Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Larry Watson's very first Scallop paint job

Bob Schremp's 1954 Chevrolet was the first car that Larry Watson scalloped.

This is how Bob's 1954 Chevy can be seen on the
Clock drive-in Bellflower poster by Steve Stanford.

Bob was from Norwalk California, his car was a mild custom car with removed trim on the hood and trunk and the door handles where shaved. All the body work was done by Brandson Body shop in Artesia. 

The shop also lowered the car and according the 1958 Custom Car Annual the ground clearance was just 1 1/2 inch, which was more than likely measure from the lake pipes to the ground. But still Bob's car was very low.
Bob installed the 1956 Oldsmobile hubcaps on medium size white walls on all four corners and no fender skirts where used as was the trend in the later part of the 1950's with this style of custom car. Bob also used a set of Spotlights which looked to be early style dummy spots that had still the shape of the Appleton Spotlights but no handles.

In 1956 Bob drove his car to Larry's Watson house and asked him if he knew how to fix the bad runs he had on his freshly painted hood and trunk. Bob did not want flames on his car, and he realized the runs where to big to be hidden by some pin striping. 
Larry had been having scallops on his mind for a while, and he figured this car would be perfect to use them on. He could sand off the runs, and cover up those sections by the scallops. Bob had no idea what scallops where, but he let Larry do them anyway.
Larry painted the scallops in teal blue with white fading tips in 1956 in Larry's driveway. He remembered that he wanted Bob to flip the front bumper on his car so he told him he would not pin stripe the scallops until he modified the front bumper on his Chevy. Bob agreed, flipped the front bumper and Larry striped the scallops initiation gold.

This is the only photo in the Larry Watson Collection of this
car that shows some color. But I'm unsure if this the actual
color of the scallops, or that its just a chemical process that
gave the scallops color.
There is no other color visible in this photo.

Bob's car set the trend, and for a while Larry was asked to scallop a lot of cars for people who had seen Bob's Chevy at the local drive in's. 

Bob Schremp stands proud next to his 1954  Chevy mild
custom with the first Larry Watson scallop paint job.

The photos of Bob's Chevy shown here, where taken by James Potter to be used in various magazine features on the car, the test sheets these scans where taken from are part of the Larry Watson Personal Collection.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Justin Kudolla's Custom Cars Trend Books

There are not to many strictly Custom Car related magazines and book published these days. Back in the 1950's and early 1960 this was quite different. One of the strictly magazines or perhaps we can even call them books where the Custom Cars annual put out by Trend Books.  The first was published in 1951, and the last was done in 1962. It was almost an annual published report on the latest trends in Custom Car world. 

The books are filled with nothing but Custom Cars. And Justin has been able to find Custom Cars that where not published before, or seen to much on the internet. Quite an achievement today. And besides the features of Custom Cars there is a styling Studio, Book review, Custom Model Cars and as far as I think, the best part of the magazine, a wonderful interview with an old timer Custom Car who tells just great stories how it all was back in the days. 

The first 2009 book had an interview with Gerald Twamley and his famous 1954 Chevy Custom Car. Gerald also shared many of his great Custom Car photos from his personal photo album. 

In the 2012 book Justin interviewed Johnny Zaro who had two famous Barris Custom Cars and he also shares his amazing early Custom Car photo album. (below)

Justin has been so kind to share some of the unused material for both of these early time Custom Car guys with us to share. Thank you Justin Gerald and Johnny for sharing these amazing photos.

Justin Kudolla has been in love with everything Custom Car for as long as he can remember, and when he read one of the first articles publisher Luke Karosi from Kustoms Illustrated magazine put in his own magazine. The article was called "Attack Of the 1/2 Foot Zines,"  which had articles about Rolls & Pleats and some of the other magazines along those lines.  In the article he said something about "with the advent of personal computers and desktop publishing systems, things that were once solely done by professionals can now be done in your own home, such as magazine publishing."  

Well, that got Justin thinking!  
He always liked the old Annuals, they were my favorites.  And he had hoped that someone would bring them back, and not do them in an updated way, but continue them as they were before.  
Back around 1994, there were two issues published of Hop-Up magazine, in the little size how it was in the 1950s. (In Justins opinion, these two issues were far better than the Annuals that were later published, after the rights to the Hop-Up name were purchased by a new owner.)  They were very good quality, on thick paper, and had some color inside, but many of the layouts and even the ads were done the way the old ones were.  
That is exactly what Justin wanted to do with his Annual.  There may be some modern style customs in the new Annuals Justin created, but he still wanted to give all of the articles an old look, so it would be like looking at something new through the eyes of something old, like a Twilight Zone experience or something!

"I don't know if you have copies of, or have ever seen the Tex Smith's Custom Cars Magazine from the late 1980s?  He only did 4 issues, but it was a great magazine, one of the best in my opinion.  He was another big inspiration.  It folded because he couldn't meet his quota for paid subscriptions, (which was 5,000) but I would always think of how much I liked that magazine and how much he could have accomplished with it if people would have supported it.  I wanted to do something to help get custom cars out there, to help make up for what he sadly wasn't able to accomplish since he didn't have much support.
Even though my first Annual came out about 20 years after the last issue of Tex's magazine was published."

If you have not ordered one of these great Custom Car books, do yourself a favor, and go to Justin's website and order one, or two. You wont be sorry. The interviews with Gerald Twamley and Johnny Zaro alone are worth the price.

Here are some of the photos that Justin scanned from the Johnny Zaro Photo Album.

Great low angle front view of Johnny's 1940 Mercury.
Rear view of Johnny's Mercury.
Wonderful flow of lines.

A bit hazy snapshot in between the trees.

Johnny proudly shows the freshly upholstered Mercury.

Johnny bought this unfinished 1941 Ford project.
George Barris had been building it for John Vara, but he
decided to sell it before it was finished.
George Barris finished it for Johnny Zaro.

Great side view shows the wonderfully done upholstery.

Especially nice is the very rounded shape of the tuck&roll
inset panel on the rear bench. The upholstery was
done by Chavez in red and white leatherette.

Channeled 32 Ford 3-window coupe at the
Compton Avenue Barris shop

And here are some of the photos from the Gerald Twamley Photo album

Very nice front shot of Gerald's Chevy

Gerald's 1959 Pontiac

Kookie Kar that Gerald photographed at an outdoor show.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Custom Car builder Herbert "Bud" Unger

So every now and then you hear about a body shop or a body man from back in the days that you have not heard about all that much. Recently I was given a copy of Speed Age magazine from October 1949 (thanks to David Zivot). And inside was an article on a body man I had only heard about once or twice. 
His name… Herbert "Bud" Unger. And despite the fact I had never heard about Bud, I did now about one of the Custom Cars he created in the late 1940's the 1936 Ford Roadster for Ray Giovannoni which was featured in the November 1948 issue of Hot Rod magazine, Trend Book #102 Hot Rods, but in none of these magazines the name of the builder was mentioned. And I always assumed Ray was not only the owner but also the builder of this fantastic car.

One thing that I always noticed, was the wonderful styling of this 1936 Ford. Very much like the work of Harry Westergard or early Barris or at least something that could have come from California in the 1940's. It had that typical - what we now know as - California look to it. But Ray Giovannoni was from Washington D.C. the East Coast. 

Lets take a step back, and take another look at the Speed Age magazine article on Bud Unger. The body man I had never heard about and who has apparently turned out some amazing looking early Custom Cars.
The article takes on two and a half page (a full spread and a half page) which is quite a lot for the time. And the full spread is wonderfully laid out with partly cut out photos of some of the Custom Cars Bud had created. Now we would say that it is unfortunately these cars where positioned partly on top of each other hiding some nice details. But back in 1949 this was really state of the art.

Bud Unger is from Rockville Maryland and he learned how to shape metal in the air corps forming aluminum for the airplanes. The techniques he learned here would come in handy when he opened his own body shop. The regular repair work was done during the day, but in the slow and after hours he would work on his secret hobby of Hot Rods and Custom Cars. 

Bud Unger working on the Ray Giovannoni 1936 Ford.

The magazine mentioned he had studied California styling on Hot Rods. But it does not tell if Bud actually went to California to study the cars in person, or used magazines books or photos to do so. I guess he must have visited California himself, since there just was not much written on these car back then.
Ray sure had a great feeling for CUstom Cars and styling. His cars really capture the Californian looks from the 1940's.
In the article Bud also made a statement that he will not work on any cars newer than 1948. "The lines are not there" he claims!

In any event his first car was his own 1947 Chevy (no photos). And it turned out so good he soon would have his first customer who wanted him to do his Custom work on his car. 

1936 Ford for Ray A. Giovannoni 

This first customer happened to be Ray A. Giovannoni with his 1936 Ford Roadster.  
Bud chopped the windshield, made a custom grille surround to fit the Packard grille and added a set of 1939 Buick headlights which where much longer and more streamlined than the stock Ford headlights. This gave a whole new appearance to the front of the 1936 Ford. He removed the door handles and removed the running boards to replace them with smooth units about half the width of the originals. To fill the gap bog front and rear fenders where extended down. 1941 Ford bumpers where used front and rare, and at the rear Bud create a splash pan from the body to the new bumper. On that he would mount the chrome license plate frame with the plate set behind glass. On the splash pan he installed a white light to illuminate the plate at night. 

The 1948 Hot Rod article mentioned that Ray drove his car to the California to have his padded to made there. And in the Speed Age photo it looks like Ray's 36 Ford has a soft top, perhaps the photos where taken before his California trip when he had the padded top made. And Bud or a local upholstery guy made a soft top to fit the chopped windshield.
Ray Giovannoni had a speed shop in Washington D.C. and would later establish himself a very good name with his racing cams when he moved to Florida and opened a speed shop there.

1941 Ford Convertible
An other car featured in this Speed Age article is a really great looking 1941 Ford Convertible. 
Another great sample of an California's styled Custom on the East Coast. Bud installed a 1948 Cadillac grill in a modified front of this car. But he left the headlights stock. The hood was welded solid and a new pieces of metal was shaped to fit where the stock center grille used to be. The side trim and fender trim was removed for a much cleaner look. The windshield was chopped, but only mildly, and it looks to have a padded top. But since there is only one photo showing this car its a bit hard to tell. 
Black wall tires, Hollywood SIngle Bar flipper hubcaps and a stainless steel rear fender rock shield are finish up the California look on this car. The magazine did not mention an owners name.

1939 Ford Convertible
The last Custom Car shown in this article is a very clean and again California styled custom based on a 1939 Ford Convertible. Bud removed the winning boards and added a custom made panel to hide the frame where the running boards used to be. Both front and rear fenders needed to to be extend to fill the holes where the running boards where mounted to them. Bud chopped the top and made a soft top to fit the new windshield. The side trim was removed and he installed 1948 Lincoln pushbuttons on the door. This time Bud used white wall tires and Flipper hubcaps. Unfortunately no name was given. Unfortunately also one photo of this car appears in the article. And I have not been able to find any additional photos of this car, nor the 1941 Ford.

The last car in the article is an Alfa Romeo which was damaged on the boat on the way to the US. The car can be seen in the spread view of the article. The whole rear deck was gone, and Bud recreated it from scratch.

Bud Unger would later in and around 1953 be hired to do an series of articles for Speed Age magazine called Customizing Questions and Answers and Customize it yourself. 

If you have any more information about Bud Unger or the cars he built Please contact us at:Rik Hoving Kustoms


Kustoms Illustrated #31 will be at the printer soon.
Included in this issue is Part 4 of the Larry Watson
Personal Photo Collection which is all about Chevy
Customs painted by Larry Watson.
If you love Custom Cars but don't have a subscription
to this magazine do your self a favor...
You will not regret you did.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The ART of early Custom Cars

I was 14 years old when I saw the first first "custom Car" in my life. It was during a vacation in Sweden with my parents. This was in the early 1980's. And most Custom Cars back then are now remembered for not being particular beautiful. But back then I loved every bit about them, and tried absorb as much info and as many photos I could find. Not really easy for a kid with no money on the wrong side of the world (the Netherlands). But over the years I managed to get a few US Custom Car magazines, and subscribed to a Swedish magazine that featured new and so every now and then some old Custom Cars. The Custom Cars style of the 1980's was so natural for me, and it took me some time to figure out most of them where inspired by the Custom Cars of the 1950's. 
I then got really impressed with these wonderful styled Custom Cars from the 1950's and with some luck was able to find some unwanted 1950's Rod & Custom Magazines. And studied all these cars, from those magazines, the style they used, the details. Howe and by who they where built. I then started to believe Customizing really started in the early 1950's. 

The more research I was able to do on the subject Custom Car, the more I noticed the cars built in the 1940's, built before WWII or right after it. The style of these early Custom Cars really appealed to me. They where pure, they where most of the time very stylish, glamourous and very tasteful. This style slowly disappeared in the late 1940's, although there are some samples of this style up into the early 1950's as well. The 1936 Ford 5-window coupe below was one of the first samples I saw of the early style Custom cars. There is a photo of it (deferent than the one below) in a book called Automobile and Culture.
This 1940 photo shows an wonderful styled 1936 Ford 5-window coupe.
The customizer used some very early aftermarket parts like the Ripple Disk
Hubcaps, the stainless rock shield and rocker cover to hide the frame after
the running boards where removed. The chop is just right and so is the mild lowering.
The narrowed stock grille with custom side grilles in the front fenders is genius.

Over the years I have wondered often why there is relatively limited interest in these early style Custom Cars. You rarely see recently built Custom Cars built in this early style. Sure there are some great samples, but the majority chooses the built new Custom Cars in the better known 50's style. Or for the last couple of years - in the satin paint, laying frame kind of styling.
When I post some photos of early built Custom Cars they rarely get many views, or comments on the Hamb. There are some exceptions, but in general you can say the 1950's styled Customs are favored by most.

Harry Westergard designed and built this 1938 Chevy Convertible for Sal Cociola.
Packard grille, 1941 Oldsmobile bumpers. Aftermarket hubcaps, Spotlights,
and the door handles left in place 

So what is it that makes these early style Customs 
appeal to me so much?
These cars where all built in an era that Coach built cars where a "common" sight. Especially in California the rich and famous had special Coach built cars built for them. Wonderfully styled Custom creations which we don't call Custom Cars today. But these hand made one off Classic Cars where the inspiration for the boys in the street who wanted to make a statement, wanted to diverse them selfs from the crowd. They where not able to buy the Duesenberg's and Cadillac's that where used by the Coach Builder's. But they figured they would be able to get similar results when Customizing their everyday Fords, chevy's and Lincoln's - to name a few. Body shops in California started to do Customizing on cars, and soon the first custom shops where opened. Pioneers as Jimmy Summers, Frank Kurtis, George DuVall, Harry Westergard, Carson Top Shop and many others are responsible for a lot of these early Custom Cars, and the style that was developed for them. There where no magazines or Custom Car shows to promote the style. And still you saw Custom Cars pop up all around California. And most of them where very stylish. Body work was performed to create more exclusive looks for the car, and not just to be different as was the case in the 1950's.

Howard Wilson's 1936 Ford three window coupe is basically a mild custom.
Not to much has been done to the body, but what has been done, is done
with style. The running boards have been removed, and the front fenders
extended down. The ribbed stainless steel frame covers are most likely
aftermarket, I have seen them on more 1936 Ford, including the 5-window
posted above.

A good sample of a mid 1940's styled Custom is the Lincoln Convertible below. A wonderful car to start with. But the customizer who designed and built this car knew exactly what to do and where to stop. The running boards where removed to create a more elegant body as seen on the most expensive Hand made Sports Cars from Europe. An elegantly shaped stainless steel rock guard was fabricated for the rear fender. This attracts the eye, and gives tome weight to the rear of the car. The door handles were left in place and give just the right amount of spark to the side of the car. The car was lowered, but just a small amount, and not put on a rake, just level, or perhaps with a slight rearward angle. The body work that was done was sharp, not with large amounts of lead as was so popular in the late 1940's and early 1950's. And then the perfectly styled padded top by Hall of Oakland. This all gives the car a very classic feel. I have often wondered if the early Custom builders might have been influenced by the wonderful and colorful artist impression illustration used in the early Car brochures. Many of those cars had the factory lines, but there drawn much lower than stock, had a visual chopped top, all made to make the car look longer and lower.

Photo from the Ron Brooks Collection. This photo was found hanging on
the walls of the Hall of Oakland work shop.

I think one of the key point for these early style Custom Cars is the balance between smooth crisp well designed body work, the right amount on chrome left or added to a car in combination with a perfect proportioned stance. 

George DuVall and Frank Kurtis can be seen as pioneers in Custom Car building. They created some wonderful Custom designs on cars as old as 1929. The general point of view is that a car from 1936 and up can be called Custom Car. Everything older does not fit the category. But the samples below - early samples of customizing - sure can be seen and named as Custom Car in my book. 
Lately there have been some discussions about 1933-34 Ford turned into Custom Cars, and some die-hard Hot Rodders will not go that way. But Pat Ganahl's excellent article on Wes Collin's 1934 Ford in Issue #51 of The Rodder's Journal has proven otherwise I think. Wes Collin's 1934 Ford Roadster is an early Custom car built in the early 1940's with all the style elements of the Coach-built cars, but based on a "cheap" Ford base. The car has been published before in early 1950's magazines and I have always wondered why nobody today would built a Custom based on this body style. (Rick Dore's 34 Ford convertible might be the only exception, but that was built as a modern street rod /custom)

Wes Collins 1934 Ford Roadster was black with a red interior in the mid 1940's
But after Al Marx bought it he repainted it in a light color. The DuVall windshield,
Longer - La Salle - headlights, smooth hood sides, skirted rear fenders, Lincoln bumpers 
and wonderfully shaped Padded top make this one stunning Custom Car.
Very interestingly are the hubcaps on this version, they seam to be the very first
version of the George DuVall designed Hollywood Hubcap with a sort of swirl shape
stamped in instead of the later single bar version.

Alex Xydias owned this 1934 Ford Cabriolet in the mid 1940's.
Staring with an already chopped car he took it to Jimmy Summers shop
where Jimmy molded in the fender skirts, and most likely also added
the shortened metal running boards to the front fenders. La Salle headlights
Oldsmobile bumpers, molded rear splash apron and a white Carson top finish this
Valley Custom Shop painted gold version of the car.

When we discuss about the Art in early Custom Cars I have to show one of the high lights of them all. The So Calif. Plating Company Delivery Truck based on a 1935 Ford Phaeton. George DuVall designed the truck, and together with Frank Kurtis and Jimmy Summers the car was built at the end of 1935. The frame was stretched 12 inches, and so was the body just behind the front doors, the rear doors where welded shut. Brand new 1936 Ford fenders where added, because they looked so much better than the 35 units. The DuValle style windshield which is still a popular - mainly 32 Ford option - Hot Rod accessory today was designed for this car. And george also designed the wonderful grille. The whole car has a lot of chrome, but not to much, and what there is is either functional, or very well designed. Again all in style with what the major Coach builders where doing on high dollar cars in the mid/late 1930's. The wonderful long padded top designed by George DuVall and created by the George Thomas Top Shop is the icing on the cake. The top in combination with the very much laid back windshield create instant speed. The level stance with the large white walls and Custom hubcaps make you stare at this car for hours. Everything about it is perfect.

Spence Murray photo of the SoCal. Plating Delivery Truck.
The car was painted sea foam green and can be seen here with the later added
headlights. It used to run hidden woodlight headlights. 
A lot of the early Custom Cars are based on Convertible or Cabriolet body types. The good weather in California has a lot to do with this, but also the fact that most of the Coach Built cars from the 30's where based on these open cars. And the sleek body lines with a chopped windshield made and instant Custom Car. Top shops as the Carson Top Shop, Hall Of Oakland and others location in north and south california had a lot to do with the looks of these Early Custom Cars. The streamlined looks of the often white padded tops create an instant classic feel.
The fantastic often published photo of the Carson Top Shop shows the importance of these top shops. All these cars have this wonderful classic look. With wonderful flowing lines of the chopped padded tops.

Early 1940's photo taken at the Carson Top Shop.

The 1940 Ford from Al Beckman could have been in the Carson Top SHop photo as well. The car has not much done to it, yet it is extremely attractive. Slightly lower than stock, with a chopped windshield. Appleton Spotlights Custom smooth hubcaps, fender skirts and 1937 DeSoto bumpers are the only customizing done to the car. What we cant see in this photo is the wonderful Tuck & Roll upholstery and Padded Top that Al had built for his car. The photo was taken in 1949, so the style was still very much accepted then.

Hal Peterson photo of Al Beckman's 1940 Ford - 1949

But in the later part of the 1940's things where changing Body shops where experimenting with adding parts from other cars brands. Custom made panels where created to make different body designs. Fenders where molded into the main body to create smoother - like melted butter - looking bodies. 
Wonderful custom cars creations where created, but the simple crisp and classic style of the 1930's and early 1940's Custom Cars was slowly disappearing.
The sample below shows the early version of George Barris his 1941 Buick. The padded top is still there, but the addition of the smooth fade away front fenders,  molded in panels and shaving of all the exterior chrome including the door handles give it a whole different look and feel than the other samples shown in this blog. I have to say I like both styles in customizing, but over the last couple of years I noticed than more and more photos of these early style Custom Cars have found their way on my office walls. 

George Barris 1941 Buick. Photo taken in 1947-48

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rik Hoving's Custom Car History Blog

For some time now I have thought about starting a Custom Car blog where I could publish some of the many Custom Car stories I have planned.
So far I have been featuring thousands of photos on my site and writing on the HAMB, several magazines as Kustoms Illustrated, KR8 magazine, Gasoline magazine and The Rodder's Journal and lately also on Facebook.
I love to create all of these different ways of communicating about Custom Cars and its history and for most of them I will continue to contribute to them. But I just wanted to try something new, a medium where I can write, can add photos to and still be able to communicate with the readers. I love creating threads on the HAMB, but only a very small portion of its viewers is interested in Custom Cars. Which can be aggravating from time to time, when a good Custom Car thread gets buried deep way to soon. My own site is wonderful for its huge amount of photos I can share there, but it does not lend itself very well to writing articles. And writing for the magazines is perhaps the best, but there I really miss the contact and interaction with the readers.
So I figured it was time to start a Custom Car History Blog and share interesting stories about Custom Cars, show wonderful black and white and colorful photos showing the best custom cars in fantastic colors.

My main focus will be the 1940's and the 1950's Custom Cars, but there will also be articles on the 1960's Custom Cars, and perhaps even an occasional recent day built Custom Car. I have planned to do some articles about just a single photo and try to point out as many things in that one photo as I can find - the Photo Reviews. Some of these old photos are just so interesting to look at, and not only the subject car in that photo.

Lets start this first blog with the first Photo Review.
This photo - from my own collection - was taken at the 1952 Oakland Roadster show.
The car photographed by an unknown photographer is owned by Reno and Roy Peretto from Alameda.
And according to the 1951 Oakland Roadster show program in which the car was also entered (as #408) the car was built up from a 1937 Ford frame. Which was stepped down, had a dropped front axle, 1946 Chevy grille, 1949 front Buick bumper,  1947 Buick rear bumper. The complete body was hand pounded and rolled of sheet metal. 39 Inches to top of the hood, 53 inches to top of windshield, maroon and white padded & rolled upholstery, and a 1941 Lincoln revamped dash.

Completely hand built body of the Reno & Roy Peretto Custom
at the 1952 Oakland Roadster show

It appears to me that the main body was very much inspired by the Ford Shoebox, perhaps the windshield even came from one of those, or perhaps 1946-48 Ford convertible windshield.  The side trim has been taken form a shoebox Ford. And it appears that the bench sits rather far forward in the body on this single seat custom.
I know that I have seen this car somewhere before. Most likely in one of my many magazines I have, but I have not been able to find it again...

In the background we can see some great Custom Cars as well. On the far left is a unidentified stock top Shoebox Victoria. Next to that is a nice Padded topped 46-48 Ford/mercury, but I cannot see enough of this car to make a positive identification And behind the windshield we can see a – what appears to be a wonderful chopped Shoebox victoria, that I also cannot place. And toward the right we can see a chopped 39-40 Ford Convertible with open hood. All amazing custom cars that have not seen much publication... Its amazing how few photos of these early Oakland Roadster Shows have been found and shared on the net, or in magazines and book.