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"Factory" Customs vs. other Customs


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I'm still trying to figure this out:   A lot of members scoff at customized cars, but examples like this Continental and Bill Knudsen's Cadillac lomo are revered, displayed and even entered at Hershey. Many other custom cars were impeccably built/restored (i.e. the Hirohito Mercury, etc), but get short shrift from many members. There is often resistance to their being shown along with "factory customs" (and I don't mean concept cars-which is another topic altogether) and criticized in the forums. Is the difference the fact that some industry big-wig commissioned the car and the limitless resources of his company paid an undisclosed amount to build it? ...or the plain and simple fact that other customs, despite their arguably improved design and flawless workmanship, are "modified" from the way they were originally manufactured and most probably modified after they were originally sold as "factory stock/original" cars? 


Maybe I am missing the whole point. To be a recognized custom by the powers that be, must it be a recognized classic first? Then it follows that the customization should have been preformed by either the manufacturer or a recognized custom body builder. But updating an earlier classic model car with later model parts (i.e. skirted fenders, disk wheels, etc, by an owner or unknown party) does not seem to disqualify it from being a "recognized " custom.


There have been a number of trends initiated by common customizers that were picked up by the industry . A few of them from the '50's and '60's were the return of the shift lever to the floor, bucket seats, styled [aluminum/racing] wheels, vibrant/new colors, the disappearance of bright exterior trim, and the list goes on. I'm sure an historian could name other popular custom trends from earlier times that found their way into production automobiles. (This, too, could become a topic in itself.)


In the last few years, high quality, historically significant ("non-classic") customs and even hot rods have made inroads (no pun intended) to respectability, appearing at higher end shows, but many attitudes have not changed.


Personally, I don't think either one of these pictured "factory customs" is particularly attractive, especially the finned Mark II. 

Other examples of recognized customs are the limousines designed and built for the wives of Edsel Ford and Walter Chrysler. which I also find less than attractive.


I'd really like to see some serious discussion concerning the points I have expressed, and how others define, classify, and recognize custom built (one-off) automobiles.

Your replies will be appreciated. '38 Cadillac 16 -Knudsen's limousine.jpg


48 lincoln ms ford.jpeg


chrysler lomo.jpg

Edited by f.f.jones
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Custom cars are appreciated.   There is a sliding scale based on a number of factors:


1.  When was the car built?   Was it done on a new chassis in period?

2.  Was the builder a professional or a home builder?    A commissioned job for an important client is much better than a spec job.

3.  How is the builder ranked in the pantheon of custom builders?

4.  How well was it done?

5.  What does it look like?



A car built in period by a known shop or manufacturer that is attractive is held in much higher regard than something somebody built in their spare time after work using a 5 year old used car.



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I have studied and collected period material on coach built cars since the late 1960s, have a reasonably extensive archive of cars built both here in the USA and in Europe as well as correspondence and communications with the people involved in designing as well as building the actual cars . Rudolph Creteur who was a primary part of Rollston/Rollson and I used to regularly go to lunch in the early 1970s.  What A.J. says and lists is what one can abide by when looking at a custom car. The definition became some what clouded in the post WWII era when the hot rod group had "customizers" building their cars. "Factory customs" could also include a small run of coach built bodies designed for a car company and ordered by them from a coach builder in a small quantity - not one of a kind. Dietrich did this for Franklin with the open and enclosed 'speedster' ( which in fact was a club sedan and a convertible sedan) as one example.

As A.J. mentions what time period are we talking about, even if pre WWII when ? 1920s, 1930s? ( early of late in the 1930s?) that in my opinion does determine more of what can be called a factory custom. There is no instant, 2 second answer to that question . It is like saying " the car is blue" - what shade of blue?  Gray-blue, light, dark , reddish - blue.

You "want cereal" for breakfast, ok, hot, cold, grain, flake, .......I am not being nit picky just trying to be sure all definitions may be considered.

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While the car hobby has many adherents from brass era purists, to vintage pre-war enthusiasts, to 50's fins lovers to muscle car huggers, hod-rodders, highly customized, low-riders, tuner cars and on and on. In particular the "old car hobby" is generally the audience for AACA, and the vast majority of its members I would guess have a clear preference for cars as they came from the factory and their story, whether survivors, well preserved or restored to what ever level the owner can afford. This "as they came from the factory" tag seems to unite most members, "the preservation of and history of Automobiles". That can include appreciation of cars that had custom bodies fitted by coachbuilders in the same factory, or by outside builders in period. It can also include in some instances "re-bodied" cars, a common practice with high-end cars back in the 20'-40's (putting a speedster on a tired Sedan chassis). 


Once you leave this general preference of AACA members, the discussion opens up the can of worms to a wide variety of opinion, objection, tolerance, understanding, and sometimes stark difference of view. This is often exasperated by topics that open up discussion on cars that don't represent the philosophy of AACA, the preservation and restoration of vintage vehicles. With thousands of members, some will be very tolerant understanding and just move on. Others will be intolerant, dug in and argumentative. Much like old cars, it comes with age!  

Edited by Gunsmoke (see edit history)
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I think the deciding factor here is if you ordered it from the car factory or dealer it's fine but if you did it yourself it's not. 


Personally speaking I find the whole thing kind of silly. By thing I mean "judging a car which you didn't create or put any personal touch on and which anyone could own an exact duplicate of with time and money"

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I think Walt has the correct approach to such a broad question. Otherwise there would be someone saying this type of car was customized by “dave s” would qualify as no one else has one that is exactly like it. LOL. 
dave s 



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