Hershel Conway, also known as Junior or Hersh, was born in a log cabin in the mountains of Kentucky in 1938. When he was 13 years old his family moved to Southern California. In California Junior began reading car magazines. In 2013 Junior told Olav Kvipt of Kustomrama that he was aware of the scene out West while he was living in Kentucky, as he and his two years older brother Herb were able to get hold of car magazines every now and then. Junior wasn’t sad when his parents decided to move to California, and the best part was that they bought a house in the same town as where Barris Kustoms was located!
Herb's 1941 Ford Coupe
Herb and Hersh were tight, and Herb would include Junior in all his money making activities such as his paper routes, ice cream vendor, etc. Herb also shared Junior's interest in custom cars, and the first car Junior was able to work on was Herb's 1941 Ford Club Coupe. Herb bought the coupe in December of 1952, and he and Junior restyled the car by lowering it, adding skirts, and welding up the deck lid. Herb and Junior's dad welded up the deck lid using a blow torch. “We added an awful lot of lead over crude work on that one”, Junior laughed when he told Olav about the car. The car was black, and Junior painted the reworked areas using a vacuum cleaner. After a while, Junior's specialty becomes to paint whitewalls on cars.
As Herb got an urge to trade away his 1941 Ford, Herb and Junior began to cruise used car lots. they settled on a 1950 Ford Coupe as they both liked the way they looked. The year was 1953, and the car they found and traded the old coupe for was a repainted gold car. The car had been restyled slightly and contained primer on the reworked areas. It was Herb's car, and Junior didn't know yet that this car would end up being his. Herb bought the car in January of 1953. In December of 1954 he sold it to Hershel.
Hershel would often stop Barris Kustoms on his way home from school. At the shop, he would stand and watch the guys working on the different custom cars that were in. It was a rope keeping the bystanders from interfering with the workers, so he never bothered them until one day he stopped by with a set of Mercury skirts he had cut down and welded together to fit his Ford. He approached Sam Barris and asked if he could lead them for him. Sam was impressed by Junior’s handywork and asked if he wanted to work there.
Hersel began working for Barris in the Easter of 1955. He was 16 years old, and he worked there until the Summer. George could never remember Hersel's name, so he gave him the nickname "Junior" since he was just a kid. Junior began sweeping the floors, working his way up the ladder. After putting in 60 hours a week at $1 per hour, George found out that Junior was not worth his salary, so Junior quit and started working at another shop. George asked Junior back in the summer of 1956, and he always got paid after that. Sam Barris left Barris Kustoms one month after Junior came back, in June of 1956.
The House Painter
As it turned out, Junior was quite useful with a paint gun in his hand, so it didn't take long before the broom was replaced by a paint gun. Junior’s first experience with pearl paint was the Ala Kart in 1957. Junior told Olav that George Barris was in the booth applying the Diamond Dust Pearl. Suddenly he came storming out pissed, telling me that “This shit does not apply evenly! Check if you can handle it Junior!” Junior went in, took the gun, and managed to get a perfect result! Since that incident, Junior became more or less their “house painter”. While in high school, Junior would work at Barris 4 or 5 hours in the weekdays, and then all Saturday for 1,25$ an hour.
When George Barris decided to move the shop to a new location in Hollywood in late 1961, Junior decided to open up his own shop named Junior's House of Color. Junior's first shop was located on Century Avenue in Lynwood. It was a small shop with room for two cars. His first job at the new shop was to restore a Model A-Roadster. He would experiment a lot with candy colors along with Jesse Lopez. In the late 1950s and the early 1960s Candy became quite popular in So-Cal, and the majority of the cars rolling out of Junior’s House of Kolor at the time consisted of Candy shades. During the late 1960s, Junior’s focus moved more towards restoring high end cars. It brought in more money than customizing would, and Junior always wanted to perform flawless work, which a lot of the custom guys could not afford. Jesse Lopez worked for Junior from time to time, and if extensive lead work was necessary, he would hire Bill Hines to come and help. In the 1960s Conway did a lot of work for celebrities such as Steve McQueen, the Smoothers Brothers, Bill Cosby, and Ann-Margret. Junior wasn't happy working for the celebrities, as they used to lean on their names, and tried as good as he could to steer clear of Hollywood. In 2013 Junior was still working all week, from morning until night.
Hersh Conway's Cars
Cars Restyled by Hersh at Junior's House of Color
Did You Enjoy This Article?
Kustomrama is an online encyclopedia dedicated to traditional hot rod and custom cars. Our mission is to protect, preserve and share traditional hot rod custom car history from all over the world.
- Find out how you can become a contributor.
- Forward this article to a friend.
- Subscribe to our newsletter and receive updates on Hersh Conway and other subjects featured on Kustomrama.
Help Us Make This Article Better
If you have additional information, photos, feedback or corrections about Hersh Conway, please get in touch with Kustomrama at: firstname.lastname@example.org.