Bob Lund 50 Mercury

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BOB LUND 50 MERCURY

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The Bob Lund 1950 Mercury convertible easily fits on the list of some of the best restyled Barris Customs ever created. It sadly never received this recognition in the magazines back in the day.

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Original article from September 10, 2016, updates October 17, 2019

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Bob Lund took his 1950 Mercury convertible to the Barris Kustoms Shop in Lynwood, California. This was in early 1953, at the time when the Barris Kustom Shop was perhaps the most prolific. The team at Barris created a stunning, very elegant and well balanced Custom for Bob. A car very typical for the time it was created, with a lot of never before used parts mixed with some elements that had proven to work well on previous restyled cars. Bob Lund’s Mercury never received much magazine publicity, until George Barris used several in progress and finished photos of the car in his Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s book number 3. These photos showed that the Barris restyled Mercury was one the same level with some of the best known Barris Customs, that did make it in the magazines back then. For unknown reasons Bob Lund’s Mercury was never featured, even though the Custom Car magazines were really blooming around the time the car was finished.

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Factory stock 1950 Mercury convertible, similar to what Bob Lund took to the Barris Kustoms Shop in early 1953.

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Judging the early stage photos were Frank Sonzogni is working on the grille, it looks like Bob’s Mercury might have been done as a milder version first, or perhaps it was just a primer stage. I have not been able to find a photo or info to shed more light on this. The stock headlights were replaced with 1952 Ford/Mercury units that were fenched into the smoothed front fenders.

The windshield of Bob’s Mercury was chopped, but only mildly, 2, perhaps 3 inches. All emblems were shaved of the car, and the door handles were removed and electrical solenoids with door poppers installed. The hood had its front corners rounded, and the top grille bar was welded to the fenders. At a later stage a second top grille surround was cut down, and installed on the splash-pan flipped upside down, to create a nice oval shaped grille opening. A new custom grille was created from 1951 Frazer horizontal bars with integrated parking lights, and three 1951 DeSoto grille teeth were installed behind the new lower grille surround. The bottom section of the DeSoto teeth was hidden from sight by the lower grille surround. The grille created for the Mercury was nearly identical to the one the Barris shop created earlier for Dan Landon’s 1949 Chevy Coupe. Barris also rounded the bottom corner of the back side of the hood, a very subtle touch hat helped with the flow of the car.

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Barris Shop employee Frank Sonzogni is mocking up one of the 1951 Frazer grille bars for the grille on Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury. This early stage photo shows that the headlights have been frenched, the hood shaved and corners rounded and the splash pan molded to the fenders. The stock side trim was removed. Its unsure of the windshield already has been chopped in this photo.

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At the back of the car the stock round rear fenders of the 1950 Mercury were removed and replaced with 1951 Mercury units. The 1951 Mercury fenders added a few more inches to the rear of the car, which helped create a nice long low profile for the car. Sam Barris worked on the rear fenders and he installed a pair of 1953 Pontiac wagon taillights. The top corners of the trunk were rounded to match the rounded hood corners. With all the body work done a set The Barris crew decided to install a set of 1951 Lincoln bumpers, front and rear. Those Lincoln bumpers were heavier and more exclusive than the Mercury units. They really add class to the car. At the back two exhaust ports were installed in the lower bumper ends. The combination of the 1951 Mercury rear fenders and the use of 1951 Lincoln bumpers gave the car the impression it was an 1951 Mercury model.

A 1953 Pontiac side trim was modified, flipped upside down and fitted to the Mercury side so that the trim matches the dip in the doors. A set of 1949-50 Mercury fender skirts was modified, extended down to sit level with the rocker panels. These fender skirts apparently were used only very shortly on the car, only one photo has been found that shows them. The vent windows and side glass trim were all cut to fit the new windshield height. With all the work done on the car Barris painted the car. I have heard somewhere that the car was painted a dark gold color, but so far I have not been able to get this color confirmed. As most of the Barris restyled cars had in those days, Bob’s mercury was also dressed up with a set of Appleton Spotlight.

The car was taken to the Carson Top Shop who create a very nicely shaped padded top for the car. Possibly they also did the interior for Bob’s Mercury, but for that we have no photo or other proof.

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Sam Barris working on the taillights for Bob’s Mercury. The 1950 short rear fenders have been replaced by the longer 1951 Mercury rear fenders. Sam can be seen here trying to see how how he can make a set of 1953 Pontiac Wagon taillights fit to the Mercury fenders.

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Sam having marked the fender, were the extra material needs to be removed to make the Pontiac taillights fit and cutting away the not needed metal. Sam shaping a half inch metal rod to fit perfectly around the Pontiac taillight. 

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The shaped rod surround is positioned into the new opening in the rear fender and welded in place. Some small sheet metal filler pieces are added to make the new opening fit perfectly with the rear fender shape.

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On the inside of the new opening Sam welds some bolds so that the taillights can be mounted from behind. The outside is leaded and filed and sanded smooth.

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The finished Mercury

The Barris Kustoms Shop was a master in creating stunning Custom Cars in the later parts of the 1940’s and early 1950’s. When Bob’s mercury was created in 1953 the Custom Car scene was at its top of the Golden Years. The indoor and outdoor Custom Car shows were still growing, and huge crowds started to show up at these events. But the good thing was that the cars created were still restyled to make the car look better, not restyled to score more points at the shows for bigger and more trophies. Bob’s Mercury is a perfect showcase of the less is more restyling philosophy that the Barris brothers believed in at the time. Restyling to make each car unique, and most of all better looking that it ever did before.

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When Bob Lund’s Mercury was created the Barris Lynwood shop was producing a huge amount of classic top quality Custom Cars. This photo taken on an Saturday morning in early 1953 shows how the shop looked in those days. It must have been very inspiring and helped create high quality cars like Bob Lund’s Mercury.

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This is the only photo I have been able to find showing the finished Bob Lund 1950 Mercury using fender skirts. My guess is that this is how the car was originally finished. It appears that a set of 1949-50 Mercury skirts were extended down to fill the whole rear fenders. Also notice the conservative chopped windshield and padded top with beautifully finished side window trim. This photo could perhaps be taken at an outdoor car show, judging the mid-late 40’s chopped car parked next to it.

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Beautiful low angle rear view taken at the Barris Lynwood shop, shows the 1951 Lincoln rear bumper with custom exhaust openings on the corners. The beautifully frenshed 1953 Pontiac wagon taillights in the 1951 Mercury rear fenders and the 1953 license plate tag.

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The only photo of Bob’s Mercury confirmed to be at a car show.Bob’s Mercury with the drivers door open can be seen here in good company with several other Barris Kustom restyled high end Customs. From left to right. Dale Marshal’s unchopped 1950 Mercury, Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury convertible, Jack Nethercutt’s 1952 Oldsmobile, Bob Hirohata 1951 mercury, Chuck DeWitt 1950 Ford convertible and Tommy Thornburgh’s 1947 Studebaker convertible. According the Barris book this show was held at Lynwood park organized by the South East Car Club Association. And the show even had a Barris class, and Bob’s Mercury was among the winners.

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Close up of Bob’s Mercury at the Lynwood Park show shows that there are no skirts on the car anymore, and that George added one of his cardboard Kustoms of Los Angeles cards on the front bumper.

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Beautiful photo of Bob’s Mercury taken by Loomis Dean, Life magazine photographer at the Barris Lynwood shop. Bob is just exciting the Barris shop driveway, onto Atlantic avenue.

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This photo from the Life magazine collection (a bit more close up than the previous photo) gives us a great look at the perfectly shaped Carson padded top, and details as the rounded trunk  and rear lower hood corners. The lack of skirts, and the usage of 1950 Mercury hubcaps give the car a sportive look, but the stance is all custom. 

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Frenched 1952 Ford/mercury headlights, rounded hood corners, molded in top grille bar, molded in bottom grille bar created from a flipped upside down top bar, custom grille and a great looking 1951 Lincoln front bumper. Bob was a member of the George Barris’s Kustoms Los Angles car club, hence the brass plaque on the bumper. Notice that the Appleton Spotlights are move up, apparently some work was done under the hood around the time Loomis Dean took this photo.

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A closer look the grille and beautifully created grille opening on Bob Lund’s mercury. Hard to see, but the Custom in the background is Jack Nethercutt’s just finished Oldsmobile Custom.

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Published

Bob Lund’s beautiful 1950 Mercury convertible custom was never featured in any of the car magazines in the early – mid 1950’s. There is a series of black and white photos taken by Loomis Dean for Life magazine, but so far I have been unable to find out if these photos have ever actually been used inside Life magazine from around 1953 when the photo were taken.  Rod & Custom published a few photos of Bob’s Mercury, one, showing Frank Sonzogni working on the grille in the cars early stage in a Barris Corner Article about spending a Saturday at the shop in the August 1953 issue. And in the December 1953 issue George Barris used a photo of the finished car in his Barris Korner article about the use of side trim. It is really sad that the car was never featured.

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Rod & Custom August 1953 issue shows Frank Sonzogni working on the custom grille. It shows that the car still has the stock Mercury bumper, but the headlights have been frenched, and the hood corners rounded.

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In the Barris Korner about custom side trim published in the December, 1953 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine George Barris used a photo of Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury (without fender skirts).

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Our friend Ross Ruiz found this neat photo of Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury in the Wilmington Daily Press, March 1954. In this news clipping Bob’s Merc was advertising the LA Harbor Hoods custom car show. Thanks for sharing Ross.

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1953 Pontiac side trim.

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Unusual things about the Lund Mercury

There a re a few a bit strange things about Bob Lund’s Mercury. The first one is the grille. Barris always loved to create very unique custom grilles for their restyled cars, but in the case of Bob’s Mercury they recreated a similar grille that they also created for Dan Landon’s 1949 Chevy. We are not sure if this was because Bob requested this specifically, or if the Barris team thought it was just the perfect look for the Mercury.

The second thing is the use of stock 1950 Mercury hubcaps. Another thing that was rarely done by the Barrises. The only few exceptions to that where a few Cadillac they did, they also kept the stock – custom straight from the factory – Cadillac hubcaps. The smooth 1950 Mercury hubcap would later become a very popular Hot Rod part.

And then there is also the fender skirts on the car. The one photo that we have found with the fender skirts mounted clearly show that the side trim was created in such a way that it would not interfere with the skirts. The dip in the Pontiac trim did not allow for the lower rear section of the trim to go all the way to the rear. But with out the skirts, it would have been possible for the trim to go all the way to the rear. Still the side trim was not modified, extended to the rear, after the skirts were removed.

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The grille on the Bob Lunds Mercury used the DeSoto grille teeth set back, and the lower section covered behind and below the lower grille opening.

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The Grille in Dan Landon’s Chevy was created a little earlier than Bob’s Mercury. The only difference in the two grilles is that the DeSoto teeth are showing more of the lower section and sticking out further on the Landon Chevy. Other than that they are near identical.

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Unusual usage of the stock 1950 Mercury hubcap on Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury. They do look good though, especially with the version without the skirts. It gives the car a nice, bit sporty feel.

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Sadly only very few photos have been found from Bob’s Mercury. We also have not been able to find out anything about Bob Lund, who he was, or is, and what ever happened to his 1950 Mercury. One, perhaps two of the known photos of Bob’s mercury show the car at an (outdoor) car show. So far I have not been able to find any records that show that the car was entered in any of the famous Hot Rod & Custom Car shows in the 53-55 area. Perhaps Bob was not into showing his car at the shows all that much.

UPDATE
In October 2019, Gregg Bodiford sends us an email that in his searched on the Petersen Archives he came across a few photos taken by Eric Rickman in 1958 at Lee’s Speed Shop The photos were taken of an engine that was being build at the shop, but Gregg noticed that it was the Bob Lund 1950 Mercury that was sitting in the background on a few of the photos. Sadly not shown completely in any of the photos, but all the details are there to positively identify it at the Lund Mercury. The hood is removed from the car indicating the shop might be doing some engine work on the car.

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The Bob Lund 1950 Mercury photographed at Lee’s Speed Shop in 1958.

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This is really great news, showing that the car was still around, and most likely still being used in 1958. Now lets hope somebody knows more about Lee’s Speed Shop, and what the Mercury did at the shop. Thanks for sharing Gregg!

If anybody out there has any information about Bob Lund, what happened to his 1950 Mercury, or anything else about this car. Please email Rik here at the Custom Car chronicle. We would like to find out more, and add the information to this article.  Thank you.

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(this article is sponsored by)

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2+

Jim Skonzakes 1949 Buick

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Most people know Jim Skonzakes aka Jim Street from his Golden Sahara. But before that he owned several very nice Customs, including this 1949 Buick Roadmaster.

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Jim Skonzakes grew up in Dayton Ohio, far away from sunny California where the Custom Car style was born. This did not prevent a young Jim Skonzakes to fall in love with Custom Cars, and spend every spare moment he had on creating his dream Custom Cars. In 1954 that lead to the creation of the world famous Golden Sahara.

Jim’s parents owned a chain of launders shops in and around Dayton Ohio, which ensured a steady flow of money in the family. This allowed Jim to make road trips out to California to experience the fantastic Custom Car Scene, of which he had heard about from friend who had visit CA., in person. He absorbed all he could on the many trips he made to Los Angeles and other places. He quickly made friends there and found out about the Barris brothers, and the magical Custom Car Shops they had in the later part of the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

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One of Jim’s everyday drivers in the later part of the 1940’s was this nicely restyled 1941 Ford. He used this car to drive back and forth to California several times.

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In the later part of the 1940’s Jim owned an chopped and restyled 1941 Ford convertible, restyled in the typical California style. A style which he had studied on his trips to SoCal. Jim had been doing most the work on his own cars himself, including paint. At this time he also had a chopped ’39 Lincoln Zephyr, painted super glossy black (Sadly Jim was not able to locate any photos of this Custom, hopefully one day they will surface). Both of his Customs were drivers and he used them to make the trips to sunny California. The ’41 convertible in the summers and when it was a bit colder in Ohio he took the chopped ’39 Lincoln for another trip from Dayton, Ohio, to Los Angeles California.

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Earliest photo of the Jim Skonzakes ’49 Buick, still in progress. Photo was taken in 1950, possibly at the Santa Ana Drag Strip. The car’s top had already been created at this time, but was not installed. The hood still needed work at the bottom. When the photo was taken the car was painted with white primer, just as the Jack Stewart Ford behind it. Interestingly Jim would buy the Jack Stewart Ford a year or so after this photo was taken.

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During the many hours in his car on the around 2300 Miles trip, he started planning his next Custom, based on a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible. In Los Angeles he discussed his plans with George Barris at the Barris Shop, and they made an agreement that Jim would rent some space at the Barris Shop so that he could work on the car himself, and at the same time have the option of having one or more of the Barris employees to help him out.

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Close up of the Buick. This white primer version shows off the beautiful fender skirt that Sam Barris crafted for the car. The guy with the hat all the way on the right is possible Jim.

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For Jim is was crucial that the Buick would be a very stylish Custom, not over the top, or with a load of extras add-ons he saw back home on Ohio’s Custom Cars. It needed to be something the GM designers could have dreamed up when first designing the car. With that in mind he asked Sam Barris if he could be hired to do the main metal work. Jim liked Sam very much, and loved his sense of style and had witnessed his amazing skills for metal work. Jim also hired Stan Getz who also worked for the Barris shop and together with Sam he would do most of the work on the car.

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Jim’s Buick at the first Petersen Motorama Show held in 1950 at the Shrine Convention Hall in Los Angeles, California. Jim was not present when this photo was taken, but George Barris was, and so was Jack Stewart, and other unknown guy with a Barris tag on his jacket, and two lovely girls. Notice how at these very early car shows, the trophies as well as other publicity material was displayed on the cars.

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Color photo taken by Jim on one of his trips from California to Dayton Ohio an around 2300 Mile (± 3700 KM) trip. Jim had protected the paint on the rear fenders with 1951 Oakland Roadster Posters. (Color photo was developed on April 17, 1951)

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They started with the suspension, ensuring a proper stance, before they could lay out the rest of the custom restyling. At the rear, the frame was C’d, so the rear axle would clear the frame. With the suspension work out of the way, Sam started the body work with the windshield frame, which he chopped 3 inches. The idea was to create a removable hard top for the car that made the car look just as good with or without the top. Not a padded top, that most convertibles had in those days, Jim liked those as well, but wanted something more exclusive for this Buick.

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1950 Indianapolis Auto Show. Jim Showed his just completely finished Buick, leaving a big impression with the east coast crowd.

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This photo gives a good look at how nice the rear window glass flowed with the chopped Cadillac top.

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Beautiful restyling, everything was done to make the car look better, not just different.

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In 1951 Jim took his Buick to the Indianapolis show again, the car had no changes since last year, except for many more miles being driven. Jim taped a Barris Business card to the vent window, a common thing to do back then, to advertise the body shop who had created the cars.

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Detail of the door showing the push button door opener that was installed on the rocker panel on both sides of the car, as well as the Barris Business card on the vent window.

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A similar Barris Kustom Automobiles business card as Jim used on his Buick. (from the Tom Hocker Collection)

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Chopping these GM convertible windshields is not as easy as many other cars from this age. The whole A-pillar is covered with stainless steel, which needs to be cut, reshaped and refitted. But Sam was an excellent metal man and after doing the inner structure of the A-pillar, he worked his magic on the stainless steel bright-work, as well as the vent windows.

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A friend of Jim took this photo of Jim with his just finished Buick in Dayton Ohio at the Carillon Park, a popular hang out place for car guys, back in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.

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With the windshield chopped to the right height Jim found a 1950 Cadillac fast back that would be used to create the custom removable hard-top top for the Buick. Jim never cared for the very heavy C-pillars on the stock ’49 Buick HT’s so together with Sam he designed the new c-pillar and rear window that would work with the new lower top, and looked nice, light and elegant.

When I asked Jim about the rear glass used in the car, and if it was perhaps made of plexiglass like so many rear windows on customs in those years, he mentioned that there was NO plexiglass on the Buick. They used real glass for it. But Jim could not remember from which car they had pirated the rear glass they used, but glass it was for sure. With the metal top all shaped they needed to add all the side window channels, which were created from reshaped units Jim had found and cut off junked cars at the nearby junk yard.

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The rear fenders of the Buick were removed and replaced with 1949 Cadillac units that Jim found at the Junk yard on a wrecked car with frontal damage. They needed a bit of reshaping to fit the Buick body which Sam Barris did, and he also molded them into the body, for the desired smoothed look. Also the rear bumper from the Cadillac was used, making the Buick appear much like a more exclusive Cadillac, and many people later would actually think Jim’s Custom was based on a Cadillac.

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Photo taken at the Dayton Ohio Carillon Park shows Jim’s Buick without the top during a summer cruise. The low stance, Custom Toothed grille, Cadillac rear fenders and chopped windshield all make this one outstanding Custom that made a huge impact on the Ohio Car enthusiasts. (Color photo developed Oct. 5, 1951)

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Sam modified some fender skirts to fit the Cadillac rear fenders. The new skirts are level with the bottom line of the rear fenders, creating a much nicer flow of the rear of the body into the bumper. All small design elements Jim and Sam agreed on would improve the cars looks. A new grille was made using the top bar of a 1950 Oldsmobile 98, in which Jim wanted to install some “heavy teeth”, for a bit more aggressive look. He Liked the shape of the new 1950 Buick teeth, but they required to be cut down at the bottom to fit the new opening. A lot of work, but the end result was spectacular.

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Eddie Martinez did the beautiful interior in Jim’s Buick, including the home made wrap around rear bench. The upholstery was done in black and beige, with white piping.

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Jim kept the Buick front bumper, as well as the stock bumper guards, they were very nice in shape and complemented all the rest of the customizing very well, so those were left in place. The headlight rings were welded to the fenders, and the headlights slightly frenched into them. The side trim of the Buick was replaced with the 1949 Cadillac unit. Sam installed a set of Appleton S-552 spotlights, and wide whitewall tires and Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps complete the finishing touches on Jim’s Buick.

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The dash board and garnish molding was painted black, just as the top, and the main gauge cluster and the glove box were chrome plated

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A better look at the home made wrap around rear bench. and the very wide, white piping that Eddie Martinez used.

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Shortly after the car was painted Jim drove it back to Los Angeles to have Eddie Martinez do a complete Custom interior with special hand made wrap around rear bench. Eddie upholstered the car in black with beige off set with shite piping. With the interior finished Jim entered the Buick in the 1950 Motorama show held in November 1950, and later several other shows on the east coast. Jim really enjoyed the Buick, it not only looked fantastic, but also drove like a dream. He drove it like this until around 1952, when Jim decided it was time for an update on the Buick using a few new parts to keep the car up to date.

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Jack Stewart ’41 Ford shortly after Jim bought, and drove to Dayton Ohio, parked next to his ’49 Buick at a local park in 1951.

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The car was primered in white and Jim would drive around for some time. This version shows in one photo taken at the Santa Ana drags. Soon after that photo was taken Jim drove the car back to Dayton, where he finished the work on the Buick. He extending the lower edge of the Buick hood, where it was indented to follow the original Buick grille. In the process Jim modified the stock molding on the Buick hood (which followed the stock Buick grille surround) and did not fit with the Olds grille bar at all. Jim decided to reshape the hood molding and let it flow to a center-point just above the new grille surround. The rest of the hood’s nose was completely smoothed. Now with all the body work finished Jim picked a Tokay Beige color for the main body and black for the top, and painted the car himself.

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The Buick at an 1951 East Coast Car Show, parked next to it is the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford Jim had just bought from Jack Stewart and driven from Los Angeles to Dayton Ohio. Two amazing Customs parked side by side.

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Jim’s daily drivers were always Custom Cars, so his ’49 Buick was no exception to that. Jim took this photo in February 1951, and this photo gives us a really great look at the flow of the rear window from the trunk to the top.
(Color photo was developed on Feb 1, 1951)

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Version Two

Jim made a few changes, including the addition of 1952 Cadillac taillights, which added even more style to the already classic lines of the car. Jim also adapted the same year Cadillac rear bumper that came with bumper tip exhaust holes, Perfect for his Buick. Jim repainting the body in his own mix of very deep purple, with a metallic lavender top, mixed in his favorite RM lacquer. He took the car on many road trips in this version and later when Jim’s other Barris project car, the Golden Sahara was finished, he sold the Buick. Sadly Jim has no idea what happened to the car, he has been on many hunts for it, when somebody mentioned he might have seen the car. But so far no luck. Hard to believe that such a wonderful trend setting Custom just disappeared.

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The 1952 make over of the Buick included new ’52 Cadillac taillights, rear bumper and a new deep-dark purple paint job with metallic lavender top. Jim mixed his own colors and painted the Buick himself.

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The front of the Buick remained the same in the make over. The new dark paint shows off the custom made peek on the front of the hood really well.

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The new taller ’52 Cadillac taillights and more stylish bumpers really fitted the rear of the car very well. Jim always loved how the Cadillac bumper tip exhaust holes looked on his car.

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The Second version of Jim’s Buick at an unidentified , most likely Ohio Car show around 1952.

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Jim’s Custom Buick has been very important in the history of the Custom Car. The 1949 Buick was finished in late 1950, very early for such a new car done as a full Custom. The Buick had an very unusual light color in an era that most Custom Cars were painted deep, dark organic colors. The light color was even more special because the Buick was already a very big car, and the light color made it stand out and looking even taller.

The main thing way this Buick Custom had such an impact was that Jim showed it both on the West as well as on the East Coast. Advertising the original Custom Look from California on the East Coast and with doing that must have inspired many young guys to create new Custom Cars. Jim had always been fascinated by California, and everything that came from there. But due to his family business he was “stuck” to Ohio. So he tried to create his own little California in Dayton, using his all California Styled Custom Cars. And hoped his friends would start building cars inspired by his California Styled Customs.

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3+

Frank Sonzogni Mercury

 

FRANK SONZOGNI MERCURY

 

Frank Sonzogni Lynwood Police Officer worked part time at the Barris Kustom Shop. Here he created his ultimate Dream Custom 1950 Mercury.


Frank Sonzogni was an Lynwood Police officer of Italian Descent, who was very passionate about cars, and Custom Cars specifically. In general the Hot Rod and Custom Car scene was very much frowned upon – put mildly – by the SoCal police force. By the stories that have been told by the guys ho drove heir Hot Rods an Custom Cars in the 1940’s and 1950’s, how the where pulled over all the time and getting tickets for ridiculous thing, we know there was a serious issue between these two camps. But this all did not prevent Frank to really love the scene.

Frank did not care for what his colleagues thought of him and what he did with his off duty time. Frank started to take very actively part of the custom car scene and started working part time, after his regular shift at the Police Force, at the Barris Kustom Shop. Frank was a good craftsman working on a lot of the famous Barris Customs, including the famous Hirohata Mercury, where he worked on the passenger side of the car, copying everything that Sam Barris had created in the drivers side.

Early photos of Frank chopping the top on his mercury. Most likely this was in later 1952, or very early 1953. Frank measuring the amount the top needs to be dropped. Notice the paint can used as brace. And on the right Frank is showing how the angled forward B-pillars will look.
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After having done a lot of work on the Hirohata Merc, Frank got very inspired and got himself an 1950 Mercury that he turned into his dream Custom in his spare time at the Barris Shop. Frank was inspired by some if the design elements of the Hirohata Mercury, like the removed dog leg in the door and the fender line disappearing in heavily reshaped rear quarter panels, but for the rest of the car Frank added his own personal touches.

According the period magazines Frank chopped the top 3,5 inches in the front, and to get the perfect flow the rear was cut around two inches lower than the front. When chopping the top on a Mercury like this, with more taken out of the back, the profile of the door opening gets just perfect, necessary to do this is that the windshield is angled slightly in the process as well. But Frank wanted to make the top of his Mercury even sleeker than most others, so he angling the whole windshield back a few degree more.

This picture shows the car shortly after Frank had welded the top back together in the new lower position. Notice the angle on the windshield. Frank now also started to experiment with the fade away fender line, which was alter changed to a line with a scoop and dip just behind the door.
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Frank adding lead to the freshly chopped top. Notice how the factory stock sharp edge at the belt-line was now all leaded smooth.
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To continue with the smooth flowing look Frank also shaved the drip rails and the b-pillars were angled forward. The door top and rear bottom corners were rounded for a very pleasing new door opening shape, and to help make the rear quarter window flow nice from the door lines. The rear corner of the rear quarter windows was reshaped, with a more pointy towards the bottom shape. All the stock side trim and handles were removed, including the belt-line trim

Frank sanding the lead on the body worked top smooth to be able to add some primer to have a good look at his work. This photo was most likely taken on April 18, 1953.
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Frank liked the new longer 1951 Mercury fenders, so he bought a pair and molded those into place on his ’50 Mercury. The 1955 issue of R&C mentioned that the rear section of the rear fenders was hand made, but after studying all the photos I’m pretty confident the rear fenders are just 1951 Merc units molded in place. Frank had worked on the Hirohata Mercury, and really liked the side body modifications that Sam Barris had created.  Frank wanted to use a similar styling on his Merc, but with his own twist to it. The front fender line was modified on the door, and into the rear quarter, removing the “dog leg” and raising the rear a little.

Frank cut out a section of the rear quarter panel and pushed it outwards thus creating a scoop. The character line on the rear quarter panel was raised at the front to flow nice with the extended line from the front fender. Above the scoop a nice curvature was created.and the scoop was later dressed up with trim pieces from a ’53 Chevy 210, which can be found just above the stainless rock shield on a stock ’53 Chevy. Frank heavily modified the side trim and wheel opening trim of a 1953 Dodge to create the side trim on his Merc. The back portion of the new trim flows wonderfully with the scoop opening as well as with the angled forward B-Pillars. At the rear of the quarter panels the character line was extended all the way to the back were it blended into the new taillight housing.  The taillight housings were created from 1953 Chevy grille parking light bezel’s molded to the ’51 Mercury rear fenders. Frank modified a set of 1954 Oldsmobile taillight lenses and added 9 Chrome 1950 Ford Dash Board knobs around it.

A little later, still in 1953 the body work on the car is all done, and the car is sitting outside the Barris Atlantic Blvd. Shop to be completely wet sanded and smoothed for the final primer coats and then paint. That is Sam Barris at the corner of the office building waiting for the water can to be filled with fresh water.
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This picture is very interesting since it shows the stock molded grille opening really good. The lower corners of the grille opening are slightly rounded with the same radius as was used to mold the splash pan to the front fenders. The headlights are molded in 1952 Ford units.
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The fit of all the separate panels on Franks Merc, like the hood and doors looks to be exceptional well the time it was created.
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Sam Barris wet sanding the trunk of Frank’s Mercury. This photo also gives us a good look at the reshaped and molded in rear quarter panels, and how they were extended at the back to flow nicely into the molded in 1953 Chevy grille parking light bezels.
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All the ornaments an trim was removed, including the door handles. Door poppers and push buttons installed. At the Front Frank rounded the hood corners and molded in the stock Mercury grille surround. The hood was beautifully peaked, and a lot of work went into making the hood fit the fenders and cowl the best way possible. A 1955 De Soto grille was was modified, narrowed from 9 to 5 teeth to fit the new opening. The splash pan was modified to fit the new ’52 DeSoto bumpers and molded to the body with a nice radius for a smooth look. A set of 1952 Ford headlights was molded to the front fenders for the desired french look.

Frank’s Mercury was displayed at the Petersen Motorama at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in 1954. It was displayed in the Gaylord’s section where Bil Gaylord displayed several cars his shop had created, or for which he had done the interior.
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Rare color photo of the original version of Frank’s Mercury. Clean and simple, in wonderful two tone metallic dark green and lime gold green.
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The suspension was modified to get the car to the perfect ride height. Frank stepped the frame 6 inches in the back and used 4 inch lowering block to get the rear down, and still have enough axle travel. And he installed some heavy duty swivel casters just beneath the rear bumper to make sure the rear of the car would not hit the road in case of steep driveways. The front suspension was dropped by reworking the A-arms and cutting the coils. Frank added a set of wide white wall tires and dressed them up with Custom hubcaps. The interior was done with an diagonal them by Bill Gaylord. For the cars original version Frank choose to not use the almost mandatory at the time Appleton Spotlights, but chose for the smooth look, perhaps being a cop had something to do with that choice.

It took Frank around two years to create his dream Custom. Working on-and-off in his spare time after show hours and in the weekends. As we can see in the Life Magazine photos he had some help of some of the Barris crew, including Sam Barris.

The 1954 DeSoto grille was narrowed to fir the Mercury grille opening from 9 in the stock grille to 5 teeth. This photo shows how nice the front fender flow line is extended into the rear quarter panels.
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Close up of the fender skirts which were either modified stock units, cut down on the sides to fit flush in the wheel opening, or completely hand made. The bottom of the skirts was made to flow with the bottom of the rear fenders. Very nicely done.
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Bill Gaylord really outdid himself on the interior in 1954. He most likely saw it as a display project to show what his shop was capable of. Gaylord created an really unusual interior combining traditional tuck&roll with diamond shaped patterns, using dark green, chartreuse and white material.
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This is what the R&C April 1955 article mentioned about the Bill Gaylord interior.

Frank wanted the inside of his Mercury to be as unusual as the exterior, so he went to Gaylord Kustom Shop in Lynwood. Bill Gaylord responded to Frank’s pleas with a series of rolls in pleats in a combined color combination of three shades that practically defies description. As the accompanying photos illustrate, the headliner is composed of a mixture of dark green, chartreuse and white panels with a large diamond forming the center of attraction. This inner white panel of the header is pleated with the rows running fore and aft instead of from side to side as is normally the case. The remaining door and side panels and the seats complete the design. The general styling theme of the interior is a series of diamonds, large and small, with a large, padded button set squarely in the center of each. Bill Gaylord and staff of upholsterers deluxe, has been doing a little experimentation with this new diamond studded treatment with Frank’s Merc being their latest project.

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The taillights on the original version were made from 1954 Oldsmobile lenses dressed up with 1950 Ford Dash knobs. The pod at the end of the fender is most likely created around molded in 1953 Chevy grille parking light bezels, and feathered out into the reshaped and repositioning rear quarter character line.
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Police man Frank Sonzogni posing with his ’50 Mercury. The hubcaps on Frank’s Ford are are based on Ford aftermarket dummy wire wheel hubcaps. The center of the hubcaps was modified with a chrome bullet taken from a 1951 Ford grille. These modified hubcaps are identical as those used on Bob Dofflow’s 1949 Ford.
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Nice side profile photo shows the modified fender line with the removed dog leg, reshaped rear quarters with scoop added which is dressed up with 1954 Chevy 2010 trim pieces. (These small pieces fit on top of the Chevy’s stainless rock shields) Notice the beautiful flow of the chopped roof, and how the ’53 Dodge side trim matches the angled forward B-Pillar.
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The April 1955 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine had a whopping 7 page feature on Frank’s Mercury.
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Barris Custom?
The Frank Sonzogni 1950 Mercury has been listed as Barris Kustom Shop created Custom, but as far as we know it never had a Barris Crest mounted until after Frank sold the car in 1958. The car was created at the Barris Shop, similar to for instance the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford, but both cars were created by part-time Barris employees in their spare time. Frank’s Mercury had all the styling elements so typical for the Barris Shop, yet it was displayed at the Gaylord section at the 1954 Motorama, instead of the Barris section. Personally I see the Frank Sonzogni as a Barris Custom created completely at the Barris shop and heavily influenced by all cars that had been created around the time Frank was working on his Mercury.



Version 2

Somewhere around 1956, after Frank had been showing the car for some time it was time for an update to keep up with the current trends, which was usually done at the time. The original super clean body was dressed up with bolt wide white pin-striping done by “Earl”. On Frank’s Mercury the striping was very much present, and changed the look of the car quite a bit. Personally I do not feel it as an improvement, but at the time it must have been a spectacular update. Frank also replaced the Oldsmobile taillights and modified a set of 1956 Ford Customline taillights to fit the ’53 Chevy grille parking light molded in bezel openings.

The modified second version of Frank’s Mercury was featured in a four page article in the February 1958 issue of Custom Cars.
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Frank’s Mercury at one of the many parking lot car shows he went to. Notice the bolt striping on the hood and front fenders creating different optical lines on the car.
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Frank’s Mercury together with the Johnny Zupan and Buddy Alcorn Mercury posing in front of the Lynwood City Hall. Ironically this Barris color photo shows three Mercury’s that all have been created by other shops, or people. Two Ayala merc’s on the right, and Frank doing his own Mercury.
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A different angle from Frank’s Mercury at a photo shoot at the Lynwood City Hall.
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I really love this photo of the Sam Barris 1955 Chevy in front of the Barris Shop. A mother and daughter “patiently” waiting for here husband to get back out of the Barris Shop. And in the background the Frank Sonzogni Mercury. Frank used his Merc as daily driver, and of course it was a good idea to have such a great looking custom parked in front of the shop.
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Frank demonstrating the push buttons he added to the Dodge side trim.
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George Barris photo proof of Frank’s Mercury. Although much heavier than the stock Mercury bumpers, the ’52 DeSoto units looked really well on Frank’s Mercury. Both front and rear splash pans had to be modified to make the bumpers fit.
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A closer look at the custom made scoops with ’53 Chevy trim pieces, the modified Dodge side and wheel opening trim. On the right a better look at the 1956 Ford Customline taillights that had to be modified a bit to fit the ’53 Chevy parking light openings. A section around the taillight had to be cut down. The chrome ribbed bezel also comes from the ’56 Ford.
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Frank Sonzogni sitting inside his ’50 Mercury. Frank was 6-foor tall so the seat had to be cut down 2.5 inches to give Frank enough headroom. Notice the Bob Hirohata dash, shifter and Appleton handle knobs. Frank is demonstrating the push buttons he installed on the dash to open the doors.
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1958 New Owner

Around 1958 Frank sells his Mercury to a new, unknown owner from Tucson, Arizona. We do not know anything about this new owner (so far0 All we know is that at the time he bought the Mercury is that the car had new wheel covers and that a Barris crest was added to the front quarter panel, close to the wheel opening. The new owner apparently used the car at the drag strip as well. In 1959 the car caught fire and the car was taken to the local junk yards were it sat until Larry Dames found it in 1973.  According Larry’s son there was a rumor that the only reason the car didn’t get crushed all these years is the owner of the yard was gradually taking the lead out of it. (We do not know if this was true, or that the fire had caused the lead to melt, which seams to make more sense.)

Pat Ganahl shared this neat color snapshot in his Hot Rod Gallery book. It is very interesting for several reasons. One, because by the time this photo was taken 1958-59, Frank had sold it to a new owner in Tucson, Arizona. Two, because it is the only photo I have been able to find of the car with a Barris crest added to the front quarter panel (possibly added when Frank sold it?). Three, it shows the Mercury with all new hubcaps. And Four, because this is perhaps the last photo of the Mercury, at the Tucson Drag strip (by Tom Prufer) before the car burned down in 1959.
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Larry Dames owner from 1973

In 1973 Larry Dames acquired the Merc back when he had just moved down to Tucson from St.Louis. Larry was looking for a Custom Car project car and found the burned down remains of an old Custom ’51 Mercury at the local junk yard. He found out that the car was burnt up back in 1959 and had been sitting in this junk yard ever since. Larry did not know the history of the Merc at the time, but liked its overall shape, and despite the poor burnt condition with caved in top he decided to bring it home.

The photos below show that the Mercury was in pretty poor condition, and we all can be very grateful to Larry for saving is despite all that. Larry needed a new mercury rood, hood and trunk, plus a lot of hours to get all the damage done by the fire fixed. Along the way a few changed were made, especially to the rear where the extended line from the rear quarter was brought back to stock 51 Merc rear fender specs.


This is how Larry Dames acquired the Mercury back in 1973. Larry had just moved down to Tucson from St.Louis and found the Mercury sitting in a junk yard. Most of the trim of the car looks to be still in place, but all the lead has been molten in the fire.
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This picture shows the caved in roof and missing lead work from Frank a bit better. Sad to see it like this.
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The Mercury during its restoration in the late 1970’s. Larry Dames had to use a donor roof and trunk and hood to replace the damaged in the fire original parts.
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Larry finished the restoration and painted the car all white, and installed a Hemi engine. He drove it around for quite some time in the 1980’s. Entering it in shows and swap meets. Very few people knew the real story on the Mercury. In 2009 Larry was invited to bring his Frank Sonzogni Mercury to the Sacramento Autorama Mercury Gathering where it would be displayed with several other historical Custom Mercury’s.


Larry finished the car in all white and had added a Hemi Engine. This is how he showed it in the early 1980’s. By now Larry had found out all about the cars history and even added a Barris Crest to the front quarter panels.
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Painted all white it links back to the early 1950’s Barris times where painting your Custom white primer was very hot.
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Larry Dames’s son wrote this about his father’s mercury.
“To those who are wondering why the cars is White instead of green and why it does not have the Desoto grill or side trim on it. This car was burnt and sitting in a junk yard for almost 15 years before he got it and allot of stuff was missing including the 54 Desoto grill, the original flat head as well as numerous other items. The car was rough and in a sense worthless back in the mid 70’s so he built it the way he wanted and could afford at the time. The car is still the way it was when he finished it 30 years ago, and still has the Chrysler Hemi he put in it back then, which is why it has a louvered hood, and he still drives it all the time.

As far as the cars future, I have been bugging him for over 15 years to restore it back to its original look but with kids, work and other cars, that has yet to happen. He has told me that if he can get his chopped 51 conv. going so he will have a Merc to drive, he will start to tear the car down and restore it back to its original look, Although the interior will more than likely be different, it was pretty hideous looking and he can’t get himself to match the interior, I can’t say I blame him for that.”

Larry Danes was invited to bring his Sonzogni ’50 Mercury to the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Mercury Gathering. The car made quite in impact at the event all in white with bright white and red contrasting interior. It was one of several original Barris Mercury’s on display.
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David Myers took this snapshot of Larry showing one of the burnt down original Bob Hirohata created dash knobs that were still in the car when he got it.
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With all the lead molten away in the fire the rear quarter panels looked quite different than original. Larry kept the stock rear quarter panel look and replaced the taillights with slightly different 1955 Ford units.
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Danny was extremely impressed with the reception his Mercury got at the 2009 Event, and he was very inspired with all the other classic Mercury’s at the event. He planned to get back on the Sonzogni Merc as soon as he could to get it back to the cars original version. Hopefully we will see that happening in the near future.
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What happened to Panoramic Ford

 

WHAT HAPPENED to PANORAMIC FORD

 

One of the Custom Car Icons the Buster Litton Panoramic Ford has been lost for many decades. Perhaps this new info will lead to the answer to what happened to the Panoramic Ford.



With the help of Rob Radcliffe who interviewed Buster Litton and Don Schaedel, original and second owner of the car, about the Barris/Cerny restyled 1949 Panoramic Ford, we have created a two part article here on the CCC in 2015. With all the unique information Rob and me had gathered we were able to get an accurate history on this Iconic ’49 Ford Hard Top written down. We shared some never before seen material that was shared by Buster Litton and Don Schaedel, and were able to trace the history of the car back to 1957.

The Panormic Ford when Buster Litton owned the car.
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In 1957 Don Shaedel, who had owned the car since the early summer of 1954, traded the Hard-topped Ford for a sectioned Shoebox and never sees his beloved custom again. Despite all the efforts we have not been able to find any trace of the cars after 1957… until September 24th 2018.  That day I received an email from Claudia, who had seen the articles on the Buster Litton on the Custom Car Chronicle and clearly remembers the car from 1960-62 time frame.

At that time Claudia was 12-14 years old she new this guy named Darrel Wienkuaf  (Update correct spelling is: Daryl Weinkauf) from Pipestone, Minnesota. Claudia was friends wit Daryl brother Curtis, and she remembered the car here friends older brother had from 1960 till around 1962. She remembered the details on the car clearly, since she really liked it, and remembered the Barris Crest still being on the car, and the hard-topped roof. She has no idea what happened to the car after 1962.

I have tried to find out more about Darrel Wienkuaf (as Claudia spelled it) but perhaps it is spelled Weinkauf (which very much sounds like a German name) from Pipestone, Minnesota. But so far I have found nothing. So I hope that perhaps some of our readers know people from that erea, or perhaps know more about a possible car scene in Pipestone, Minnesota or surrounding area in the early 1960’s. Hopefully we can come up with some more info on the Panoramic Ford being owned by Darrel from 1960-62, and possibly what happened to the car after that.

The Panoramic Ford when Don Schaedel’s owned it parked on the drive way at his home in Lynnwood, Ca.
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Update October 02, 2018

Larry Pointer did some digging after reading this article, and this is what he came up with.

Daryl Eugene Weinkauf, born 29 July, 1938. Son of Arnold and Hazel, living in Sweet, Pipestone County, Minnesota in 1940, He was listed in the census as about l year old, with a brother, William age 2 1/2. I fount a South Dakota marriage for Darryl and I believe a Janice… 18, September, 1958, in Hughes, Pierre County South Dakota. BUT, a divorce in California from a spouse Janice J., 28 December 1984, San Bernadino.
The Find-A-Grave website listed his death, 27 May, 2015, age 76. He is buried in the Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside County, Califorinia.

On the Panoramic lead, I found Daryl E Weinkauf on the Camp Pendelton, CA US Marines muster rolls from July 1956 through January 1958. This puts him in California at about the time he could have seen that Panoramic Ford, and then purchased it and took it back to his parents’ home in Pipestone, by the time that your source Claudia would have seen it there.

 

On Instagram Joe Bronco did some digging as well.

Joe was able to get in touch with the son of Curtis Weinkauf, the boyfriend Claudia mentioned. The son talked to his father Curtis to ask about the car, and he could not remember much about it at this moment he for sure did not know what happened to the car after his brother sold it. But he would ask as around some more, perhaps some other family members might know more about it. Curtis mentioned that the time frame might be slightly off. So hopefully we will get more input on that as well. At this moment he thought there were no photos of the car, but they will be looking. Hopefully some family snapshot might show it.
Lets keep our fingers crossed.

 



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Timeframe on the Panoramic Ford

  • 1950-1951 first owner Allen Anderson takes his 1949 Ford Coupe to the Barris Kustom shop to have them build a full custom out of the car. Allen requests the top to be chopped and turned into a hard-top style.
  • 1951 the Barris Kustom Shop, most likely Sam Barris, create one of the best looking chops ever done, on Allen’s Shoebox. They also install one of the 1951 Studebaker front fenders
  • 1952 Buster Litton buys the unfinished project from Allen Anderson.
  • 1952 Buster hires the Barris shop to finish the started work on the car an has them create the custom grille.
  • 1952 Buster brings the car home after the Baris shop has finished the work and painted the car with primer.
  • 1953 Buster takes the car to George And Carl Cerny’s shop to have them restyle the rear of the car to match the work on the front.
  • 1953 painted in a wonderfull deep coco rust lacquer by Doug Anderson, who worked at the Cerny shop.
  • 1954 adding Ford accessory bumper gards up front and modified Kaiser bar with exhaust thru the bullets on the rear bumper.
  • 1954 adding Barris crests.
  • 1954 February, winning awards at the Motorama and National Roadster Show.
  • 1954 May-June selling/trading the car to Don Schaedel. Don gives Buster his mildly customized 1951 Mercury Convertible in trade for the Ford plus some cash.
  • 1954 Don removes the front Ford Accessory bumper guards since he felt they where to tall for the car.
  • 1957 Don trades the Panoramic Ford for a sectioned Shoebox Ford, and looses track of the Panoramic Ford soon after that.
  • 1957 – 1960 We have no info on where the car was during these years.
  • 1960 – 1962 Daryl Weinkauf from Pipestone, Minnesota owned the car.
  • 1962 and up We have no info on the cars wear-about after 1962

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If anybody knows anything more about Darrel Wienkuaf or Darrel WeinKauf from Pipestone, Minnesota. Or does know anything about a car scene from this area in the early 1960’s. Please let us know. We would love to get in touch with people who know more about the Panoramic Ford during this period, and possibly find out what happened to it. Please Email Rik if you can help us with the search from this long lost Iconic Custom Car. Thank you.





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Cliff Rackohn 1948 Mercury

 

RACKOHN 1948 Mercury

 

One of the more elegnat Customs to roll from the Barris Kustom Shop in during its hay days was the 1948 Mercury Restyled for Cliff Rackohn.



Before we start about this beautiful Barris Restyled Mercury I want to mention a few things about the name and the year of the car. In the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 1950’s Volume 2, the name of the owner of this Mercury is spelled Cliff Rockohn and the year of the Mercury is marked at 1947. In the April 1951 issue of Motor Trend Magazine, as well as the Trend book Custom Cars #101, there is a different spelling of the name Cliff Rackohn, in both the small article as well as in the For Sale ad, and the car is labeled as an 1948 model. I will keep the 1951 Motor Trend spelling of the name, as well as the year for the car to be the most accurate.

’48 Mercury Coupe restyled by the Barris brothers for owner Cliff Rackohn from South Los Angeles. This Mercury is one of the late 40’s, perhaps early 1950’s restyled cars at the Barris Shop that had its fair share of publicity, and one that survived on the Custom Car scene longer then most others created during the same period. Yet, the Mercury is not often mentioned in the more recent Custom Car publications.





So far I have not been able to find a date on when Cliff’s Mercury was first created. The first time it was published was in the Motor Trend issue from April in 1951. Meaning that the car had to be finished around two month prior, February ’51. Around this period the Barris Shop was extremely prolific and a lot of cars were created at the shop. Some were very well documents, others, like Cliff’s ’48, was not. A few elements, like all the molded body panels, the bumper guard taillight and most of all the not rounded top corners of the trunk and rear fenders indicate that the car might have been mostly built around 1948-49. After that it was more common to round off sharp corners.

Cliff was a member of the Kustom’s Los Angeles. This frontal photo shows the beautiful peak on the hood extending all the way down to the grille and how extremely well and elegant the ’48 Cadillac grille looked on this Mercury.
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The overall lines, the perfect speed-boat stance and wonderful long hood make this ’48 Mercury one very elegant Customs.
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The Barris shop created many ’41-48 Ford based Customs, but relatively few same year Mercury based Customs. And that while, as Cliff’s car clearly illustrates, the three inch longer front end of the Mercury’s lend themselves to the perfect tail-dragging Custom. the long nose does not only give the impression of having a more powerful motor, but the proportions, especially with a heavy chop, really benefit from the longer front end. How much the top was chopped is hard to tell, like usual the early publications were often far from accurate with their tech info. And numbers were often exaggerated to make the cars looks even more special.

According the Barris Technique book Cliff’s Mercury was chopped 4 inches in the front and 8 inches in the rear. MotorSport magazine and Trend Books Custom Cars #101  mention 6″ and 8″ and Car Craft magazine a full 8 inches. The chop is pretty heavy on the car, but 6 inch removed from the front might seem to be a little to much. But the difference from to more in the back does sound more accurate than the 4 inches difference from the Barris Book.

The chop on Cliff’s is beautifully proportioned, and reminds me a lot about he chop Sam Barris would later perform on Jerry Quesnel’s ’49 Mercury. With its distinctive forward rake on the B- Pillars and super smooth C-Pillars. Clearly an experiment by the Barris brothers who usually kept the B-pillars straight on their chops. The shape of the door frame and roof shape on Cliff’s Mercury remind me of some of the super smooth and flowing padded tops coming out of the Bill Gaylord shop. But just as on the Quesnell Merc, the rear quarter window front corners seem to have some trouble finding the right direction when looked at from certain angles. But I have to say that the forward pillars sure help with the speed-boat look, and make it look going fast, standing still.

Notice the mud-flap below the front fender.
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In 1951 Cliff entered his ’48 Mercury at the Montebello tent show. Together with Jack Stewart’s ’41 Ford, Jesse Lopez. 41 Ford, Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury, Snooky Janish 1941 Ford, Gil Ayala 1942 Ford and a fee more not in this photo the car formed the Custom Section at this unique show.
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Typical for the late 1940\s early 1950’s the Barris Brothers removed the running boards, and the door skin was extended down. The rear quarter panels was treated the same way. All four fenders were welded to the body, and the seam smoothed with lead for that desirable one piece look. The very busy stock Mercury grille was removed and the body panels reshaped for a much cleaner front. A more elegant and more expensive looking ’48 Cadillac grille was chosen to fit the new smoother front ,and it turned out to be the perfect look for the Mercury. The lower section of the front, which is separate on the 46-48 Mercury’s was molded to the new front end along with the splash pan. The front of the hood was extended down into the new section above the Cadillac grille and the Mercury peak on top of the hood was reshaped at the front to end in a point just above the Cadillac grille, making it look like the peak flows into the center vertical grille bar. This all leads to one of the best custom front-end designs created by the Barris Shop.

There was a small feature on the Mercury in the April 1951 issue of Motor Trend Magazine, showing two photos, including one with Cliff posing with the car.
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A closer look at the Motor Trend 1951 photos. A well dressed Cliff posing with his fantastic looking ’48 Mercury.
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And taken at the same location this nice higher point of view 3/4 look at the Mercury. Very nice angle photo showing the car in all its beauty.
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The headlight rings were molded into the front fenders for a smooth look and the headlights very slightly recessed. The door handles and all emblems were shaved and the side trim shortened on the hood, which was a typical Barris Trademark. At the back the splash-pan was molded to the body, just as on the front, and the taillights plus fender trim was shaved and all holes filled. The bumpers remained the stock units front and rear. But at the rear the Barris crew modified the bumper guards to accept some hand made laminated Lucite taillights. The finishing touch was a set of long 1941 FoMoCo fender skirts, a set of Appleton Spotlights, Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps on wide wall tires (6.00:16 ).

The information from the interior comes from the Motorsports magazine. The front seat was pirated from an 1942 Chevy, allowing to be seated 3 inches lower than stock, which was very welcome with the much lower top. The interior was upholstered in tan cowhide pleated and rolled. The headliner was done in grey imported English wool, and the floormat was made of deeply-piled green rug, which matched the lacquer dash trim. Which makes me wonder if the original color of the Mercury was perhaps green when Cliff Rackohn original owned it?

The car was offered for sale in the same April 1951 issue of Motor Trend magazine. The $6000 invested in the car to built is was a lot of money back then. Notice the spelling of the name Cliff Rackohn. Perhaps Cliff had signed up to go to the War in korea… like so many other guys in the Kustoms Los Angeles Club. Hopefully one day we will know.
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New owner in 1952

In the January 1952 issue of Motorsport magazine There was a two page + feature on the Mercury. According the article the car was then owned by Dave Clickman of Southern California. According the article the the car was chopped 6″ in the front and 8″ in the rear with new sheet metal added from the top of the trunk to the bottom of the rear window, creating a smooth transition. The frame was z-ed in the back and the front was dropped with a 2.5 inch dropped front end. The article also mentioned that the hood was chopped 5 inches, which would technically be a section job, but that is clearly not the car on this Mercury. And that all body panels are molded together and leaded to form one smooth body. It also mentioned that the skirts used once belonged to a ’48 Buick, another false “fact” since the skirts are ’41 Ford Mercury units.

The article mentioned that the car was painted 25 coats of Arctic Blue lacquer by Gram Brothers of West Los Angeles. The engine was rebuild by Ray Brown, a famous Hot Rodder. The Cylinders were bored to 3 5-16″ and a 1950 Mercury crankshaft of 4″ stroke was employed. The 275 Cubic Inch engine utilizes Jahns 3=ring racing pistons with high domes.  It had Edelbrock heads two carb intake with two 48 Stromberg carburetors.

January 1952 issue of Motorsport magazine. Scans provided by Jamie Barter.
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Beautiful rear 3/4 view from a higher point of view shows how gorgeous this Mercury was. From this angle the top works the best. The sharp top corners of the trunk might indicate that the majority of the work was already done on the car around 1948-49.
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The interior was done by Bill Gaylord in a tan colored leather, green carpets.
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This photo shows that by the time Dave Glickman owned the car the rear has been raised a few inches.
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This photo shows the bumper guard mounted taillights a bit better.
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When Dave Cickman owned the car the car ran 3T 609 1951 California plates.
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Dave drove the Ray Brown rebuilt flathead engine to a best time of 87.70. Not bad for a heavy leadsled.
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Third owner

In the August 1955 issue of Car Craft Magazine the Mercury was featured again. This time the car was even more on a forward rake, and the fender skirts have been removed. The owner by then was listed as John Logg of Hollywood, and the Mercury described as a 1947 year model. By now the car was dark maroon, and there is some color movie footage of the car at the 1957 Coachman Car Club high-Shool car show. After this we have not been able to find info on the car. Where it went, or what ever happened to it. If you know more, please let us know.

The Mercury was owned by John Logg when it was featured in the August 1955 issue of Car Craft Magazine. By then the rear had been raised, and the fender skirts removed for a completely new look.
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John Logg was a member of the “Streaking Deacons” and used their club tag on the front bumper.
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Screen shot of a color 8mm movie made at the Coachman Car Club Motorcade Car show in 1957. The footage was filmed by Bob Stephenson who was Coachman Club member, and it is so far the only color images we have of the car. By then it was painted a dark maroon.
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This was a slowly moving from left to right shot so thee screen shot was rather blurry. But still very interesting to see that the car was shown with its hood up, showing off the Ray Brown Flathead engine.
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So far this has been the last photo I have been able to find on the Rackohn Mercury. The car looks still very much like the original version, only it has a different stance, and by now the Sombrero hubcaps have been replaced by some more modern hubcaps 9possibly Olds Fiesta hubcapa. This photo was used in the Trend Book #143 Restyle your car published in 1957.
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George Barris at Work

 

GEORGE BARRIS at WORK

 

George Barris is known to the public more as the Barris Kustoms promoter, than as the Barris Custom Builder. He did however build many cars, and painted even more.


In this article we will concentrate on George at work from the early beginnings to around 1958. The work George Barris did in his hop shifted very much over the years. It all started in the early 1940’s, in his spare time after school, George started to hang out at local Sacramento, Ca. body shops, including Brown’s Body Shop and Harry Westergard’s back-yard shop. Here he swept floors and watched the masters at work absorbing every little detail these masters were doing. Harry Westergard noticed how eager George was and was happy to learn him all the fine details of the trade.

George had bought a 1936 Ford convertible and wanted to put in practice all the new techniques he had learned and visualize all the restyling ideas he had in his mind. George finished the car while working part time at the Harry Westergard shop. Westergard turned out to be the perfect teacher for George Barris. Harry had a real good feel for what was needed to make a car look better, longer, lower and more exclusive. George had this same feel for restyling cars, and with the guidance of Harry, George started very early on to create his own style, and own “rules” for what needed to be done to create great looking Custom Cars.

The ’36 Ford Convertible George had created from himself in the early 1940’s when he still lived in the Sacramento area. The work on the car was done by George with some guideline by Harry Westergard. Perhaps a little rough, but George would learn fast with experience after moving to Los Angeles.
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In 1942 Sam had joined the navy and had left for Los Angeles. George joined the Merchant Marine and moved to Los Angles to wait for further action and a ship he would serve on. In the meantime George would cruise the streets of Los Angeles, finding all the Hot Rod and Custom Car hot-spots and proudly show his just finished 1936 Ford. His car was a big hit, and especially the fact that George could open his doors with a push on a button, made a huge impact on the guys and girls. The push-button doors was something not seen yet in the LA area. (It is often mentioned that it was Harry Westergard who was the first to install them, and this must have been around the time George was working with Harry.)

George adapted the technique using Buick solenoid’s to pop the doors open. The buttons were hidden on the body and on the dash. George would be using this technique later on when he started to do customers cars. While still waiting for a ship (which would never come) George started to work at local body shops, including the Jones’s Body, Fender & Paint Shop. This was a regular body shop looking for good craftsman, since sever of its employees had joined the army and navy. George started out doing the regular body shop stuff, but slowly George introduced them into the Custom Car scene. They were very impressed with what George could do, and saw potential in it. They allowed George to promote the Custom Body Work and soon his work attracted more and more customers for the shop.

Snapshot taken at the Jones’s Body, Fender & Paint Shop on Florence and Main in Los Angeles. This was the shop were George started to work after arriving in LA, and where he introduced customizing and doing Custom Body Work. 
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In 1944 George was doing so much restyling at the Jones’s body shop, that he decided the time was right to start his own Custom Body Shop specialized in Custom Restyling. He found a suitable small shop space in Bell, California. George was working alone in the beginning, handling all the jobs needed, from suspension, to full body work, and paint. Over time some of his new friends started to help out at the body shop, when the work load became to big for George alone.When WWII ended his bother Sam returned from the navy, and visited George in Los Angeles.

George talked his brother into joining him in his body shop adventure. George trained Sam the trade of body man and Sam picked up very fast showing he was an natural in shaping metal, and more important having an eye for style as well. Together they could tackle any job, and with the two brothers now working together magic started to happen. George and Sam discussed every detail on the cars the worked on, George often made sketches of the ideas they came up with, and together they would transfer the designs into metal.

After spending shop hours working on customer cars the two bothers built restyled cars for themselves as well. To be used as daily transportation, and to promote the new Barris’s Custom Shop of course. After a bit of a hard start, things were slowly getting better and in 1946 a new larger shop was found in Compton, Ca. The new shop location and the good name the shop now had, made sure there was a work load at all time.

Barris Compton AveThe Barris Custom Shop Body & Fender Works on Compton Ave around 1947.
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There are relatively few photos of George doing the actual work, mainly because most of the shop photos were taken by George and he would be behind the camera, not in front. And most of the early photos taken at the Barris Shop that have surfaced so far have been taken by Marcia Campbell and Marcia was very good friends with Sam Barris, so most of the time she hung out at the Barris Shop and captured the work on the cars, was from Sam doing the work.




George’s life changing 1941 Buick
Around 1946-47 George found a 1941 Buick convertible which he slowly turned into a full custom with chopped windshield, full fade-away molded in fenders, Cadillac grille and padded Carson top, restyled just the way George loved it. George showed the Buick in January of 1948 at the first Hot Rod Exposition in Los Angeles. The Buick was the only Custom Car at the show and was a huge crowd pleaser winning the top award. The show gained a lot of attention to the Barris’s Custom Shop and their Kustom creations. At the show, George was introduced to Robert Petersen, which would later turn out to be a turning point. Robert would start his publishing company soon after the show and later produce most of the major Hot Rod and custom Car related magazines and books on the west coast. Their friendship turned out to be very important.

At the time the shop was still named Customs Shop with a “C” but the cars they restyled were already called Kustoms with a “K”. In may 1948 the new all round car magazine Road & Track showed a photo of George’s Buick in the magazine. The photo of the Buick was absolutely perfect showing the beauty of the car with its wonderful fade-away fenders, the Cadillac grille, shaved door handles and low padded top. The Kustoms Los Angeles plaque, which George had created for his own club also showed prominent in the photo. In the same issue of Road & Track George ran a 1/4 page ad using the same photo promoting the Barris’s Custom Shop work. Listed was; Body Streamlining, Roadster Channeling, Custom Painting, Push-button doors & windows and Tops lowered (Chopped). The ad, magazine article and showing the car at this important 1948 show really helped promote the Barris Shop name, and more an more customers were able to find the small shop. From then on George realized that building great cars was one things, but knowing how to promote them and the shop was just as important.

George in work cloth at the Compton Ave. Barris Custom shop getting a ticket for his ’41 Buick. Photo taken around 1948.
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After that George would start to spend more time, after shop hours, to start promoting the Barris name and Barris Shop. During the day George was the shop foreman, and Sam the lead body man. Friends were hired when needed, and as soon as the workload was increasing, employees were hired part and full time. But George would continue to perform work on the cars, from doing metal body work, to paint prep and those stunning organic full paint jobs. George loved to mix his own custom colors and paint the Barris creations in high quality mile deep paint jobs developing his own techniques to get the perfect result. Especially in the early years up to the mid 1950’s George was the lead painter at the shop.

Barris Bell ShopGeorge Barris and some of his friends and employees chopping the top of Larry Robbin’s 1948 Mercury.
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George working on the rolled door ends on Larry Robbin’ 1948 Mercury at the Barris Bell Shop around 1949.
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Double exposed photo of George doing some welding on Larry Robbin’s Mercury.
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George working on the new sheet metal cover to make the ’49 Cadillac grille fit the ’48 Mercury.
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The better known the Barris Shop became, the more client cars came into the shop, some for mild restyle work, but more and more for a complete Custom overhaul. Along the way it became evident the shop really benefited from a spokes person, somebody who promoted the Barris name, and the typical Barris style Custom Car. The new more constant flow of clients also demanded for somebody who would deal with the clients, new and old, in a more professional way. For George these new job function came as natural. George understood what it took to keep the focus on the Barris name, try to get as much exposure at the big and little Car Shows. And most important of all get the maximum name recognition from magazine exposure. From ads ran by the shop, but even more important magazine features and later how to articles on Barris Custom creations.

For once George Barris was on the other side of the camera for this How to Dechrome Your Car article in the 1954 Custom Cars Annual from Trend Books. This is a nice article showing George doing the work on an unidentified Mercury Custom.
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With George still at the shop doing “regular” shop work, he started to add more and more functions to his tasks, from taking photos from the work getting done in the shop, which could be used for future How To magazine articles, to starting his own local and state wide car club, organizing special events, car shows and providing magazines with complete car features, including photos and written word.


A few more published magazine photos of George at work on some Barris Customs. On the left George is molding in the headlights on Jack Brumbach’s 1942 Ford. Center photo George is fitting the rear bumper on the extended rear of Convert Michael’s 1949 Ford , and working on the grille surround of Frank Airheart’s 1951 Oldsmobile.
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George on the left, Sam on the right and two other guys, possibly one of them the client discussing ideas for this wild ’49 Mercury convertible Custom.
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George Barris at work sketching Custom Designs him and his brother Sam came up with. Sam played a huge roll in these early stages with his keen eye for Design. Together they were the golden team.
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George adding Cadillac rear fenders and taillights on an ’41 Buick.
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George shaping a new hood for a Hot Rod project at the Barris Shop.
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After the mid 1950’s the work load at the Barris shop became so big that it became harder and harder for George to find the time for actual shop work. But where possible he would love to come in and lock himself up in the paint booth to spend a weekend doing another stunning paint-job or experiment with new paint products. There were also cars that were special to George, and he tried to put in as much actual work as possible, one of those was the Kopper Kart, it would become an important Barris Promotional Custom that George traveled around all over the US.

 

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Others on George Barris at Work.

  • Jack Stewart was close friends with George from the late 1940’s. When Jack’s 1941 Ford had been sitting at the Ayala Shop, with most of the major work being done, it was George who asked Jack if he could finish the car for him. And so it happened. George Barris handled all the fine tuning on Jack’s Ford, including rounding the corners, reshaping the character line on the rear fenders and the taillight housings. (The taillights were created by Bob Hirohata). First George finished Jack’s Ford in white primer, so that Jack could start using the car. Later George finishes his work on the car with beautiful custom mixed metallic bronze paint job, which won Jack several awards.
  • Marcia Campbell had mentioned that when George was working in her ’49 Chevy convertible, George could not get the hood to fit right, after which he got very upset and damaged the hood with the hammer in frustration, the next day he got it right with a new hood replacing the damaged one. George did most of the work on here Chevy.
  • Nick Matranga “I have to salute George Barris for his patience with me. We shot so many sample color panels and let them dry and looked at them in the sun. In them days it was pure lacquer. We’d shoot the car and color sand it. And let it dry for a month. And color sand it again for the final rub out. George was a great painter, and he was careful not to put it on too wet.””George’s Greek aesthetics of color and form were amazing and unfailing, especially early on.”
  • Junior Conway has mentioned several times about George doing most of the paint work at the shop. Sam could also paint, but for George it came natural. Junior mentioned that George painted a lot of the cars at the shop, including some of the best known, like the Tom Hocker 1940 Ford, the 1955 Chevy Aztec, the Kopper Kart, and many more.

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George working in different stages on the Frank Monteleon’s 1941 Ford. Early staged working on the fade away fenders, middle shows George fine tuning the car and getting it ready for paint. And on the right is George Barris with Frank Monteleon during a TV news program about the show where Frank had just won an important award. George taking the opportunity to  advertise Barris on TV.
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George Barris working on the Chet Herberd Streamliner.
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George with the 55 Chevy pick up the Kopper Cart. George performed a lot of work on this car himself. Later he would tour the car all over the US, promoting the Barris Kustom Shop all over the US.
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We know that this is a staged photo of George “working” on the R & C Dream Truck. And that even the pink primer was added to the body just for the photo. Possibly for a cover shot, although it was never use as such. But we also do know that George was very much involved at the building of this iconic truck. George knew the importance of this project, and just needed to be part of it, personally.
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George Barris Custom Painter.

George Barris loved to mix his own color and paint cars. To see the creations he had made, or which were done by others at the Barris Shop was always special for him. The paint was always the cherry on top for him. And the Barris Shop became very well known for their special paint-jobs, especially in the early 1950’s. The first Custom Cars Annual from 1951 even wrote about this special Barris Paint method they had developed. Partly this method was really special, but it was also an early attempt to create some Barris Mystery by George… attracting more clients.

George wet sanding an late 30’s sedan.
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George applying some primer to the Tom Hocker 1940 Ford. George later painted the car Fushia Orchid, and a few years later in light blue.
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George painting the 4-door Mercury that had been completely restyled at the Barris hop for owner Jerry Reichman.
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George test fitting the grille surround on Chuck DeWitt’s 52 Ford Wagon. Photo shoot for June 1956 Motor Life magazine cover.
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George and his wife Shirley prepping Shirley’s ’58 Ford T-bird at night at the Barris Shop. The photo was staged, and part of a series made that night, but the work by George and Shirley continued after the needed shots were accomplished.
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Two photos taken around 1958 show George doing what he liked doing best in the shop around that time. Painting cars and mixing paint.
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George Barris promoting at the shows

Going to car shows often meant something different to George than it would for most of his friends. They would take their Custom Cars to the show to show of their beautiful cars, to try to win some awards, and meet with friends. For George it meant business as well. George realized after the first Hot Rod Show in 1948, where he had showed his 1941 Buick, that this was the place to attract new clients, or convince old clients into new projects. George always made sure the Barris Cars were well present and presented at the shows. Bringing all the past won trophies to enhance the beauty and quality of the Barris Customs. George started to wear his best suits to the show, to make an as good as possible impression on behalf of the Barris Shop. Handing out business cards, talking to people about the cars they had brought to the show it was all part of the job. Before and after show hours George would go back to the buildings to take photos of the cars for his own files, and for future magazine and book articles.

1950 Oakland Roadster showAt the Oakland Roadster Show held January 19-22, 1950 George made sure that he was photographed with the award winning Jesse Lopez Ford that was at the show as a Barris Custom. (even though the car was entirely built by Jesse and Sam Barris). It shows that in early 1950, George already knew the importance of promoting.
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During the 1950 Motorama show held in Shrine Convention Hall, 700 West 32nd Street in Los Angeles on November 16 through 19, George was really starting to promote the Barris Kustom Shop. In this photo George and his promoting crew, ll nicely dressed up with Barris card tags on thier cloth is posing with Jim Skonzakes’s ’49 Buick which was mostly done at the Barris Shop. David Zivot did an in depth article on this photo here on the CCC.
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The next years Motorama show was held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. George Barris created a full shop wall display at a show, with beautiful sparkling cardboard cut out BARRIS letters on the curtain behind the displayed cars. George is all dressed up to and ready to talk to potential new clients. Sam usually stayed in the background, but apparently was asked to help promote the shop at this show. A very rear photo of Sam Barris in suit.
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Next to promoting the Barris Shop at the car shows across the US, George also started to promote the Barris work in Hollywood. And with success, The Hirohata Mercury and the Fred Rowe Mercury, both starred in the Running Wild Movie created in the mid 1950’s. And it would be followed with many more movies Barris Cars would be used in. It ultimately lead Barris to move to North Hollywood to serve the movie industry better. But that is a completely different story.
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George Barris the photographer

George Barris had always taken snapshots of his cars, but did not really get started to this on a more regular base after he was introduced to Marcia Campbell. Marcia had several Barris Cars in the late 40’s and early 50’s. And she loved to hang out at the Barris shop where she because good friends with Sam Barris. Besides Custom Cars Marcia had another passion, photography, so she started to take photos of work done at the Barris Shop, Sam doing his magical metal work, but also of finished cars around the Barris Shop. She would come in a few days after she had taken the photos with nice large photo prints, giving those to the guys in the photo. George loved it and started to use these photos to help promote the Barris Shop. Marcia taught George how to take better photo and from then on George would always carry his camera on him and shoot everything he thought would come in handy at one time.

There are relatively very few photos from George Barris doing the work on the shop floor, compared to others at the Barris Shop, simply because most of the time it was George that was behind the camera, and if he was not, he was most likely directing the photographer to get the best shots. We can all be very grateful that George had the foresight to first take all these photos, and second document and hand on to them for all these years. In the the 1990’s George knew that the time was right to star sharing his story and material, and he created a series of books about the history of the Barris Kustom Shop, and shared many of his stories and photo material in these books.

Ralph Pool took the photos of the Hirohata Mercury and model miss Marilyn Bordeau for Hop Up magazine and captured George in this one taking the opportunity to shoot some photos for his own files of the set up as well.
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Another photo of George taking photos, or perhaps more likely a staged photo of George taking photos of the second version of the Larry Ernst Chevy. This shows how George took photos, but very rarely people were around actually taking picture of George taking picture. So the situation was staged to “capture” the moment.
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George took mostly very good care of the photos he took. From the moment he started to use his photos in publications he kept a record of all the negatives, prints and print proofs he made. Cutting out the proof sheets, taping them onto large paper boards, and marking them for future reference. All that was done after shop hours.
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Around 1960. George Barris photographing Bob Drake’s Studebaker Custom. Two of the photos George takes that day will be used Trend Books #181 Custom Car Show-Cars, a publication by George Barris.
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Later in the 1950’s promoting the Barris Kustom Shop would take more and more time and would keep him away from the shop floor more and more. But being the promoter of his own product, he needed to keep an eye out for the quality of the work, as well as the creativity standing for the Barris Kustom name. George was only such a great promoter for the Shop, because he knew what was going on in the shop, because he knew what could be done, and how it could be done. This only worked because he had the personal experience of all the work handled by the shop.

Up till around 1957 the combination of George as the shop foreman/promoter, and Sam as the lead body man in the shop had made sure Custom Car magic had happened. The combination of skills and ambition of both brothers turned out to be gold and the Barris name and the cars they created were everywhere. Around that time Sam had decided to move back to the Sacramento area, and semi retire from building Custom Cars. The Barris Kustom Shop would continue for many decades, and great things would still come out of the shop. But times had changed demanding different cars to be created. The unique magic of the two brothers working together, enhancing each other was gone.

From the early years George Barris started his own Custom Body Shop he instinctively knew what it would take to make the Barris name and Barris Kustom Shop a success. Because of his hard work and insight of capturing it all, documenting it all, we now have the right Custom Car history we can all enjoy. Because George did the actual work in the shop for many years, he knew how to document and promote all this in the best way possible. And perhaps he knew, or at least dreamed about it back in the 1940’s and 1950’s that one day all his hard work and the Barris legacy would make a difference in the world.












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A Day at the Barris Shop

 

A DAY AT THE BARRIS SHOP

 

The August 1953 issue of Rod and Custom magazine  had a beautiful feature on a day at the Barris Kustom Shop. Lets take a closer look at this and see some never before published photos.



I was born in 1967, in the Netherlands, far away from where most of the Custom Car History originated. I’m way to young to have been able to walk around in the famous Custom shops from the 1940’s and 1950’s, my favorite Custom Restyling period. When I came across some old R&C magazines at an Dutch Classic Car show decades ago I was in 7th heaven. Many years later I came across some of the early Hop Up and R&C magazines, one being the 4th issue of R&C, August 1953, one of my all time favorite R&C magazines. This issue had an whopping 6 page article on an Saturday at the Barris Shop as part of the new Barris Korner series.

It was for me the first time I was able to get a better view of how the Barris Shop looked like, and worked, and how it must have been for the guys back then to work at this shop, or hang out there on a Saturday afternoon. The lead-photo of the article, taken across the street from the Barris shop is one of my all time favorite photos taken at the Barris Atlantic Blvd shop. To me it is pure magic, and I have always hoped that one day some more, or at least better photos would surface of this photo, or photos taken the same day.

The openings photo from the August 1953 R&C article. What a sight! This photo alone must have had an impact on a lot of people back in 1953, and really ever since. The Barris Kustom Shop, where all the Custom Car magic took place.
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Unpublished photos.

In December 2017 my good friend and CCC contributor Tom Nielsen, mentioned he had a few more photos taken at the Barris Shop, and was wondering if I could tell him a bit more about these photos. It turned out that Tom had several photos from this same Saturday photo shoot with George Barris as that was used in the August 1953 issue of R&C. But Tom’s photos had never before been published. They must have been outtakes. The photos Tom has in his collection are copies from copies from the original photos, and at this point it is impossible to find out where they originally came from. But we know that they were all taken with George Barris his camera, most by George himself, and others, where we can see George in, were taken by somebody at the shop.

One of the guys fooling around in the driveway. I wonder if George was standing on the roof of the building across the shop, or perhaps he used a ladder?
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My new all time favorite Barris Shop photo is this one, from ground level showing the fantastic Customs lined up in front of the shop, and the rest of the activities going on.
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Close up of the photo shows: from left to right Mystery parked in-progress Ford, Dick Meyer 1953 Ford, Snooky Janich 1941 Ford, Jerry Reichman 1950 Mercury 4-door, Dale Marchall 1950 Mercury, Jim Collins / Don Vaughn 1947 Buick, Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy.
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Sam Barris showing how an Barris Accessory Hot Rod fender would be mounted on his Model A roadster. The majority of cars done at the Barris Shop were Customs, but they were also very capable to do Hot Rods, as this and several other photos taken this day show.
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I really love this photo as well, not only because it shows three fantastic Barris cars, but also since it shows the corner across the street from the Barris shop, where an other iconic photo was taken which we have used for another CCC-Article. Dale Marchall is mounting his Kustoms Los Angeles brass tag to his in progress mild 1950 Mercury Custom. Behind it is Jim Collins 1947 Buick (formerly owned by Don Vaughn), and next to that is the Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy.
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In the R&C article we can read that Sam Barris (left) and George (right) are discussing plans for the Chet Herbert Bonneville Streamliner with Harry Lewis. Harry was hired by Barris to design and help create race cars at the Barris shop. This never before published photo was taken from a slightly different angle than the photo that ended up in the R&C article.
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Dicky Meyers is prepping this Model A on ’32 Ford rails Hot Rod for paint in a corner of the original building. Very interesting how they use news paper to tape off the engine bay preventing over-spray. The wheels and tires were covered by old rags. Notice the meters on the wall behind the car.
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1949-50 Lincoln coupe mildly restyled stopping at the Barris shop, possibly for a quotation on repairing the damaged front, and possibly further restyling?
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The R&C article describes a bit how a typical Saturday at the Barris shop looks like, at least part of it. We have heard stories from some people that the info in this article(s) is mostly correct, but very often they leave out the part that later at night they all went out to some of the famous places to hang out, go to dances, trying to hook up with the girls. have the most fun possible. According to some chasing the girls and trying to get them impressed with their automobile was one very important reasons for having a Custom Car.



Published photos

The article is done really nice and literary walks us true the shop as if the reader was to visit the shop himself. Starting outside the shop then going on to the drive way, or parking area, and then into the shop, the office first, then the work places int he original building and then on to the former Filbar Furniture building Barris had added to the shop not long before these photos were taken. The only thing that could have made this already perfect article would have been with a floor plan drawing…. I have thought about creating one, but at this moment I have not enough information to actually do one that I know is accurate enough.

The 6 page article in the August 1953 issue of Rod & Custom magazine. One of the very best Barris Kustom Korner articles, and this article alone must have boost sales on the magazine enormous.
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More stories on Saturdays at the Barris Shop
Jack Stewart was good friends with George Barris and spend a lot of time at the Barris Kustom Shop at Atlantic Blvd. George Barris finished his mostly Ayala restyled 1941 Ford in 1951. Jack mentioned that George loved to paint cars, and very often used the more quite weekends to stay at the shop mixing paint and spraying the many coats of lacquer to get the deep lustrous paint jobs the Barris Shop was so well known for. George painted Jack’s ’41 Ford during the weekend as well. Jack brought his car over on Friday, and when he showed up at the shop on Monday it was all done and looking amazing. Which, according to Jack was somewhat amazing, since the paint booth at this Atlantic Blvd shop was far from ideal with a dirty dusty floor. Jack always mentioned to George he might as well paint the cars outside. But George was still able to turn out amazing paint jobs at this shop.

In the early days of the Barris Shop, George was single (just as jack) and he would be at the shop most of the time 7 days a week. But especially the Saturdays were very busy at the shop. The Saturday all the car owners were off from their regular job, and would go over to the Barris shop to help out with their cars at the shop. The more work the owner could do on their own cars, the lower the bills would be.

Tommy Thornburg polishing the Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy. Parked next to is is the old Don Vaughn 1947 Buick, and peaking out over the rear of the top is an Henry J Custom. If we only could see this picture in color…
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Nick Matranga on the left discussing the options how to fix the damage done to the rear of the Snooky Janich 1941 Ford.
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Jim Collins from Gardena, California had recently bought the beautiful Barris restyled 1947 Buick convertible with Gaylord padded top from original owner Don Vaughn.In this photo Jim is cleaning the car, and we can see the back of Dale Marchall’s 1950 Mercury with custom taillight pods and primer painted sitting next to it.
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Bob Lund 50 MercuryFrank Sonzogni working on Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury. In the background we can see the model A roadster getting ready for paint, and outside we can see a small portion of Jerry Reichman’s in progress 1950 Mercury 4-door.
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Jack also remembers many Saturdays he spend at the Barris shop with a lot of the guys from the original Kustoms Los Angeles club. The shop was a hangout place for the club, and everybody got together there, hang out for some time and then would go out together that Saturday night. Jack had good memories hanging out at the Barris shop with his good friend Doug Anderson (aka dog face) who owned a Custom 1939 Ford convertible with chopped padded top. And Jack Cordkill who owned a 1938 Ford Chopped Coupe, Dick Fowler was also a guy that Jack hung out with when he turned up at the Barris shop. Dick also owned a chopped 1938 Ford coupe, the one with the Packard grille, that Kurt McCormick now owns. Jack was also good with Bill Ortega who worked at the Barris shop part time and as well as at the parts department at an Lincoln Mercury dealer.

The Saturdays were always a lot of fun, where everybody helped on the projects, getting cars ready to hit the road on Saturday night, or prep them for a show the next day. Jack had very good memories about him and George driving George his cars to the parties, Jack never drunk much, so he usually ended up driving George his cars back home early in the mornings on Sunday. But this was perhaps a year or two before these photos were taken. During that time Jack also hung out with Marcia Campbell who hung out at the Barris Shop on Saturdays during the 1950-51 period. Jack remembered that Marcia was very well accepted at the shop by everybody. It was still very unusual for a girl to hang out at a Custom shop, but she fitted right in with the rest of the clan. Marcia always had here camera on hand, and shot a lot of photos at the shop and took the guys to nice locations to take photos, which she would develop and print, and then brought them over as a gift for the owner (and a copy for George Barris) the next Saturday.

Jack mentioned that the guys hanging out at the shop on Saturday were mostly the same guys each week, mostly pretty much the local guys, but when there was going to be a special event, or a special show, then Kustoms of Los Angeles club members from all around would gather at the Barris shop to drive to the event together. Jack proudly mentioned that very often he was leading the parade, just because his windshield had been cut into the roof a few inches, allowing him to see the stop lights. The rest would then just follow along.


Tommy Thornburg who owned a Barris restyled 1947 Studebaker Custom Convertible can be seen here cleaning the Larry Ernst 1951 Chevy. Perhaps Tommy’s Studebaker had not been finished at this point, or perhaps he agreed to take the Ernst Chevy to the show for Barris. Larry Ernst was from Ohio, and was most likely not in California when this picture was taken.
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Jim Collins cleaning his 1947 Buick Custom at the Barris shop to have it all Tip-Top for the show the next day.
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A low angle view of Dale Marchall mounting the Kustoms Los Angles tag to his 1950 Mercury, getting the car ready for the Pasadena show the next day. The old Don Vaughn Buick is sitting behind it.
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Sam Barris (left) and George (right) with Harry Lewis taking about the plans for the body on the Chet Herbert Streamliner, which will be created at the Barris Shop.
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Bob Johnson aka “Jocko” sanding the freshly applied primer on the rear fenders of Mr petersen’s 1952 Cadillac convertible. The car would later be painted Metallic Fuchsia Orchid.
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Frank Sonzogni working on the grille on Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury using a 1951 Frazer grille bar, later three 1951 DeSoto grille bars would be added to this as well.
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1929 model A roadster on ’32 Ford frames getting ready for a new paint job. Old rags were used to cover up the tires while Dicky Meyers is cleaning the body.
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George Barris often used 1/25 scale plastic promo-model cars to give a quick impression of how a car could look. This helped him as well as the client in making decisions on the modifications, as well as on the colors. In this photo George shows some new paint on an Oldsmobile model for Jack Nethercutt’s 1952 Oldsmobile that looks to be almost ready for paint.
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Sam Barris putting together a brand new 1953 Cadillac Coupe deVille that had been just painted off-white at the paint booth at the back of the Barris shop.
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Different angle of Nick Matranga talking to Snooky Janich (named “Little” in the R&C article) to see how they can fix the dent in the trunk that happened the day before. Notice that the Snooky Ford had already been outfitted with the ’39 Chevy taillights by then. The R&C article stated that the Barris Shop always kept the paint formula of all the cars they painted. But as far as I know, in case of damage, they usually decided it was time for a complete new paint job.
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Lloyd Jensen working on a sectioned and turned convertible Henry J, seen here figuring out how to make the Kaiser taillights to work with the Henry J rear fenders. This car came from Iowa to have the Barris shop perform their magic. Not sure if I have ever seen the finished car. The Henry J was sitting just outside of the furniture building entrance.
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Ralph Manok working on a scoop set into the Cadillac front fender that was added to this 1941 Buick that came all the way from Ohio. We are still trying to find out who was the owner of this car, and what ever happened to it.
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John Manok working on the chopped top of Earl Wilson’s 1947 Studebaker four-door that later would be known as the Grecian.
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Frank Sonzogni is a full time motorcycle officer during the day, and is working part time at night and in the weekends at the Barris Shop. In his spare time Frank is working on his personal  car, a 1950 Mercury which he can be seen working on in this photo. Sanding away on the freshly leaded chopped top.
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George Barris posing with a Jaguar Xk120 which he is Restyling as his own personal driver.
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Sam Barris talking to the owner of the ’29 Model A Roadster about using the new Barris Aftermarket Accessory Hot Rod cycle fenders.
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Dating the photos
So far we have not been able to confirm the date of the Saturday these photos have been taken. None of the photos have a date on it as far as we know.  The Barris Korner article featuring these Spend a Saturday at the Kustom Shop photos was published in August 1953, which means the photos and text must have been submitted at least two month prior to this, and more likely even longer. Most likely the photos were taken in the first couple of month of 1953. There is one more hint about a possible date given in the R&C article, which mentioned that the next day, Sunday, there was going to be a car show held in nearby Pasadena. All the cars were cleaned and detailed for this show. So far I have not been able to find out what this show was for sure, but a good chance is that this was the Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run held on Sunday April 19, 1953. The 1952 Pasadena Auto Show (the first annual the previous year) had some high end Customs and Rods attending, plus it had a two page article in Hot Rod Magazine. So this could very well be the show the guys were preparing for on Saturday. (More info and photos on the ’52 show can be found in the CCC-Nick Matranga article.) If it was indeed this show, then the Saturday these pictures were taken was April 18, 1953. But I’m not 100% sure.

Flyer for the 1953 Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run.
(Courtesy of Bob Rhoades / Renegades Car club.)
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Special thanks to Tom Nielsen.




(This article is made possible by)

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Nick Matranga Mercury

 

NICK MATRANGA MERCURY

 

One of the most Iconic Custom Cars of all time the Barris Kustoms Restyled 1940 Mercury Coupe for Nick Matranga was short lived, but made a huge and lasting impact.



In the past we have shared the in-depth article on the life of Nick Matranga by Michelle M. Yiatras here on the Custom Car Chronicle. It now is time to focus on just the car. The Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury.

The Barris Customs created 1940 Mercury Coupe for Nick Matranga in 1950, is together with the 1951 Mercury created for Bob Hirohata in 1952, perhaps the most iconic traditional Custom Car ever created. If a dictionary would have a visual for the description Custom Car, then a picture if Nick’s and Bob’s Mercury’s would sum it all up. Nick’s 1940 Mercury coupe only excised for a little over a year, before it was destroyed in a car wreck. Because of when it was created, late 1950’s and the lack of all Custom Car publications, the trend setting and inspiring Custom was never part of a full magazine feature in the magazines. Yet the Matranga Mercury has inspired countless of Custom Car enthusiasts all over the world to build cars similar or inspired by this famous Custom Car icon. In 1951 Dan Post published a new edition of his Blue Book of Custom Restyling and included were several photos of the Nick Matranga mercury taken by Marcia Campbell. There was no written info on the car, not even a mentioning of the owner, only that it was created by Barris. These photos must have had a huge impact on the Custom Car community in 1951 and the following years.


Dan Post used no less than 5 photo’s of the Matranga Mercury in his 1951 edition of the Blue Book of Custom Restyling. Iconic photos of an Iconic Custom Car taken by Marcia Campbell. The Post book did mention the car was a Barris Custom, but nothing on Nick as the owner. Later these photos were used again in the Barris Kustom Technique books published in the 1990’s.
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I think it is save to say that no other Custom Car has been copied in clones, or near clones than the Matranga Mercury. The Custom Restyling the Barris Brothers brothers performed, at their Barris Custom Shop, on Nick’s Mercury is pure genius!

When Nick Matranga was still in High School, the John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles he started dreaming about the Custom Car he wanted to have. He loved the beautiful styling of the ’39 and ’40 Ford’s and Mercury’s with the wide and stylish grille and soft flowing lines of the fenders and body. Nick preferred the coupe body style and after comparing the Fords and the Mercury’s he decided that the longer roof of the Mercury, plus rear bench in the Mercury, compared to the jump seats in the back of  the Ford Coupes made the mercury more attractive to him. Also the fact that the longer wheelbase, and the softer body contours of the Mercury were much nicer than the same year Fords in his eyes. The overall shapes of the Mercury were very appealing to Nick, but that high hat top on the coupe looked so out of place on the very stylish lower portion of the Car.


No matter what angle you look at the Nick Matranga Mercury, everything always blends together and flows beautifully toward the back of the car. The use of the heavier ’46 Ford bumpers add a lot to the visual appeal of the car.
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Nick had seen several chopped 1940 Mercury Coupes on the streets of Los Angeles that had caught his eye. That looked much better than stock, still not as elegant as Nick envisioned for his own Custom, but he knew the ’40 Merc would be just right for him. From the Mercury Customs he knew some had been restyled at the Barris Shop on Compton Ave. including two nearly identical for Al Andril and Johnny Zara. And then there were a few others. But there were a few elements on all those Custom Coupes he saw that figured could be improved on. Around same time GM introduced the all new pillarless hard top models for Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac, and the beautiful window lines stunned Nick. He needed to do something with that on his dream custom.

Nick happened to be driving by a used car lot when he spotted a cherry low miles grey-green coupe. He drove his newly acquired Mercury straight to the Barris shop to start discussing the changes he had in mind. Before the bodywork on the Mercury was started the suspension was modified, with a dropped axle in the front and lowering blocks in the back, the rear of the frame was modified to accept the lowered rear axle, and the floor had to be modified with a raised drive shaft tunnel. Lowering the car at this stage made the work on the top easier. Now the top was better to reach, and more importantly the overall proportions when chopping the top could be seen much better than when the car had been left stock height. Very important since Nick’s Mercury would be all about flow, balance and proportions.

Fortunately there are at least two very clear side view images of the Matranga Mercury. Thanks to Marcia Campbell we can still enjoy the breathtaking side profile of the car. This one taken in late 1950 was first published in the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling in 1951. It must have inspired countless car enthusiasts. (Colorized black and white photo)
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The Chop

The chopped top on the Matranga Merc is what really sets this car apart from everything else restyled during the same period, or even decades later. According to some publications Sam worked over a year on the top, to get it just right. I think it just took a little over a year to get the whole car done. And we have to keep in mind that when these cars were created in the late 1940’s early 1950’s the cars were mostly the only form of transportation these guys had. And so was the case with Nick’s Mercury. So most of time during this year of construction, the car was most likely in partly primer on the road.

I have created an visual using the side view photo of the Matranga Mercury and a stock ’40 Mercury to illustrate what was done to get the top looking this good. After having chopped a few ’39-40 Mercury Coupes before, using mostly the original top metal, Sam used pre-shaped metal created by the California Metal Shaping company to create the unique looking top that makes this car such a big hit. Another key factor for the success of the chop on the Matranga Merc compared to other, is how Sam raised the top of the windshield around 1.5 inches up into the top. This allowed him to get the side profile low enough to be in balance with the rest of the car, and still have enough windshield space to make the car drive-able. If you compare this with the earlier Mercury’s from the Barris Shop, like the Andril and Zaro Merc, those had very small windshields, which were out of proportion with the side windows, and making it hard to drive the car in traffic.



After having discussed the style and looks Nick was after for his Mercury with both George and Sam Barris it was time to get started on the chop. Just as Sam had done previously on the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro Merc’s, he started the process with completely removing the B-pillars on the Merc. Then cut the rear of the top at the lower edge, and the A-pillars at the most straight section. Nick mentioned that the car was chopped 6 inches in the front (some publications mention 5 inches), the top of the windshield was raised into the top, perhaps a bit more than an inch, to make the windshield opening a little larger, and more in proportion with the side windows. This was something Sam had learned from chopping the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro 1940 Mercury’s. At the back they just let is sink in between the body until the side profile of the windows as well as the top look perfect to them. The graphic of the Mercury side views, further down this article, showing how the top was chopped, visualize how much more the rear of the top came down, compared to the front. During this time Sam removed the drip rails, for a more smooth look.

When the rear of the top came down so much, automatically the rear corner of the rear quarter window moved forward. Making the side window opening much shorter than on the stock Mercury. With no B-pillar in place this looked really stunning. While maneuvering the top of the car till the flow of the top was perfect, and enhanced the main body shape as well as rear fenders, Sam tacked it in place. Nick absolutely loved the new pillarless look and told Sam and George they had to come up with a solution to make this work somehow, since the B-pillars were not going back into the car.

This illustration shows how much impact the chop on the Matranga Mercury has on the looks of the ’40 Mercury. Image A) shows how the car, with all the other modifications would have looked if the top had not been chopped. Image B) shows the difference between the stock ’40 Mercury roof and the chopped Matranga top with ghost images and outlines. Image C) shows how the stock top was dropped, and rotated to create a lower in the rear roof line for more pleasing effects. It also shows that dropping the top resulted in the now much shorter quarter windows. (blue vertical lines) The image also shows how much the rear section of the top was reshaped for the best results, and how the stock location of the rear of the roof is now related to the flowing transition from top of the trunk to the actual roof. Image D) shows the finished Matranga Merc profile.
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At that Point George started to bend some steel bars to get a feel of what the best shape would be to replace the vertical B-Pillars on the Mercury. Eventually they came up with a beautiful radius on the B-pillar window channel that flew just right with the shape of the top, mimicked the front section of the door window channel and gave the car that spectacular continues flow front front to rear look and feel. The side window frames was created from 3/8 channel, welded, smoothed and eventually send out to be chrome plated. Its especially this new side window shape that really sets the car apart from everything else created around that time. It made the car look fresh, modern like the newest GM Hard-top models, but even more streamlining than those. It looked even better than Nick had ever hoped it would look. With the side window shape determent, Sam Barris set out to reshape the rear of the roof to fit the new window shape, as well as flow with the rest of the body.

After several tires they finally knew what to do to get it right, and pre-shaped panels were created at the California Metal Shaping company and welded in place. What is so unique about the shape of the rear of the top on Nick’s Mercury is the slight bulge at the back, just above the top of the rear window. Designed almost like if the people in the back needed to have sufficient head room as well. It is that bulge, which we also can see on the Jesse Lopez Ford, as well as a few other Barris Customs, that makes the overall flow of the Matranga Mercury work so well.

On Jesse Lopez Ford this shape was created because Jesse loved the shape of the Carson Topped ’41 Ford so much. So perhaps this idea for the roof shape was also the main inspiration on Nick’s Mercury. In any event, adding the slight bulge shape at the rear of the top helps keeping the roof look like a coupe and adding the needed “kick” for the eye when following the side window shape. Jesse had asked Sam to reduce the height of the rear window on his ’41 Ford, to be better in balance with the side windows. Sam really liked this and he did the same thing on Nick’s ’40 Mercury. He took a few inches out of the height of the rear window before he placed it back into the new lowered roof. This way the rear window fits much better in line with the side windows than the stock unit would have been.

Close up of the window channel the Barris Brothers created. for Nick’s Mercury. The new shape was totally unique, and enhanced the shape of the top, as well as the fenders and main body. After the Matranga mercury was destroyed in an accident in early or mid 1952, the Barris Brothers used the same shape of windows of the 1951 Mercury they created for Bob Hirothata.
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The roof of the stock ’40 Mercury is separated with a small strip of stainless steel, making the top look like a separate unit. On previous Custom Mercury’s like the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro Merc Sam already had  figured out hos much smoother the top looked if that strip was eliminated and the roof section was blended smooth with the turret panel. So that was also so done on Nick’s Mercury, and the blending was done with an even softer radius than the cars Sam had worked on before. The factory rounded top trunk corners helped the flow of the turret panel into the roof even more.

The rest of the body work on Nick’s Mercury was rather straight forward, and something the shop had performed multiple times on other customs cars. Like the nosing, decking and the molding of all four fender. But it perhaps never had looked so good as on Nick’s mercury, where it was balanced out with that super flowing top. Sam had to modify the hood latching mechanism in order to remove the hood ornament. Nick insisted of keeping the stock grille, and even the stock eyebrows mounted at the bottom of the hood front, just above the grille. He also wanted to keep the original heavy hooded chrome headlight bezels. He loved the design on those, and he was so right about that. Nothing would have looked more in place than these original elements. Sam did however shorten the side trim on the hood, which now starts at the center of the front wheel opening. This optically puts a bit more weight on the rear of the car.

To enhance the flowing lines of the top, Nick wanted to removed the taillights from the fender and mount them, just like Jesse Lopez had done before him, in the bumper guards. They chose to use a set of 1946 Ford bumpers for the car. These bumpers are a bit heavier in appearance than the stock Mercury units, giving the car a bit more weight, and the round shape with the small lip at the top really helps with the flow, front to rear. The stock ’46 Ford bumper guards have a beautiful art-deco shape and are absolutely perfect for creating bumper guard taillights. Jesse Lopez showed Nick how to create the taillights. The bumper guards were mounted in such a way that they flow with the lines of the trunk when looked from behind. The rear of the Stock 1939-40 Mercury kind of stops abrupt into this gap that is left between the body and bumpers. It makes the car look short. So to not loose the momentum of the flow from the top to the trunk Sam decided to use a gravel shield to fill the gap. He welded the gravel shield of an ’46 Ford, and molded it nicely into the body with a similar smooth radius as that was used on the rear fenders, making it look like it came from the factory that way. And integrated the rear bumper a d made it part of the overall design of the car


Two 1940 Mercury’s, the top one is the Johnny Zaro Mercury, and the bottom one the Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury. The Zaro Merc has a much more conservative chopped top. Very much styled along the lines of the original car, jts a few inches lower and slightly more streamlined with the rear portion of the top molded to the body to make it a one piece affair. The chopped top done like this gave the car a completely new more aggressive look and with a low stance the proportions looked a lot better than stock. To be able to get the side windows the right proportional size, the top needs to be chopped quite a bit, leaving the windshield very small. On the Matranga Merc this was fixed by raising the windshield up into the top. The rear portion of the Matranga mercury roof was shaped completely different from the Zaro Mercury, making it look much more modern.



To further enhance the flow of the car, Sam reworked a set of teardrop fender skirts to fit the mercury fender, that Nick had bought at one of the after market companies, to fit the mercury fenders. The door handles were removed to help clean up the sides of the car and again help with the flow, front to rear. To open the door Nick installed push buttons, that activated the solenoids to unlatch the doors, in the running boards, to open the doors from the outside. Inside he installed the buttons on the dash. The dash itself is a piece of art as well. Not really that much has been done to it, just cleaned up a little, and smoothed over completely before it was chrome plated. All the factory ribbed plastic components on the dash were copied in clear red Lucite another trick that Jesse Lopez helped Nick with. The red Lucite looked amazing mounted on the chrome plated dash.




Interior

The interior on Nick’s Mercury was upholstered by Bill Gaylord in dark maroon and ivory using DuPont Fabrilite. The maroon sections was outlined with ivory piping, and the all ivory headliner was a mix of rows of tuck and roll running length wise, outlined with maroon piping and plain ivory sections. The lengthwise design helping create more optical length inside. The carpet was done in dark maroon, and Bill made diamond shape floor-mats to protect the carpets. The section below the chrome plated dash was also fully upholstered in Bill Gaylord’s trademark diamond pattern upholstery. Nick bought a brand new 1950 Mercury Monteray steering wheels that Sam modified to fit the ’40 Steering column. Like most of the Customs created in this era Nick also had to have a set of S-552 Appleton Spotlights, were mounted at the Barris Shop. These Spotlights give the car the needed kick, or focus point at the front of the roof, all to help with the optical flow.  set of wide white wall tires were of course needed to help with the elegant lines of the car, and the most perfect hubcaps in the world, the Cadillac Sombrero’s were installed on the front wheels. Nick drove the car like this, in primer for a bit, before the next big decision needed to be made… color.

Carson MatrangaThis photo of the interior in Nick’s Mercury must have been taken early in 1950. If you look close then you can see that the dash is missing a few dash knobs as well as the radio, which are visible in the other photos of the interior. The simple horseshoe shape of upholstery on the bench seat looks very attractive with the ivory piping. There is no rear view mirror in the car when this photo was taken.
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This photo shows how the dashboard was now finished with the radio and the missing dash knobs in place. The red lucide panels must have looked spectacular on the chrome plated dash.
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Here we can see the specially made window frames, the chrome plated garnish molding, the beautiful Gaylord upholstery, including the diamond pattern on the panel below the dash, and that Nick had installed a rear view mirror by then. The ’50 Mercury Monteray steering wheel looks right at home in the decade older Merc.
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Taken at the 1951 National Roadster Show in Oakland shows how the B-Pillar section had a (rubber) trim section making sure the gap between the door frame and the rear quarter frame was covered in case of rain, or any other bad weather.
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Nick was not only looking for the very best in optical styling, he also wanted to have a powerful engine, that went as well as it sounded. Nick had an 1946 Mercury block modified by Phil Weiand. Who installed Weiand heads, intake and cam. Nick knew Phil very well and he gave Nick a good deal on the motor. Phil treated the engine with all the goodies and made it look really good and made sure it was reliable but also sounded really well.



1950 photos

Even though the Matranga Mercury was only around for a little over a year, there are still plenty of photos of the car. Showing how popular Nick’s car must have been at the time. To help identify the different photos and when they have been made we have split up this section of the article in 1950 photos, 1951 Photos and 1951-52 photos after Nick sold the car.

There are very few photos taken of the rear of the Mercury so these two photos from the Kurt McCormick Collection are very important. These two where taken with some time in between them. The one on the left shows the car without the rear view mirror. And the one on the right shows the car with the mirror installed and with the Kustoms Los Angeles plaque mounted below the rear bumper. These two photos are also giving use the best look at the chopped rear window, with its pleasing teardrop shapes. This last photo also show how nice the bumper guards follow the line of the trunk. Everything on Nick’s mercury was so well designed.
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Close up of the rear bumper in 1950 shows the bumper guard integrated taillights than Nick created with the help of Jesse Lopez. Notice the hole cut into the guard included the ribbed outer section of the stepped Art-Deco shape, and how that was reshaped into the Lucite.
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Nick had seen many of George Barris his beautiful organic paint jobs, using transparent toners, mixed with Venus Martin gold and bronze powders. So he knew George would do a find job on the car. Nick picked a 1941 Buick Titian Maroon as base color. The Titian  maroon base color was a bleeder, it showed somewhat what was underneath. In a similar way as later candy paints worked. George and Nick spend many hours mixing colors, based on the Buick color, adding black, adding gold powders and spraying it over different base colors. The end result of the paint job was a spectacular deep dark maroon with highlights enhanced with added gold powder and sections lower on the body that had more black showing thru the paint. All this was done in a away to enhance the shape of the body of the car. And according to those who have seen the car in person, the paint was spectacular.

After George had finished the paint the still fresh paint job was carefully color sanded with wet sand paper. The it was left alone for about a month. This way the paint had completely set, and all the paint thinners had evaporated and the paint completely shrunk.Then Nick and friends color sanded the paint once more and did a final rub-out for the most perfect paint finish.

Nick estimated he had about $1800.- invested in the car. And the Barris Bill alone could have been much higher if he had not helped out with the built all the time. Usually Nick would go to the Barris Shop after his regular day job, and there he would work on the car, either alone, prepping the car for the next day’s body work, or assisting Sam who was working on the car after shop hours as well. Nick credits Sam Barris for doing most of the work on his Mercury. And how it was a pleasure working with Sam who was a fantastic craftsman and knew exactly how to realize the ideas Nick had in his mind for the Mercury.

1950 snapshots taken at Nick’s girlfriends house.
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Nick Matranga’s trend setting 1940 Mercury Coupe Custom was Restyled mostly at the Barris Bell Shop and later finished Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood. Perhaps the very early work on the car was performed at the Compton Ave. shop, since the car was constructed over a one year period. Sadly so far no in progress photos of the Mercury have surfaced.

Possibly a local parking lot or perhaps high school outdoor car show shows Nick’s Mercury with 1950 license plates. Parked behind the Merc is George Barris’s personal 1942 Cadillac Convertible Custom.
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California Avenue South Gate photo shoot

Marcia Campbell took some of the most important Historic Custom Car photos that we know. Perhaps Dan Post hired her to do a series of photos of a few of the latest Barris Customs at the Hall of Justice located at California Avenue in South Gate. One of the cars included in this photo shoot was Nick Matranga’s ’40 Mercury. Perhaps the most famous series of photos taken from the Matranga Mercury were taken by Marcia Campbell during this photo-shoot. It are the photos taken at this photo-shoot that give us the impression that the paint on the car was not rubbed out completely, giving the paint on the car a sort of semi gloss feel. Perhaps its just an optical illusion, or it could be that George Barris understand the importance of Nick’s Car and insisted that it would be part of the photo-shoot for the Dan Post Blue book, despite the paint not having the desired high gloss. There was no antenna on the drivers front fender on the car when these photos were taken.

3/4 front view with the hall of Justice building in the background.
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Near perfect side view scanned from the original photo proof sheet taken from the original negatives by Marcia Campbell.
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Colorized black and white photo give somewhat an impression how the rear Matranga Merc might have looked in color.
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Nick posing proudly with his 1940 Mercury. Most likely this and the other pictures taken at this location by Marcia Campbell were taken not all that long after Nick’s Mercury was finished.
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Enlarged section of the front 3/4 photo shows the Mercury in all its beauty. Notice that there is no rear view mirror mounted yet, so these photos were taken shortly after the Mercury was done.
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1951 photos

If it hadn’t be for the Korean war, then Nick most likely would have never sold the car, at least not just one year after completion. Nick even had told David Zivot how he had plans to install an all new Cadillac OHV engine in the car. But instead Nick enlisted in the army, and left the car in his mothers Garage. George Barris was able to pick up the car in case he needed it for Custom Car shows, which he did for the 1951 Oakand Roadster Show (Feb, 1951), the Montebello Tent Show (and at the Hot Rod show in the LA Armory most likely in Jan ’51). At one point George Barris informed Nick’s mother that he had a buyer for the mercury, and after initial not wanting to let go of the car, Nick eventually agreed and the car was sold for $2500.- in September / October 1951.

1951 photo taken at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Lynwood shop. This high 3/4 front view shows how right Nick was in to keep the front of the car mostly stock, with only the hood cleaned up to enhance the beautiful Mercury shapes.
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Fremont High School photo shoot

Nick graduated from John C. Fremont High School And not long after that he started the work on his ’40 Mercury. In 1951 He went back to his old High School with his Custom Mercury for an set of historically important photos. We are not 100% sure about the photographer who took these photos at the High School, but most likely it was Marcia Campbell who took them. By then Nick had installed a radio antenna on the drivers side front fender.

The perfect dead on side view photo that has helped many enthusiast create their version of the famous Matranga Mercury. This is the one photo that really shows the beautful shaped roof line on Nick’s Mercury. Marcia Campbell was most likely the photographer.
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The front 3/4 view in front of the school shows that the car now has 1951 plates. From this angle it looks like the roof is flowing so smooth into the trunk area.
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Sadly I was unable to locate a copy of the complete photo taken from the rear 3/4, so we have to do with this zoomed in version.
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Perfection on wheels. Everything about the Matranga Mercury is just right, as this photo shows. The slight speed boat stance, the flow of all the body lines enhanced by the curved hard-top window trim.
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According an interview with Nick, the skirts used were 1941 Buick Skirts which were modified to fit the Mercury fenders. But more likely they used aftermarket skirts commonly used on 1939-40 Fords. The shape of the skirts flow perfectly with the Mercury body, enhancing all the restyled body lines on the car. This photo also shows the the door popper button activating the solenoid to open the the door located in the running board.
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The Shows

George Barris took Nick’s Mercury to the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show. Nick was in the army by then and could not make it to the show. Small funny detail is that the show card in the windshield of the Mercury, which was made by a sign painter at the show, had the name Matranga misspelled. (inset on the left)
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Nick’s Mercury also appeared at the Montebello California Tent Show held in 1951 at the Armory. Nick was already in the military by then, so somebody else had taken the car to the show for him. Parked next to Nick’s Merc is Snooky Janich ’41 Ford (in primer behind the merc) and the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford. Peaking just behind the Hop Up sign is the nose of the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford.
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The Mystery new owner
It has been written that a nineteen-year-old guy, named Stanley Hannenberg of Artesia, CA, purchased Nick’s Mercury. This is based on an Jun 8, 1952 news paper clipping (included in this article) in which is it listed that the car he drove (a 1939 Coupe) was wrecked on a rainy day January 7th, 1952 against a telephone pole.  The story very much sounds right with the info others have mentioned on how the Matranga Merc came to its end. But the dates on this article do not match the fact that the Matranga Mercury was photographed at an Pasadena event on March 30th, 1952, which was featured in the June 1952 Hot Rod Magazine, three month after it was possibly totaled. At this point we do not know for sure who was the new owner after Nick, and when exactly the car was wrecked and declared “totaled”, and scrapped with only the Appleton Spotlights remaining of the car. But it must have been after March 30th, 1952.



1951-1952 after Nick sold the car

The Falcons and the Gripers Hot Rod Clubs from Pasadena, California organized an Car Show and reliability run in one event on March 30th, 1952. An two page article about this event appeared in the June 1952 issue of Hot Rod magazine. This possibly is the latest event that the Matranga Merc ever entered, and the last time it was photographed. Besides having the one interior photo used in the Hot Rod magazine article, I also believe that a series of photos from the Danny Lares Collection showing the Matranga Mercury were taken at this event.

The flyer for the first Annual Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run held on March 30, 1952. This was most likely the last time the Matranga Mercury was entered in an event.
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Danny Lares had bought the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford around 1951, and more than likely Danny knew the new owner of the Matranga Mercury. Danny was a active member of the Road Kings-Wilmington car club and possibly the new owner of the Matranga Merc was also a member of the Road Kings or perhaps a member of one of the other attending Long Beach car clubs. The snapshots from Danny’s photo album clearly show that the two cars and the two owners stayed close during this event. While there is no photo of Danny’s ’41 Ford in the Hot Rod magazine article, one of the photos shows that Danny was there at the event. Looking at all the details in the Hot Rod magazine article and compare them with Danny’s photos I think that most, if not all these photos were taken at the same event. The last event the Matranga Merc most likely was entered.

The two page Hot Rod magazine article from June 1952 showing the interior of the Mercury. In the photo on the far left (page 20) we can see Danny Lares on the far right collecting a trophy for his ’41 Ford. Who knows… perhaps the new owner of the Matranga Merc is also in this picture?
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One page of the Danny Lares photo album shows Danny’s ’41 Ford and the Matranga Mercury. The one photo with the number 30 painted on the door must have been taken at the reliability run.
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Cleaned up version of the photo taken at the Pasadena reliability run on March 30th, 1952. That must be the new owner behind the wheel of the Mercury.
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Sitting side by side the Matranga 1940 Mercury and the lopez ’41 Ford with 1952 tag’s on the 1951 License plates. Both cars are now owned by new owners. The Lopez ford is missing the fender skirt, possibly removed for the reliability run?
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What a line up, Glen Johnson ’37 Ford (which was the feature car for the event flyer, Danny Lares with his Jesse Lope ’41 Ford (that is Danny with the white cap) and the Matranga Mercury next to it. To bad the fence is blocking so much of the cars. But since this might be the last event the Matranga Mercury was entered I wanted to include it here anyway.
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The Merc parked next to the Danny Lares ’41 Ford.
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Enlarged section of the photo shows the ’52 tag on the ’51 California license plate. It also gives a good look at the ribbed GM or aftermarket rear view mirror that Nick added to the car.
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This photo was taken at the first annual Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run on March 30th, 1952, and was featured in the June 1952 Hot Rod Magazine. It might have been one of the last photos taken of the famed Matranga Merc.
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Changes to the Matranga Merc.
The Matranga Merc only excited for a little over a year, so it never underwent many changes, like some other famous Custom Cars had. The only things I have been able to notice that changed are the addition of a GM ribbed rear view mirror towards some where in 1950. And the addition of a driver side front fender mounted radio antenna in 1951. The photos that we have been able to find of the Mercury show that the car had two license plated in its life as Full Custom. The 62B 1 997 plate from 1950 and the 5N75907 plate from 1951, and the addition of the ’52 tag in late 1951, or early 1952. In some of the photos of Nick’s mercury it appears as if the paint was a semi gloss. Possibly these photos were taken shortly after the car had been finished, and the paint had not been rubbed out yet. But it could also be an optical illusion, nobody has been able to confirm the reason why the paint looks semi gloss in some photos.

Nick Matranga News Paper Article BarrisThis is the Jan 8, 1952 new paper article mentioning the accident which matches some details of the stories about the accident of the Matranga Mercury. But the year of the car is wrong, ’39, not 40, (which can happen in a none car related news paper). But the January 7, 1952  date of the accident does not match with the fact that the Matranga Merc was photographed at the Pasadena even on March 30th 1952. The mystery of Who was the owner of the ’40 Mercury after Nick Matranga continues…
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In the short life span of the Matranga Merc the car was photographed with two different license plates. These help us identify when the photos were taken. 62B1997 plate from 1950 and the 5N75907 plate from 1951, and on the right it shows the addition of the ’52 tag in late 1951, after Nick had sold the Mercury.
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Time frame Matranga Merc

  • 1949 late 1949 work started at the Barris Bell Shop, Los Angeles.
  • 1950 late 1950 the car was finished at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood.
  • 1950 November 16th thru 19th Nick Matranga enters his freshly finished Mercury at the Motorama, held in the convention hall at the L.A. Shrine auditorium.
  • 1951 January Nick Matranga enters the Matranga Merc at the Los Angeles Hot Rod show at the LA Armory.
  • 1951 The Dan Post Blue Book publishes 5 photo of Nick Matranga Mercury.
  • 1951 February (early) Nick deployed for boot camp and leaves the car at his mothers house.
  • 1951 February 20-25 George Barris enters the Matranga Merc at the Oakland Roadster Show.
  • 1951 Date unknown George Barris enters the Matranga Merc at the Montebello Armory Tent Show.
  • 1951 September – October George Barris sells the Mercury on behalf of Nick for $2800.- to an new owner.
  • 1952 March 30th New owner enters the Matranga Merc in the Pasadena first annual Reliability run.
  • 1952 Date unknown the new owner wrecked the car hitting a telephone pole in the rain.
  • 1952 June Interior photo appears in the Pasadena Car Show coverage in Hot Rod Magazine.

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Barris Crest
I often was asked why the Matranga Mercury never had a Barris Crest. If the Matranga Mercury was such a famous Barris Custom, why do none of the known photos of the car show the Barris Crest on the cowl, or elsewhere? Was Nick Matranga perhaps not happy with the the work the Barris Shop did? That he did not want to promote the Barris Shop with a crest?
The answer to that question is very simple. During the very short live span of the Matranga Mercury late 1950 – June 1952, the Barris Crest had not yet been created. The Barris Crest was first used around late summer 1952. and by then the Matranga Mercury had already been wrecked and scrapped.

Just a few samples of many 1939-40 Mercury Coupe Customs that have been inspired by the Matranga Mercury, or were built as clone, or semi clone. The Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury is the most copied Custom Car design ever.
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Nick Matranga was born Nicholas Joseph Matranga, on April 21, 1930 in Los Angeles, CA, He passed away on March 27, 2010, in Torrance, CA.




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Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford

 

JESSE LOPEZ 1941 FORD

 

Around 1947 innovative car enthusiast Jesse Lopez dreams up his ultimate Custom. Together with Sam Barris he creates what would become a true Custom Car Icon. The Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford.


The subtitle of this article “The Ultimate Taildragger”, might not be totally period correct. The word Taildragger given to a pre-1948 based Custom Car with the rear suspension significantly lower than the front, giving it an emerging from the water speed-boat stance was born much later than when the Jesse Lopez Ford was originally build. Still I like to use the “Ultimate Taildragger” title to describe the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford Coupe since the car can be seen as one of the most distinctive and earliest Custom Cars of its kind. The one that surely set the style. And today if somebody talks about a Taildragger Custom, it is the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford that comes to mind at first… most of the times.

We have already shared the amazing two part article on Jesse Lopez written by Michelle M. Yiatras here on the Custom Car Chronicle, that concentrated on the life of Jesse Lopez on the 1940’s and 1950’s. It included some stories on Jesse’s ’41 Ford. But now it is time to get up close to Jesse’s Personal trend setting Iconic ’41 Ford Custom, and share the car in all its beauty.

Before buying his ’41 Ford coupe Jesse had owned two Hot Rods, an A’ RPU with the pick up box removed, nicknamed “bucket”. A very fast rod. The other was an was an AV8 roadster and, the third car was a little more of the Custom kinds a ’36 2 door-sedan. Jesse was more a Hot Rod than a Custom Car guy, but he still wanted to have a full custom, just as some of his friends had. They were just more comfortable and great for picking up girls. At the time a lot of the Custom Cars were based on convertible and had beautiful styled padded tops. Jesse really liked the shape on the padded tops, but for his personal ride he wanted to have a coupe.

This is the oldest photo we have been able to find of the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford. Completed, but still in primer wearing the Single Bar Flipper Hubcaps.
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Jesse discussed his ideas he had for an ’41 Ford Custom with Sam Barris at the Barris Custom Shop on Compton Ave. Sam suggested Jesse should get a short door coupe, since those would create a much sleeker custom. Plus Sam had already chopped on of those short door coupes recently, (most likely the Snooky Janich ’41 Business Coupe, or perhaps Bill DeCarr’s ’41 Mercury, both short door coupes done very early at the Barris Shop.) so he knew how to tackle that for the best result, plus he thought the long door coupe would need much more work to look right. Jesse was not quite sure about the short door coupe’s lines, and really wanted to have a back seat for his ride. So he found a picture of an long door coupe and started to cut the top of the car on the photo with a pair of scissors and pasted it in place to where the car had the profile he had in his mind. He loved it, and the longer doors worked really well with his design.

He showed his taped together photo collage to Sam and told him this is what I want. Sam agreed and Jesse went on to look for the perfect base car, he found a very cherry ’41 Ford long door coupe. Work could start around 1947, Jesse was in his senior year of High-school, and Sam and Jesse made a deal for working on the car. As in most cases at the Barris Shop the customer was allowed to work on the cars themselves as well, under supervision of the Barris crew. This was to help save some money, and to speed up the process.

Jesse was a very handy guy so he could help a lot on the car. It was Sam Barris who did the initial body work, and Jesse worked from there. Jesse mentioned that only Sam Barris worked on the car, “George never touched it“. The car was lowered with a dropped front axle, and the rear of the frame was kicked up (channeled) to get it as low as Jesse wanted it. He ran stock springs an no shackles. The car drove very good, it was low and especially if he had passengers (car had a back seat) the car would hit the ground when they ran over a bump in the road. He later installed rubber stoppers at the low point of the frame. It still bumped, but it did not sound all wrong anymore.

Freshly painted photographed at the Barris Compton Ave shop. Amazing flowing lines make the car look ultra modern in 1948. Notice how low the car is showing just a small portion of the rear white wall tires.
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No matter what angle you look at Jesse’s Ford, the chopped top, as well as the rest of the car looks absolutely stunning.
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The next part to tackle was the chopped top. Jesse’s cut and pasted photo showed a very low profile, with a heavy chop. How much was cut from the pillars we don’t know exactly. Measurements published in the past and present vary from 4.5 to 6.5 inches, and also an 8 inch tall windshield has been mentioned. Whatever the amount of material was that they removed, it turned out to be just perfect for Jesse’s Coupe. Jesse wanted to have the rear of the roof to be shaped inspired by the Padded Tops he saw on most of the custom cars. They cut the top off going through rear window opening. They removed the B pillars and put them aside. Bumper jacks were used to spread the A pillars. After the windshield height was where Jesse wanted it, it was tacked in place. The top was allowed to settle until Jesse saw that Padded top shape. The B pillars were cut to fit and tacked in place.

The top was going to have a slight hump at the back, which would later become a Barris trademark. Jesse remembered that getting everything to work together was a real sonofabitch. At one point he decided to mock up the complete rear of the top in heavy chicken wire covered with masking paper and adding some primer to blend it in with the rest of the body. Then Jesse and Sam would stand back and checked to see if it looked right from all angles. Several tries were needed before Jesse was perfectly happy with it. At that time Sam had already lost his patience and let Jesse do the work on the mock up.

Jesse and Sam created a custom color for Jesse’s ’41 Ford based on a 1939 Plymouth green color (Vineyard Green). Toners where used to make it darker and deeper. Venus Martin number 9 gold powder was added for some extra sparkle.
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So far no actual color photos of Jesse’s Ford have surfaced, so This colorized black and white photo is the best alternative to give an impression how stunning the car must have looked in the late 1940’s.
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Now the shape needed to be repeated in metal, and that is were Sam Barris’s skills were needed. Sam shaped the ’41 Ford top till perfection and according Jesse’s mock up. The rear of the top metal was cut right across the rear window, the shape Jesse wanted dictated that the cuts needed to be made right there. They would worry about the rear window at a later point. Sam and Jesse hammer and dollied the crease out of the lower panel, below the rear window glass, and tipped the metal forward to meet with the top of the roof. Jesse used pieces of hacksaw blades with home made handles to cut slices in the lower top area and the upper rear body panel area. These two areas came together and the overlapping metal was removed. This resulted in the rear window being chopped a bit. The pie shapes that were open after reshaping the top using the slices sections were filled with metal pieces and everything was welded up solid.

Jesse mentioned that the smaller than stock back window was composed of a sheet of 1/4″ aircraft grade Plexiglas, that he got to bend and conform to the convex ellipse, because of complications cutting tempered glass.

The September 1949 issue of Motor Trend had a one page article on Jesse’s ’41 Ford, comparing it with photos of a stock Ford made the reader realize how much more beautiful the Custom Restyled version of Jesse is.
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The rear quarter windows were up next, and those turned out to be just as difficult to do than the top. When the top was chopped they had removed the drip rails and the door rear corners (sharp from the factory) looked odd, and did not blend well with any shape of the rear quarter windows. So the rear door corners were reshaped and rounded to flow with the shape of the top. At one point he completely filled in the quarter windows to figure out the best shape of the rear quarter windows. A lot of cutting, pie-cutting and welding was needed to get the frames in just the right flowing shape to follow the door windows, as well as the new roof lines. Remember that during the time this car was built it was Jesse’s only driver. So even during the chop process Jesse drove the car, without the top, the top partly chopped and sitting on nothing more than a wooden crate… wild!

When the new top finally had the perfect shape everything was hammer welded and leaded to get it perfectly smooth. Next up was sealing in the fenders. (later this would be called molding the fenders) hand shaped metal shapes were welded from the fenders to the body to give them a perfect radius and the desired one piece look. The running boards were removed, and the lower body panels were extended down with rolled metal to cover where the running boards used to be. All handles and emblems were removed and the holes filled. The two part hood was welded solid and a subtle peak added in the center.  The two part front fenders were also welded together for a smoother look, and the fender crease that used to run all the way to the front of the car was reshaped just in front of the wheel opening, very much like a ’46-48 Ford fender, but with a touch of Jesse’s own styling.

The Ansen’s catalog shows Jesse’s Jesse’s Ford in an illustration drag racing on the cover… this really happened. On the right is Jesse’s Ford used in a late 1940’s Barris Hot Rod magazine ad.
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The first version of Jesse’s ’41 Ford was also published in the Trend Book #101  Custom Cars published in 1951. Here it was mentioned the car was chopped 6/5 inches, but also that the car was channeled. 3 more photos of Jesse’s Ford were used thru-out the booklet.
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For a custom grille on his ’41 Ford, Jesse wanted to use one of the not even available ’48 Cadillac grilles. He had seen the new ’48 Cadillac’s in an advertisement or something like that. And he knew that that grille would be perfect for his car. He wrote a letter to Cadillac and told him about his plans for the grille and asked if he could get one for his ’41 Ford Custom being built at Barris. He mentioned his good friend’s father owned a local Cadillac dealer ship. Some time after that he gets notification that there was a package from Cadillac at his friends father Cadillac dealer. It was the new ’48 Cadillac grille, he got one from free.. no charge. The grille was perfect.

Sam and Jesse worked hard to get the grille to work with the ’41 Ford body lines. They decided that the lower section of vertical grille bars needed to be removed. The placing of the grille on the stock position of the front splash pan turned out to be to low. To get that grille in the correct relationship to the hood and headlights, they lifted/tilted the stock bumper brackets up. This raises the gravel shield around 2 inches higher than stock. The grille sits 1/4 inch above the gravel shield to make it look more factory, this all created the perfect location for the Cadillac Grille. Sam and Jesse used an aftermarket, blank center grille, replacement panel cut down to fit with the Cadillac grille, and molded it in place.

There is only one snapshot showing Jesse’s Ford with the Blower set up and removed hood. The way he drove it at the drag races. The rear of the car is in primer in this photo, some small body work was done before another paint job was added.
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The lower pan below the bumper was modified and to help cool the engine Jesse installed an extra air-inlet created from an refrigerator drip pan. The headlights were molded in with the addition of an extra lip, slightly recessing the headlights. The taillights were removed from the rear fenders to enhance the ultra smooth look. The stock ’41 Ford bumpers were replaced with more elegant and bulbous ’46 Ford units. The rear bumper guards were modified to accept custom made clear red Lucite shaped lenses as taillights. Jesse was the first to build this type of taillights into the bumper guards, “I was good at doing plastic work and I got the bright idea to set them in the indentation of the bumper guard, about 1 3/4” x 3 3/4”, a small light fit into the back of the guard. I made the plastic formed and recessed to the shape with 1/8” grooves cut inside with a triangle file to reflect. It’s easier working with plastic than metal.”

With all the work done on the car it was sprayed with several coats of dark gray primer. This is how Jesse drove it around for a while. The car had wide white wall tires, single bar flipper hubcaps and beauty rings, and a set of wired and working Appleton Spotlights installed. Even in primer Jesse’s car looked stunning. The car remained in primer all the time he was at basic training because he was driving it back and forth routinely from LA to Fort Roberts. When it came to choose a color for the Ford, Jesse did not want to use what “everybody” else was doing, dark maroon based on GM-Buick colors. Jesse really wanted a light color for the car, his personal favorite was a pale yellow, which would have made the car really stand out between all those dark color painted customs. But in the end he decided to go dark anyway, dark green.

Some of Jesse’s friends in booth camp posing with the ’41 Ford. All the guys loved that car. In 1949 Jesse replaced the Single Bar Flipper hubcaps with Cadillac Sombrero units.
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This snapshot taken at Camp Roberts really shows the beautiful shape of the top and rear quarter windows.
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The first color used on the 41 Ford is a custom mix, but it is based on a 1939 Plymouth green color (Vineyard Green) nitro lacquer. Toners where used to make it darker and deeper. Venus Martin number 9 gold powder was also added. They used a motorcycle tank for test shots of the paint. The tank’s curvatures shows how the paint would look on the car. All the paint that was mixed was used on the car, and no extra paint was made for possible future touch ups. They figured if they scratch the paint, or worse, it was easier to repaint the whole car…. in a different color. The first paint-job was sprayed by Sam Barris. Over the relatively short time Jesse owned the car it was repainted a few times. Always in shades of dark, or darker greens. A later color was based on ’47 Chrysler Adante green Rinshed-Mason again with with fine metallic gold Venus Martin powder highlights, M & H in LA mixed the paint.

“The lacquer paint back then didn’t hold up like today’s. The streets were really bad back then and we’d get chips in the paint and running boards. I was a painter so instead of spotting it I went ahead and repainted the car and refined the color in nicer shades of green/metallic. I gave it the final paint job, a nicer lighter shade of the dark green with more gold flakes, I actually liked that paint color the best. Everything was experimental then, nothing was concrete, always wanting to improve, and they were constantly making things better.”

The car was complete built at the Compton Avenue Barris Shop. The shop was basically a two car garage, but longer. But most of the time the work on the car was performed outside, the weather was always good.

Some small, but very nice photos of Jesse’s Ford appeared in the October 1951 issue of Popular Science. Among the photos used is a nice photo showing Jesse using the “hidden” button the the rocker panels used to activate the door opener.
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Jesse lopez posing with his 1941 Ford in 1949.
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1950 Oakland Roadster Show

Jesse Lopez entered his ’41 Ford in several car shows over the time he owned the car. He also drove it all the way to Oakland to enter the car in the first annual Roadster Show. One of the shows that would turn out to be very Custom Car orientated. Jesse’s Ford was a huge success at the show with a crowd around it all weekend long.


1950 Oakland Roadster showJesse’s 1941 Ford at the 1950 Oakland Roadster Show.
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1950 Oakland Roadster showJesse was a proud member of the Kustoms Los Angeles, and he ran KLA brass plaques both front and rear. This photo was taken during set-up day.
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The interior of Jesse’s Ford was done by Carson Top Shop, and according to Jesse it was done a bit crude. It had 1.5 inch or perhaps wider pleats done in white and green. Jesse smoothed the dash and had it completely chrome plated. He had followed a class how to work with Lucite, when the product was introduced. There he had learned how to shape and glued the material, and during the build of his Ford he realized the material would be perfect for use on his – and later other – Custom Cars. To cut the material they used to drill holes close to each other and cut it apart with a hand saw. Then files and sand paper where used to smooth everything and finally it was polished. Jesse had removed the stock plastic dash panels and hand shaped new units in transparent green Lucite. He also replaced all the factory dash and shifter knobs with hand made units created from green Lucite. This made the interior of Jesse’s Ford look very modern and totally unique.

The new ultra smooth body lines looks fantastic on Jesse’s Ford and it was a big hit in 1948. Everywhere he went it was a crowd pleaser. When he went for a burger, or whatever, there was always a crowd around the car. Jesse’s ’41 Ford was a trend setting Custom that had a lot of first in the field going on. It was as far as we know the first long door coupe that got chopped, had the first bumper guard taillights of this kind, had the first rolled over running boards, and Lucite elements in the interior.

1950 Oakland Roadster showJesse’s Ford parked next to Joe Urritta’s Barris built 1941 Ford convertible at the show.
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Jesse whad his ’41 Ford at the first Oakland Roadster Show in 1950. In the top photo Jesse is standing with Miss CA. holding the trophy he just won with the car.
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Jesse was really into driving fast so the stock engine was replaced by an a 3/8 by 3/8 stroker 59A. Under the hood, it was all business. No polished/chromed anything. During the week he had two Stromberg 97’s on a Edelbrock low boy intake and Edelbrock heads. The heads were also Edelbrock, with headers. The headers had bungs in them so that he could open them at the races.

Jesse also created a set up with a McCullough blower that he used on the car for drag racing. The car was too heavy and low to race, but he wanted to race it so he put the charger on it, and ran it without the hood. Lincoln Zephyr gears in the transmission with the blower. They all used Lincoln gear boxes back then. Jesse also had to have a special made big radiator because it ran so hot, 4” core and 4” tank. One carburetor off a Buick Roadmaster with a large venturi to let more air in, Fritz figured that out. He built the motors for most of the LA guys back then.

1950 Oakland Roadster showThe Appleton 112’s were wired and worked, the spot handles were green Lucite to match the Lucite on the Chrome plated dash. The doors kicked open by buttons hidden under the rocker. Notice the used look of the frame covers, that is because the car was Jesse’s daily driver. Shortly before the Oakland show Jesse replaced the stock steering wheel with a Mercury Monteray Steering wheel.
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Close up of the bumper guard taillights Jesse created for his ’41 Ford. Notice how the Lucite was not only used on the most extended shape of the Art-Deco shaped guard, but also on the side pieces with the tops nicely rounded. This is how several of the early bumper guard taillights were done. This photo also shows the light fixture Jesse created above the license plate.
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When Jesse got drafted he still would drive the car to boot-camp. But after a while he gave the car to his brother Memo. But his brother was not such a good driver, he was not really into cars and found the chopped windows to small to drive safely. So he asked George Barris to find a buyer for the car. Jesse was send overseas to Korea and Japan and Danny Lares showed interest in the car and ended up buying it.

The 1941 Ford was Jesse’s only real custom car. He later owned a 1951 Cadillac that he rebuild as a 1952, with really nice paint as a mild custom, a 1956 Ford Pick-up mildly restyled with his own mix of Candy Red Paint. And a brand new 1958 Ford Thunderbird that he took right of the dealer’s lot to the Barris Shop for a new paint-job in Candy Red Paint mixed from his own formula. George Barris was so impressed with this paint that he bought the confidential mix. But that was it. Jesse was to busy with customer cars to do cars for him-self. Jesse now owns a 1957 T-Bird which is mildly customized with new rear wheel openings matching the front openings, painted in his favorite pale yellow, the color he really wanted to paint his 1941 Ford in as well.

Despite being an early Custom Car, the Jesse Lopez Ford did receive quite a bit of magazine recognition in the early days both Jesse’s as well as Danny’s version. Motor Trend as well as Dan Post featured the car on a full page. Later Dan post used several other photos of the car in newer editions of his Blue Book of Custom Restyling. George Barris also used several photos of the Lopez car (from before and after Jesse owned it) in various How To or Custom Detail articles in the magazines he wrote for.



1951 Danny Lares the New Owner

Danny Lares, an active member of the Road Kings-Wilmington car club, bought the Jesse Lopez ’41Ford coupe for $2300.- in 1951. Danny drove and showed the car from 1951 till 1957, winning numerous awards on the Southern California car show circuit. Danny sold the car in ’57 for $500 to a man named Stan Crabtree from San Pedro. Sadly, shortly after buying the car, the third owner of the car, Stan wrapped it around a tree and ended the life of the Jesse Lopez-41 Ford. As far as we know the remains were wrecked, and nothing of the car was saved.

(Jesse was felt really sick when he got home and heard what happened to his old car. He was always a very carefully driver, even though he drove the car fast. He never had one single scratch on it. And how could the new owner just total it.)

 


1951 photo at the Barris Shop shows the Jack Stewart ’41 Ford next to Jesse’s Ford. Unique is that the belt line trim is missing for Jesse’s car completely. Possibly the car had just been sold to Danny Lares and it had been freshly repainted?
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Ultimate Custom Car photo shows the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford, then owned by Danny Lares (Road Kings plaque) parked next to the Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury. Notice that the Ford is lacking fender skirts and is dressed up with a Cadillac Sombrero hubcap at the rear in this photo.
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Parked next to Nick Matranga’s ’40 Mercury at another outdoor car show. Danny added the Road Kings plaque on the front and rear of the car.
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Rear quarter view at an outdoor Car Show shows how fantastic the chopped top and molded (sealed) rear fenders look. The lack of body mounted taillights really help with the smooth look.
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Danny Lares in his Road Kings car club jacket standing against the ’41 Ford was taken around 1952.
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Minor Changes

Danny Lares kept the Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford mostly the same during the years he owned the car. There are however a few small changed that were made to the car which always helps us identify the time hen the photos were taken. Especially identifying the car when it was owned by Jesse, or by Danny. The first thing that was changes was the length of the hood side trim. Originally the piece of hood side trim on the car was very short, later a larger section was installed that ran almost to the center of the wheel opening. And some time later a Barris Crest was added to both sides of the car on the cowl. It is really amazing that in a time, the mid 1950’s, when it was so common to make new changes to your Custom Car every few month to gain points at the car show, Danny decided to leave the Jesse Lopez Ford design for what it was. Not make any changes but the few mentioned before. The design was perfect, and fortunately Danny realized that, its what he loved about the car.

Looks like Danny Lares is getting ready to race the ’41 Ford. That is Danny behind the car. Notice the numbers painted on the rear quarter window.
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Photo taken at the Los Angeles Hamilton High School car show. Year unknown, but photos from this event appeared in the December 1954 issue of R&C magazine. That is Danny with the checkered hat cleaning the engine bay.
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Danny receiving another trophy for the ’41 at an unknown car show.
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One thing that has always wondered me is that the car has no rounded trunk corners. The flow of the door line, door windows and rear quarter windows is so right on this car. Jesse and Sam might have spend a lot of time on it, but it all has been worth it.
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Low angle side profile photo with the newly added Barris crested to the cowl. This photo shows that the car might be even lower now than when Jesse owned it.
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Possibly when the Barris Crest were added to the car a “deal” was made that the car also would have the Kustoms Los Angeles plaque added again. George Barris was a businessman and wanted to promote the Barris Shop and Kustoms Los Angeles club as much as possible.
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Thrifty drug store parking lot car show photo from 1954. This photo shows how the chopped rear window fits just right and has the perfect size for the chopped top.
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Unknown outdoor Car Show in 1955. This is one of the very few photos showing a bit of the engine on the ’41 Ford. Notice how many award Danny Lares had won with the car. at least 7 years after it was first created the car still was a head turner.
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Close up of the photo shows the two carburetors. It also shows the slightly recessed headlights, and beautifully molded metal around the ’48 Cadillac grille.
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Beautiful model posing with the ’41 showing of some more trophies. Notice the perfect flow of all the panels with sharp reflections.
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Close up gives us a good look at the custom ’41 Ford front fenders with the extra lip Jesse designed.
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The ’41 Ford at another parking lot photo. This time the show was held in early 1956. Parked next to Danny is the famous ’49 Mercury created by the Ayala’s for Louis Bettancourt and later redone by Barris for Johnny Zupan. Next to that is the Barris Kustoms restyled ’41 Ford for Frank Monteleon.
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Photo taken at the same show as the one above, but from another angle. This photo is dated March 1956. (shared by Paul Kelly)
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This nice lower angle photo taken at Bacon Ford shows the extra air intake Jesse added to the car really well. Also take a look at the super sharp reflections in the glossy paint.
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Closer look at the refrigerator drip pan air intake under the front bumper. Also good visable in this photo are the slightly recessed headlights.
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Small changes over the years that help identify who owned the car and about when the photos were taken.

  • A) Short hood side trim and single bar flipper hubcaps, pre 1949. Owned by Jesse Lopez.
  • B) Short hood trim, Cadillac Sombrero’s, Pre around 1951. Mostly owned by Jesse Lopez.
  • C) Addition of the longer hood trim Post 1951. Owned by Danny Lares.
  • D) Addition of the Barris crest to the cowl, around 1953. Owned by Danny Lares.
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These two photos show perhaps the best what Jesse Lopez meant with a top shaped after the Carson Padded tops he liked so much. Uniquely shaped, and the lines on this car are still considered to be as perfect as they can be.
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The Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford has been a trend setter from the moment it was finished. Jesse and Sam Barris had created the ultimate ’41 Ford coupe using the much harder to chop (according to Sam Barris) long door coupe. The longer doors and side windows created that the chopped coupe looked a mile long, especially with the new roof shaped designed by Jesse based on what he liked from watching chopped padded top convertibles. The combination of the heavy chop with the speed boat stance, heavy lowering of the frame, created an almost cartoonish effect perfectly balanced. The car was an instant hit when Jesse started cruising the streets of Los Angeles. Many photos of the car have appeared in numerous publications of the years and have since then inspired many builders around the globe to create taildragging Customs.


Danny Lares later ran the Lions drag strip track, worked at LADS (Lions Associated Drag Strip) timing association from 1955-65 as tech timer and official starter flagman, and was a founding member of Road Kings Car Club Long Beach. He passed away in 2003.

Danny Lares’s nephew George Lares is now the care taker of the Danny Lares Collection.

Special thanks to:
Jesse Lopez, David E. Zivot, Michelle M. Yiatras, Trace Edwards, George Lares and Jerry Daman.









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LIFE magazine photo shoot at Barris

 

LIFE Magazine photo shoot at BARRIS

 

In the early 1950s several non car related magazines did some magazine features on Custom Cars. One of them was Life Magazine, or at least they sent out Loomis Dean to take some photos for a possible feature to the Barris shop in 1953.


A number of years ago Life magazine started to share some of their used, and none used historic photo material thru Google Images on the internet. Including those photos were some really unique photos taken around 1952 on the Hot Rod and Custom Car subject. Photo’s taken at the drag races, the 1952 Petersen Motorama show, some outdoor photos at an unknown location and some very interesting photos taken at the Barris Kustom Shop. Some of these photos might have ended up in an 1953-54 issue of Motor Life magazine, but so far I have not been able to find any of those actually being published. It might have been possible that the editor planned an article about Hot Rodding and Customizing, and send out the photographer Loomis Dean to take some photos for a possible future article.

The great thing about these Life Magazine photos taken my Loomis Dean is that he most likely was not a real car guy, so he took the photos with more than just the cars as the subject. It resulted in some very unique photos, that have helped clear some mysteries, and gave us a much better look at how things were, especially at the Barris Kustoms Shop. I have already used some of these Life Magazine photos in the article I did on the Barris Shop Wall, identifying the things on the shop wall at the Barris Kustoms Shop.

I have always been very interested in everything that goes on in the background at the Hot Rod and Custom Car photos from the 40’s to the 60’s. And these Life Magazine photos gave use some really great “unwanted” information from everything that was going on in the background.

The idea for this article started when I looked carefully at one of the photos taken by Loomis Dean in 1953 at some guys pulling off the frame of the Chet Herbert’s Streamliner so that the guys at the Barris Shop could start the rush job on creating the streamlined all custom body panels for it. The photo is of course very interesting for the land speed fans, but everything that goes on in the background of this photo is very interesting for the Custom Car fans.

The Life magazine photo that started the idea for this article with the car inside the Barris Shop hidden in the dark shadow of this photo.
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The most obvious things in the background are the rear fender of a 1940 Ford on the left, next up is a sectioned Shoebox Vicky, that has been mentioned and shown in the Barris 50’s Techniques books. (a bit more on that one later) Followed by a nosed 1951-51 Oldsmobile, a 1951 Cadillac Convertible with padded top, an freshly painted Jaguar, a 37-38 Ford coupe and one or two more cars behind that. In the shop there was one car pretty much in the dark, and when I lightened that part of the photo I noticed that it was the Earl Wilson heavily restyled 1947 Studeabaker “Grecian” in progress, and a custom grille sitting just in front of the shop sitting on some stands. On closer inspection it turned out the grille was the custom grille the Barris Shop had created for Fred Rowe’s 1951 Mercury.

After I lightened the right section of the photo I was able to identify the in progress 1947 Studebaker, chopped and sectioned and heavily restyled Grecian. And on the left side of the photo we see the, possibly freshly chrome plated custom grille for the Fred Rowe 1951 Mercury Convertible.
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Finished 1947 Studebaker “Grecian) for Earl Willson.
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When I was looking at some of the other photos taken around the same time as the first one posted in this article. I noticed a chopped convertible sitting in the open office door all the way on the right of the photo below. The main subject of the photo was the Frank Sonzogni 1950 Mercury being hand sanded getting it ready for paint. A fantastic photo showing how some of the dirty work at the Barris shop, like the wet sanding of the many coats of primer, was done outside, in front of the shop by multiple guy, including Sam Barris. The convertible I was spotting in the open Office door was interesting, and after I had spotted in the background of a few other photos, I had to conclude that it must be the nearly finished Fred Rowe 1951 Mercury, awaiting the custom grille that was sitting in front of the shop in the first photo. The photo below might have been taken before the one we started this article with. The ’51 Cadillac convertible is sitting closer to the street, (now in front of the “Auto Painting” building).


Three guys, including Sam Barris are wet sanding Frank Sonzogni’s 1950 Mercury. On the right is another mystery Barris Custom based on a 1941-48 Ford Coupe body with more modern fender added. (we will get back to this car at a later date) The chopped convertible can be seen thru the open Office door.
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Taken from another angle we can see Sam Barris filling an old tin bucket with water for the wet sanding, and two guys sanding the Frank Sonzogni ’50 Merc roof.  The Fred Rowe ’51 Mercury can be seen here just to the left of Sam Barris, all the way on the left side of the photo.
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Fred Rowe 1951 Mercury

The Fred Rowe 1951 Mercury was customize at the Barris shop in 1952, first in a milder version, chopped windshield, Chrysler taillights, Custom grille and molded grille surround. a little later it was back at the Barris shop for an update including ’52-53 Buick side trim, and subtile hood scoops. In 1955 the car was featured, along side the Hirohata Mercury in the movie Running Wild straring Mamie Van Doorn. In this series of photos from Life Magazine the car appears in the background of several photos being in progress from the first round of Custom Restyling.

I have enlarged two sections of the last two photos to show the in progress Fred Rowe ’51 Merc a little better. It is hard to tell how much more work still needs to be done on the car. It looks like it is almost ready. The low mounted Chrysler taillights can be seen in the photo on the right.
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When the guys arrived with the Chet Herbert’s Streamliner there had to be made some space to be able to unload it from the trailer. It looks like the Fred Rowe Merc (on the left side just behind the guy on the left) was moved forward, towards the street, and the ’51 Cadillac is gone in this picture, but in the first image we could see that it was moved more to thwards the back of the shop.
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Enlarged section shows the Fred Rowe Mercury with possibly a stock grille installed, Appleton Spotlight and the stock Mercury side trim which was used on the first version of the car. Later the car would be outfitted with a ’52-53 Buick boomerang side trim.
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Running Wild Fred Rowe MercuryFinished Fred Rowe 1951 Mercury, George Barris was able to get the car in the Running Wild movie, some extra exposure for the Barris Shop.
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1940 Ford Chopped Coupe

In the openings photo of this article we could see a small portion of a rear fender of an 1940 Ford on he far left side of the photo. In several other photos taken by  the Life Magazine photographer we can have a better look at his custom. I t appears to be an heavily and well proportioned chopped 1940 Ford coupe. One photo of this car in progress appeared in the Barris Kustoms Techniqes of the 1950s book Vol 1 book. The car is shown there with the chop being worked on, and the last photo shows the car getting ready to get a coat of primer. It appears that the Life Magazine photographer visited the Barris Shop shortly after that when the car was in fresh primer sitting outside the shop waiting to be finished. I have, so far, never been able to find any photos of this car as a completely finished Custom. This is another Barris Kustoms from the early 1950’s that has survived, and a couple of years ago it was offered for Sale, completely redone with an rake,  5-spoke wheels, making it look very odd.

This photo shows the guys shortly after arriving with the Chet Herbert’s Streamliner. Behind the trailer we have a great look at the ’40 Ford coupe with a very well proportioned chopped top. Angled back windshield and a perfect flow. On the right we can see the sectioned Shoebox Vicky.
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This is the photo of the same ’40 Ford Coupe that appeared in the Barris Kustoms Technique book. It shows the car ready for primer. The Barris book did not mentioned the name of the owner, and if and how t was finished. So that remains a mystery for now.
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Cropped Life Magazine photo gives us a better look at the great flow on the chopped top. Rounded door corners, molded in fenders, and rounded trunk corners.
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The Barris ’40 Ford how it looked in 2009. At this time it was being offered for Sale at a Barrett-Jackson auction. Not a very attractive look for this well done Barris Kustoms ’40 Ford Coupe. But it could be saved, and redone with a proper speed-boat stance, proper wheels and hubcaps, and teardrop bubble skirts, which would change the look dramatically.
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1951 Cadillac

In this series of Life Magazine photos a 1951 Cadillac convertible pops up as well. And I think that this car is one of George Barris’s personal cars. I have heard some people mention an early 50’s Cadillac as being George his personal ride in the early 1950’s. But so far I have not been able to find any published material on that. The Cadillac shows up in the photo shoot at the Barris shop at the time the Chet Herbert’s Streamliner was photographed, and also at an later, or earlier photo shoot at a different location with a few Barris Kustoms. The Cadillac is a very mild restyled car with no visible body modifications. Most likely it had a new paint-job, and all custom is the panoramic rear window padded top, customized Cadillac hubcap and Barris Crest on the front quarter panels.

A good look at the ’51 Caddy’s padded top with wrap around (panoramic) rear window. Not sure why the rear portion of the door and front section of the rear quarter panel was masked off. Perhaps to repair some minor damage? The open door int he front is from the Frank Sonzogni ’50 Mercury.
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The George Barris ’51 Cadillac on the right, and behind it we can see the nosed Oldsmobile. So far that is another car we are unable to identify.
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In one of the photos taken at an different location we can see George’s Cadillac in the background.
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Loomis Dean also took some photos of just the Caddy, of which this is the nicest one. Custom spinners in the center of the Cadillac hubcaps, which must have been a brand new item at the time this photo was taken somewhere in early 1953.
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1951 Ford Sectioned Vicky

The story on this sectioned 1951 Ford Victoria is pretty sad. The owner took it to the Barris Custom Shop to have them section the body and possibly do other custom work. But after the car was delivered, the first term was paid for, the owner never showed up again to pay for the rest of the work. He left the car at the shop and George never found out what happened to the guy and why he never paid to complete the work, or even pick up the car. George was also not able to find anybody else interested in the project so after it had set outside at the shop for a year or two the car was hauled to the junkyard. In more recent years somebody claims to have bought the remains of this car and rebuilt it as a sectioned convertible. So far we have not been able to verify this info.

Really sad to see this party sectioned ’51 Ford sitting outside. This was in 1952, so the car was really new at the time, and must have cost a lot of money. Notice the cut door tops inside the car with the bottoms in the back seat section. The sectioning was done at the height where the side trim would be, saving some time in finished body work… at least that was the plan.
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The body at the passenger side had been all welded together already.
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There are some more interesting photos from this photo and a slightly later photos shoot from the Life Magazine photographer, some can be seen in the article we did on the Bob Lund 1950 Mercury, and others might be shown in a future article here on the CCC. We are really grateful that Life Magazine has shared these really unique photos taken at the Barris Kustom Shop which gives us an unique look at an ordinary day at the Custom Shop. If any of our readers ever comes across an Life Magazine from late 1953 or 1954 that has any of these photos, or possible other photos taken at the Barris shop used in an article. Please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. I would love to add that to this article.





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