Eddie Martinez

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Eddie Martinez was a legendary upholsterer from Lynwood, California. He started doing upholstery work while he was in school and worked his way up becoming one of the most sought-after custom upholsterers in Southern California. Photo courtesy of Eddie Martinez Interiors.
Richard Torres' 1951 Chevrolet of Lawndale, California. Restyled around 1957 - 1958, Richard's Chevrolet featured a scallop paint job by Bill Hines of Long Beach, California. Eddie upholstered the trunk in Ricgard's Chevrolet when he was renting space from George Barris. Martinez also made a tucked and rolled snap-on cover for under the hood, and a snap-on cover for the outside pipes. He also upholstered the inside of the glove box in tuck and roll, made rolled covers for the clutch and brake pedals, and rolled floor mat covers.
Ed Roth's 1930 Ford Model A Tudor of Maywood, California. Known as the Little Jewel, the car was dressed up with a white Naugahyde top, and white running boards. The interior was upholstered in black and white by Martinez.
One of Eddie's business cards from The Kustomrama Business Card Collection. He gave this to Howard Gribble in the late 1950s or the early 1960s. When Howard was in high school, he and his buddies would occasionally pile into a car and ditch school for the rest of the day. "Several times our destination was the famous custom car shops out in the Lynwood and Bellflower area. I remember that the reception for us high schoolers was decidedly cool at most places. They knew we didn't have money. But Eddie Martinez was actually very nice, answered our questions and gave us his business card. I was never a customer but remember his kindness."
Joe Previte's 1958 Chevrolet Impala. Previte drove from Belmont, Massachusetts to California to have his brand new Impala restyled. It was chopped in Juarez, Mexico on the way over before Joe handed it over to Barris. Martinez upholstered the car for Joe before he drove it back home to the East Coast.
Eddie upholstered Dean Jeffries' 1956 Porsche 356 Carrera circa 1958-1959. It was upholstered with black and silver pleated goatskin. Each pleat was filled individually with foam rubber. A rear shelf was constructed and a custom headliner installed. The dashboard was decorated with push-pull knobs made by Jeffries himself. These were hex-head bolts that he trimmed in the lathe and chromed. The front trunk was carpeted and the hood hinges and fuel tank straps were chromed. The inside of the deck lid was polished and chromed tools were fit in a custom case.
Eddie upholstered Ed Roth's Outlaw was graced with one of Martinez's interiors in 1959. First shown as The Excaliber, The Outlaw was Roth's first experience with fiberglass. It was first shown at the Disneyland Car Club Day and Autocade in September of 1959. It did not have an interior at the Disneyland show, and it was shown with a tonneau cover. Shortly after, Martinez dressed it up with a beautiful Naugahyde tuck-n-roll interior.
Jim Seaton's 1959 Chevrolet El Camino of Santa Maria, California. The brand new car was restyled by Barris Kustoms before Martinez upholstered the interior and bed cover in white pearl Naugahyde.
Joe Burgasser's 1959 Chevrolet Impala of Torrance, California. Restyled by Barris Kustoms, the Burgasser Impala featured a Danube blue pearl paint job and a matching blue and white rolled and pleated interior, trunk, and hood liner by Martinez. Eddie also created a tarp that covered the rear seat area when it was not in use. The work was done circa 1960.
Chuck Krikorian's 1929 Ford Model A Roadster was restyled by Barris Kustoms. Chuck was from Fresno, California. His roadster was known and shown as The Emperor, and it featured a custom interior by Martinez.
The Modern Grecian iteration of Earl Wilson's radically restyled 1947 Studebaker custom was shown at the 1960 Oakland Roadster Show. Upgraded with twin aluminum fins on each rear fender, canted headlights, and pearl yellow paint job by Junior Conway, the well-known Barris Kustom had also received a redone interior by Martinez. It sported four swiveling bucket seats that were trimmed in green and yellow upholstery with silver piping, a tv, telephone, and a modified steering wheel. Unfortunately, the car was partially destroyed in an accident a couple of weeks later.
Don Fletcher's 1957 Chevrolet 210 of Del Paso Heights, California. Restyled by Sam Baris the car was known and shown as the "El Capitola." Completed in 1960, the car featured four swivel bucket seats. The interior was upholstered in white pearl Naugahyde and imported gold French frieze by Martinez.
Barris Kustom's 1957 Ford Ranchero. Restyled around 1960 - 1961 the Ranchero was used as Barris Kustoms shop truck. Painted pearl blue, it featured a blue and white pearl Naugahyde interior by Martinez.
The Beatnik Bandit was another well-known show rod by Ed Roth that was dressed up with one of Martinez's interiors. Completed in 1961, the simple cockpit of the car featured heavily padded bucket seats by the renowned custom interior stylist.
Dave Robertson's 1956 Ford F100 of Hollydale, California. Originally restyled by Bill Hines in the late 1950s or the early 1960s, the Lil Nugget sported one of Larry Watson's first candy red paint jobs. The bed-cover, interior, and running boards were fully upholstered in pearl white pleated Naugahyde by Eddie. Gold beading was used for accent.
Larry Watson's 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. One of only 700 produced, Larry Watson's rare 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was restyled by Bill DeCarr circa 1961. Painted Candy Raspberry Platinum Pearl, the interior featured matching carpets and a beautiful pearl white interior by Martinez. As you can see here, it featured pleats in the centers and on the transmission hump.
Ray Strappazon's 1958 Chevrolet Impala. In the summer of 1961, Ray drove his Impala from Joliet, Illinois to California to have Barris Kustoms restyle it. Before he returned home, the car had also been fitted with one of Martinez's signature interiors.
Tats Gotanda's 1959 Chevrolet Impala features one of Martinez iconic interiors. Restyled by Bill Hines around 1961 - 1962, the Impala is known as one of the first hydraulic lifted customs on the scene. Sporting swivel bucket seats up front, Martinez upholstered the well-known custom in the blue frieze and pearl white Naugahyde. The carpets were done in fur, and the rear seat was contoured to match the front seats. The car was shown and known as the Buddah Buggy.
Larry Johnson's 1962 Sanger SK drag-boat. Known as "Tutoom," Johnson's boat featured a pearl red, white and blue paint job by George Barris. It was upholstered by Eddie Martinez in pearl white. In December of 2020 Gene Sadoian told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that Larry had a cabinet shop in Englewood, "so he worked out a deal with Eddies wife Stella, build cabinets, exchange for upholstery in the boat. Eddie demurred as usual until his wife got after him." Powered by an Ed Pink Oldsmobile engine, Gene recalled that the boat really rocked at Marine Stadium in Long Beach. Photo courtesy of Larry Johnson.
Phil Curry's 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air of Compton, California. There was a high demand for black interiors around 1962-1963 when Eddie upholstered Phil Curry's 1957 Chevrolet. Originally owned by Teddy Zgrzemski, the car was restyled by Teddy at Barris Kustoms, where he worked as Junior Conway's helper. Once completed, Teddy had Junior paint it blue candy over a white pearl base. He did also have Martinez do the headliner and package tray with the original fabric. When Curry brought it back to Eddie for more work, it was fitted with a black sculptured leather tuck and roll interior. The interior was sewn into a pattern utilizing both horizontal and vertical pleats. The trunk received the same treatment, and it was fitted with a full array of tools secured to the floor.
Pinky Richard's 1957 Chevrolet Corvette. Restyled by Bill Hines, Pinky's Corvette featured a radical flame paint job by Larry Watson and a black leather and fur interior by Martinez.
Teddy Zgrzemski' 1957 Chevrolet Nomad of Rockwood, Michigan. Teddy bought the Nomad from his friend Gene Rosco back in 1964 or 1965. It came from California, and it featured a beautiful Eddie Martinez interior. Shortly after buying the Nomad, Teddy's uncle, Bill Hines, helped install hydraulic lifts on the car, turning it into what might be the first hydraulic lifted car in Michigan.
Custom by Paint - Made in Bellflower - A tribute to traditional custom cars of the 1950s. Bodywork by Barris. Paint by Larry Watson. Lifts by Bill Hines. Long live Kustomland! Price: $19.99 - Check availability on Amazon.om.
Eddie upholstered Howard Hiyama's Jaguar XKE in 1999. Powered by a 500 CI Cadillac engine, Eddie spent six months remaking the interior like new. Photo courtesy of Howard Hiyama, provided by Gene Sadoian.
A photo of Eddie taken in 2008. Photo courtesy of Richard Contreras, from The HAMB.
In 2008 Martinez was still in business. 71 years old he operated an upholstery shop in Bellflower, California. Photo courtesy of Richard Contreras, from The HAMB.
In 2017 Martinez was inducted into the West Coast Kustoms Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Sherm Porter.

Eddie Martinez was a legendary upholsterer from Lynwood, California. He started doing upholstery work while he was in school and worked his way up becoming one of the most sought-after custom upholsterers in Southern California.

Renting Space From Barris Kustom

Ed rented space from George Barris around 1958.[1]

December 7, 1959 Bill Whetstone of Detroit, Michigan took delivery on a brand new 1960 Ford Starliner. Days later he was on his way out West to have a custom interior installed. "At that time, the guy that was probably the most famous of all was Eddie Martinez," Whetstone told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in 2020. Bill remembers Martinez being phenomenal with little one inch pleats. "If I could have afforded him, he would probably have done the interior. At that time, his interiors were probably 300 dollars, so I ended up going to Tijuana, Mexico." In Tijuana Bill had to pay 125 dollars for an interior all done in pleats.[2]

Cramped Shop

In December of 2020 Keith Christensen told Sondre Kvipt that he remembered Eddie running his business out of a little shop on Park Street, close to Keith's shop Gene's Mufflers. "He was always super busy," Keith recalled, adding that he loved to do trade outs from shop to shop. "He had a tiny shop, and it was crammed with upholstery material." Keith always wondered how the heck they could get work done so cramped for space. "He was doing car dealer cars as well and there was a glut of cars every time I visited his shop. I do know he did the finest of work. Innovative and quality prone. He had one man that did nothing but repair the springs inside the seats as a lot of the cars were classic cars and the seats were antique and tired. They even had wood frames inside the seats and his worker had to repair and reinforce them before upholstering them. Quite a task and a lot of talent. I always saw the same workers there so he had a loyal crew."[3]

Gene "Clean Gene" Sadoian moved from Fresno to Southern California in 1960. "Our Fresno cars and boats were being customized by George Barris. Eddie did most of the custom upholstery jobs for George," Gene told Sondre Kvipt in December of 2020. Chuck Krikorian's Emperor was one such car. "We also had Eddie do our boats, Larry Johnson 1962, Tom Simonian, Phil Sweet in 1964, Don Lokey 1966. Eddie also did my Minibike seat in 63-64. My job was to "ride" Eddie to get the jobs finished! Eddie was an artist, we had to keep him motivated." Gene spent many hours with Eddie at his shop watching him do things that none of the others could do. "I watched how Eddie, with a homemade plywood curving machine, made the seatbacks on roadsters and boats. He used steam and made gradual curves in one piece of wood!. In 1964, I watched him make a vinyl padded cover for my 57 T-Bird top with portholes. He also made a full zippered tonneau cover, snaps and all, no wrinkles on top or cover. He used a hairdryer and steam on the corners for perfect curves."[4]

Tijuana Competition

Keith Christensen remembered Ed complaining to him that he had to compete with the upholstery work that was done down in Tijuana, Mexico. One time he showed him a car he was tearing apart and redoing. "It had been done in Tijuana, and the pleats were filled with straw rather than foam, and they had flattened out and looked like heck."[3]


In 1966 Gene Sadoian moved to Las Vegas. "Eddie used to visit me on quarterly trips selling Jaguar XKE's. He was putting in Ford motors, new interiors, and paint." Gene remembers seeing at least three of them.[4]

Sharing a Shop With Bill Hines

In December of 2020 Mitch Hines told Kustomrama that Eddie once shared a shop with Bill Hines in Lynwood. "When gramps moved the shop to Bellflower Eddie followed and setup right across the way. Gramps didn't have a bathroom so me and my brothers would run across to Eddies to use his. He always yelled at us."[5]

Still in Business

In 2008 Martinez was still in business. 71 years old he operated an upholstery shop in Bellflower, California.[6]

West Coast Kustoms Hall of Fame

In 2017 he was inducted into the West Coast Kustoms Hall of Fame.

Eddie passed away on December 24, 2020.[7]

Eddie Martinez' Cars

Jerry Yatch's 1959 Chevrolet - The Xcidian

Cars Upholstered by Eddie Martinez

Chuck Krikorian's 1929 Ford Model A Roadster - The Emperor
Ed Roth's 1930 Ford Model A Tudor - Little Jewel
Ed Roth's Outlaw
Ed Roth's Beatnik Bandit
Larry Sanford's 1940 Mercury 4-door Convertible
Stone Woods Cookie 1941 Willys Coupe
Earl Wilson's 1947 Studebaker - The Modern Grecian
Richard Torres' 1951 Chevrolet
Steve Lininger's 1951 Ford Convertible
Dave Robertson's 1956 Ford F100 -Lil Nugget
Dean Jeffries' 1956 Porsche 356 Carrera
Larry Watson's 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
Don Fletcher's 1957 Chevrolet 210 - El Capitola
Phil Curry's 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air
Pinky Richard's 1957 Chevrolet Corvette
Teddy Zgrzemski' 1957 Chevrolet Nomad
Barris Kustom's 1957 Ford Ranchero
Gene Sadoian's 1957 Ford Thunderbird
Joe Previte's 1958 Chevrolet Impala
Ray Strappazon's 1958 Chevrolet Impala - The Wild Cherry
Jim Seaton's 1959 Chevrolet El Camino
Tats Gotanda's 1959 Chevrolet Impala - Buddha Buggy
Joe Burgasser's 1959 Chevrolet Impala
Howard Hiyama's Jaguar XKE



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