Gardena Ca Mystery Merc

 

GARDENA CA MYSTERY MERC

 

This great looking 1939 Mercury Convertible with 1939 Buick Grille and Chopped padded top was built in 1947. Who owned it, and where is it now?



Don Schumacher¬†from Long Beach California send me a few photos of an very interesting ’39 Mercury in November 2016. He mentioned that the photos were some scans he made of snapshots from the family album. And that this car was photographed at his father’s, Walt Schumacher’s Body Shop In Gardena California. One of the photos had some more info written on the back;¬†Chopped ’39 Mercury, ’39 Buick grill 1947.¬†He had posted the images on his Instagram before he shared them with me, and there somebody had suggested that it might possibly be an early version of the Jimmy Summers Mercury. He was wondering if I could help him figuring out any of the cars history and if it was indeed the Jimmy Summers Mercury before Jimmy channeled the car.

Even though the photo was taken at Walt Schumacher’s¬†shop, Don did not know anything about it, and he was pretty sure the Mercury was a customs car, not his fathers personal Custom. Don was into all kinds of things, but not in this type of old cars, and never asked his father about the time he had his Body Shop in Gardena. He never asked him about the car he built, or this ’39 Mercury in particular…¬†Don mentioned “Its not until people are gone that you wish you had asked more questions about their life.” So this ’39 Mercury in the family scrapbook is another great looking¬†Mystery Custom.

ccc-gardena-ca-mystery-merc-03-newThe front 3/4 view shows how nice the ’39 Buick grille was fitted to the smoothed ’39 Mercury front end. A lot of work went into this, reshaping the spotlight¬†metal.
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ccc-gardena-ca-mystery-merc-01-newThis photo taken a little further away gives us a good look at how well proportioned and restyled this car was. Created most likely by Don Shumacher’s father in his Body shop in Gardena California. The car appears to be freshly done, and about ready for paint.
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When Don asked me if this could perhaps be the¬†Jimmy Summers Mercury, as he was told it might be, I was able to give him a firm NO very quick. The car in these photos is an ’39 Mercury with no vent window’s, while the Jimmy Summers Mercury is an ’40 Mercury. Also the chop in the windshield appears to be more on the Gardena Mercury, than on Jimmy’s Mercury. Plus the rear fenders are molded in on the Gardena Mercury, while those on Jimmy Summer’s Mercury are still separate units after the body was channeled over the frame and the fenders raised up into the body. And then there was the note on the back of one of the photos stating the photo was taken in 1947. Jimmy’s Mercury was finished in it first maroon color, all channeled and with the home made grille in 1946. So these photos are not of an early version of the the Jimmy Summers Mercury.

But what is the story about this really nicely done ’39 Mercury? Who owned it? was it Don’s father’s personal car, or did he built it for a customer? And what ever happened to the car. I do not think I have ever seen another photo of this Mercury before, or at least not from the front. I have never seen an 40’s built ’39-40 Mercury that had a ’39 Buick grille installed this way.


ccc-gardena-ca-mystery-merc-02-newThe fact that there is a photo taken of the ’39 Buick grille in the ’39 Merc indicates that the builder was very proud of his work. And judging the photos we can say he can be very proud about it. The grille installment looks really well done and suits the car really good.
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The Mercury appears to have been very nicely restyled by a professional body shop. Especially the addition of the Buick grille and the way it was used was done by a skilled body man who also had a great eye. The two half of the Buick grille are separated by mild v-shaped center piece on a stock ’39 Buick, but they are butted together on this Mercury. And the surrounding metal of the hood and front fenders have been expertly modified to make the Buick grille look right at home. The hood has been shaved and the belt line trim has been removed completely, but the door handles are still in place. ’40 Mercury or Ford headlights replace the plain ’39 model headlights.

The windshield frame has been chopped, quite heavy. The low padded top looks to have a very nice flowing back portion. The rear fenders have been molded to the body, and possibly the fronts as well, but that we cannot see in the photos. A set of ’37 DeSoto ribbed bumpers replace the stock units and a set of teardrop skirts are used on the rear fenders. The car rolls on black wall tires wit single bar flipper hubcaps and beauty rings.

Has anybody ever seen or heard about this Gardena California based ’39 Mercury? Perhaps knows who owned in back in 1947, or knows what ever happened to it. If so, please let us know. We would love to solve the mysteries around this great looking mid early Custom Merc.



Updated November 18, 2016



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After we had created this article Don was all excited and went back to the family album to see if he could find some more photos that could help with the search on this Mercury. Sadly no other photos of the Mercury were found, but he did find a few other photos that we thought would be interesting to add to this article. Don was also able to rescan the Mercury photos a bit larger, so now the used scans are larger, and more crisp.
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Picking up a 40 Ford

Don send me a photo of his father with a 1940 Ford¬†Coupe he bought brand new in 1940 in Detroit.¬†They drove to Detroit¬†in his friends ’39 Ford to pickup his ’40 Ford. Don thinks that maybe his father saved transportation charges that way, he¬†was told he got it much cheaper that way, than when he would have bought it in California. They must’ve been flying to average 60 mph on those roads and going through towns before there was an interstate.


ccc-gardena-ca-1940-ford-00The photo album also contained this¬†newspaper clipping in which Don’s father was mentioned for his speedy traveling from California to Detroit.¬†
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ccc-gardena-ca-1940-ford-01Walt Schumacher with his new 1940 Ford Coupe.
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The wrecked 46 Ford

Don also send me a series of photos of a 1946 Ford four door Sedan that his father rebuilt. The black ’40 deluxe coupe Walt¬†had bought new had become impractical with the family growing. ¬†So in late 1947 he bought a totaled rollover ’46 Ford four door. The pictures below are of the day he brought it home and looks like he was accusing what he had bought. Don mentioned it looked pretty scary to him, when he saw those photos again! Don thinks by then, late 1947, his father¬†may have given up his shop, since all these photos of him¬†fixing¬†this car where taken¬†at their home garage. The car¬†got a new rear door, but all the other damage¬†was repaired including the roof. That is amazing to me.

ccc-gardena-ca-1946-ford-01Walt Schumacher with the ’46 Ford wrecked Sedan he had just bought.¬†
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ccc-gardena-ca-1946-ford-02The car was a roll-over and the top was completely dented on both sides. And by the look of the doors the whole body was shifted as well.
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ccc-gardena-ca-1946-ford-04During the roll over the rear passenger side door must have opened and bended in the wrong way.
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ccc-gardena-ca-1946-ford-07Walt starting the process of restoring the wrecked sedan. Here he removed the badly damaged door. He decided that was the only part he could best replace with a new (second hand) door. All the rest of the damage was repaired by Walt.
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The last two pictures were taken¬†in Clovis California . Apparently they took a vacation to see Don’s¬†mothers sister. The car is still in primer in these last two photos. When Walt had finished the car later,¬†all the side moldings were removed, it was nosed and decked and the license was frenched in to the trunk lid and covered with glass. Walt painted the car¬†shiny black and mounted a set of¬†whitewall tires and full wheel covers. It was the family car into the late 1950’s when Don remembers his¬†sister took it over and would cruise the Clock, and Jerry’ bbq in Compton Ca.

ccc-gardena-ca-1946-ford-05All the body work was done at this point and the car could be driven again. During the repair work on the main body the stainless trim was removed, and the holes filled. Later the hood trim would also be removed.
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ccc-gardena-ca-1946-ford-06This is the last photo Don could find of the Ford. The family album sadly did not contain any photos of the finished sedan.
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A friends Roadster

Don also came across two photos of an¬†Hot Rod roadster from 1947. Don also has no idea who’s car this is. It looks to be a channeled model A with ’32 Ford grille and welded trunk. Interesting is the set in license plate, and V-windshield from a late 30’s, perhaps early 40’s coupe or sedan. Don thinks the car might have belonged to a friend of his father.

ccc-gardena-ca-roadster-01For some reason both Hot Rod photos are in bad condition… but at the same time that makes them perhaps even more¬†interesting as well.
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ccc-gardena-ca-roadster-02Cropped section of the photo gives us a bit better look at the Hot Rod. Anybody ever seen this elsewhere?
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ccc-gardena-ca-roadster-04Chevy taillights mounted just above the exhaust tip. In the center is a recessed license plate behind glass. A real Custom Trick, but it was used on some Hot Rods as well.
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ccc-gardena-ca-1940-ford-02Here is a photo of Don’s father¬†Walt standing in the doorway of the shop probably same day as the Merc photos in 1947.
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Chuck Layman 40 Ford

 

CHUCK LAYMAN 40 FORD

 

Chuck Layman buys a 40 Ford Coupe in 1977. He rebuilds the car into a smooth Custom over the next 8 month. Today the car is still around, looking just like it did in 1978.



Chuck Layman recently shared some photos of his old 1958 Oldsmobile Custom with us. A car he built in the early 1960’s and one he has lost contact with since 1965. He is still trying to find out what happened to that Oldsmobile. Chuck also send us some photos and information about another great looking Custom he built and owned in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In contrary¬†with the Olds, Chuck does ¬†know where his old ’40 Ford Coupe custom is today, And he also would love to have this one bck, but sadly the current owner, who has owned it since around 2015 is not letting it go…. yet.

However there is¬†one thing about Chuck’s old ’40 Ford coupe he would like to know, who originally built this car in the early 1960’s in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. Chuck bout this 40 Ford Coupe in 1977 in Salem, Ohio. But back then he was not able to find out much about the car. He did find out that the car had been used to advertise the first Custom Car Show in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, and as far as Chuck remembers, the car was even on the cover of the first program, but he has never been able to find a copy of that one. The original builder back in the early 1960’s finished the car in dark blue, and¬†later sold after which it ended up in Salem, Ohio.

ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-01The 1940 Ford coupe how it looked back in 1977 when Chuck Layman bought it.
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When Chuck bought the car in 1977, it was still painted dark blue from when it was originally finished in the early 1960’s. But time has had its toll, and all four fenders had primer spots from paint chip repair work. That did not matter from Chuck, since he planned to do a full redo of the car anyway. It took Chuck about 8 month hard work to get the car back in shape, and to the style and finish he liked. The Ford already came with a 331cid Cadillac engine, but Chuck fully detailed it before he repainted it and added a tri-power and the Std 3 speed Transmission.


ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-03The car originally came with a nice Lincoln steering wheel, which did not make it into the restored car.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-04The dash is removed and the wires are being organized, before everything is pulled out.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-02Chuck in the process of further dissembling the 40 Ford for a full resoration. The fenders have already been stripped from many layers of paint at this point.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-05Working on the Cadillac engine and starting to strip the paint from the fire wall (left image).
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-06Stripping the early 1960’s paint, plus everything that was underneath to get the car back to bare metal.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-07Body is in primer and the engine removed for a cleanup and new maroon paint.
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He took the car back to bare metal and¬†got the whole body as smooth as he could before sending it off to Rocky Leonhardt of Leonhardt’s Auto Body in Pittsburgh PA. Rocky did the final body work and added the antenna on the rear of the body just above the trunk. He painted the car in a deep maroon, and a fine job he did. Chuck won best paint awards with it during the time he showed it at the Custom Car shows in the late 70’s and early 1980’s.

Chuck had his old Oldsmobile upholstered by Art Meyers back in the early 1960’s and he really loved his work. Art was still in business in 1977-78. So Chuck took the Ford to Art Meyers Custom Upholstery in Pittsburgh and he redid the interior beautifully in a dark maroon. Once Chuck had put the car back together, now with a nice stance and teardrop bubble skirts for a more ’40’s Custom look he enjoyed driving and showing it for the next 5 years.

ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-08The freshly painted body back from¬†Leonhardt’s Auto Body.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-09All back together, now with new¬†beauty rings and teardrop bubble skirts for that more desired late 40’s Custom look.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-10The Caddy engine is beautifully finished with three carb set up and nice chrome plated valve covers.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-11The Lincoln steering wheel was replaced with a three spoke wood steering wheel, that was just a bit more “in” back in the late 1970’s. The dash is painted body color and the beautiful maroon upholstery matches the color perfectly. Fuzzy dice!!!
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-12RockyLeonhardt, the painter also did the sculpting around the antenna.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-13Close up of the sculptured antenna surround.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-14No matter which¬†show Chuck went with the ’40 Ford, he always won a trophy.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-16And more trophies.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-17Local Pittsburgh newspaper report on Chuck’s 1940 Ford.
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In 1983 Chuck sold the car, and after that is changed hads a couple of times more.¬†In 2015 he got a phone call from a guy claiming to have the 1940 Ford Coupe he had restored back in the 1970’s. After sharing some photos Chuck knew for sure that that was his old ’40 Ford, and it was still looking exactly as how he had finished it around 38 years ago. The car is in very good shape and since Chuck had sold it somebody had added dual Spotlights, but everything had always been kept the same way. Stunning.


ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-18This is how the car looks now. The current owner send Chuck a few photos of his old ’40 Ford how it is sitting in the owners garage. Looking exactly as how Chuck restored it back in 1977-78. The only things that are changed¬†are the addition of the dual Spotlights and the removal of the Fuzzy Dice.
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ccc-chuck-layman-40-ford-coupe-19Even the old show sign (now hanging on the garage wall) Chuck had made is still with the car.
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Chuck is trying to get his old car back, but so far the current owner has no intentions to sell it back to Chuck… time will tell.
As mentioned in the beginning of the article Chuck is still trying to find out the original history of this car. Who owned in back in the early 1960’s when it was chopped, and who chopped it in the¬†Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area?






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Custom Plastic Details Part 2

 

CUSTOM PLASTIC DETAILS

 

Shortly after WWII Car builders and Customizers started to experiment with the new product Plastic, and see how it could be incorporated in Custom Restyling. Part 2 exterior use of plastics on Custom Cars.



In the first article on the use of plastic in Custom Restyling we concentrated on the interior use of plastic. For this second part we will concentrate¬†on¬†the exterior usage of plastics on Custom Cars. One of the most popular uses for the new plastic products were house hold materials, and the use in the aviation industry. Especially the use of clear plexiglass for aircraft canopy’s was a huge inspiration source for the car industry¬†and Custom builders. In the 1930’s several near all plexiglass promotional cars and details were produced to show the work how the modern car worked, and also to show the world the usage for the new plastics.

Shortly after WWII several people started to experiment with the use of plexiglass to create special clear tops for their cars. Techniques developed by the aviation industry¬†where large sheets of plexiglas were heated in special ovens to a point the material became flexible and could be molded to shape using dies, were adapted for the use on cars. Later even production cars used plexiglas for a portion of the tops for instance on the 1954¬†Mercury Monterey Sun Valley. Although several cars were outfitted with shaped plexiglas windshield, or even complete tops, it would take to the late 1950’s early 1960’s before this technique became really popular and was adapted to quite a few Custom Cars.

CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-Rohm-Haas-1937-ad1937 Plexiglass ad from Röhm & Haas for the Airplane industry.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-jack-cooper-36-fordJack Cooper built his 1936 Ford 4-door mild custom in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. He removed the roof insert and replaced it with a piece of plexiglass. This resulted in a much brighter interior, a really unique effect at the time. These photos show the restored car with blue tinted plexiglass.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-dream-truckThe Barris Shop created the grille for the R&C Dream Truck. Bob Hirohata used large pieces of Lucite to create the end pieces on the bottom two grille bars. The end pieces acted as direction and park lights. Bob created similar end pieces, but then in clear red lucite at the back that act as taillights.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-el-capitola-01The 1957 Chevy El Capitala Custom was created mostly by Sam Barris after he had returned to Sacramento. The car was built in the later parts of the 1950’s and used some plastic on the outside. Including this custom made El Capitola plastic plaque covering the license plate. Gary Birns took this photo of the unrestored El Capitola several decades ago. Some of the letters were already missing at the time.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-junior-shoeboxJunior Conway created custom taillights on his super low Shoebox Ford personal Driver. For the lower section he used frosted clear hand shaped lucite.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-aztec-02Bill Carr’s 1955 Chevy the “Aztec” had completely restyled rear fenders incorporating huge fin’s and bat wing like taillight openings. These openings were filled with hand cut and shaped clear red and clear white lucite. The lucite panels¬†had prism effects filed on the back side. This photo shows the original taillights in the late 1950’s.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-aztecBarry Mazza and Bob Nitti had to recreate the taillights when they restored the Aztec. This photo was taken from the recreated taillights on the restored Aztec in 2011.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-el-capitola-02The 1957 Chevy El Capitola also had hand made lucite taillights. A large clear red section made up the actual taillight and half oval shaped white lucite was added to create the ribs. This photo shows the unrestored original taillights of the El Capitola.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-abros-chevyThe Alexander Brothers in Detroit created these plastic taillights for¬†Dave Jenkins’s 1957 Chevy. They used a clear¬†red plexiglass base that was cut to fit the Chevy taillight housing and added hand shaped white plexiglass ribs to it.
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Aftermarket

Besides offering Lucite and Plexiglass in various sizes and shapes by the mail order aftermarket and local shops, there were also several companies started to offer special plastic products for the use on the exterior of Custom Cars and Hot Rods. The most important and best known became a series of smooth taillight lenses created to fit factory stock bezels. Some where done in transparent red plastics in similar shapes as the factory units, but now much smoother and cleaner looking. While others were done in solid white plastic with cut outs filled with clear red sections for a really special custom effect. Lee Plastics from Detroit, Michigan was perhaps the best known and largest producer of these custom plastic taillights.


CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-lee-plastics-01With a lot of people creating hand made taillights from lucite several aftermarket companies saw potential in producing custom taillights to help the enthusiasts. The biggest and best known company was Lee Plastics from Detroit, Muchigan. This is an ad they ran for some time, this particular scan was made from the December, 1960 issue of Car Craft magazine.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-lee-plastics-02Some Custom 1956 Chevy taillights from Lee Plastics from the Mark Moriarity Collection.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-lee-plastics-03More aftermarket custom lights and a display card from Lee Plastics.
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Custom Made


CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-modern-grecianThe Barris Shop had restyled a 1947 Studebaker for Earl Wilson in the early 1950’s. In the late 1950’s they did an update, and restyled the car with all the latest styles and techniques. The replaced the once ¬†chrome trim pieces in the hood with hand shaped clear plexiglass spears, and the headlights were reshaped and fitted with frosted clear plexiglass. The black and white inset photo shows the early version of the car named “the Grecian”. The yellow and green version was renamed “The Modern Grecian”.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-busonic-buickRoy Abendroth’s Custom Restyled 1955 Buick used a clear plexiglass grille when it was created in the early 1960’s. The first version was made of clear plexiglas with round holes cut into it. A little later the car was redone completely and a new grille insert was created from transparent yellow plexiglass cut in a shape to match the grille opening. More on the Busonic Buick can be seen here.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-barris-camp-chevyRonnie Camp’s 1960 Chevy convertible was restyled by the Barris Kustom Shop. ¬†The Barris show restyled the Chevy with custom grille opening at the front and a similar style opening at the rear. On the front they installed translucent white plexiglass to hide 6 headlights. And at the the rear a huge piece of clear red plexiglass covered no less than 14 taillights. It does make me wonder how much cooling the engine still had with the filled grille opening.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-hines-knobsOne very popular grille restyling technique was to mount cut and polished length of clear plexiglass rods on a cut to for the grille opening perforated base. In the how to article above it is shown how this was done on Mitch Nagao’s 1957 T-Bird named “Xtura”.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-mitch-nagao-tbirdMitch Nagao’s finished 1957 T-Bird with the plastic rod grille. At the back a similar styled panel was installed.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-les-popo-03Another good sample of the plastic rod on chromed expanded¬†metal grille was Bob Crespo’s sectioned 1940 Ford “Les PoPo”. The grille work was done at the Barris Shop.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-les-popo-02Close up of the grille work on¬†Bob Crespo’s sectioned 1940 Ford “Les PoPo”.¬†Some more clear plastic rod were used on the space between the two canted headlights.
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Frosted Covers

Very popular on the early 1960’s car show¬†circuit. Stock headlight openings, or hand shaped openings were covered with frosted plexiglass or similar materials. The nice matt white effect gave the cars a mysterious look, it hid the bulb details and could be nicely dressed up with a bullet shaped pin, or bolt imitating the famous Lucas headlight details. Some used pre frosted plexiglass that could be bout with different interesting frosting patterns, but other created the frosting by hand after the panels were cut to fit the the headlight openings. Frosting could be done by carefully sandblasting the backside, but also regular sandpaper was used to get the desired frosting effect.

CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-frosted-lightsFrom the 1963 published Custom Headlights & fenders Spotlight books produced by Hot Rod / Petersen Publishing Company.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-frosted-grecianJohn Saltsman Studebaker pickup custom uses a set of canted and flipped upside down Buick headlights which are covered with a frosted panel. John found these frosted panels in the Barris Kustoms Restyled Modern Grecian when he owned the car. Most likely it was a spare set of frosted headlights created specially for the Modern Grecian. 
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Plastic Windows

From the later part of the 1930’s Plexiglass has been used in aviation to create teardrop shaped windshields/canopies for airplanes. It was only a matter of time before this technique was adapted to the car industry, or better said the Custom Car scene. Simple small shaped pieces of glass shaped with the same technique as was used to create airplane windshields were already used on the dry lake racers shortly after WWII.¬†In the late 1940’s hand formed plexiglas started to be used on Custom Cars, and Sports Customs. Nice and elegant wrap-around windshields that were ahead of their time with several years.

CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-Rohm-Haas-manual-01From a 1937 brochure on the usage of Plexiglass comes this great photo os a crew getting ready to wrap a heated and now flexible piece of plexiglass over a buck to form a airplane canopy.
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Carson Top ShopSeveral of the top shops offered padded tops with so called panoramic rear windows. To be able to make these tops flow with the round shape of the tops the rear window were usually created from clear plexiglass shaped to fit the openings.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-lon-hurley-cadLon¬†Hurley’s heavily restyled 1947 Cadillac roadster uses a custom made wrap around windshield with a clear plexiglass brace in the center. The car was created in the late 1940’s, early 1950.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-skonzakes-buickThe use of plexiglas for windows also allowed customizers to create the shape of the top they really wanted, without having to keep in mind that the original, or cut down glass needed to fit. Heated plexiglas could be bend to any shape needed. A good sample of this can be seen in the 1949 Buick restyled by Jim Skonzakes at the Barris Kustom Shop. The complete rear window was shaped from plexiglas to fit the new opening dictated by the perfectly shaped chopped top. The only disadvantage was that the plexiglass tended to get slightly dull over time, and was sensitive to scratches.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-golden-sahara-01Jim Skonzakes Golden Sahara I restyled by the Barris Custom Shop uses a brand new Lincoln wrap around glass windshield in 1954. But the rear window and the two roof panels were created in shaped plexiglass.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-golden-sahara-02The Golden Sahara II completely restyled in Dayton Ohio by a team of craftsman lead by Jim Sonzakes had a completely new top. Jim was never impressed with quality the first version of the car, and decided to go with a completely hand shaped plexiglass top on this version of the car. Perfectly smooth buck were created over which heated and flexible sheets of plexiglas was shaped. A center section was also created for the car, but has rarely been used. The bubble shape windows were created around 1958.
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Today, 2016, plexiglass or similar plastic products are still being used for windows on custom cars. However the problem remains that it scratches relatively easy, and long exposure to sunlight has its negative effects on the material. The advantages are that it can be shaped to any desired shape, which is perfect for the heavily reshaped tops for that just perfect line of the car. Or simply because the glass cannot be cut. Another advantage is that shaping plexiglas can usually be done at home, and if it does not fit you can just start over. In the last decade or so Custom builders have also been using companies specializing in custom shaped real glass, to overcome the disadvantages of Plexiglas. More about this can be read in an CCC-Article by Paul Kelly.




Full Bubble tops

Most people think at the 1960’s instantly, when we mention¬†Bubble Top Customs. But the Plexiglas bubble top actually¬†dates back to at least 1947¬†when it was used on regular production cars and custom cars. There are even samples of use on earlier model cars, but the first actual date we have been able to find was a 1947 license plate. An unknown manufactory created a completely clear plexiglas top for the 46-48 Ford/Mercury convertibles.

There are several ways to create a full plexiglas bubble top. The aircraft industry used special machine controlled dies in which the heated plexiglas was molded into the right shape. But this technique was to costly for the one-offs used on Custom Cars. For the Custom Cars usually the plexiglass was shaped by creating an wooden template that fitted to surround of the interior opening. Around this template a airtight box was created. Inside this box and heated and flexible piece of plexiglass placed, then secured to the wooden template. Next air was pumped into the box until the plexiglass started to expand into the template slowly creating a perfect bubble. If needed a carefully shaped and place metal rod could divide the bubble into two similar shaped sections as was done on for instance the Predicta.

Another method was to create the bubble shape in plaster or a similar material, perhaps over chicken wire base to keep it light. This base mold could be finished perfectly by sanding and adding paint. Next the shape could be fitted to a table or construction. Then a piece of plexiglas would be heated and taken to the shaped bubble. With special hand tools, for extra grip,  the edges of the heated and flexible plexiglass could be pulled over the base mold creating a perfect bubble. The great thing about this last technique is that the shape of the bubble could be controlled perfectly. While air blown bubble were much harder to control. This is a technique that was used for the Golden Sahara II for instance.

CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-46-ford-glass-topThe large photo on the left (found on an eBay auction) shows 1947 plates on a 1946 Ford convertible with a clear plexiglass bubble top. The car on the photos on the right used in a wedding might be the same car, not sure. We do know that this top was produced by an unknown company, and at least several were of them were created. But they never became really popular.
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1950 Oakland Roadster showVince Gardner restyled his 1947 Studebaker straight from the dealer. He used plexiglass to create a new three piece wrap around windshield and a full bubble top to cover the rest of the cockpit. The car caused quite a sensation where ever it went or was shown. Fortunately the car has survived and was recently completely restored, including the clear plexiglass top.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-x-sonicBut the “real” Bubble Tops as most people see them, were created in the late 1950’s early 1960’s.¬†Possibly the first one of these Bubble Top Show cars was Ron Aquirre’s Corvette X-Sonic. The Bubble topped full¬†Custom Corvette was a huge success at the shows, and influenced many custom car builders to create their own¬†Bubble¬†Top Show Cars.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-predictaAnother early Bubble top that made a huge impact on the Custom Car scene was Darryl Starbird’s Predicta. The car even made it into an very accurate 1/24 scale model kit, that help the popularity of the full bubble top customs even more. Darryl Starbird became an expert in creating full bubble top customs. He created several, mostly very popular, Customs based around the plexiglass tops.
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CCC-custom-plastic-details-p2-ed-rothEd Roth is another Customizer that loved to use plastics for his creations, and especially the plexiglass bubble top. His most famous creations all have full Bubble tops.
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Promotional movie:¬†“Looking Ahead Through Plexiglas” 1947 Rohm & Haas PMMA.
(Shared from Jeff Quitney youtube)
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Go to Part 1 on the Use of Plastics in Custom Restyling.


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Jim Roten 52 Ford

 

JIM ROTEN 52 FORD

 

Jim Roten Acquired his 1952 Ford Convertible in 1954. He started customizing it right away. Over the next few years the car developed in a wonderful styled Mild Custom.



By Jim Roten


Jim Roten from Chico California has been¬†into custom cars since he was a teenager. In 1954 Jim bought an slightly used 1952 Ford Convertible, and of course he could not leave it alone and started to do some mild restyling right away, to improve the looks of his new ride.¬†Jim Roten has a keen eye when it comes to Custom Restyling, he would be come close friends with Chico Customizer Riley Collin’s for which Jim did a lot of design work in the 1950’s. Riley Collins was also responsible for the more serious Custom Restyling on Jim’s 1952 Ford that would be done in the mid 1950’s. Jim took plenty of photos along the way to document the changes made to his Ford from 1954 till around 1956.


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1952 Ford Version One

CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-01Jim with his near new 1952 Ford in 1954. Mostly stock, but there are some custom hubcaps and accessory bumper guards, and many custom dreams.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-02All the emblems and handles were still in place.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-03A little later the hood was nosed,the bumper guards removed and stock grille was replaced with a 1953 unit with custom center piece.
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1952 Ford Version Two

After driving the car around with just a few small Custom Restyling touches it was time to get a little more serious. Jim had his friend Riley Collins in Chico remove all the emblems, trunk handle and side trim on the rear quarters. As was the norm for most Custom Restyled cars in those days, the fresh body work was covered in primer and the car was ready for more cruising. Jim’s white car had dark gray primer spots for some time, it was cool to drive the car like that, it showed you were working on your car, improving its looks.¬†Back in those days¬†most people¬†proceeded on a custom build only as they¬†could afford it, which was usually a series of small steps at a time. Throughout the process the¬†cars were used as daily transportation.

CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-04The stock taillights lenses had been replaced with 1956 Oldsmobile Starfire units.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-05Jim replaced the moon hubcaps with¬†1956 Oldsmobile hubcaps. Here Jim’s in progress Ford is parked behind his¬†friend Joe Navarro’s¬†Chevy Hard-Top. Primer spot parade…
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-06Joe Navarro¬†Chevy Hard-Top with primer spots shows it was really common to drive your car around like this for some time. .¬† It too, was in the early stages of customizing by Riley Collins.¬†Notice that Jim’s Ford has a slight tail dragging stance, while his friends Chevy has a slight forward rake (California Rake).
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-07A little more work was done, but it still was not time for a full paint-job yet….
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-08Some more fine tuning on the molded headlights, new 1953 Ford spear on the rear quarter and now it was time to get the interior and new top done Bill Luckenbill did the interior work as well as the really great looking Carson-type folding top in white canvas.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-24Looking good.. and almost ready for paint. Only the door handles needed to come of and then the car was ready for it first copper paint job.
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CCC-jim-roten-chico-lancers-plaqueJim Roten was a member of the Chico Lancers Car Club.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-09By now the door handles were shaved and Riley Collins painted the car in a wonderful copper color.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-10Jim also added a set of fender skirts at this time, and the taillight rings were molded to the rear fender for an smoother look, similar to that of the front fender / headlight.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-12Some time later Jim added 1956 Dodge grille bar teeth to the grille, added white pin-striping an replaced the hubcaps with 1954 Mercury units to which he added center bullets. Jim Also added a second spotlight on the passenger side of the car.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-13A good look at the Bill Luckenbill interior and the Carson-type folding top.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-14Close up photo shows the 1956 Dodge grille teeth added to the grille bar and the pin-striping on the hood and front fender.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-15Only one color photo remained of this version of the car.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-11October 1956 ooops…. time for some more custom restyling.
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1952 Ford Version Three

Before the accident Jim’s Car had all the emblems and door handles shaved. It had solenoid-operated doors and deck lid. The headlights and taillights were frenched. Taillight lenses were 1956 Oldsmobile Starfire. For the new updated version Jim took his Ford of course to his friend Riley Collins who would round the hood¬†corners and fabricated a new¬†grill surround and molded splash pan. A new¬†floating grill was made up from ’53 Studebaker grill bars with turn signals for the top portions. These two units were neatly freched into round rod shaped openings. An¬†1952 Oldsmobile center bar was used on the bottom of the opening. To the grille bar Jim added¬†1956 Dodge grill teeth. Forward side trim on the doors came from a 1956 Pontiac.

The rear quarter panels were reshaped and teeth from a 1954 Mercury were used.¬†The side trim on the rear quarters comes from a 1953 Ford. The hubcaps for this version are 1956 Oldsmobile again. The smaller spotlights were replaced with real Appletons. The car was lowered all around about four inches. And when it came time for¬†paint, Jim was inspired by Geore Sein’s Barris Kustoms restyled 1932 Ford 5-window coupe. Paint job was done by Riley Collins in nitrocellulose lacquert¬†two-tone copper¬†and¬†lime gold.¬†Customization was completed by July 1957.

CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-16Riley Collins¬†with Jim’s Ford.¬†He was preparing the car at an auto show¬†shortly after he¬†finished it in Copper and lime gold ’53 Ford in the summer of 1957. Jim had already joined the Navy by then.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-17Wonderful lines on Jim’s Ford created by the custom side trim and body work. It really shows Jim design skills.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-18Notice how nice the side trim follows the shape of the new top. Jim also added new bumper guards to the bumpers for the final version.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-19Jim’s Ford was for both shows as well as regular road use.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-20This final version has the fender skirts removed again, which gives the car a more sporty look.
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-21Good look at the new grille in Jim’s Ford. ’53 Studebaker bars on the top, ’52 Olds bar on the bottom with 56 Dodge teeth. The new rounded hood corners have the same radius as the headlights.¬†
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CCC-jim-roten-52-ford-conv-23Jim Roten with his 1952 Ford final version in April 1957.
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Not too long after the car was¬†completed in¬†July 1957, Jim enlisted in the US Navy¬†and soon after that he sold the car. Jim¬†was only 17 years old when I¬†acquired the car and 20 when it was sold.¬†He has no idea what happened to it after that, and its¬†present day whereabouts are unknown. Hopefully one of our readers might know more about Jim’s old 1952 Ford and knows what happened to it after 1957.
Click HERE to see more of Jim Roten’s amazing Collection.




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Hudson Joe Collection Part 2

 

HUDSON JOE COLLECTION Part 2

 

Hudson Joe has been collecting old Hot Rod and Custom Car photos for many year. Great material from the 40’s and 50’s. The Hudson Joe Collection Part 2.



Hudson Joe from California has a passion for old things and historic photos of Hot Rods and Custom Cars. He has been collecting these photos for many years. Finding them at estate sales, swapmeets and just finding them in the trash. In the second part of sharing Joe’s Collection we show you some more photos from the¬†Harlan Frazier, aka Mac Frazier¬†collection. Harlan is an old Hotrodder from Burbank, California. He¬†had some cool Hot Rods and Custom Cars in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and he became good friend with Joe. Mac will be 90 this year (2016) and he gave his collection of photos to Joe, because he knew Joe would appreciate them much more than anybody else he knew. Harlan is still looking for more material in his collection. He keeps saying he has many more… so hopefully he will find them sooner or later. Lets take a look at some of the material Joe has shared with us this time.

CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-02Harlan owned this 1938 Ford Custom Convertible in 1941, when this photo was taken. The car was restyled in a very typical for the time way. Mild, but very classy. Ned smooth and extended hood sides which create a smaller oval shaped grille opening. ’37 DeSoto ribbed bumpers front and rear, fender skits¬†and ripple disk flipper hubcaps and beauty rings wrapped with black wall tires.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-03Better look at the oval shaped grille. Not sure is if the hood sides were early aftermarket products, or if Harlan custom made those. The windshield and soft top remained stock height. 
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-05Harlan later owned this even milder ’40 Ford convertible. The hood and trunk were shaved, and the side trim was shortened on the hood. The car was mildly lowered and this version of the car shows he added teardrop fender skirts.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-04This photo shows the ’40 Ford¬†with Calnevar chrome Dress-Up beauty rings and smooth moon hubcaps and no skirts on the rear fenders.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-06This is Harlan with his Mild Shoebox. He was not sure if this photo was taken at Muroc or El mirage, he went to both places regularly.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-011941 mild custom Ford converible. Dual Spotlights, DeSoto ribbed bumpers, skirts, rock shields and custom hubcaps… a cool cruiser.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-10Harlan’s brother owned this full fendered ’32 Ford Coupe.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-14A¬†cool sunset shot at the lake with yet another Frazier family owned Hot Rod. This time another car owned by¬†Harlan’s brother.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-15A friend of Harlan had this great looking, and well detailed, ’29 Model A with¬†’32 Ford frame and grille. He owned this car right out of High School.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-07Model A Sedan Hot Rod.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-09A very young Harlan was already interested in car… pedal cars.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-08Harlan Frazier a little older in his makeshift race car during his growing up years in Santa Monica.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-11Harlan’s brother also owned and raced some midget racers in the 1940’s.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-22Harlan’s late 40’s BSA bike in the early 1950’s, already modified a bit to more race specs.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-18Harlan BSA bike how it looked a little later.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-19By now the bike had been modified much more and repainted pale yellow.
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CCC-hudson-joe-colletion-p2-20Harlan loved to race his bikes.
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Go back to PART ONE of the Hudson Joe Photo Collection






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Rotunda Customs 1956 Show

 

ROTUNDA CUSTOMS 1956 SHOW

 

In February 1956 the FoMoCo organized the second Custom Car Show in the Ford Rotunda building. Sadly this would also be the last time this prestigious event was held.


The second, and last Rotunda Custom Car Show was held in February 1956. The first show was a good success, but for unknown reason this years event only had 9 Custom Cars and Hot Rods in attendance. A much to small number of cars for the car guys to make a special trip to this event. No matter how special the building was, and no matter how special the selected cars in the exhibit was. The main-stream Custom Car and Hot Rod shows around the country, also in the Detroit  area had perhaps hundred or more car in those events. Still the 1956 Rotunda show was a nice one, and all 9 cars in attendance were displayed on fake grass with small bushes surrounding the cars giving it a very elegant feel. Very much like the Petersen Motorama shows held in the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. The well done displays looked wonderful in the Rotunda building, and combined with the well selected cars this gave the event a very high end feel. It was clearly that the Rotunda was about quality, not quantity.

CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-55-building-02Mid 1950’s Rotunda postcard.
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This year the cars at the event were not all local cars. Two cars came all the way from California, magazine featured cars that most likely were invited to draw a crowd. The heavily restyled and Eauropean Sports Car inspired 1933 Ford Roadster from Henry Rootlieb was the Custom entry from the sunny state, and Ray Cortopassi brought his wonderful streamlined dragster “The Glass Slipper” to Dearborn.

CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-11For the 1956 Rotunda show Henry Rootlieb came all the way from California to the Rotunda with his heavily restyled 1933 Ford Roadster. The car was based on an 1941 Ford frame, with an body created from 33 Roadster and Tudor body sections, hand made hood and chrome plated reshaped 1935 Ford truck grille and 1955 Ford hubcaps.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-10The car had a really nice European Sports Car feel to it.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-03Unknown 1942-48 Lincoln Contintal has some really interesting restyling going. The whole front was reshaped with a new custom shaped grille, Cadillac Bumperette’s and Cadillac headlights with molded in parking lights. The rear fenders were modified with 1952 Lincoln taillights and custom rock shield. These two photos taken at the¬†1956¬†Rotunda show are the only I have seen of this car as far as I can remember. Interesting car.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-04Birds eye view shows the Lincoln Continental with the black top (possibly a padded top), and here we can see the 52 Lincoln taillights in the reshaped rear fenders. In the center of the photo we can see the 1940 Mercury of Jerry Yatch, Bob Palmer’s 1955 T-Bird restyled by Clarkaiser, and Ray Cortopassi streamliner dragster.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-05Jerry Yatch’s 1940 Mercury with molded fenders, molded in trunk, 49 Packard taillight, chopped windshield and a panoramic rear window padded top.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-12Clarkaiser sectioned, chopped and added full fade away fenders to¬†Les and Adle Volpe’s 1948 Mercury. A beautiful early style Custom inspired by the SoCal styled customs from the Ayala’s and Barrisses. The sectioned body and hood made this coupe look extremely long and low.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-01The Ford Motor Company had a couple of nice color photos made of the event. At least two of them have been shared, including this nice one showing the Volpe 1948 Mercury in the foreground, and the Frank and Charles Gilardone 1953 Ford Victoria in the background. Both cars were restyled by Clarkaiser. In contrast with the previous show, all the cars were now put on nicely created displays with fake grass and small bushes.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-02The two known color slides of the event together. On the left is¬†Frank and Charles Gilardone 1953 Ford Victoria and on the right the Volpe’s 48 Mercury. It must have made the Clarkaiser shop very proud to have several of their cars at this event.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-13The styling on the Frank and Charles Gilardone 1953 Ford Victoria was done extremely well balanced. Unique shaped head and taillights with a perfectly proportiond chopped top.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-07Clarkaiser had a total of three of their restyled cars on display. The third one is Bop Palmer’s 1955 Thunderbird the ‘Golden Bird” created¬†when the car was near new. The car has extended rear fenders with ’55 Ford taillight and modified 1951 Merc fender skirts, the front was reshaped with a new grille opening with grille created from 1955 Buick bumper components with peaked dagmars.¬†The hood scoop was reshaped, it has molded in headlights, a general shave and a wonderful golden pearl white paint job.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-08Snapshot taken of Bob Palmer’s Golden Bird at the event.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-06This is the same photo as shown above, only this time it shows a bit more of the Rotunda interior.
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CCC-ford-rotunda-customs-56-show-trophyThe Rotunda Custom Car Show Feb 1956 award won by the 1955 Thunderbird “Golden Bird” owned by Bob Palmer.
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I have not been able to find any documentation on actual awards given out at this event. Not for the first year, or the second year. But apparently there must have been some kind of competition going. Bob Palmer’s 1955 Ford Thunderbird is now completely restored and there is still an original 1956 Rotunda trophy that goes with the car where ever it goes.¬†As far as I know the 1956 was never published as well as the previous show was. And perhaps the lack of publicity and the lack of visitors made the people at Ford decide to not run the event again after 1956.



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Custom Cars exhibited at the 1956 Rotunda Custom Car Show

  • Henry Rootlieb 1933 Ford Roadster
  • Jerry¬†Yatch¬†1940¬†Mercury
  • Unknown¬†1942-48 Lincoln Continental Convertible
  • Les and Adle Volpe¬†1948¬†Mercury
  • Frank and Charles Gilardone¬†1953 Ford¬†Victoria
  • Bob Palmer¬†1955¬†Thunderbird


 

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More information and resources

(The Custom Car photos used in this article are part of the FoMoCo collection and can be ordered online in a wide selection of sizes and printed on different materials.)

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Hometown Custom

 

HOMETOWN CUSTOM

 

It is unusual now as well as back in the fifties for a custom car to change hands many times, yet remain in the same city where it was originally built.


By Tom Nielsen


The ’41 Mercury convertible that I was fortunate enough to own from 1960 to 1962 was customized in Everett, Washington in 1948. The custom convertible passed through six owners, all Everett guys, before I (Tom Nielsen) bought it in 1960.

I would like to share some of the story of this full custom and how it came to be an Everett car for so long. It is also worth noting that from ’48 to ’62 the car was kept in good condition and not altered a great degree from its traditional custom origins.

When Dale Runyon originally customized the Mercury it was only a seven year old car. He had made a deal with another Everett resident that liked Dale’s chopped and Carson topped 1941 Ford convertible better than his own stock ’41 Mercury convert. So Dale then chopped the Mercury and added a Carson style top and built it similar to the ’41 Ford.

CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-04Dale customizes Mercury while working at Les Logge’s body shop in East Everett.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-01Hand colorized photo parked in front of Kosher’s Auto Wrecking.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-restyle-y-cThe ’41 Mercury even made it in the Restyle your car booklet published by Trend Books in 1952.¬†The owners name, Joe Gollman was right, but they were wrong on the city, it sure was Everett, not Minneapolis as it stated.
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When he had the car finished and painted Dodge Gypsy Green he sold the car to another Everett guy named Joe (Gollman) who had enough cash to convince Dale to part with his classy looking custom. The interior was stock at this point but Dale had chromed many of the interior pieces including the dash.


Joe hopped up the flathead a little and added fender skirts. I have been told that the ‚Äô41 had blocked heat risers that gave it a wicked set of ‚Äúpipes‚ÄĚ. The car changed owners several more times between 1950 and 1956. During this time a custom black and white rolled and pleated interior was added. The Mercury was a regular sight around town from 1950 to 1955 according to some of the early car fans.

CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-02Freshly painted Merc parked in front of Dale’s home.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-03On Hewitt in Everett after dale finished the car in 1949.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-06New owner Joe with the Mercury, notice the addition of skirts and Dale’s first chopped ’41 Ford parked in front.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-05Taken by Vince Ostland when he owned the car in the early 1950’s.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-07Vince enjoys his custom with the Carson top removed for a nice day about 1953.
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The car passed through several more owners who enjoyed the unique custom convert which always got lots of attention.

When Roger Bedell bought the convert about 1955 the car had been around for a while and it was in need of some maintenance. I know that it was very fortunate that he was the one who purchased the Merc. Mr. Bedell had both the means and the vision to bring the car to the next level.

Bedell¬†had a car collection at that time that included some very nice hot rods and sports cars. He belonged to a car club known as ‚ÄúThe Accelerators‚ÄĚ and his cars were always of high quality. When Roger got possesion of the ‚Äô41 Merc he had a good plan for redoing the ‚Äúhometown custom‚ÄĚ.

The car was taken to Jack Conner’s Speed Shop in Seattle and a ’53 Cadillac motor was put in to replace the aging flathead. After this was completed the next stop was Cy Richard’s body shop in Everett for a very high quality, multi coat Buick maroon lacquer paint job.

They also discovered a chromed dash hidden by paint and carefully removed the paint. The plastic trim on the dash was done in maroon to match the exterior. Cy and Bill Richards also got rid of the Pontiac taillights and put motorcycle lights by the rear license frame. Roger made some other upgrades and got the Mercury full custom ready for the local mid- fifties rod and custom shows.

CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-10The Accelerators put on a couple of Everett car shows in conjunction with the Headers from Seattle.
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Roger showed the car and kept it in pristine condition while it was housed with his other cars in the collection. Eventually, his younger brother Bob Bedell bought the car from him.

Bob had the car for several years and also owned a ‚Äúcherry‚ÄĚ Cad powered 1933 Ford coupe. The convertible had a four barrel carb on its Cad engine, while the ‚Äė33 had six Stromberg carbs. Bob was an avid hot rodder and would take his ‚Äô33 to the Arlington drag strip and the ‚Äô41 Mercury to the Seattle area car shows.

One of my more powerful, vivid car memories is going with a friend to Bedell’s house in Everett about 1958. He took us out to the garage where the hot rod coupe and the full custom convertible were parked side by side. It was an over the top experience for a young car crazy teenager. Little did I know then that I would eventually own the ’41 Merc.

The next owner was Rod Mckenzie who was a body and fender man at Schultz Auto Clinic. My brother worked at the body shop part time so he knew Rod and knew about his Mercury. Rod’s family was growing fast and so he only owned it for a short time before deciding to sell it. That was about the time I turned sixteen and had a burning desire to use my paper route money to make the $850 purchase in April of 1960.
The story of my ownership and car show experiences can be found in my CCC “Angel Hair” story.

CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-14Tom’s first show at Seattle Rod and Custom Show 1960.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-13Lots of nice details make a classic interior. Notice the liberal use of chrome with the black and white rolls and pleats.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-12John Orberg at his Schultz Auto Clinic painted the underhood area white and installed tri-power and chrome valve covers on the Cad engine for Tom’s first show. (1960)
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-09In front of Tom’s parent’s garage. This shot shows off the smooth rear fenders and motorcycle taillights.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-08My only concession to 60’s trends was to add pin stripes to the door jambs.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-15In our driveway after I installed a dropped front axle in 1962.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-11Last time car was shown and Tom’s biggest show at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. (Kinmont brakes were only added for this show and taken off soon after)
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When I sold it in the summer of 1962 another Everett man just getting out of the service and bought the Mercury custom. He planned to use it for his main car and it wasn’t really suited to that use. Even I had a second car in high school and had not driven it too much.

CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-verheyWhere the ’41 Mercury was last seen in Everett about 1963.
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I only saw the car one more time when he was driving it. He must have decided to trade it in for a newer car. My friend told me that he saw it early in 1963 on a used car lot at Verhey Motors in Everett.

From that point I have no definite idea where the classic custom ended up. Although I recently met another Everett guy named¬†Bob DeYoung¬†who was a fan of my old Merc. According to Bob he saw the car behind a house in an Everett suburb about 1980. He said it had been sitting outside for years and looked bad, but he was positive that it was the car that he had ‚Äúlusted‚ÄĚ after when I drove it to Everett High School back in the day.
Bob said that he went back several years later to check on it and it was gone! The owner of the house had moved and there was no trace of the ’41 convertible.

I haven‚Äôt been able to confirm that story but it sounds logical. Maybe someday I will find out that it still exists as a ‚Äúhometown custom‚ÄĚ!

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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-yearbook-detailTom’s 41 Mercury in his 1961 High School yearbook.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-tacomaThe small snapshot¬†was taken with Doug Mumaw, my high school buddy, and his custom ’50 Merc as we were heading to the Tacoma Autorama in 1961. ¬†The ’50 Merc was our transportation while my Merc was in the show.
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CCC-Tom-Nielsen-41-Merc-hometown-trophiesTrophies and awards.
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Epilogue:
I have noticed recently that more 1941 Mercurys are turning up on the scene as older car guys let go of a project that they stuck away years ago… I know that there is an interest in building these good looking cars as traditional custom. I hope this story gives those folks some ideas or inspiration.


CCC-Tom-Nielsen-map-everett-02Home of the Mercury convertible probably from 1941 to 1963!
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Timeline ’41 Mercury

  • 1948 created by Dale Runyon
  • 1949 Car was sold to Joe Gollman
  • 1951-2? Joe sold it to George Taxtrum in Everett
  • 1953¬†Car was sold to Vince Ostland
  • 1955 Roger Bedell bought the car he did a complete overhaul, installed a ‚Äô54 Cadillac motor and repainted the car in Buick maroon.
  • Around 1956-57 Bob Bedell (Roger Bedell’s younger brother) got the car.
  • 1958-9? Rod Mckenzie buys the car
  • April 1960 Tom Nielsen buys the car takes it to John Orberg to get a lead crack repaired and prepare¬†it for upcoming¬†car shows
  • Summer of 1962 John Orberg sells the car for Tom to man (His name was forgotten over the years) just getting out of the service.
  • Early 1963 the car was seen on a used car lot at Verhey Motors in Everett
  • Around 1980, maybe earlier,¬†a possible last sighting of the car. It was¬†in poor condition but still had the Buick maroon paint. It was¬†stored outside behind a house in an Everett suburb (The car was later removed from this spot and has so far never been seen or heard about.)

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Bill Gaylord 49 Mercury

 

BILL GAYLORD 49 MERCURY

 

In 1949 Bill Gaylord gets a 1949 Mercury Convertible which George Barris chops right away. Its the first ever chopped 1949 Mercury Convertible.



In the later part of the 1940’s William (Bill) Gaylord Lunney was working closely with the Barris Kustom Shop. Even though the Barris Shop had always had tight bonds with the Carson Top Shop, George Barris saw possibilities in working together with Bill. It started when George Barris was not happy about the way the Carson Top Shop did the padded tops on the 41 Ford. George wanted to have a more flowing line on the rear of the top. He went to Bill Gaylord and together they found out a way to make the padded tops on the 41-48 Fords flow much better. George was very happy about the result an the two started trading work, and send cars to each others workshop to let the other do their thing. They even joined some advertising space in Motor Trend together. First when the Barris shop was still located in Bell, and later when the Barris shop had moved to its famous Atlantic Blvd shop… close by Bill’s shop who was also had his shop on Atlantic Blvd.

CCC-barris-gaylord-adsSome of the ads that ran in late 1949-early 1950 issues of Motor Trend magazines where Barris and Gaylord worked together.
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The story on Bill’s ’49 Mercury started in early 1949. Bill had a very nicely done ’42 Mercury convertible with front sheet metal from a ’47 Mercury. It was a really nice late 1940’s style custom with chopped windshield shaved handles, nosed, decked and one of Bill’s nicely flowing¬†padded tops. Bill took is ’42 Mercury custom to a local Mercury dealer and traded it for a new ’49 Mercury convertible.¬†The¬†Mercury dealership put the¬†‚Äô42 in their best spot in front of the¬†showroom and it sold very fast. Soon after that they asked if Bill could do another one for them and sell it the same way. He created another custom, with a George Cerny chopped windshield. It also was sold very fast.

CCC-bill-gaylord-42-mercury-01Bill with his ’42 Mercury that he later traded for a new ’49 Mercury convertible.¬†
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CCC-49-mercury-convertible-adMagazine ad for the new ’49 Mercury convertible.
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Bill had his new ’49 Mercury and at the same time George Barris came over asking Bill if he could create a long low padded top for his personal ’42 Cadillac (with 47 fenders). Sure I can do that Bill mentioned. If you chop the windshield on my Merc, french the headlights and remove the emblems… deal! So Bill created the long and smooth padded top for George Barris his’42 Cadillac, while George was busy chopping the windshield of Bill’s new ’49 Mercury. George also removed the hood emblems, peaked the hood and molded the grille surround to the front fenders. The trunk was shaved and the suspension was lowered. George extended the bottom of a set of ’49 Mercury accessory fender skirts and when all the work was done the car was painted a lime green color. “The lime green they used back then.” according to Bill. All this was done in 1949, and most likely Bill Gaylord’s ’49 Mercury¬†was he very first ’49 Mercury convertible that was ever chopped. If you want to know more about the first chopped 49-51 Mercury’s, be sure to check out the CCC-article we did on this topic.

CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-03A young Bill Gaylord proudly showing of his freshly chopped ’49 Mercury Convertible. This photo gives a good look at the extended down Mercury fender skirts and the very rare round beauty rings Bill Used. The same units were used on the Barris Kustoms restyled Snooky Janich ’41 Ford.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-05Besides being a car guy Bill also love the water and boats, speed boats. So when time allowed he spend his spare time at the lakes with his boat pulled by his ’49 Mercury. Note the ’49 tag on the license plate.
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Unique styled Padded Top

Bill took out the stock ‘Mercury dash board, smoothed it and send it to the chrome plater to be completely covered in bright shiny chrome for a really special effect. He drove the car for a little bit before he had time to get to work on the top. The interior for this lime green version was done in brown.

Bill always liked the filled in rear quarter window look on the padded tops, especially if the flow of the rear of the top was very smooth.¬†He decided to create this kind of top for¬†his personal ’49 Mercury. The top he created was very¬†similar in style in¬†what he did on the 41-48 Ford’s and Mercury convertibles. Bill also created some very handsome door window channels¬†from Aluminum channel with a wonderful round rear corner to match the padded top.¬†Bill later added an red all leather interior with beautiful tuck & roll panels, and to top of the chrome plated dash he bought a brand new Monterey Accessory steering wheel which gave the car an even more luxurious feel.

CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-02The earliest photo in Bill’s collection of the Mercury with the padded top being constructed in this one taken in front of the Gaylord shop. Ben Mario’s Barris restyled Buick is parked behind it. Bill would later add a padded top to Ben’s Buick after the windshield had been chopped.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-00This photo, also taken in front of the Gaylord shop, but facing the other side shows Bill’s Mercury a little later. The frame and door window channels now have all been finished and the padding and canvas were up next. These photo show that Bill used his Mercury as daily driver, even during construction of the top.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-01Enlarged section of the previous photo shows a little more details. Frenched stock headlights, molded in grille surround, peaked hood, center bar removed from the stock ’49 Merc grille.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-businessBill liked his ’49 Mercury so much he decided to use a side view photo of the car for his Business Card in late 1949.
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The Padded top Bill created for his mercury was uniquely styled with very long sides and a very small rear window. It must have been rather hard to drive it around in busy Los Angeles. Most of the mercury convertibles with padded tops created after this one had a different stye of padded top, with the rear quarter windows in place and a more square rear portion of the top where the rear window was more upright which also gave a better rear vision when driving. This later style must have been an improvement when driving these cars on the road for the driver, and most certainly for the passengers.

CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-07Parked next to Bill’s shop building we can see the window channels Bill created, and we can also see that the first version of the Merc has stock taillights, and the hitch for taking Bill’s boat to the lake.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-06Better look at the window channel with the nice curve on the rear corner. The ’49-51 Mercury convertible come with straight corners on the window channels, and curved units on the rear quarter windows. But since Bill eliminated the rear quarter windows he added the curve to the door frames.¬†
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-08A look inside reveals the full chrome plated dashboard, the Mercury Monterey accessory steering wheel, and the very subtile red leather tuck & roll upholstery.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-09Enlarged section shows the dash and steering wheel a bit better.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-12Another photo of Bill’s Mercury at one of the lakes he used to go to with his boat.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-13Cropped section shows the chrome plated dash a little better.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-04Bill’s ’49 Mercury at an unidentified indoor car show in 1949, perhaps early 1950. It looks like the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford could be sitting behind Bill’s¬†Merc.
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Share by Ross from 46-64 HighSchool Yearbooks. 1950 Bell High yearbook. Ad for Gaylord Kustom Tops.
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Second version of the Merc

Somewhere in 1950 George Barris shaved the door handles and locks, removed the Mercury taillights, filled the holes and re-painted the car in a deep maroon. The new color gave the car a completely different look, mean look. Barris Kustoms also reworked the stock 1949 Mercury rear bumper guards. They removed the bullet section of the guards and hand shaped clear red lucite to create a set of very unique bumper guard taillights.

Bill enjoyed the car for some time, but never as much as he had hoped he would, simply because he was called away to serve the Army. Just at a time the combined ads with Barris were starting to bring in extra clients he was¬†shipped to Germany. It was frustrating for Bill to be in Germany and get the latest issues of Motor Trend magazines shipped and see the Barris Gaylord ads in the magazines. Knowing Barris was getting all the work from them, but he could do nothing. Bill had¬†left the car with his wife and later instructed¬†her to try and sell the car. One day a guy came over to buy the car. He was very serious about it and later explained to Bill’s wife that he needed to have the pink slip in his name so that he could get a loan for the car at the bank. The pink slip was handed over, he drove off with the Merc and nobody ever heard from the guy, nor the Mercury.

When Bill returned from his stint in the army he worked hard to get his business back on his feet, and he never heard anything about his beautiful ’49 Mercury convertible again. Who knows, perhaps the car is still out there, further customized over the years, being driven around by somebody who has no idea the car might be the very first chopped ’49 Mercury, worked on by Custom Legends George Barris and Bill Gaylord. Or it could be long gone. If any of the readers knows anything more about the Mercury, please let us know.

CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-10Shorty before Bill has to leave for his stint in the Army George Barris shaves the door handles and stock taillights, and paints the car in deep maroon.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-taillightsClose up of the rear shows the complexed shaped bumper guard taillights in the last version of Bill’s Mercury. These were also created by the Barris Kustom Shop.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-49-mercury-11The new dark maroon paint job gave the car a quite different look than the green early version. The two maroon version photos were taken shortly before Bill was shipped to Europe and the car now has 1951 License plates on it.
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Bille Gaylord Mercury published

Bill’s ’49 Mercury never had any magazine exposure when Bill owned the car.¬†Mainly because the car was¬†around very shortly as a completely finished custom before Bill had to leave for his Army duties. Also because soon after Bill left for Germany, the car was stolen, and magazine exposure would sure lead to the person who took the car. Also around 1950, not many magazines featured Custom Cars, and there were a lot of cars to choose from. But in some more recent articles about Bill Gaylord the Mercury was mentioned. In the Jerry Weesner article on Carson Tops in Street Rodder magazine April 1989 Jerry shared a few photos from Bill’s photo album, and one one of the photos showed Bill’s ’49 Mercury sitting next to Bill’s home. It mentioned that Bill’s Mercury was the first ever chopped 49 Mercury convertible. In the 1991 published Hot Rod Memories by Don Montgomery there are two 1949 photos shared from the Hal Petersen collection showing Bill’s Mercury. And in Kustoms Illustrated magazine issue # 35, fall 2012 there are several photos used in part one of the Bill Gaylord story.

CCC-bill-gaylord-street-rodder-magFrom the April 1989 Street Rodder Jerry Weesner article on Carson Tops.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-montgomery-bookFrom the Hot Rod Memories book by Don Montgomery.
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CCC-bill-gaylord-kustoms-illustratedIf you want to read more about the history of Bill Gaylord, then you have to get Kustom Illustrated issues 35, 36 and 38. It has the most complete Bill Gaylord history story based on interviews and Bill’s personal photo albums in a three part¬†story.¬†
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Special thanks to Luke Karosi, Jeff Neppl and Bill Gaylord.


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The Carson Top Shop Part 2

 

CARSON TOP SHOP part 2

 

The Carson Top Shop changed the scene in the 1940’s with their Padded Top design. Towards the 1950’s and up they¬†excelled¬†in state of the art full custom interiors.



In PART ONE of the Carson Top Shop story we concentrated mainly on the importance of the Carson Top Shop and their creation of the¬†Padded top’s. How they had influenced the looks of the Custom Car scene in Southern California, and later in the rest of the US.

In part two we will concentrate on the other activity that was very important at the Carson Top Shop, creating custom made interiors. In fact creating custom interiors together with creating replacement soft tops was the main business for the shop until they developed¬†the padded top, which became so popular in the 1940’s. After the popularity of the Carson Padded tops had slowed down a bit towards the end of the 1940’s and early 1950’s the shop started to¬†spend some more time promoting the padded tops and other items for the very popular, at the time, Sports Cars.

The demand for the padded top slowly declined in the early 1950’s and¬†towards the mid 1950’s fewer and fewer¬†where done.¬†The main focus for the shop from then on became interiors once again. Some of the top Custom Car builders, including Barris liked to send their cars to the Carson Top Shop. They did really great work, enhancing the looks of the Custom Cars, and from what we have heard they always delivered on time. Especially the last thing was often important since a lot of the Custom Cars were finished to debut at a specific car show, and the interior was usually one of the last things that needed to be done on the cars.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-campbell-01The Carson Top Shop did the upholstery on Marcia Campbell’s Barris Kustoms built 1942 Ford in 1950. Off white and tan were used and the carpets are a darker shade. The panels and seat centers are done in tuck&roll style and the separate feet panels have a diamond pattern, which was very popular for the lower sections and kick panels then.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-campbell-02Around 6 years later the same ’42 Ford coupe still had the same door panels, but it looks like the carpets have been replaced by some new units. This photo gives us a good look at how early 1950’s tuck&roll panels looked like, nice and round. Notice that an interior door handles has been added to the car in the meantime. Perhaps Marcia already installed those after having been trapped inside when the batteries had died, and there was no way to open the doors manually.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-larry-ernstBeautiful wide rolls in the Barris Kustoms created Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy. 
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-mg-armrest-adBesides leading the market in doing chopped padded tops for Customs and Hot Rods, Carson also did a lot of tops for Sports Cars. They offered padded tops for MG’s and Jaguars as standard items and could of course make a top for any Sports Custom at their shop. This Carson Top Shop ad also advertised the Custom Arm Rests and Custom carpets, mail order products.
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Hirohata Mercury

One of the very few original Carson Top Shop upholstered interiors that is still around and well documented is the interior the shop created¬†for Bob Hirohata’s ’51 Mercury. When Jim McNiel bought the Hirohata Mercury in 1959-’60, the original interior was still in the car. It was worn already and after Jim had the car on the road for some time and from years of storage the interior was beyond repair when Jim started his restoration in the 1990’s. It most likely could have been restored and saved, but the white sections of the interior had yellowed so much over the years it just looked so much out of place with the new paint and fresh chrome. Instead Eddie Martinez, who was also doing this type interior in the 1950’s was asked to replicate it. But not the headliner. The original Carson Top Shop created headliner had always stayed out of direct sunlight and was still in very good shape. So that is the one original Carson piece that remains in the car after the restoration. There is also some material in the truck which is still original, but according the stories the trunk was mostly upholstered by Bill Gaylord. When the Hirohata Merc was nearly finished it was a rush to get the car ready to debut at the Petersen Motorama show in 1952. Carson would not be able to get the complete interior done, so Bill Gaylord was asked to do the trunk.


We are making upholstery and seat covers for the man who wants the best, and who wants something original.



The upholstery design of the Hirohata Mercury was rather traditional, especially compared with the wild exterior design. Three colors, dark green, a lighter grayish green and off white were the colors that were used. The one thing that really stood out, but was something that had been done before, were the length wise tuck&roll sections in the headliner. Those really made the car look big on the inside. And this is also something we have seen being used a lot after the Hirohata Merc had been published.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-hirohata-011952 photos of the Hirohata Mercury showing the wonderful three tone Carson Top Shop interior. The kick panels under the dash were done by Bill Gaylord, since a deadline needed to be made for the cars debut at the Petersen Motorama. The length-wise running pleats on the headliner make the car look much longer inside. A very clever design element.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-hirohata-02Sadly the seats and side panels were in the bad shape to be restored. Eddie Martinez redid most of the interior with the help of the original interior panelsto make sure everything is just as how it was done back in 1952.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-hirohata-03The great thing about the Hirohata mercury is that the original Carson Top Shop headliner is still in the car, and still looking very good. 
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Using different materials

In the early years most of the interior work had been done with Leatherette or Naugahyde, a plastic substitute for leather, material that looked very close to real leather, but was machine produced and much cheaper. The Carson Top shop had also worked a lot with leather on original car¬†interior redo work as well as for customs. But back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Plastic was the magic word. A little later in the early 1950’s we see that the Carson Shop was using¬†some different material¬†in their upholstery. The did a lot of¬†custom¬†interiors¬†using Frieze and Velour materials¬†which had a nice soft matt appearance and¬†combined them¬†with the semi glossy leatherette material. (Frieze¬†‚ÄĒ¬†a pile surface of uncut loops or of patterned cut and uncut loops.) The combination had a really nice classic, upscale look. Also very popular was the woven material with gold or silver metallic thread¬†woven into it. One of the cars they used this metallic fabric in was the Louis Bettancourt ’49 Mercury. Later they also started using Boucle material in combination with leatherette.¬†(Boucle¬†‚ÄĒ¬†a fabric of uneven yarn that has an uneven knobby effect)

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-bettancourt-01Louis Bettancourt in his Carson Top Shop upholstered ’49 Mercury. Glen Houser used off white naugahyde and wine colored fabric with gold metallic thread woven into it for a great glistering look. The fabric panels were button tufted with white buttons and finished with white piping. Notice that the foot protection carpets are off white and with the popular diamond pattern.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-bettancourt-02The headliner in Louis car used the same material. The sides were done in the wine colored fabric with white piping and the center portion had lengthwise pleats. The whole look was very luxurious. 
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New Shop on Crenshaw

With less tops needed to be done the old shop on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles had become to big and the shop moved to 4717 South Crenshaw in 1954. The shop did continue to build the Padded Tops when they were requested, but by now the shop did not advertise the tops anymore. From the mid 1950’s they created several two part padded tops. The one they did for Bill Carr’s ’55 Chevy “the Aztec” was most likely the best known and most popular of this kind. The rear portion of the top looked very similar to an original padded top. But at the B-Pillars the top was split and usually a metal or chrome plated section was added. The front piece could very easily be removed and you could drive the car with an open top above the front eat, but still have the rear covered up.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-crenshaw-shopThe Carson Top Shop on 4717 South Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles around 1955.
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Liberace 1954 Cadillac

Liberace’s Cadillac had a full Custom interior designed by Bob Houser of the Carson Top Shop. Sam Barris also did some work on the car at the Barris Kustom Shop, but we cannot really call this one a Custom.¬†The interior is also far from the full Custom interiors we are used to see from the Carson Top Shop. But the Music themed interior they created for Liberace was a big crowd pleaser, and it got the Carson shop a lot of ink. Which was well needed now the famous Padded Tops were not produced in the large numbers the shop was used.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-liberaces-03The Cadillac was barely customized, but the very unique interior, especially for that time made it a real crowd pleaser.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-liberaces-01The Carson Top Shop basically only created the new upholstery for the seats and some of the side panel details. But the fine tuck&roll on the door side panels is Cadillac Factory upholstery.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-liberaces-02

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-liberaces-04One of the many positive write ups about the Carson Top Shop created Music them interior in Liberace’s Cadillac.
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Ed Sloan 1953 Plymouth

The Barris shop created a really unique Custom Car for Ed Sloan out of an 1953 Plymout. A very unusual car to start with, but as usual the Barris crew knew exactly what to do to make this one look very good. When the car was almost done and painted in a two tone green it was up to the Carson Top Shop to enhance the unique exterior of the car. The shop created a really wonderful interior using Green Mohair button tufted with lime colored tuck&roll Naugahyde. The green mohair was tufted with white buttons and outlines with white piping. On the headliner they also used a Brocade cloth to outline the Naugahyde tuck & roll sections.


CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-ed-sloan-02George Barris and Ed Sloan.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-02Photo taken at the Barris shop shows how the seat base was chrome plated, and how the seats and door panels were upholstered in button tufted green mohair and lime tuck&roll Naugahyde panels. 
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-01Close up of the headliner shows how the tuck&roll sections are outlined with Brocade cloth piping, which cave the headliner a really unique look.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-ed-sloan-01The photo is faded, but it still shows that this car must have been really stunning inside and out.
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Jim Skonzakes Golden Sahara

One of the most elaborate full custom interiors the Carson Top Shop ever created was for Jim Skonzakes 1953 Lincoln based Golden Sahara. The car was created by the Barris Shop and when it came to the interior they teamed up with Carson to create a totally unique never before seen interior. The two shops joined efforts to create the totally home made dash, the rear wrap around seats and the cooling unit that also severed as mini bar.The Carson Top shop choice gold colored Boucle cloth white Naugahyde and off white carpets. The colors matched the white paint and coper plated details perfectly. The completed interior also include a TV, Tape Recorder, Radio, Telephone and Loudspeaker system.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-sahara-01Birds-eye view shows the wrap around seats in the back with the mini bar cooler unit in the center of the rer seat. The front seat backs had special racks to store the glasses.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-sahara-02Close up of the special glasses Jim used to display with the Golden Sahara.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-golden-sahara-03This great color slide shows really well how elaborate the Carson Top Shop work was on the Golden Sahara interior. Gold colored Boucle cloth white white Naugahyde.
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Bill Carr 1955 Chevy the Aztec

The Carson Top shop created the full interior and the two part padded top for Bill DeCarr’ ’55 Chevy named “The Aztec”. They used a really beautiful copper colored frieze material combined with white naugahyde. The copper frieze on the seats and door panels was button tufted with white buttons and the naugahyde was added with horizontal rolls. The top portion of the dash was padded and covered with tuck&roll.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-aztec-01The top portion of the dash was padded and upholstered in white tuck&roll naugahyde. Even the sunvisors were fully upholstered with tuck& roll.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-aztec-02Rare photo showing the beautiful upholstery on the inside of the two part padded top.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-aztec-03Model Kipp De Mott shows that the interior is not just beautiful, but also very comfortable. The Aztec is still around today, completely restored by Barry Mazza and Bob Nitty. The interior was completely gone when they found the car, and they had a hard time to find photos showing all the details, and then finding the right material to recreate it as accurate as possible.
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-rc-replace-02The July ’55 issue of Rod 7 Custom Magazine had a massive ¬†almost 7 page article on how to replace a convertible top told by Glenn Houser from the Carson Top Shop. ¬†It showed how you could replace a soft top by yourself. But of course Carson hoped the extra attention would draw new clients for this work to his shop, and it most likely did¬†create some new business.
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The last Carson Padded top

In 1965 the last Carson Padded top was produced. For the Ford Custom Car Caravan several Ford cars were customized by the famous Custom Builders of the time. And for one of them, the Ford Galaxy, that Bill Cushenberry created on a 1963 Ford Galaxie Convertible, the Carson shop created a two part padded top. It would be the very last real Carson Top Shop padded top they created. There was no demand for such tops anymore, and the fine-grained white canvas that the shop used for the tops was no longer produced.



CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-last-carson-topBill Cushenberry created the 1963 Ford Galaxy “Astro” which would later get the ¬†very last Carson Padded Top.¬†
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CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-last-carson-top-02The last padded top the Carson Top Shop created was the two part top they created from the mid 1950’s and up. This photo shows the Ford with the front section removed.
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Around this time the shops main business was installing vinyl tops for local car dealers and individual customers. They still did some soft tops,¬†interior work and Tonneau covers,¬†but the hay-days were over. Glen Houser passed away in ’69 and left the business to his son Robert¬†(Rob)¬†Houser.

In the early 1970‚Äôs Rob Houser was asked to restore an original Carson Top Shop Padded Top. Apperentley Rob was able to find some of the old canvas material and was able to create the top.¬†But then one thing was still missing, the tag. None of the original tags could be found, the shop had not been using them for years, and if there had any left they were gone by now. The owner of the top really wanted to have and Carson Top Shop tag on the top, so they¬†had some new tags created.¬†¬†The company who did them asked for a minimal order, which was quite a lot. After the restoration project was finished some of these extra tags where given to friends, other where sold. These ’70s tags still can be found from time to time. The recreated tags are a bit different from the original ones.¬†small details in the size of the text. But the main difference is that the reproduction is silk screened on a metal plate, while the original was etched creating a relieved tag.

Carson Top ShopThe 1970′ reproduced Carson Top Shop tag.
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The shop is now gone for several decades, but the Carson name and its influence in the Custom Car scene are far from gone. In the last couple of years we see a blooming interest in the recreation of traditional styled padded tops. Not just tops that look a bit like the original tops, not people study the old techniques, the old photos and recreate the tops with the same style, technique and if at all possible same material as in the 1950’s and ’50’s.



The Case for Custom Upholstery. Motor Trend,April 1953

Motor Trend’s Robert L. Behme interviewed Glen Houser in early 1953 for his series of on-the-spot interviews of men in the custom car field. This story was published in the April 1953 issue of Motor Trend Magazine.


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SCENE: Carson Top Shop, Los Angeles, California. Bob Behme has just entered, and Glen leaves his workbench, wiping his hands on his coveralls, as he greets Bob.

GLEN: Hello, Bob. What brings you here today?

BOB: Glen, I’m here today, because MOTOR TREND is running a series of interviews with the men in the custom automobile field. Along with Dale Runyan, you are one of the leaders in the custom top and upholstery, field. I’d like to ask you a few questions which I hope will give some of our readers enough information to know what to expect both in price and workmanship when they order custom upholstery.

GLEN: That’s’ fine with me. Fire away.

BOB: A good beginning would probably be seat covers. The first thing I think of when upholstery is mentioned is seat covers. Are ready-made seat covers a good deal?

GLEN: That’s’ hardly the right way to ask the question, Bob. Ready-made seat covers fill a definite need, but they are like anything that is ready-made. They are made for a normal car – and no car is normal. Each seat is, different. Because of this, ready-made seat covers are bound to have a few discrepancies. Another thing – there are only a few fabrics to choose from, and there are only a few designs to buy. That is why guys like me are in business. We create something just a little more nearly perfect ‚Äď something just a little different. We are not catering to the man who wants to save a few pennies. We can’t do that and stay in business. Instead, we are making upholstery and seat covers for the man who wants the best, and who wants something original.

 

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-MT-april-53-03To illustrate the article several samples were used. This one shows the seat and kick paneld the Carson Tops Shop created for the Bob Hirohata Mercury.
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BOB: I see your point, Glen, and I stand corrected. Suppose I change my tack and ask you about fabrics best suited to custom seat covers?

GLEN: These are a good many, Bob, but to name a few – Saran, Lederan, and Firestone’s Velon are all good. Fabrics for custom seat covers come in any color, and in many plaids and designs. They’d cost about $35 or $45 installed.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-matranga-mercFor Nick Matranga’s Barris Kustoms built ¬†’40 Mercury they used maroon and off white with wonderful wide rolls and an unique pattern on the doors. The white piping around the seats and dark colored carpets make the interior really special.
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BOB: Okay. Let’s switch to a discussion of tops. Take that beat-up hard top of mine that’s lounging outside. Can that be covered with fabric?

GLEN: Yes, and as you probably know, a lot of car owners are doing that very thing. A hardtop can be covered with the same material used on convertible tops. It comes in blue, green, tan, maroon, and white. If your car is a late model, the fabric can go on right over the metal top without any holes.

BOB: How do you do this?

GLEN: The chrome moldings around the windows and doors are removed, and after the material is sewn together, it is stretched over the roof and tucked under these areas. Once it fits snugly, the molding is put back into place. This holds the top in place. On the earlier cars, the ’36, ’37, and ’38 models, there often is no such molding, and we must drill a few holes to fasten the fabric on with metal screws. On a late car, the fabric could be removed without a mark, but with the earlier cars, the screw holes must be filled with lead if the top is ever removed. The cost for a fabric top would run between $125 and $175, depending upon the car.

BOB: You just can’t talk about tops very long until the conversation naturally seems to drift to the Carson Top. They are now made for all cars, aren’t they?

GLEN: Yes, they are. Carson Tops are now available for many of the foreign cars, including the Jaguar and the MG, – as well as for our own American-made automobiles.

BOB: When you make a Carson Top you use all new parts, don’t you?

GLEN: Almost all new, Bob. Everything is new except the front bow. The top is fastened to the body by two bolts in the rear, and by the original convertible bow on the windshield. The Carson Top is formed over a framework of metal bows and the bows are welded to the convertible bow in the front. The framework is covered with several layers of jute, fabric, cotton, and stuffing. The outside material is normally of a convertible top sports material. We cover all buttons with a flap and roll.

BOB: Don’t such tops offer a choice of rear window designs?

GLEN: Yes, they do. They can be purchased with either the standard opening type of window in either plastic or glass, or in the popular Coupe de Ville in heavy or light-weight plastic..

BOB: Hey, just a minute. By Coupe de Ville, do you mean the wrap-around windows?

GLEN: That’s just the style I mean. It is known by many names -Riviera, Coupe de Ville, or wrap-around. The price of a Carson Top depends on the style of windows and the style of interior upholstery. A top with the open style windows and a plain interior starts at $200 for any car over a ’42 with the exception of the foreign cars. American autos older than ’42’s usually run about $175. ’36 and ’37 coupes are smaller and cost only $155.

BOB: I know the Carson Top is not a folding top. Is it difficult to remove?

GLEN: No. It’s almost as easy to deal with as a folding top. You can install a hoist in the garage rafters and lift the top, or two people can easily pick it off the car and store it against the garage wall.

BOB: Folding tops are still pretty popular. I presume the remarks you made about the ready-made seat covers applies to a ready-made top too.

GLEN: Yes, they do. A fellow can save money by purchasing a ready-made top for about $40, but he can never get the fit of a custom top. After a convertible has been driven for a few months, the bows begin to warp. A top has to be made for the bows to fit snugly and to look really good.

BOB: Attractiveness is not the only advantage of a custom top is it?

GLEN: No The customer is usually a craftsman. He takes pride in putting on extras which make his product last longer, as well as look better. All fasteners would be covered with a flap and the edges would be rolled. Wearing points would probably be covered with extra layers of fabric. Prices start at $65, and given proper care such a top should last a good long time.

BOB: Ah, there you’ve come up with a moot point! Just what is proper care?

GLEN: First of all, a convertible should be kept in a garage, out of the sun at all times when it is not in use. If the-top is moist it should be dried thoroughly before it is folded. When it is washed it should never be washed with anything stronger than white Ivory soap. The top should be brushed regularly, and after one year it should be coated.

BOB: What sort of coating do you recommend?

GLEN: There are many good products The one we use here is called Seal-it. We like it because it is a dye which can be used to color the top fabric any shade the owner chooses It is water repellent yet it never seems to make the fabric hard or shiny.

BOB: The folding top is not upholstered but both the hard tops and the Carson Tops have upholstered head linings don’t they?

GLEN: Yes they are usually upholstered in either a welting or a piping.

BOB: Hold on a minute Glen. Set me straight, will you? I know that welting is the small fold that goes along the creases, but tell me what is this piping?

GLEN: Pipings are large tucks on the seats and side panels and head lining which are stuffed to give a series of half-circle rolls. Most- of the time, head linings are piped in a two-tone effect – say an all-over white fabric with a few rolls of green for accent. This is really a nice effect, but it seems to look best on customs. It doesn’t come off on a stock car. A stock looks best with either a single tone piping or the more sedate welting.

BOB: Just how much work does an upholsterer get into when he installs a new head lining?

GLEN: He gets into quite a lot of work. It is a very difficult task to perform properly. The standard lining is removed and heavy 3/8-inch steel bows are installed across the inside of the roof. The upholsterer then makes a pattern of the inside of the roof and begins making the lining on his bench. Wires are put through each of the folds or pipes on the back. When the top is completed on the bench, it is taken to the car and the wires are strung through the bows. This is important because the use of the bows and wires keeps the lining tight and snug. The job should cost about $75 if welting is used and about $125 if the top is piped.

BOB: It seems as if the pipe and roll on seats and tops are becoming very popular. What is the most popular size of piping?

GLEN: At the moment – here in the West, anyway – the small two-inch pipe with a fairly large ‘horseshoe’ roll coming around the edges of the seats down to the floor is most popular. The small piping seems to look best and because it is tightly sewn, it seems to wear better than the larger piping.

BOB: When upholstering the seats, you completely rebuild them, don’t you?

GLEN: That’s right. We remove the upholstery and restyle it along the customer’s designs. The exterior is sewn on a bench, then, placed on the seat frame and padded to give roundness and softness. Prices should start about $250 if side panels and kick panels are included.

BOB: Can a fellow get this done for less if he has only the seats upholstered?

GLEN: Sure, he could have the seats upholstered for about $175, but he wouldn’t really be saving money. Sooner or later he will want the door panels and the kick panels covered, and it will be another $90 to $100. If he has this done along with the seats, the upholsterer can cut all the material from one bolt with a greater saving in fabric and labor, and he can pass this saving along to the customer.


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BOB: Is there much demand for padded dashes now?

GLEN: There is not as much demand for them as there was. It seems to be going out of style slowly, although we have recently done several ‘Kaiser’, type crash rolls. The upper half of the dash is padded with a heavy, soft ‘crash roll,’ while the lower area is chromed. This is quite striking. Some sports-type cars look good with a completely upholstered dash. A partial dash would cost about $35. Chroming shouldn’t run over $15 or $20.

BOB: Is a completely upholstered dash limited only to sports-type cars?

GLEN: No, but it’s a tricky thing to design. It should be limited to cars with a rather plain dash design. The late model Fords and Chevys take to it rather well. Most foreign cars look good. The toughest part of padding a foreign car is the work involved in removing and replacing the instruments. On either the American or foreign cars, it would run between $35 and $50.

BOB: Many fellows like the advantage of an arm rest in either the front or rear seat. Do you recommend a fixed or removable arm rest?

GLEN: I recommend the removable arm rest for two reasons, Bob. First, it is easier to construct, and thus is less expensive, and second, the removable arm rest can be upholstered without causing bulges and wrinkles. The arm rests are built of wood and upholstered in fabric. The fabric usually matches the seats‚ÄĒif the seats are a pipe and roll, then the arm is identical. This would cost about $25 or $30 plain.

BOB: What do you mean by ‘plain’?

GLEN: All arm rests are hollow. They can be used for storage, but many fellows are converting their arm rests into a bar. To do this, the top is hinged and inside padded. A bar arm rest costs about $50. If the arm rest extends down to the floor, as many do, it would probably cost about $75. Rear seat arm rests cost the same as those for the front.

CCC-carson-top-shop-p2-MT-april-53-02The Custom removable arm rest the Carson Top Shop produced. This was one of the products you could order by mail in the color of your choice.
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BOB: Are tire covers limited to older American cars and popular foreign makes?

GLEN: Oh, no. Many owners who have installed continental kits are changing from the metal tire cover to sports fabric because it gives a more sporty look. The cover should cost about $12.

BOB: At this point it seems natural to turn to tonneau covers. They are very adaptable, aren’t they? I wouldn’t consider them limited to smaller sports cars.

GLEN: Tonneau covers improve the looks of almost any convertible. But more than that, they offer protection against the elements when the top is down. There are many variations of the tonneau cover. First, there is the ‘full’ tonneau. This fits from the back, the rear seat, up over the windshield and down, to snap around the sides. It protects the upholstery from the sun and moisture. The second design ‚ÄĒ perhaps the most popular ‚ÄĒ starts at the back seat and ends at the windshield. With the windows rolled up, it offers good protection from the dew, and with the exception of the open windshield, it is excellent protection from the sun’s rays. The third design is a half tonneau. It merely covers’ the rear seat. The full tonneau costs about $50. The second type, ending at the windshield, costs about $37, and the half-tonneau should cost about $27.

BOB: This should sum up the upholstery interview pretty well, shouldn’t it, Glen?

GLEN: I think so. This should be enough information so that anyone can know how to get his money’s worth. One important point, however, is that custom upholstery and top work result in a handmade product. The quality and taste of that product depend upon the man who does the work. Before buying seats, tops, or any work, it is best that the prospective purchaser inspect the upholsterer’s past work. There are many top-notch men in the business, but there are also a few ‘rag pickers’ who do not care about quality. If the car owner will pick his workman with care, the upholstery or top should leave nothing to be desired in appearance, and should last a long, long time.”



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References and more info

  • Blue Book of Custom Restyling, book¬†Dan Post
  • Speed and Power Handbook, booklet 1947-49
  • Motor Trend, magazine April, 1953
  • Rod & Custom, magazine July, 1955
  • Street Rodder, magazine, April, 1989
  • Rod & Custom, magazine August, 1991¬†(The Carson Top Story by¬†Greg Sharp)
  • The American Custom Car, book Pat Ganahl 2001
  • The Big Book of Barris, book 2002
  • Barris Kustom Techniques of the 1950’s, books
  • Rodders Journal, magazine issue 12
  • Coachbuilt.com, website

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Got To PART ONE of the story on the Carson Top Shop.






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John D’Agostino 58 Packard

 

JOHN D’AGOSTINO 58 PACKARD

 

John D’Agostino unveiled his latest Custom Car at the 2016 Fathers-day Concours on Rodeo in Beverly Hill’s California. Another Oz Welch & John D’Agostino Concept Custom.



John D’Agostino and Oz Welch have been creating some stunning Custom Cars and Concept Customs for many years. John’s latest is based on a very unusual base car, the ’58 Packard Hard-Top. Together with Oz he¬†designed a Concept Custom two seater Roadster many years ago. While the car was in progress over the last 8 years, Oz has created many unique features on the car and has come up with many more design elements. John has been warming up the world wide audience for his latest Custom Creation for many month, sharing some small detail photos and making sure everybody knew about the cars Debut on Fathers day at the Rodeo Drive Concours in Beverly Hills California.¬†John D’Agostino 58 Packard.

CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-07John D’Agostino stands proudly with his just debuted ’58 Packard Concept Roadster Custom which he named “Rita” after movie star Rita Hayworth.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-signJohn is known to name his Coachbuilt Concept customs after the most famous movie stars. The ’58 Packard was named “Rita” after famous Holliwood actress¬†Rita Hayworth.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-09Completely reshaped and turned in to a 5″ chopped two seater roadster.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-08The Packard steering wheel was send off to Pearlcraft in Australia who did an amazing job of adding the white and lavender pearl.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-03The front end was reshaped and a new grille created from drilled stainless with 150 custom made bullets.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-04Oz Welch was responsible for all the body work, design elements and the multi hued House of Kolor pearl lavender paint job.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-05Rear fenders were completely reshaped and side trim modified. The Chrome wire wheels and Coker tires are John’s trademark combination.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-06Bob Devine did the interior over ’62 Cadillac seats and custom door panels and console in pearl white and lavender. Bob used a combination of button tufted and tuck & roll styles to create the unique high end concept car look. The carpets were imported from New Zealand and are 100% lambswool. Notice that the door top are completely smooth… a real roadster.
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How Rita was created

John’s ’58 Packard was constructed by Oz Welch in his shop in Orville Ca. The car is based on a two door Packard¬†and reshaped in every way possible. The¬†idea behind the car was to create a one off Sport Two Seater Concept custom. Perhaps something that Packard could have been built to help promote the ’58 Packards back in late 1957.

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The cars front fenders with quad headlights was replaced with ’55 Oldsmobile units with single headlights. The grille opening was completely reshaped and a new grille was made from chrome plated extruded metal and 150 custom made bullets. The Packard bumper was reshaped to work better with the new grill opening. John wanted to have an extra long nose on the car which would suit the two seater style much better. Oz placed an ’55 Chevy dash board 8 inches back from the original dash position. He chopped the windshield a massive 5 inches and moved it back 8 inches to meet the new dash location. The 8 inch cowl cap was filled in.

CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-con-01Early progress photos shows the car at Oz Welch’s shop in Orville Ca.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-con-03The front section of the Packard front fenders has been cut off and replaced with ’55 Oldsmobile units. The hood and grille opening are reshped with round rod and sheet metal.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-con-02The rear portion of the body from the trunk forward towards the back of the front seats was filled in to create a sports two seater. Hand shaped bulges will help incorporate the shape of the seats into the desing.
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’62 Cadillac bucket seats were placed into the perfect position and the rear of the interior was filled in from the seat backs to the trunk to create the unique two seater effect. Oz added two bulges behind the seats that matched the ’55 Chevy dash pods. The door tops were reshaped and rolled at the top and new panels formed on the inside the made the dash flow into the door tops all the way to the backs around the seats and back to the dash on the other side.

The rear fenders were completely reshaped and extended at the back to house a set of ’56 Packard taillights in hand shaped openings. With all the major body work done Oz added modified side trim pieced that gave the car a really great sweep. The stainless for the Windshield had to be reshaped after the chop teardrop shaped details were added to the bulges behind the seats. The Packard rear bumper was cleaned and replated just as all the other components by ¬†Sherm’s Plating¬†in Sacramento.¬†Oz modified the suspension, added airbags and installed a set of chrome wire wheels wrapped with Coker white wall tires.


CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-con-04The windshield was cut down 5 inches and moved back 8 inches to create a longer looking front end¬†and the meet the moved back ’55 Chevy dash board.¬†The cowl was extended and the doors reshaped to make this all happen.¬†
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-con-05The car was converted to a roadster and the door tops reshaped using shaped tubular sections. The door top sections were hand shaped and are flowing fromt the dash all away around the seat backs. 
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-con-06Close up look of the ‘Olds headlights, ned grille opening shape and the ’56 Packard taillights in the reshaped and extended rear fenders.
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CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-con-07With the most of the major body work out of the way and the body in primer Oz can pay some attention to the details. He hand shaped some stylish element to decorate the bulges behind the seats.
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Oz prepped the body and added the multi hue lavender House of Kolor lavender paint. When the car was nearly done John took it to Bob Divine for an unique interior done in pearl white and pearl lavender. John wanted something special, something concept car like from 1958. So a combination was made with Button tufted and tuck & roll panels. Bob had to do a rush job to meet the deadline on Father’s Day 2016.


CCC-d-agostino-58-packard-rita-con-08With most of the work done on the Car John D’Agostino started to tease the world with sharing some black and white detail photos… building up to the Big 2016 Fathers Day debut of “Rita”.
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