Artist Ed Roth followed the success of the Outlaw with the Beatnik Bandit, which may be his most famous car. The unique 'glass body, bubbletop, and single-stick steering/ brake/throttle was a smash on the show car circuit and moved rodding into a new direction in the '60s. Virtually all of the one-off "kustoms" of the decade owe their inspiration to Roth. The Bandit was built by hand on a modified Olds chassis and was powered by a blown Olds engine.
When the first America's Most Beautiful Roadster award was given in 1950, it went to Bill Niekamp's stunning track-nose A roadster, built in 1948. Riding on a '27 Essex frame with A crossmembers and powered by a '42 Merc flathead with Evans heads, the car was intended for street use and racing at Bonneville. In 1970, Jim Jacobs discovered the neglected roadster in a barn, rebuilt it (we followed the restoration in these pages), and drove it to the first Street Rod Nationals in Peoria.
Neal East '32 Roadster
Former R&C staffer Neal East's Aztec Gold '32 roadster made the cover of our first full-size issue in 1961. It had been hot rodded five years earlier, treated to a new Chevy small-block and a lot of late-'50s style elements. East sold the car in 1961 in order to buy the Doane Spencer roadster. It changed hands a few times and was purchased in the '70s by Paul Sievers who restored it to stock, and then to its hot rod form. It's now owned by collector Richard Munz.
Jack Stewart "Polynesian" '50 Olds
The greatest customs of the '50s featured stripped-down (as opposed to embellished) styling, and the Polynesian is definitely among the greatest. Built at Valley Custom and finished in 1953, the car highlights all the best design elements of a '50 Olds, improved by a 4-inch section and some great paint. When owner Jack Stewart moved from California back to his home state of Ohio, the Polynesian went with him and was modified further in later years. We love it just like this.
Duane Steck "Moonglow" '54 Chevy
These days the backlash to high-dollar pro-built cars is low-dollar rides, built and shot at home. Duane Steck did it in the '50s with his '54 Chevy, called Moonglow. He chopped the top, shaved the door handles and locks, reworked the rear fenders, shot the appliance-white-and-light-blue paint, and ended up with one of the best-looking custom Chevys ever. Moonglow later went through numerous transitions, including a few Watson paintjobs. Unfortunately, it was eventually sold and crushed.
Spence Murray R&C Dream Truck
Did you really think we wouldn't mention the Dream Truck? The project was started by our first editor, Spence Murray, during the first year of the magazine. It became the subject of numerous tech and feature articles in ROD & CUSTOM (including a full history in the May '03 anniversary issue) and perhaps the most enduring magazine project rod in history. Barris, Bailon, Winfield, Jeffries, Valley Custom, and many others contributed to the style of the truck, originally a '50 Chevy half-ton, over the years.
Frank Mack '27 T Roadster
One of the most beautiful hot rods at the '02 Detroit Autorama was the Frank Mack roadster, which hogged attention from many brand-new cars. The T was built in the style of the dirt track cars of the late '40s, including tubular pushbars, 15-inch steel rims with brass knockoffs and '47 Hudson caps, and a Kurtis midget-style nose built from a pair of '41 Chevy front fenders. Now known as the Meyer/Mack roadster, it is part of Bruce Meyer's collection and looks exactly like it did half a century ago.
Joel Sheipe '51 Olds
Built almost 40 years after the Polynesian, Joel Sheipe's slammed '51 Olds puts an up-to-date spin on traditional customs. When Joel couldn't dig up a convertible, he built his own from a hardtop with Joe Maneri doing much of the work. The stock frame was beefed up with a Camaro front subframe and Monte Carlo rear section, both ends Z'd. The Chevy 350 runs triple Rochester carbs. Persimmon-under-gold paint and oyster-and-coral tuck 'n' roll pull this cool, reliable car back to the heyday of customs.
McGee/Scritchfield '32 Roadster
In 1946, it had a flathead. When Dick Scritchfield bought it in 1956, it ran a Corvette small-block. When So-Cal restored it for Bruce Meyer, with help from Bob McGee, the McGee/Scrithchfield roadster was restored to its early-'50s form. The clean and simple highboy is frequently credited with a few firsts: the first roadster with hidden hinges, the first street roadster with Zephyr gears, and the first metalflake paintjob. It has shown up in TV and movie spots and is the logo for the L.A. Roadsters Club.
Ed Sloan '53 Plymouth
R&C contributor David Fetherston once pointed out that Ed Sloan's '53 Plymouth was one of very few early-'50s Plymouth customs to gain a lot of recognition until Troy Trepanier built the Sniper in the '90s. Not exactly similar to Sniper, the chop, frenched and molded headlights, custom Ford car and truck grille, sideskirt scoops, and two-tone green paint certainly must have earned this Barris-built beauty as much attention as Troy got almost half a century later.