Dick Lippert 49 Chevy

.

Dick Lippert from upstate New York customized his 1949 Chevy in his parents drive way in 1953.

.

By Dick Lippert

I bought the car in the summer of 1951 while in the service and was putting almost 900 miles per week driving home on weekends and etc.
While in Korea I gave much thought to what I would do to the car when I got home. I was determined to chop my 1949 Chevy convertible upon my return to my home in 1953, in upstate New York, USA. I had to wait for good weather in the spring to be able to do all the work, which had to be done in my parents driveway.

.

The first version from 1953 still had the stock grille, but the hood had already been made one piece, smoothed and the headlights frenched with the then popular half moon chrome covers added

.

Figuring out how the cut the top bows to match the chopped windshield and still be fully functional.

.

Early stages. The windshield has already been chopped, the hood smoothed, headlights frenched, but we are still working on the top bows, and the door handles need to be shaved as well.

.

Here the top bows have been all done and the new canvas is in place. The rear fenders have been molded, and smoothed, but the taillights have not been added to the final horizontal position.

.

Comparing with a stock convertible.

.

The Olds Bumpers at the back, the smoothed trunk and fenders and the lowered stance are a huge improvement over the stock one parked next to it.

.

I was just shy of my 23rd birthday when I started the customization of my car. I learned all I needed to know from reading Hot Rod magazine since 1948 plus all the car magazines that were available at the time. I purchased a Oxy Acetylene welding out fit and had a small assortment of hand tools

I studied the top mechanism for hours and made the decision to go ahead and chop the windshield and modify the soft top to fit. I chopped the windshield 2 1/2″, used a one piece 50 Oldsmobile convertible windshield and took it to a local glass shop. I told him they can do it in California! He said he was able to cut for me. While cutting, a crack developed but he was able to stop it. I paid $ 44.- for the windshield – I was only making $ 66 per week – 2/3rds of my pay check. So I was happy they were able to save it.

.

Profile photo shows the lowered and slightly nose up stance.

.

I had to make a few changes to let one bow drop down behind the back seat, when folded down. Had to cut down and weld the vent windows and send off for re chroming. I had a local auto upholstery shop sew up a new top fabric because a stock top fabric kit would not fit the lowered top structure and etc.

Other changes I made were, removed handles, nosed one piece hood, molded in rear fenders, decked trunk and frenched headlights. The stock tail lights were rotated 90 degrees with added wind-splits near the rear edge of rear fender/quarter panel inspired by the 49 Ford. I used 50 Olds bumpers front and rear with exhaust exiting the rear tips and shortened bumper guards on the front. Most parts used came from the scrap pile.

.

The Oldsmobile bumpers, the smoothed body, lower top and the turned 90 degrees taillights gave the car a completely more high end look.

.

Later I added a ’49 Mercury grill surround, Chevy front fender sections switched right and left under the headlights, 1953 Chevy grill bar ( look what’s driving bye ) ’49 Mercury grille opening panel was welded to the Chevy hood and the ends to right and left modified. The hood bottom corners were radiused. I ended up working for the body shop that primed my car as I made progress and also painted it. The color was Burgundy Maroon, a stock 1949 Chevy color.

.

Posing with the Chevy

.

The 2 girls sitting in the back are my sister and a friend. The guy behind the wheel was a close friend.

.

The low mounted, turned horizontal taillights give the car a much cleaner and lower look as this low angle color photo shows.

.

Slight nose up stance gives the car an instant speed feel.

.

The Chevy looks amazing with the top down….

.

… or with the top up. The new lowered top bows give the top a beautiful flow.

.

.

In 1954 I installed a 303 cubic inch Oldsmobile engine and drag raced it that summer. The weight of the Olds engine brought down the front of the car and helped with the nose up attitude. The car was at it’s best in the black and white photo I took in September 1955.

.

After the door handles were shaved I added push buttons hidden in the belt line trim, just behind the doors. The red and white interior looked so sharp with the maroon pained garnish moldings and dash.

.

Zoomed in at the dash.

.

All of the colored pictures were taken in September of 1953 and as you can see at that time the car still had the stock grill. The only picture I have of my customized front end was taken in September 1955 and only in black and white. I cannot believe I didn’t take a color slide of it. I accidentally lost many pictures in the 60’s and it still hurts, even today.

.

The only photo I took of the car with the new ’49 Mercury grille shell and floating ’53 Chevy grille bar was taken in September 1955. I think the car looked at it’s best like this.

.

.


+9

Jim Skonzakes 1949 Buick

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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)

.

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.

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

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.

.

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.

.

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

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

.

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.

.

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)

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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

.

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

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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)

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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

.

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.

.

.

+3

Palle Johansen 47 Caddy Introduction

.

PALLE JOHANSEN 47 CADDY

.

After many years in the works, Palle Johansens 1947 Cadillac Padded Topped Convertible Kustom is finally ready – enough – for its debut.

.

For the last few years Palle has been working on and off on his 1947 Cadillac Kustom. Adding all the details he has had in his mind for a long time. From the extended front fenders with home made brass side trim, the smoothed rear fenders, set in license plate, had made taillights set into 1949 Cadillac guards, to the beautiful styled dashboard with center mounted modified 1948 Cadillac Gauge panel. And not to forget the deep-dark-gold paint with added bronze powder, just as the masters in the 1940’s and 50’s used.

Palle’s goal with this Cadillac was to build the perfect 40’s Kustom, that could have been created in the late 1940’s. His main inspiration were the Custom Cars created by the Ayala’s, Barris and other So Cal builders from the late 1940’s. And especially the 1942 Cadillac Convertible Custom George Barris created for himself as personal driver. George used an older/cheaper ’42 model and updated it with ’47 fenders and bumpers. Barris had Bill Gaylord create the super long and perfectly shaped padded top. David Martinez recreated the top for Palle’s Cadillac in 2013.

.

Inspiration for the Palle Johansen Cadillac is one that George Barris created for himself as personal driver in the late 1940’s. This Cadillac was updated from a 1942 model with new fenders, grille an bumpers.

.

In 2014 Palle’s Cadillac was roughly finished, more like a driving project. Here seen on the road to the Old Style Weekend in Sweden.

.

INTRUDUCING
The Palle Johansen Cadillac

This is an introduction article celebrating that Palle’s Cadillac has been finished enough for its debut at the Flatlands Motorama in Rosmalen, the Netherlands on April 6-7, 2019. Special thanks to the team of friends who have helped Palle to get the car finished in time for the show. We will go much more in depth on the car, all the details and how it was created at a later date. For now, lets enjoy some of the photos Palle took last weekend.

.

For the first time out with the padded top back on the car on Saturday March 30, 2019. Kustom Car Perfection.

.

The Dark Gold color was custom mixed with bronze powder added in the final coats. It looks really dark in the shadows, but ones the sun hits it it starts to glow and sparkle, and changes hues depending on the time of day.

.

The extended and molded in front fenders flow harmoniously with the molded in rear fenders.

.

The hood ornament end center trim was removed and the center peaked.

.

Perfect side profile thanks to the extended cat-walk, heavily forward raked “B”-Pillar and flowing padded top.

.

The Caddy…. and Palle are ready to Kustom Cruise this summer.

.

The smaller size Danish license plates allowed the set in to be done below the truck.

.

The taillights were home made to fit perfectly in the 1949 Cadillac bumper guards. The ’49 guards are larger in size than the ’47 model, making them a better option for the taillights.

.

The front fender section on the doors were extended to make the car appear longer, the side trim was hand made from brass. The vent windows were also completely made from brass after to many hours were spend trying to make the units to work with the lowered top. This photo shows a little bit of the center mounted ’48 Cadillac Gauge pod.

.

Teardrop shapes…

.

The setting sun made the dark gold paint glow with a more red hue.

.

A bit closer look at the custom mixed dark gold color with added bronze powder mixed in with the clear. Appleton Spotlights are mandatory on this style of Custom.

.

High front view shows a little bit of the two tone leather interior created by Continental Custom Seats. (we will get back to that in a follow up article)

.

Beautiful Birds view…

.

.

.

The goal was to create a period Custom Car that could have been built around 1949. This Digital Restyled image shows Palle’s Cadillac parked next to George Barris his 1941 Buick photographed around 1948… Mission accomplished.

.

Stay tuned for articles on the Palle Johansen 1947 Kustom Padded Topped Cadillac in the near future. When we will share some more of the details, interior, dash, how it was created etc. But for now we hope you have enjoyed these debut photos.

.

.

+6

Speakeasy Customs

.

SPEAKEASY CUSTOMS

The Jim Street Golden Sahara II is being restored at the Speakeasy Custom and Classic Shop. A closer look at who they are.

.

In May, 2018 Larry Klairmont acquired the Golden Sahara II at the Jim Street Estate Auction. We have tried to stay in touch with what was going to happen to this Iconic Custom Car. On September 23rd, 2018 we were notified that the fairly unknown Speakeasy Customs & Classics Shop in Chicago was going to handle the restoration of Jim Skonzakes Golden Sahara II.  “It’s official! Klairmont Kollections has awarded Speakeasy the full restoration of the Golden Sahara II. Work has already begun!”

The Golden Sahara II in its glory days.

.

.

The announcement made by Speakeasy Customs on their Instagram page.
.

We had never heard about the Speakeasy Custom & Classics shop before, so we were intrigued. I contacted the shop to share a bit of information how I had a very special connection with the Golden Sahara, and its former owner Jim Street. And how I would love to be kept in the loop on the restoration and how I was very interested to know a little more about the Speakeasy Shop and their relation to the Klairmont Museum.

Greg Alonzo, the owner of Speakeasy soon got back to us, and informed us that when time permitted he would love to share a bit more about the history of his shop. But that he would be very busy for a while with the Golden Sahara restoration. Greg had already shared some photos and info of the start of the restoration on the companies Instagram.  But now The Klairmont Museum had set a new deadline for the restoration, for a special event, and the complete restoration would be documented in a film. Because of that Greg would not be able to share any new photos, or info on the Golden Sahara, until the movie was released. As soon as we can we will be sharing the full story on the restoration and the special even here on the Custom Car Chronicle.

The Speakeasy shop visiting the Klairmont Museum to inspect the Golden Sahara and to discuss all aspects of the restoration.
.
The Golden Sahara as it sat in the Museum prior the restoration. The car was cleaned up and detailed from being in storage for several decades. The ones pearl white paint had turned yellow brown.
.
Interior and engine details. Everything will need to be cleaned, and or fixed during the restoration.
.
Before the Golden Sahara was relieved to the Speakeasy Shop the shop started the project with restoring the Henry Meyer/ Bob Metz created hubcaps. Originally the hubcaps illuminated the Good-Year glass tires and the center of the hubcap lite up as turn signal.
.
It is rumored that Good-Year will be reproducing the special “Glass Tires” for the Golden Sahara II.
.

.

The restored Golden Sahara arriving in Geneva at the Geneva International Motor Show, 2019. More photos of the Restored Golden Sahara on the CCC-Forum

.

About Speakeasy

My name is Gregory Alonzo, I am 43 years old, I live in Chicago Illinois and I am the owner of Speakeasy Customs & Classics. We are the shop that has been chosen by Klairmont Kollections to restore the Golden Sahara II and bring it back to the public eye. Because the restoration is being filmed I am unable to talk much about that just yet, but I wanted to share with the world who I am and where my shop came from.

greg-speakeasy-goldensahara
Greg posing with the Golden Sahara II shortly after it was delivered at his Speakeasy Shop in Bedford Park/Chicago.
.

Speakeasy Customs & Classics is in Bedford Park, Illinois. We are a full restoration shop that specializes in Customs and Lowriders. We do everything from metal work to paint and everything in between. We do all types of custom work like air ride and hydraulic suspension, custom interior work, and of course custom paint work. Besides being owner I am also the welder/fabricator as well as the social media/marketing guy and so much more. However I have not always worked with cars. As a matter of fact I have spent the majority of my working career behind a desk. But it was never anything I really enjoyed, mostly corporate jobs, I was even a doorman for a downtown high rise for a few years.

I have however always had a passion for classic cars of all types. When I was a kid I would build model cars and of course always find a way to customize or modify them somehow. I still have a few of them. Then when I was in High School my first car was a 1966 Plymouth Fury III, with a 383 and a 4 barrel carb. Probably way too much car for a 17 year old kid but man that big boat could move! That car was actually my first taste at restoring a car. My older brother Alex smashed the front end one day! So I took on the task of fixing it myself. I had to find parts the old fashion way, with a Hemmings catalog I found a new hood and fender from Arizona. I had no idea what I was doing, but I managed to swap out the damaged parts, and even straightened out the damage to the grill and headlight bezel. I never repainted it, but at least she was whole again. I of course did what most do and eventually sold that car to buy a more reliable one that would get me to work every day!

Fast forward about 20 years and you pick up where my life of cars really began. In 2014 I found myself in a deep depression that was brought on by the sudden passing of my mother at only 58. Soon after that my father-in-law, who had been a part of my life for over 20 years, was diagnosed with cancer and passed 5 months later.

At the time I was working from home with my wife. She owns a pet sitting and dog walking business in the city. Only I was not much help still be depressed. I woke up one morning and I knew I had to make a change. The thing that brought me the most joy were cars, classic cars and I decided that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to build cars. Easier said than done right?

I figured a good place to start would be school, well there are not any restoration schools in the Chicago area, plenty of automotive programs but none that were only about restoration. So I got involved with a mentoring program that uses classic cars to mentor youths, there I started to learn there everything I could about restoring them in return I would help out with the program where ever I could. I started with some basic body work and then a few months later I took a welding class and that was it, I was hooked! A year later I decided to go back to school and enrolled in the automotive program at Morton College, where I have completed 23 credit hours with a 4.0 GPA. Now my specialty is welding and metal fabrication, however I can also do bodywork, paint and I know a lot of basic mechanics as well as hydraulics and air ride systems.

Greg posing in fron of “La Coonster” 1953 Chevy Pick-Up.
.
This is “La Coonster” It was originally built by Hollywood Customs.
.
The Pick up was brought to us for a Mustang II front end with rack and pinion steering.
.
We also did a “C” notch of the rear frame and redid the hydraulic setup to hide it all under the bed without having to raise the bed. We also did a ton of custom art work under the hood.
.
The 1953 Chevy won first place in the “Bomb” category at the World of Wheels Car Show in Chicago in March 2018.
.

Two and a half years ago I started working for Armando Alba, at his shop Mando’s Customs, which specialized in building Lowriders with a Midwestern style. There I was really able to hone my skills since I was able to work on so many cars and learn more than ever. During that time I had begun to develop my plans for Speakeasy. I really enjoyed working for Mando but in my heart I knew I wanted to own my own shop someday. Well towards then end of 2017 Mando informed me he may have to close the shop. But I was not ok with that. When he first told me I tried to work with him to find a way to keep it open, but in the end he decided he really did not want to run a shop anymore. In January 2018 he asked me if I would be interested in buying him out and changing Mando’s into Speakeasy Customs & Classics. I was hesitant and first but in the end I took over the shop on March 12, 2018. My first task was to hire Mando as my shop manager and painter!

Speakeasy-shop-front
Greg with Armando Alba and Manny Lopez with a client’s 47 Chevy in front of the Speakeasy shop.
.

Armando Alba is the glue that keeps the shop together. He has been working on cars pretty much his whole life. Born in Juarez Mexico he moved to El Paso Texas when just a few years old and lived there till he was in his teens, he then moved to Chicago. As a teenager he was very into drawing and all types of art work. He began his career in custom work when he started to customize his bikes. He would paint them over and over, swap seats and other parts, and personalizing them. As he got older he was leaning more and more towards cars and he found a passion for Lowriding. Mostly because of the culture that came with it, but also because he was able to incorporate his love of art into his building of cars.

58-chevy-speakeasy
1958 Chevy which was just painted.
.

His first job was at a parts store in 1999 and he worked there till he got a job managing an auto shop in 2006. In 2011 he opened his first shop, a regular repair shop. While he ran that he was building his 1963 Impala lowrider “Medio Oeste”, which means Midwest in Spanish. When he started to show it is when he started to get requests from people to build their cars and Mando’s customs was born.

He continued to run that shop until he decided to work with me to turn it into Speakeasy Customs & Classics. Mando is an amazing painter that can do all types of artwork with paint including pin striping, silver/gold leaf, patterns of all types and so much more, but not only that he can build a car from start to finish on his own if he had to.

Mando’s 1963 Chevy Impala “Medio Oeste”, and his Daughter’s Pedal car, all work on both was done by Mando.
.
Mando’s daughter posing with the pedal car here father created.
.

The rest of my team consists of Angle Alba, Mando’s son. Angle is 19, and started working in the shop in 2017 when he moved to Chicago to live with his father from El Paso, Texas. He started to work with him and began learning body work and paint and he also helps with a lot of the finishing work and final assemblies. He is currently enrolled at Lincoln Tech College where he is taking collision repair so he can advance his skills. He is working on a 1964 Bel Air Lowrider that should be ready by next summer.

1965 Chevy Impala the shop built for a client in California, that’s unique because normally people send cars to California for this type of work, so it was very cool to have a Cali car sent to us.
.

Adrian Arreola, Mando’s stepson, is 23 and has been working with his dad on cars since he was 13 years old. He does a lot of the wet sanding and buffing after paint, helps with final assemblies and does a lot of metal finishing as well. Jesus Gonzalez does a lot of our electrical work as well as mechanic work. He helps with engine swaps and suspension work including air ride and hydraulics. He is 29, born in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico.

He moved to the Chicago area in 1994 when he was 5 years old, and also started working on cars with father when he was only 13. Later he took the same automotive program that I was enrolled in at Morton College. He has specialized in installing stereo equipment and mobile electronics of all types and he assists Mando with the wiring and plumbing of hydraulic and air ride systems. He is in the process of building a 1967 Chevy Camaro.

This is “Crush” as in Orange Crush. All of the paint, gold and silver leafing art work and pin striping was all done in house by Mando.
.
Mando also did the custom trunk and hydraulic set up. I did the trunk panels all out of 1/4″ thick PVC panels. 
.

Finally we work with a freelance designer, Mike Herbert, who does all of our art work and renderings and even came up with our Logo. He has the ability to help us work with our clients and help them see their final product before we even begin to work. He can even take a client’s build to a whole new level by designing one of a kind parts that he can then design in 3D that be turned into reality by means of 3D printing, engraving and even casting. Mike has experience in the product design industry and is involved with a local car design community called Old School Car Class that integrates automotive history and future with students and enthusiasts.

One is of the 1949 Cadillac Coupe De Ville we are building, its a full custom that will be in bare metal and have custom designed interior by Mike Herbert, the final interior has not been settled yet but here are 2 examples of what we are going for.
.
The last picture if of Greg’s personal 1966 Corvair Monza that they are building for a show car for the shop. We have designed it to have the feel of a 60’s Ferrari, hence the egg carton grill!

.

.

+1

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.
[divider]


The overall lines, the perfect speed-boat stance and wonderful long hood make this ’48 Mercury one very elegant Customs.
[divider]



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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]



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.
[divider]


A closer look at the Motor Trend 1951 photos. A well dressed Cliff posing with his fantastic looking ’48 Mercury.
[divider]


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.
[divider]



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.
[divider]




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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


The interior was done by Bill Gaylord in a tan colored leather, green carpets.
[divider]


This photo shows that by the time Dave Glickman owned the car the rear has been raised a few inches.
[divider]


This photo shows the bumper guard mounted taillights a bit better.
[divider]


When Dave Cickman owned the car the car ran 3T 609 1951 California plates.
[divider]


Dave drove the Ray Brown rebuilt flathead engine to a best time of 87.70. Not bad for a heavy leadsled.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


John Logg was a member of the “Streaking Deacons” and used their club tag on the front bumper.
[divider]

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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


(This article is made possible by)

ccc-sponsor-ad-customs-by-flash-w


[divider]


CCC-sponsor-ad-vintage-kustoms-01


[divider]




.

0

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.
[divider]



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.
[divider]


No matter what angle you look at Jesse’s Ford, the chopped top, as well as the rest of the car looks absolutely stunning.
[divider]



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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]



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.
[divider]






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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]



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.
[divider]






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.
[divider]


This snapshot taken at Camp Roberts really shows the beautiful shape of the top and rear quarter windows.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


Jesse lopez posing with his 1941 Ford in 1949.
[divider]




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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]



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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]



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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]



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?
[divider]


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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


Danny Lares in his Road Kings car club jacket standing against the ’41 Ford was taken around 1952.
[divider]




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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


Danny receiving another trophy for the ’41 at an unknown car show.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]




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.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


Beautiful model posing with the ’41 showing of some more trophies. Notice the perfect flow of all the panels with sharp reflections.
[divider]


Close up gives us a good look at the custom ’41 Ford front fenders with the extra lip Jesse designed.
[divider]


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.
[divider]


Photo taken at the same show as the one above, but from another angle. This photo is dated March 1956. (shared by Paul Kelly)
[divider]


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.
[divider]


Closer look at the refrigerator drip pan air intake under the front bumper. Also good visable in this photo are the slightly recessed headlights.
[divider]


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.
    [divider]


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.
[divider]



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.









(This article is made possible by)






.

+1

Horizontal Custom Grilles

 

HORIZONTAL CUSTOM GRILLES

From early in the 1940s Custom Restylers started to experiment with new and wider grille designs. These wide custom grilles gave the cars a beautiful modern appearance.


This is part two in our series on Custom Car grilles. In the first article we concentrated on the early style vertical grilles. In this new article, part one of two,we will concentrate on the Horizontal grilles installed in pre 1948 based cars. Why pre ’48, well after 1948, most cars had wide horizontal grilles from the factory, and to be able to custom restyle those one needed to use different techniques, and styles.

As with most Custom Restyling techniques we do not know who was the first to reshaped the front of a car and install a more horizontal oriented grille instead of the factory stock vertical based grille. We have seen photos from as early as 1941 that show these horizontal style grilles, but it does not say that this style was not used earlier than that. Harley Earl designed the Buick Y-Job around 1938 and it was introduced to the public that same year. The Buick was its time light years ahead and also featured a more horizontal based grille. This car, and possibly other Factory Design Studies might have played a role in the use of more horizontal based grilles in Custom Cars in the early 1940’s.

1938 Concept car the Buick Y-Job had a horizontal styled grille. The concepts car designed by Harley J. Earl was very well published in the 1940’s and might have been of great influence on the early Custom Restylers. (photo from the Old Motor)
[divider]

 

When the car designs started to get focused more toward the width of the car from 1941 and up, the Custom Restylers wanted to enhance this wider look on these new cars, and replace the vertical grilles on the older cars. The new wider look of the car made the whole car appear to be lower, something that was very appealing to the young customizers, so this effect needed to be enhanced where available on new cars, and added to car without this horizontal grille effect. Customizers started to drop bodies over frames to enhance this low look, (and keep the good driving experience) they even went as far as to section whole bodies, ( this is when a strip of horizontal body metal is removed to reduce the height of the main body.) But the “easiest” and most used way of creating this horizontal and wider look was to add a horizontal, or wider than original grille to your car.



Horizontal Custom grilles in early publications

The installation of Custom Horizontal grilles has been described in early publications, but not as much as some other techniques.  The early Almquist and DanPost Restyling Manuals all had plenty of photos showing samples of the horizontal grilles, indicating this was a very popular restyling technique in the later part of the 1940’s. But the techniques were basically only mentioned briefly.

From an 1946 Edgar Almquist Restyling manual. Very simple diagrams how a stock grille can be changed with a Small vertical grille (ala La Salle, or Nash), and how a car can be changed dramatically by changing the grille from vertical to horizontal.
[divider]


Dan Post wrote about the Horizontal Custom Grille in his blue book of Custom Restyling, and he showed many photos of car with more modern horizontal style grilles in his books. (Assembled image)
[divider]


The March 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine had a special spread on Custom Grilles. Very inspirational for many.
[divider]




Hand made Horizontal Grilles

As is often the case with pioneers, the early samples are sometimes not the most attractive, or functional, but they pave the path for things to come. This is also the case with some of the early hand made samples of Horizontal grilles. Some of the early restyled cars had very nice horizontal grilles integrated, for instance the well known 1936 Ford 5-window coupe, which had really elegant fender mounted side grilles. But there is also a sample of an 1941 Chevy with an full width whale-like grille. It might be functional, and is for sure makes the car look lower and wider, but not necessarily more attractive.

Technically not an horizontal grille, but to make sure the narrowed ’36 Ford grille would cool the engine well enough the Custom Builder who created this beautiful ’36 Ford 5-window Coupe added small horizontal grilles to the front of the fenders. Besides cooling the engine these side grilles also changed the complete look of the car and make it look lower and wider.
[divider]


Photographed behind the Barris Compton Ave shop in 1948 is this unidentified 1936 Ford Coupe with heavy chop, newer  front-end and an most likely hand shaped horizontal oval grille opening. I have never seen any photos of this car finished, so I do not know if there ever was a grille insert created for the opening.
[divider]


Photographed in front of the Barris Compton Ave shop is this channeled 1939 Ford Convertible with chopped windshield and an horizontal oval grille. It appears that the center grille bars might have come from the stock grille, but the oval surround and the grille bars in the fender section are home made. The bit crude looking horizontal grille helped further lower the car optically.
[divider]


Shaped and chrome plated tubular bar grille in this 1941 Chevy chopped convertible. This was years ahead of when the tubular bar grilles became really popular. The car width grille was placed just above the smoothed bumper giving the car a much wider look and an optical huge smile.
[divider]


Early 1940’s photo of Joe Bailon’s ’41 Chevy with a full width Custom made grille opening with whale like grille added. The bars can be sourced from other car parts, or could have been hand rolled tubing then chrome plated. The rest of the car is very nicely done, shaved body, chopped top, Spotlights set with forward pointing position and smoothed bumpers. The wide grille makes the car appear lower, and much wider than the stock Chevy grille did. Joe Bailon had several grille designs in his ’41 Chevy before he settled on the final design on what we now know as the “Miss Elegance”.
[divider]


Beautiful photo taken in front of the NBC building around 1942 shows a very interesting ’41 Ford Custom with leaned back windshield and a nicely shaped chrome plated tubular grille in a new wider grille opening.
[divider]




Factory Replacement grilles

The most popular way to restyle your pre ’48 car with a more horizontal based grille was to use the available factory grilles. Unlike the early vertical grilles, that were mostly adapted from the higher end cars as Cadillacs, La Salle’s and Packards, the Horizontal grilles used more often came from “regular” cars. With the Cadillac and Lincoln grilles as exceptions. These grilles were chosen for their looks, the more modern horizontal look and not necessarily a more expensive look per se.  That said a lot of the restylers were of course very much interested in adding the high end Cadillac look to the cars by using the these grilles, creating a much more exclusive look to the Ford’s or other brand cars brought in by the customers.

  • 1946-47-49 Cadillac grilles
  • 1946 Chevy grille
  • 1942-48 Buick grilles
  • 1946-48 Lincoln lower section grilles
  • 46-48 Pontiac grilles
  • 1949 Mercury grille opening with a variety of grille inserts.

 

The use of the Horizontal grille started to really boom around 1947-48. In previous years the main focus for grilles had meen vertical, the higher the hood of a car, the more powerfull engine it look to be resting underneath the tall hood. But in the 1940’s the new low look meant looking powerful, and going fast instantly.

George Barris was always looking for good business opportunities and ways to market customizing. Around 1948 he launched a new idea “Barris Kustom Grilles“. A way to make the adaption of custom grilles more popular. The plan was to pre-shape metal that would make the instalment of the most popular “custom” grilles in other cars as simple as possible. The promotional photos show a 1940 Mercury with an 1948 Cadillac grille added. The idea never really took off tough, and all that remains about this concept are two promotional photos. As far as we have been able to find out, the product was never advertised. The main reason most likely was that the installment of custom grilles is such an individual and difficoult job requiring new techniques and custom metal shapes for each difefrnt car. Besides that standardizing these kind of grilles would work counterwise with the Custom main focus, creating something unique for each and evey car.



Around 1948 George Barris tried to market the idea of using modern grilles on older cars in his Barris’s Kustom Grilles product. This is one of the two photos that was used to promote the Kustom Grilles. A great looking 1940 Mercury with added ’48 Cadillac grille, chopped windshield, padded top, molded running boards, Chevy bumpers and flipper hubcaps and smooth rings.
[divider]



In the begining most horizontal grilles came from either brand new cars (grilles could be ordered from the dealers part stores) or were combined from different parts from donor cars. Early in the 1940’s there were some Custom builders that created horizontal grilles from hand shaped chrome plated tubing. These tubular grilles were seen on a number of custom cars, but the style never became really popular at the time. Later in the 1950’s however the tubular grilles became so popular that they became available as an aftermarket product produced by several different companies. We will focus on these very popular tubular grilles in a separate article at a later date. Creating horizontal grilles in the late 1930’s early 1940’s cars often meant that the airflow coming from the grill (especially the end sectioned) needed to guided towards the radiator, making sure it cooled the engine properly.
Below are a series of samples of the use of Horizontal grilles used in custom cars. There is no particular order used here, just a showcase of samples to illustrate this Custom Restyling technique.

1937-38 Chevy coupe with newer hood and what appears to be an integrated 1942 Ford grille surround and insert. A new horizontal grille that gives the Chevy that came with a vertical grille a completely different and unique look. 
[divider]


’41 Chevy chopped Coupe with a grille created from two bottom ’41 Chevy grilles. Similar to how it was illustrated in the Dan Post Blue Book above.
[divider]


1939-40 Ford sedan convertible with channeled body and ’48 Cadillac grille on the left. Two more 1940’s customs with wider than original grilles on the right.
[divider]


Hand made, wide grille opening and vertical grille bars give Paul Dallmeier’s chopped 1941 Cadillac a completely different look. Both photos are the same car, different versions. The October 1954 issue of R&C Magazine wrote this about the grille opening in the Cadillac: A grille was formed from 1 inch diameter chrome moly tubing. The area just below the forward lip of the hood was paneled in with sheet metal. Vertical mounted, chrome moly tubing set into the new small oval opening. Bumper is 50 Oldsmobile.
[divider]


The 1946-48 Lincoln grille has always been a popular grille to use in early Customs. The grille with the integrated round parking lights added a unique and modern look to your car. In this case the Lincoln grille was used in a heavily reshaped 1940 Ford owned by the brother of Bill Soske.
[divider]


Bill Page restyled his 1940 Ford Carson topped convertible with a modified 1948 Pontiac grille set in reshaped front sheet metal. The car is still around today.
[divider]


Jack Richardson’s 1939 Ford Coupe was channeled over the frame and had raised fenders. He used a modern ’46 Chevy grille in the reshaped front sheet metal. And to make the grille fit the body even better the Ford hood front section was wither replaced with a ’46 Chevy hood front section, or completely reshaped to fit the Chevy grille.
[divider]


George Barris used an 1942 Cadillac grille on his 1941 Buick, which was wider than the stock Buick grille, plus it came from an Cadillac, more exclusive style. Later George replaced the 42 grille with an 1947 Cadillac unit that was even wider.
[divider]


Harry Westergard started the work on Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian 1940 Mercury sedan convertible in the later parts of the 1940’s. Harry chopped the windshield lowered the car dramatically and reshaped the front to accept a much wider than stock ’46 Chevy grille. The new wider grille accentuating the low look of the car and changed the overall looks completely. Later Dick Bertolucci would add the magnificent all metal removable top.
[divider]


Very interesting photo taken at the Barris Compton Avenue shop around 1948 shows two ’41 Barris Customs both with modern wide grilles added. The ’41 Ford parked on the driveway of the shop has a hand made new grille opening filled with a hand shaped and chrome plated tubular grille. The chopped with quarter windows filled ’41 Chevy on the right sports a ’46 Chevy grille in a reshaped opening. The photo shows that the wider, more modern grilles were big in the later part of the 1940’s.
[divider]


The Barris Custom shop used same length ’48 Pontiac grille bars in John Vera’s 1941 Ford convertible. The new horizontal grille fitted the channeled with raised front fenders car very well. It enhanced the super low look and made the car look very modern in 1948. The grille instalation also shows that the Barris Shop was still experimenting with the new wider grilles and this  installation was not as fine tuned as later grilles. The angle on the grille bars appears to be pointing down in the center a bit interfering with the lines of the front bumper and body sides.The car, as we see it here was later bought by Johnny Zaro.
[divider]


Barris Bell ShopIn 1949 the Barris Shop further updated the Johhny Zaro Ford and added a new horizontal grille using 1949 Pontiac components. 
[divider]


1950 Oakland Roadster showJesse Lopez might possibly be the first one to ever install a ’48 Cadillac grille into a custom. His ’41 Ford Coupe was restyled by Sam Barris and himself, the grille came directly from the Cadillac Factory ordered by a local Cadillac dealer who son was a good friend of Jesse. Jesse has seen photos of the pre production Cadillacs at the dealer and loved the look of the grille.
[divider]


Also created around 1948 is the Snooky Janich 1941 Ford, short door coupe. The Barris Brothers filled in the stock grille openings and reshaped the lower section to adapt a very popular 1946 Chevy grille. The ’46 Chevy grille was much cleaner than the 47-48 grilles and very popular with the custom crowd.
[divider]


The Ayala’s used a brand new 1949 Cadillac grille in Jack Stewart’s channeled with raised front fenders ’41 Ford Coupe. In 1949 Jack wanted to modernize his ’41 Ford with looks adapted from the new ’49 Fords. The low and wide hood was handmade by the California Metal Shaping shop and fitted by the Ayala’s. A perfect match with the wide ’49 Grille, the combination gave the car a very modern look in 1949-50.
[divider]


Deron Wright’s ’41 Ford Custom Coupe restyled by Scott Guildner is a perfect sample to show here. At first the car was done with the stock grille, and looked really great, but still as a ’41 Ford. Later a ’46 Oldsmobile grille was adapted and the hood was extended down to meet the new grille. The new look gave the car a much more modern look.
[divider]


1946-48 Chevy coupe with full fade away panels had the front end reshaped and fitted with a cut down 1946 Cadillac grille. Picture was taken around 1949.
[divider]


Hank Ramsey’s used a much wider 1949 Frazer in his 1940 Chevy  in 1949.
[divider]


Hank Ramsey’s 40 Chevy from the late 1940’s is still around. And also is a very similar ’40 Chevy convertible now owned by Ron Brooks. This car was also built in the late 1940’s and originally used a 1949 Cadillac grille which was later replaced by a ’53 Chevy grille sitting in a custom wide grille opening.
[divider]


Studio Auto Body in Glendale added a ’49 Mercury grille surround to Bob Alexander’s ’47 Plymouth coupe. The ’49 Mercury was narrowed by removing the stock vertical center piece and the surround was narrowed likewise. The slightly narrower than stock grille and opening now fitted perfectly into the ’47 Plymouth. Some carefull sheet metal restyling was needed to make the front end look as good as it does. The new grille gave the car a whole new and much more modern look. The car was built in the early 1950’s and featured in the December 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine, as well as in a few other places.
[divider]


Martinez brothers created this 1947 Mercury convertible and used a ’49 Mercury grille surround to replace the too busy stock grille. Eddie Martinez, the owner of the car, opted to used the stock ’49 Mercury grille with the center part replaced with an aftermarket filler section. The grille modification was done around 1953.
[divider]



In part two of the Horizontal Custom Grilles we will focus on horizontal grilles in post ’49 Cars. Cars with custom grille openings, floating grilles bars, the aftermarket tubular grille etc. Stay tuned for the next part, coming soon.










(This article is made possible by)






.

+1

Cross Country in a Kustom

 

CROSS COUNTRY IN A KUSTOM

 

In May 1953 Bob Hirohata drives his Mercillac from California to Indianapolis. An epic Cross Country trip in an award winning custom, that still fascinates people today.



Custom Cars in the 1940’s and 1950’s were built as daily users. Unlike most show cars today, these early Customs were actually driven to the shows they attended. Even if that show happened to be on the other side of the country.

I had heard about Bob Hirohata’s epic road trip for quite some time. But it would take me a few years before I finally found a copy of the October 1953 issue of Rod & Custom that was reasonably priced, including shipping to the Netherlands. And when it finally arrived in my mailbox 15 or so years ago, I read the story over and over again. I looked at the small photos in the article. Trying to visually how it must have been for the viewers back then, to see a car like the Hirohata Mercury hover by, in your home town, far, far away from California. And how it must have been for Bob and his friend driving a car that low, and with the quality of the mostly two lane roads back then. What an adventure!

I’m so happy that the team at Rod & Customs realized this trip was something special, and they needed to spend as many pages to is as possible. I still hope that Rod & Custom would do a re-run of this article, and goes back into the archives, to see if there possibly are more photos taken by Bob from that trip, that were not used in the article. How nice would that be! But even if they only have the photo already used in the 1953 article, then it still will be so good to see them, larger, and with modern day printing techniques… or perhaps even as an online article. R&C editors… hope you are reading this!

CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-01-WBob Hirohata protecting the quarter panel scoops and fender skirts with multiple layers of masking tape before the trip started.
[divider]



CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-15-W

CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-11-WA brand new Cadillac engine was installed days before the trip begun.
[divider]


The story in Rod & Custom was written down by the R&C editor (there was no name listed for this) as how it was told by Bob Hirohata. Every time I read the article I feel like I’m on the passenger seat with Bob, so both Bob did a great job telling the story and the editor did a great job putting it down on paper to get the right feeling.

Bob mentions in the R&C article that the  article “6000 miles in a Custom in the September 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine, has alway inspired him a lot. And ever since he read that article he wanted to do a similar trip. Bob and his navy buddy Azzie Nishi had talked going to the Indianapolis 500 one day. And when the 1953 race was coming up, and it turned out this could be combined with the 1953 Indianapolis Custom Auto show, Bob decided it was his time to go on the cross country trip.


The amazing thing about this cross country trip is that Bob’s Mercury was an award winning custom. by the time Bob went on his trip the car had won many awards, was featured on the cover of Hop Up magazine (March 1953) and Motor Trend magazine (March 1953) and featured in the even more popular Hot Rod magazine (also in March 1953). But all that did not prevent Bob from going on this trip, of which he knew from reading  Spence Murray’s story in the 1952 Hop Up magazine, that it would be full of rough roads and long empty roads.


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-14-WThe October issue of Rod & Custom magazine devoted  6 and a quart page to Bob’s travel story. A lot of pages for a single story, especially in those days. The article also mentioned Bob had nick-named his Mercury the “Mercillac”.
[divider]


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-07-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-08-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-05-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-04-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-12-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-03-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-10-W


My guess is that the trip of the Hirohata Mercury, or the Mercillac as Bob called it in his article, must have put huge smiles on peoples face. Quite a few car enthusiast who saw the car on its trip must have recognized it from the Hop Up and Hot Rod magazine features. An most likely the Hirohata Mercury was a car they dreamt about, but knew they would never ever see in person. And now this ultimate custom drove thru town… hovering only inches above the pavement. A car with such wonderful lines and bright color contrasting with everything else on the road then.


I’m not sure if this R&C article inspired other people to do similar trips, but my guess is yes it did. Even 60 plus years later I get the urge to go on this same road trip. Cross Country in a Kustom. In 2011 I had the pleasure of being the passenger in the Hirohata Mercury when Jim McNiel asked me if I cared for a short drive in the parking lot of the NHRA Museum in Pomona (see CCC-Article on this experience). This short ride along was already epic for me… So the cross country trip Bob and Azzie taking several days and sleeping in the car, must have been pure heaven.


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-13-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-16-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-09-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-06-W


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-02-WThis is the only photo we have been able to find of the Hirohata Mercury at the Indianapolis Custom car show in 1953. Hopefully more like this will show up in the future.
[divider]


CCC-hirohata-kross-kountry-17-WBob Hirohata behind the steering wheel of his “Mercillac”. A name he gave the car in the 1953 article after the Cadillac engine was installed. But nobody really knows the car by that name. Everybody calls the car the “Hirohata Merc” (photo from the March 1953 Hot Rod feature)
[divider]






[divider]

(This article is made possible by)

ccc-rodders-journal-sponsor-ad-01


[divider]

jamco-sponsor-ad-602-01






.

0

Butler Rugard Westergard Merc

.

BUTLER RUGARD WESTERGARD MERCURY

.

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

.

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

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-12-W
This is how the Mercury looks now, photographed in sunny Greece in 2015.

.

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

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

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

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

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-early-W
Jack Walker provided this amazing photo. It shows the car in an early version when the hood sides and headlights were still stock. The car was then also fitted with 1937 DeSoto bumpers.

.

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

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

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-08-W
Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury at the Sacramento Car dealer show in 1950.

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-03-W

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-18-W
August issue of Custom Cars magazine showed the car in the letter section. Dark paint, no skirts and long lake pipes.

.

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

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

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

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

.

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

.

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

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-04-W
This photo and those below , (of the white version) were taken by Chip Chipman in 2000. The car was now painted white with a white covered top and a set of DeSoto grille teeth in the new grille opening.

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-05-W
CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-06-W
CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-07-W

.

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

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

.

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

.

.

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

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-17-W
When the car was part of Ralph Whitworth’s Museum the car was invited to the Mercury Gathering at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama. A historic event with the best and most historical Custom Mercury’s from all over the US.

.

To Greece

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

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-16-W
The Harry Westergard Butler Rugard 1940 Mercury as advertised for the Icons of Speed & Style RM Auction. Estimated to sell for $125,000 – 175,000 it eventually went for $75,000.- plus 10% auction fees.

.

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

.

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

The Mercury at the 2013 COYS Auction.

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-14-W
This photo, and the four below shows the car as it was in 2015, photographed by the then owner in Greece. The owner had contacted us to advertise the car for Sale on the CCC. Eventually around 2019 he is able to find a new owner for the car.

.

CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-15-W
CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-13-W
CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-11-W
CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-09-W

.

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

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

.

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



CCC-butler-rugard-40merc-end-W

.

.

0

Digital Restyling: 1949 Cadillac

 

DIGITAL RESTYLING: 1949 CADILLAC

 

Being a fan of customized sedan delivery’s, I started to wonder how a 1949 Cadillac would look like as a sedan delivery with the use of Sedanette side windows.



I was searching for a nice photo of a rear view of a 1949 Cadillac to use for taillights on another Digital Restyling project, when I came across this nice front 3/4 photo of a Cadillac Sedanette. I downloaded it from the internet to use at a later date. Not to long after that I was walking our dog and started to day-dream about this 1949 Cadillac, and wondered how it would look with a full sedan delivery body created. But then with theside windows of the Sedanette model left in place. I thought this could create a nice style of side windows in the huge blanked out delivery section of the car.

So back home I went to work on this new Digital Restyling project.
I started with lowering the car to a nice slight speed boat stance. I shaved the emblems and door handles  and chopped the front portion of the top. Then I created the rear portions using other body elements of this caddy. It took a few efforts before I was happy with the back portion of the delivery body. At first I had it too long, with an rather upright rear section. But that did not work. The body became too heavy in the back. It turned out the drip rail was also something that was important in guiding your eyes. Once this base shape was created I made a few variations.  The photo captions give some more details on each version.

CCC-49-Caddy-Sedan-Delivery-00My base photo, found on the internet. (no photographer was listed.)
[divider]


CCC-49-Caddy-Sedan-Delivery-01The first version (1) had a chopped top, and sedan delivery body created behind the chopped Sedanette side window design.
[divider]



CCC-49-Caddy-Sedan-Delivery-02Next version (2) was a real sedan delivery with complete blanked out sides.
[divider]


CCC-49-Caddy-Sedan-Delivery-06(3) Not entirely happy with the overall proportions I decided to section the body just above the beltline. The hood became lower and this created the nice long look I was after. And I wanted to see the Sedanette side windows with the lower body again.
[divider]


CCC-49-Caddy-Sedan-Delivery-03(4) Same as above, but now with blanked out sides. I also reshaped the front side window opening to make it look better proportioned and more in style with the delivery body. The versions below are the same, just a few different color samples.
[divider]

 

CCC-49-Caddy-Sedan-Delivery-04


CCC-49-Caddy-Sedan-Delivery-05



[box_light]Want to see more? Take a look at some other Digital Restyling projects by Rik Hoving Kustoms on the Custom Car Chronicle site.[/box_light]

[divider]

 

RHK-Digital-Restyling-END

Are you day dreaming about your own perfect dream custom?

  • Do you wonder what your precious car would (or could!) look like, even before you start cutting on it?
  • Would you like to see different paint variations and styled on your custom car before you even start to mask the car, or order that expensive new paint? 
  • Or would you like to see the difference of a 2, 3 or 4 inch chop and see the impact it will have on the rest of the car?
  • Maybe you want to see any other modification done to your custom car, without having to actually perform that modification and find out a different modification would have worked better with the rest of your car?

Do you suddenly see all the possibilities? Perhaps now is a good time to contact Rik Hoving and ask him about the possibilities of his digital Restyling options. Request are free of any obligations.






ccc-sponsor-ad-ccc-shirts-02



(this article is sponsored by)

CCC-sponsor-ad-kustoms-illustrated-2016-01


[divider]

.

0