Register now to get rid of these ads!

History The Death Of Harry Westergard

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by Ryan, Sep 1, 2021.

  1. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,843

    Ryan
    ADMINISTRATOR
    Staff Member

    Ryan submitted a new blog post:

    The Death Of Harry Westergard

    [​IMG]

    Continue reading the Original Blog Post
     
  2. Torchie
    Joined: Apr 17, 2011
    Posts: 1,076

    Torchie
    Member

    He created a blueprint for customs that still echos through to today. Prior to him its was more of a "Coach built" thing if you wanted something other then a production car. Harry Westergard put Custom cars into the reach of the everyday person.
    I think the article (What I can read of it) treats this accident as just more sensationalism against "Hot Rodders" then anything else.
    Of course the temptation to wonder what his later builds would have looked like is always going to be there. I'm just glad that he is still remembered.
    Torchie
     
  3. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,843

    Ryan
    ADMINISTRATOR
    Staff Member

    Guys of the later 1950's were building cars that seemingly justified their modifications as part of a scoring system of sorts... where the best car won by overwhelming a build sheet. More is better...

    Westergard though... he came from coach building. He didn't seem to be putting much effort into anything other than improving the lines of his cars. To me, this is a much more sophisticated approach than those used by the folks that followed him.

    As for the news article, I'd almost be more appreciative if the newsmen linked him to hot rodding and street racing. But they didn't at all... He was just some dude in a sports car. Understandable... I mean, especially at the time, Westergard wasn't really a household name.
     
  4. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,672

    Hamtown Al
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    For all the details in the article, I'm surprised they didn't identify the sports car.
    Westergard was absolutely an artist. Such a tragic end for such a great guy. I think he is the reason I became so fond of 1936 Fords.
     
    41 GMC K-18 and kidcampbell71 like this.

  5. 31Apickup
    Joined: Nov 8, 2005
    Posts: 2,760

    31Apickup
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Freeport blvd runs next to an airport which dates back to the 1930’s, most likely a good place to crank it up at 2:30 am. If I remember correctly he was in a Thunderbird.
    Have to agree his customs were very clean in style.
     
  6. Tman
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 34,893

    Tman
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Simple and elegant, he embodies the art deco age. I put him in the same category of Buckminster Fuller only Harrys vision was more refined and focused.
     
  7. Now I'm curious as to what "sports car" he was driving? A raw talent gone way too soon.
     
  8. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 49,774

    squirrel
    Member

    55 Tbird, according to other accounts.
     
    41 GMC K-18 and kidcampbell71 like this.
  9. He did build some of the nicest customs during his day, but my all time favorite build he did is a hot rod, the 1923 roadster he built for Rico Squglia (not sure of the spelling of his last name), but I have the images saved on my computer.

    Funny think is he wasn't known as a hot rod builder but he sure knew how to build a beauty, it was on the cover of hot rod magazine in the earl 50's. which is evident when it won Americas Most Beautiful Roadster in 1951. HRP

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,672

    Hamtown Al
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    From Kustomrama encyclo:

    The Crash
    In 1955 Harry bought himself a brand new 1955 Ford Thunderbird. After loosing a street race against two cops in a brand new Buick, he decided to hop the car up, so he ordered an Iskendarian cam from Bertolucci's Body and Paint Shop. Harry loved to race, and one late Sunday night April 29, 1956 he raced along the River Road, heading back home to Sacramento from Walnut Grove. A guy pulled out in front of Harry, Harry was going at least 100 miles an hour when he tried to swerve to miss the car. He hit a three at full speed, and died in the crash. The car came off in two parts, split on the middle.

    At the time he died, Harry had been divorced from his wife, and he was really broken up. He quit doing metalwork and started to work for a muffler shop instead. When Dick Bertolucci heard this he went straight over to Harry and told him that he was wasting his talent. Dick offered Harry twice as much as he was earning in the muffler shop if he would begin working for Dick instead. Harry accepted, and when he died he had been working for Dick Bertolucci at Bertolucci's Body and Paint Shop for 6 months.

    Harry was buried at the City Cemetery in Sacramento. Thousands of cars attended Harry's funeral. In an interview with Garage Magazine, Dick Bertolucci told that the day after Harry died, he called Iskendarian to cancel that cam order for Harry's Thunderbird.


    Still a sad, sad, ending.
     
  11. Dang…
     
    Hamtown Al likes this.
  12. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 30,013

    Mr48chev
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Dang and only 40 years old. I have to agree with Torchie and Ryan in that Harry Westergard's work was a coach built style of improvements rather than chasing points at car shows as we saw way too much horrid work done in later years in the name of getting show points for modifications.
    A lot of guys today could do well to study his work and see that having every mod blend into the total package is far nicer than adding something that overpowers the rest of the car or just flat doesn't blend in with the build.
     
  13. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 27,399

    Jalopy Joker
    Member

    bet that his exhaust work was a thing of beauty
     
    kidcampbell71 and 302GMC like this.
  14. Bdamfino
    Joined: Jan 27, 2006
    Posts: 365

    Bdamfino
    Member
    from Hamlet, NC

    The few photos I have seen of Westergard, and I can't recall if they were from the Bertolucci article in Rod and Custom or one of Tex Smiths' Roaring Roadster books, he was always smiling and well dressed, favored Jack Benny somewhat. I wonder if that fatal T- bird had any leadwork, any subtle mods like Doane's car? I agree, he emphasized the fluidity of a car, rather than modifying for the sake of it. And, as someone else said, just 40 when he died, to think how many more customs he still had in him....
     
    kidcampbell71, catdad49 and Hnstray like this.
  15. choptop40
    Joined: Dec 23, 2009
    Posts: 4,005

    choptop40
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    thanks Ryan....you are a gem sir....
     
  16. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,843

    Ryan
    ADMINISTRATOR
    Staff Member

    Rod Powell invited me to a lunch with a whole mess of legendary customizers while at the Roadster show one year. Dick was at my table and he told the story of the wreck. He mentioned that the thunderbird was hot rodded... and was "fast as hell." But I don't believe it was customized much.

    At the time, Harry was just getting comfortable with the idea of building custom cars again after going through a rough patch of sorts...
     
  17. Torchie
    Joined: Apr 17, 2011
    Posts: 1,076

    Torchie
    Member

    To be sure Harry was the step from "Coach Built" to what we now know as Custom cars.
    The guys that worked with him, Bertolucci and a young George Barris, weren't points chaser when they started out. Their early cars were as clean and flowing as could be. By the mid 50's that would change.
    The life span of any art form( In its purest state) is relatively short before it becomes corrupted. Mainly by people trying to out do each other by putting a Mustache on the Moan Lisa..
    And I agree with you Ryan. When he passed, I don't believe his name was that well known outside of custom circles and mostly in California I suspect.
    How many of his builds actually got national coverage in the Car mags of the time?
    Torchie
     
  18. banditomerc
    Joined: Dec 18, 2005
    Posts: 2,322

    banditomerc
    Member

    Westergard was a trendsetter. His creations were truly well thought out. His and Bertolucci customs pulled me into the custom arena..
     
    kidcampbell71 and catdad49 like this.
  19. Westergard is also one of my, if not the, favorite customizer as well. I think it is the "less is more" aspect that works so well. Especially as noted compared to the modify everything philosophy.
     
  20. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 8,619

    anthony myrick
    Member

    Clean, seemingly simple (compared to later show customs) well proportioned cars.
    Still influencing decades later
     
    kidcampbell71 likes this.
  21. BamaMav
    Joined: Jun 19, 2011
    Posts: 5,089

    BamaMav
    Member
    from Berry, AL

    That era set the bar for customs, and Westergard was the leader. Others followed his style, some with more success than others. When customs became circus wagons with changes just for making points, real customs like Westergard envisioned died off. Sad he died so young, I think his influence might have kept a lots of cars from turning into the messes we saw come out of the late 50's and 60's.
     
    Torchie likes this.
  22. catdad49
    Joined: Sep 25, 2005
    Posts: 5,217

    catdad49
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    There is a Reason why the "Westergard" style will Never go away. Those that Get It will understand, Subtle and Smooth
     
  23. Yes - it was the T-Bird and it was said it had a 2x4 set up - could that be possible ?
     
  24. Dangerousdan
    Joined: Apr 12, 2018
    Posts: 269

    Dangerousdan
    Member
    from Arizona

  25. Should be an Interesting article (if I could read it). Anyone who computers well know how to "blow up" these newspaper articles? I will admit he only influenced me a tiny bit....
    99120479_3207929085905610_5532792809330835456_n (2).jpg
     
    stillrunners likes this.
  26. He's the cornerstone for me.
     
    rod1 likes this.
  27. chopolds
    Joined: Oct 22, 2001
    Posts: 5,967

    chopolds
    Member
    from howell, nj
    1. Kustom Painters

    A custom icon, gone too soon!
     
  28. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 19,843

    Ryan
    ADMINISTRATOR
    Staff Member

    Here ya go:

    harry.jpg
     
    stillrunners likes this.
  29. A true artist who knew proportions and subtle changes to enhance what was already there.
     
  30. The Westergard look in my 37 Ford . The body shop copied Westergard Packard grille when they chopped the top in 1948 . DSC00402.JPG
     
    stillrunners and Hamtown Al like this.

Share This Page

Register now to get rid of these ads!

Archive

Copyright © 1995-2021 The Jalopy Journal: Steal our stuff, we'll kick your teeth in. Terms of Service. Privacy Policy.

Atomic Industry
Forum software by XenForo™ ©2010-2014 XenForo Ltd.