Clarence Catallo's 1932 Ford

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An early iteration of the Catallo Coupe as it appeared in 1959. Photo from The Robert Genat Collection.
A blown early incarnation of the Catallo Coupe running chromed and reversed wheels. Photo from The Robert Genat Collection.
The Silver Sapphire version of Chilli's Coupe taken at an indoor car show. We believe it could have been the 1961 National Champion Custom Car Show in Detroit, shortly before the top was chopped by Barris Kustoms. Photo from The Robert Genat Collection.
The Alexander Brothers version of Clarence Catallo's 1932 Ford Coupe as it appeared in Popular Hot Rodding November 1962
The chopped Barris Kustoms version of the Silver Sapphire as it appeared on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine July 1961
The Silver Sapphire at an indoor car show displayed next to the Trendero. Photo from The Dave Jenkins Photo Collection.
Note the Silver Sapphire behind Ed Roth's Rotar at an indoor show in the 1960s.[1]
This photo seems to be from the same show.[1]
the Silver Sapphire at the cover of Hop-Up November 1963
The Silver Sapphire at the Petersen Museum in 2006. Photo by Sondre Kvipt
Photo by Sondre Kvipt
Photo by Sondre Kvipt
Photo by Sondre Kvipt
Photo by Sondre Kvipt
Photo by Sondre Kvipt
Photo by Rex Roy
Photo by Rex Roy
Curt Catallo in his fathers' old coupe. Photo by Rex Roy
Photo by Rex Roy.
The Little Deuce Coupe at the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corner, Michigan in October of 2013. Photo by Tom Mayenschein.

1932 Ford Coupe owned by Clarence Catallo of Dearborn, Michigan. Known as the Silver Sapphire or the Little Deuce Coupe, Clarence's coupe had once been a successful drag-race career. The body had been sectioned and channeled, lowering the car a total of 7 inches. Clarence bought the car from the gas station across the street from his parents' grocery store in Allen Park, Michigan in 1956. He had to pay 75 USD for the old racer. Clarence was 15 years at the time, and without a driver license, so he had a friend drive it home for him.[2]

In 1959 Clarence brought the car to the Alexander Brothers. Mike and Larry made a new rear pan for the coupe, and fabricated a hinged front-end. An early version of the Silver Sapphire was shown at the 1959 Toledo Autorama. That version featured a modest scallop paint job, Moon discs and the stock grille shell. Later on the appearance of the car was changed drastically bu the Alexander Brothers. The bottoms of the doors were rotten, so Mike and Larry Alexander cut the bottoms off and made aluminum fins to replace the rockers. The side and rear fins were formed out of aluminum stock. An unique grille was made up from aluminum sheet stock, and featured Chevrolet headlights set inside plastic. Mike and Larry tried to talk Clarence into chopping the car, but he wouldn't go for it. The car was fit with sunken twin antennas, and by pushing on the antennas, the electric doors were opened. The car was painted in an Oldsmobile Cobalt Blue with scallops. Inside the coupe featured a white upholstered top and interior. The seats were formed of handmade frames and covered with foam rubber and blue trim. The upholstery was done by Ray Kulakowski. The steering wheel came from a 1959 Lincoln, and the column was from a 1934 Ford. Later on the Alexander Brothers fit with custom 1957 Plymouth hubcaps restyled with white plastic fins. The Alexander Brothers version of the car can be seen in the November 1962 issue of Popular Hot Rodding Magazine. Clarence was an Oldsmobile enthusiast when it came to engines, so the Coupe was powered by a 1956 Oldsmobile 344 CID V-8.

In 1959 the car ran 12.90/112mph on the drag strip.

Chopped and reworked by Barris Kustoms

After the Alexander Bros had done their magic to the car, Clarence moved to Long Beach for college in 1960. Clarence's parents were concerned about their son spending too much time with the wrong crowd, and offered to send him to a college anywhere in the country. Clarence chose Long Beach Community College, in the middle of the West Coast hot rod culture. Clarence headed west towing his coupe behind a ragged Oldsmobile. [2] While living in Long Beach he began to work at the Barris Kustoms Shop sweeping floors. At Barris Kustoms Junior Conway and Tubbs talked Clarence into chopping the coupe. The car received a three-inch top chop. After the top had been chopped, the car was also repainted in a lighter blue and white color. Teddy Zgrzemski was another Michigan teenager working for Barris Kustoms when they redid the coupe. Teddy was 16 in 1960, and in 2020 he told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that all he ever was was Junior's helper. "I never did any painting or stuff. I was just the prep guy. I blocked, sanded the cars, taped them off, and got them all ready—stuff like that. Once in a while, George would lay down one side of scallops on a car, and then he would tell me to duplicate it on the other side. Like on Shirley Barris' 58 Thunderbird. I had to duplicate that one. And Chilli Catallo, The Little Deuce Coupe, he laid out one side of the scallops, and I had to duplicate them and do the other side before Junior painted em."[3]

Chilli was now focused on preparing the car for the show circuit. Clarence did not do any work on the car himself. He was smart enough to let the pros do the work. At Barris Kustoms Clarence did grunt work in exchange for work on his own car. The Barris version of the car can be seen on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine July 1961. So apparently Popular Hot Rodding Magazine kept their featured story on the Silver Sapphire on their desks for a while since their November 1962 Issue shows the previous version of the car.

The Silver Sapphire is most famous for being pictured on the cover of the Beach Boys record "Little Deuce Coupe". Barris had built a run of about 20 candy striped dune buggies for Capitol Records. Capitol was preparing to release a new Beach Boys album which included the "Little Deuce Coupe" single. Some people at Capitol knew about Clarence's car, and when they needed a Deuce for the album cover they called George Barris.[2] The rest is history, and the Silver Sapphire ended up on the cover of the Little Deuce Coupe record wearing Barris Kustoms Crests. The album, released in October 1963, used a photograph, shot from ground level, taken for the Hot Rod layout. But this time, Clarence Catallo’s head was cropped out of the frame.[2]

Clarence Catallo returned to Detroit, finished college and settled into a job in the financial industry. In 1965 he sold the Silver Sapphire so he could buy a Porsche.

Curt Catallo, Clarence's son, convinced his father to track down the car and get it back in the family. The car was traced to Long Island, and Bob Larivee Jr. of Championship Auto Shows contacted the owner, who didn’t want to part with the Little Deuce Coupe. Bob leased the car for a year to be used as an attraction in their custom car shows. At the end of the lease, in 1998 the owner of the car agreed to sell it to Bob for $40,000. Clarence wanted the car, and gave Bob the check. Back in the Catallo family again, the car was restored back to its former glory. The Oldsmobile engine had been replaced with a Chrysler V8, but the previous owner had fortunately held onto many of the parts removed or replaced over the years. The goal was to get the car ready for the Meadow Brook Concours d’Élégance in August 2000. But Clarence Catallo’s death in 1998 left the coupe’s restoration to his son and daughter. Curt Catallo enlisted the help of Mike Alexander and other craftsmen who originally worked on the car to complete its overhaul, with the intention of making the car appear exactly as it did on the album. The team finished just in time. Fittingly, the coupe took the People’s Choice award at Meadow Brook in 2000. The car is still in the Catallo family today.[2]

In May of 2013 the car went to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corner, Michigan for a year on display. A total of 21 cars were part of the display. The theme of the display was the 1950s and the 1960s nostalgia periode.[4]

Magazine Features

Rodding & Re-styling May 1961
Hot Rod Magazine July 1961
Popular Hot Rodding November 1962
Hop-Up November 1963
Street Rod Builder May 2001
Rodders Journal Number 36



Hot Rod Magazine July 1961
Popular Hot Rodding November 1962
Ultimate Garages


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