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History Early Customs: Gene Garrett and George Barris 1936 Ford Cabriolet

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by Rikster, Feb 3, 2010.

  1. Rikster
    Joined: Dec 10, 2004
    Posts: 5,781

    Rikster
    Member

    A few weeks ago somebody asked me if the Harry Westergard built Gene Garrett and George Barris built for himself 1936 Ford Cabriolets where the same car. For some reason George Barris - and others as well - mixed these two cars up in his memory and published some incorrect information in his books.
    When Pat Ganahl did his excellent article about early custom cars in The Rodder's Journal #12 (long time ago, they are working on issue #47 right now) he already mentioned this mistake in some of the Barris books. But he did not show both cars together to point out the differences between the two.

    I was quite surprised to see a photo of the Westergard built Gene Garrett 36 Ford in Gene Winfields book being credited to George Barris. And when a friend asked if the two cars where the same I figured it was time to show these two cars together and hopefully the two cars can be given the right credits from now on.


    In the December 1989 issue of Rod & Custom magazine Pat wrote a short (to short) story on the Gene Garret 1936 Ford. Pat has been in contact with Gene and Gene gave him the two photos of his car. Gene told the whole story on the car and how Harry Westergard built the car for him in 1943.

    R&C article scan
    [​IMG]


    Then in 1996 Barris produced his fantastic Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50's books (four) And on page 14 of the second book he shows 3 photos of a 36 Ford Cabriolet and claims it was his own personal ride. Built at the time he was working at Brown Brothers in Sacramento, and probably at the same time he was hanging out and working with Harry Westergard.

    Barris book scans
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    In the intro of this page George mentions others photos of his 36 For used in volume 1 of the Barris books. The photo below is one of two shown in volume 1

    [​IMG]


    This 36 Ford is a different car than the once shown before. I agree that the two cars do look a bit like each other.... but there are some clear differences. We will get back to that later.

    When I had read my Barris books I already thought George was mistaken on this car, but I knew for sure when TRJ #12 arrived in my mailbox. Below is a scan of a section of the Pat Ganahl article in TRJ #12
    In which he does mention this mistake in the George Barris books.

    [​IMG]


    To me the TRJ and especially Pat Ganahl are a sort of gospel.. and I assumed that after his comments regarding this car everybody into early customs would know the differences between the cars. So I was surprised when I received my Gene winfield book with a photo of the Gene Garret car with George name on it.... The editors of the book clearly had looked for information in the Barris books.

    Below is the scan from Gene Winfield's book
    [​IMG]


    This case of mixed up identity of early custom cars is a rather rare one. Sure it happened before, but in this case there are a few photos (two that I know of) that show both of these cars in one photo. Unfortunately I'm not allowed to show these photos since they will be used in an upcoming article in the Rodder's Journal.
    So we have to do it with details of the photos that can be shown.

    The similarities on these two cars that are rather unique is that on both cars the character lines in the door above the belt line where filled in. There are photos of the Gene Garret Ford where this has not been completed, but in finished form these lines where filled just as on George his '36.

    Both cars have the headlights molded into the front fenders. But on the Gene Garrett car the headlights where molded onto the top portion of the fender, and on George his car they where molded in on the lower portion of the fender closer to the grille.
    Both cars use 1934 Pontiac hood sides.
    Both cars have the running boards removed and a new body panel to cover the frame below the body. And both cars run fender skirts with upside down Buick trim.

    But on George his car there are no rock guards to protect the rear fenders. And if you look close to the photos below you can see that the front fenders are sort of flat where the running board used to be.
    One the Harry Westergard Garrett car the front fenders where extended at the bottom where the running board used to be.

    The Garrett car uses a '41-'42 Packard grille while George own car uses a '39-'40 Nash grille (even though he calls it a '41 Packard Clipper grille in Volume 1)

    Both cars use '37 DeSoto ribbed bumpers and run ripple disk flipper hubcaps. As far as I can tell the George Barris car never had a lift off metal top like the Gene Garrett Ford had. All photos I have seen show a padded top on George his car.

    The location of the Appleton Spotlights is also different on both cars.


    Okay... this has been a little longer than I had anticipated... but I wanted to clear this minor mistake in early custom car history....

    Here are some more photos to compare

    Front 3/4 views of both cars.

    George Barris Car.
    [​IMG]


    Westergard Garrett car
    [​IMG]


    Side views

    Barris car (sorry for poor quality.. all I have)
    [​IMG]


    Garrett car
    [​IMG]


    Rear 3/4 view

    Barris car
    [​IMG]


    Garrett car
    [​IMG]


    This photo shows the unfinished Gene Garrett Ford before the door lines where filled in...

    [​IMG]


    The photo below was offered on ebay a long time ago... I did not have the funds to buy it so this low res image is all I have.
    But it looks like the Gene Garrett car is fitted with a dark color padded top here.

    [​IMG]


    And the last photo is of the George Barris 36 ... nice birds eye view.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2011
  2. Thanks, clearly these are two different cars... that metal roof is cool!
     
  3. oldandkrusty
    Joined: Oct 8, 2002
    Posts: 2,098

    oldandkrusty
    Member

    Rik, as I've said previously, "You are the man!" Your knowledge of customs is unsurpassed. Thanks for taking the time to correct a small mistake that could have, if left in place, taken on the aura of truth.
     
  4. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 4,041

    Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Member

    Great work Rik! Subtle differences, but definately two different cars.

    I gotta wonder if Barris was mistaking it for his own car or another case off him claiming other peoples work as his own? Not trying to bash Barris (I love his early work) but history shows, it's been a repeat issue with him.
     
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  5. Details, Details, Details !!!!!! Great Job Rik .
     
  6. model.A.keith
    Joined: Mar 19, 2007
    Posts: 6,282

    model.A.keith
    Member

    Rik,

    Thanks for putting the record straight.....

    I find it interesting that a 17year old could afford not only to own a car like that but pay for work to be carried out on it.

    should i ask.......



    where are they now ??

    .

    .

    Keith
     
  7. williebill
    Joined: Mar 1, 2004
    Posts: 2,538

    williebill
    Member

    Thanks for the research,and the time you put into custom history,Rik..You are an amazing resource
     
  8. SuperFleye
    Joined: Jul 17, 2005
    Posts: 2,033

    SuperFleye
    Alliance Vendor

    Great story Rik, I have been researching this subject myself! I look forward to see the upcoming Rodders Journal photo showing both cars together!
     
  9. I would assume that the Westergard car was the first built. It is amazing that two cars from the same era, and area, would choose the almost exact styling.
     
  10. bolsa boy
    Joined: Nov 25, 2006
    Posts: 188

    bolsa boy
    Member

    Awesome Rik! Tell it like it is.
     
  11. Rikster
    Joined: Dec 10, 2004
    Posts: 5,781

    Rikster
    Member

    As far as I know both cars are still missing in action.
    I have never heard anything about these cars still being around today.

    I would be very interested in knowing what happened to these two cars.

    As for which car was built first... or finished first.
    The photos I have showing both cars together shows that George his 36 had the door lines above the belt line filled in before Harry Westergard did that on the Garrett Ford.
    George his car was running hood less, and Gene's car was in bare metal on the front, so Harry had just molded in the headlights and installed the Packard grille.
    Both cars where unfinished, but driving at the time those photos where taken.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  12. The fit and finish on the Garrett car is way better then the Barris car. George was just learning I take it.:D

    Nice detective work as usual Rik, thanks!

    -Shiny
     
  13. Great info, also, the Barris car has no door handles, while the other do!
    Maybe you wrote that and i missed it , oh well...
     
  14. Rikster
    Joined: Dec 10, 2004
    Posts: 5,781

    Rikster
    Member

    In the May 1953 issue of Hop Up magzine Spence Murray wrote a great article about Barris "The Barris Story". The article shows some really interesting photos including early Barris Customs.

    And among the early cars shown was George his own 1936 Ford Cabriolet.

    I showed the photos before, but I forgot to add this scan with the text as it appeared in the magazine

    [​IMG]


    And in the same article this 36 Ford Cabriolet also appeared. Again quite similar to both the George Barris and Gene Garrett car, but still different.
    This car has a similar headlight treatments as the Westergard Garrett Ford, but the Packard grille is placed higher in the front and there is also what seams like a full custom made panel from the 37 DeSoto bumper towards the front fenders, very nice.

    [​IMG]


    And I know this is a coupe, but its also does show similar body mods and the credits that George built it while working with Westygard... nice misspell. All cars shown in the 53 Hop Up magazine article

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Slim Pickens
    Joined: Dec 15, 2008
    Posts: 3,348

    Slim Pickens
    Member

    Awesome. Thanks Rik. Another addition of your legendary research. Slim
     
  16. Evel
    Joined: Jun 25, 2002
    Posts: 9,024

    Evel
    Member
    1. 60s Show Rods

    I was just looking at some of those pics the other day... Thanks for the great post RiKster
     
  17. HomemadeHardtop57
    Joined: Nov 15, 2007
    Posts: 4,175

    HomemadeHardtop57
    Member

    Spence Murray also built one almost identical. It was the build car in a few of the mags back in the day
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  18. Standard32
    Joined: Oct 15, 2006
    Posts: 1,013

    Standard32
    Member
    from LA

    Hey Rikster... how common was it to mold the headlights in like that?


    When my grandpa was in high school, (early 50s) he had a green 36 cabriolet with chevy headlights molded in on the fenders...
     
  19. blackout
    Joined: Jul 29, 2007
    Posts: 1,270

    blackout
    Member

    Thanks Rikster for sharing the custom history with us.
     
  20. Rikster
    Joined: Dec 10, 2004
    Posts: 5,781

    Rikster
    Member

    This was a rather common custom trick in the 40's. So my guess is there where quite a few 36 Ford with molded in 41 Chevy headlights molded to the fenders. Most had them mounted in the same - but lower - location as the original Ford headlights. But some had them molded in to the fenders starting at the highest point of the fender.

    Do you have any photos of your grandfathers car you can post here?
     
  21. Mr.Bomba
    Joined: Apr 13, 2007
    Posts: 357

    Mr.Bomba
    Member

    Nice detective work Rik! lol! its nice to see that someone cares enough to set the record straight and if someones gonna do it who else other than the Kustom Guru himself :D great history lesson Rik! keep up the good work im always ready to read your threads because they are so informative :D im waiting for the Kustom History Book by "Rikster" someday.
     
  22. Standard32
    Joined: Oct 15, 2006
    Posts: 1,013

    Standard32
    Member
    from LA


    Unfortunately I do not have any pictures... as long as I can remember, I've heard stories about all the cars him and his friends had when he was a kid, and I've been asking him about pictures for years.

    He always liked the 35/6s. If I remember right, he had a 35 cabriolet, a 35 roadster, and then the 36 cabriolet.

    From what I remember him telling me about the 36... It was green and had a lasalle grille, desoto bumpers, and of course the headlights molded into the fenders. It had a 48 mercury flathead. And the ford trans had zephyr gears. It never was real clear to me where exactly on the fenders the headlights were molded in.

    He grew up in New Jersey, and I don't know what ever happened to the car after he went in the army (in 1953, I think).

    Most of the pictures he has are from later when he got out of the army. I keep hoping he will be looking through some old stuff and stumble on to an old picture of the 36 that he didn't know he had...but no luck so far.

    I have asked him about the car a million times...but I need to ask him again and see if there's anything else he remembers about it...
     
  23. slick39
    Joined: Jan 20, 2008
    Posts: 695

    slick39
    Member
    from dallas ,ga

    thanks Rikster enjoy the read good stuff
     
  24. Django
    Joined: Nov 15, 2002
    Posts: 10,197

    Django
    Member
    from Chicago

    Damn, how did I miss this one?? Very cool.
     
  25. OLLIN
    Joined: Aug 25, 2006
    Posts: 3,077

    OLLIN
    Member

    great read. Thanks for setting the record straight from here on out..
     
  26. Theo Douglas
    Joined: Nov 20, 2002
    Posts: 807

    Theo Douglas
    Member

    Great, great post! This is why I am a proud HAMB member.

    Not to hijack it, but I do have a question for Rikster: Rik, what was the hot setup? Was it Chevy lights, or '39 Buick lights? Just wondering 'cause I've heard of using both.

    Thanks!

    Someday, in my dreams, maybe I'll own a '36.
     
  27. CJGarrett
    Joined: Oct 3, 2010
    Posts: 1

    CJGarrett
    Member
    from washington

    I am Gene Garrett's daughter. My sister found this article and it has just sent me down memory lane. Someone in this forum asked how could a 17 year old pay for this kind of custom work. Well, I'll tell you a little something about my dad because you are his kind of people. He worked from the time he could sell newspapers on an Oakland street corner. Often he worked 2 jobs, for all of his working life. And he always paid his debts. The man loved his cars, his family and beautiful women. He was the greatest friend, son, brother and father in the world. My dad passed much too early, in Sacramento, at the age of 74 in July 2000. A few months prior I took dad to visit with Dick Bertolucci at his elaborate home garage. Dad's last fancy car was a 196something Lincoln Continental convertible, with the suicide doors, which he very reluctantly sold. Golf replaced cars as my dad's passion in the mid-1950's. Thanks for the memories and the respectful dialogue about my favorite person.
     
  28. Mr.Bomba
    Joined: Apr 13, 2007
    Posts: 357

    Mr.Bomba
    Member




    Wow! Cool by any chance do you have any early pics of your dads cars you can share with us? :D
     
  29. shoebox1950
    Joined: Jul 17, 2008
    Posts: 1,197

    shoebox1950
    Member
    from California

    awesome post!!!
     
  30. Rikster
    Joined: Dec 10, 2004
    Posts: 5,781

    Rikster
    Member

    CJGarrett,

    Thank you for joining us here, and telling a bit more about your father and his cars. If there are more stories about the 36 Ford, or other cars, or if you have perhaps some old family snapshots with the car in it. Please share them here, they will be very much enjoyed by all the custom car enthusiasts on the HAMB.
     

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