Harry Westergard

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Harry Westergard with his wife Ruth
A photo of Butler Rugard, Norm Milne and Harry in front of Harry's house. All three were Thunderbolts members, and the photo comes from the scrapbook of Norm Milne. Photo courtesy of Jeff Faeber.
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Norm Milne's 1938 Ford convertible sedan of Sacramento, California. About 1940 Norm drove the Ford to Los Angeles to have Carson Top Shop chop the top and make a padded top. The rest of the car was restyled by Harry Westergard.
George Barris' 1936 Ford Coupe of Roseville, California. This was George's first real custom. He bought the car from money he had earned while doing some odd jobs for Harry Westergard at Brown's Body Shop. George worked at the car between the staggering amount of school work, and working with Westergard. The build was completed in 1941.
Mel Falconer's 1939 Ford, of Sacramento, California was restyled by Harry Westergard and completed in 1945.
Harold Ohanesian's 1940 Mercury Convertible Sedan was restyled by Harry Westergard and Less Crane sometime between 1945 and 1949.

Harry William Westergard (Jan. 9, 1916 - Apr.29, 1956) of Sacramento, California is a pioneer in the world of custom cars. Harry was born on January 9, 1916 in Detroit, Michigan to Adolf William Westergard and Johnsina Emelle Nielsen. Both of Harry's parents were immigrants from Denmark.[1] In the late twenties or early thirties Harry moved from Michigan to Sacramento.

Jack Stack's Flying A Gas Station

Harry started building cars in the late 1930's. He did not have a shop, so he did all of his work in his garage at home on Fulton Avenue. Harry used to hang out at Jack Stack's Flying A gas station at the corner of 18th and L streets, near the State Capitol Building. He ran a stripped down and modified 1929 or 1930 Ford Model A roadster[2] that he thought was pretty fast, but so did some other young guys, like Norm Milne and Dick Bertolucci. Street racing was all these young bucks could do, as there were no facilities for organized competitions. They raced after dark, usually just a block or two ahead of the local police.

George Barris

Around 1940 - 1941 Harry worked at Brown's Body Shop in Roseville. At the time, a little kid name George Barris began to hang out at the shop, watching the workers repair cars. While hanging out at Brown's Body Shop, George found a mentor and information resource in Harry. George began helping Harry whenever time would permit. George carefully followed the instructions of his new friend who eventually taught him such necessary formalities as layout and paneling. Doing these odd jobs at Westergard's shop brought in a little extra money. With the money George bought a 1936 Ford Coupe, the first car in which he had sole interest.

Capitol Auto Club

The war interrupted the nights at Jack's Flying A station, and all was quiet until the summer of 1945. In 1945 Norm decided to form a club in order to legitimize their activities and to try to get rid of the outlaw stigma. The first meeting of the newly formed club, the Capitol Auto Club, was held in Westergard's chicken coup shop on Fulton Avenue in September 1945. The club went on to be the Thunderbolts Car Club.

US Navy

Harry served in the US Navy from 1945-1946.[1]

The Crash

In 1955 Harry bought himself a brand new 1955 Ford Thunderbird. After loosing a street race against two cops in a brand new Buick, he decided to hop the car up, so he ordered an Iskendarian cam from Bertolucci's Body and Paint Shop. Harry loved to race, and one late Sunday night April 29, 1956 he raced along the River Road, heading back home to Sacramento from Walnut Grove. A guy pulled out in front of Harry, Harry was going at least 100 miles an hour when he tried to swerve to miss the car. He hit a three at full speed, and died in the crash. The car came off in two parts, split on the middle.

At the time he died, Harry had been divorced from his wife, and he was really broken up. He quit doing metalwork and started to work for a muffler shop instead. When Dick Bertolucci heard this he went straight over to Harry and told him that he was wasting his talent. Dick offered Harry twice as much as he was earning in the muffler shop if he would begin working for Dick instead. Harry accepted, and when he died he had been working for Dick Bertolucci at Bertolucci's Body and Paint Shop for 6 months.

Harry was buried at the City Cemetery in Sacramento. Thousands of cars attended Harry's funeral. In an interview with Garage Magazine, Dick Bertolucci told that the day after Harry died, he called Iskendarian to cancel that cam order for Harry's Thunderbird.

Harry Westergard's Personal Cars

Harry Westergard's 1932 Ford Roadster
Harry Westergard's 1938 Chevrolet
Harry Westergard's 1950 Ford
Harry Westergard's 1955 Ford Thunderbird

Cars Restyled by Harry Westergard

Rico Squaglia's 1923 Ford Model T Roadster
Norm Milne's 1931 Ford Model A Roadster
Gene Garret's 1936 Ford
Jack Odbert's 1936 Ford Roadster
Vern Simon's 1936 Ford Roadster
Leroy Semas' 1937 Chevrolet Coupe
John Sal Cocciola's 1938 Chevrolet Convertible
Norm Milne's 1938 Ford Convertible Sedan
Mel Falconer's 1939 Ford
Harold Ohanesian's 1940 Mercury Convertible Sedan
Butler Rugard's 1940 Mercury
Al Lauer's 1941 Cadillac Convertible
Butler Rugard's 1947 Chevrolet
Jerry Fassett's 1947 Chevrolet



The American Custom Car
Video - Dick Bertolucci GNRS Hall of Fame Luncheon
Garage Magazine Number Five
Lowrider Magazine March 1980


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