East meets West. The Alexander Brothers meet Barris. The '50s meet the '60s.
You can spin the story on this '51 Oldsmobile 88 and '60 Pontiac Ventura any number of ways, but noting contrasts is perhaps easiest. One personifies '50s style; one is pure '60s. One is chopped; the other is not. One was built on the West Coast; the other was built in Motor City.
Scratch the candy-coated surfaces a little, though, and you'll find similarities as well. Both cars represent distinctive, thoughtful restyling-not just slash-and-hack customizing-from their respective eras and builders, making them as appealing today as they were decades ago. Both were also built for street duty, with healthy mills backing up the bodywork.
Like many lead-laden creations from the era, these classic customs also saw years of neglect when the form fell out of vogue. Fortunately, they now share another common bond: enthusiastic owners who were inclined to save what others discarded and are eager to share their treasures with the public. The cars survive as ambassadors of customizing's golden era, and we just couldn't resist teaming them up for photos. Let's take a look.
The Golden Indian PontiacThe Golden Indian '60 Pontiac is the more famous of this pair, having graced Rod & Custom's November '63 cover and many other magazines. It represents some of Mike and Larry Alexander's best work from what is probably their most prolific era. Built for a young Mike Budnick from Detroit, the Poncho evolved from mild cruiser to full custom in stages over two years' time. Customs were a dying breed when the candy nugget hit the streets in 1963, but it still managed to imbed itself in many car-crazy minds.
Lou Calasibetta is one custom fan who fancied the "Jetsons-like" styling. He also has a penchant for Pontiacs-he grew up with the marque and now owns the Pontiac-friendly Old Stillwater Garage (OSG) in Stillwater, New Jersey. He knew he had to have the '60s survivor when it appeared for sale in a KKOA newsletter in 1987. Pearl white, rusty, but mostly complete, Lou stored his bounty another decade before the Detroit AutoRama's approaching 50th anniversary (in 2002) spurred him and the Old Stillwater gang-Jim Harris, David Symonds, Steve Decker, and Bob Scabet-into action.
Frame-off restorations are routine at OSG, but this was a unique challenge. The crew not only had to replace rusty sheetmetal using stock donor car panels, it also had to replicate nearly all the original custom work, no small task when the roof is the only unaltered body part.
Still, the team persevered and the result is a tribute to early-'60s customs, where the "future" was less about fins and flipper caps and more about long, linear style and industrial influence. The delicate, thin-pillar roofline remains unchopped, leaving custom front and rear pans and wide grille cavities as dominating visual elements. Deeply tunneled headlights and custom taillights bisected by white trim bars add requisite NASA flavor. Extensive chrome tubing (front grille, by Glory Grills), expanded metal (headlight buckets, quarter-panel scoops), and aluminum bars (rear grille, by Shrader's Machine) are also hallmarks of the era.
It's the color that tugs at your eyeballs, though, that glorious Candy Lime Gold finish that changes in different light but never fails to glow. The OSG crew was fortunate to find original paint preserved under rear window moldings and faithfully reproduced it using House of Kolor products.
If the candy metallic paint and far-out styling fail to evoke Rat Pack dreams, the chrome-reverse wheels, skinny whitewalls, and Jerry Ambrosi-stitched pearl white threads (four custom buckets-swiveling fronts) should. The Tri-power 389 and four-speed are lasting clues to Mr. Budnick's original Woodward Avenue intentions.