If this were a modern business meeting we’d call this “Housekeeping”: cleaning up bits and pieces–or questions either unanswered or unasked–from some recent columns. But now that I’ve spent some time on it, I’d call it a Scavenger Hunt, because digging through old photos and old magazines always turns up lots more than what you’re looking for. So what we have here today, to entertain and distract you during these cloistered times, is, well, some answers, some further questions, and some fun finds. And of course an opinion or two. Most of these relate to the column Pickins a couple posts back.
So let’s start with pinkish-tinged color photographs. Above is an outtake of the feature on the Jackman Bros. ’32 Sport Coupe I’m sure you’ve never seen. Did you know the car even had a hood? And if you look carefully, you’ll notice the louvers have been cut out of the driver’s side so you can still see the all-chrome engine even if the hood were actually attached. Bet you didn’t know that. But, yes, the asphalt and the wall behind them seem to have a pinkish cast. However, the whites are white. Their skin tones are correct. And most important to me, the unique Candy Wild Cherry color of the car shows that it’s not regular Candy Red. This is Ektachrome film, and it’s nearly 70 years old. It was considered the “professional” color film of the time, and these photos are 4″x5″ “transparencies.” What they didn’t know then–and it didn’t matter because most got printed in books or magazines fairly quickly–was that after many years (i.e., decades) some of this film would “color shift” toward magenta. Some did, some didn’t. Some stayed fine. Some just faded overall.
Roy Desbrow’s chopped and channeled ’32 pickup faced the other way in this striking Joshua Tree desert scene on the Jan. ’52 Hot Rod cover. You can tell the truck is a light yellow, and the whitewalls aren’t pink, but everything else is.
A front view of this image was used on one of the first issues of Rod & Custom. This transparency has both faded (the ’32 was bright yellow) and shifted (the grass was green, her skin looks pinkish, and the sky looks purple), plus the horizon is tilted.
But I think all of these are still cool photos. The way they are.
A few images in the Pickins column had similar problems, and this bothered certain readers to the point that several used their Photoshop to “color correct” some and send them to me to see the difference. One reader even volunteered to color correct any of my old Ektachromes that needed it, if I sent them to him, let him “fix” them, and send them back. I certainly appreciate the offer. However, first off, I spend more time and work on these columns than I want to, or should. Second, I don’t have Photoshop because I don’t believe in it (nor want to spend the time it takes to use it). As a photographer, I prefer to compose my images in the camera, selecting backgrounds, angles, using natural light, and so on. I agree that a book full of pink-tinted photos would be distracting (and I applaud the art director who did a wonderful job of “restoring” old color like this in my last two Hot Rod Gallery books). But–to keep a long discussion shorter–the way I see these color-shifted old photos, in small doses, is like sepia-toned black-and-white, which most people love. These are really old photos, and if some look aged, fine. I hope you agree.
Now for some mystery solving…more or less. Remember the one faded color photo I found of “John Detrick” and his ’51 Chevy Bel Air, plus a mysterious black ’40 coupe? A little research led to an Oct. ’55 Car Craft feature (on the HAMB) correcting his name to John Dietrich and stating that his Olds-front Chev was built by Valley Custom. Nothing on the ’40 or the girl.
Then I got an email from my long-time Seattle pen-pal Bob Morrow stating that not only did Hot Rod do a 1-page feature on the ’40 in April ’56, but he still has the page tacked to the back wall of his garage. He thinks it’s the finest ’40 he’s seen.
The big surprise is the healthy chromed dual-quad Cad engine, plus look at the smooth rear with what look like ’41 Stude taillights. I can see why Bob likes it. He also said that the Chevy was shown as one of the “10 Best” in the 1956 Custom Car Annual, which also had one page on the ’40. He also I.D.ed the finger-flipping girl as “starlet” Barbara Darrow. Look her up on Wikipedia to learn several surprising facts. Since the cars and Valley Custom were from the Glendale-Burbank area, I asked several local old-timers, including Alex Xydias, if they knew of either car or of Dietrich–nada, zip. Where are they?
What does Sailor Bob’s ’27 T have to do with this? Serendipity. I showed one of these non-color-shifted Ektachromes from ’58 recently, asking where did this one go, and why has no-one built another like it? Well, I was paging through my May ’56 copy of Car Craft because it was supposed to have something on Dietrich’s Chev. Nothing on that, but look at this:
Yep, exact same car. Only difference being Ford caps instead of “baldies.” Plus, while the HRM story inaccurately credits Bob with building the sprint-type headers, it does state that “much of his investment lies in the lavishly chromed chassis and engine components.” But here we discover that it was a San Diego truck driver named Carl Burnett who actually built the car in his home garage, using “a ’27 T body, ’32 frame, and ’48 V-8 engine.” I had wondered what was different about the turtle deck, and it states that “a Henry J deck lid [was] welded to the trunk.” What I didn’t notice until I saw this high front angle is how obviously he widened and lengthened the cowl to fit the body over the ’32 frame. Both the deep blue paint and bodywork look flawless. One caption here notes that T’s only had one right-hand opening door, and it was welded shut because of the pipes and for seamless upholstery. So my question remains: why does it have chrome door hinges on both sides? Plus I further note the car has no license plates, here, or in ’58.
Next up, “Bob Finley’s ’60 T-Bird” that wasn’t what it was at all. I said that it looked like a Starbird bubble-top to me, and at least I was right about that:Darryl called it the Electra, kept many of the characteristic ’58 T-Bird features such as the door side-spears, small tailfins, modified hood scoop, and basic grille/headlight shapes. The double bubble covered a wild 4-chair interior featuring stick-steering. And he painted it candy/pearl blue, as seen on this Feb ’64 R&C cover. The owner was listed as Dick Scully of Chicago. I thought this was a pretty good-looking car. But trying to learn more about its mutating forms was like the proverbial peeling of an onion.
I got emails from a few readers stating it was Dick Scully’s car and Dave Puhl (sometime of Trend Custom) was the builder of the red version. One even I.D.ed Puhl as the passenger in one photo, with the top(s) up. And it was then called the X-Cel. Below is one rear view I was able to find on the internet:
But there’s all kinds of weird stuff on the internet about this car, and you can spend some of your incarcerated time searching if you’re so inclined. Briefly, Scully bought it in ’58. Though he ostensibly had his own custom shop in the Chicago area, he took it to Trend Customs for it’s first rebuild, featuring a weird mirror-image grille/4 headlight treatment and painted pink. And featured in Car Craft as the “Pulsation.” Look it up if you’re not feeling queasy. Then he took it to Starbird in Wichita for the blue version (where one source says Puhl was working at the time; another states that Puhl was Scully’s brother-in-law). I’m just reporting what I found; I’m not swearing to its accuracy.
Then some guy who made LeVernier’s Glaze Cream car wax bought it and toured it to shows in a glass-sided trailer or van. Then it was sold one or two more times, until it was found sitting for sale by a rural roadside looking something like this:
At least this was a photo posted by a “current owner” who wouldn’t give his name. I’ll leave it at that and let you net-surf for more if interested. ‘Cuz I found some other stuff that’s more fun. Yes, as usual this is getting lengthy, but, hey, what else have you got to do? This is better than Monopoly or Scrabble, right?
Hopefully you know that, thanks to my son Bill and his iPhone, I also post a lot of rare, old, or interesting photos on Instagram. If somehow you weren’t aware of that, go back up to the heading of this column, and just to the right of “Subscribe” and “Contact” click on that little square with a circle in it. You’ll see 160-some photos. If you click on any one, you’ll see my caption and readers’ comments. This could keep you busy all week. Anyway, one photo I showed was an early ’60s ’33 Fordor best known as the car with two surfers sitting on their longboards on the roof, prominently shown in my “Surf Rods” story in the Rodder’s Journal. I was later surprised to learn that it was built by Gene Winfield in Modesto, and he said it was his first “fade” paint job. The problem was I only had B&W photos of it, and for some reason I thought (and wrote) that it was Candy Tangerine with white pearl “fogging” around the beltline and fender edges. I mentioned that it was shown on a small Custom Rodder cover, but that I was missing that issue.
Well, bingo, one of my NorCal custom car buddies, and collector of such things, Ron Brooks, sent me a spare copy of the March ’61 issue showing two angles of the car on the cover, in very bright pearl gold–even named the “Golden Californian.” Thank you very much, Ron, and I stand corrected. I was also surprised to learn that the car was owned by Dave Rettig of Modesto, and that there was a big, hopped-up, tri-carb Cad V8 under that golden hood.
But wait, there’s more. As soon as I opened the magazine I recognized this louvered, fenderless, tinted-window ’34 coupe. This rear-view was printed vertically on the first page of the mag. I hadn’t seen this car since I was about 14 years old. But I knew it was bright yellow and had a dual-quad Corvette engine.It probably won’t mean that much to you, but this car used to sit at the muffler shop next to the J&M Speed Center in Riverside, CA, then on the north end of Main St. My friends and I would ride our bikes over there (15+ miles each way) just because we were so hungry to see any real hot rods–or buy decals. This was the first real drag car I got to see up close and personal. Plus we knew it was even featured in Hot Rod magazine (can’t remember when, but it was). I had forgotten it had those excellent Indy-style mag wheels. Picture it in yellow. It’s still cool.
More? Oh yes. When I was thumbing through this issue and got to page 18 I almost dropped the book. Of course I recognized this car, immediately. I’ve traced and written its whole history (not to mention that son Bill restored it at Brizio’s for Pebble Beach much later). Yes, of course this is the Tom McMullen Deuce roadster, very shortly after he got it. Even though the copy (you can read it) boldly states Tom “built this flawless ’32 Ford roadster in one years time at a cost of $1000,” we know that Don Hudson of Don’s Trim Shop (which obviously did the nice upholstery) originally built/owned the car (as seen briefly in the Dec. ’56 Hot Rod), then sold it to high schooler Chuck Karnatz who added the bobbed rear fenders, and then sold it to “a truck driver” in ’57 for $950. We assume two things: first, that freelance photographer (and T-Bucket builder) Curt Hamilton likely took these photos well before ’61. And second, it was probably the truck driver who installed the Chevy engine with a single 2-barrel (as seen here), because Tom stated in a May ’75 Street Rodder article that he: “bought the roadster from a truck driver in the next apartment for $650”. If you want to read the whole story, with some rare photos, it’s in TRJ No. 32.
I know a lot of you love rummaging through old magazines to find serendipitous stuff just like this. But I think this is enough for now. We could literally be here all day–or more. But Phil Lukens just called from Blair’s to say that my clutch and flywheel for the track roadster have finally come back from the balancer’s, and the $200 gallon of primer to finish the hood for our new ’33 should be at the parts/paint store, so I’m going to put on my rubber gloves and face mask and go get them, so I can get back in the garage, which is not a bad place to be quarantined if you’re a hot rodder. I like my garage. And I have a hunch you might like some of it, too. So I’m planning to make that the topic of my next column. See you then.