Owner: Jimmie Vaughan (Austin, TX)
Already a fan of the ’54 Ford body style, Jimmie says “The 54s came customized: one-piece windshield, wheel arch lips, flush skirts. All you do is clean ‘em up.”
The customizations on this car followed that thinking, with the major visual change being the grille treatment. The 54 grille was modified without the center bullet, and the outer bars removed. The grille surround and trim were reworked to look like the 55 Ford, and the taillights are ’56 Olds, frenched into the extended rear fenders. Otherwise the modifications are very traditional: nosed, decked, shaved an lowered to give the overall look of a mid-50s custom right out of the little books.
The clean choice of pure white and shimmering silver paint on the car is just a further example of the “subtle” design philosophy.
Owner: Jimmie Vaughan (Austin, TX)
The subtly, but extensively modified ’61 Coupe de Ville was customized with influences of Italian show cars , particularly Cadillacs built by Pininfarina.
The top was chopped two inches, and the back half of the roof replaced with a ’61 four-door sedan piece. The hood was pancaked and corners radiused and hinges constructed so the hood opens from the rear.
The body was dechromed and shaved and painted in a brilliant green lacquer, starting with a lime pearl base followed by a candy-green tinted clear. The final effect is a Watsonesque early to mid-60s appearance that changes dramatically with the light - a bright candy green look in mid-day sun to a softer pearlescent tones when the light is low.
Owner: "Mercury Charlie" Runnels (Austin, TX)
Refining the 1951 Mercury’s original profile into a streamlined dream was the result of extensive custom metalwork. The hood was nosed, shaved and all four corners of the hood rounded. The roof was chopped and sectioned ¾ of an inch at a spot just above where the drip rails had been, then split the top and added sheetmetal where necessary for a smooth fit. The new shape balances the chop and makes the profile flow smoothly from windshield to decklid. Adding to the long and low profile, the frenched headlight buckets have been extended and angled, complementing the fenders. The rear of the car incorporates the very rare 1955 Lincoln Capri taillights, whose housings, lenses and trim took years to find. Up front, the grille opening was modified into an oval formed by ’49 Mercury pieces and filled with a custom fabricated stainless insert matching a 50s era aftermarket insert.
Once the body was at last ready for paint, the deep “Playboy Purple” lacquer was custom mixed and sprayed out layer over layer until the desired effect was reached. The final color fades from purple to nearly black as light moves across the car.
Owner: Steve Wertheimer (Austin, TX)
Steve, the owner of the legendary Continental Club in Austin, TX – bought the 1957 Cadillac as a low mileage survivor in an auction. It wasn’t until the car got hit parked outside of the club one night that he took the stock car out to Gary’s shop to not just fix the damage, but to make the car the 50s era custom he had been dreaming about.
It was mildly customized: nosed, decked, shaved door handles and other cleaning up like removing fake scoops on rear quarters and a chrome strip on the front of the hood. Subtle touches like rounding the door corners give the big-bodied Cadillac a refined look.
As for the color, the custom champagne-like “lavender mist” hue was created to give the car a rich, luxurious feel fitting its Cadillac heritage. As Steve said, “I wanted it to look elegant. I envisioned this car parked in front of a big mansion with columns, with a couple in evening dress stepping out of it – just like the ‘50s Cadillac ads.”
Owner: Mike Young (Austin, TX)
This head-turning custom began as a stock 60 Chevy owned by Austin restauranteur Mike Young. His friend Jimmie Vaughan had gradually been talking him into doing a few things to the Impala, and after unsuccessfully trying to sell the car at one point, Mike decided to let Jimmie and Gary run with their ideas on transforming the car into a 60s era custom whose extensive body modifications and full on custom metalflake paintjob in the end resulted in a car Jimmie describes as “subtly outrageous”
Work began by Gary stripping the original paint and filling and molding the body seams, removing all the chrome trim. The fins were completely reshaped and rounded. The trunk was pancaked and taillight section was reshaped. The style line and indentation for the chrome trim scoop were removed, and lower front doors were rounded. On the front end, the hood and grill opening was extended and reshaped. The lower grille panel was molded to the radiator core support and front fender. 1963 Oldsmobile headlight housings were fitted up front as well as the hand formed aluminum grille. After the bodywork was considered done, and while the interior was begun – it was decided that the top really needed to be chopped, still keeping the 60 Chevy hardtop proportions, and then cutting and fitting all the glass, window and vent frames to work as stock.
After completing the bodywork and lowering the car, the final touch would be paint. Originally it was planned to be candy gold, and after being painted this color the team agreed it just wasn’t right. The gold color was sanded off and a new direction was pursued that used lots of abalone flake and multiple colors of pearl over white. Rod Powell came in at the end to lay out scallops and flames which were painted on top in a violet pearl color.
Owner: James Austin (Los Angeles, CA)
“Keep it simple” was the advice James got from Jimmie Vaughan and Billy Gibbons about customizing the truck James had been thinking of building since seeing an issue of Rod & Custom magazine from January 1959. Through his work on the radio and with Rhino records, James had come to know both musicians and been influenced by their custom automotive style.
Once James had finally acquired the truck after a long search, and done some modifications to it himself, he sought out Gary Howard to really bring his custom dream to life. Everything on the truck came down to bare metal and bodywork was done to prepare the truck for a quality paint job. The rear of the truck was brought down, C-notching the frame. Emblems and handles were shaved, a set of 1946 Ford taillights were fit under a hinged tonneau cover, stake post holes were filled, but elements like the “egg crate” grill insert were left unchanged, the philosophy of simplicity followed to look like great customs from the 50s and 60s.
A special color was mixed by Gary with white pearl, green and blue to result in a minty green color that shifts dramatically and can emulate a fade job under the right light. As James says, ”Doing this truck, I found out that less is more. Sometimes a nice color and the right stance are all it takes”