Bill Cushenbery

From Kustomrama
(Redirected from Cushenbery)
Jump to: navigation, search
Customizing by Cushenbery. Bill gave this business card to Gene "Clean Gene" Sadoian at the 1962 Winternationals. "He showed his El Matador, wild custom. Blackie also featured his car, that's how I met him." Photo from The Clean Gene Sadoian Photo Collection.
In an attempt to get into the youth market, Ford Motor Company teamed up with AMT to launch the "Custom Car Caravan" in 1962. Together they wanted to create and campaign customized and performance-themed Fords. Or, as Ed Roth described it in his book, "making sure all of Ford's stuff was in the car shows around the country." The first cars were built in-house, but it didn't take long before Ford started to commission famous customizers such as George Barris, the Alexander Brothers, Bill Cushenbery, and Gene Winfield to dream up and execute life-size Ford customs.
The Car Craft Dream Rod was built by Bill Cushenbery for Bob Larivee of Promotions Inc. The first drawings of the car appeared in Car Craft October 1961. The build was completed late in 1963.
The KHJ Surfin' Bird was restyled by Bill Cushenbery at Cushenbery Custom Shop for 93 KHJ Boss radio's "Big Kahuna" promotion in 1966. The Surfin' Bird is one of the last known true custom cars to be completed by Cushenbery.

Bill Cushenbery (March 22, 1933 - December 12, 1998) of Wichita, Kansas began to learn the art of bodywork when he was a young boy. Bill's father and several of his uncles were in the body repair business and exposed Bill to the techniques they used. Bill wasn't interested in repair work, instead, he wanted to create something new and fresh in order to express his imagination in sheet metal. 19 years old, Bill opened up his first body shop in his hometown Wichita. He had to quit school in order to do that, a decision he later regrets upon as he felt he could have done better business-wise if he had fulfilled his education. The custom car market in the Wichita area was already dominated by Darryl Starbird and his Star Kustom Shop, so after 5 years, Bill decided to leave Wichita, and move his business to California. He settled down in the Monterey area, and it was at this hop that he built his 1940 Ford, the El Matador. The car was good promotion for his business, and after completing the El Matador, he began attracting a clientele seriously interested in show cars. Bill built many well-recognized custom cars during the 1960s but is best known for his completely original builds such as the Silhouette. The Silhouette was the first scratch built custom to roll out from Cushenbery Custom Shop. [1]

One of Bill Cushenbery's biggest breaks came when he was one of the first customizers invited to take part in the Ford Custom Caravan. Bill and George Barris, in fact, formed the nucleus of the original Caravan team. After the project got rolling, Gene Winfield, the Alexander Brothers and others began to take part. Bill created the Astro for the Caravan, a stunning variation of the 1963 Ford Galaxie Convertible. Bill's participation in the Ford Custom Caravan led to another important development in his career as Ford officials and even some of his fellow customizers urged him to transfer his business from Monterey to a more populous area. In late 1964, he moved his business to North Hollywood, literally around the corner from Barris Kustoms.[1]

Red Harden

At one time Bill and Red Harden became partners. In 2012 Red told Esteban Ramirez of The Renegade Rip that he thought he knew everything when he met Bill, "but this guy taught me so much. It was unreal. We became partners and together we built some really nice cars."[2]

Bakersfield, California

Chris Witham knew Cushenbery in the mid-to-late 1970s through the 1980s. Back then he worked in various spots in Bakersfield, California; "He used to do custom lead work for various body shops that had specialized vehicles. He had an assistant, "Rocky", who went on to a different career working at a ranch outside of Bakersfield."[3]

December 12, 1998 Bill passed away.

Bill Cushenbery's Cars

Bill Cushenbery's 1940 Ford - The El Matador
The Silhouette
The Silhouette II Space Coupe

Cars restyled by Bill Cushenbery

Click here to see cars restyled by Cushenbery Custom Shop



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.

Can you help us make this article better?

Please get in touch with us at if you have additional information or photos to share about Bill Cushenbery.

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 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.

Personal tools
Help us