The Way to San Jose…
…apparently involved a maze.
Well, THE Maze, actually.
Recently, a conversation with a client (debating the merits of a few avenues we could travel with his ‘57 Ford) turned to one of my all-time favorite late-50’s customs, Jerry Devito’s “The Maze”.
The car is a great example of restyling at the time, employing seven scoops of Grande Brothers bodywork (not to mention shaved trim and handles, extended peaks over the tunneled head and tail lights) all covered in a green/gold, and finally, a topping of scallops in seven colors by Bob Hendricks. Outrageous? Certainly… Are we going to duplicate the car? Unlikely… but there are aspects of this car that are so “right”, it’s scary, and will make the final cut. (however, if anyone is up to creating a similar, maybe even a tribute car…. I’m ready for you!)
Dig on the stance for a bit… It’s awesome.
The right amount of sidewall on the tires, the chrome reverse wheels are incredible, and the lack of a rear hubcap hints at performance potential. Devito’s ride utilized the original engine, with the addition of an Offy three deuce intake, Isky cam, and the ever-popular Magspark ignition — we may go likewise! Interesting to note is that the car had some chrome engine dress-up parts… This was the era when such underhood detail began to gain ground… As the cars became lower and more “custom” in appearance from the factory, the emphasis on body modifications (current example exempted!) began to wane, and it was in vogue to simply drop the ride height, and go wild on paint. Consider that this same car, if built a couple of years later, may have worn thin whitewalls (Royal Masters, perhaps?), no lakes pipes, and the body restyling would have been decidedly different… ‘59 was the tail end of wide whitewalls, and the beginning of a steady decline of the “golden age” of customs.
In any event, I thought it would be cool to share this car, as it had a profound effect on me so many years ago when I first saw it, thumbing through some “little pages” at a family friend’s shop (imagine a kid in the ’80’s discovering this car in his VERY early teens… “impressionable” begins to describe it!). Later in life, I’d stumble across a piece of art by VonFranco featuring this car. Wild! While I’m certain many folks knew of the car, it was awesome to see it immortalized by a modern master in that way.
Odd fact: The car appeared in print wearing the stock front bumper on at least one occasion (as seen here):
and then later in print, with an odd split bumper and molded pan…
It seems that the car was wrecked sometime before early 1960, received a more radical body transformation, and, ironically, much more subtle paint. The front fenders saw the removal of ten inches from the front, effectively setting the upper headlamps deep in the body. A new grille shell and front pan houses more lights, and a pair of grille bars created from ribbed exhaust pipe (I built models like this as a kid!):
This round of custom work was done by Gene’s Body Shop in San Jose… anyone have info on them, or maybe any other notable customs? (how about Burns Upholstery while we’re asking? I swear, this thing is becoming an obsession! Any help is greatly appreciated.)
The car, in this version, has a style similar to the Trendero, built around ‘61 by Trend Automotive (in Lyons, IL!! See? Great mid-west customs from the early days!):
Anyway, the Maze, by this time, had gold paint, and no longer wore a rear bumper, utilizing a rolled pan and nerfs that shared their shape with the sloping “beaks” off of the roof scoops and tail lights.
Sadly, it’s another of those great customs that have disappeared. While we may no longer have many of these greats from the age of excess (although, the Trendero lives!!), we have the archives to study them from. Of course, seeking out info on this one car has led me through some amazing territory, and truly whetted my appetite to pen some late fifties/early sixties show customs… anyone up for something truly unique?
I had reported what I found through research on the car, and was left with a few lingering questions about the car… so I did what was natural, and asked for help finding those answers.
I was fortunate to not only find those answers, but got them FROM THE MAN HIMSELF! Mr. DeVito took time from his day to chat for a while, and I walked away from that great conversation with not only some fantastic insight, but a great new friend. I’ll report more on this soon, but wanted to share my excitement over meeting the man who created a car that left an impression on me as a car-struck kid, and one that always creeps into my imagination as I draw and design.
Suffice to say, there are a few facts that need ironing out from the first posts on this car (as I said, the research materials were limited), and we’ll do just that in subsequent posts… But to answer that nagging question about the split bumper treatment, they were ‘57 Pontiac units, and the change was made in the first year (after the peaks and scoops). Jerry’s inspiration was to always keep the car fresh, making changes after each show, always remaining at the of of his game…
We’ll trace the car’s history in the near future, from delivery at San Jose Ford in ‘57, through to its sale, and subsequent loss. Thanks for the interest, and especially to Mr. DeVito…