The Ray Soff Photo Collection

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Tom Piantkoski's 1948 Mercury Convertible of New Jersey. Tom was a body man at Highland Auto Body. In the early 1950s he took his customized 1941 Mercury Convertible on a cross country trip, heading for California. Unfortunately, Tom was involved in a traffic accident in Zanesville, Ohio, and he had to take the bus for the rest of the trip. He managed to get a job as a machinist in Los Angeles, where ended up buying the 1948 Mercury. When he got it, the top had already been chopped 5 1/2 inches and it had been fitted with a padded top by Carson Top Shop. He drove it back to New Jersey where he spent $1000 completing the build. Unfortunately, the car supposedly burned to the ground in the early 1960s, ending its days at the junkyard. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
A photo that Korky lent to Ray. Korky took this photo one day when he came out his house to find The Parisienne all covered with snow. Photo by Richard "Korky" Korkes, courtesy of Ray Soff.
A photo of Bill Tumbliston's 1955 Ford Convertible. Tumbliston worked with Darryl Starbird, and his convertible was restyled by The Alexander Brothers in Detroit. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
A construction photo of Ray Farhner's 1963 Chevrolet Corvette taken by Grier Lowry in 1963. Known as "Outer Limits," the car had less than 100 miles on it when it fell victim to a high-speed crash in 1963. It had hit a concrete bridge abutment head-on at high speed. Tom Davison was there when it was delivered to Ray's shop on a flatbed truck, and he saw the shattered pieces of the car. Tom remembers that Ray paid $950 for the car, and spent 6 weeks creating the custom body and finishing up the repairs from the accident. In 2019 Tom told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that he remembers well when Grier's photo was taken. "At one point, Ray had the body off the chassis, hanging from the ceiling by chains, about head high to the rocker panels. I came into the shop one night, hours after any work had been done, to show it to some friends. I didn’t touch anything, but I itched from the fiberglass in the air I guess." Photo by Grier Lowry, courtesy of Ray Soff.
"Grier Lowry was cool," Tom Davison told Sondre. "An older guy, old-time journalist, not into cars at all, just a job to him. Tweed jacket with sleeve patches, smoked a pipe, very sophisticated. He sold Ray to a lot of magazines." Ray Soff got the construction photos of The Outer Limits from Grier's wife after Grier had passed away. When Grier passed away she threw boxes of old photos in the dumpster. Ray reached out to her a little too late, but he told her to get in touch if she ever came across more car-related photos. She did and sent Ray a few negatives later on. Photo by Grier Lowry, courtesy of Ray Soff.
Richard "Korky" Korkes' 1954 Ford convertible photographed at an indoor car show in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1960. Korky bought the Ford brand new, it was his second car, and he was 19 years old at the time. Known as "The Parisienne", the car went through some mild modifications before Korky decided to turn it into the Parisienne in 1959. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
A chopped version of Bob Sanchez' 1954 Mercury photographed in front of Robert Martinez' Broadway Custom Auto in Chula Vista, California. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
A rear end shot of Bob Sanchez' 1954 Mercury photographed in front of Robert Martinez' Broadway Custom Auto in Chula Vista, California. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
An early incarnation of Dean Jeffries' 1947 Mercury convertible taken before flames were added to the front end. George Egen snapped this photo during one of his California trips. Photo by George Egen, courtesy of Ray Soff, scanned by Richard Toonkel.
A photo of Herb Gary with his sectioned 1949 Plymouth. The car is also known as The Aztec. Herb owned and operated Gary's Auto Body in Sea Cliff, New York. Gary learned his trade solely from reading magazines, he learned his craft entirely on his own, and that included a long list of abilities such as hammer-welding and sectioning. He never used any filler of any kind, whether plastic or lead. When a job first called for a specific shape, panels were handmade from sheet stock and hammer-welded in place. He was well known for flawless results. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
A photo of Bob McNulty's 1955 Chevrolet Corvette custom that Drivin Deuces member George Egen took on one of his trips to California. The photo was taken outside of Barris Kustoms. Known as "The Shark," Bob's Corvette was shown at the 1958 National Roadster Show. It competed in the Customized Sports Roadsters class and won an award for being the best in its class. Later on the same year, Bob's Corvette was also nominated as one of 28 "Top Customs of the Year" in Motor Life July 1958. The Thunderbird next to Bob's Corvette in the photo belonged to Shirley Barris, George Barris' wife. Photo by George Egen, courtesy of Ray Soff, scanned by Richard Toonkel.
Another photo of "The Shark taken outside of Barris Kustoms. Photo by George Egen, courtesy of Ray Soff, scanned by Richard Toonkel.
Bob Smith's 1947 Ford Coupe. Featuring quad headlights, we believe this photo was taken at the 1959 Detroit Autorama. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff, scanned by Richard Toonkel.
An early custom by Les Dunham. The 1941 Ford in the photo has been chopped and hardtopped. Photo from provided by Ray Soff, courtesy of Les Dunham.
A photo of Ed Meritai with his 1950 Ford custom. In the early 1980s Ray Soff met Ed, and Ed told him that he used to have a 1950 Ford custom back in the days. Ed lent Ray the photos he had of the car so he could scan them for his huge collection of East Coast custom car photos. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
Edward Meritai's 1950 Ford was restyled by Monego's Body Shop in Garfield, New Jersey, and the build was completed in 1958. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
The rear quarter panels on Edward Meritai's 1950 Ford were extended 14 inches and modified to accept a pair of 1954 Oldsmobile lenses. The rear of the car was also dressed up with a continental kit, a popular East Coast trend at the time. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.
The Continental Kit on Edward Meritai's 1950 Ford was hinged and could be moved backward for access to the trunk. Photo courtesy of Ray Soff.

The Kustomrama Photo Archive

Raymond Soff of Saddle Brook, New Jersey is often referred to as a walking custom car Encyclopedia. He was born in 1946, and he has spent half of his life tracking down custom cars in the United States, talking to owners of cars that he admired in the magazines when he was a little kid. Ray’s growing collection of East Coast custom history contains thousands of photos and negatives, letters, notes and taped interviews.

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