George Barris First Photo Location

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Barris had his ‚Äė41 Buick photographed in front of the original Hollywood Park Turf Club building in 1947. Not sure if George took these photos, or if he had “hired” a photographer to do it for him. With that knowledge I was able to find a few more photos of the original building which had an absolutely stunning Streamline Moderne feel, very similar in style to the famous Pan Pacific Auditorium. And I can totally see why George Barris wanted to use the building and the garden as background for his Buick. It was only around 16 miles from the Barris Compton Ave shop, a very convenient distance, plus the whole complex was very easily accessible for the cars.

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

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George Barris 1941 Buick

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

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

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

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

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

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Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford

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

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

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

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

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John Vara / Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford

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

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

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

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

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

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Announcing magazine/news paper ad from 1938

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Color photo from an 1941 program cover.

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

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

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

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Los Angeles Public Library photos

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Los Angeles Public Library photos

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

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

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

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

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

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The other famous Barris Photo shoot Locations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford

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Originally created for John Vara by George Barris. This radical full fade away fendered 1941 Ford padded topped Convertible is best known as the Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford.

Johnny Zaro is a well know name in the Custom Car world, his two Barris brothers restyled¬†Custom Cars¬†had a huge impact on the Custom Car world. Johnny’s Custom Cars have been well featured in the magazines and books back then, and in more recent year. Both Customs, a 1940 Mercury Coupe, and a 1941 Ford Convertible have miraculously survived all these years and have been fully restored by their new caretakers a number of years ago.¬†They now can be enjoyed for many more decades by enthusiast from all over the world. We will be featuring both these Zaro Custom Cars here on the Custom Car Chronicle, especially since both cars have played a big part in the history of the Custom Car.¬†This article is about Johnny’s second full Custom Car, “The MERC of ZARO” 1941 Ford Convertible full Custom, one of the wildest, of not the¬†wildest early Barris Custom.

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Robert Ruiz shared this photo of the ’41 Ford still¬†in progress. This is the earliest photo of the John Vara, Johnny Zaro Ford that we have come across, and was still owned by John Vara when this snapshot¬†was taken. According to Robert Ruiz, the writing on the back of the photo says “1948? Elmer’s muffler shop. It was my friends dad’s shop in L.A. 139 E.Manchester blvd.”

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This full Custom 1941 Ford Convertible is known as the Johnny Zaro Custom, since his name has been attached to it since 1948, and this is how the car was featured in the magazines and books ever since. But the car was actually built as a finished Custom Car for John Vara. Usually a historic Custom Car is named by its original owner (if known) but in this case the car is named by its second owner, Johnny Zaro, The Johnny Zaro 1941 Ford.

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First Version

George Barris built this 1941 Ford convertible-based custom for John Vara¬†in around 1947 perhaps early 1948. Most of the work on the car was done by George Barris. George had created his own personal 1941 Buick with full fade away fenders, and for John’s Ford they wanted to go even more extreme. Full fade away fenders on a channeled body with raised front fenders creating a totally unique look. Where most of the Barris Customs from this era had at least some sort of shiny trim on the body, John’s 41 Ford was free of any exterior trim or handles, apart from the chrome plated grille bars.

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1952 Ford Times magazine showed this photo of the Ford and named it the Barris-Vara car.

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According the 1951 issue of Motor Trend magazine the car was channeled 8 inches over the frame which was modified with a straight rear crossmember allowing the rear to drop another extra 3 inches. The front axle was replaced with a dropped unit to get the front nice and low with a slight speed boat stance. To be able to steer the wheels after the channeling, the front fenders were raised to about an inch under the hood line. The bottom section of the hood sides were cut off completely and the the hood was welded to the raised front fenders. At the rear the fenders were welded to the body and using sheet metal the sharp edge was rounded with a nice radius. The trunk was shaved and combined with the molded in rear fenders the rear of the car looked super smooth.

With the new much higher position of the front fenders George set out to hand shape some sheet metal to form the full fade away fenders, creating a smooth line from the front fender’s¬†all the way to the rear fenders. With the sides all level, not showing the front edge of the rear fenders, like how it was done on the stock ’42-48 Buicks. This created an unique smooth looks for the sides. The molded-in shape of the rear fenders was repeated on the fade away fender as well as the fender to hood lines. Creating one smooth flow from front to rear. George decided to create a smaller hood opening, leaving the front portions of the hood with the front fenders. Another innovative idea helping with the overall smooth feel of the car. The headlights were frenched with molded in bezels.

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Take at the same location as the image above. This is how the car looked like in its first version back in 1948. Notice that this version of the car, most likely still owned by John Vara had a license plate on the front as well. (Colorized black and white photo.)

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From an early (late 40’s) Power &¬† Customizing Manual.

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When creating the full fade away fenders the bottom door line, which was on top of the running board on the stock Ford, was now all the way at the bottom of the body. The lower portions of the new body line was rounded inwards to give the lower edge of the car a nice finished look. To accentuate the long fade away fenders George Barris installed a set of his favorite long 1941 Ford/Mercury fender skirts.

A new grille opening was created and three 1948 Pontiac grille bars were modified to get the same width and installed into the new opening. A ’46 Ford gravel pan was installed at the front at the stock location compared to the fenders. A ’46 Ford bumper was installed and the new location made the front of the car looks far less low than it actually was. One a bit of a design flaw (in my eyes) is that the Pontiac grille bars appear to be dipping down a bit in the center, conflicting with the front bumper, which appears to be pointing up slightly in the center.

At the rear George created the very popular ‚Äď at the time ‚Äď in-set¬†license plate. A beautiful shaped opening with the license plate installed from inside the trunk, behind a piece of glass. A ’46 Ford splash pan was molded to the body. With all the body work smoothed George had created a super slick new body, and he did not want to add a set of taillights to it to ruin the overall shape. So he installed two tiny motorcycle taillights on each side of the ’46 Ford bumper guards. The windshield was chopped a few inches. According the early magazines it was chopped 4.5 inches, but I feel it could have been a bit less than that.

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Gene Winfield took this photo of the car after Johnny Zaro had bought it. By now the license plate on the front has been removed and curb feelers have been installed to keep the ultra smooth body sides from scraping the high Los Angeles curbs. Beautiful angle shows the real beauty of Johnny’s Ford.

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George Barris painted the finished car ¬†with¬†paint based on DuPont Polychromatic Maroon. George custom mixed it and added Venus Martin gold powder into the last layers for some extra sparkle. When the car was done it was send to Louis Chavez for the padded top. As for the interior there is some controversy about who created that. The ’51 Motor Trend magazine feature list Chavez as the shop who did the interior, the Barris book¬†and the Custom Cars Annual interview with Johnny Zaro from 2012¬†mentioned Bill Hilborn as the upholstery guy. The¬†interior was¬†done in red and white leatherette¬†and had a special shaped¬†rear bench with a small bar incorporated.¬†The carpet on the floor was wine colored.

The car was detailed with wide white wall tires, chrome beauty rings with full moon hubcaps and a set of Appleton Spotlights. During the final stages of the built Johnny Zaro had seen the car at the Barris Shop several times while being there with his ’40 Mercury. Johnny had fallen in love with the car and made a deal with the Ford owner John Vara. John ended up with Johnny’s 1940 Mercury Coupe, plus an extra $300.- and Johnny Zaro ended up with the freshly finished ’41 Ford. Johnny had to trow in the extra $300.- just because his ’40 Merc was a bit more rough around the edges than the Ford. But that did not really matter to much, Johnny Loved his new ’41 Ford. (In at least one early  publication (Ford Times Feb. 1951) the car is listed as the John Vara Ford.)

At the time Johnny was trading the car with the additional $300.- payment he did not have the money for it. He was in his very early 20’s at the time and not making all that much money yet. He loaned the money from his mother, but she also did not have enough. So Johnny and his mother went over to Seaboard Finance Co. in Huntington Park, and he borrowed the money from them. Later when he had trouble paying them back the company confiscated the car. The owner of the Soaboard Co. actually took the car home and drove it. Eventually Johnny got the car back.

In the interview that Justin Kudolla had with Johnny Zaro, Johnny mentioned that he remembered that one day when he was over at the Barris show¬†he saw how¬†George was trying to fit the fadeaway fender on one of the side of the car and the metal did not work with him the way it was supposed to do. George¬†got really frustrated. “He got madder than heck and he took a pick hammer and started punching holes in the fender! He was really upset!”¬†When Johnny visited the shop¬†the next day, George was welding the thing up, brazing it back together, and grinding down.

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Another Gene Winfield photo of the car taken on a trip into the mountains. Another beautiful angle showing the beauty of the super smooth and molded body lines. Kustoms Los Angeles plaque,¬†curb feelers¬†mounted on the fender skirts and the super small motorcycle teardrop chrome plated taillights. Notice that the hood corners are not rounded on Johnny’s Ford.

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Johnny added some personal touches to the car shortly after he had bought it. The dashboard was cleaned up, the base chrome plated and he created hand shaped wine colored red lucite panels to replace the stock plastic panels on the dash. Johnny also added some wine red lights on the dash that illuminated when the doors popped open. The Appleton Spotlights that had been added were customized with hand shaped laminated red lucite handles.

The doors on Johnny’s Ford are operated by solenoid pop-ups. The buttons were hidden under the doors on the outside and push buttons on the dash to open them from the inside. These buttons were only on the drivers side of the dash. Done especially so that the ladies could not open the doors on their own. Johnny also reworked the hood and trunk to have them hydraulic¬†operated. from switches on the dash.

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Small updates
Like most of the Custom Car owners, Johnny also made a few minor changes to his Ford along the way. Updates with newer parts that have become available since the car was first finished, or perhaps inspired by other fresh custom Cars. Johnny replaced the moon hubcaps with the smooth beauty rings (most likely a Calnervar product) with a set of Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps. And the small teardrop shaped motorcycle taillights positioned next to the rear bumper guards had to make place for a set of bumper guard taillights. Handmade by, or supervised/inspired by Jesse Lopez into the 1946 Ford bumper guards. A beautiful art-deco shaped cut out was made and laminated clear red lucite was shaped similar to fill the hole.

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New bumper guard taillights and Sombrero hubcaps. Johnny needed special wood boards to enter the drive way at home without scraping the exhaust. Johnny’s car was low, very low.

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The mildly updated¬†version of Johnny Zaro’s Ford¬†was featured in Motor Trend December 1949. (Still looking for a better scan of this article… anybody? )

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Johnny Zaro with his ’41 Ford. Unlike a lot of other owners of padded topped Customs, Johnny liked to take off the top and cruise around topless in the beautiful SoCal summers.

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Johnny’s Ford at the Barris Compton Ave Shop in 1949.¬†

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George Barris used Johnny Zaro’s ’41 Ford in several of the Barris Magazine ads, as well as promotional photos at early Car shows. Shown here are two late 1940’s magazine and show program ads.
We are fortunate to have two color slides showing the original deep maroon color added by George Barris. This photo and the one below were taken after Johnny had installed the Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps.

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A look at the two tone interior. 

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The early version of the Ford used a 1948 Mercury steering wheel. This photo shows how nice the interior was done and also shows (if you look carefully) that Johnny added the letters “KUSTOM” on an angle to the red lucite dash panel. Also¬†visible¬†are the hand made laminated red lucite¬†Appleton Spotlight handles.

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Another top view shows the beautiful round and wide read pleats in the interior, as well as the special shaped rear bench.

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This photo is really nice, showing Johnny’s ’41 Ford and the ’40 mercury coupe, owned by his friends Al Andril. Al’s Mercury was very similar to his own Merc that he traded for the ’41 Ford.

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Tokay Beige Version

After some time Johnny wanted to make some more changes to the car and do a new paint job. A¬†new more modern grille for the car was created from a 1949 Pontiac grille. In the Motor Trend July 1951 feature, as well as in the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 1950′ Volume 3 is written that the grille was made up from ’49 Pontiac and Studebaker part, but as far as I can tell the grille is just a narrowed ’49 Pontiac, with the stock Pontiac grille bars below the top bar. The bottom bar is also a narrowed (center bulge removed) bar from a ’49 Pontiac. The grille never fitted very well, sitting lower on the passenger side than the drivers side. The ’48 Mercury steering wheel made place for a new Ford Crestline¬†steering wheel, and an accessory bar was added in between the front bumper guards. The George Barris suggested to paint the car in Tokay Beige which ‚Äď according to Johnny Zaro ‚Äď was a slight¬†pinkish tan. He mentioned that the color looked great at night, but during the day not so much.

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The new light paint and heavier grille gave the car a completely new look.
Parked at Johnny’s home with the new tokay beige paint. the grille was made from a narrowed and welded together ’49 Pontiac grille. The vertical grille bars are stock ’49 Pontiac and the lower bar sitting on the molded gravel pan is also from the Pontiac and narrowed the same amount, deleting the stock center bulge. Notice how the gap above the grille is much wider on the passenger side than the driver side.¬†

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Johnny drove the Ford around in Tokay Beige or for some time, and then decided to go back to maroon again. He liked the color much better on the first version. So George Barris custom mixed another batch of Maroon including the Venus Martin gold powder. Another plus effect of the new dark paint was that the bit poor fitting grille looked a lot better, with the dark paint hiding the slight gap above the grille on the passenger side. The new darker paint changed the look of the car again. But the new grille still made sure the car was more up to date than with the old three bar grille.

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Barris Bell Shop
Johnny’s Ford with the new Maroon paint on it at the Barris Bell Shop.

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The Zaro Ford was not only a great looking Custom Car, it also performer pretty well. Johhny Zaro mentioned in his Kuddola interview that the car hauled ass as well. When the car was first built it had the a regular V-8 engine, But later Johnny got a 3 and 5/16th bore, Weiand heads, a Spalding ignition, Howards cam, and an Edelbrock manifold. The new updated engine really went! In 1951 George Barris wanted to take my car up to the Oakland Roadster Show and offered to drive the car there himself. Johnny told him “No, not unless you put the car on a trailer and take it up there.” Johnny didn’t want to put any miles on the new engine, he just had the full engine put in the car. So, he ended up bringing a trailer and he took it up there. Johnny took a plane and flew to Oakland and after the show he drove the car back home to Los Angles, very carefully.

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George Barris took Johnny’s Ford to the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show. The trophies displayed with the car show that the car was well liked.

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Another unique color photos was taken by Walter Wyss at the ’51 Oakland Roadster Show. George Barris kneeling on the right, Jack Stewart hanging over the drivers side fender, Johnny Zaro polishing the hood and an unknown friend on the left.
Johnny’s Ford at another (unknown) show. Notice the large sign on the hood of the car.

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Johnny and Fay Zaro on their honeymoon with Johnny’s ’41 Ford nicely dressed up for the occasion.

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Johnny’s Ford was featured in color on the cover of the July 1951 issue of Motor Trend magazine. Inside was a one page feature on the car with photos taken by none other than Marcia Campbell.
Marcia Campbell loved to show the cars at full profile, giving a very good impression of the overall look of the car. I can’t help but wonder if a slight angle on the B-pilla of the padded top might have helped the overall flow of the car even more.

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Cover image of the Motor Trend Magazine. “Merc of Zaro” is not a far-fetched pun. John Zaro’s striking convertible is powered by a highly-tuned Mercury engine. The car’s attractiveness is completed here by beautiful June Burroughs of Glen Ellen, Illinois, pleasantly clad in a swim suit by Rose Marie Reid and accompanied by Bill Evans of Los Angeles Photo by C.A. Peterson.

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Fay, Johnny’s future wife, posing with the Ford.

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Selling the car

George Barris introduced Johnny’s future wife Fay to Johnny around 1951. He would cruise with Fay oat night on the little alleys, since cruising the main roads would attract to many cops who loved to ticket him for being to low, loud or whatever they could think off. When Fay and Johnny decided to get married Johnny decided to let go of the Ford, to be able to pay for a new house. He put the car up for sale on the D&B Auto Sales car lot¬†in Hollywoon. The lot was specialized in selling Hot Rods and Custom Cars. The Ford had not been on the lot¬†for¬†24 hours, when¬†it was stolen off of the lot. After some time the FBI called Johnny to mention they had found the car in Kingman, Arizona. The FBI was involved since it had become a¬†federal offense once the car got across the California border. Johnny and his soon to be father-in-law went down there. Turned out¬†a couple guys from Boston had¬†stolen the car, and they got stranded in Arizona when they ruined the motor. They¬†towed the car it back home to Marywood California. Johnny pulled the damaged engine and¬†put another full engine in it.

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Johhny’s Ford at the D&B Auto Sales on Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood. According to Johnny the car was not even on the lot for 24 hours when it got stolen.

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In 1952 a guy from Lincoln, Nebraska bought the car. The guy was still in college and after a while he send Johnny a letter that the car was doing fine, but that he tried to take it to college one day. But after everybody at school was all over the car he decided he could not use it as daily transportation anymore. Next thing we know was that in the August 1952 issue of Motor Trend magazine, Springer Jones of  Mitchell, Nebraska put up an For Sale ad.  The asking price was $2345 or best offer. We are not sure if Springer Jones was the guy who bought it from Johnny, since Johnny could not remember his name anymore.

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Ad from the august 1952 issue of Motor Trend magazine shows the Zaro Ford For Sale by new owner Springer Jones from Mitchell, Nebraska. 

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Updated by Russ Erlinger

From 1952 to 1953 at least one other person has owned the Ford, since in 1953 Russ Erlinger of Belleville, Illinois buys the Ford from an unknown person in Wyoming. This unknown person most likely bought it from Springer Jones. Russ used the car and at one point while him and his wife were driving the car he was involved in an accident. According the stories the car rolled over .

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The owner mentioned that he bought the car in 1953 off of used car lot in Illinois. He wrecked it like the photos show in 1954. And then rebuilt it. He told Kevin Fritz in 2019, that when he flipped it. His wife ended up inside the roof sliding down the road in the top. She did not get hurt. The padded top saved her.

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Over the years Russ restored the car, and made some small updates. The mot obvious updates are a set of¬†1949 Plymouth bumpers replacing the ’46 Ford units. He also added bumper guard taillights in a set of ’49 Plymouth guards. He raplced the Sombrero hubcaps with a set of ’53 Cadillac hubcaps, replaced the long ’41 fender skirts with shorter 46-48 units. It looks like he replaced the front axle with a slightly wider unit. Perhaps he used a 46-48 axle, which is a bit wider than the ’41 unit, or a more modern update. Russ also added an new grille opening underneath the bumper. It looks like he used a Studebaker pan for this, but its hard to tell. Most likely the new grille opening helps cooling the engine. in 2017 Russ still own the car and shows it to the public at local car shows from time to time. And the car still draws a crown where ever it goes.

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The Plymouth bumpers, ’53 Cadillac hubcaps changed the look of the car, but it still overall looks very much like how it looked back in the early 1950’s.

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The dash and possibly the¬†steering wheel have not changed since the early 1950’s. The chrome plated dash with clear red lucite is still all there, and so are the hand made Appleton Spotlight handles and even the “KUSTOM” chrome letters on the center of the dash.

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Close up at the front shows the addition of the ’49 Pontiac parking lights to the Pontiac grille, as well as the new grille opening below the ’49 Plymouth front bumper. The close up photo also shows that the passenger side of the grille is still not fitting the opening as well as the drivers side.

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At the rear¬†Russ Erlinger also added a ’49 Plymouth bumper, and created a set of bumper guard taillights into the Plymouth bumper guards. It appears that the rare long ’41 Ford/Mercury fender skirt have been replaced by the shorter 46-48 skirts during the restoration. To bad about the pinstriping, personally I feel the car would look far better without that.
The Johnny Zaro 1940 Mercury Coupe and 1941 Ford Convertible reunited. Both photos show the new grille opening below the ’49 Plymouth bumper, both added in the car latest restoration by Russ Erlinger,¬†really well.

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Johnny Zaro Ford also appeared in the Dan Post Books,¬†Motor Trend¬†magazine and the¬†Custom Cars Trend Book No. 101¬†back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.¬†The early publications of these photos of the ’41 Ford has played a huge roll in the development of the Custom Car. Several customs cars from all over the US have been influenced by the Johnny Zaro Ford. Well know Customs as the Jack Stewart¬†’41¬†Ford, and the Joe Urritta ’41 Ford have styling elements very similar to this car. It is a real blessing that the original car has survived, been fully restored¬†and can be seen at out door cars shows from time to time. But I do hope that in the future, possibly owned by a new caretaker, the car will be backdated to how it looked back in 1951. Dark maroon paint, ’46 Ford bumpers, Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps, and no pinstriping.

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