Bill Cushenbery's El Matador

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Photo from the Andy Southard Collection.
Photo from the Andy Southard Collection.
A postcard of the El Matador from The Roger Lick Collection. The photo on the card is credited to Ron Freeman.
The backside of the postcard.
The El Matador at an indoor car show. Photo courtesy of Dave Jenkins.
In April of 1962 "The El Matador" was one of the Featured Cars at the 1962 Ram Rods Rod and Custom Car Show in Washington D.C..
A photo of the El Matador taken in front of Cushenbery Custom Shop. Developed in September of 1964, the radical custom is displayed next to a couple of huge trophies in the photo. Photo from The Roger Lick Photo Collection.
The car as it sat after the fire in 1993
The car as it appeared in 1994 after Harold Murphy and his firm Murphy & The Striper had restored the car.
The Coupe as it sat in 2010 when it was advertised for sale at the upcoming Ft. Lauderdale Beach Collector Car Auction.
Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of
In May of 2021 the El Matador was offered for sale at the Mecum Indy 2021 auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It was part of the Saturday Collector Car Lots. It received a $60,000 Bid and did not sell. Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

1940 Ford restyled by Bill Cushenbery around 1960. The car is also known as the El Matador, and was designed by Bill Cushenbery and Don Varner. Bill chopped the top on the car 3 1/2 inches, and sectioned the body 4 1/2 inches. Up front the car went through major modifications. The front fenders were extended, and fit with quad Lucas lights on a mesh screen. The grill was also made out of meshmesh, and had oval tubes placed within The hand-formed shell. Corvette nerf bars were used in the front.[1] The running boards were removed, and a sheet metal step was faired into the paneling. The rear fender air scoops had grilles similar to the front. The rear end had a rolled pan, twin peaks on the trunk, recessed circular lights, rear fender air outlets and Corvette nerf bars. The roof was fit with an extra large rear window which came from a 1952 Chevrolet. The rear window was turned upside down. The windshield was taken from a 1950 Rambler.[1]Inside the El Matador featured a futuristic handmade dash.[1] Bill painted the car in a basic translucent red paint job that was applied unusually. The hood center, top, deck, sides and fenders flowed from a light amber to a gold effect. The build was powered by an Oldsmobile engine, and it rolled on US Royal Masters tires. The El Matador was the first car to drive out of Bill's shop in Monterey, California.[1] The car was toured nationally by Promotions, Inc, and [2]

In 1963 The El Matador was advertised for sale in Hot Rod Magazine July 1963 by Promotions, Inc. The asking price was $5,000.00. The car was also toured as part of the Ford Cavalcade of Customs. [2] AMT owned the car in the 1960s and toured it all over the country. Budd Anderson drove it to shows all over the country for AMT. [2] While AMT owned the car, Bud had the Oldsmobile engine swapped for a small-block Ford. The transmission and rear-end were replaced at the same time. The engine swap was done by Dearborn Steel Tubing. [3]

Frank Koss bought the car from AMT for $1400. While Frank owned the car he had his buddy Jack Florence repaint the car in Cadillac Ember Frost. Frank later advertised the car for sale for $3000. He had no buyers so he traded the car to Carl Casper for a 1963 Cadillac Convertible. [4] Carl Casper continued to tour the El Matador after he bought it.[2]

John McNally bought the car in the 1970s, and brought it to Florida where he lived. Bob Nugent owned the car in the late 1970s. He drove it for a while before he sold it back to John McNally. After swapping hands a dozen times, and being toured several times, the El Matador was in need for some caring hands. John repainted the car and brought it back to its former glory. After its restoration in the early 1990s, while in storage, the El Matador was totally destroyed in a garage fire.[2] Harold Murphy of West Palm Beach, Florida bought the remains of the car March 10, 1993. When he bought it, the roof was crushed down to the top of the dashboard, the sides were bowed out, and the lower quarter panels were gone as was the floor. In addition to all the damages done to the car by the fire and outdoor storage, the El Matador had also been modified by creating a tilt front end.[5] John had also added big side pipes on the side of the running boards, and he had cut two radio antennas in the trunk area. [6]

Harold and his firm Murphy & The Striper restored the car back to its former glory. Harold started the restoration by sand-blasting the entire car. After that he pushed as much shape back into the car as he could, before he started rebuilding the floor and worked his way up.[6] Harold decided to upgrade the car and installed a 1992 Ford 5.0 liter Saleen Mustang engine in the car. The rest of the driveline was also taken from the same Mustang. Ruby Price redid the upholstery in the car.[3] The upholstery was done pretty much as it was in the early sixties. Rolls and pleats in white Naugahyde covered the seats, door panels, and roof. The stock handmade dashboard by Cushenbery was restored. The original headrests carved out of wood were also restored. The restored version of the car used some different parts from the first version: The nerf bars were made from 1952 Pontiac bumper guards, the rear window was taken from a 1951 Chevrolet Fleetline and the windshield was taken from a 1951 Rambler. The restored version of the car was debuted in 1994 at the Turkey Rod Run in Daytona Beach. [7]

January 7 - 9, 2011 the El Matador was offered for sale at the 2011 Ft. Lauderdale Beach Collector Car Auction.[8] Ten years later it was offered for sale at the Mecum Indy 2021 auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in May. It was part of the Saturday Collector Car Lots. It received a $60,000 Bid and did not sell.[9]

Magazine Features

Spotlite Book 526 Twenty Top Customs
Rod & Custom November 1961
Customs Illustrated March 1963
Popular Customs January 1966
Argus Book 207 1001 Custom Car Ideas
Custom Rodder Summer 1993
Custom Rooder January 1994
Custom Rodder July 1994
Kustoms Illustrated 13



Rik Hoving Custom Car Photo Archive


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