1957 Sears Parking Lot Show

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1957 Sears PARKING Lot SHOW

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The parking lot at Show Arena. Started in the early 1950s, gathering some of the most beautiful Customs. A closer look at the 1957 Sears Parking Lot Show.

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In 1950’s it was quite common to organize one-day outdoor car how at a large store. The parking lots of these stores where huge, the visitors could get food nearby, the stored usually had plenty of bathrooms and other shops were nearby, which made it ideal to visit with the whole family. These parking lot shows were organized all over the country.

One of the most famous photos ever taken at one such parking lot show was from 1954, where an car show was organized at the Thrifty Drug Store. A huge number of these parking lot shows, like the thrifty parking lot show, and this Sears parking lot show were only advertised locally – in these cases in Los Angeles – perhaps thru the car clubs, the local newspaper, and at the local stores around the parking lot with banner, poster, perhaps hand-outs. These stores of coarse benefited from these show, extra people coming in for a bite to eat, drink etc, or some general shopping on their way back home. Another famous show was held (multiple times) at the Hollywood Park Race Track parking lot.

So far I have never been able to find any of these show flyers, or ads, but we know from several of these show, that the advertising resulted in a great number of first class, magazine cover or feature cars in attendance.
Not sure if these shows were specifically advertised as Custom Car Shows, but it is very remarkably that the majority of the cars at these events are Custom Cars, and not Hot Rods. According to Greg Sharp it just shows how big Custom Cars were during these Golden Years of Customizing.

The 50 Year of Rod & Custom magazine book had a beautiful color photo of the 1957 Sears Parking Lot Show. Most the information comes from Custom Car historian Greg Sharp.

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Overview of most of the car at the event. Interesting to see the Ayala Shop Truck and the R&C Dream truck sitting face to face in the front.

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Close up of the left side of the photo.

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The Left Side

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  • 01 – Carol Lewis’s Dean Jeffries flamed ‘56 Chevy
  • 02 – Unknown ’53 Ford Victoria
  • 03 – Herb Conway’s super low ’54 Mercury
  • 04 – Hershel “Junior” Conway’s ‘50 Ford Coupe
  • 05 – “Chimobo” or ” The Chinaman” Barris Kustoms chopped ‘54 Merc (the car was later destroyed in the ’57 Barris Shop fire)
  • 06 – Ed Beck’s ‘56 Ford with Dean Jeffries pint striping
  • 07 – Frank Monteleon’s ‘56 Ford convertible (From the movie Hot Car Girl)
  • 08 – Unknown medium blue ’56 Chevy
  • 09 – Lloyd Bakan’s ‘32 Ford three-window (one of the two real Hot Rod in the lot)
  • 10 – Buddy Alcorn’s Ayala restyled and redone by Barris chopped ‘50 Mercury (before Dick Jackson added the new two tone paintjob.)
  • 11 – George Barris ’56 Continental Mark II
  • 12 – Dale Stricklin’s silver ‘40 Ford Sedan Delivery (Owner of the Advance Muffler shop located near George Cerny’s shop. He did a lot of the exhaust work on Cerny’s as well as Barris’s projetcs)
  • 13 – Dave Bugarin’s chopped ‘51 Mercury.
  • 14 – Several unidentified car
  • 15 – Several unidentified car
  • 16 – Several unidentified cars
  • 17 – ‘34 Ford Tudor deep purple paint
  • 18 – Super-low ’50 Ford from the Krankers of San Bernardino
  • 19 – Bruce Geisler’s chopped ‘49 GMC pickup (Originally restyled and owned by Gil Ayala used as the Gil’s Auto Body Shop truck)
  • 20 – Jim Pitts’s red ‘55 Corvette

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A closer look at the cars in the row on the left; Carol Lewis’s Dean Jeffries flamed ‘56 Chevy, Unknown Brown ’53 Ford Victoria, Herb Conway’s super low ’54 Mercury, Hershel “Junior” Conway’s ‘50 Ford Coupe, ” The Chinaman” Barris Kustoms chopped ‘54 Merc, Ed Beck’s ‘56 Ford, Frank Monteleon’s. ‘56 Ford convertible, Unknown medium blue ’56 Chevy, Lloyd Bakan’s ‘32 Ford three-window.

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Buddy Alcorn Mercury, shortly before, or after he traded it to Dick Jackson. George Barris personal ride ’56 Lincoln.

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In the back-row, Dale Stricklin’s silver ‘40 Ford Sedan Delivery on the left, and Dave Bugarin’s 1951 Mercury restyled by Barris on the right, behind the open hoods of the unknown cars.

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Bruce Geisler’s chopped ‘49 GMC pickup – formerly owned by Gil Ayala, super-low ’50 Ford from the Krankers of San Bernardino, 34 Ford Tudor deep purple paint, unknown early 50’s Chevy sedan light blue with spotlight.

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The Right Side

Close up of the right side of the photo.

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  • 21 – Spence Murray’s R&C “Dream Truck” (finished in two-tone primer the night before at the Barris Kustoms Shop)
  • 22 – unknown touring
  • 23 – ‘55 Chevy Black with red top unknown owner
  • 24 – Patric Morales’s ‘53 Chevy Bel Air hardtop Restyled by Ed Wright
  • 25 – Jud Morgan’s ‘56 F-100 from the Renegades of Long Beach
  • 26 – Dan Purinton’s 56 Mercury Bahama blue and mother of pearl, and more Renegades entries including Jim Ashley’s ‘55 Chevy, Damon Richey’s ‘50 Bel Air Hardtop, and Ed Cousin’s Deuce pickup (the second Hot Rod).
  • 27 – Unknown MG
  • 28 – Unknown
  • 29 – Ron Dulin’s ‘56 Plymouth Fury (later painted by Larry Watson)
  • 30 – ’56 Buick unknown owner
  • 31 – Gilbert Crus’s George Cerny-built ‘55 Chevy
  • 32 – Unknown Ford pick up
  • 33 – Unknown Classic Touring
  • 33 – Studebaker Hawk, Mercedes sports cars
  • 34 – Unknown Sports Cars?

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A closer look at Spence Murray’s R&C Dream Truck, the unknown touring classic car, the unidentified black ‘55 Chevy with red top and Patric Morales’s ‘53 Chevy Bel Air hardtop.

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Jud Morgan’s ‘56 F-100, Dan Purinton’s 56 Mercury, and some more Renegades entries including Jim Ashley’s ‘55 Chevy, Damon Richey’s ‘50 Bel Air Hardtop, and Ed Cousin’s Deuce pickup.

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Unknown MG, Unknown two tone ’56 Mercury, Ron Dulin’s ‘56 Plymouth Fury and an unknown ’56 Buick.

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Gilbert Crus’s George Cerny-built ‘55 Chevy.

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Close up of the unknown Sports Cars at the far right. Mercedes Sport Cars, an Alfa Romeo and the rest I have not been able to identify.

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Can you imagine how many kids got inspired by these parking lot shows, going shopping on a Saturday morning with mom. Not knowing anything about the parking lot shows, turning in on the parking lot to do their weekly grocery shopping’s. Then being confronted with all this eye candy in the parking lot.

In the summer of 2019 the Petersen Archive started to share their enormous photo collection online. While browsing thru the collection I came across a series of black and white photos taken at this event. So now we have many more photos to show many more cars that were not in the original color photo, plus many detail photos. Below is a selection of the black and white photos taken at the Sears Parking Lot from the Petersen Collection.

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Thrifty Parking-lot Show

 

TRIFTY PARKING-LOT SHOW

 

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



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

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

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

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



Identifying the cars on the parking lot

In the right row from top to bottom:


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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