A lot of talk about customs lately.
Kinda like talking religion or politics. Everyone has their opinion about what is right and what is wrong. Some of those are well informed opinions and some arenít. Some have pretty specific guidelines how they think customs should be done while others have no boundaries.
In the end itís all very subjective.
You either like it or you donít. Itís not a matter of right and wrong.
My tastes lean toward the conservative side. What one might consider "mild" customs. Not mild in the sense of ease, quantity or extent of the modifications, but mild in the initial impact of the modifications. I like the subtle approach.
There are a lot of customs from "way back when" that I like. We all know these cars from the press that they have got over the years. Cars like the Hirohata Merc, Moonglow, and the Matranga Merc. It seems that most of these cars that we remember from the magazines came from a small number of shops. Possibly because, like now, the magazine guys had their favorite sources of feature material.
There are a lot of very cool customs being built and on the road right now. Unfortunately, a lot of these will never see any magazine coverage and they wonít get the exposure they deserve. I made a quick scan through over 5000 digital pictures that I have accumulated over the past year and a half and some prints from a couple years before that and came up with some of my favorite examples of todayís customs.
I spotted this 58 Impala at Americruise in 2000. Just the right amount of trim removal, pearl white paint with Watson style stripes in gold. The baby moons and wide whites are perfect for the car.
Bo Huffís 50 convertible has lots of chrome trim and it works well on this car. The 55 Olds headlight doors look great. Other mods include a chopped top, shaved hood and door handles and a gorgeous pearl white interior.
Hereís another shoebox convertible thatís done quite differently from Boís, yet itís just as cool. Considerably less trim on this one. Itís got the chopped top and white interior in common but just about everything else is different. I particularly like the way the 54 Mercury taillights were used.
I see this 36 from the Choppers all around Southern California. The first time I saw it, I thought it was the Jack Calori car. LaSalle grille, Chevy headlight housings and skirts make for a classic look.
Here's a 39 Merc done in a style usually attributed to Harry Westergard. Chopped top, low stance, bubble skirts, and Packard grille. This one adds Cadillac Sombrero's for an awesome look.
Rick Dore's 36 Ford also uses the usual Westergard mods but with a more contemporary color. Candy Tangerine is an incredibly popular color for customs these days.
I'm not really up on the 30's and 40's GM cars. I believe this is a 40 Pontiac convertible. A bunch of the trim has been cleaned off. It has a chopped Carson style top, slammed stance and Sombrero's with wide whites. As good as this car looks I can't understand why we don't see more of them.
In my opinion, 99.99% of the 40 deluxe coupes that are modified, should have been left alone. 40 deluxe coupes are great looking cars that are very hard to improve with modifications. Scrub Hansenís car, on the other hand, looks great modified as it is. The colors, stance, and restrained body mods are really working for me here.
This yellow Chevy has been at Pleasanton for the past few years. The pearl yellow paint looks good enough to lick. Under the paint is the application of several classic custom modifications like a chopped top 53 Chevy grille opening, rounded hood corners and shaved trim and handles.
Hereís another Chevy. This one was spotted at Paso this year. While very similar to the yellow one above, the 57 Cadillac hub caps, Olds windshield, side trim and orange paint give it look of itís own.
Jimmy Vaughanís Chevy, seen here at the LA Roadsterís Show, retains the stock height roof with lots of custom touches. Shaved trim, rounded hood corners, frenched lights, 53 grille opening with Corvette teeth, 57 Caddy hub caps, 53 Buick side trim and very light lavender paint makes a great combination.
I like Budís Chevy with itís chopped top, Plymouth grille and three shades of orange.
This 54 Chevy is dropped, chopped, nosed, decked, shaved, frenched and has Packard tail lights. The retention of the side trim works good on this dark car. I think those are Lincoln hubcaps, a nice departure from some of the more common choices for customs.
A lot of the same tricks were applied to this early 50ís Pontiac. Retention of some of the Pontiac specific trim makes the car stand out from similarly modified Chevies. This is one of the few customs in my selection that is in primer. While I think primer is OK for beater hot rods, customs need a nice shiny paint job to be complete.
Here's another Pontiac done in a similar style. It may in fact be the same car as these photos were taken 2 years earlier.The only notable differences are the paint and the side trim. It looks just as good from the rear.
Here's another 54 Chevy. This sedan has a very nice chop along with some, not all, side trim removal and some extra teeth in the stock grille. The Tunnelled tail lights and slammed stance look great. This car appears to be painted with a basecoat without clear or maybe with flattened clear for a semigloss look.
This Gold Olds caught my eye at Pleasanton. Somewhat unusual mods gave the car a unique look. It retained the "baggy eyes" Olds trim under the headlights but used Cadillac "eyebrows" and headlight trim. The 56 Chevy truck grille was well integrated and it had Packard taillights.
Tom Rodriguezís Cadillac Sedanette never fails to impress me. The chopped top converted to a hardtop is the only major body modification. The beautiful shade of green along with the 53 Cadillac wires and low stance round out the package nicely.
Gary Molineís Buick is a very mild custom. No major body mods here. Itís just nosed & decked, the handles are shaved and the headlights are frenched. Low stance, Skylark wires, white interior and two tone green metallic paint finish it off well.
Here's another Buick done in a similar style. This one has Packard tail lights in addition to the same mods that Gary has. The two tone purple gives it an entirely different look.
According to Pat Ganahl's book, this sectioned Buick was done in 1958 after it had been wrecked. Somewhere around 1965 it got the top cut off for a bubbletop conversion that never got completed. About 25 years later it was "restored" and has changed hands a few times since with each owner adding his own touches. Originally it was candy red with chrome wheels.
This 1957 Buick is a more recent custom done in a more contemporary style. While quite radical in the extent of the modifications is retains the identity of the 57 Buick.
This 56 Mercury was shot at Back to the Beach in 2000. The chopped top, some trim removal, skirts and color, all look great on this car. On a hot rod I want the astronauts to be able to see the flames from the moon but on a custom, subtle flames like this do not detract from or overpower the lines of the car.
This 56 Mercury retains all of its stock trim which is unusual for a custom. The top is chopped, it's sectioned and the rear fenders have been lengthened. I shot this photo at the last Goodguy's National event that was held at the Fairplex in Pomona. I never saw the car before that and I haven't seen it since.
Kurt McCormickís Buddy Alcorn Merc is a great custom. It retains the identity of a typical custom Merc while using some unique elements that give it a character all its own. The side trim and 55 Plymouth tail lights make this car easily identifiable.
This 50 Merc has been relieved of most of its trim. Nicely chopped top, Pontiac grille bar and bright red paint make it stand out.
This green Merc spotted at Del Mar last March is one of my favorites. The green paint and 57 Caddy hubcaps were flawless. The retention of the side trim on the dark car kept it from looking like a blob. The chopped top converted to a hardtop was well done and it had custom Packard tail lights that are seldom, if ever, seen on a Merc.
This 51 Merc convertible built for Gene Olson by SoCal Speedshop is awesome. Many typical modifications are conspicuous in their absence. The lights were not frenched, the side trim was not removed, and the corners were not rounded. The modifications that were done required lots of work but are subtle in their impact. The grille, while looking very similar to a stocker, is completely custom made. Bitchin car, even if it did cost more than my house.
This 51 Merc coupe belongs to Lee Lucero. It has an eggplant purple paintjob that is perfect for this car. It has a white T&R interior, frenched headlights, 57 Caddy hubcaps with bullets, and the bumperguard bumps removed from the grille. Retention of the side trim on a dark Merc almost always looks better than no trim. One of the nicest 51 coupes in SoCal.
I saw this ice blue Merc at Paso Robles. This one has the rain gutters removed and a small flare added around the bottom of the car. Also note the custom tube grille and glued in windshield. This one is smoother than most.
Next up is Steve Wertheimerís 57 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. I finally got to see this one in the flesh this summer at the Peterson museum. Other than the color, which I like, this car is the visual model and inspiration for my own 57 Coupe de Ville project. Nosed, decked, shaved door handles and shaved lower quarter panel trim are the only body mods.
Many would agree that the 60 Chevy was customized from the factory. This one had had most of the trim along with the door handles removed. The stock grille has bee replaced with a less busy recessed unit. In the photos the car looks like it has a rather plain white paint job with a few scallops and flames. In reality the paint is stunning and must be seen in direct light to be fully appreciated.
This 50 Cadillac was originally built as a more contemporary custom. Its current owner has made some changes that make it appear more traditional. The two tone orange and tan paint with prism sparkles is gone in favor of purple and the last time I saw it, the billet facsimiles of 57 Cadillac hubcaps had been replaced by the real thing. The chopped top, tunneled headlights, Packard tail lights and trim less body panels appear to be unchanged from the first build.
Jim "Bones" Notebloomís Knot Bad 50 Buick Woody is definitely a contemporary custom. Built from a 50 Buick Sedanette, there are literally no panels left untouched on this car. Not exactly traditional but very cool nonetheless.
Bones wife Helga had this custom Cadillac Sedanette a few years ago. Their are many mods here but the overall effect is not cluttered. The chopped top is converted to a hardtop. The headlight doors are 56 Olds and the bumpers and grille are 55 Pontiac. Around the back we see 54 Mercury tail lights and the top of the Caddy fins, where the original lights were, are filled.
I consider this Buick a contemporary custom for its use of a mid 60ís Impala roof. The body modification on this car had to be a huge undertaking but the effects are a smooth and sleek looking car.
Scrape made a big splash back in 1998. Since then it has been in shows, magazines and advertisements everywhere you look. These shots were taken at the NSRA Nationals in '98. The chopped top and the lengthened rear fenders are the most obvious modifications to the Lincoln Zephyr body.
John DíAgostino and Richard Zocchi have hit a few home runs contracting the customization of several "out of the ordinary" cars over the past several years. I think they struck out a few time too. This Dodge Polara incorporating some Chrysler front end parts and a chopped top has a unique look.
Rick Doreís Tbird is one of my favorite contemporary customs. I always thought a 64 Tbird would make a great custom, now I know for sure. The chopped top, custom made trim pieces and stunning paint make this an awesome car.
This is Joe Proskiís Rivi. The subtly chopped top and trim removal improve what was already one of the finest factory customs. This is another car that has to be seen in person in the direct sunlight to be fully appreciated. The paint on this car is stunning.
My favorite custom in this group is Dave Crookís Job One. He corroborated with Harry Bentley Bradley and spent 15 years building this incredible car. This is another one that pictures donít do justice.
After putting this page of customs up here, I got an email from Keith Ashley with a few pictures of his car attached. I remember the first time I saw a small picture of it from car show coverage in a magazine. The three tone paintjob really got my attention. Later I learned the car is a clone of the second incarnation of a car built by Barris for the Rev. Ernst. The original has been restored to its original condition. Now we car enjoy both versions. This shot looks as if the colors for the paint were taken right from the autumn landscape or visa versa.