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Black Panther Returns; One California Custom's History Found w Pictures!

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Black Panther, Aug 30, 2010.

  1. Black Panther
    Joined: Jan 6, 2010
    Posts: 1,450

    Black Panther
    from SoCal

    About 6 months ago I had the good idea to do a search in the Cars for Sale section of the Hamb classifieds using keywords "old custom". There were some random results but one caught my eye. It read, "1949 Chevy Custom The Black Panther"...intrigued, I clicked on it. It obviously had seen better days but the fact that it had had a few page spread in an issue of Rod and Custom in 1956 and a whole page in the 1957 issue of Custom Cars Annual magazine, made the car more interesting to me. What was unique about the car I thought was that it used very minimal chrome for the time, had a lot of European influences and was painted black. I found out it was also built by Chuck Rogers who ended up working for Joe Bailon. After some very easy negotiations with a very accomodating seller, I bought the car.

    The car sat for a few months at the previous owners place while I tried to scrape up some free time to come get it. The car was about 1100 miles away and I was dreading another long road I had a transporter bring it. I hadn't done too much research on the car's history other than to find a scan on the HAMB of a 1957 Grand National Roadster show program showing the car had competed in the full custom coupe class. Funny thing was that according to the '57 GNRS program the owner of the Black Panther was Salvadore the car had already changed hands.

    With the Black Panther still in transit...I started to work on the ownership history of the car. Working off the original HAMB posting of the car being bought by the fellow I bought it from...I found a post on that thread by a Hamber who had seen the car for sale in a guys backyard in the 90's. I got in touch with him and he told me that the guy who I should be speaking to was Bud Millard. In the Hambers words, "He knows a lot about that car". Understatement! I give Bud a call...I am sure some of you guys know that Bud owns a few important customs and is a Hot Rod hall of famer. Anyway.. Bud answers the phone and I stammer, "This is going to sound a little strange but I just bought an old custom named the Black Panther and was hoping you knew something about it". Bud bellowed..."Congratulations!". In disbelief, I asked him again if he knew about the car....Bud replied, "I know EVERYTHING about that car". I paused for a second because that sort of thing just doesn't happen every was almost too easy.

    Turns out that in 1957 Bud went to high school across the street from Sal LaBue's house and upon seeing the Black Panther, struck up a friendship with the older LaBue. Bud ended up driving the car to many shows as Sal followed along in his then new 1958 Olds. During that first phone call, Bud also tells me that he has Chuck Rogers construction pictures of the car, many pictures of indoor and outdoor shows, a never before seen picture of the detailed trunk and many more. Bud tracked the car down after losing it for about 20 years and bought it back from a fellow in Kentucky. Like a final click in a tumbler's combination, Bud tells me that the car had also been painted yellow with black lace painted panels..echoing an iteration that another Hamber had posted seeing (and not liking). So Bud gets the car in the early 90s or so, stores it in the Bay area back yard pictured by another Hamber who had gone to see it, some time later Bud sold the Panther. Ultimately the Panther ends up in Washington state...where the Hamber who I bought it from purchased it.

    The only previous period pictures on the net of the Panther were scans of the '56 Rod and Custom and a couple of shots from that Bay Area backyard in the '90s. There is also one shot of the car that looks like an old slide...turns out that picture might have been taken at the 1957 GNRS. Bud told me that might be shot as the cars came in. Bud told me in a subsequent phone call that he remembers having a picture with Sal LaBue accepting an award and that possibly it was at the '57 GNRS...meaning the Panther had won its class...still working on that one though.

    I want to thank Bud publicly as he was gracious enough to sit with me at a Kinkos while I scanned about 30-40 are just a few of them...starting from 1955 till probably 1958 or so...the color picture was most likely late '60s to the early ' can see little running changes in the car....The lake pipes, "Black Panther" lettering on the rear and some other curious additions (or subtractions!) were done by Sal during his ownership. I think it's a cool little piece of California kustomizing history....hope you enjoyed the story and pictures...

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 31, 2010
  2. sure enjoyed reading that. thanks and good luck with it.
    Joined: Aug 10, 2006
    Posts: 2,260


    Cool history lesson! Do you have any now pics of it?
  4. Black Panther
    Joined: Jan 6, 2010
    Posts: 1,450

    Black Panther
    from SoCal

    I didnt want to ruin the great story with what the car looks like today...but here are a couple of shots in the current state. Good news is that most of the trim is handmade and still with the car. There are a few missing pieces but enough to duplicate the missing ones...

    Attached Files:

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  5. You'er gunna paint it black, right?
  6. Black Panther
    Joined: Jan 6, 2010
    Posts: 1,450

    Black Panther
    from SoCal

    Hey thats funny...yes absolutely black...I like the simplest version of the car...the 1955-57 version...
  7. Moondog13
    Joined: Sep 7, 2006
    Posts: 727


    Awesome!!! Can't wait to see the progress on bringing this one back to life! :D
  8. Dood, that is a cool find and the history is way cool, congrats.
  9. captainjunk#2
    Joined: Mar 13, 2008
    Posts: 4,330


    pretty awesome story , and great to get photos , and historical information on the car from some one close to it , cant wait for some build photos as you bring it back to glory
  10. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,191


    Very good story. Glad to hear the car was always "known" by the former owners; meaning some cars change hands and the ID of the car is not known due to changes.

    Great find.
  11. 51 mercules
    Joined: Nov 29, 2008
    Posts: 2,883

    51 mercules

    Cool find and history!
  12. Evel
    Joined: Jun 25, 2002
    Posts: 9,025

    1. 60s Show Rods

    Really Cool!!!
  13. zman
    Joined: Apr 2, 2001
    Posts: 16,558

    from Garner, NC

  14. 8-Track
    Joined: Jul 26, 2008
    Posts: 395


    WoW !! That is realy cool. it would be cool if some of the trophys came with it!
  15. thirty2
    Joined: Jul 30, 2010
    Posts: 28


    Looks like a (53?) Studebaker behind the car when you picked it up?
  16. great thread, I saw it Monroe swap meet a few years back that I could remember in the pictures shown. I thought it would be a great car to restore back to it's former glory.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  17. Slim Pickens
    Joined: Dec 15, 2008
    Posts: 3,346

    Slim Pickens

    Thanks, That first picture is killer. Slim
  18. Black Panther
    Joined: Jan 6, 2010
    Posts: 1,450

    Black Panther
    from SoCal

    8-Track...I asked Bud about the trophies and he said they were long gone. Sal wasnt really a full on car guy like most of us are...Bud said his son and others in his family werent into cars so I am sure when Sal passed they got tossed... favorite shot is the one from the front with the car in the grass at an outdoor show...incidentally that shot was taken by Bud in 1957-58 or so...also really like the rear shot with the older series license plate that if you look close you can see the '55 CA reg tab...

    Thanks for the nice comments....
  19. 4-pot
    Joined: Aug 12, 2005
    Posts: 181


    I remember seeing that car in rod & custom in 1956, it left quite an impression on me as a teenager.
  20. williebill
    Joined: Mar 1, 2004
    Posts: 2,404


    Very cool story,sounds like you're the right guy to bring it back to glory.Thanks for posting.Good luck with it.
  21. 56gasser
    Joined: Nov 4, 2007
    Posts: 285

    from lower al.

    Another one saved!!
  22. studematt
    Joined: Feb 12, 2008
    Posts: 432


    I remember seeing it on here for sale and thinking it was very resonable. I also remember in the background pics of it there was what appear to be other old customs in the storage lot. Any idea about those cars.
  23. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 9,776

    Atwater Mike

    I had that R&C also, and never forgot this car. It was styled individually, rather than following all the dots.
  24. 296ardun
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 4,124


    Me too, was in summer camp in '56 and one of the older guys had a copy of R%C, with the Black Panther in it, it was the first custom I saw, loved it...seem to remember that part of the upholstry had a black panther head sewn into it?
  25. Black Panther
    Joined: Jan 6, 2010
    Posts: 1,450

    Black Panther
    from SoCal

    296ardun...yes there are panther heads sewn into the door panels. Look at one of the pictures where the car has a door open at a car show and you can see it....
  26. general gow
    Joined: Feb 5, 2003
    Posts: 6,214

    general gow
    Staff Member

  27. jonzcustomshop
    Joined: Jun 25, 2007
    Posts: 1,927


  28. customcory
    Joined: Apr 25, 2007
    Posts: 1,832


    Gasser Dood, just now seeing this and it blows my mind! Man , it looks like the car was really straight in the pics, and the paint looked so good. I would love to know what they were thinking when they built the car back then. Its a unique custom in a sea of look a like 49-52 Chevies from back then. I can see those hubcaps now, I remember seeing those on like a early 50's Olds or Buicks, like a accessory cap for them, heck I use to have some. But like you were saying , I think some accesorry 56 Chev wire hubcaps would be a thousand times better looking, and still have the same flavor and intent of the original build. And they repo them. But the original caps would be easy to find, or at least they use to be. I think this car would be a mind blower finished! You know I'm going to be watching this one.I bet Ricksters going to be right clicking and a saving pics these pics!:D
  29. alumslot
    Joined: Mar 5, 2008
    Posts: 452


    Great story and one custom saved. Thanks really enjoyed the pictures and story.

  30. Rikster
    Joined: Dec 10, 2004
    Posts: 5,780


    Thank you Gasser Dood for sharing these great photos, and this great story.

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