In the late 1990′s, Axle Idzardi and his brother Marky discovered a mysterious coupe peaking out of an open neighborhood garage. It was a 1938 Ford coupe that had been chopped, smoothed, and lowered in a style that reflected the late 1940′s. The brothers were enamored, but they simply didn’t have the money to pry it away from the owner.
Their pal and fellow Shifter Car Club member, Kevan Sledge, was enamored as well and tried to raise the dough for a purchase, but fell short. Even so, the boys didn’t forget the little ’38 coupe and kept it and its location in the back of their heads for years. And then one day, Axle’s folks gave him a call… They were at a garage sale and bought an old custom.
It didn’t take long for Axle to figure out what they had bought and in no time all of the boys were at the Idzardi household checking out the ’38. Kevan Sledge was the first to mumble, “Man, I swear I’ve seen this car in a book or magazine at some point in time. It has history.” Who would build a ’38 Ford coupe custom in this style? More importantly, who would do it in the modern era?
The short answer is simple – nobody. The fellas took to their books and magazines looking for anything relevant to a ’38 coupe. After a long search, one of them bulled out the “Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50′s: Volume 1.” On page 10, there it was… It was pictured in front of a liquor store located across the street from Barris’ Compton, CA based shop. The caption stated the car was owned by a man named Dick Fowler. That’s all they had to go on.
Axle called George Barris and he eventually made his way over to the Idzardi house to check out their find. He confirmed their suspicions by agreeing that this was indeed the Dick Fowler car. True to his style, Barris handed over a pair of gold crests along with a certificate of authenticity.
Armed with the knowledge, Axle continued researching the history of the coupe as well as the man that owned it. Conversations with guys like Johnny Zero, Jesse Lopez, Jack Stewart, Bill De Carr/Ortega, and others turned up a background of sorts on Dick Fowler. Dick attended Fremont High School in South Gate – a suburb of LA. He and his crew were known as the “Fox Florence Guys” because they all hung around the new Fox Theater on Florence Avenue.
Dick enjoyed his life as carefree teenager entangled with hot cars and hot women (he dated and eventually married the best looking gal in school) until the early to mid 1950′s. It was then that adulthood eventually caught him. He got a job as a crane operator and sold the ’38 coupe off to help pay for responsible life expenses. It’s a story that is not unlike the other custom names of the time – Matranga, Quesnel, Hirohata, etc… Guys were growing up, going to college, getting drafted into the Korean war, and getting jobs. The youthful time spent tinkering with old cars just wasn’t as available as boys turned into young men.
In any case, that’s Dick early life as Axle knows it. But what about the car? We know much less.
To date, the fellas have only found 4 original pictures of the car – One being the Dan Post Custom Car Book published in 1947. It was chopped liberally, the drip rails were smoothed, fenders were molded in and a Packard grille added to a custom hood top complete with 4″ louvers that worked well with the smoothed Chevrolet hood sides. Finishing touches included a frenched license plate on the deck lid and chrome garnish moldings. For all intents and purposes, the car is everything that an early custom was and is supposed to be.
Dick originally rolled the car in white primer, but it was eventually painted a glossy dark shade. The exact shade is not known, but Axle is still delicately hunting with sand paper hoping to find evidence of a dark green, red, or black paint job.
As a side note, Axel also recently stopped by the house where the car was originally found in the 1990′s. Bob Lomax answered an ad in the Sunland, CA Recycler back in 1979. He bought the car and never really did much to it and never knew the historical significance it carried. Surprising as Bob is not a casual car guy at all. In fact, he built a 1950 Chevrolet Convert that was featured on a Speed & Custom cover in 1961 and he even worked for a time at the Ayala Brothers Shop in LA.
In any case, that’s the story of the Dick Fowler coupe. There are a number of questions yet to be answered. What’s are the Idzardi’s gonna do with this sweet little piece of history? What became of Dick Fowler? What happened to the car between the mid 1950′s until Bob located it in 1979?
If you have the answers, you know where to put them.
The four original shots:
As it sits: