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History What Ever Happened to..........?

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by OG lil E, Apr 19, 2016.

  1. Hey Everybody,

    As many of you who know me, you know I'm a custom/kustom guy. I can appreciate the effort that goes into a hot rod, but sleds are where it's at for me. Growing up with a Dad who appreciated customs, as well as a family that always had lowriders, I guess I was bound to end up liking big ol' bombs.

    Pops used to take me to car shows and cruise nights a lot, and he always talked of how he would have liked to own a '49 Merc. His interest in leadsleds got me started. Another thing that got me interested in them were a few movies and TV shows. We all love American Graffiti, and, as corny as it sounds, I loved Happy Days, especially the first few seasons when a lot of the show was filmed in the parking lot of Arnold's Drive-In. Something else that helped spark my interest were the magazines of the late 70s and early 80s. Custom Cars by Hot Rod, Classic and Custom, Lowrider, Car Craft and so on always had some great cars in them. A new magazine could send me into a frenzy. I used to talk customs with a few of my friends that "got it", but unfortunately, most guys my age had no idea what we were talking about. They were into muscle cars, sports or just chasing girls.

    One of my good friend's Dad in high school was a big car fan. Mr. Robins never built a hot rod or custom car of his own, but he always had tons of magazines, and him and his son, my friend Jim, were always regulars at all the big drag racing events up at Bandimere Speedway. I used to love to go over to Jim's house, not just to do kid stuff, but to dig through Mr. Robins' beloved collection of little books. Jim used to wonder why I'd rather look at them instead of the latest issue of Hot Rod or Drag News. I couldn't explain it to him other than I loved the old taildraggers, and the neat old ads with the car goodies like Lee Lenses, hubcaps and dummy spots in those issues. Even today, when I dig out a little magazine, I still get the same giddy feeling I used to get in the Robins' basement as a little kid.

    My cousin was the first person to show me a copy of Classic and Custom, and I was the one who first showed him the Custom Cars by HR mags. I remember how we were introduced to the KKOA in them and we wondered what it was all about. As each new issue came out we managed to figure it out, and we always talked about building a chopped car and going to the Leadsled Spectacular.

    Over the years I have read a lot about the KKOA, collected some of the videos of them, and I've attended quite a few shows. I've met a lot of the people who built cars back then, and many are still at it. There are some super people out there! Inevitably, over time, there are cars and people that you see all the time, and then suddenly they are gone. A lot of times nobody knows what happened to them. I've always wondered "what ever happened to......."?

    With all that being said, I've decided to try something out here. I'm always watching my car videos, reading magazines as well as surfing the internet. In my watching and reading, there are always cars and people that I wonder what ever became of them. A lot of the famous cars and builders we know their story, but what about the little guy that built the majority of his car himself in his little garage or back yard, and maybe only went to shows a few years and then disappeared? Or a guy that built a new car every two or three years and then it stopped. Did he quit building cars and take up fishing? Did he pass away? Did he move away and is still doing his thing but in a new location? I think this might intrigue others here as well. Where are they?

    So, we'll see how this goes. I'll use the KKOA shows as a platform, and the magazines from the early 80s, since I have some of the videos and quite a few magazines. They are a good resource to see cars and their owners through video "interviews", and magazine articles. I'm just going to concentrate on average Joes, since we all pretty much know the famous builders and well known cars.

    What I'll do is post a car with a few pictures that I've managed to scour up, as well as the owner's name and where he (or she) was from, as well as a little information about the car. If any of you out there has information about the car's whereabouts, or the owner, post it here. I'll try to post a different car and owner about once a week or so, depending on how much response there is and added information about the car and owner/builder. My spellings and locations may be a little off, but I'll do the best I can to get it right.
    I'm sure there will be some mysteries that we may not be able to solve, but it might be fun for us to put all the pieces together.

    Before I get started, I'd like to give credit where credit is due. I'd like to thank Rikster and his photo archive site, as well as a lot of the picture contributors such as Kustom Lincoln Lady, Peter Pan of Chicago as well as many others.
    I'd also like to thank Jerry Titus and the KKOA for their part in getting the custom movement going again way back when. The KKOA may have changed a lot over the years, and many folks have had their differences with them, but we can't forget what they did for the custom movement.
    A special thanks also goes out Doug Reed and Rowdie productions, as well as Video Bob Huff and Action Video for the videos they made to document each show and give us a visual record of how these shows were back then.
    And of course, last but not least, I'd like to thank Ryan and the HAMB staff for their hard work in giving us all a place to play and connect.

    Well, enough rambling. Here's the first "What Ever Happened To..........?

    1950 Merc
    Owner: Richard "Dick" Crouthers
    Waukegan, Illinois
    I don't know too much about the car other than it had a 392 Hemi, was mostly owner built and rode very low with no hydraulics (and of course no air bags). It was on the cover of Custom Cars by HR Volume 2 #2, and was featured on page 56. Dick was also interviewed on the 1983 Leadsled Spectacular video. Kool Merc that I remember seeing in a lot of magazines in the early 80s and then it faded away..........E

    Dick Crouthers 50 merc a PPoC.jpg Dick Crouthers 50 merc b PPoC.jpg Dick Crouthers 50 merc c PPoC.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2016
    wingnutz, Darryl Deir, BigO and 15 others like this.
  2. As another kustom fanatic, I feel this will turn into a great post! This is a topic that Jeff Myers and I have been discussing a lot lately. I think of the cars in the Custom Cars by Hot Rod Magazine or the two KKOA books and wonder where they are..... They were well received but then just seem to have dropped out...... I suppose some were sold and painted/changed over the years. Hopefully even those will come to light as I too would like to know about the continued story of these cars.

    And Lil E, I commend you on leading off with the Crouthers Merc. That car made a HUGE impression on this young (at the time) fan of kustoms!
    Darryl Deir, Sprout and OG lil E like this.
  3. That car did it for me when I saw it in HRM in the 80s!
    Darryl Deir and OG lil E like this.
  4. I found this 2012 post from a990hemi that states Richard still owned it in the same condition at that time.

    "Crouthers customized his Merc back in the 50s and utilized 14 inch wheels for some added lowness since his OEM Merc suspension was somewhat limited. Dick used to drive this car all over the Midwest grinding one set of lake pipes flat each season and he still owns the car in this condition today."
    volvobrynk, kiwijeff and OG lil E like this.
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  5. Don't have access to them at the moment as my laptop is at the dr's, but I have pics of this car painted brown that I took at a local car show in Wisconsin. I'll have to look at the dates, not sure if that was before or after is was orange. Never realized it was the same car until I think @00mack pointed it out. Glad to hear it's still around with the same owner/builder no less.
    Sancho and OG lil E like this.
  6. Wow, thanks for the replies guys! I think we may be on to something here. This is exactly what I was hoping this post would do--give us a record of some great customs and owners from those times that we were all crazy about. They may not be real famous or remembered by most people, but for the small group of us that saw them or read about them, they are burned into our memories forever..........E
    Spooky, Moriarity and Sancho like this.
  7. Thanks for this reply Sancho. I'd like to hope Mr.Crouthers' is still with us.
    Wouldn't it be great to have some kind of reunion of all these cars and owners, either with or without each other (car and owner)? Maybe a small corner at the CCR or the Leadsled Spectacular or any other big show?
    I know it would be almost impossible, with a lot of the cars being unaccounted for, many owners that are up in years, and sadly, a lot that have passed on.
    It would be nice to be able to get to know these guys and let them know we appreciate what they did for the custom movement and that they are not forgotten..........E
    Moriarity, williebill and Sancho like this.
  8. DrDave, I found your pics in a post from 2012, and according to 00 Mack these are PRIOR to the orange paint/scallops.


    VonKool13, Darryl Deir, BigO and 11 others like this.
  9. Bitchin'! I love the car in orange and gold, but the black (or is it brown?) is sweet too. In my opinion, this Merc had one of the best chop profiles around! E
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  10. Bummer.....This is one part of this thread that will sting a little. Finding out how many of our custom brethren have passed away.
    It's ironic. I've been thinking about starting this post for months, and once I post it, I find out that Richard passed away just over a month ago. Sometimes life is strange.
    Rest in peace Mr. Crouthers..........E
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
    Moriarity and Sancho like this.
  11. Yup, those are the pics alright....long before I learned to wait until the onlookers were out of the way before snapping the shutter. lol

    Sad to hear he has passed.
    quick85 likes this.
  12. stanlow69
    Joined: Feb 21, 2010
    Posts: 3,403

    from red oak

    Great intro to the beginnings of a great thread. What you wrote sounded like my childhood attending KKOA show as a kid riding in the back of a Custom. And reading old magazine in my buddys basement while he played pool. The custom movement was growing at an amazing pace. There were a lot of cars that had major impacts on people and inspired them to work on projects of there own. Just mention the names of people and somehow I can remember the car they had. I wish I could of met them all. In the past few years I`ve been making up for lost time. I heard the Dick wore out 3 sets of lake pipes in one year. The car was that low.
    Darryl Deir, Sancho and OG lil E like this.
  13. 49toad
    Joined: Jun 12, 2005
    Posts: 320


    Thanks for starting this post. You see so many new customs on Facebook every week, but where are the old customs.
    I hope this will bring to light what happened to them. I know they are out there some where. So lets keep this going.
  14. Thanks for the compliment Doug! When I put this post together, I had guys like you in mind---the people that were there. I hope you guys can add any and all info that you might have, and together we can make this a great thread for information and history of the cars and people from those days.
    I'll have another car to add to this thread tomorrow evening. Stay tuned..........E
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  15. Hot Rods Ta Hell
    Joined: Apr 20, 2008
    Posts: 3,833

    Hot Rods Ta Hell

    Great idea for a thread. I seem to recall Couthers Merc had a sticker in the quarter window that said "No Hydraulics".

    I dug the car as well as Zocchi's Coo 50 and Curly Tremaine's (Rod Powell shop) chopped Merc. They were all part of the 80's Custom resurgence.

    Sorry to hear of Crouther's passing. Sadly, that'll be the case for a lot of old Custom owners.
    I've known guys that went broke (divorce, lost job, bankrupt business) and unloaded their car. Some guys get burned out on Rods or Customs and go golfing or switch to another type of car (or Bike, or racing) interest.

    Some cars are totaled or stolen and never recovered.
    A LOT of cars are sold to overseas buyers.
    I bet a lot of cars have been torn down for a good intentioned rebuild or makeover and are currently collecting dust in a garage somewhere-be it the original owner or a new owner.

    I always wondered what happened to Los Angeles area metal man Al Hellerud? He worked at Kolor Me Kustom (70's, 80's?) which did a lot of off topic Mini trucks, etc, but did do some traditional stuff too. There were always a lot of good Custom how to articles in magazines featuring his work (shaved door handles, taillights, etc.). He was one of the most prolific top choppers of the era.
  16. You're right Hot Rods, Kolor Me Kustom was a big time kustom shop in the late 70s and early 80s. They had a collection of metal workers, body men and painters that could rival any shop, anywhere. Shop owner "Mini" Vini Bergman, Al Hellerud and Larry Kenny just to name a few. You can pick up almost any Truckin' Magazine and the like from those days, and there would be an article where one of the guys from Kolor Me Kustom was doing a chop, frenching taillights, making a swing-to-the side tail gate or whatever. It was going crazy and all of a sudden the KMK articles stopped.
    Most guys in the auto body and paint industry are flighty, and a disagreement or a better job offer arises and they'll pack up their tool box and haul ass. I'd guess that maybe this happened and the crew disbanded over time, or the owner decided to close up the shop and buy a 7-11 franchise or some other business venture, and another historical shop fades away into history..........E
    username, Spooky, Moriarity and 2 others like this.
  17. Speed Gems
    Joined: Jul 17, 2012
    Posts: 2,219

    Speed Gems

    I could start a whole new thread on rude people at car shows now days. years ago people would notice you trying to take a picture and stop now days people see you trying to take a picture and go stand if front of the car, some days you just want to throw your smart phone at them and yell get the #### outta the way! :mad: I always liked this Merc because its an old custom Merc lead sled with a Chrysler 392 in it. I think the car appeared in the '87 Hot Rod yearbook with and article on it.
    Darryl Deir and OG lil E like this.
  18. Slopok
    Joined: Jan 30, 2012
    Posts: 2,271


    If you want them to move just say SMILE and you be surprised how many people will move outa the way. Works for me.
  19. It's Tuesday again, so it's time to post another forgotten custom.

    Here's number two of What Ever Happened To..........?

    1950 Merc
    Owner: George Beluscsak
    Chesterland, Ohio

    This car is a rolling textbook of custom modifications. The chopped top has great lines, and the Buick chrome dividing the unusual yellow and brown two-tone really works. What really sets this Mercury apart from so many others is the front end. The use of the 'Vette grille, Buick headlights and the '53 Ford front bumper with Kaiser bumper guard is a unique combination. Awesome bubble skirts that are a few inches off the ground just add to the coolness.
    The interior is pleated everywhere in yellow tuck'n'roll. I think this is the only custom I've ever seen upholstered in yellow. Cheesy? Over the top? Maybe, but on this car it worked.
    Note the under-dash 8 track player. Wonder what George was listening to on his way to the show where the photos were shot. Elvis? The Platters? The American Graffiti Soundtrack? Would be fun to know.
    It was on the cover of Custom Cars by HR Volume 1 #5, and was double featured on page 20 and page 46. According to my research, it was at the '81 Leadsled Spectacular in Wichita, and the'82 Leadsled Spectacular in Des Moines. I think I spotted it in the '85 video in Springfield, Ohio, but you can't see for sure if it is George's Merc or another yellow one. I've been searching my other videos and magazines and I haven't found any other coverage of it. This car was pretty elusive for as over-the-top as it was. I'm still searching for more coverage of it, but after the glimpse of it in the '85 video, it seems to have disappeared..........E

    George Beluscsak 50 merc.jpg

    George Beluscsak 50 merca.jpg

    George Beluscsak 50 mercb.jpg

    George Beluscsak 50 mercc SPC.jpg

    George Beluscsak 50 mercd.jpg

    George Beluscsak 50 merce.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2016
    Darryl Deir, Too Tall, Ron and 8 others like this.
  20. Found this on Rikster's site. Are both photos of the same car? Did it go overseas?
    IF it is, then it has been changed considerably.
    Darryl Deir, Ron and OG lil E like this.
  21. The caption is apparently Swedish. I ran it through a google translator and got this:

    Even a 1950 Mercury Coupe was custom during Kalle's hand. The car was readn choppad but Donald continued to build and the gush ljningen was taken only furnishings and paint . The car is one of the more famous kustombyggena in the United States , since it has been shown in several newspapers.
    Darryl Deir likes this.
  22. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 14,703

    Staff Member

    Looks like the same car to me. that would explain why we have not seen it at any of the shows since the '80's
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  23. I'd say it is George's car. The '53 Ford bumper is a dead giveaway. It would be nice to find out when the Swedish article was written. E
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  24. stanlow69
    Joined: Feb 21, 2010
    Posts: 3,403

    from red oak

    In about80 or 81, it was in Hot Rod magazine with 53 Caddy hub caps and no pinstripping.
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  25. I've had a heck of a time finding more information about this Merc in my magazines. About a year ago I had a flood in my basement and I lost a lot of magazines from the early 80s. Thankfully my favorite magazines are stored upstairs in a spare closet.
    I'm beginning to think the articles I've been looking for were in those magazines that were destroyed. E
    Moriarity likes this.
  26. Hate to hear that Lil E. Having dealt with a basement flood myself I can relate.
    OG lil E likes this.
  27. Great and a bud talk about this all the time....hope it grows
    Sancho and OG lil E like this.
  28. Oh yeah, floods definitely suck! When I see some of the big floods on TV in places like Texas and the Midwest, I can relate to the misery.
    Since the flood, I got new shelving and raised everything way up off the floor. If it floods again high enough to damage what is left, it will be a major catastrophe here at home! E

    Thanks tiki! We're trying to get this thread rolling. With all the great c/kustom folks here on the HAMB, I think a lot of the mysteries associated with these cars might be solved.
    If not, it's nice to bring some forgotten cars and owners back into everybody's minds again and give them the credit they are due..........E

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