Where did Harry Westergard go?
The custom car movement is one based around the taste of its followers. As builders influence other builders and as time rolls, tastes change and morph. Eventually, competitive spirits take over and what was once a styling exercise becomes an arms race. Hundreds of body mods, crazy colors, scallops, flames, foggs, telephones, TVs, etc… Like everyone else in the movement, I have my own tastes and my own ideas.
I’ve always considered 1946 as the year of the custom. That’s the year that Harry Westergard finished his now famous ’39 Ford and got started on one of my favorite customs ever – his Lesalle fronted ’36 Ford convert (pictured above).
Harry wasn’t in an arms race. Harry wasn’t out to win a show or get on the cover of a magazine. Harry was simply taking a car from Detroit and improving upon the factory lines. He was a stylist, not a showman. Every modification he made to his cars was done for a specific styling reason and I think that is why his offerings make so much sense to me now. I simply love the final product that comes after so much attention to detail, so much thought towards natural lines, so much passion for improving upon what is already there. It’s actually a very modern way of thinking. The sum of the ideas is greater than each on its own.
It has always amazed me that while there is a very definite move to our roots in the hot rod world, there hasn’t been one all that prominent in the custom circle. Sure, we see lots of 50’s and 60’s styled customs cruising around, but it’s a rare sight to see a subtle and sensible “Westergard style” car sleazing about. I’m not entirely certain why that is the case, but I do hope that changes.
There is a whole new world of possibility and innovation out there waiting for folks once they find Harry Westergard and his coach building philosophy.