Tad Hirai's 1950 Ford

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A photo of the Del Mar from Tad's personal collection. Photo by Tad Hirai, courtesy of Valley Custom Shop Facebook Page.
Photo from the GT350LADY Collection[1]
Photo from the GT350LADY Collection[2]
Photo from the GT350LADY Collection[2]
A photo of Tad's Ford next to Glen Hooker's 1939 Mercury convertible and Dick Colarossi's 1940 Ford coupe. Photo by Tad Hirai, courtesy of Calley Custom Shop Facebook Page.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.
Photo by Spencer Murray.

1950 Ford Coupe owned by Tad Hirai. The car, also known as the Del Mar, was built at Valley Custom in a spawn of 4 months, where Tad was a co-worker. Ideas for the design was discussed with stylist Lynn Wineland, who eventually came up with the design of the car. The doors and deck lid were electrically operated with the interior handles left as originally intended in case of power supply failure. Tad's Ford featured a horizontal bar grille placed in a molded Studebaker grille shell that was molded into the front fenders. The headlights were frenched by using 1952-54 Ford rings, and scoops above the lights were formed with welding steel rod, bent to shape then paneled with body sheet metal. This scoops treatment could easily resemble to the 1955 Pontiac, however, Wineland assured that they were on his drawing board long before GM even considered such a move. The rear of the car featured a special designed triple-tube nerf bar that concealed the lower deck-lid opening. The nerf bar was also designed to hunt the license plate.[3] The taillights were formed by combining two cut down 1949-50 Mercury lenses, joining them beneath the drilled tab. The upper lenses concealed in the constructed fins were backup lights from a 1953 Chevrolet. The taillight treatment could resemble with the design og a 1955 Ford, but Wineland came up with the design long before the new models were put in an appearance. The rear wheel openings were enlarged to make it easier to change tires due to the low ride height. Mercury skirts were recontoured and fit to the body. One of the few borrowed ideas on the Del Mar, is the use of 1955 Pontiac side trim, used to a good advantage since it serves as a line of demarcation between the flat Arctic white and dark Orchid metallic purple two-tone lacquer job.[4]

One of the tricks employed by Tad which could be considered at the time of the build new to most customizers, was the use of chrome filler panels that covered the windshield posts and helped separating the roof line from the lower body. A trick used by advantage by Detroit on convertibles, but never on a sedan. The combination of no bumper has been a lot on race cars, but seldom on customs. To give the car a sectioned look from behind, the Nerf bar was located several inches higher than the stock protector. That modification was made possible by raising the tips of the frame rails. That did not only lend a sense of practicability as far as collision insurance is conserned, but the car no longer suffered from bumper scrapes due to rough roads and steep driveways. In order to provide clearance for the 6-inch high kickup in the frame immediately over the rear axle and to allow the axle housings to clear the flooring, Tad had raised the entire trunk floor along with the gas tank.[4]

Tad had Bill Colgan of Colgan's Auto Upholstery at 2300 W. Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, California to make an interior that really would stand out in the crowd. After discussing interior designs adaptable to the Ford and the choice of material and color, Bill came up with a combination of all three that may well put other upholsters to shame. The upholstery material was blended frieze, predominantly purple with threads of white and black running rampant throughout. Inserted panels of pleated white Naugahyde were employed to give contrast and relief from the primary shade. Stripping of white ran across the headliner bows. All this with a total cost of $450![4]

Magazine Features

Trend Book 143 Restyle Your Car
Rod & Custom February 1955
Rod & Custom April 1955
Rod & Custom November 1956
Custom Cars September 1957
Trend Book 156 Custom Cars 1958 Annual
Rod & Custom September 1960


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