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History Bill Cushenberry's Silhouete

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by rubberrodder, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. I remember this car from the mid 60's , Tv, magazines, A large handfull of my model cars{best wire wheels of any model car!}
    I know it was stolen and never recovered. Does any body have more info on the car. What chassis was used, how the top was operated,etc,etc.? Is any body thinking about a clone or tribute car? Construction pic's or???
     

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  2. aircap
    Joined: Mar 10, 2011
    Posts: 1,560

    aircap
    Member

    Gotta admit, it's one of the coolest kustoms of my youth.
     
  3. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 27,665

    The37Kid
    Member

    The car was built on a modified Buick chassis, Bill was 29 years old when he built the Silhouete. I still have the 1962-63 program from the NYC show my Dad took me too, I was 11 or 12 at the time. Today was Dad's birthday, he would have been 97. Bob
     

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  4. The Silhouette was a futuristic show car designed and built by Bill Cushenbery of Cushenbery Custom Shop. The Silhouette was the first scratch built custom car to roll out of Bill's shop. The build was based on a shortened Buick chassis, and was originally powered by a Buick engine. By 1966, the Buick engine had been replaced by a Ford 427. The wheels on the car were fully exposed, but the angular body was strictly space age in shape, and crowned by an bubble top. The Silhouette was fully operable, as Bill meant that a car should be a car, and not a piece of abstract sculpture mounted on wheels. The Silhouette was equipped by electric switches and buttons on the dash and concealed in the exterior trim to raise and lower the bubble top, open the hood and trunk, start the engine, turn on the lights, and operate the blower fans. Stolen in 1983 from Bakersfield, CA and never recovered. This is the only info on the theft I could find.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2012

  5. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 4,144

    Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Member

    I never understood iconic, one of a kind cars like this being stolen. It would be like stealing a famous painting.

    The car isn't something that would lend itself to a repaint/retitle or for parting out either.

    One has to think the theft was for reasons other than acquiring the car itself such as out and out jealousy, revenge against the owner, insurance fraud. I'm not acusing the Silhouette owner, but I'm sure it has happened. Someone gets in real deep financial trouble and makes their car disappear for bailout $$$.

    Anyone have the details of how/where it was stolen?
     
  6. Tom davison
    Joined: Mar 15, 2008
    Posts: 5,431

    Tom davison
    Member
    from Phoenix AZ

    You're probably young. It was a different world then. Insurance fraud happens now, but back then, the last thing a 29 year old Cushenberry would have thought about was insuring the car!! Sure, it was the coolest car built that year, but Bill also built the coolest cars the previous two years as well. Point is, they were just cars then, not the icons they have become.
     
  7. The37kid,
    If your program is from 62-63 show car season, Bill would have been building it through 60-61. And the car was stolen in 1983. Does anyone know if he kept the car up to then or sold it to...? I was under the impression Bill died of cancer sometime in the mid to late '80's.{I hope not} I guess what I'm really hopeing for is somebody knows or has some kind of construction info on it. I realize,back then,nobody made build records and documented stuff with pics. But, I am hopeing!
     
  8. aircap
    Joined: Mar 10, 2011
    Posts: 1,560

    aircap
    Member

    That is so COOL.
     
  9. Bill Cushenbery's cars traveled the show circuit as part of the Ford Cavalcade of customs and that is why the change to Ford engines. The El Matador got a 289 hi-po Ford engine and the Silhouette got the big block. The Hi-po was the engine the El Matador had when I owned the car.
    The engines were installed by Dearborn Steel tubing in Dearborn, Mich. They did most of Ford custom fabrication.
    The Silhouette was the coolest bubble top in the day in my opinion.
    Very interesting.
     
  10. skywolf
    Joined: Jul 1, 2006
    Posts: 1,868

    skywolf
    Member

  11. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 4,144

    Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Member

    I'm 52. If the silhouette was stolen in 1983 (making Cush about 49) it was a more modern, less innocent time. Now I'm not acusing Bill of fraud, but generalizing when very distinct, one of a kind cars disappear; it seems much more likely that the motive is for vengeance, fraud or other reasons than the usual car theft/money making routine of parting it out or rebadging the car and selling it as a legit vehicle resale. There were easier, less risky cars to steal and flip.
    I recall a guy with a really nice 57 Chevy in HS. One day the car was stolen from the school lot. It was found several weeks later abandoned and severely vandalized. Vandalized like a murder victim that had been stabbed 55 times. There was a message there. The car really wasn't stolen but rather executed. I later heard rumours that his new girlfriend's loser ex had something to do with the whole deal.

    From Pat Ganahl's book Lost Hot Rods;
    after Cushenbery had moved his shop from Monterey to Burbank, California, the Silhouette was reportedly stolen from the back of his lot, and has never been seen again. In fact, someone I know who had a shop in the area at that time, says the rumor was that the car was stolen because of some sort of feud or vendetta, and that it was buried, intact, in a graveyard for stolen and stripped vehicles somewhere in the Valley, and it’s probably still there. More “Noir.”
     

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