Larry Watson 57 Fords

 

LARRY WATSON 57 FORDS

 

The 1957 Ford was a popular base for mild Customs, they did not need much to look really great. Larry Watson painted several of them, from mile two tone paint jobs to wild panel, outline and flamed versions.



[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos of 1957 Fords painted by Larry Watson. All of these photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo ArchiveSpecial thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle.[/box_light]


When the 1957 Ford was introduced in late 1956 the Custom Car scene has chanced drastically from the early 1950’s scene. The panoramic windows made it much harder to chop a car, so more and more milder Customs made up the scene. Cars that only had minimal body changes, lowered suspensions and wonderful paint-jobs started to dominated the shows and streets. The 1957 Ford was already a good looking car from the factory. Wonderful panoramic windshield and rear window. Beautiful side trim that started at the hooded headlights flowing nicely to the rear with a gentle downwards movement following the line of the roof. Then kicking up at the rear quarter to enhance the rear fender fin. These cars needed very little to look even better. The car looked extremely great with a lowered suspension with a nice mild forward rake, mild de chroming and of course a good looking pearl or candy paint job. Larry of course knew the best ways to make these 1957 Ford bodies look even better using his paint and design skills. Lets take a closer look at some of the 1957 Fords Larry Watson painted in his career.

CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-05This 1957 Ford Sedan was mildly customized with its door-handles and emblems removed. Larry painted the car is a light green-blue pearl base. The Larry designed an wild combination of outlines, panels and scallops to highlight the body contours. These were painted in bright candy dark blue and turquoise, both with fogged darker edges and outlined with a heavy white pinstripe. The car is on a slight forward rake, has double dummy lake pipes, and color coordinated four bar lancer hubcaps.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-06The rear 3/4 photo taken at Larry’s Rosecrans Blvd shop in 1960 shows that the also had a name painted on the rear quarter. Sadly both photos of the car from Larry’s Collection are a bit blurry and prevent for reading the name. The photos did not have any info, so we also do not know who owned this car, not what happened to it.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-07Sadly there are no individual photos of this wonderful deep candy red and dark champagne outlined 1957 Ford Hard-Top. It only appears in a few overview photos of a number of colorful cars parked at Larry’s Rosecrans Blvd shop in 1960. The lack of having hubcaps indicated the car was freshly painted and still needed final assembly. The outline design accentuates the lines of the car, and makes it look longer and lower. 
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-08The Rosecrans Blvd shop where Larry was from 1959 to 1960 was Larry’s most prolific shop. Here he created a huge number of wildly painted cars as this photo clearly shows. The Candy red and dark champagne colors on the 1957 Ford much have looked stunning in person.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-01This photo was taken at an late afternoon at the Rosecrans Blvd shop. Its show an mild custom 1957 Plymouth and another candy red painted 1957 Ford that Larry painted. This 1957 Ford is my personal favorite Larry Watson did, sadly this is the only photo the car is shown in full. Larry also used outlines on this mildly shaved car, but much more refined than the previous one I showed. It appears the outline was done in pearl white, and Larry painted the top in a fine silver. The car has the perfect stance, customized hubcaps, spotlights and lake pipes to create the perfect 1957 Ford.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-03This photo shows that Larry started to use single colors in late 1960’s. Larry loved to do the more intricate flames, panels, outlines and two tones. But also realized that single colors looked great, the customers loved them and he could do them much faster, being able to paint many more cars that was. This pearl off white Hard-Top looks like it was fleshly pained and ready to be picked up by another happy customer.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-04This photo shows how little these 1957 Fords need to look good. Some emblem removal, lowered suspension with a slight forward rake, three bar spinner hubcaps and a Larry Watson blue and white paint-job. The Watson Collection only has this one photo of the car, with no additional info on the owner.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-02A little later Larry painted this 1957 Ford Hard-Top in a wonderful pearl banana yellow and a metallic silver top. The body was shaved and the suspension lowered with a slight forward rake. The car has chrome reversed rims and ultra thin white wall tires giving the car a much differnt look than the wider white walls popular in previous years.
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1957 Ford Ranchero’s painted by Larry Watson

Larry also painted several 1957 Ford Ranchero’s. These pick up versions of the 1957 Ford were very popular. 1957 was the first year of the Ranchero and fro the beginning they were often used use mild custom. Larry did two of these that had quite a bit publicity. One for Nick DeMattie in candy root beer, silver and flames, and the other for George Mitobe in green with outlines and flames. On both these Ranchero’s we will do a full feature article in the near future.

CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-griepsma-01Jim Griepsma (from Dutch origins) owned this white and flamed 1957 Ranchero. This is possibly the first 1957 Ford Ranchero Larry painted. He did the work when he was at his 1016 E Artesia Shop in North Long Beach. The car was white when it came from the factory. Some emblems were shaved from the front and the body work was covered when Larry applied the flames in gold and red accents. This photo was a staged scene showing Larry faking how he striped the flames.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-griepsma-02That is possibly Jim inside the car parked in front of the E Artesia shop. Larry combined flames with scallops on this car. The car showing on the far left, just above the hood is the Moonglow. Jim’s Ranchero used, as most of the ’57 Fords in this article a stock grille. Jim used 1957 Plymouth hubcaps and added a set of full length lake pipes.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-griepsma-03This photo of the rear shows more flames on the tailgate and also shows that the rear quarter script as well as the tailgate had not been shaved.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-griepsma-04This rear 3/4 view shows Jim’s Ranchero had a nice forward rake. The Moonglow in silver and white scallops can be seen on the far left side of the photo.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-metobe-01George Mitobe owned this wonderful candy green and gold Ranchero. Larry designed a wonderful combination of outlines and flames for the car. Interesting is that George decided to lower the car with a level stance, unlike most other 57 Ford which were lowered more in the front. Lake pipes made it look even lower, and the four bar lancer hubcaps on wide white wall tires are absolutely perfect for this car.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-metobe-02The rear of the car featured the most customizing. 1958 Edsel taillights were used and the rear bumper was replaced by a molded in roll pan and nerf-bar bumper. This bird-eye view also shows the paneled sections on the roof with the chrome tape, a very popular custom technique from the late 1950’s.
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CCC-larry-watson-1957-ford-nick-de-mattieLarry painted Nick De Mattie’s 1957 Ranchero in the mid 1960’s. The car was painted in a brilliant fine silver with candy root beer, and free style airbrushed flames. The silver panel flows beautifully with the side trim and has a bit of a 1953 Buick feel to it. It helps optically makes the car look longer. The body work on the car was done by Art Chrome’s shop. The wild interior was done in a wild pearl tuck&roll by Joe Perez.
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2 Watson Painted 59 Chevies.

 

WATSON PAINTED 59 CHEVIES

 

Larry Watson painted quite a few 1959 Chevies in his career. Among those were these two nearly identical painted pearl pink hard-tops. Lets take a closer look at these two Watson Painted 59 Chevies.



[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos from indoor custom car shows. All of these photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo ArchiveSpecial thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle.[/box_light]


We are not sure how many 1959 Chevy’s Larry has painted, but his archived photos show quite a few. Mostly hard-top models, but also a number of El Camino’s. In this article we like to focus on two rather similar painted hard top models. They are not identical, one is more pink and the other is more like a rosemist. But they both have a similar feeling.

Rosemist pearl and Candy Red

The first of the two is actually the car owned by Larry’s brother Dave Watson. There were several photos of Dave’s 1959 Chevy in Larry’s Collection. All the photos were taken at the Artesia Blvd shop were Larry rented the paint booth from his friend Bill DeCarr. Larry did not stay very long in this shop, a little over a year, most of 1960 and some time in 1961 before he went to Paramount. Larry was very productive in the short time he was at the Artesia shop though. The situation was just perfect. His friend Bill DeCarr would get the cars in his shop, do his magic on the restyling of the body, shaving trim and handles, or do more extensive body work. Then Bill would spot prime the cars and they would be driven into Larry’s shop. No time was waisted.
 
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There are two photos of Dave Watson’s Chevy with freshly done body work in the Watson Personal Collection. Parked in front of the Artesia Blvd shop, and most likely they body work was done by Bill DeCarr. The car has is handles removed, the hood was shaved and most likely the trunk was done the same way. All emblems were removed and the stock grille was replaced with an aftermarket tubular grille. The cars was lowered a little and a bit more in the front for the popular California rake. Larry painted his brother’s Chevy in a glowing rosemist pearl on the main body and candy red on the top and inside the side trim on the rear of the car.
 

CCC-larry-watson-Dave-watson-59-chevy-01Dave’s Chevy was original white from the factory with a red interior. Parked in front of the Artesia Blvd shop it shows the fresh black primer spots from the Bill DeCarr body-work. Take also a good look at the work trucks in the background.
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CCC-larry-watson-Dave-watson-59-chevy-02This snapshot shows the slight rake and the tubular grille. The structure in the background would later become the Hobby Shop next to the Bill DeCarr Shop.
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CCC-larry-watson-Dave-watson-59-chevy-03And here we can see Dave’s Chevy with the fresh rosemist pearl and candy red top. The combination works really great, and the factory red interior fitted the colors just fine. In the background we can see two more of Bill DeCarr/Larry Watson projects. Jerry Preston’s 1959 Chevy ElCamino and Dick Gonzales his 1955 Studebaker. 
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CCC-larry-watson-Dave-watson-59-chevy-04Dave’s Chevy looks really good with the shaved body, tubular grille, mild rake and custom hubcaps on medium white wall tires. Larry’s pearl rosemist paint-job seams to really glow.
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CCC-larry-watson-Dave-watson-59-chevy-05Dave Watson with his 1959 Chevy painted by his brother Larry Watson.
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Pink pearl and Candy Fuchsia.

The second 1959 Chevy hard-top painted similar to Dave’s Chevy is from an unknown lady. Larry has only three photos of her car. One photo taken next to the Artesia shop with the owner of the car inside, with fresh body work, and two photos of the finished car taken in a new neighborhood. This Chevy is painted a similar but brighter color combination. This time the main body is done is a bright pearl pink and the top and inside the side trim is done in a candy Fuchsia. The Chevy was also shaved, but the owner decided to keep the door handles. A 1960 Mercury grille was modified to fit the reshaped Chevy grille opening. The stock wheels were replaced with a set of chrome reversed rims and dressed up with thin wall white wall tires. The car was lowered a little less than Dave’s Chevy. If any of our readers recognizes this pink and fuchsia 19959 Chevy, and knowns who the lady was who owned the car in 1961-61. Please let us know. We would love to put a name with the car.
 

CCC-larry-watson-pink-59-chevys-00Parked next to the DeCarr/Watson Artesia Blvd Show looking down Artesia Blvd. The reflections in the rear window show the interior was already redone in white tuck & roll and the body has been cleaned up with all emblems removed. Notice the different colors of primer used on the car. Indicating perhaps multiple people worked on this car, prior the Watson paint job.
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CCC-larry-watson-pink-59-chevys-01Finished Chevy looked stunning in bright pearl pink with the fuchsia candy on the top and inside the side trim. The 1960 Mercury grille looks like it belongs on a ’59 Chevy. The owner also decided to use a set of Dummy Spotlights, which fitted perfectly with the chromed cone centers on the reversed rims.
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CCC-larry-watson-pink-59-chevys-02I really love this photo showing the bright paint on the Chevy with the older cars in the back ground in this new build neighborhood with the recent planted trees. Possibly the owner of the Chevy lived here. The Chevy must have had quite an impact in a neighborhood like this.
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CCC-larry-watson-bill-de-carr-bikeBill DeCarr having fun on a mini-bike in front of his Artesia Blvd. shop.
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Les PoPo New Caretaker

 

LES POPO NEW CARETAKER

 

The famous sectioned 1940 Ford Coupe Custom Les PoPo, created for Bob Crespo in the late 1950’s has found a new Caretaker in late 2015.

 
In Early November 2015 Mikey Miranda made a deal with Mark Moriarity and became the new caretaker of the Hal Hutchins/Bill Cushenbery/Barris Kustoms sectioned 1940 For Coupe better known as the Les PoPo. The car was originally created for Bob Crespo in the late 1950’s. Sectioned by Hal Hitchins, and further restyling performed by Bill Cushenbery and the front end done by Barris Kustoms. (A full story on the car can be read in Kustoms illustrated Issue #32.)
 

CCC-les-popo-40-Ford-01This is how the Les-Popo looked in the late 1950’s early 1960’s, and this is also the way the car will look after the restoration.
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Bob Crespo was working on restoring his old car himself, but passed away before he could finish the project. His son Tony Crespo eventually decided the car needed to be finished and offered it for sale. Gary Aragon decided to buy it and had plans to finish the restoration to the cars to its original early 1960’s specs, but found out soon that it would need more work than he could handle. The car was offered for sale again, an with the help of Rik Hoving Kustoms, Mark Moriarity was able to buy the car in January 2012.
 

CCC-les-popo-40-Ford-as-foundThis is how the car was sitting when it was for sale in 2012. It looked to be in pretty good condition, but up close it was obvious it needed a lot of work.
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CCC-les-popo-40-Ford-moriarity-01Photo taken at Mark Moriarity’s shop. The body was taken down to bare metal and Mark had started to do the needed body work. 
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CCC-les-popo-40-Ford-moriarity-02Skim coats of filler were added to get the body smooth before the prier was added.
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CCC-les-popo-40-Ford-moriarity-03This is how the car looked when it changed hands again in November 2015. Most of the body work was done and the car is now completely in primer, but still needing more fine tune work.
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Mark set out to do a full restoration on the car and take it all back to bare metal. Mark has done a great deal of work on the car, found some of the missing parts. In October 2015 Mark Moriarity was offered to buy the Alexander Brothers / Jack Florence created 1955 Chevy “The Astorian” which was originally created for Rodney Rice. Mark had always admired this car a lot, so he decided to buy it. But now something else in his amazing collection had to go to make space for the Astorian. Mark decided the les Popo had to go. We will pay some more attention to the Astorian in a seperate CCC-Article soon. Mikey Miranda found out about this and after Mikey had sold another historic custom, The Clarkaiser 1953 Ford Victoria for Frank and Charles Gilardone, he had room for another historic custom. Together with his brother he made the 20 hour trip from Bloomfield New-Jersey, to Mark Moriarity’s house in Minnesota to pick up the 1940 Ford Les Popo.
 

CCC-alexander-bros-astorian-01The Alexander Brothers / Jack Florence created 1955 Chevy “The Astorian” shortly after it arrived at Mark Moriarity’s home in Monnesota.
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CCC-les-popo-new-owner-miranda-01Les Pop on the trailer waiting for its 20 hour trip behind Mikey Miranda’s car to its new home in New Jersey.
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CCC-les-popo-new-owner-miranda-02Parked save in Mike Miranda’s Bloomfield New-Jersey’s garage waiting to be finished over the next coupe of month. (photo courtesy of Richard Toonkel)
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CCC-les-popo-new-owner-miranda-03Mikey mentioned that all the parts first need to be trial fitted an more fine tuning on the body needs to be done before more primer coats and finally the Metalflake paint can be applied. (photo courtesy of Richard Toonkel)
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CCC-les-popo-new-owner-miranda-04Mark Moriarity already has done a lot of work to get he modified dash back into the first version. But as this photo shows, it still needs more work. (photo courtesy of Richard Toonkel)
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A lot of the hard work already has been done by Mark and Mikey plans to continue the work and restore it to the well know metalflake blue with candy dark blue fades version. The car still needs some fine tuning, sanding and more coats of primer before it is ready for final paint. We at the Custom Car Chronicle are looking forward to see any progress on this typical 1960’s historic custom. And really look forward to see it all finished and at the car shows and on the road again. Some more photos of how the car looked in the early 1960’s can be seen in this CCC-Article. We will keep you posted about the progress. Stay tuned…
 
 

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Mystery 1938 Ford Custom

 

MYSTERY 1938 FORD CUSTOM

 

Back in the early days of Custom Restyling every body type was considered good Custom material. As we can see with this wonderfully restyled 1937-38 Ford Sedan in front of the Barris’s Custom Shop.


Special thanks to Justin Kudolla.

I have always been very much intrigued by the history of the so called early style Custom Cars. The Custom built in the 1930’s and the 1940’s. Very original and inspiring restyled cars built by customizers who were creating and defining the styles that we still study and use today. Cars that were customized before the major magazines started to publish Custom Cars and influenced builders and car owners. In an era that basically every car body style could be used for restyling. In these early days you saw not just coupes or convertibles being restyled. Also two and four door sedans would be used, and not only as mild customs. Later on in the 1950’s most of the cars that would be restyled into a full custom would be based on the more “desirable” coupes and convertible. And the sedans would perhaps be restyled with minimal modifications, as a mild custom. Of course there are a few exceptions to that.

I have always been a fan of restyling other body styles than the coupes an convertibles. I’m not quite sure why, but I just love the looks of sedan bodies. So when I first saw a photo of this fully Customized 1937-38 Ford two-door sedan I was very thrilled. The fact that it was photographed in front of the Compton Ave. Barris’s Customs shop made it even better.



CCC-barris-38-ford-sedan-zaro-01The photo of the 1937-38 Ford scanned from the Johnny Zaro photo album. The photo was most likely taken between 1946 and 1948 on Compton Avenue, right in front of the Barris’s Customs Shop. If the camera would turn to the right we would see the Rex Liquor store. If the camera would turn left we would see the Barris shop.
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So far I have only seen two photos of this Custom Sedan, and both photos come from the Amazing Johnny Zaro Collection. I first saw them when my good friend Wolf shared some photos he had taken of the photo album Kurt McCormick had copied from Johnny Zaro. Later Justin Kudolla shared a better scan he made from the Zaro Collection with the CCC. This new scan was really fantastic and showed us how well done this car is. Sadly these two photos of this car is the only thing we have or know about the car. Nobody we have asked about this car so far was able to shed some light on who the owner was, or even who build it. Since the photos were taken in front of the Barris’s Customs shop we assume this is a Barris created Custom. The whole style and the way the car is customized does fit in with everything the Barris’s did back in the mid to late 1940’s. But we are not sure if it really is a Barris Custom. Hopefully one day we will know more details about the car, the owners name, and who restyled it. Hopefully this CCC-Article will help find more info on this mystery 1938 Ford Custom.

CCC-barris-38-ford-sedan-zaro-02This is the second photo of the Restyled sedan. Sadly we only have a a poor scan of this, however it gives us a lot of extra information about the car.
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About the car

The car is either a 1937 Ford Sedan, or a 1938 Standard Sedan model. Both year cars used basically the same body and fender styles. The regular 1938 Ford used more rounded fenders. It also appears to be a humpback sedan. The top has been chopped pretty heavy with the A and C-pillars left at the stock angle, which means the top had to be extended to make it fit after the chop. The drip rails have been removed, which was very popular in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. And it looks really great on this car making the body look very smooth. It appears that the door top corners have been rounded.

The running boards have been removed, again a very popular restyling trick from the early years. Below the body a new panel was created to cover the frame. This new panel has a wonderful roll on the bottom giving the new lower edge of the car a very finished look. The front and rear fenders were reshaped at the bottom where once the running boards fitted. The fenders are molded to the body and at tee rear a tear drop shaped skirt was added. The door handles and all other chrome was removed for an ultra clean look.



CCC-barris-38-ford-sedan-zaro-03I cropped the original photo to get a better look at this well restyled Custom Sedan. It also shows that across the street there is another full custom chopped sedan parked. It looks to be a 1941-48 Ford sedan with a chopped top and reduces rear window! 
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At the front of the car the grill was replaced with a Packard clipper unit. The front of the hood was reshaped to meet with the new lower grille. The hood sides were smoothed, or most likely replaced with new hand shaped units. In the photo we can see that there is a gap from the cowl to the hood sides, indicating the hood sides are separate units. But at the front we can not see any lines. Perhaps the whole front unit was welded solid, fenders, grille and hood sides, and this unit could possibly be removed if engine work required it.

The headlights buckets were modified with round headlights for a more modern look. A hand made splash pan was created to mate the 1946-48 Chevy front bumper to the car. The bumper was mounted rather high on the body. This was a common trick done to lowered customs back in the 1940’s The raised front bumper made the car look higher from the front, so if a cop would see you from the other lane, he most likely would pass the car not thinking it was too low… and in need for a too low ticket.

The bumper at the back looks to be the same year Chevy unit as the front.  Both bumpers are taller than the original Ford units and wrap around the body really nice, giving the car a very nice look. A set of Appleton spotlights and the popular single bar flipper hubcaps with beauty rings were mandatory for any custom from this era. The black wall tires are typical for these type of customs created shortly after WWII. The white wall tires were available, but hard to get, and much more expensive than the regular black wall tires.

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What happened to this great looking Custom Car after these two photos were taken? Who was the owner,and who was the builder? Was this really an Barris Customs Restyled Sedan as we think it is? As far as I know this car has never been published in any of the magazine/books back in the day. Dan Post used a lot of photos of not so well known restyled cars in his publications, but even his books do not show this car.
If you have any more information on this great looking fully restyled Sedan, please Email Rik, we would love to share the whole story here.

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40s NorCal Hot Rod Photos part 2

40s NORCAL HOT ROD PHOTOS

Ed Jensen’s Collection shows an series of unique Custom Car and Hot Rod photos from the ’40’s Nor-Cal scene in his collection. This is part 2 of the series on Ed’s Hot Rod photos.

 
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e have been sharing some of the amazing photos of the Ed Jenson Collection in a few other CCC-Articles The link to those can be found in the bar below this writing. Sadly Ed is no longer with us, and he did not provide any information with these photos. So many of these cars are unidentified right now. But perhaps some of our viewers can help us identify these cars and we can add names to the car owners. What we do have is a selection of really great snapshots from the early 1940’s Sacramento, and surrounding Hot Rod scene.

These snapshots give us a really good feeling how it must have been back then, dirt or dirty roads, bare to the bones Hot Rods driving the street and used for the races and on the lakes in the weekend. We hope you will enjoy these 40s NorCal Hot Rod Photos.

[box_light]The photos in this article come from the Ed Jensons Collection. They were shared by Tim Cunha and scanned by Curtis Leipold. More amazing photos from the Ed Jenson 1940’s photo collection can be seen in the Ed Jensons section.[/box_light]

CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-11Connie Weidell’s nicely styled Model T roadster with side mounted exhaust and two carburetor stacks protruding thru the hood. Cut down ’32 Ford grille and good looking big and bigger white wall tires. (thank you Harley Peters for identifying it)
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-20Model A-Roadster with a ’35 Cadillac dash adapted for a much more exclusive look.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-14This ’29 Model A-Roadster is probably the same one as the photo above with the ’35 Caddy dash. I guess its the owner who is hiding out behind the two Carb intake.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-17’39 Ford Phaeton with winter tires on the back.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-16Another Model A Ford Roadster, this time one with the fenders still on. It looks like it was dressed up with some longer chrome plated headlights.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-15Model A-Roadster in the works at this small size garage.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-13Nice looking ’32 Ford Roadster with chopped windshield, dressed up two carb-ed flathead engine and nice looking ’36 Ford headlights.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-25’42 License plate is mounted on this ’32 Ford Roadster with removed front fenders and running boards.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-23Apparently the guys from the Sacramento scene also visited the speed shops in So-Cal. The guy in the photo looks like one of the owners of a ’36 Ford Coupe in another Ed Jenson article here on the CCC. The were visiting the Eddie Meyer Sunset Blvd. shop in Hollywood and thought it was special enough to take a snapshot of it.

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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-26Close up of the two carb-ed four banger engine from Model A-5-window coupe we showed in the first article on the Hot Rod photos of ed.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-27Two more two Flatheads with stock heads and two carb intakes.

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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-29’29 Model A-Roadster with ’32 Ford grille and frame on the streets of Sacramento.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-21’46-47 Cadillac Sedanette with Spotlights added. 
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-22Model T Roadster at the race tracks Getting ready for the race.

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40s NorCal Hot Rod Photos part 1

40s NORCAL HOT ROD PHOTOS

Besides Custom Car photos, Ed Jensen also had a series of Hot Rod photos from the ’40’s Nor-Cal scene in his collection. Amazing material, we will create two articles using these fantastic images.

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e have been sharing some of the amazing photos of the Ed Jenson Collection in a few other CCC-Articles The link to those can be found in the bar below this writing. Sadly Ed is no longer with us, and he did not provide any information with these photos. So many of these cars are unidentified right now. But perhaps some of our viewers can help us identify these cars and we can add names to the car owners. What we do have is a selection of really great snapshots from the early 1940’s Sacramento, and surrounding Hot Rod scene.

These snapshots give us a really good feeling how it must have been back then, dirt or dirty roads, bare to the bones Hot Rods driving the street and used for the races and on the lakes in the weekend. One of the cars we do recognize is the Jack Calori ’29 Model A Roadster not to long after Jack bought it from builder Jack Davis. We hope you will enjoy these 40s NorCal Hot Rod Photos.

[box_light]The photos in this article come from the Ed Jensons Collection. They were shared by Tim Cunha and scanned by Curtis Leipold. More amazing photos from the Ed Jenson 1940’s photo collection can be seen in the Ed Jensons section.[/box_light]

CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-02Snapshot shows two 1932 Ford Roadsters and a customized 1936 Ford. The Roadster in the drive way sports single bar flipper hubcaps and 1940 Olsmobile bumpers. Interesting to see these Custom touches on a Hot Rod.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-08Rough looking ’29 model A roadster with ’32 Ford grille, parked on a street corner with a mildly customized 1941 Studebaker parked behind it. 
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-18Probably the same Studebaker as in the photo above, but now with stock hubcaps and fender skirts. 
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-12I really like this photo of this 29 Model A Ford with ’32 Ford grill and home made dropped I-beam front axle. The car looks really touch with the nice house, flowers and trees in the background.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-07’29 Model A Roadster, possibly an earlier photo of the same car as two photos up
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-06We have used this and the next nice snapshot before in the Max Ferris 1936 Ford article, but since we show one more photos of Jack Calori’s Roadster we figured we better show these here as well. Parked behind Jack’s Roadster is Max Ferris his 1936 Ford with its hood canted up.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-19Snapshot showing part of the interior of Jack Calori’s roadster. 1940 Ford steering wheel, chrome plated dash with a nice row of instruments and the characteristic V-windshield.
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CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-05Unknown Model A Roadster on a ’32 Ford frame and what looks like an auburn gauge cluster in the dash.
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Possibly the early stages of a Hot Rod to be. Nice looking Model A 5-window coupe with lowered front suspension and two carb intake on the original four banger engine. Two different guys are posing with the same car, makes me wonder who the owner was.CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-03

CCC-ed-jenson-hot-rods-01This is the only photo of the series that came with a name Fred Block. Most likely the owner of this Model A Roadster with home made V-windshield. But other than that we do not know anything more about the “Block Bullet”.
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Stay tuned for the second part of ’40’s Nor-Cal Hot Rod photos from the Ed Jensen Collection showing more nice snapshots.

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Perfect Remake

 

THE PERFECT REMAKE

 

Original customized by Dick Dean in the 1980’s, this 1939 Mercury received a perfect remake by Scott Guildner for new owner Ron Martinez in the 1990’s.



[dropcap]The[/dropcap] Perfect remake was chosen as title for this article because that is exactly was owner Ron Martinez had Scott Guildner do to his 1939 Mercury. Remakes on Custom Car happen a lot, sometimes these remakes are improvements over the original version. However a lot of remakes are to please a new owner and to make it their own, not necessarily leading to an improved Custom Car. But in the case of Ron Martines we can talk about the Perfect Remake, since everything Scott Guildner did to the old Dick Dean customized 1939 Mercury Coupe is an improvement over its original version.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-12Jon Gobetti photo in the first issue of Hop Up Magazine 2000
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Dick / Keith Dean version

The first time I saw something about this car was in the Tex Smith how to Chop Tops books first published in 1990. A small article was devoted to chopping a 1939 Mercury coupe by Dick dean. It showed two in-progress photos and one of the finished car with musical note them graphics painted on the complete side of this otherwise nice looking Custom.

The next time I read about the car, not knowing it was the same car, was in an 1990’s Custom Cars magazine from England. This magazine had a series of articles showing what was going on in SoCal, and always had some great Hot Rod and Custom Car photos (in fact this series was the main reason I subscribed to the magazine).
In one of these articles a photo was shown of this mercury in primer and guide coat with later model Mercury bumpers and a Packard Clipper grille in the Scott Guildner shop… I was intrigued!

In May 2016 Keith Dean let us know that it was in fact him who had done the chop on the car. This is what he mentioned.  “I chopped this car for Harold Saul. When Ron bought the car from Harold, he had the windshield opening redone. Said he didn’t like the larger window. The funny story on the wheel openings was my father (Dick Dean) never turned the wheels when he dropped the nose down. They went to take it to a show and the wheels wouldn’t turn. So he found some tin-snipes at the show and cut the wheel openings. I later put a rod on the lip to finish it.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-01From Tex Smith How to Chop Tops book (1990)
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CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-15Pat Ganahl took this photo of the Mercury in primer at the 1989 LA Roadster show parking.
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CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-16 Photo from the Southend Kustom website shows how father Dick Dean and son Keith Dean finished the car for owner Harold Saul.
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CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-03Chrome and flames magazine (Dutch version) March 1989, scans by Marc Petiet 
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CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-08Custom Car magazine from the UK, So Cal diaries article
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The Scott Guildner Remake

It would take a couple more years after that before I saw the finished car. It was at a late 1990’s GNRS coverage I found online. I cannot remember where I found the photo, but it showed this 1941-’42 Packard Clipper grilled 1939-40 Mercury with 1948 Mercury bumpers. I recognized is as the same car from the Custom Cars magazine article. The car looked stunning… now I wanted to see more. One more photo showed up in the online version of Hop Up magazine, this one showing the nice red and white interior and the rear bumper guards with taillights integrated into it. Again only a small photo.

But then Mark Morton published the first issue of Hop Up magazine in 2000. And this first issue had a nice article on the Ron Martinez 1939 Mercury, it even showed a small photo on the cover of the magazine. The article by Jon Gobetti gave me lots of info on the car and showed some really great photos by Jon. However it did not mention anything about the car being originally chopped by Keith Dean and further restyled by Dick Dean.
I found out about much later, I think it was on the HAMB that somebody mentioned that Ron’s 1939 Mercury was once bright orange with a musical theme painted on the sides. It was then when the Tex Smith Top Chop book came to mind, and it was then when I realized the car was originally customized by Dick and keith Dean in the the typical 1980’s style. WOW… what a Perfect Remake.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-13Hop up 2000 cover image 
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CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-10Two images from the 1999 Grand National Roadster Show when Ron’s 1939 Mercury was shown.
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When the car was originally built by Dick and Keith Dean he had installed a 1979 Camaro front end and 1968 Chevelle rear end. The much wider than stock front decided Dick Dean to open up and flare the front wheel openings. A very common practice in the 1980’s were you see a lot of customs with too wide front clips. When Scott redid the car they decided to keep the modern set up but with some clever reworking they were able to move the front wheels inboard a little bit, enough to get ride of the flared opening. Usually I’m not a big an of the wide front track, but on Ron’s car it looks really good.

The addition of the 1941-42 Packard Clipper grille was also a perfect choice for this car. Scott had to a do a lot of work to get the grille to fit the car perfectly. New front sheet metal and a reshaped hood made sure the grille looks as if it came from the factory that way. Another thing you notice when you look at Ron’s Mercury is the heavy bumpers. When Dick Dean did the first version he choose 1949 Plymouth bumpers, but Ron had set for a “it has to look like it could have been built in 1948” theme, so the ’49 bumpers were replaced by narrowed and re-contoured 1948 Mercury bumpers, front and rear. The front bumper was dressed up with a Kustoms of Los Angeles brass plague, which went very well with the reproduction Barris crest added on the cowl.

All the good stuff that the Dean’s had done in the 1980’s like the chopped top, molded fenders, door handle removal and other touches was left in tact, or fine tuned. For instance, Scott created a new smoother sloping interface between the rear window and the trunk, it had a lot of bondo in this section from the first chop. John Williamson, who worked with Scott at the time remembered he had to clean out all the bondo, out using a torch and scraper. Scott rolled and welded in some new sheet-metal to make a smoother transition. Once the body work was completed it was painted the old fashion way, with super black nitrocellulose lacquer. The interior was done by Jim Collins in eggshell and carmine red tuck & roll. The 1939 Dash was replaced with a 1948 Ford dash, with a 1948 Mercury steering wheel added.The car debuted at the 1999 Sacramento Autorama.



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CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-04Both photos on top show the wonderfully reshaped 1948 Mercury bumper and Packard Clipper grille and how everything works together to create a perfect front design.
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CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-06 John Tretten took this photo of Ron’s mercury at the perfect angle. It shows how good the slightly wider than stock front end fits perfectly in the reshaped front wheel opening. The addition of stock 1940 Ford headlights are a huge improvement of the molded in units from the 1980’s version.
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CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-05This rear  3/4 angle shows the bumper guard taillights, the molded in fenders and the wonderfully angled forward window trim.
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In 2011 we invited Ron’s 1939 Mercury to the GNRS Customs Then & Now exhibit, since it would show the perfect transition from a typical 1980’s built custom to a well designed early styled, with modern drive train Custom Car. Ron agreed, but sadly Scott Guildner who had the car in the shop for some updates or detailing could not get the time ready in time for the show. I would have loved to be able to see this car in person. Perhaps one day…


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Watson George Teixeira T-Bird

GEORGE TEIXEIRA T-BIRD

Larry Watson painted several Squarebirds with a panel – outline design. George Teixeira’s T-Bird was done in gold, white and hue’s of green.

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]arry Watson painted his own 1958 T-Bird in silver platinum pearl with panels in candy burgundy wine. Half a year after the paint job was done, the burgundy started to fade and crack. The new experimental paints Larry was using back then was not as full proof as todays’s products. To hide the fades and crack in the paint Larry, masked off the car, with panels inside the burgundy. And painted that in silver and fogged in candy grape with a silver outline. The car was a huge hit in both forms, and both the first simple panel paint job and the later outline fogged panel job versions inspired Larry to paint many other cars. Larry painted at least three other Squarebirds with a “similar” outline, panel, fogged paint design. One of them was the George Teixeira T-Bird from 1958.

George his T-Bird was mildly customized before it was painted by Larry. All the handles and emblems were shaved and the body was smoothed as much as possible. The car was lowered with a slight forward rake. A set of chrome reversed wheels were used which were mounted with medium size white wall tires. The interior was completely customized by an unknown upholsterer  who did a really great job. White leatherette with wonderful find rolls and pleats with piping in gold. The Dash was covered with as well, and so was the inside of the hood. All the metal parts in the interior were either chrome plated or painted gold.

CCC-watson-george-texeria-01-WGeorge Teixeira multi hue green paneled, 1958 T-Bird  parked in front of the Artesia Blvd Shop. This used to be Ed Schelhaas his body shop that was bought by Bill Ortega. Larry operated his business from the paint booth behind the shop. In the background we can see Larry’s personal 1959 Cadillac.
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CCC-watson-george-texeria-06-WBill Ortega, with striped shirt talking to George Teixeira about the T-Bird.
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CCC-watson-george-texeria-03-WThis enlarged section of the photo above shows us the nice upholstery in George T-Bird. Narrow rolls and pleats with gold colored piping.
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With all the work done on the car George took the car to Larry Watson’s shop. George Texeria T-Bird was most likely painted at Larry’s Artesia Blvd. shop. Larry rented the paint booth at Bill Ortega’s shop and together they created many trend setting customs in this shop. It might be possible that is was Bill Ortega who performed the body work on George this T-Bird.

Larry painted the T-Bird in fine metallic gold. When the gold was dry enough Larry taped of the body character lines and shot panels in candy olive green. These painted panels were designed so they would highlight the body contours. Inside the body panels Larry added some dark green, and the centers were done in pearl white fogged in with a medium green. Everything was outlined with an heavy white pin stripe. Once finished George installed a pair of dummy spotlights and the car was finished. Some time after that he added a set of full length lake pipes as well as Bell Flower exhaust tips. And some time after that the body was partly repainted. The white panels were covered in a dark green with darker green fogged in around the edges.

It makes you wonder what ever happened to these amazing Larry Watson painted Custom Cars. Are they still around, painted solid colors by new owners who might not know its famous history?

CCC-watson-george-texeria-04-WThis photo, taken at an early 1960’s indoor show gives us an better look at the very well done interior. A nice center console with gold painted telephone and a gold painted dash with upholstered top section. It also shows that the door jambs were painted gold and the painted panels stopped where the jambs started. The upholstery on the inside of the hood can also be seen here.
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CCC-watson-george-texeria-05-WEnlarged section shows the panels and outlines. The car now has full lake pipes added.
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CCC-watson-george-texeria-07-WIn this photo from the Ray Soff Collection,  posted by Richard Toonkel on his facebook page we can see George his T-bird in its last “known” version. The white fogged and thin dark green sections on the body are now covered with a medium green with darker green fogged in. It looks like the top section of the top is still white, but now with a wider, dark green fogged section. The photo is taken at the Barris Kustoms Shop on Atlantic Blvd. The car parked next to it is the 1947 Studebaker 4-door of Earl Wilson, the Grecian, shortly before it was turned into the Modern Grecian.
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The other paneled Squarebirds
CCC-watson-george-texeria-09-WHere we can see the three other Squirebird customs with Larry Watson paint jobs we mentioned in the beginning of the article. The top one is Larry Watson’s personal ’58 T-Bird “Vino Paisano”. The one is the middle is very similar to Larry’s personal ride, but different in a few details. We have sadly no owners name for this car. And the lats one is from a guy named Red, again in a similar style, but this time with quite different colors. Obviously all these and George his T-Bird were inspired by Larry’s Personal T-Bird.
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[box_light]This article shows a selection of photos of a car painted by Larry Watson. The photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo Archive.[/box_light]

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Johnny Zaro Interview

JOHNNY ZARO INTERVIEW

In 2006 Justin Kudolla sat down with the late Johnny Zaro and his wife Fay in their home in Murrieta, California. Justin talked with Johnny about his Custom Car years in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

 
 
[box_light]Justin Kudollo is editor of the Trend Books Custom Cars Annual. The interview with Johnny Zaro and the many scans he made from the Zaro photo album appeared in the Custom Cars 1012 Annual. The article here on the Custom Car Chronicle is a slightly revised version courtesy of Justin Kudolla. A few scans from the original article are shown here, but for the full experience we advice you to get a copy of Justin’s 2012 Custom Cars Annual. The Johnny Zaro article in this booklet alone is worth getting a copy.[/box_light]

The Johnny Zaro Interview

by Justin Kudolla

Then of Maywood, California, Johnny Zaro was an early custom car devotee. So early, in fact, that he was able to witness first hand the cars coming out of the Barris Brothers’ fledgling shop on Compton Avenue in Los Angeles. Zaro owned two Barris creations, a chopped ‘40 Mercury coupe that was a close match to one owned by his good friend Al Andril, and later, a ‘41 Ford convertible that was one of the wilder early Barris efforts. We spoke with Johnny and his wife Fay recently to get his views of the things he experienced during the early days of customizing in Los Angeles.

CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-05-WJohnny Zaro’s 1941 Ford on the left and Al Andril’s 1940 Mercury on the right. (notice that Al’s Mercury now has a 1948 Ford bumper which replaced the original 1937 DeSoto unit)
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Q: How did you find out about the Barris Brothers initially?
Johnny Zaro: Al (Andril) must have found out something about them, I didn’t know where they were at. We were both down in San Pedro waiting to get discharged and he found the place up there then, so every time we had a chance, we’d get out and go up there and work on the cars. It was at nighttime a lot of times. We couldn’t get up there in the daytime. Sometimes George would be there until 12 or 1am, something like that, if he was spraying something. But as far as bodywork, he would get done at maybe 5 or 6 o’clock. And when I knew George, he was living in nothing but a garage with a dirt floor and a little bathroom in Huntington Park. And from there, he got a step up; he started living in Warren Breeland’s mother’s home over near the shop. Warren, he was going to UCLA. I don’t know where George lived when he had the shop in Bell.

Q: What was their Bell shop like?
JZ: The place sat way back off of Florence. They weren’t really there too long. It was probably about three blocks west of Atlantic on Florence.

Q: What about the shop on Compton Avenue?
JZ: It was in this old double garage. There used to be this fellow that lived right across the street from the shop by the name of Gordo, and he used to work for George doing body and fender work. But at the shop on Compton Ave., there were actually two places right there. The one next door, I can’t even think of the fella’s name, but he rented that to George. It was the fella who owned the property, he had a brake shop right on the corner. They put in one of the magazines that George had the brake shop and all of that, but he didn’t have anything to do with that. He just rented the one side out.

Q: What was Sam Barris like?
JZ: Sam’s the one that did my Merc, George is the one who did the Ford. Sam was a really nice fella, we got along real well, he and his wife were at our wedding. I piled the Merc up once, and I was still living at home. He was at the shop working late. I called him and said “I smashed my car up, and I haven’t gotten home yet..” He gave me a ride to my house at 4 in the morning. Yeah, he came in real great there. Then, George started coming into the picture more, and then him and I got close, and he would come by, and we’d go out and go all over; to Eagle Rock, Burbank. Then, I hadn’t seen George for about 30 years, and we went up to Paso Robles and were in a restaurant. I said to the wife, “Doesn’t that look like George way over there?” He was getting up to walk out, so I said, “I’m going out to see if that’s him. George was the type that always wanted to be a big shot, Mr. Important (laughs). So, I went out there and I said “Say, is your name George Barris?” He was talking to another fella right then. He said, “Yes, my name is George Barris.”I said “Oh, could I have your autograph?” He didn’t even recognize me (laughs). He says, “Who are you?” I said “I’m John Zaro.” He said, “Oh, you crazy so and so!” He runs and jumps up into my arms, I had to catch the guy! George was great, we got along real well.

CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-21-WJohnny’s 1940 Mercury sitting behind the Barris shop Compton Avenue shop with most of the body work done.
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Q: Did you cruise the drive-in restaurants?
JZ: Oh yeah, it seems like if it wasn’t with one bunch of the guys, it would be with another bunch. That, or we’d be at the Clock Drive-In and somebody would say, “So and so and so and so are going to race their cars,” and there used to be a place out on Slauson that guys would run these things through. Another place was at what they called “The Divide,” and the cops would come from both ends and you saw the red lights and the cars were driving off through the oil wells!

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Q: Where was the main Clock you hung out at?
JZ: They had a few Clocks. They had one in Maywood, Bell, Huntington Park; the one in that was in Huntington Park was the most famous. It was one to two blocks south of Florence on Long Beach Blvd. on the right hand side. There also used to be a drive-in on Manchester Blvd, and they had a radio station there, and this fellow Carl Bailey, (he was a giant of a man) and he would get on his knees and stand just level with my car door to talk to us with his microphone. We thought that was great!

CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-02-WJohnny’s 1940 Mercury sat perfectly with the the right speed boat stance as this cracked side view photo shows.
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Q: Did they broadcast that over the air?
JZ: Oh yeah, right from the drive-in. It was late at night, around 11 or 12 o’clock, something like that. We’d go in there and get a hamburger or a malt or something, and he’d be there and go around to different cars and talk to people. Usually, he’d stand up, but when he came to mine, it was so low that he’d just get on his knees and look right at us! It (the 41 Ford convertible) was channeled, so the body was dropped over the frame instead of having it back up on top.

Q: When did they tear the Clocks down?
JZ: I don’t know. Once I got married, I really settled down and didn’t go out cruising. I was usually working on the house, or I had a real estate license and I was working on that. Although, at one time I did have a gas station that was just down the street from Barris’s shop in Lynwood. They’ve taken it out now, but it was a block or two south of his shop, and right across from a place called George’s Barbeque. I wasn’t making anything, so I got out of it.

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Q: Were your customs your everyday cars?
JZ: No, I had an old junker of a car that I drove to work, it was a ‘35 Chevy. I even had a rope tying the door closed! I’d drive that back and forth to work because I didn’t want to take the convertible out in the daytime and get it messed up. I was very fussy about it, before it came out of the garage in the nighttime, I’d completely dust it off.

CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-07-W2Colorized photo of the Al Andril (left) and Johnny Zaro nearly identical 1940 Mercury coupes.
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Q: How did you meet Al Andril?
JZ: He lived across the street from me, we were good buddies. Al and I knew each other since we were 10 years old, He moved from San Francisco. We went in the Navy together, and when we got out, we decided we were going to get ‘40 Mercs and customize them. So we took them up to George and Sam’s shop and let them go ahead. Now, Al’s car they started on first. Mine was a bigger project, because when I was coming down Alameda, there was a car that pulled out right into the side of me. So they did Al’s first, and then it was no sooner than he got it finished that he got married.

Q: Did you get a lot of attention driving around together in your matching custom Mercs?
JZ: (Laughs) Yeah! I even had a lot of attention driving around alone in that car, and the Ford.

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Q: So, you had the Merc and the Ford at the same time?
JZ: No, I sold the Mercury, and then I got the Ford, which was registered in Sacramento as a “‘48 Kustom.”

Q: Were there many custom cars around when you two started building your ‘40 Mercs?
JZ: No, there really weren’t that many around at all when our cars were done. In fact, you didn’t see hardly any custom cars. Maybe they might be nosed and decked, but as far as being chopped and having push button doors and channeling, no you didn’t see that.

CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-09-WHot Rod magazine article on Al and Johnny’s 1940 Mercury’s.
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Q: So yours were some of the first?
JZ: Yeah, they were, (some of the first) to have a complete customizing.

Q: How did the idea of using dual spotlights on customs get started?
JZ: George and Sam put them on their cars first, and we liked it and said, “That’s going on ours, too.”

Q: Roughly how much money did you have in both of your cars?
JZ: Gosh, I couldn’t tell you, to be honest with you. See, when you had George work on your car in those days, it wasn’t going to get done unless you got down there and worked on it too. So, I was still drawing my 52/20 from the Navy ($20 a week for 52 weeks), and we’d be down there every day working on the car so it would get finished. Most of it was easy work, like sanding or some little thing, they did all the major work, believe me.

Q: How were you able to afford all of that custom bodywork?
JZ: Well, I saved all I could when I was in the Navy. Then, when I went to get the convertible, I didn’t have enough money and I borrowed some from my mom; but she didn’t have enough, so we went over to Seaboard Finance Co. in Huntington Park, and I borrowed money from them.

CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-15-WJohnny showing the new interior in his 1940 Mercury. This snapshot was taken during the photo shoot for Hot Rod Magazine.
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CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-17-WJohnny’s Merc parked in the driveway.
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Q: They loaned you money to build a custom ?
JZ: Probably my mother took back a second mortgage on the home or something. Anyway, we got everything straightened out, but then I had some trouble making the payments to Seaboard and they came and took the car from me. I didn’t have any choice. They were supposed to put the car in storage down in Los Angeles, and charge me $20 a day for storage back then! So anyway, I found out the manager of Seaboard Finance Co. had the car over at his home in South Gate and he’d been driving around and raising heck. He smashed the bottom part of the fadeaway in, and I got it and took him to small claims court and the judge wouldn’t give me anything on it!
 
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Q: Wasn’t there someone who owned the convertible before you?
JZ: Yeah, but the thing wasn’t completed yet, it was still in the shop. See, it was in the shop for 9 full
months, that’s how long it took to build the car. There was one time George was doing work on it and he was trying to fit the fadeaway fender on the side, and he was getting frustrated and he got madder than heck and he took a pick hammer and started punching holes in the fender! He was really upset! I came back the next day, and he’s welding the thing up, brazing it back together, and grinding it down. (Laughs)

Q: Did your Ford have a Plymouth grill initially?
JZ: That was just some bars we had in it, I don’t remember what they were from. The second grill was parts from a Pontiac and a Studebaker.

CCC-johnny-zaro-collection-new-03A great look at the first grille version on Johnny’s 1941 Ford. Notice the great work on the smoothed lines on the raised fenders, sectioned hood and new shortened hood front section.
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Q: What about the engine?
JZ: In the beginning, I had a regular V-8 engine, but then it got a 3 and 5/16th bore, Weiand heads, a Spalding ignition, Howards cam, and an Edelbrock manifold. It was a full engine, that thing really went!

Q: Which of your cars had gold dust in the paint?
JZ: Both of them, it was called a Polychromatic Maroon. The paint was made by DuPont, and I remember that because I was down there when they were painting it, it was at nighttime. And Al’s car was blue. In one of the magazines, they got it down as green, but it wasn’t. It was the same color as Sam’s ‘40 Merc convertible. They had Sam’s down as green also, but it was blue.

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Sam Barris 1940 Mercury convertible, in blue.
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Q: What was the lighter color you had on the convertible?
JZ: I had it Polychromatic Maroon for a long time, and then I decided, “Well, I’m going to change the color on it.” George thought it was a good idea too, so we painted it Tokay Beige. It was a very unusual color, it was kind of a pinkish tan. It really stood out at nighttime, but it was nothing special during the day. And after we had that a while, I decided “No, I’m going back to maroon again.”

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CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-18-WFay and Johnny getting married and ready to drive away in the 1941 Ford.
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Q: Who did the top and upholstery in the convertible?
JZ: The upholstery was by a guy in Inglewood. I think it was Bill Hilborn or something like that. I think Gaylord did the top. His shop was over on Atlantic in Bell at one time. I’ve known Gaylord since I was a young kid going to school, he knew our family and everything.

Q: What about the rest of the interior?
JZ: I had a special panel on the dashboard, made of plastic, kind of a wine color, or dark maroon.

Q: How did you form that?
JZ: We cut the plastic, ground it down, and polished it. We had screws coming into the back side. We did the same for the radio knobs and all of that. Underneath the dash, I had a wine colored light that came on when you opened the door.
Fay Zaro: And no inside door handle on the girl’s side! (Laughs)
JZ: Pushbottons were on the inside on the driver’s side. I’d push the button and the door would open on the passenger’s side. Underneath the car, I had a button to open the doors from the outside, then I had a shut-off switch underneath the pan in the back where I could flip it like a toggle switch and it would shut the juice off and no one could open the doors. I also had a hydraulic lift in the hood and one in the trunk, and I’d pull the switch while the car was running, and it would raise on up and I’d take the cap off on the inside and put the gas in there.

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Q: That’s pretty high-tech for the early 1950s!
FZ: They are the first ones that did all that. They were the granddads. (Laughs) That’s why he had so much trouble with it.
JZ: I used to get plenty of tickets for it, because it was too low. I’d get tickets for the pipes on the car, oh, you name it.
FZ: And cops would follow him, so he’d have to go down side streets or the alleys.He’d pick me up, and we’d go down all these alleys! I used to live right down there in Lynwood, on Duncan. I knew George from going by when I would go to work, and we’d say hi to one another.
JZ: George introduced me to her. I got to know her when we saw each other at the shop. George says, “Why don’t we get together and have a double date?” So as soon as he said that, I said (points to wife) “I’ll take this one!”
FZ: Yes, but i had to be in by 10 pm, my father was very strict.

“Why don’t we get together and have a double date?”

Q: What made you decide to sell the Ford?
FZ: He sold it to buy our first house. I never cared for the car. (Laughs)
JZ: That’s what irritated me, (Laughs) because every girl always thought the car was great! Gee, it was beautiful, they wanted to be seen in it! I’d drive down the street, like on Pacific Blvd. in Huntington Park, and they’d start yelling “Johnny, Johnny!” And it wasn’t me, it was just the car! But still, I thought I was Mr. Big Deal!
FZ: But when I first met him, he had the hood off.
JZ: Yeah, I had just put a new engine in there.
FZ: And I came from back East, and you just didn’t have the hood off back there, that was a junker car. So I said, “Do you want to go on our date in my car, or do you want to go in George’s car?”
JZ: Oh, those foreigners from back East, they didn’t know anything about custom cars! (Laughs)

CCC-johnny-zaro-collection-new-04Cropped part of one of Johnny’s photos ives us a better look at the interior. The dash was chrome plated with custom made clear red plastic lucite parts replacing the factory plastic parts. 
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Q: Tell us about the boards in your driveway.
JZ: That’s what I had to do at home, I couldn’t go down or come up my driveway, because it (the convertible) would scrape too much in the back. The guys that cleaned the street, they would get very upset; they’d have to stop their street sweeper and throw my boards back up onto the lawn! And then I’d come home, put them back into the street, and drive on in! It was two pieces of wood with a board underneath nailed together. It was wide enough to run one wheel over it, I had to raise it up enough so I could go in without scraping.

CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-12-WJohnny getting the car in an out of the drive way using boards to make sure the pipes and bumper would clear the pavement.
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Q: Did you have any casters under the bumper?
JZ: No, we had never even thought of that in those days. But we still had a lot of fun with the car. One time George wanted to take my car up to the Oakland Roadster Show. I told him “No, not unless you put the car on a trailer and take it up there.” I didn’t want to put any miles on the engine, I just had a full engine put in the car. So, he ended up bringing a trailer and he took it up there, and then I flew up there and drove it back.

Q: Tell us about your tribulations trying to sell the Ford.
JZ: First, it had it up for sale on the D&B car lot, and it wasn’t there 24 hours, and it was stolen off of the lot. The FBI called me and told me they had my car down in Kingman, Arizona. It was a federal offense once the car got across the California border. So I went down there, and it was a couple of guys from Boston who stole the car, and they ruined the motor. My soon to be father-in-law took me down, and we towed it back from there. Then, I ended up putting another full engine in it.

CCC-johnny-zaro-interview-13-WThe 1941 Ford at the D & B Auto Sales lot.
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Q: What did you get for it when it finally sold?
JZ: I don’t remember. I know the fella came out here from Lincoln, Nebraska. He was going to college back there, and I got a letter from him and he said he was able to take it to school there one day, and then, he said he couldn’t take it any more, because everybody was all over it! Even out here, when I’d park on Pacific Blvd. in Huntington Park, I could walk away from the car and come back in five minutes and people would be all around the car. A fella who had another real nice looking car was Jessie Lopez.

Q: Was that you sitting in the Ford when it was on the cover of Motor Trend?
JZ: No it wasn’t. They wanted me to, but I didn’t feel that I could leave work. I wish I would have!
George went ahead and took the car and had the picture taken.

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Q: Any other good stories with the ‘40 Merc?
JZ: A girl I was going with, she was coming with me to pay this ticket in Pomona. I was coming down E. 19th St., and I was moving right along the curve and it went into an “S.” I came around real quick and didn’t make the turn all the way and here come these big huge trees. I flew over this drainage ditch in the Merc and hit it just even on each side and just barely creased the fenders on both sides! Then, the girl knew somebody that was coming up the road with this big dump truck, and he pulled us out.

Q: That sounds like something from a Bugs Bunny cartoon!
JZ: It messed the car up pretty bad, I had it fixed up in San Bernadino.

Oh, I tell you, I’ve had quite a life!

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The photos in this article come from the Johnny Zaro Collection, courtesy of Justin Kudoll, and the Custom Car Photo Archive.
[box_light]If you want to see more of the amazing Johnny Zaro photo album order a copy of the 2012 Custom Cars Annual from Justin Kudolla’s Trend Books. Use the ad below to find your way to their website where you can order the book.[/box_light]

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Fred LeFevre El-Camino by Watson

 

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ’59 EL-CAMINO EVER

 

Smooth, subtle customizing by Bill deCarr, and bright yellow pearl paint with candy green outlines by Larry Watson, make Fred LeFevre one of the most beautiful custom 1959 El-Camino’s ever.

 
The year is 1959, the golden age of radical custom cars is nearly over. When panoramic windshield became standard in the mid 1950’s, custom cars were hardly chopped anymore. Other important custom techniques from the decades before, such as body sectioning, fender swapping, and major reworked bodies, where seldom used on cars built after 1955. Owners relied on other, much milder and easier to execute, techniques to create their dream customs. Body work consisted mostly of removing the chrome trim, shaving the door handles, nosing and decking.

Perhaps – if you wanted to go wild – you would adapt some different head. and taillights. Perhaps even a new grille,or perhaps some scoops here and there. That would give the owner an unique vehicle. A car that could get you trophy’s at the many Custom Car shows, that were held in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. But also a car that could get you into the magazines – if you where lucky – . The new trend of ‘less is more’ was not as easy as it might have looked to many. Cars still needed to be planned carefully , and all the components of the minimal body work, wheels/tires interior, and paint needed to work together to create a stunning custom car.

One of those cars was Fred LeFevre’s 1959 Chevy El Camino. Fred brought his near new El Camino to Bill Ortega’s (Bill would change his last name to deCarr in 1960) Speed & Custom shop in Bellflower California. Bill would perform the body work on Fred’s red 1959 Chevy El Camino in two steps.
 
CCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-1V-01WThis photo of the car in red was taken when Bill Ortega had just finished the first part of the customizing. The body is still in its factory “Roman” red,  with primer spotted in where Bill had performed the body work.
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The first time around Fred had Bill remove the door handles, all the emblems, and clean up the nose eyebrow scoops. Bill also removed the stock grille, and installed an aftermarket tubular chrome tube grille, and a set of spotlights, which where still very popular in 1959. Although the real working Appleton Spotlights had made place for none working dummy spotlights. Those Dummy Spots were a product that Dick Jackson “invented”, later on produced by the Cal Custom company. The Dummy Spotlights are still being produced, and sold today. But lets get back to the car. Fred drove the car around like this for a short time, he came up with some new ideas to further improve his Chevy, and returned to Bill’s body shop for round two.

This time Bill would fill in the openings on the front of the hood, and upper grille bar – the “eye brows” and extend the hood all the way down to the grille opening. The removal of the eye brows – when done right – on a 1959 Chevy is always an instant improvement of the frontal look of this car. To make it even better Fred decided to use a 1960 Mercury grille. The Mercury grille was brand new in late 1959, when Bill installed it in the modified grille opening. Bill used round rod to extend the head, and taillight openings. The headlight unit was installed slightly frenched, and surrounded with a cut-to-fit, fine perforated, metal sheet.

At the rear the same perforated material was used, and two 1959 Cadillac taillights on both sides installed. At the rear Bill also molded in a nice license plate surround. Bill and Fred lowered the car, by removing some material from the coils until it sat closer to the ground, nice and near level. The rear portions of the exhaust pipes where removed. They were replaced with chrome plated Bellflower pipes, which move outboard just behind the rear tires, thus creating extra length to the car.

CCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-Pre-01WCCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-Pre-02WCCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-Pre-03WSadly we only have three rather fuzzy photos showing the car when it was first finished in pearl lemon yellow. The first two photos were taken in front of the Bill Ortega shop when the car was put back together, still missing the grille, head and taillights. And the last photo was when the car was almost put back together in its first version.
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Then they went to Larry Watson to cover the car in an incredible pale pearl lemon yellow. The photos in Larry Watson Collection of this versions of the car are unfortunately all very blurry, as if the camera was damaged. In early 1960 Fred drove the car to Larry Watson’s Rosecrans Ave shop, to have him add some outlines in candy lime green. Larry did a really fantastic job. The outlining created more visual length to the car. The green around the side trim with the white painted center, works extremely well. As are the very subtle outlines around the wheel well’s, following the body contours. The roof of the car was done in a reverse way with the main portion in candy lime green, and the outline in pale pearl yellow. I think this is the best version of the car. Clean, simple, and very effective. It was photographed like this for Custom Cars magazine, and appeared on the cover of the June 1960 issue, and one photo inside the July 1960 issue of the magazine. On the cover photo the light lemon yellow pearl looks much more orange than it really was. In the 1961 Custom Cars annual the car received a whole page.
 

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CCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-2V-02WAbove show’s Fred’s El Camino after Larry Watson added the candy lime green outlines. The car is absolutely stunning in this version. The green outlines make the body look even longer and lower than it already was. Fred used a set of 1959 Dodge Lancer hubcaps on medium wide whites. The stance is perfect creating possibly one of the best 1959 El Camino’s ever built. The photo was taken at Larry Watson Rosecrans Blvd. shop in 1960.

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CCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-CC-J60The June 1960 issue of Custom Car with Fred’s car (nose) on the cover. Strangely enough the car was not featured or shown inside this issue.
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CCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-CC-1961The 1961 Custom Cars Annual page on Fred’s 1959 El Camino.

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By the time this last publication had hit the book stores, the car changed hands. Fred sold it to his brother Ron LeFevre. Custom car trends were moving fast in those days. One season the outlined panels where the thing to do, and next thing you know it was out of style. In late 1961 the thing to do was paneling. Ron took the car back to Larry Watson for one more transition to keep up with the trend, and to be able to keep scoring points at the shows. Larry left the paint work he had performed for Fred, but added white panels to the yellow portions of the body. These panels where fogged in with a darker green. Perhaps perfect for the time, but I think this was overkill. This version is the last we have seen of this car. And we have no knowledge if the car is still around today or not.

 

CCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-LastV-01WThis last version – as far as we know – was also photographed at the Larry Watson 9012 Rosecrans blvd. shop in Bellflower. On this photo you can see just a small portion of the famous Watson logo shop wall on the far right. The Peanut House was a bar and called this because they served a big bowl of Peanuts with the order and the floor was covered with peanut shells.

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CCC-Larry-Watson-LeFevre-LastV-02WThe paneled version of the 1959 El Camino, now owned by by Fred’s brother, Ron LeFevre. The 1959 Cadillac taillight bullets sitting on perforated metal in the reshaped openings, look right at place at the end of the pointy side trim. Also new on the pick up is the white hard tonneau cover.

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Resources and more info

    • Custom Cars Annual, 1961
    • Gasoline magazine, 1-2012

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