Norwalk Coachmen

From Kustomrama
Jump to: navigation, search
A Coachmen club shot taken in 1955. Photo from The Keith Christensen Collection.
Bob Schremp's 1954 Chevrolet Bel-Air of Norwalk, California was restyled by Branson's Custom Shop in the mid 1950s. In 1956 Bob's Chevrolet received a scallop paint job by Larry Watson. The paint job was done in the driveway of Watson's parents, and it was the first car Watson gave a scallop paint job.
An old newspaper clipping about the Coachmen car club. Scan from The Keith Christensen Collection.

The Coachmen was a car club out of Norwalk, California. Keith Christensen was the first President and a founding member of the club. In 2016 Keith told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that the club started in the living room of his folks home in Norwalk late in 1952; "Our club had its beginning in my folk's living room in Norwalk." Norwalk is southeast of Los Angeles, approximately 22 miles. "It was an area of farms and dairies, which of course have faded due to rural buildup. This is why you will see many names of the two dominate nationalities, Dutch and Portuguese, as owners of many hot rods and low riders."[1]

When Jack Arnold was a member Keith Christensen was the President of the club. This is how Jack remembers Chris and his slammed Buick: "Keith Christensen was our president and drove a 55 Buick lowered to the ground, we had 6 guys cruising through the Clock drive-in , we waved to our friends as we cruised thru then drove around the corner to the market jumped out of the car lifted each corner of the Buick and shoved a 2by 4 under the springs which raised the car as far as it could be, jumped back in and drove thru the drive-in again, you should have seen the look on everyone's face! this was way before hydraulics were even thought of."[2]

The club expands

At their peak, the Coachmen had over 100 members and branches in other cities. The club outgrew Keith's parents' living room, and they moved their meetings into an old two-story barn in a residential area of old Norwalk. As more members joined, Keith developed chapters in other communities. "Loosely controlled, but meetings with different leaders and updating the activities of all. All kids of 16-17 years old."[1]

Dairies, cows, beards, and nearly new custom cars

According to Keith, the basis of the club in the mid 1950s was customizing cars and holding activities, such as a walk of the streets of Norwalk in a group, collecting for the March of Dimes and Junio Chamber of Commerce. "One thing of humor," Keith recalled, "our kids in the club were made up of youth moving into the small community of Norwalk as the population was expanding post-war. There were many members from the dairy towns of Artesia and Cypress. They were all family descent of Portuguese and Dutchmen from Holland. The kids milked cows and lived out in the dairy areas. My father being a veterinarian, took care of their herds and I would periodically, go with him according to the hours. As the cows were milked two times a day, 1 pm and 1 am in the middle of the night, these boys, the members of our club would get up in the middle of the night, milk cows, and then, all tired out come to school all scruffy from plain old hard work. The reason for bringing this up is that when we went on our street to street collecting for the March of Dimes, those same valiant boys would be right there helping to knock on doors... Our standing joke was the ones with beards, should shave as the collections by them was sparse. It was a big laugh as at that time beards were just starting to be "cool." Keith believes being a member of the club was a far cry from dairies and cows, admitting that they did have one big advantage, "as they earned a lot of kid money and bought up to date, near new cars, and spent money making them look good. Many of the cars were shown in our Motorcade car show, winning a lot of awards." According to Keith, the Dutch and the Portugese folks had a lot of pride in their children, "and helped them buy great cars."[1]

Ball Road street races

Before the Coachmen club was formed, Keith would go out to a street called Ball Road, "in the rural dairy lands." Ball Road was wide, straight, and dead-ended into a river bed that separated Artesia from Anaheim on the other side of the riverbed. "In fact, Ball Road on the other side ran through the property that later was the south side of Disneyland before it was built." Keith recalled that they would meet there at one end, at night, and set up a race court. "There were no side streets to create a problem. I was too young to even have a driver's license at the time, my older brother Bill was an avid car builder and built many hot rods while still in high school. He was a master at building flathead engines and had a hopped up, customized 1940 Ford. He and I would drive out there and race all the big boys with their V-8 Oldsmobiles and even some Cadillac coupes belonging to the Dutch and Portuguese kids. I remember well those, to me, giant old cars with the first of the overhead, high horsepower engines." Two cars were lined up and when someone at the other end, by the dead-end would blink their lights, the cars would take off. "Then turn around and head towards us at the original start line. lt was really intense and exciting. So well do I remember, the two cars coming back towards us, and one being my older brother, would be roaring our way, almost a 1/2 mile off. I could squat down and see the headlights and would get the greatest thrill to see my brother's headlights out from. Easy to tell as a 1940 Ford had headlights in the fenders close together and I could see when he was winning against those big cars that were super wide. A grand memory for me." They had about 20 minutes of no traffic racing, and they knew that the law couldn't jump in, except by the west end of the race area. "It took them that long after finding out about our activities, to get there. We would scramble out that end of Ball Road just in time. Heading towards the tall alfalfa fields on either side. Many a time, my brother and I would get home and have to pull all the alfalfa clumps out from under his car, before cleaning the car." According to Keith, this was truly what was called an age of innocence as there were very few other activities to take part in. "This was a basis and motivator for us setting up the large Motorcade car show and lent to its success, with the wonderful cooperation of Excelsior High School and the Junior Chamber of Commerce being our backers. A mixture of many small cities, Norwalk, Artesia, Bellflower, Long Beach and many other cities."[1]

The Norwalk Motorcade

The Coachmen held the annual Norwalk Motorcade at Excelsior High School. The first annual Coachman Show was held in 1954. In 1955 John Beddow had become the president of the club.[1]

Larry Watson stops by

One member of the club was a good friend of Larry Watson, and Keith Christensen recalled that Watson visited one of the club meetings in 1955. "Both came from the city of Bellflower, just over the bridge from Norwalk, where we held our meetings. He was introduced that evening to the club members. When we took our break, the gang went outside to look at the pinstriping work he had done on his own car - a little 1950 Chevrolet. It was Chocolate brown on a tan car and the quality of work was outstanding. This was previous to him starting up his painting vocation."[1]

Club Cars

Mervin White's 1936 Ford Coupe
Gary Moore's 1940 Chevrolet Coupe
James Moore's 1953 Chevrolet
Bob Schremp's 1954 Chevrolet Bel-Air
Keith Christensen's 1955 Buick
Gary Moore's 1955 Chevrolet Hardtop
Mervin White's 1955 Ford Two Door
James Moore's 1956 Chevrolet
Jack Arnold's 1956 Mercury
Mervin White's 1957 Ford Hardtop

Bob Schremp
Gary Moore[3]
James "Jay" Moore[3]
John Beddow
Jack Arnold
Keith Christensen
Mervin White[3]



Did you enjoy this article?

Kustomrama is an encyclopedia dedicated to preserve, share and protect traditional hot rod and custom car history from all over the world.

Can you help us make this article better?

Please get in touch with us at if you have additional information or photos to share about Norwalk Coachmen.

This article was made possible by:

SunTec Auto Glass - Auto Glass Services on Vintage and Classic Cars
Finding a replacement windshield, back or side glass can be a difficult task when restoring your vintage or custom classic car. It doesn't have to be though now with auto glass specialist companies like They can source OEM or OEM-equivalent glass for older makes/models; which will ensure a proper fit every time. Check them out for more details!

Do you want to see your company here? Click here for more info about how you can advertise your business on Kustomrama.

Personal tools
Help us