Bill Hines' 1950 Ford - The Bat
1950 Ford owned and restyled by Bill Hines of Lincoln Park, Michigan. Known as "The Bat," the Ford was Bill's daily driver and his first claim to fame. It was featured on the cover of Rod & Custom March 1959 with the following title: "Those fins are still growing."
Started in the Southfield Shop in 1955 or 1956
Bill went through three different shops in Ecorse before moving over to a new shop on Lincoln Park, on Dix Toledo Highway. "The new shop could fit about five cars, and that's where he finished the Bat," Teddy Zgrzemski told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama, recalling that Bill started working on the Bat in his Southfield shop. "Uncle Bill was doing that car for a customer. Then the guy lost interest in it. He had just started on it, and all the guy wanted was a chopped top." Teddy believed Bill moved to the Lincoln Park shop when he was about 13 years old, "about 1955 or 56." After the customer lost interest in the Ford, it became Bill's personal car, and he finished it off late in 1957. Modifications included a 4-inch chopped top and a 1951 Ford Meteor grille bar. The headlights were frenched with its stock rings used for a smoother look.
Those Fins Are Still Growing!
Bill hand-formed the fins for the car and installed a set of 1956 Ford taillights. The rear bumper, which was dressed up with a Kaiser bumper guard, had to be widened because of the fins. The body was nosed and decked, and the deck lid corners were rounded. The door handles were removed for a smooth look, and in order to make it low enough, Bill also reworked his own spindle supports up front and installed lowering blocks in the rear. The rear wheel wells were enlarged to give the car a lower profile. Dual spotlights and a set of custom hubcaps made from Oldsmobile and Continental components wrapped up the first iteration of the build.
Completed in California
After completing the build, the Bat debuted at the 1958 Detroit Autorama. In April of 1958, Bill moved from Lincoln Park to California, bringing the whole family along in a house trailer that he pulled across the country behind the Bat. After arriving in California, he heads on over to Barris Kustoms with his radical Ford. At the time, George Barris, Bill Carr, and Dean Jeffries were out of the shop, showing the Aztec and the Kopper Kart on a national tour. Bill met a fellow named Gene Simmons at the shop. Gene was the manager at the time. He saw the Bat and asked Bill who did it. Bill told him that he had built it himself. This was a Wednesday, and Gene told Bill that he could use someone in the shop right now. Bill told Gene he could start on Monday, but Gene replied, "How about tomorrow?" Bill loaded his toolbox and started the next day. Sam Barris was gone by then. Junior Conway was just a prep boy, and Larry Watson took care of the paint department while George was away. George returned about three weeks later. He saw Bill working on a car, and he kept looking and looking. This went on for a couple of days, not much said, as George was a fuzzy man, according to Bill. But Bill was doing so well and fast that George was very impressed. After driving the car to California, Bill applied white-edged gold scallops on the car at Barris Kustoms. In 1959, the Bat gained national recognition when it was featured on the cover of Rod & Custom March 1959. The story was titled: "Those fins are still growing." Fifty-six years later, Bill told Mark Vaughn that "Every one of my cars winds up with fins. I like the fins. I have ‘em in all of my cars."
Sold to Bill Rawl
Bill stayed in California for about nine months before he went back to Detroit in the fall of 1958. He drove the Bat back home to Michigan, and stayed there for a short time before he decided to move permanently to California. The warm California weather was calling Bill, and in October of 1960, he decided to close up his Michigan shop and move back to California. In 2020 Teddy Zgrzemski told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that Bill had just built Jerry Yatch's 1959 Chevrolet Impala and a 1956 Ford custom for Terry Travis. "He sold his '50 Ford to a guy by the name Bill Rawl." Bill changed the whole front end and back end of the car before he pancaked the hood and deck lid for Rawl. "He put a grille work in the back and quad headlights up front." After selling The Bat, Bill bought a 1954 Buick. "The Buick was a stock car. All he did was paint it a white pearl just before he left for California."
Teddy recalled that bubble tops were the big thing when his uncle reworked the Bat for Rawl. "The guy had a bright idea. He was supposed to ship the car out to uncle Bill so he could paint it and finish it because all the bodywork was done. He never did. Instead, he cut the roof off cause he was gonna put a bubble top on it. Somehow he moved, and he put the car by a gas station. He came back three weeks later to get it, and it was stolen."
Found...The Bat Graveyard
Bill Rawl never found the car again. The third iteration of the Bat was never completed, and the unfinished project was parked outside in the wilds of Michigan. The remains of the Bat were shown in Custom Rodder January 1995. At the time the car was still parked outside, and it was in a sad shape. Around 2005, Bill Hines attended a show in Michigan when some guy came up to him and told him that he had the Bat. "We went out to his farm up in Carlton, and he told uncle Bill he would give it to him. He could have it. But from sitting outside for so long, without a top on it, the floors were all rusted out. It was in a sad shape."
Sold to Bob Fryz
Somehow, somebody bought the old custom, and they put the front end and back end on another fifty Ford. In May of 2011, the remains of The Bat were advertised for sale on Craigslist. The car was located in Monroe, Michigan, and it was advertised without an asking price. When the car was advertised for sale, an unchopped top had been welded onto the car. The ad was brought to Teddy Zgrzemski's shop on one of his Thursday night hangouts. The ad was passed around and there was a good deal of discussion about whether or not it was the real thing, but Ted could confirm that it was. Bob Fryz of Dearborn, Michigan, one of the attendees called on the ad as soon as he saw it. He jumped into his daily driver, drove over to see it, and bought it. The guy that sold the car on Craigslist was a flipper, and he hadn't owned the car for long. He had bought it from an old guy that had it for years. The unrestored version of the car made its debut at the Billetproof Michigan show on May 21, 2011 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. "You would never recognize it," Teddy told Kustomrama. "It is nothing like the original Bat was. It is in bad shape. The thing is so rough. My uncle used conduit tubing to flare the wheel wells and such, and today the conduit tubing is rusted right through. It got holes in it for sitting outside for so long. It's in a bad shape."
Chopped at the Detroit Autorama
Did you enjoy this article?
Kustomrama is an encyclopedia dedicated to preserve, share and protect traditional hot rod and custom car history from all over the world.
- Help us keep history alive. For as little as 2.99 USD a month you can become a monthly supporter. Click here to learn more.
- Subscribe to our free newsletter and receive regular updates and stories from Kustomrama.
- Do you know someone who would enjoy this article? Click here to forward it.
Can you help us make this article better?
Please get in touch with us at email@example.com if you have additional information or photos to share about Bill Hines' 1950 Ford - The Bat.
This article was made possible by:
SunTec Auto Glass - Auto Glass Services on Vintage and Classic Cars
Finding a replacement windshield, back or side glass can be a difficult task when restoring your vintage or custom classic car. It doesn't have to be though now with auto glass specialist companies like www.suntecautoglass.com. They can source OEM or OEM-equivalent glass for older makes/models; which will ensure a proper fit every time. Check them out for more details!
Do you want to see your company here? Click here for more info about how you can advertise your business on Kustomrama.