Jerry DeVito's 1957 Ford
1957 Ford Fairlane owned by San Jose Rod and Wheelers member Jerry DeVito of San Jose, California. Jerry bought the car brand new in 1957. San Jose was a city filled with radical customs in the late 1950s, so it didn't take long time before Jerry decided to have the Ford customized. The first version of Jerry's Fairlane was restyled by Bill Babb and J.R. Wirth at Wirth's Body Shop in Campbell, California. Jerry was self responsible for the overall design. The first version was fairly mild, featuring an accessory type grille with wider tubular bars, and a guardless front bumper. Unnecessary chrome was removed, and the body was nosed, decked, and shaved for door-handles. The shaved hood was dressed up featuring two Buick portholes, four rows of louvers, and an airscoop that was cut into a beaked "V" shape. California Custom "Satel-Lites" taillight lenses, featuring two red lenses and two chrome bullets replaced the stock taillight lenses. Once the body work was done, the car was given a Lime Green paint job. Extreme lowness was achieved through the use of lowering blocks at the rear, and by reworking the spindles up front. The car was then dressed up featuring dual Appleton spotlights, lakes pipes, Edsel hubcaps, and a bright white rolled and pleated Naugahyde upholstery by Burns Upholstery in San Jose. The seats, door panels, kick panels and dashboard were all done in a vertical pattern with contrasting black beading. Front and rear seats were cut down. A custom steering wheel cover carried the San Jose Rod and Wheelers club emblem. After the car was finished by Wirth's Body Shop, Joe Crisafulli of J & J Auto Painting in San Jose gave the car a wild scallop paint job. Joe was a good friend of Jerry, and a founding member of the San Jose Rod and Wheelers car club. In 2015 Joe told Kustomrama about his first meeting with Jerry: "Jerry was a wild and crazy kind of guy. It seemed like he didn't have a care in the world. He wasn't crazy, he just acted like it. The first time I met him was in San Jose. I was on 2nd street in front of Grand Auto Store, and he was sliding sideways across the street in to a parking space." Joe believes Jerry joined the club before he bought the 1957 Ford, so late 1956; "I remember the car was brand new, and we took it to the drag strip. He wanted to break it in. After that we took it to Lake Tahoe to drive in the snow. I mean off road with street tires." When Jerry bought the car, it was black. Joe covered the body in Lime Green paint before he added traditional and modern scallops in various shades of green. The scallops were outlined in silver. As Joe didn't have his own place to paint cars at the time, Babb and Wirth let him use their shop for the custom paint job. Later on, someone at Wirth's Body Shop painted "The Maze" sign on the door. The build was completed later on in 1957, and Jerry won many awards with his custom. This version of Jerry's Fairlane gained national recognition when it was featured in Car Craft February 1959.
After winning nearly everything with the first version of the Maze, Jerry decided to redo the body and paint work on the car for the 1958 season. The second version, also designed by Jerry, was restyled by the Grande Brothers. This version featured frenched headlights that were trimmed with unusual bird-like beads. The rear fins were extended and received a similar styling. Six more air scoops were added. Two Impala-type scoops with beaked edges were grafted onto the roof, while four scoops were added to the rear fenders. Two of the scoops were slots cut in the side of the fenders, near the taillights, for illumination from the side. The taillights were tunneled 6 inches. On this version, the Edsel hubcaps were replaced with more modern chromed and reversed wheels. Aluminum panels were also installed in the front wheel wells. According to the caption text in Custom Rodder March 1959, only the front on this version of Jerry's Ford was lowered. The low look in the rear was enhanced by the full length lakes pipes.
The most radical change to the second version of the Maze was the new scallop paint job. The Grande Brothers of San Jose covered the freshly restyled body in a green-gold color, before Bob Heinrichs of San Jose applied a psychedelic scallop paint job. In 2015 Bob told Kustomrama that Jerry’s ideas were always very spectacular. "He thought outside the box. We are old friends and I was always amazed at his ideas. I wasn’t painting cars full time yet in 1958, but I had been pin striping cars for about 6 years when he asked me to do a wild paint job on his 1957 Ford. He wanted a paint job like no one had ever seen. Since I was driving cement truck for a living I had to work on his car at night and it took awhile. The first thing I had to do was set up my garage so I could do the work at home. My work on his car began with prepping the car before I began the laborious task of masking and laying out the tape. Mind you I had to lay out the design over the complete car – the roof, hood, trunk and sides. It took about 4 days of taping the design before I was ready to do the masking. So here Jerry enters the picture… I took the weekend off and when I came home Jerry’s car was gone. I thought someone had broken into the garage and stolen the car. I called Jerry to see if he knew anything about it. Indeed he did! He had a hot date that Saturday night and he needed the car. So…he removed all the designs, tape and masking paper and enjoyed his car for the evening. He did offer to help me retape and remask the car. Three weeks later the car was ready to show. Jerry called George Barris who came up to San Jose to take pictures of the finished product. Those photos ended up in a lot of the car magazines of the day." The colors Bob used on the Maze were ranging from gold, lime gold, lavender, burgundy, Candy Apple and Chinese blue and red. All of the scallops were outlined with a thin white line. In 2015 Bob told Kustomrama that he believed he charged $350 for the paint job on the Maze. We asked him were he got his inspiration from, and he told us that "..the car was done when the hippie generation started, so a lot of color was the latest trend."
Two months after Car Craft had run a featured story on the first version of Jerry's Ford in their February 1959 issue, Custom Rodder ran another story on the second, and wilder version of the Maze in their March 1959 issue. By then the engine was hopped up featuring shaved heads, an Iskenderian E-2 camshaft, a Mallory Magspark ignition and an Offenhauser 3-carb manifold. A T-bird box and a Posi-traction 4.11 rear got the power on the road. According to the book Grease Machines, the engine was also bored and fully balanced. When the car was featured in Custom Rodder March 1959, it featured the stock bumper up front. This was later replaced with a split bumper that carried a rolled pan in the center. The rear bumper was scrapped as well, and Jerry replaced it with a rolled pan that incorporated two nerf bars. The photos used in Custom Rodder Magazine were taken before Jerry had re-installed the dual spotlights, so these are probably the earliest photos of the second version of the Maze.
In the late 1950s George Barris saw an opportunity to make good money producing hot rod and custom car shows. With help from his wife Shirley, who served as show manager, George organized several shows all over California under the name Kustom Shows. The second version of the Maze was promoted as a featured vehicle in many of these shows. April 23-26, 1959 it was displayed at the 1959 Pasadena Motor Pageant. A week later, May 1-3, 1959 George displayed it at the 1st annual San Luis Obispo Motor Show. November 26 thru 29, 1959, it was also shown at the 2nd annual Bakersfield Motor & Boat Show, another George Barris production.
In 1960, Jerry's club, the San Jose Rod and Wheelers, won the prestigous Car Craft Car Club of the Year award. The club was presented as the winner in Car Craft January 1960, and Jerry's Ford was presented as one of the club cars. At the time, it had just received a facelift by Gene Carvalho, but it still retained Heinrichs' wild paint job. The partly restyled front end featured six headlights. According to Bob Heinrichs, the motor caught on fire and did some damage to the front end of the car. "Jerry used this as his opportunity to make some improvements and he added more headlights. Someone else repainted the hood and front fenders. Jerry has always been a fun guy. You never knew what he was going to do next." Jerry decided to redo the car totally around 1959-1960. The third version of the Maze, also designed by Jerry, was restyled by Gene Carvalho at Gene's Body Shop. This version featured a new unique contoured front end that incorporated quad headlights. The upper headlights were recessed 10 inches into the fenders. The front bumper was removed and a roll pan was made sporting a recessed license plate. The molded grille cavity featured a grille made out of two ribbed exhaust tubes. The hood was cleaned up, and gone were the Buick portholes, louvers and beaked scoop. In the rear, the exhaust was now routed through the rear pan that Jerry had added before the fire. The reversed chrome wheels were replaced with Dodge hubcaps and the wild paint job was hidden by a solid gold laquer. According to Custom Cars August 1960, that ran a featured story on the third version of the Maze, this version of the car was lowered by chopping the A frame up front, and by C'ing the rear frame. The featured story in Custom Cars Magazine featured photos by George Barris.
Jerry sold the Maze in 1960. In 2012 he told Kustomrama that he never saw it again after that. Before selling the car, Jerry had big plans for a chopped and carson topped roof, a channeling and maybe even a sectioning. Jerry went on to work for George Barris, and he was part of the team building the Munster Koach and the Batmobile. He worked for George for about 3 years.
In 1979 the second version of the Maze was introduced to a new generation of custom enthusiasts when it was featured in the book Grease Machines. The story was called “Flamboyant Fairlane,” and it featured old color photos taken by James Potter. In 2012 Jerry told Kustomrama that the second version of the Maze was his favorite.
The Kustomrama Dream Truck - A Tribute to the Maze
In January of 2014 Sondre and Olav Kvipt of Kustomrama began a Maze tribute build in Oslo, Norway. Based on 1957 Ford Ranchero, the Kustomrama Dream Truck will be restyled similar to the second version of the Maze.
Car Craft February 1959
Custom Rodder March 1959
Motor Life April 1959
Custom Cars June 1959
Custom Cars September 1959
Custom Rodder November 1959
Car Craft January 1960
Custom Cars February 1960
Car Craft July 1960
Custom Cars August 1960
Trend Book 197 Custom Cars 1961 Annual
Trend Book 205 Restyle Your Car
Popular Customs Winter Issue 1963
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