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California Style Customs Shop: Restyling – Bodywork – Painting

In the 1950s to early-’60s period the greater Los Angeles, California area was the home to many custom shops and repair and collision shops that also dabbled in “restyling” on the side.

Today’s feature image taken in Los Angeles on an unidentified street includes a side wall covered with signage for a combination body shop, auto sales, and repair garage operation, which is next to California Style Customs and its paint shop. According to the photo source, Leon Hardwick operated all of the business’ in both buildings.

  • The shop crew posed for the picture in front of the “Restying and Paint” shop.

The customizing shop “restyled” automobiles and also performed welding and body and possibly frame alignment work on the left-hand service bay of the building. Behind the crew posing in front of the Studebaker pickup truck and Harley-Davidson Servicar is the “Paint Shop” located on the right-hand bay of this building. To the left of the crew (above) appears to be a customized Kurtis or Muntz Jet.

In the enlargeable version of the lead photo (below) is a customized mid-1950s Cadillac two-door hardtop. The front of the vehicle was updated with quad headlights, the hood was “nosed” (trim removed) and scalloped tubes added on each side of it. The grille was revised with a simple mesh pattern insert.

The back of this custom was altered with large tail fins added on the top of the fenders similar to the type of fin used on the 1957 to ’58 Cadillac models. The rear end of the car was altered to accept different taillights, and the trunk lid may have been “decked” (trim removed) to match the hood.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph of courtesy of the CSUN Oviatt Library.

22 responses to “California Style Customs Shop: Restyling – Bodywork – Painting

  1. Shop showing ofc their work on the Caddy. Dual quads and small hood scoops . Cleaned up the grill too. Looks like a MuntzJet , or Kurtis again st the wall next to the dark Cadillac . Shop truck is a Studebaker pickup.

  2. Can’t see much, but I get the impression the rear quarters on the Caddy were probably done along the lines of the `54 Cadillac La Espada and El Camino Motorama cars. I see the bulge for what are probably `58-style taillamps, and the fins mimick the `58’s as well. Since I see no indication of what kind of rear bumper it has (nothing wrapped around the corner of the fender, anyway) I wonder if the customizers did a ‘roll pan’-type finish under the deck lid? Here again, a styling technique used on the `54 Motorama Caddies.

  3. The customized Cadillac is most likely a 1956 Eldorado Seville, which was the first year that the Eldorado was available in 2 door hardtop form. The fins on the rear fender were standard on both 1955 and 1956 Eldorado models, differing from the rest of the Cadillac line..

  4. The white Cadillac could be either a 1955 or 1956 Eldorado both of which came from the factory with the pictured fin/quarter panel.

  5. The customized car to the left of the crew is most likely a Muntz. The steel convertible roof was unique to the Muntz brand, and it appears as if the vehicle is the stretched version with a rear seat, a feature not available with the Kurtis.

  6. Are you sure that is a Harley Davidson Servicar? It seems that if it was a Servicar that the entire motorcycle would be standing vertically. The photo appears to show it leaning to the right, like it only has two wheels, and it is on its kick stand.

    • I don’t drink either, but I on w Lucky Pager was popular in the Northwest back then. It may have been from that part of the country.

      Too bad shops like that don’t exist today to do minor, non-structural body mods. If there were, I’d consider a new Lexus if someone could rework their ugly, overdone “spindle” grille, or a away to minimize the ” plastic trying to look like chrome” grille feature in many recent Acuras.

    • Lucky Lager was brewed in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was still in business in the 1980’s, that was the last time I drank it. It was cheap beer.

  7. Look up Muntz Jet for 1952 and you’ll see a car very much like the one in the photo, except in a two-tone white and black, in the opposite of this car. That car is referred to as the “Bailon” Muntz Jet, and here’s its description: “Built to special order by Freddy Martin, this Muntz Jet was modified by San Francisco customizer Joe Bailon into the car you see here. Martin actually purchased a stock Muntz Jet in 1952, but sent it to Bailon for a new look.” (BTW, Freddie Martin was a big-band leader)

    • Wasn’t the car you mention just lost in the California fires? I think it was part of the Duncan (??) collection. That along with 20 or 30 other cars. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  8. Lucky Lager was a very popular beer in southern California . There was a popular radio show called “Lucky Lager dance time” in the mid 50’s and 60’s in the LA area

  9. I’m fascinated by where this shop might have been located. I think it is in L.A.
    All I’ve been able to determine is the “Republic” telephone exchange was in the Adams District, which as near as I can tell, is just south of today’s Korea Town. It’s hard to tell though, because the 735 (REpublic-5) prefix is no longer used. Lucky Lager was a popular beer in L.A. back then.

    • In 1957 the phone number REpublic2-4109 was at 1629 6th Ave. in “Arlington Heights” district. The numerical address of >3401< would put ‘California Style Customs" on a the southwest corner of a Jefferson Blvd. intersection and I’ve looked at every one of ‘em between Vermont and S. La Brea from space, but so much has changed in 65 years. (That background apartment building!)

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