inducted into the hall of fame in 2012. Jack felt good and was really looking forward to that show. But the long trip, and long hours spend at the show turned out to be just too much for his body. When they returned home after the show Jack was exhausted, and his heart problems got worse again. Eventually Jack was hospitalized again, he underwent surgery, but he just never got back on his feet. Several month of tube feeding, pneumonia and heart problems had taken away all his energy.
On August 7, 2014 Jack passed away. I heard about his passing the next day and was deeply saddened by the news.

Jack Stewart May 9, 1928 – August 7, 2014

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Jack Stewart was best known as an all-around nice guy. Often he was called “mr 32” because of the ’32 Ford Roadster he has owned since the early 1970’s, but perhaps more because he was selling ’32 Ford parts at swap meets for many years. If you needed ’32 Ford parts, Jack was the place to get them from. We also know Jack because of the ’41 Ford business coupe he owned in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s. A trend-setting custom built by Jack and his friend Kenny, and later redone by the Ayala brothers and finished by George Barris. This car was later sold to Jim Street in Ohio and eventually ended up with Bob Drake of Indiana who restored it and kept the name Jack Stewart Ford alive. Jack also had several other customized and Hot Rodded cars, but not as well known as his ’32 Ford and ’41 Ford.

CCC-jack-stewart-rip-03One of the best known photos of Jack Stewart and his 1941 Ford at the 1951 Hot Rod and Motor Sport Show in Los Angeles.
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In 1971 Jack became a member of the LA Roadster’s club, and became a very dedicated member collecting all the LA Roadster’s memorabilia which resulted in an amazing private LA Roadster Show museum. Together with his friend Neal East they traveled the US to capture the car shows and write many magazine articles together.

In 1990 Jack retired from his job at Union Pacific Railroad where he had worked for decades. After his retirement Jack really lived the life he wanted. He enjoyed every minute of it, started collecting pin-stripe panels, promoting pin-striping, and spend as much time at the car shows as possible. In 2001 Jack created the LA Roadsters A Retrospective book together with Dick Wells.

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Jack Stewart and his partner/friend Sally Bollen had lived together for many years after Jack’s first wife had passed away. In early 2013 Jack and Sally decided they wanted to grow old together, being husband and wife. So they decided to get married. Jack enjoyed living life to the max, and his marriage with Sally fitted this way of living perfectly. Jack and Sally’s marriage, both being in their 80’s, made a lot of people happy.

 

CCC-jack-stewart-rip-05Jack and his customized MG in its first version. 
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CCC-jack-stewart-rip-04Jack with his ’32 Ford resto-rod in the early 1970’s.
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CCC-jack-stewart-rip-11Photo collage of Jack’s ’32 Ford that’s displayed in Jack’s office.
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CCC-jack-stewart-rip-06“Mr 32” on the right, at his “booth” at one of the many swap meets he attended selling mostly ’32 Ford parts. 
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CCC-jack-stewart-rip-09In 2012 Jack was inducted in the West Coats Kustoms Hall of Fame for his efforts promoting the custom car hobby for all these years.
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Jack became very special to me in the last years of his life. We met for the first time in 2010, when Palle Johansen and I went on our ‘Jack Stewart Ford Research Trip’. A trip to find out about the history of the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford built by the Ayala’s and George Barris in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. One of destinations was Jack’s place where we would talk to the original owner of the car, listen to his stories and see his memorabilia he kept from the car. Craig Wise, a close friend of Jack, had set up a meeting between Jack and us. Craig was our internet contact between far away Europe and Jack in California.

CCC-jack-stewart-rip-08Jack Stewart and me looking at the many photos Jack had put aside for us to look at on our Jack Stewart Ford Research trip. It was amazing to see Jack being able to remember so many little details from so long ago.
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We spend quite some time with Jack. He was extremely helpful and friendly when we visited him. We really had the feeling we had found a new friend. When Palle and me returned home we decided to create a book about the Jack Stewart Ford and of course also about Jack. We told Jack about the idea and he absolutely loved it. Jack and I spend several long phone calls discussing the books. He explaining more about the car and told many more stories about the great times he had with it. A few months after that trip I was at the 2011 GNRS where I met Jack again. I had a great time with him, listening to all his wonderful stories, old and new. During the time I created the Jack Stewart Ford book, Jack and I talked a lot. Sometimes with the help of Craig Wise, who had become a great friend as well. Jack was doing all he could to help both Palle and me, while working on the book as well as the restoration of the car. We heard from people, close to Jack, that he really loved the fact that his old Custom ’41 Ford was going to be restored, and that a book was created about his old car with all his stories in it.

CCC-jack-stewart-rip-07Jack spend quite some time sitting in his old Custom at the 2013 GNRS, at times you could see him going back in time, reliving the many adventures he had with his ‘1941 Ford.
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CCC-jack-stewart-rip-13This is how the partly restored ’41 Ford was displayed at the 2013 GNRS. Palle Johansen from Denmark had restored the car to its bare metal form. The original plan was to show it in white primer, but when the bare metal body looked so good this was changed. Most of the other restoration work had been semi finished before the car was shipped from Denmark to the US.
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All this time both Palle and me knew we were on a tight schedule with the book as well with the restoration of the car. Jack was not getting any younger. If we would take it easy on the projects, it might just be too late. The original plan was to restore the car back to the white primer version, the way Jack had it for quite a while. But with the bare metal of the car being is relatively good shape and the fact that we were on a deadline Palle decided to not wait any longer and have the car ready for the 2013 GNRS in bare metal. At least this way Jack would be able to see his old car again and it would show the great craftsmanship of the Ayala and Barris craftsman
 a win-win situation. At the 2013 GNRS Jack was reunited with his old ’41 Ford again and we showed him the finished book about his old car. A book that has a lot of his personal stories. Jack had assured us he would spend the whole GNRS weekend with us, if his body allowed it. That way he could enjoy the car, the book and all of us as much as possible. Jack did stay there as long as he could. We all had a fantastic time. Bob Drake, who had restored Jack’s Ford in the mid 1950’s and early 1970’s was also at the show. It was the first time Jack and Bob actually met each other. Together they spend lots of memories that weekend at the GNRS show.

Thank you for the wonderful memories and friendship… Good bye my friend.
 
 
 
CCC-jack-stewart-rip-12From right to left; 6th, and current car owner, Palle Johansen, 4th car owner Bob Drake from Indian, Jack Stewart, and author of the Jack Stewart Ford book Rik Hoving.
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CCC-jack-stewart-rip-10Bob Drake and Jack Stewart pre-signing copies of the Jack Stewart Ford book and sharing many memories at the 2013 GNRS.
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Jack Stewart MG part ONE

 

CUSTOMIZED JACK STEWART MG

 

After selling his famous Ayala-Barris built 1941 Ford, Jack Stewart bought something completely different. A MG Sports car, which of course had to be customized as well, this time by his friend George Cerny.



When Palle Johansen and me were on our Jack Stewart Ford research trip, we interviewed Jack about his other cars he had owned over the years. And one car that was talked about was Jack’s customized MG. Jack had quite a bit of very interesting material on his old MG. We used some of it in the Jack Stewart Ford book, but now its time to share the other great photos Jack had saved since the early 1950’s.

Jack’s MG was restyled by his good friend friend George Cerny at Cerny’s Auto Paint Body & Fender Repair shop in Compton. And during the customizing photographer Felix Zelenka was at this shop. He decided Jack’s MG would be the perfect subject for an feature article on customizing Sports Cars. So the whole process was photographed. And after the car was finished Eric took many more photos comparing the customized MG with a stock one, to show the readers the difference between the two. Jack had several contact sheets from these photo shoots and in this first article on Jack’s Cerny built MG we are showing you the photos Eric Rickman took at the Holiday Motors, a local Foreign car dealer that was the perfect location for the comparing photos.

Eric Rickman’s and Felix Zelenka photos were used in a massive 10 page article  in the May 1954 issue of Car Craft magazine. Besides the regular feature article on the car, including a small color photo on the cover. Jack’s MG was also used to show some of the styling ideas George Cerny came up with for the MG. Customizing Sports Cars was getting more and more popular in those years, and the article on Jack’s MG helped grow this even more.

CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-01-WMay 1954 issue of Car Craft Magazine.
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-09-WJack Stewart on the left and George Cerny on the right showing the old flamed hood side with stock louvers. This was to compare it with the custom unit with three rows of louvres George created for the car.
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-02-WThis photo show the difference in shape on the back portion of the MG Jack’s customized MG is on the left.
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-07-WComparing the front we can see the reshaped front fenders which look much smoother on Jack’s car. The chrome plated bumper created from round rod and shaped metal plates adds to the sporty look as well.
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-06-WAt the back George also created a new custom bumper. The spare tire was lowered 4 inches to give the car a better profile. Notice that the car did not have hubcaps installed on the passenger side during this photo shoot.
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-05-WAnother look at the back shows the difference of using wide whites and custom hubcaps (’53 Studebakers with fake knock-offs).
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-04-WGeorge Cerny used an chrome plated MG accessory grille insert for Jack’s car.
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-03-WJack’s MG was lowered a few inches for better looks and handling. Jack had a custom Tonneau Cover made that could be removed in sections.
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-08-WEric Rickman took many photos of Jack’s finished MG at the Compton Drive-In movie theater. We will be showing many more of those in the next article.
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CCC-jack-stewart-cerny-mg-10-WJack Stewart has these two photos from this series framed on his office wall.
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