1950 Sacramento Autorama

1950 SACRAMENTO AUTORAMA

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

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Special thanks to Lawrence Fears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the top right we can see Al Garcia Westergard restyled 1939 Ford,  #5 Lawrence Brocchini ‚Äô31 A-V8 roadster on Deuce rails V-Windshield, Vern Haversack 1927 Model T with track nose with #11,  #1 Burton E. Davis 1931 Ford Roadster, and on the left is #19 Harold Casarang’s ‚Äė25 Model T. bottom right shows the #14 of Jack Odbert’s 36 Ford, behind it the engine and front of #15 Ronnie Brown’s ’32 Ford 5-window.

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Show overview

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

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

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

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

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

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Custom Cars at the Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Hot Rods at the show

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

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

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#3 Dick King 1929 Roadster with tracknose.

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

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

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

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#5 Lawrence Brocchini’s ’31 Ford.

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

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

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#19 Harold Casarang Oakland Roadster club member took his ‚Äė25 Model T to the Sacramento Auto Show.
January 1951 Hot Rod Magazine article on the show.

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Sources and more information

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

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Background Mystery Custom

 

BACKGROUND MYSTERY CUSTOM

 

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



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

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

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


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

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









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Ohanesian Merc – details

 

OHANESIAN MERC DETAILS

 

One of my personal all time favorite custom cars, The Harry Westergard/Less Crane/Dick Bertolucci-built 1940 Mercury Convertible Sedan. Lets take a look at the details that make this car so special.


[dropcap]Harold[/dropcap] “Buddy” Ohanesian from Sacramento, California bought a rare 1940 Mercury Sedan Convertible in 1945, shortly after he returned from service. Not long after that he took the car to Harry Westergard for some Custom Restyling. Harry worked together with Less Crane on reshaping the front end of the Mercury to adapt and 1946 Chevy grille. They also chopped the windshield frame¬†and added 1937 DeSoto bumpers.¬†A little later Hall of Oakland created a padded top for the car. In 1949 Harold took the car to Dick Bertolucci who was by then just 19 years old, but already very well known in the area for his excellent body work. Harold wanted Dick to create a lift off metal top to replace the worn out padded top. This resulted in one of the most stylish Custom Cars of all time. In the next few years a few more changes would be made and eventually the car put in storage and restored back to its former glory in the early 1970’s. In the 1990’s the car found a new owner in the late Ed Hagerty who had the car completely restored. It was this version I saw at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Mercury Gathering. And it was at this show I talked to Dick Bertolucci about the details on the Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian Mercury.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-earlyA small photo of Ed Ohanesian’s 1940 Mercury appeared in the August 148 issue of¬†Hot Rod Magazine. This is the first version that we know of. Harry Westergard and Less Crane worked on this version with the ’46 Chevy grille, chopped windshield, molded fenders and 1937 DeSoto bumpers.
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CCC-1940-mercury-brochure-sedan-conIllustrations of the Mercury Convertible Sedan from the 1940 sales brochure. 
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-dick-02An photo of the later version shows the car with the metal top at Dick Bertolucci’s shop. This¬†version shows bumper mounted taillights and no bumper exhaust tips yet.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-colorizedColorized photo shows the car in 1951, still with the bumper mounted taillights. This side view shows the absolutely wonderful shape of the top and how well balanced the whole car is with the perfect stance and overall flow. 
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-70sThe Ohanesian Mercury was restored in the 1970’s when the car was owned by¬†Louie Martin and Dennis Nash.
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Being part of the organization of the Mercury Gathering at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama I was able to walk the buildings during the two set up days. During on of these days I met Dick Bertolucci. When we put to gather¬†the list of Mercury’s that would be part of the Gathering, there were a few that stood out for me a little more than the rest of the invited cars. Cars like the Sam Barris mercury, the Hirohata Mercury, the Ralph Test Mercury, and the Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian Mercury. I was actually walking towards the building when the Mercury arrived, I was super thrilled to see this car for the very first time in person, and not only that, but also hear and see it drive by. What a sight!



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-16The Ohanesian Mercury when it arrived at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Mercury gathering. The first time I saw this car in person…¬†
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After the car had been parked inside the building I checked it out from top to bottom for at least an hour. I took photos, stood back and looked at the car from all angles. I was lucky that the car was one of the first arrivals for that part of the show floor. So now I was able to walk around it and view it undisturbed from a distance. I had studied photos of the car for a long time, but that sure does not compare to looking at the car in person and being able to walk around it. The next day I was again walking around the Ohanesian mercury, when I spotted an older man in an electrical cart surround by some family members or friends. The man got out of his cart and walked over to the Ohanesian Merc. Stepped over the cord that had been put up by now, so I knew the guy must be familiar with the car and I thought he must be Dick Bertolucci.

When¬†I walked over and asked if he was mr Bertolucci. He sure was and shacked my hand. “Wow you have nice warm hands, please hold my hands, since I have these ice cold hands” was Dick’s response. And he really had¬†very cold hands.¬†We bonded right away.¬†I told him who I was and that I had just done the colorized Cover of the Rodders Journal, which he really liked.¬†That was the perfect opening for a conversation about the Mercury. And Dick was very enthusiastic to tell everything about the car, like it was the first time he ever told the story, but I knew he must have told it a hundred times or more before.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-12Dick Bertolucci posing with the Buddy Ohanesian 1940 Mercury at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Mercury Gathering.
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He explained to me that Harry Westergard and Less Crane worked on the car before he did. Larry and Less had created the new grille opening, extended the hood and reshaped the front of the front fenders, and installed the 46 Chevy grille including the molded in splash pan and installed 1937 DeSoto bumpers. They also chopped the windshield and reworked the rear of the car where he had cut of the top portion of the very high from the factory Phaeton back end. To be able to do this they had to shortened the trunk. Dick mentioned that the first version of the car had no top, but that Harold, the car owner drove the car to Oakland to have Hall create a padded top for the car. I wish we could show you a photo of this version of the car with padded top, but so far we have not been able to locate on. Hopefully in the future we will be able to add one to this article.



CCC-1940-mercury-sedan-convertible-02The photo above and below show the huge difference the Dick Bertolucci created top made on the overall appearance of the 1940 Mercury sedan convertible.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-13To make the new metal top work well with the rest of the body, Dick removed a large section of the rear of the body. This way the belt-line could be continued all the way to the rear of the car, where it slightly moved down, following the curvature of the body. An 1946 Oldsmobile rear window was used.
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Dick continued that Harrold brought the mercury to his Dick Bertolucci Body and fender shop in 1949. The padded top had seen better days and was really worn out. So Harold wanted a lift of metal top, and asked if Dick could create it. Dicke metnioned that he was only 19 years old then, but had been doing a lot of body work already and people came especially to him for good quality and stylish custom work. Dick found a 1946 Chrysler four door wrecked car with a perfect top, which he thought would be the perfect shape for the Mercury. After he had cut off the top and placed it on the Mercury he found it to be to long. The front end needed to be shortened and the rear needed some reshaping for which he used the rear of the top from a 1941 Buick. For the front of the top he made many cuts and reshaped the metal to fit the windshield frame. While doing this he realized he needed to do something different on the A-Pillars since installing the top on top of the windshield would not work well with the side profile on the car.

He took a good look at how the padded top had been created and noticed how the sides of the top actually fold over the ends of the A-Pillars and thus allow for a heavier side profile of the top. To be able to do this on the metal top, Dick cut a round section from the top of the A-Pillars, this allowed him to fold the metal top over on the sides and make it flow nice with the A-pillars, in a similar what as the padded top had done. Now he was able to heave the nice heavy, but in balance top for the Mercury. Most of this work was done by hammer welding. Not something Dick was very used to at the time, but he had noticed all the other work done on the car by Harry and Less was hammer welded as well, so he thought he should just continue the technique for the top where possible.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-01The rear of the body was angled forward slightly to match the new lines of the top, the trunk was shortened from the top to fit the new lowered rear of the body. The way Dick handles the continuing belt-line, compared to the new trunk line is so wonderful, it makes it look like it came from the factory (but then better) this way.
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At the back Dick needed to modify the body work previously done by Harry and Less. The work done was fine for the padded top, but for the metal top the lines just needed to be a bit more straight and in line with the rest of the car. Dick wanted the top and how it was mounted on the body to look like something that could have come from the factory that way. So a lot of time was spend on the back. Making pie-cuts to reshape the rear and make it flow perfectly with the new shape of the top. The lower edge of the new top was made ridged with a welded in frame work to ensure the best possible fit. The only problem was that these sections could later not be metal finished due to the frame work. So that was the only section Dick had to use lead for fine tuning. Dick found that a rear window from a 1946 Oldsmobile was a perfect fit for the top. It flows really nice with the rest of the lines of the car. Another tricky section was how the top needed to be smaller at the top to fit flush with the side window frame and line up with the windshield frame, but go wider all the way at the bottom on the back to fit flush with the wider section of the belt line. Dick spend a lot of time shaping the edges of the top to make everything look factory finished.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-08Another look at how Dick Bertolucci handles the panel lines on the top and the trunk. Work of Art.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-02A detail that is often overlooked at the Ohanesian Mercury is the way Dick Bertolucci reshaped the top corners of the A-Pillars. Below is a photo showing the stock A-Pillars and how the top ends flat with the top of the windshield. But on the Ohanesian Ford to top section is cut of with a radius. This allowed Dick to have more height at the top when viewed from the side, and the side windows could be made smaller in height, which enhanced the low profile of the car. 
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CCC-1940-mercury-sedan-convertible-03Stock A-Pillar shows flat top corner.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-03This photo gives us a nice view of the interior upholstery and headliner. But it also shows how Dick gently widened the top towards the rear and towards the belt-line. This was needed to make sure the rear of the top fitted flush with the main body. (see also photo below)
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-06The flowing lines from the lower edge of the trunk to the center of the top is absolutely perfect. It also flows so nice with the molded rear fenders and Buick Skirts. This side view also shows the matching shapes and lines on the molded splash-pan and taillight pods.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-10The original dip behind the doors for the convertible top was extended towards the rear of the body to optically follow the belt-line all around the car. This photo shows all the work that was needed to make sure the top would match the chopped side window frames as well as fit to the main body. It also shows the molded fenders.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-07Close up of the later 1946 Ford taillights that were set on hand made pods. The pods echo the shape of the splash pan. The molded in fenders and splash pan create very smooth body lines. Notice the exhaust tips in the Chevy rear bumper. Dick mentioned that he had not done those, if he had, he would have modified the tops to follow the shape of the bumper.
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Dick was also responsible for the set in the license plate, and the addition of 1946 Chevy bumper to replace the 1937 DeSoto units. To make the Chevy bumpers fit, he had to reshape the molded in splash pans Harry and Less had created earlier. The interior was updated with a 1941 Cadillac dashboard and steering wheel. The headlights were dechromed and primered to be painted body color. Dick painted the car in wonderful maroon mixed from Chevy color toned darker and gold powder (Venus Martin No. 9). Buddy drove the car around like this until 1952. Then Dick got the car back in his shop for a repaint and while at it he changed the motor cycle bumper mounted taillights for 1946 Ford taillights in home made pods molded onto the fenders. These new pods were shaped to fit the Ford taillights, but also to look similar to the side view of the rear molded in splash pan. At this time it was also decided to mold in the previously painted stock headlights.

Dick mentioned that he did not remember who did the bumper exhaust tips.¬†But he assured me that it was not him who had done those.¬†Since he would have re-contoured the tips to follow the bumper shape, which would have looked much nicer he said. Dick mentioned that he was still very proud at how well balanced the removable to came out on Harold’s mercury and how he was able to balance the whole car so well, with the perfect ride height and window size, top shape and height combination.



CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-04Dick also created the set in license plate at the lower part of the trunk. The license plate sits behind glass and is installed from underneath the trunk lid.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-05The dashboard is still the 1941 Cadillac dash that was installed into the car when it was customized in the late 1940’s. But the steering wheel has been replaced with a 1947 Cadillac unit at a later date. The interior was upholstered by¬†Ron Lago in the 1970’s.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-09Another update from the 1970’s restoration is the chrome plated removable B-Pillars. Those were painted body color on the original version of the car.
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It was amazing to be able to walk around the Mercury with the creator of this fantastic Custom Car and see him point out all the details. And the really amazing thing is that in 2009, 60 years after the majority of the custom work was done, the whole car looked still absolutely stunning. And the fit and finish of the metal top was top quality with an even gap all around.



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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-15The two photos above show the difference in A-pillars very well. If the A-pillars would have remained the stock shape then the side windows would have been one to two inches taller. and the roof very thin. Now everything is nicely balanced and in good proportions. Notice the work that needed to be done for the grille to fit and how more finished the front looks with the molded in splash pan.
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CCC-bertolucci-ohanesian-merc-details-14Close up of the front shows the work that was needed to make the 1946 Chevy grille fit the 1940 Mercury front fenders and hood. Both front fenders and hood had to be extended forward and reshaped. A later edition of the car had molded in stock Mercury headlights. 
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There is a lot more to tell about the Ohanesian Mercury, and we probably will do… in another future CCC-Article, but for this article I wanted to high-light all the body details that make this Custom Car Icon so special. Take a look at the photos in this article of the Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian Mercury, see how well balanced the car it, how a perfect ride height works wonders and how good a four door sedan body can make just the perfect custom.

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Butler Rugard Westergard Merc

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BUTLER RUGARD WESTERGARD MERCURY

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A very early Westergard customized 1940 Mercury survives several re-stylings over the years, gets restored to 1950’s specs and ends up in Europe.

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A little while ago we ran a short story on the Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury restyled by Harry Westergard. The story was about the car being for sale at a large auction in Greece. At the time the car did not find a new buyer. Recently the Greece owner contacted us to share some more photos of the car taken in Greece and to let us know the car is still For Sale. So we thought its time to do a full article on this unique early Westergard Custom, and perhaps find a new owner for the car who might even take it back to how it original looked when harry Westergard restyled it in the early 1950’s. The last restoration on the Butler Rugard Westergard Mercury, done by Jack Walker and team. The car was restored to a generic mid to late 1950’s version.

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This is how the Mercury looks now, photographed in sunny Greece in 2015.

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Lets go back in time first… to when Butler Rugard’s bought this 1940 Mercury Convertible brand new from the dealer.
Most likely being inspired by the GM design studies of the early 1940’s Butler started to have his brand new 1940 Mercury Customized right away. One of the people who he knew could handle the changes he had in mind was Harry Westergard. Butler took the Mercury to Harry to have him create full fade away fenders.

The story goes that the complete restyling was done over a period of time. Dick Bertolucci mentioned that some of the early work on this Mercury was done by Les Crane, who worked with Harry Westergard on a few projects. Each time Butler took the car back to Harry to have some more changes done to it. But as far as we know the fade-away fenders was the first restyling done by Harry.

There are different stories going around about the padded top on the car. One story is that Westergard chopped the windshield, and created a frame for a padded top, another story is that it was the padded top that was done by one of the famous shops very early on in the process. Westergard is credited for replacing the stock grille with the Buick unit. The hood has also been modified to fit the flatter Buick grille, but the typical Mercury side bulges on the hood are still on the hood sides in this version.

In the later version the bulge was removed and the body crease on the hood sides extended and wrapped around to the front of the hood. The car has 1937 DeSoto bumpers, and the stock 1940 Mercury headlights are still in place. This version used black wall tires and single bar flipper hubcaps. Jack Walker provided the Custom Car Chronicle with a very rare photo of this early version of Butler’s 1940 Mercury. De photo did not come with a dat, but this must have been in the very early 1940’s.

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Jack Walker provided this amazing photo. It shows the car in an early version when the hood sides and headlights were still stock. The car was then also fitted with 1937 DeSoto bumpers.

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He reshape the front of the front fenders and added Packard headlights to them. The team wanted to use a 1942 Buick grille, but since that unit is a lot thinner than the v-shaped Mercury grille the hood needed to be reworked considerably to make this all work. Harry reshaped the front of the hood, he tucked the lower section inward, to meet the new 1942 Buick grille. this all resulting in a dolphin like hood shape, a similar shape we can also see in some coach-built roadsters from those days. Although we are not sure if Harry might have been influenced by those, or if this is just a coincidence.

At the rear Harry installed 1940 Chevrolet taillights, vertical on slightly extended moldings and a set of tear drop fender skirts. The car was lowered with long shackles and a de-arched spring at the back. The car was dressed up with Lyons hubcaps on wide whites, 1941 Packard bumpers and a set of spotlights. The original flathead Mercury V-8 was kept in the car, but was dressed up with some early Hop Up speed parts as a triple-carb Offenhauser intake manifold with matching Offenhauser finned heads. We are unsure when Harry completed the car in this what we cal final version. But we do know that the car was shown like this at a Sacramento Car dealer show in 1950.

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Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury at the Sacramento Car dealer show in 1950.

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August issue of Custom Cars magazine showed the car in the letter section. Dark paint, no skirts and long lake pipes.

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It appears that Butler hung on to the mercury long enough to hand it over to his daughter Marie somewhere in the 1950’s. In the August 1960 issue of Custom Cars magazine, there is a small write up on the car in the “Mail Call” section. According this article the car was painted black then, had leopard fur upholstery on the inside of the padded top, a chrome plated dash, and leather upholstery. The photo showed full length lake pipes and no skirts on the rear fenders. It also appears that at least the rear bumper was replaced with a more wrap around unit.

Steve Bateman bought this 1940 Merc Conv. in 1973 in Isleton, Calif. from the Fernandez family (Butler’s daughter), he kept it for two years and then sold it to Ron Marquardt

The next update we were able to find, comes from the early 1980’s. The car is a dark color, but has now an new horizontal grille opening added. The padded top is re-upholstered in dark material. The lake pipes are gone and so is the front bumper. Black wall tires replace the classic white wall units from the previous versions.

According a small write up, the car had been in storage and had been restored when the photo was taken in 1982. Ron kept the car for the next 25 years and they cruised every summer. Most likely during this period the car was in an accident damaging the front and rear end of the car. The car was repaired with tunneled headlights and set-in, turned upside down, 1939 Ford taillights in the back.

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Dark paint, dark top, black wall tires and a new grille opening.

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The the car was painted white, the padded top was covered with white material, and a 1949 plymouth rear bumper was added on the back. The horizontal grille opening was filled with 1951-53 DeSoto grille teeth, and no bumper was used on the front. The original Spotlight have now been replaced with Dummy units. Chip Chipman photographed the car like this in August 2000.

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This photo and those below , (of the white version) were taken by Chip Chipman in 2000. The car was now painted white with a white covered top and a set of DeSoto grille teeth in the new grille opening.

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In the 1990’s, Ron advertised the car for sale in the Hemmings Motor News. Jack Walker, custom car enthusiast and collector of Belton, Missouri, spots the ad. Before he decides to buy it he is doing some research to find out if it is the real deal as the advertisement claims. Jack even asks George Barris, who recalls the car from the time he was learning the trade at Harry Westergards shop. So he advised Jack to buy the car sight unseen. Jack decides to buy the car and asks his friend Ed Guffey to team up with him on the restoration.

Dave Dolman in Verdon, Nebraska, was hired to do the bodywork restored. The body was n rather bad shape and needed a lot of work getting straight again.Once the body work was done Jack and Ed decided to paint the car Candy Apple Red. Not really the right color for this 1940’s custom. But the team decided to see it as a mid 1950’s redone version of the car. The modern engine was replaced with a flathead engine and the interior that came with the car was good enough to be restored. Bob Sipes redid the padded top.

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The Butler Rugard, Harry Westergard-built 1940 Mercury was invited to the prestigious Taildraggers on the grass exhibit at the 2005 Pebble Beach Concourse.

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At some point not too long after the Pebble Beach event Jack Walker and Ed decided to let go of the Historic Mercury and Ralph Whitworth’s aquired it for his Museum. Sadly the Museum plans came to an halt in 2009 and most of the collection ended up being auctioned. The Butler Rugard, Westergard Mercury ended up in the hands a new owner from Greece.

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When the car was part of Ralph Whitworth’s Museum the car was invited to the Mercury Gathering at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama. A historic event with the best and most historical Custom Mercury’s from all over the US.

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To Greece

Not long after the Sacramento show the Museum was closed and most cars in the collection auctioned at the special Icons of Speed & Style RM Auction. The car was sold for $75,000.- plus 10% auction fees. Far below the estimate. The new owner of the Butler Rugard 1940 Mercury takes it to his home in Greece after that.

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The Harry Westergard Butler Rugard 1940 Mercury as advertised for the Icons of Speed & Style RM Auction. Estimated to sell for $125,000 – 175,000 it eventually went for $75,000.- plus 10% auction fees.

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The Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury after it has been shipped to the new owner in Greece.

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In June 15, 2013 the car ends up at an COYS auction in Greece. However the car did not meet its reserve, it was estimated to bring: ‚ā¨80,000 ‚Äď ‚ā¨100,000 ($124,208.00 ‚Äď $155,260.00) and was not sold and went back to the owner who had bought it at the US Auction.

The Mercury at the 2013 COYS Auction.

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This photo, and the four below shows the car as it was in 2015, photographed by the then owner in Greece. The owner had contacted us to advertise the car for Sale on the CCC. Eventually around 2019 he is able to find a new owner for the car.

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The car today is still in the same condition as the Jack Walker team restored the car in. Odd, far from period perfect Candy apple red with red wheels and Packard baby moon hubcaps. A nice set of Lyons hubcaps, wide whites and a dark maroon or black paint job would do wonders for this car.

GOOD NEWS!
September 2019. The really great news is that the new owner has great plans for the car. The new owner, and his friends are very dedicated. First plan is to get it technically all in order so that the car can actually been driven, and driven safely. The next plan is that the car will most likely be shipped to the US at the end of the summer in 2020, possibly to attend some shows there. The new owner lives half of the year in Greece, and half of the year in the US. Then the later part of the plan is, and this is the most exciting part of it…. to have the car brought back to early 1940’s specs. Black paint, DeSoto Bumpers, just as how the car was initially created for Butler Rugard.

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We soon will be updating this article with more info, and current photos of the car.



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