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grapevine history

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by 53olds, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. alot of people are asking about the grapevine so here's the history as compiled by Randy Rhoades: grapevine is the custom '50 chevy of Larry Watson, famed bellflower, Ca. custom car painter and pinstriper.this was his high school car in '55 and it went through various stages from mild to full custom with scalloped paint. it was featured in "rod and custom","custom cars", and it was on the cover of "hot rod" magazine in sept. of 1957. watson sold the car in 1958 for $1500 so he could purchase a new '58 t bird, which he ultimately customized and painted with a pearl panel paint job that helped to promote him to a highly successful custom painter in the Los Angeles area.
    oregonian , jim becker bought the grapevine and brought it up to his hometown of albany, Or. it was his only everyday driver and it was highly visible because of it's unique original paint job. it was extremely low with a loud 6 cylinder split exhaust. those features made it "cop bait" and the local police were continually stopping or citing him when he drove it. jim was to marry in '59 and reluctantly decided that this ride would'nt be feasible to keep, so he traded it off for a "dagoed" '55 buick on an albany car lot.
    phil swaggart of eugene was returning home from lebanon when he saw the famed car sitting on a used car lot. he purchased it for $1,100 and is still amazed, to this day, he found it sitting on a car lot in albany Or !!! phil owned and drove the 50 for about 2 years. it was a common sight on the streets of eugene and at les' richfield station at 6th and lincoln (owned by phils brother les) the grapevine became known as "heartless" in eugene area because of the tuck n roll heart shapes on the seats, door panels, and floorboards. because of this new name, phil had Merle Beebe, a local pinstriper, put the name heartless on the rear fender panels.
    phil traded the 50 off to ron mcully for a 53 chevy and $600. the car then moved a block south to Jewell's union station at 7th and lincoln. ron changed the column shift to a tall floor shift witha piston for the knob. one of his vivid memories of the car was a prom night date, when the battery cable disconnected and he had to crawl out through th window because the doors were electrically operated inside and outside. all in all the car was a very dependable driver and never let him down. ron later had it repainted to solid rose color.
    jim king a springfield high school student the last owner of the 50 purchased it from 500 motors in about 1962 and had the car almost 2 years. it was involved in a wreck and was taken to H&M fiberglass, a body shop in glenwood. as it sat for quite some time, it became fair game for souvenir collectors. as parts became picked over like thanksgiving turkey. eventually jim felt that it had deteriorated to the point that it was beyond repair (for a high school student) so he had it towed to day island land fill where it is today---buried under the pillars of the i-5 bridge about 30 feet from the willamette river.
  2. Ron Bullard
    Joined: Sep 22, 2007
    Posts: 7

    Ron Bullard
    from Eugene, OR

    Very cool, I enjoy hearing about the historic Eugene stuff.
  3. yes the grapevine has been brought back to eugene, oregon. at least a clone called "gra-vin" image is determined to hit the streets in mid april '98. the inspiration for this came in the early 60's when the original larry watson custom cruzed the local streets here and left an impression as one of the favorite cool cars ever.
    (here's my grandpa dallas stones old car, randy rhoades's car now) a 52 chevy 2dr. w/a nova clip and 250 c.i. 6 cyl., came into my life begging the question " what should i do with this?" a simple and profound answer was" I will build a clone of the grapevine" to make this short and sweet (for now) randy took a 52 chevy and turned it into a 50 chevy and drives the heck out of it. watson and him are pals. here is a link to rik hovings sight with both clones
  4. Thanks for the history lesson. I've seen the clone a couple of times at a friends shop bbq. It was a pleasure to see it in person.
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  5. i'll do more history on randy's car later(my hands are tired)
  6. i'll be giving the history of randy's car today..
  7. the car had a history here and it was definitely DESTROYED here, so it just had to come back here! the "image" began in the winter of 1995 by slicing and dicing the right and left rear fenders and dropping them down to create a 50' chevy look. then i acquired 2 56' olds front fenders and headlight bezels from bob isley. winston auto wreckers had a 53 chev grille and joe manis supplied 8 of the 17 grille teeth needed to completely fill the grille cavity. actually after finding all the teeth, which took about 2 years, i discovered that 17 teeth would'nt fit into a stock 53 grille shell. after some cussin and discussin, i realized that they all had to be ground narrower to fit tighter together and presto, and it actually did work! many months were spent gathering parts from friends and acquaintances who helped me tremendusly.
    while cruzin' at the cottage grove cruz in '95 a cool 54 merc from vancouver ,Wa pulled up along side me. i've always figured that if your looking for something hard to find, ask the guy that already has one, where to get it. "don't know where i could get some '54 merc taillight lenses do ya?" "sure !", he says, "i got some with me". turned out he was a dealer for old merc parts, so more pieces were coming together.
    the chev spent the winter at darrel ketchums garage, where we fit a radiator and radiator support to the nova clip. we cut the cap off the old 56 olds and the 52 chevy fenders in matching patterns---then sheet metal screwed the 56 olds caps onto the decapped chevy fenders, for welding alignment. we welded in the door handle holes and decklid ornament holes. tony mills split the stock exhaust manifold so it would not only LOOK obnoxious but it would also sound obnoxious too. (i think the kids would call that sound "bad" which means "good" or "cool")
    in the spring of 96' the project was looking pretty sad. when it went to the river road cruz, the 53 grille was baling wired in, fenders screwed on, and the R/H rear fender dropped down with one 54 merc lenses roughed in. but the vision was definately starting to take shape and it did make a pretty good showing at the "rap-off contest",with the duel straight pipes bellowing. because of the car being at the cruz in, i was able to find out how the original "grapevine" had come to be in albany, oregon. a gentlemen at the show knew this guy named Jim becker who purchased the car from Watson. I later met Jim and got pictures and info from him.
    after the river road cruz, the chev came back to my shop and got totally dismantled. my son, anthony, stripped all the paint off with an 8" D.A. sander. as we began an intense push to get this puppy done, i welded, and welded, and welded, then gound and hammered and grounded some more. anthony did all the plastic filler and finished sanding. we both squirted primer and sanded,sanded, and sanded--finally, by summer of '97 after about 1 year of very dedicated work, anthony was laying out some scallops "freehand" with 1/8" tape. i had put down 3 coats of basecoat paint ('95 ford pink coral metalic with 100 grams of dark lavender to darken it down) and now with the scallops laid out, i went to work masking off for the silver to be laid over top. then 2 coats of clear and some quick assembly and off she went to the trailer for the unfinished nationals in graham Wa, in august '97
    hopefully like it's predecessor it's destined to be a people pleaser as "image" came home from the event with an award of "favorite project car". later it appeared in the march 98 issue of custom rodder magazine , in two photos from the unfinished nats.
    during the holidays, while in the los angeles, Ca area visiting family, my dad and i had the distinct pleasure of meeting larry watson and al lazarus (seaweed flamed 55). we yacked for about 3 hours which included lunch. larry gave me 4 packages of photo-copies of his 50' from the time ne bought it as a stocker, to the first stage of mild custom when he called it "the heartless" because of the hearts on the inside but not on the outside of the body, to the next stage of full custom w/ dark purple paint tagged "grapevine" and finally to the next change which was another complete repaint with the radical scallop job. he also gave me a nice poster of "the vine" done by steve stanford. larry is truly a fine friend. he has been very interested in seeing this project progress and has helped me with technical assistance and encouragement since he found out about it.
    (he lives in lapine now...randy) the grapevine and i reside in southern, Ca but we both get up to the eugene area as much as possible to see friends and family. in fact we were awarded the long distance trophy 2 years in a row at the springfield cruz
  8. i'll put more on the interior in a sec but I WANT EVERYBODY TO KNOW....RANDY DRIVES THIS THING EVERYWHERE!!!!!! the body is starting to crack but he is'nt going to fix it because it's a tribute to his sone who died after they built it. 56 chevy steering wheel on a 68 nova column 68 olds 442 gaugess j.c. whitney "reverb" w/speakers in package shelf, pearl white and mauve naugahyde w/burgundy piping by stan's auto upholstery eugen OR.
  9. so what do yall think?
  10. Slide
    Joined: May 11, 2004
    Posts: 3,026


    Very cool.... I've always admired the Grapevine. I'm partial to the simpler dark purple version, but I have a lot of respect for the radically scalloped version for it's place in custom car history.
  11. Thanks for all the info, Jon! Sure would love to see those 4 packets of copies Randy got from Larry. Bet that's some cool stuff!
  12. oh it is. havent heard from you in a while hows it going?
  13. Going well, Jon. Been working on this office thing and dreaming of working on cars again someday. LOL

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