Cushenbery Custom Shop

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Bill ran a full-page ad for his business on the cover of the souvenir program for the 1960 Kustom Kar Kapades in Monterey, California. The ad stated; "For Customs of the Future - See Cushenbery Custom Shop".
Mario Ghiorzi's 1958 Chevrolet Impala of San Juan Bautista, California. Cushenbery restyled the car for Mario, giving it a mild treatment. In the early 1960s Mario sold it to Frank Gould. Frank returned to Cushenbery with the car, turning it into the Limelighter. Photo from The James Handy Photo Collection.
Customizing by Cushenbery. Bill Cushenbery gave this business card to Gene "Clean Gene" Sadoian at the 1962 Winternationals. "He showed his El Matador, wild custom. Blackie also featured his car, that's how I met him." Photo from The Clean Gene Sadoian Photo Collection.
Gene Boucher's 1956 Ford, The Marquis, was restyled by Bill Cushenbery after he moved his shop to Monterey, California. The build took two and a half year to complete, and made its debut in 1962.
In an attempt to get into the youth market, Ford Motor Company teamed up with AMT to launch the "Custom Car Caravan" in 1962. Together they wanted to create and campaign customized and performance-themed Fords. Or, as Ed Roth described it in his book, "making sure all of Ford's stuff was in the car shows around the country." The first cars were built in-house, but it didn't take long before Ford started to commission famous customizers such as George Barris, the Alexander Brothers, Bill Cushenbery, and Gene Winfield to dream up and execute life-size Ford customs.
The Exodus was a 1959 Chevrolet Impala that Bill restyled.
The Astro
The Car Craft Dream Rod was built by Bill Cushenbery for Bob Larivee of Promotions Inc. The first drawings of the car appeared in Car Craft October 1961. The build was completed late in 1963.
Steve Scott's Uncertain-T of Reseda, California. Built by Steve in a small family garage, the build was started in 1960 and completed in 1965. He was 17 years when he started the build. The inspiration came from a cartoon that a friend had made in class. During the build, the only two-things Steve believed should be left to the experts were the paint and upholstery. "I first had Bill Cushenbery paint it at the recommendation of several people, and by his reputation. When he came to pick up the body, he asked me what color I wanted it. I still hadn't decided! He said to leave it up to him," Scott told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in 2017 When Cushenbery brought the car back several days later, it was a dark, bluish candy apple red. Steve didn't like it at all. "It had vertical sections that started at the top of the back corners and went down to the bottom of the back, with a thin line, then a thick line around it. To the best of my recollection, the color or colors inside these panels were darker and lighter gradient blends. Whatever it was, I really didn't like it at all. Don't get me wrong... it was a spectacular paint job… just totally not my thing. To me... it was hideous." Cushenbery painted the car in 1964.[1]
A photo of Bill Cushenbery's El Matador taken in front of Bill's 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.
Mike Monteleone's 1957 Oldsmobile of Van Nuys, California. Living in the San Fernando Valley, a hub for hot rods and customs in the 1960s, Mike's Olds was skillfully restyled by Bill Cushenbery at Cushenbery Custom Shop in 1965-66.
The KHJ Surfin' Bird was restyled by Bill Cushenbery at Cushenbery Custom Shop for 93 KHJ Boss radio's "Big Kahuna" promotion in 1966. The Surfin' Bird is one of the last known true custom cars to be completed by Cushenbery.

Cushenbery Custom Shop was a custom body shop in Wichita, Kansas owned and operated by Bill Cushenbery. Bill was 19 years old when he opened up his first body shop. The custom car market in the Wichita area was already dominated by Darryl Starbird and his Star Kustom Shop, so after 5 years, Bill decided to leave Wichita, and move his business to California. He settled down in the Monterey area, and it was at this hop that he built his 1940 Ford, the El Matador. The car was good promotion for his business, and after completing the El Matador, he began attracting a clientele seriously interested in show cars. Bill built many well recognized custom cars during the 1960s, but is best known for his completely original builds such as the Silhouette. The Silhouette was the firs scratch built custom to roll out of the Cushenbery Custom Shop. After winning the "Tournament of Frame" contest at the 1963 Grand National Roadster Show with the Silhouette, Bob Larivee of Promotions, Inc. approached Bill to build him an equally radical car for the International Championship Auto Show series. That collaboration led to the Car Craft Dream Rod.[2]

One of Bill Cushenbery's biggest breaks came when he was one of the first customizers invited to take part in the Ford Custom Caravan. Bill and George Barris, in fact, formed the nucleus of the original Caravan team. After the project got rolling, Gene Winfield, the Alexander Brothers and others began to take part. Bill created the Astro for the Caravan, a stunning variation of the 1963 Ford Galaxie Convertible. Bill's participation in the Ford Custom Caravan led to another important development in his career as Ford officials and even some of his fellow customizers urged him to transfer his business from Monterey to a more populous area. In late 1964, he moved his business to North Hollywood, literally around the corner from Barris Kustoms.[2]

After moving his shop to North Hollywood, Bill became a specialist in restoring Mercedes-Benz 300-SL gullwing coupes. It all came about when one 300-SL owner noted the superb workmanship that marked every Cushenbery custom, and he decided to have Bill restore his gullwing back to mint condition. The job was a superb success, and the news about Bill's talent spread quickly among 300 SL enthusiasts. By the end of 1965, he had restored more than seven gullwing Mercedeses.[2]

Around 1965-66 Cushenbery moved his shop to Burbank.[3]


George Ross
Jimmy Burris
Steve Harper

Cars Restyled by Cushenbery Custom Shop

Bill Cushenbery's 1940 Ford - The El Matador
Bob Crespo's 1940 Ford Coupe - Les Po Po
Gene Boucher's 1956 Ford - The Marquis
KHJ's 1956 Ford Thunderbird - The KHJ Surfin' Bird
Mike Monteleone's 1957 Oldsmobile
Frank Gould's 1958 Chevrolet Impala - The Limelighter
Mario Ghiorzi's 1958 Chevrolet Impala
The Exodus
Richard Zoochi's 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix
The Astro
The Car Craft Dream Rod
The Silhouette
The Silhouette II Space Coupe

Cars Painted by Cushenbery Custom Shop

Steve Scott's Uncertain-T



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