Arthur Bentas' Raven

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Arthur displaying some of the trophies he has won with the Raven[1]
An interior photo of The Raven at the 1960 Flywheel Braintree Show. Photo from the Marty McDonough collection.
The Raven as it sat in Arthur's shop in May of 2007 when Joe German pulled it out of storage.[1]
Arthur and the Raven.[1]
The Raven being dismantled at Motorhead Extraordinaire.[1]
The new engine.[1]
Restored and ready for its unveiling at the 2009 Detroit Autorama.[1]
The Raven at the 2009 Detroit Autorama.[1]
Arthur and Joe at the 2009 Detroit Autorama.[1]

The Raven is an east coast custom car designed and built by Arthur Bentas of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Arthur graduated from Chelmsford High School, Class of 1942. After that, he pursued his education in California, at the Curtiss Wright Institute of Aeronautics. He worked for Lockheed Aeronautics testing engines for a few years. Arthur eventually returned to Chelmsford to work on the Bentas family farm, which was a major distributor of eggs and chicken throughout the East Coast.[2]

In 1950 Arthur decided to build his own car. Called The Raven, he built the car over a nine-year span in the chicken house on the family farm. The build started with a 1939 Dodge chassis with a 6 cylinder L-head engine. Arthur hand made the cowl section, floors, wheel wells, and inner panels for the car.[1] The front fenders, hood, and doors were modified 1954 Kaiser parts, the windshield was a trimmed Dodge windshield.[3] Arthur channeled the body 2 1/2 inches over the Dodge frame. The trunk was made from a modified 1952 Chevrolet hood fit with a LaSalle tire cover, and hand rolled steel. The chromed rocker panels and window frames were hand made.[1] According to Custom Cars March 1960, the taillight rings were from a 1950 Pontiac, and the taillight lenses were from a 1956 DeSoto.[3] The rear bumper was borrowed from a Kaiser. Dual exhaust was routed through the bumper. Up front the Raven featured custom fabricated floating headlights. The hardtop and dashboard was made hand made by Arthur out of fiberglass. Studebaker dash gauges were wrapped in custom made bezels.[1] The interior was upholstered in turquoise top grain leather stitched in rolls and pleats style. The upholstery was done by Dick Burgeron of Powell, Massachusetts.[3] The car was powered by the original flathead six engine. Arthur planned to install a Mopar V-8, but that never happened. Once the bodywork was done, the car was finished in Ditzler DDL-9200 Double Deep Black Lacquer. Once completed, the car had taken nine years to build.[1]

In 1959 the Raven won the Best Custom award at the NHRA National Championship Custom Car Show in Detroit, Michigan. During 1959 and 1960 Arthur won more than 25 awards with the Raven. In 1961 he put the car on blocks, and covered it in the back of his shop where it sat for 46 years. One of the reasons for Arthur putting the car away was due to failing chrome on the car. In May of 2007 Joe Germann, son of Arthur's best friend wokel the old kustom out of its long sleep. Joe's first encounter with the Raven was in the summer of 1959. He was 10 years old at the time, and was lucky enough to get a ride with his father, Arthur and Arthur's girlfriend in the Raven. After his father passed away in 1971, Joe kept in touch with Arthur, and stopped by him every now and then. During the 1990s Joe became more infatuated with the Raven, and Joe and Arthur would regularly talk about Arthur restoring it. Arthur always had good intentions, but other things always got in the way for restoring his old custom creation. In May of 2007 Arthur finally told Joe that he was ready to part with the Raven. Joe bought the car, and picked it up in July of 2007. When he picked it up the car was in a good "barn-find" condition, gentle deterioration, no critical parts missing, and no rot. However, a simple make-over was not going to do, it needed a full frame up restoration.[1]

Due to another car restoration, Joe weren't able to start the restoration of the Raven until September 2008. Joe had committed to Arthur that he would bring the Raven back to Detroit in 2009 to celebrate it's 50th anniversary of winning the 1959 NHRA National Championship Custom Car Show Trophy. This meant that they only had 6 months to get the Raven restored. Joe and his team at Motorhead Extraordinaire thoroughly cleaned and painted the frame and installed all new brakes, brake and fuel lines, shocks, and wheel bearings. Water had rotted out several cylinder walls on the the original motor, so a replacement motor from a 1950 Dodge was found and rebuilt. The body was wet sanded, prepared, and repainted. No machines or plastic fillers were used in the body prep work. Arthur had 4 gallons of 50-year old Ditzler DDL-9200 double deep black paint stored away that the car was painted with.The interior was too hard and stiff to use, so leather died in Argentina, that matched the original color was used for the car. The interior was stitched exactly the same as the original. All of the chrome on the car was rechromed.[1]

On March 6th, 2009, the restored version of the Raven was displayed at the Detroit Autorama. Arthur Bentas was present at the unveiling. At the show, the Raven won 1st place in the Radical Custom Convertible class. [1]

In 2010 the Raven was hand picked to be part of the prestigious Customs Then and Now exhibit at the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, California, an elite gathering of the most historically significant customs in the world. In August of 2012 the Raven will be competing in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the world's premier celebration of the automobile. In 1997 the Pebble Beach Hot Rod Class was started. The Hot Rod Class has been featuring roadsters, coupes and pre-war customs in the past. The 2012 Hot Rod Class will be dedicated to Sport Customs and one offs such as the Norman Timbs' Buick Special, the 1950 Saturn, the 1947 Kurtis Omohundro, the Maverick sportster, the Coachcraft Special and Vince Gardner's 1947 Studebaker.

It was also put on display at the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles for a year. According to Arthur's obituary, "the highlight for Arthur and his award-winning car was being invited to display The Raven at the distinguished 2012 Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance Auto Event at Pebble Beach in CA."[2]

Magazine Features

Hot Rod Magazine November 1959
Custom Cars December 1959
Custom Cars March 1960



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