Hydraulics

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A lifted version of Jim Logue's 1954 Ford Convertible, was completed in 1958. Jim used hydraulic lifts from aircraft surplus parts to raise and lower the front and rear suspension on his car. We have no exact date documenting when the build was completed, but we know that Jim's Ford had lifts installed when it was featured in Custom Cars February 1959. According to Jim, the photo shoot for that story took place September 30 of 1958, the day before his birthday. Jim can't remember exactly when he went over to Palleys to buy the hydraulics, but he claims that it was late in 1957 or early in 1958.
Ron Aguirre's 1956 Chevrolet Corvette, The X-Sonic, had been fit with hydraulics from an electric Port-A-Power tool by October of 1958. For many years the X-Sonic was acknowledged as the first car ever to use hydraulics to raise and lower the front suspension.
Tats Gotanda's 1959 Chevrolet Impala, also known as The Buddah Buggy received a full hydraulic system in 1962. Bill Hines, who restyled the car, installed the hydraulic lifts after meeting Ron Aguirre at a car show.
Ed Roth's Mysterion of Maywood, California. The build was completed in 1963, featuring a hydraulic operated rear suspsension.
Gordy Brown's 1963 Ford Thunderbird of San Fernando, California received lifts around 1963/1964. The Thunderbird was Gordy's first hydraulic job, and most of the parts were purchased at Palley's. Most people installing lifts in the 1960s used the lifts to lower the car as well as lifting it. Gordy was doing an old fashioned lowering job so the car had a good ride. The lifts were then used to raise the car up. Gordy operated House of Customs in San Fernando.
Gordy Brown's business card from House of Customs.
A drawing by Gordy Brown showing how he did all of his set ups.
Jim Boyd's 1963 Ford of Torrance, California. Jim's Ford received lifts by Bear in the first half of 1964. He began by installing lifts up front. Later on it did also receive lifts in the rear.
Mike Perello's 1960 Ford Starliner of Torrance, California. Mike's Starliner received lifts by Bear in the Summer of 1964. Mike decided to install hydraulics earlier the same year, after seeing Jim Boyd's 1963 Ford.
Richard Mikami's 1961 Chevrolet Impala of Gardena, California. Restyled in 1964, Richard's Impala featured hydraulic lifts by Bill Hines, a Pearl paint job by Joe Andersen and a custom upholstery by Russ and Bess. The car was known as "The Ant Killer"
Red Pierce's 1957 Oldsmobile as it looked in the mid 1960s. Red's Olds was fit with hydraulic lifts all around.
Joe Hurst's 1958 Chevrolet Impala had lifts installed by Red in the 1960s.
Dick & Ron's Custom of Huntington Park, California propably installed more lifts then anyone else in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Mike Davis.
Dick Sellars own Buick Riviera outside the shop in Huntington Park. Dick’s Riviera was shaved for handles, had lifts all the way around and ran Skylark wire wheels.
Mark Jorgenson's 1960 Chevrolet Impala was restyled in the mid 1960s featuring lifts up front by Dick & Ron's.
Sandy Gordon's 1961 Pontiac Bonnveille Convertible received a fadeaway paint job by Joe Andersen's Custom Shop in the summer of 1965. This version was also fit with hydraulic lifts.
A 1963 Pontiac that Gordy Brown restyled for an unknown owner at House of Customs in the mid 1960s. Gordy fit the car with lifts front and rear.
The first version of Bob Huffman's 1965 Chevrolet Impala, featuring a bumperless front end design, restyled rear end and Hydraulics on all four corners was completed in 1966.
Tom Chafin's 1963 Buick Riviera of South Gate, California had been fit with hydraulic lifts by 1966.
Jim Arkin's 1965 Chevrolet Impala of San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California received lifts on all four corners by Dick & Ron's in the summer of 1966.
Pete Limpert's 1936 Ford tudor sedan of Gardena, California. Pete built the car in the early to mid 1960s. Around 1966/1967 it received hydraulic lifts by Dennis "Red" Pierce.
Allen Duke's 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS of Wilmington, California received hydraulic lifts up front around 1966/1967. Allen had two black guys from Compton install the front lifts. Later on he installed lifts in the rear himself.
Milton Mills' 1965 Chevrolet Impala. In 1967 Bill Hines painted and installed hydraulic lifts on the car for Milton.
Steve Arnold's 1965 Chevrolet Malibu of Gardena, California. Steve was a member of the Tridents of Southern California car club. In 1967 Steve installed lifts on the Malibu.
Alexander Ruelas' 1965 Chevrolet Impala was originally restyled by Bill Hines around 1966/1967. The Impala had already lifts installed up front when it was restyled by Bill.
Carl Darling's 1961 Ford Starliner had lifts installed around 1967/1968. Carl installed the lifts on the car himself.
Mike Smith's 1962 Chevrolet Impala received lifts by Red late in 1967.
The display sign from Mike Smith's 1962 Chevrolet Impala.
Mike Smith's 1965 Buick Riviera, named "Lemon Drop", was built in 1966 or 1967, and it featured lifts by Dick and Ron
The display sign from Mike Smith's 1965 Buick Riviera.
Roger Squires' 1947 Chevrolet Fleetline was restyled by Roger Squires of Torrance, California in the late 1960s. Known as "Pastime", the car is a surviving example of the early lowrider style, and it was engineered and built to a standard that was unusual for the time. The first version of Roger's Fleetline was completed around 1968. Roger installed hydraulic lifts shortly thereafter.
Howard Gribble's 1966 Buick Riviera of Torrance, California received lifts by Dick and Ron in 1968. The custom paint job was applied by Bill Carter of Carter Pro Paint.
Andrew "Drew" Jackson's 1959 Chevrolet Impala of Long Beach, California. This photo shows the "Five Line" version of the car as it appeared in the early 1970s.
Howard Gribble's 1964 Chevrolet Impala of Torrance, California. Restyled by Starlite Rod & Kustom, Howard's Impala is a recreation of the Bloody Mary version of Allen Duke's 1964 Chevrolet Impala from 1969. The build was completed in December of 2014, featuring hydraulic lifts on all four corners. The lifts were installed by Starlite Rod & Kustom.

The First Hydraulic Lifted Cars

In 1957 a law was past by Gov. Brown against lowered cars in California. The law, named the California Vehicle Code 24008, which wasn't enforced until 1958, outlawed any car having any part of the car lower than the bottom of its wheel rim. Having the lowest car in Rialto, California, Ron Aguirre was constantly bugged by a cop named Lester Groves. Lester made it his #1 priority to give Ron tickets for being too low with his Corvette. This really bugged Ron, so after visiting a friends body shop seeing a bodyman pushing a dent out with a hydraullic Port-A-Power tool, Ron started to think. He looked at the ram and instantly got the idea to put this unit between the spring and frame to lift his car. Ron explained the idea to his dad Louie, who was a welder by trade. Louie started to make the cups Ron had designed to hold the rams. Ron had hoses made that would extend into the car, and he set the hand pump on the hump between the seats. Within three months after Ron had bought the car, he had installed the first of what was to be many versions of a hydraulic system in the car. Ron's Corvette would later evolve into a bubble top show car that gained national recognition as the X-Sonic. The X-Sonic was toured all over the United States, and it became known as the first car ever having hydraulic lifts to control the ground clearance. About the same time, and maybe even before Ron installed hydraulics on his Corvette, a Long Beach kid named Jim Logue installed hydraulics on his radically customized 1954 Ford as well. Wether or not Jim's car was fit wit hydraulic lifts before the X-Sonic is an ongoing discussion. Ron claimed that he had lifts from a Port-A-Power tool installed on the X-Sonic at least by October 1958. We know that Jim's Ford had lifts installed when it was featured in Custom Cars February 1959. According to Jim, the photo shoot for that story took place September 30 of 1958, the day before his birthday. Jim can't remember exactly when he went over to Palleys to buy the hydraulics, but he claims that it was late in 1957 or early in 1958. He had all of the original receipts from Palleys and from building the car, but these were unfortunately lost in a divorce.[1] While Ron's Corvette incorporated lifts to raise and lower the front suspension, Jim's Ford was fit with lifts on all four corners. Jim did also use hydraulic lifts to raise and lower the hood on his car.


House of Customs in San Fernando, California

In the early 1960s Utah passed a law against altered suspension. The law pretty much killed the custom scene in Utah, so Salt Lake City custom enthusiast Gordy Brown decided to pack his belongings and move to San Fernando in Southern California. In San Fernando, Gordy opened up a custom body shop named House of Customs. The first car Gordy built after moving to California was a 1963 Ford Thunderbird. After the car was finished, Gordy got a ticket for being too low, so he decided to instal hydraulic lifts on it around 1963/1964. The Thunderbird was Gordy's first hydraulic job, and most of the parts were purchased at Palley's in Los Angeles. The systems were 24 volt, and the fitting ends on the cylinders and pumps were AN Thread, a US Military spec which made making and connecting lines challenging, as in those days fittings and adapters were harder to find. Most people installing lifts in the 1960s used the lifts to lower the car as well as lifting it. Gordy was doing an old fashioned lowering job so the car had a good ride. The lifts were then used to raise the car up. As Gordy was using a great deal more of the spring in his systems, he had to create a cup for the longer spring. His mounting systems were also different as he used a plate welded to the hydraulic cylinder instead of a loose doughnut for the cylinder to push up against. Gordy also had an aluminum plug machined to fit inside the cylinder so that when the mounting plate was welded to the cylinder the plug would hold the cylinder true to shape and also work as a heat sink. Also being aluminum, the plug would not stick/weld to the inside of the cylinder, and it was easy to remove after the plate was welded to the cylinder. Gordy was making all lines for the system in Stainless Steel, and not rubber as others were using. His systems worked either the front or the rear of the car independently, and it had a Restrictor in the lines to keep the fluid from moving from one side to the other when turning with the lifts partially extended. All of Gordy's lifts were set up to sit no lower than 1 1/2 to 2 inches off the ground, as a safety factor in case a cylinder or line failed the car would still be driveable and not hit the ground. In 2014 Gordy told Kustomrama that his system were made for comfort, and did not slam up or down.[2]


Hydraulic Lifted Cars

Ed Roth's Mysterion
Pete Limpert's 1936 Ford Tudor Sedan
Roger Squires' 1947 Chevrolet Fleetline - Pastime
Jim Logue's 1954 Ford Convertible
Ron Aguirre's 1956 Chevrolet Corvette - The X-Sonic
Red Pierce's 1957 Oldsmobile
Joe Hurst's 1958 Chevrolet Impala
Andrew "Drew" Jackson's 1959 Chevrolet Impala - "Five Line"
Tats Gotanda's 1959 Chevrolet Impala - The Buddah Buggy
Mark Jorgenson's 1960 Chevrolet Impala
Mike Perello's 1960 Ford Starliner
Richard Mikami's 1961 Chevrolet Impala - The Ant Killer
Carl Darling's 1961 Ford Starliner
Sandy Gordon's 1961 Pontiac Bonnveille Convertible
Mike Smith's 1962 Chevrolet Impala
Tom Chafin's 1963 Buick Riviera
Gordy Brown's 1963 Ford Thunderbird
Jim Boyd's 1963 Ford
Allen Duke's 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS - Bloody Mary
Howard Gribble's 1964 Chevrolet Impala - Bloody Mary II
Mike Smith's 1965 Buick Riviera - Lemon Drop
Alexander Ruelas' 1965 Chevrolet Impala
Bob Huffman's 1965 Chevrolet Impala
Jim Arkin's 1965 Chevrolet Impala
Milton Mills' 1965 Chevrolet Impala
Steve Arnold's 1965 Chevrolet Malibu
Nick Hoogoian's 1965 Chevrolet Malibu
Howard Gribble's 1966 Buick Riviera
Howard Gribble's 1967 Chevrolet Impala


People and Shops Installing Hydraulic Lifts

Dennis "Red" Pierce
Dick & Ron's Custom
House of Customs


References






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